7 – As The World Turns
Lois walked into the house and before she closed the door, she saw headlights approaching. “Richard. Thank God.”
She stood in the doorway and waited for him and then stepped back as he entered. “Richard, are you alright?” she whispered in the dark. She poured herself a glass of water and followed him into the dining room.
“Please sit down Lois. I need to talk to you for a minute.”
She reached for the light switch but Richard spoke out, “Please don’t. Just come and sit.” Richard reached across the table and took her hand as he spoke.
“I’ve been thinking Lois. You still love him and honestly, I don’t blame you.”
“No…no I’m not a fool. You know, when I first met you and I knew you were alone with Jason practically a new-born—I felt needed and you’re so amazing. I just couldn’t help falling for you. So of course, I don’t blame him either for loving you.”
Lois sat in silence and let Richard get all of this off his chest. She felt terrible and yet relieved that Richard was saying it and that she didn’t have to.
“The whole day of the Pulitzer presentation and actually before that, from the moment you returned from the plane disaster…you were different. I questioned you and I know in my heart that you only said what you said because you didn’t want to hurt me.”
“Richard, I do love you.”
“I know Lois, I know but everyone has that one person, that love of their life and as much as I wish it were me, I know it isn’t—which brings me to the next subject.”
“Oh Richard wait.” Lois knew where this whole conversation was headed and as much as she trusted Richard, she was frightened to death for anyone to know who Jason’s father was. Knowing that Lex Luthor may still be out there somewhere and that he possibly knew the truth terrified her. Jason could be in grave danger and the only thing that allowed her to breathe was the fact that Superman would die before he’d let anyone harm a hair on Jason’s head. Still she knew that if anyone alive had the right to know, it was Richard and she hoped he could keep it to himself.
“Lois. I’ve always had this thought in the back of my mind that there was a whole lot more to your relationship with Superman than just the news.”
“Richard, has finding this out changed the way you feel about Jason?”
“Of course not, I love him but all night I sat here thinking that if I were Superman and this was my son, I’d turn the world upside down for my right to know him and be his father.”
“How much do you want to know Richard?”
“Well, first I guess just tell me what you want.”
“I want you in my life. That much I do know but Jason has a right to know his father. I hope you can understand.”
She could hear Richard’s body deflate with a large sigh. He let go of her hand and she felt a tear fall down her cheek. “Oh Richard,” Lois said rising from the table.
“No Lois sit please, I’m fine. It’s not as if I thought he was mine, I mean, that would be pretty impossible but hearing you say it, well it brings it all into the real world.”
“What do you mean?”
“Although we all took it pretty hard when he went away, you won a Pulitzer because you took it the hardest. Remember the day I took you to the hospital to see him?”
“I already knew the truth in my heart since the day we were in the plane. I tried to reason away how Jason could have seen him, all the way down there in the water. I certainly couldn’t.”
“I was afraid of that too. All I can say to you is I’m sorry I didn’t tell you but you can imagine how I felt. Worrying constantly how Kal being his father would immediately put his life in jeopardy.”
“Lois, I love you both and I would never do anything to hurt either of you.”
“I also didn’t know he’d be back. I honestly thought he was gone forever.”
“He definitely knows, right?”
“I thought he was dying Richard. I told him at the hospital. I think it may have saved his life. I think it gave him a reason to live.”
“I think he already had a reason to live.”
“I honestly don’t know what he feels or thinks. I can’t say I ever have.”
“Well, the only person left who should know, that doesn’t, is Jason.”
“I haven’t figured this all out yet. I still don’t think anyone should know and we have to promise each other that no matter what happens…”
“I need to think this all through. I feel like some sort of thief. I feel like while he was away, I stole his life.”
“You didn’t steal anything Richard, do you hear me? I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”
“But now, I think you may doubt all of this.”
“What are you trying to tell me? Just say it for God’s sake.”
“I’m telling you that if you want to be with him, I understand but I won’t be second—third in your life. I couldn’t live like that.”
“I’ll answer for you. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll take a little extended vacation, a couple weeks and decide my own fate if that’s okay with you?” Richard’s tone had changed a bit but if this was the worst it would get, she was more than accepting to it.
“You shouldn’t have to go away…”
“No. If Superman hadn’t left, who knows, maybe you’d still be with him. That, Lois, is something I need to accept and deal with on my own so I can’t be around right now. You need to see him and figure this out for yourself, just as I need to decide where my life is headed.”
