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Miss Lois
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I Love Superman

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Rivals 4/?
Aug 11th, 2008 at 3:46pm
 
Richard was still awake when he heard the front door open and close followed by quiet footsteps on the stairs. The clock on the bed stand showed the time as 2:42 AM.

The door to the master bedroom opened and closed and he saw Lois getting undressed by the light of the outside street lamp through the broad windows.

“Perry said you wouldn’t be very long,” Richard said, keeping his voice low. “Have you any idea what time it is?”

Lois jumped at the sound of his voice. “I… I didn’t think you’d still be awake.”

“It’s nearly three in the morning. Where have you been?”

He couldn’t see her expression in the shadows but he heard her sigh. “Clark and I started talking about old times, about his trip. That’s all.”

“That’s all?” Richard demanded. Lois hadn’t pulled an all-nighter since he’d known her although Jimmy and some of the old-timers in the newsroom had told him that Lane and Kent had frequently spent nights together on stake-outs before he disappeared on his trip.

“It took longer than I expected to go through what he had, and then we started talking and I invited him to the Ace O’Clubs for a nightcap. At least we didn’t close the place down.”

“Thank God for small favors,” Richard muttered. He couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“Richard, I’m really not up for this,” Lois warned. “I’ve got a busy day tomorrow… today. Clark thinks he can convince Linda King to help us take down Preston Carpenter.”

“Good for Clark,” Richard told her. This time he didn’t bother to even try to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “But why did he need to talk to you about it till past two in the morning?”

“Richard, I told you. We started talking about things and we just lost track of time. I mean, Clark’s been back for two months and I’ve barely talked to him outside of work.”

Richard didn’t bother to comment. Lois slipped on her nightgown and climbed into bed beside him. She rolled onto her side, away from him. He knew she wasn’t going to explain further. He also knew she wasn’t being entirely truthful. He just wasn’t sure if she was lying to him, or to herself.

Richard had known when he first met Lois Lane that she had been Superman’s primary press contact and probably more. When he was hired by his Uncle Perry for the position of assistant editor, he took it upon himself to read much of what she had written for the paper and had been surprised to find shared bylines with someone named Clark Kent. But Kent was no longer at the Planet and Lois refused to talk about him.

The natural assumption had been that the relationship between Lois and Kent had moved past platonic in a spectacularly disastrous way. That’s what the newsroom gossips agreed had happened when Lane and Kent were assigned to impersonate newlyweds for an exposé at Niagara Falls. Kent had walked away from his job only a few weeks after their return. But Richard had doubts about the truth of what everyone claimed had happened and Lois refused to say one way or another.

But it was Superman’s absence she had grieved about. Finally she chose to get on with her life. She settled into relatively contented domesticity with Richard White and her son. Everyone said it was a perfect match and for a while Richard had even agreed with them. Lois wrote her famous essay, won her coveted Pulitzer.

Then Superman returned and so did Clark Kent.

“Were you in love with him?” Richard had asked her not long after the superhero’s spectacular return the Earth.

“He’s Superman,” she had answered the question. “Everybody was in love with him.”

“But were you?” he had insisted.

There had been a pause and finally she answered: “No.”

Now Richard wondered if he had asked the right question that night, and if he had, if she would have answered him honestly.

-o-o-o-


Four hours of sleep simply wasn’t enough, Lois groused to herself as she waited for Linda and Clark to show up for breakfast at the Press Club. The revelation that Perry had asked Clark to ‘defect’ to the Star had only surprised her a little and she was still trying to get a handle on why she had needed to confront Clark at his apartment or why she had been so incensed by the idea that Clark might have an interest in Linda King beyond the professional.

Lois was engaged to Richard White, even though she hadn’t been willing to set a date to get married to him. Clark was her sometime writing partner, nothing more. Except there was a hole in her memory of the time she went to Niagara Falls with him. A hole that Clark refused to fill in for her.

“What happened at Niagara Falls?” she had asked him.

“Superman happened.”

