I'm not even sure I can write an intro to this. I can only warn you that this is just the beginning of the intensity that will follow the rest of this story. Be warned. No one is safe.
Back at the precinct, Maggie and Dan Turpin were currently scrutinizing newly-arrived photos of the subway where Kala’s glasses had been found. “Allright, so they took her within an hour or two of her leaving the apartment,” Maggie said thoughtfully, leaning back in her chair and staring intently at the images, trying to find something, anything, that they could have missed. “And they knew Superman would get involved; the kryptonite proves that.”
“Big Blue’s always been pretty protective of Lois and her kids,” Dan Turpin added. The two were trying to brainstorm; they’d been reacting to events for far too long, and if they were going to find Kala, they had to start thinking ahead of her captors.
“Yeah.” Maggie steepled her fingers against her finger, pensive. “What gets me is this – they could’ve just snatched her out of the apartment. Lois’ security is good, but these are pros. If they could take down Kala without anyone noticing – and she’s been to kickboxing class with her mom, it couldn’t have been easy – they could’ve broken in. So why wait for her to walk out on her own?”
“Trying to mislead us and make us waste time treating it as a runaway?” Dan offered.
That was immediately challenged with another question. “Ah, but how would they know exactly when she left?”
The burly cop shrugged then. “Hell, how would they know she was gonna run? Her own parents didn’t know.”
That made Maggie glance up at him with a sad smile. “Parents often don’t,” the Inspector sighed, feeling the ache of her own history with Jamie.
“Yeah, but this isn’t just two kids, two parents, and one dog,” Dan responded. “There’s a whole damn network with the Lanes. Shit, you know the kid better than most people know their friends’ kids. You even got invited to the swanky birthday party.”
That reminder was enough to make Maggie abruptly alert, a fierce light burning in her glacial blue eyes. “You’re right,” she whispered, considering his point. Her mind was going a mile a minute then. “There is a whole network of people – friends, relatives, coworkers, acquaintances, enough people to fill the Centennial ballroom for a sixteenth birthday party. The extended family is huge.”
“Yeah?” Dan had known her long enough to recognize that feral gleam, the sudden surge of energy the instant it happened. He couldn’t resist a grin. Maggie was on the hunt again.
“So how many of these people do we really know?” she said, sitting up at alarming speed, whipping her chair back to face her computer screen. The keys clacked wildly as she continued, never looking up. “I mean, Cat and Tobie go way back, and Lana and Richard are trustworthy. Lucy and Ron and their kids are blood relatives. But there’s a whole bunch more that we don’t know a damn thing about. Dan, the only way they could know when Kala left is if they had someone on the inside.”
“There’s a mole,” he said, and he’d caught her excitement. “We can get that guest list, right? It won’t cover everybody, but it’ll be a start.”
“Dan, you’re a genius. Do it. We’ll run background checks on every one of them.”
It was supposed to be quick, simple, and relatively clean. Hope had let herself into the apartment silently, keeping out of sight while Lana Lang paced and made phone calls. She couldn’t hear exactly what the designer was saying from her position in the pantry, but she knew when Lana finally settled down in the living room.
After much discussion with Luthor, Mercy had finally contacted Hope with the orders. Of the four in the family, Lana was the weakest link. Clark Kent was somehow invulnerable to attack, Richard White was former military, and Lois Lane was not to be harmed no matter what – Luthor had a personal interest in her. So the designer was the target. Hope’s mission was intended to utterly demoralize the family, and as such a simple shot from a sniper wouldn’t do. No, Mercy wanted a gruesome scene; she wanted everyone in the family to have traumatic flashbacks for years.
That was why Hope had decided to just walk up on Lana silently, grab a handful of that long red hair, and yank her head back. One quick flick of the knife would open her throat, and she’d be dead in seconds, leaving the kind of gory spectacle that not even cops could get used to. If she stood at the right angle, Hope could even avoid getting any blood on herself.
All of those plans had evaporated the moment Lana switched off the television. Hope had suddenly been revealed, and the redhead had reacted much quicker than she’d expected. Swearing under her breath, Hope made it to the patio door before Lana could get it open, taking a swipe at her with the knife.