“When are you leaving?”
“In the morning.”
“I didn’t want any of this. I certainly don’t want you to think that the last five years has meant nothing to me because you’d be dead wrong,” Lois said taking Richard’s hands back into hers, caressing them lovingly as she did after all, love him very much.
“I’ll just grab a blanket,” Richard said, pulling his hands away and getting up from the table.
“Will you say goodbye?” Lois rose to her feet and stood close, making Richard look at her.
“I just did,” Richard turned away from her and headed off to get the blanket and make himself a bed on the sofa for the night.
Lois walked into the kitchen and sat her glass in the sink. The tears kept falling as she looked out the kitchen window into the night. She felt compelled to step outside and take a smoke but instead, she walked to Jason’s room and kissed him softly on the forehead again, before climbing into bed…alone.
Lois heard the plane start before dawn. She dashed out of bed and ran to the window and watched as Richard taxied across the still water and took off into the sunrise. She stood watching for a minute and then let the curtain fall back into place and crawled back onto the bed.
He had really done it.
“Mommy?” Jason was standing in the doorway of her room rubbing his sleepy eyes. “Where’s Daddy going?”
“Daddy had to go away for a little while Jason but you and I are going to be fine. Okay?”
“Can I sleep with you?”
“Well, it’s almost time to get up but we can snuggle for a while. How’s that sound?”
Jason ran and leapt onto the bed and crawled up next to Lois, who enveloped him in the blankets with her. Within a few moments, they had both drifted back to sleep.
Lois dropped Jason at school and hurried off to work at the Planet. Her first stop was Perry White’s office. “Perry, got a minute?” Lois asked as she poked her head through the door.
“Sure Lois. C’mon in.”
“I guess you know Richard left.”
“Lois, I make it a point not involve myself in the personal business of my employees but of course, in this case, I’ll make an exception. Yes, he called me this morning. Basically, Richard thinks you’re still in love with Superman right? That’s why he left?”
“Look Lois, all I want is for you kids to be happy—all of you and for this newspaper to keep running in the process. Anything else is basically none of my business.”
“Well, Richard helped a lot with Jason’s schedule and so I’ll need to be pretty flexible.”
“Not a problem. Do whatever you need to do.”
“Hey Mr. Kent, how’d it go last night with Jillian?” asked Jimmy as he walked up to Clark’s desk.
“It went swell. She’s really great,” Clark said withholding a smile and trying not to seem overly excited about the whole thing.
“Well, she sure seemed happy when I went to pick up my car this morning. She was talking about you like you were the best thing since toast!” Jimmy laughed.
“Really?” Clark’s eyebrows lifted.
“Well, yeah Clark. She really likes you. You didn’t lead her on or anything right?” Jimmy asked folding his arms.
“Absolutely not, I assure you, everything was very honorable last night. Besides, I really wouldn’t know what you mean by leading her on.”
“Well, she said to ask you, if you’re not busy tonight, if you’d have dinner with her again at the restaurant at the hotel. So, I’ll leave it up to you. She said you have her number,” Jimmy said as he turned to head back to his desk.
Lois walked back out into the newsroom and headed straight for Clark. Although her personal events had distracted her from other news, they hadn’t taken her away from finding out if there were any new developments.
“Hey Clark, anything yet?”
“I got a call last night but it was pretty vague Lois.”
“Well, apparently this person thinks they know me and they don’t want to say who they are.”
“You mean like a prank caller?”
“I think we shouldn’t talk about this out here in the open Lois. Oh and I dropped off the package at the police station but they asked a lot of questions.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Well, where did I get it, who touched it and…”
“You didn’t give them the letter did you?”
“How did you know?”
“That’s good. Okay so what’s on tap for today?”
“On tap Lois?”
“Sorry Clark. I mean where are you going?”
“Well, honestly, Mr. White just said to tag along with you on the mysterious trash bin fires at the Grand Hotel.”
“Great,” she moaned, “Trash bin fires. We nearly get ourselves killed yesterday and he wants us to check out trash bin fires.” Lois stood, thinking for a moment with her arms folded.
Clark sat looking up at her from his desk. He loved her like this. Her mind was at work and she was looking to one side with a smirk. Clark had thought since the first moment he laid eyes on her, that she was beautiful but to deny how absolutely adorable she was, would be a crime.