When pestering him for answers failed, she went so far as to try to get him drunk. But he had stopped at two beers and had stubbornly refused more. She tried different approaches – telling him of meeting Richard, of Jason’s birth, the comings and goings at the Planet while he was gone. He listened attentively then told her a little about the places he’d seen. But his recitation was oddly flat, rehearsed, like he was relating a travelogue rather than what he had experienced.

She was on her second cup of coffee and the waiter was giving her odd looks when Clark and Linda finally walked in and sat down at her table.

“When you invited me to breakfast, I assumed we’d be alone,” Linda complained.

“We have some information to share with you,” Clark said, opening his briefcase.

Lois noted that Linda’s eyebrow went up at Clark’s use of the word ‘we’.

Clark pulled out three file folders and pushed them toward Linda. Lois knew what they were. The preliminary forensic reports on the Metropolitan fire, the crane collapse in Midtown and the fatal elevator failure.

Linda glanced through the files. “I knew the hotel fire was an arson,” Linda told them. “That woman has lucky Superman happened to be passing by. But these other two… The authorities are positive they weren’t accidents?”

“Absolutely,” Clark assured her. “But, and this doesn’t go beyond this table, in each of these incidents, a remote controlled detonator was used. The police believe, and so do we, that the perpetrators were waiting on an outside signal to proceed. They were waiting for you to be there.”

Linda stared across the table at Lois and Clark, her face a mask of shock and disbelief. “That can't be true. It can't be.”

“Think about it,” Clark said. “Carpenter always calls to verify your location, right? He's the publisher. He doesn't need to do that.”

“Unless he needs to make sure his man, or woman, is in place before he pulls the trigger on whatever he's got planned,” Lois added.

“Like the elevator. You just happened to be there having lunch. Just like you happened to be at the fire and you happened to be in Midtown when the crane collapsed.”

“Just like Carpenter happens to have a full page editorial ready to run in the same edition,” Lois added. “Nobody writes that fast.”

Linda exhaled slowly as if to force herself to relax.  “I feel so... so...”

“Abused? Duped? Used?” Lois suggested.

“What are you, a thesaurus?” Linda asked, staring at the other woman.

Clark sighed. “Why don't you two put this on hold? We have a lot of work to do.”

“We?” Lois asked sweetly. “’We’ is an inclusive term Clark, one used to indicate all persons present. That would be a clear misuse.”

“What are you, a dictionary?

“Bottom line,” Clark interrupted. “It's a Planet story.”

“Absolutely!” Lois agreed with a triumphant grin.

“Which we can't possibly prove or print without Linda's help,” Clark said. His reminder took some of the wind out of Lois’s sails.

“Exactly!” Linda crowed. Then her expression turned to concern. “What am I supposed to do? Walk up and say, 'Hi, boss, where are you staging your next disaster?'”

“You need to get Carpenter out of his office long enough for us to get into his computer,” Clark told her.

Linda gave him a baffled look. “How?”

“You could use your 'other talents.'” Lois suggested overly brightly. “It wouldn't be the first time.”

Clark looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “You said he'd been hitting on you. Maybe you could... hit back?”

Linda nodded. Lois found herself staring at her partner as she realized he hadn’t stammered once in their conversation, and the Clark she knew from before his trip would never have suggested a woman use her natural ‘attributes’ to get a story. It was a side to him she had never seen.

-o-o-o-


It was cheating, and Lois would be furious if she ever found out, but Clark used his special abilities to follow Linda’s progress to Carpenter’s penthouse office.

He’d been a little surprised at Linda’s reaction to their evidence. Her heart rate had hiked up when presented with the proof that her three big stories had been set-up, and that her boss was the most likely suspect. But Clark had sensed she was more surprised that Carpenter was their chief suspect, than that the Star’s publisher was willing to kill to create a story. He wondered how much of what Lois had said about her was true.

He watched as Linda entered Carpenter’s office. The publisher was putting on his coat, apparently ready to leave. He seemed preoccupied.

“I'm afraid I've only got a few minutes. What can I do for you?” Carpenter said.

“Well, I think the question is: What can I do for you?” Linda said sweetly. “I just read the latest sales projections. Soon the Metropolis Star will be the most widely read paper in the country. It's all because of you. Congratulations.”

“May she be a beacon for the nation,” Carpenter quoted, waving his cigar airily.

“I was hoping you might like to join me for lunch. As my guest. To celebrate.”

“That's very tempting,” Carpenter said. “But as I said, I'm somewhat pressed for time today.”

Linda sat on the desk, revealing long legs. She did it so naturally that Clark found himself wondering how many other times the woman had done the same thing. Carpenter was staring at her legs.

“Preston, even a busy publisher has to eat,” Linda said, lowering her voice seductively.

“After the other night, I wasn't sure you shared my interest in moving our relationship beyond just business.”

“Now who would have guessed a charming man like you could have any insecurities?” Linda asked. She moved closer to him, playing with his tie. “So, can we make it happen?”

“Maybe we should just eat here,” Carpenter suggested.

“Oh, no. We should go out,” Linda replied. “Someplace nice. Drinks, champagne. Then, well, who knows? So, where should we go?”

“I know just the place,” Carpenter said. Clark saw the leer on the man’s face.

“Earth to Clark,” Lois whispered. She was waiting with him on fire stairs for Carpenter and Linda to leave. Clark put his hand up to silence her as the door to the office opened. Linda and Carpenter stepped out. Linda slipped her arm through his as he closed the door behind them.

“You're a very interesting woman, Linda,” Carpenter said as they headed for the elevator.

“And the day is still young...” Linda said.

They disappeared into the elevator. Clark hurried across the hall to the door, Lois on his heels. The door had been left unlocked, allowing them to slip inside. Lois spotted the computer on the desk and hurried over to it while Clark locked the door.

“This shouldn’t take long,” Lois murmured. She was scanning Carpenter’s document directory when the doorknob on the office door jiggled. Clark saw a large shadow looming through the frosted glass of the door. Special vision revealed the figure trying the door was Stark, Carpenter’s personal assistant.

Clark’s research had revealed that Stark was an ex-Special Ops man, discharged from the military for undisclosed reasons that were probably related to his right wing and racially bigoted tendencies. After several years as a mercenary, Stark ended up as Carpenter’s bodyguard then personal aide. The man was a trained killer and he was suspected of being the actual doer in the incidents Linda had reported on. Unfortunately, suspicion didn’t equal proof.

Keys jingled and the door knob turned.

“Quick, under here,” Clark ordered Lois, pushing her under Carpenter’s desk. He had no doubts that Stark would kill if he found them in there.

“What about you?” Lois demanded. There was only room for one of them under the desk, not that Clark would have fit in any case.

“Just stay there!”

Clark looked around the room and realized there was nowhere for someone his size to hide. Invisibility was not one of his abilities. But there was a large window that opened onto a tiny balcony.

Clark heard the door open. Footsteps crossed the carpet, stopped, turned and walked out. The door closed and the lock clicked.

He has inside the room before Lois could scramble out from under the desk.

“That was close,” Lois breathed. “Where did you hide?”

Clark simply shrugged. Lois gave him a doubtful look but he wasn’t about to explain that he had hidden outside the window, thirty stories up. Lois just shook her head as she sat back down at Carpenter’s desk.

“Let's not waste any time in case he comes back,” Clark suggested.

Lois grabbed the computer mouse. After a new moments: “We're in... I'm betting this is his subdirectory... Yeah.”

Clark peered over her shoulder at the monitor. “What's that file? 'Musings?'”

She opened the document. “Looks like a personal diary,” Lois said as she scrolled down the file. But it wasn’t a diary or if it was it was evidence of an extremely disturbed mind and a possible sexual predator. “This man is very sick. In an X-rated kind of way.”

“Let's hope Linda doesn't have to call his bluff,” Clark told her.

“Don't worry,” Lois said grimly. “They're probably perfect for each other.”

“We need proof, not scandal,” Clark reminded her. “Try another file. That one.” He pointed at subdirectory labeled ‘camelot’. Lois attempted to open it but a password request came on the screen.

“This must be it. But we need a password to get into it.”

“Try Kane. K-A-N-E,” Clark suggested. “Linda says he's got a Citizen Kane fixation.”