“You’re so cute,” Clark blurted out from his dreamy stupor.
“What?” Lois said, breaking her concentration with a jerk of her head, looking dead at him.
“W…was that aloud?” he stammered, pushing his glasses into place and looking at Lois with a stunned and petrified expression.
“Did you just call me cute, Clark?” Lois asked, placing her hand on her hip and glaring at him.
“I’m sorry Lois. It just kind of popped out.”
“Popped out? So, when did you have this revelation?” she asked turning slightly away and fighting back a smile of embarrassment for him.
“Oh I’m so…” Clark’s head seemed to fall from his neck until his chin nearly touched his chest.
“Embarrassed? Busted?” Lois stood over him with her lips pursed but she was obviously amused and straining against laughter. “Clark, if we’re going to be spending all of this time together working, you’ll need to put this little boyish crush aside. I have enough on my plate at the moment.”
“Got it Lois,” Clark said, raising his head back up to his shoulders. He heard her saying something to Perry about Richard leaving. He didn’t know what had transpired once he’d left the night before but hoped he’d find out eventually.
“The Grand Hotel. Hey, is that where Jillian is staying this week Clark?” Lois asked, looking back over her shoulder at him as she slid into her ivory trench coat.
“Jillian? Oh Jillian, yes. As a matter of fact it is Lois.”
“Hmmmm…cute,” she quipped as she tossed her dark hair and headed for the elevator.
Clark quickly grabbed his things and followed behind her as always. Once they were in the elevator, Lois said, “Clark, we’ll take my car because I’ll have to pick Jason up from school.”
“Oh, okay Lois,” Clark said with a wide grin. He’d get to see his son today and that made him very pleased.
Lois led Clark to the parking garage and they climbed in her car to hit the road. Before she could put the car in gear, the cell phone rang. They spun towards each other in their seats as Clark reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the phone to answer it.
“Good morning Mr. Kent. I trust you and Miss. Lane are together?”
“You sound as if you know we are.”
“That may be true. Why don’t you put me on speaker Mr. Kent so I can speak with both of you?”
Clark tried to listen intently for any sign of background noise. He listened to the voice for any resemblance to a voice he may have heard in the past.
“Now that I have you both together, I’ll give you a clue.”
“A clue, for what? Who are you and why me and Clark?” Lois shouted at the phone.
“Now calm down Miss Lane. I told you before, I’ve searched everywhere and found that your dear Mr. Kent here is the only person that may serve as a suitable challenger to me. He is after all the only person—other than Superman that is, who is capable of actually beating me, although, that will never happen.” The voice broke into a loud and haunting laughter. “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”
Suddenly, the phone again was silent.
“Clark, before I even start this car, before we go anywhere….” Lois glared at him and growled.
“Okay…okay Lois, I’ll tell you. I have been studying Kryptonian technology for a while now. I’ve studied their codes, their theories, just about everything. Anything you want to know about Krypton, I can most likely tell you.”
“What’s with you, Clark? Do you have some secret man crush on Superman?” Lois asked with a straight face.
“What!” Clark shouted and burst into an awkward laughter.
“Well, why in the world would you study all of this if it weren’t to get closer to him somehow? What do you need to know this stuff for?”
Clark struggled to regain his composure as he could see that Lois was quite serious and was becoming extremely agitated with his hysteria. “Well, Lois, if this were true, which it isn’t, I’d have to be a little mixed up since I also have some mad crush on you too, just because I said you were cute?” Clark spoke, doing the best he could to say those words without choking with laughter.
“You’re mocking me now?”
“Of course not!”
“Well what is it then? Why would you go to all of this trouble? It just creep’s me out a little I guess.”
“Lois, it was just curiosity. I have a good bit of free time and figured it might come in handy someday. I never realized it would be something like this.” Clark turned to face her in his seat as he tried to explain but then turned and stared out through the windshield.
“I’m sorry Clark. It’s that creepo voice on the phone and the letter. It’s like he’s trying to get me to think and believe things about you that aren’t true and what frightens me is, maybe it will be some deep dark secret about me he’ll bring up next.”
“Don’t be silly Lois. You’re like an open book.”
Lois rolled her eyes and blew her bangs into the air with an exasperated sigh as Clark pulled the letter out of his inside coat pocket and read it aloud to.