“No kidding,” Lois muttered as she typed it in. “Nope. Let's see… How about... Rosebud?”

Clark said it at the same time as she did.

“Great minds think alike,” Lois said with a grin. “We're in.”

Clark pointed at the document on the screen. “There's the editorial that went with the hotel fire.”

Lois opened another document. “There's the one on building inspections that ran with the elevator accident.” She opened a more recent one and skimmed it. “Wait a minute.  'An eye for an eye is the only course this country can take after today's brutal assassination of Secretary Wallace at his hotel by Omir extremists...'” she read aloud. “But, Wallace isn't dead.”

“Yet.”

“Carpenter's willing to kill a member of the cabinet to sell a few papers?” Lois asked.

Clark nodded. “And to drag us into another war. And he'd also be willing to kill Linda if he knew she was on to him. Let's go.”

“Just a minute,” she said, still peering at the screen. “’It is regrettable the Superman was unable to prevent the death of a great statesman…’ How would he know that?”

Clark stopped to consider the possibilities. None of them boded well for him. Then he heard the sound of Stark entering the elevator.
 
“We can worry about that later,” he told her. “Come on.”

Lois nodded. She pulled a flash drive from her pocket and plugged it in. The documents didn’t take long to copy but Clark still glared at her impatiently. He could hear Stark coming up in the elevator but there was no way he could explain to Lois how he knew they were running out of time.

“I'm coming already!” Lois muttered as she grabbed the flash drive and turned off the computer.

They were in the stairwell and halfway to the next floor down when Stark got out of the elevator.

-o-o-o-


“Uncle Perry, has Lois checked in yet?” Richard asked.

Perry looked up to see Richard standing in his office doorway. The man looked like he hadn’t slept at all the night before.

“She called in and said she was having breakfast with a possible source,” Perry told him. “She didn’t tell you?”

“I didn’t see her before she left this morning,” Richard told him. “Uncle Perry, Lois came home at 2:45 this morning. She said she was just catching up with Clark.”

“And you think there was more going on?” Perry asked.

“That’s what I’m asking you,” Richard said. “Were they more than just writing partners before he left?”

Perry studied his nephew for a long moment before he answered. “I know that’s what the scuttlebutt was when he left.”

“Was it true?”

“I don’t know,” Perry told him. “I know they were close. But supposedly she was close to Superman, too.”

“Uncle Perry, what am I supposed to do?” Richard asked. “I know I can’t compete against Superman. But she spent the night with her ex-partner.”

“Richard, what kind of relationship can you possibly have with Lois if you don’t trust her?” Perry asked. “If she says nothing happened last night except talking, then that’s all that happened. And don’t even think about asking me to break up one of the best teams this paper has seen since Norcross and Judd.”

Perry saw the resignation in Richard’s face. The older man wished there was something he could do to help, but Richard was a big boy and Perry wasn’t about to damage the paper to help him.  It didn’t bode well that Richard didn’t trust his own fiancée with her writing partner. But the writing had been on the wall for some time in that relationship, even if his nephew refused to see it. After five years of engagement, Lois had steadfastly refused to set a wedding date.

“Richard, maybe you should wait until this problem she and Clark are looking into is handled?” Perry suggested.

“You’re telling me to ignore the fact that my fiancée spent the night with another man?”

“I’m telling you to calm down and trust Lois’s judgment.”

-o-o-o-


Stark could see King and Carpenter through the broad windows of the Grand Hotel’s main floor restaurant. That wasn’t part of the plan and Stark didn’t like it. Carpenter was a civilian and a loose cannon and Stark didn’t like loose cannons.

Wallace’s limo drove up. Stark’s team was ready. He nodded to them and set the plan in motion. The men set off to get into position.

Stark had a few moments to consider his current problem. Carpenter had wanted in on this particular ‘mission’ but now was sitting openly with his current conquest. Stark was well aware of Carpenter’s ‘peccadilloes’.  He’d had to take care of little ‘problems’ like this before. He hadn’t liked it – they were messy and tended to come back and bite. Stark, not for the first time, mused that the time was coming soon when Carpenter would be a ‘problem’ he would have to take care of.

But not today.

He checked his watch. It was getting close to ‘show’ time. He crossed the driveway in front of the hotel entrance, crossed the terrazzo floor of the lobby to the restaurant. He waved away a waiter as he approached Carpenter’s table.

“And who could possibly head such a body?” the woman, King, was saying to Carpenter.

Carpenter smiled at the woman, but Stark noted how the smarmy smile slipped when Carpenter noticed him standing at shoulder. Stark whispered into Carpenter’s ear: “We’re ready.”

Carpenter nodded and turned to his female companion. “Excuse me. I'll be back in a few minutes.”

“Can I come with you?” the woman asked.

Carpenter patted her hand and gave her a patronizing smile. “Why don't you just order dessert for us?”

Stark felt her eyes on them as they walked out of the restaurant. She was a reporter and it was unlikely she would simply sit down and ignore what was going on around her. It wouldn’t be long before Carpenter ordered this problem ‘handled’.

-o-o-o-


Lois impatiently waited for the cab to stop in front of the Grand Hotel. Then she was out of the car, running across to the entrance. She didn’t have to see Clark to know he had paid the cabbie and was hurrying to catch up with her.

Linda was coming out of the restaurant as they crossed the lobby floor.  

“What are you doing here?” Linda hissed at them. “You'll blow everything.”

“Carpenter's going to kill Secretary Wallace,” Clark told her.

Linda’s expression said she didn’t believe him.

“He's already written the editorial,” Lois told her. “All he needs is your 'exclusive' report.”

Linda’s expression shifted to wide-eyed horror.

“Stay here,” Clark ordered them. “I'm going in to warn the Secretary.”

He took off at a fast lope before Lois could grab him or muster an argument. She stared after him. The old Clark had a tendency to disappear at the most inopportune times, but he was never known to run towards danger. She wasn’t sure what to make of this newly emerged aspect of his personality.

“'Stay here,'” Linda quoted wryly. “Guess we know who calls the shots on your team.”

“You don't know anything,” Lois told her.

“I just know what I see,” Linda came back.

“Stay here,” Lois ordered. “I'm going after Clark.”

Linda grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving. “Nice try.”

Lois glared at her. Then four men crossed the lobby to the elevator bank – Carpenter, Stark, and two men dressed as hotel employees.

“There they are,” Linda hissed as the doors closed on the elevator. The floor indicator showed the elevator was going down. Lois headed for the nearest stairwell, Linda hot on her heels.

On the next level down, Lois opened the stairwell door and peered out. She spotted Carpenter and his companions as they disappeared through the swinging doors to one of the hotel kitchens.

Lois led the way to the doors and peeked through one of the portholes. Beyond was a commercial kitchen. Carpenter, Stark, and the two "hotel employees," were huddled around a steel table.

“One of us should notify the police. The other should stay on the story,” Lois said. She hoped Clark had called them, but more likely he was trying to get hold of Superman.

“Great. You take the police.”

“I was thinking you would handle that,” Lois said.

“Think again,” Linda said, pushing the kitchen door open. She dropped to her knees and crawled inside. Lois fumed as she followed.

“The police have been notified there’s going to be an assassination attempt against Wallace,” Stark announced.

“Then we need to call it off,” one of the men said.

“No,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got too much riding on this.”

“But what about Superman?”

“Don’t worry about Superman,” Stark instructed. He pointed to the map spread out on the table. “You two set up here, and here. Fire when you hear my shot.” He turned to Carpenter. “What about your 'friend?'”

Carpenter pulled out his cell phone and keyed in a number. “I'll take care of her.”

Lois’s gut clenched. There was something cold and implacable in Carpenter’s voice and it occurred to her that Clark had been right. Carpenter would have no qualms about killing Linda – or her for that matter.

The two women had taken cover behind the steel counters and started to back out of the room. Suddenly, Linda’s phone chimed. Horrified, she and Linda both grabbed for it but it was too late.

“Linda, dear,” Carpenter said, looking down on them. “I guess I don't have to tell you I've been detained, do I?”
« Last Edit: Sep 2nd, 2020 at 6:45pm by Head Librarian »  

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