“Trust is a very important thing. We all wonder who we can trust. We wonder what to believe. We think we know but then, we realize we don’t. Therein lays the human weakness. Therein lays my destiny and my opportunity.”
“And your point is, Clark?”
“Don’t you get it, Lois?” Clark asked, folding the letter back up and putting it away.
“I get it Clark. Let’s just go,” she said as she started the car and they drove out of the garage, headed for the Metropolis Grand Hotel.
“Where were you when the world stopped turning?” he said to himself. Clark could have sworn he’d heard his own voice, echoing back through the cell phone but thought it may have just been bad reception in the garage. As they drove away, he scanned the entire area thoroughly but saw no one. Even he was starting to get spooked.
8 – We Didn’t Start the Fire
Clark and Lois entered the Grand Hotel and went straight to the reception desk. An attractive red haired young woman, dressed smartly in a black blazer, embossed with the hotel logo greeted them with a big smile. “Good Morning, may I get you a room?”
Clark and Lois turned and sized each other up and Lois spoke, “No. Actually, we’re from the Daily Planet. I’m Lois Lane and this is Clark Kent. We’re here to inquire about the mysterious fires.”
“Oh. Let me just get the manager for you,” the girl blushed and said as she backed away from the counter and reappeared a minute later with a distinguished looking white haired gentleman.
“So, you’re here about the fires? How may I help you?”
“Mr. Melton is it?” Lois said as she leaned in and read his name badge.
“Yes.” He replied. “And you are Miss Lane and Mr. Kent as Dianna has so kindly informed me.”
“So what can you tell us about the fires Mr. Melton?”
As the hotel manager spoke with Lois, tape recorder in hand, Clark smelled a faint trace of smoke and followed it. Lois was so intent on her interview, that she completely ignored Clark’s wandering in search of the source of the smell.
“You see Miss Lane, this is a non-smoking establishment. There’ve been no cigarettes or matches or anything of that sort associated with these fires. It’s as if someone just tosses a piece of burning paper into them and walks off.”
“Well what about security cameras Mr. Melton?” Lois continued.
“Well, we only have cameras in the hallways of course, it seems just before this happens, our security cameras just go black, as if they’re being covered up and then when they come back on, the fire is already in progress. The fires in the rooms are only those units which are not occupied. The problem is, that the police believe the fires are a diversion, since during the fires, there is another room being burglarized.”
Clark smelled the smoke getting stronger and stronger until he saw a tall thin man, come out of a room and close the door. He waited around a corner until the man was out of sight and entered the room, which was fully ablaze. It looked as if this was the fire bug. Clark quickly blew out the fire and then ran to the hallway and got a good look at the man before he walked off. Then he turned and grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and sprayed it on the remnants of the fire, to cover his tracks.
Off he went to find this mysterious fire starter. Clark followed behind, hiding around corners, watching the man as he tried door after door, until the man realized he was being followed and ducked into a utility closet.
Clark sprinted down the hallway and locked the door.
“Hey! Let me outta here!”
“Clark? Where did go?” Lois asked as Clark walked back up onto the conversation with the hotel manager.
“I just thought I’d look around a bit and well, there’s a man, locked in a closet up on the 12th floor. You may want to send someone up there. It might be your firebug Mr. Melton.”
“How would you know that Clark?” asked Lois, turning slowly away from her conversation with the manager, with that all too familiar curious yet suspicious look on her face.
“Well, as luck would have it, I was looking around and caught him coming out of one of the rooms and smelled smoke. I quickly grabbed an extinguisher and put the fire out and followed him. He ducked in the closet and I locked the door and nabbed him,” Clark said looking very satisfied with himself.
“You did what?” Lois asked. Her eyes were wide open in amazement. “Now, you’re a PI Clark?”
“No. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” said Clark as he pushed his glasses up and smiled.
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” said Mr. Melton as he dashed to the phone to call the police.
“You ‘nabbed’ him Clark?” Lois asked, shaking her head.
“Well, what would you have done Lois? I mean, Mr. White said to tag along with you and just do whatever you would do. He said…”
“I’m sure he meant that in a journalistic way Clark, not to mimic my every move,” Lois groaned, putting her tape recorder away. “Well, our work is done here.” She tossed her pocketbook onto her shoulder and folded her arms, looking curiously at Clark once more. “We’ll check with the police later about this, and the box.”
“Clark? Clark is that you?” came a familiar voice from behind them.
Lois and Clark turned in unison, to see Jillian, entering the front doors of the hotel, shopping bags in tow.
“Hi Clark!” Jillian rushed up and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
Lois moaned to herself and stepped aside.
“Well, what a nice surprise. Look Lois, it’s Jillian.” Clark said, with a hard swallow, pointing her out.
“Yes, I can see her, Clark,” Lois said, as she shook Jillian’s hand.
“Clark, I’m so glad I ran into you. Now you won’t have to call me,” Jillian gushed as she stepped between Lois and Clark. “I’d love it if you’d have dinner with me tonight—right here at the hotel. They have a wonderful little restaurant on the top floor.”
“Um…you know what Jillian? I will have to call you because I’m not really sure,” Clark said, peeking around Jillian and watching Lois walk off a few feet away.
“Oh.” She frowned. “Well, okay then Clark. I’ll probably be having dinner here anyway. If I must eat alone, I guess I’ll have to,” Jillian said with a sigh.
“I’m sorry, it’s just I’m never sure what will happen in this business and I wouldn’t want you waiting around for me.”
Just then, the police started marching through the door and were greeted by a frantic Mr. Melton, who led them all to the elevators.
“Clark? We really should go and get this story to the presses. We won’t get the whole scoop until later anyway when the police file their report,” Lois said, giving Clark an arched eyebrow as she crossed her arms and drummed her fingers before turning and walking away.
“Alright, Lois, I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll call, Jillian. I promise,” Clark said, again sinking into Jillian’s eyes. He hadn’t even noticed his hand on her arm as he spoke. As soon as he realized what he was doing, he put his hands in his pockets and chased after Lois, headed for the car.
“Clark, we have time to get this story started and then I’ll go and pick Jason up myself,” Lois said, never taking her eyes off of the road.
“I can come along with you Lois if you want? I mean, for company,” Clark blurted out in desperation.
“Nope, I’ll probably have to bring him back to work with me for a bit. I have to know what happens with the police over the fires and the fingerprints.” Lois was very matter of fact and Clark noticed her mood had changed. He was elated that he’d be able to see Jason but he brooded with worry.
“Are you alright Lois?”
“Please, don’t take this the wrong way but don’t you think things are moving a little fast with Jillian?”
“Yeah, fast Clark. Like, she just gets into town and bam! She’s all over you. Doesn’t that seem just a little off to you? Didn’t you have any girlfriends back home, you know, in Smallville?” Lois’ hands waved about as she spoke, letting go of the steering wheel. Clark sat up in case he’d have to take over.
“Well yes Lois, there was one girl but…”
“One?” Lois asked, looking over at Clark with a pitiful frown.
“Lois, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m a little shy,” Clark said with a crack in his voice.
“Shy, Clark? Now there’s the understatement of the year. In all the time I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you date, let alone have anyone actually flirt with you or you flirt back. Shy just doesn’t cover it my friend.”
“Well, there was a girl here in Metropolis that I really thought I was falling for but I haven’t really seen her since I’ve been back. Um, Lois, can you keep your hands on the wheel please?” Clark lowered his voice and watched her rant with her hands. His face fell from serious to sad.
“Well, chin up Clark,” she said, patting him on the leg, “I’ll bet you’ll find her and she’ll probably be a much better match than ole jet pack Jillian.”
“I hope so Lois. I thought the other one—um, before I left—she was definitely the one.”
Lois changed the subject as they drove and filled Clark in on her conversation with Mr. Melton.
“Alright, Lois, I’ll check with the police and we’ll discuss it when you come back,” Clark said, as the cell phone began ringing in his pocket and he noticed it was exactly twelve noon.
Lois hit the breaks hard. She pulled to the curb in front of the Planet and Clark pulled the phone from his pocket.
“Hello?” He shouted into the phone.
“Mr. Kent, It appears you’re surprised to hear from me so soon. Have you been thinking about the clue?”
“Yes. We’ve been thinking about the clue but we need a little time.”
“I’m in no hurry. When you’ve been waiting as long as I have, a day or so is nothing. Oh I did forget one little part of the clue though,” said the mysterious voice, over-laid with a chuckle.
“I didn’t say which world.” Click.