The designer yelped when her arm was laid open, and abruptly reversed direction. Hope slashed at her again, catching her across the ribs as she turned, and a stride later she managed to grab a lock of Lana’s hair. Unfortunately, the designer had already reached the sofa and decided to vault it instead of going around, so Hope wound up yanking out that handful of hair. Lana landed running in spite of the pain and bolted for the front door.
Hope was hot on her heels and managed to head her off at the hallway, getting in another slash as Lana tried to avoid her. The designer ducked into the kitchen, probably hoping to exit that room into the front hall and thus get to the door. Hope had familiarized herself with the layout, however, and beat her there.
Now she had Lana penned in the corner of the kitchen, the redhead panting, her eyes glazed in terror. Hope moved in to finish it, but the designer got her arm up in time, and only took another deep cut to her arm. She was bleeding freely from both arms, her side, and her scalp now, the floor tiles spattered. As Lana leaned against the counter behind her, bracing herself in that corner, blood smeared on the pale granite.
“You’re just making this harder on yourself,” Hope said with angry annoyance. She darted in with the knife, and Lana managed to block it again, letting out a pained cry as fresh blood welled up. “Knock it off. You know you don’t have a chance in hell of getting away. Just hold still and this will all be over…”
The redhead’s face showed no comprehension, her expression blank with fear. Her arms were trembling, though, and Hope figured this couldn’t last much longer. Shock and blood loss would do her opponent in shortly. She raised the knife again, ready to make short feinting slashes until she had an opportunity for a lethal blow. It didn’t matter if it was the relatively clean slice across the throat anymore – she’d gut the woman if she had to, just to get this over with.
Just then, a tremulous voice from the back of the apartment called out, “M-Mommy? What’s being so noisy?” Hope froze, her stomach sinking – Lana was supposed to be alone in the apartment! Knowing Luthor, she’d have to do the kid now, too.
She had glanced away from her target for an instant at the sound of the other voice. When Hope turned her attention back to the redhead, Lana’s expression had changed completely. The frozen terror was gone, replaced by such boiling wrath that Hope was momentarily taken aback. She didn’t even have time to react as Lana grabbed the knife blade in one hand, and brought the other around in a flat arc, holding something she’d grabbed off the counter behind her…
General Zod reclined in a chair that reminded him faintly of Kryptonian décor, and pondered his situation. It was slightly more promising than before, if a little more galling.
He never let himself forget that he was, still, in prison. First the Phantom Zone, then a brief period of liberty, followed by confinement in human prisons. Stripped of his powers, it was humiliating to be merely mortal after so few days of being a god. But imprisonment had taught him patience, and caution. He learned, through intense scrutiny of his surroundings, how to predict human behavior, and then how to manipulate it. Gradually Zod had convinced his captors he was on the road to rehabilitation, and he was transferred to less-secure facilities, given more privileges. Human society had forgotten the Kryptonian villains, sweeping the whole debacle under the rug. None of the trio had ever been confined at Stryker’s Island with its special facilities for metahumans. After all, none of them had powers…
As he was allowed out of his cell more often, Zod took every opportunity to soak up the rays of this planet’s yellow sun. He always felt better in sunlight, and over time the general began to feel his powers returning.
Just the faintest trickle, at first; a hint more strength, senses a shade keener than they’d been the day before. Small signs, but he welcomed them. Realizing what it meant, he’d even humbled himself to join a work detail. The ignominy was worth the extra hours in the sun. Zod had wondered if Ursa and Non were experiencing a similar return of their powers, but all his efforts could not get a message to Ursa, and Non had lost the ability to read when he’d lost his powers of speech.
He’d learned that Ursa at least was recovering her powers – she attempted to escape three years ago. But while she’d acquired speed and strength enough to evade her guards, she wasn’t yet invulnerable. She had been shot down just outside the perimeter fence.
That had come as a crushing blow. If there was anyone in all the galaxies fit to rule at Zod’s side, it had been Ursa, and thanks to simple miscalculation, she was gone forever. He had kept his rage hidden, presenting a sorrowful mask to the psychologists who interviewed him, and was thankful at least that none of these moronic humans figured out how Ursa had gotten beyond the fence. They did not suspect he was regaining his powers; at the time, he’d thought he would be able to escape in five years, perhaps ten. Time meant little; Zod wore his age lightly, and patience was his best hope. Rash action had gotten him into this mess in the first place, and only careful calculation would get him out.
Or so he’d thought. But then, a year after Ursa’s death, Zod had gotten a visitor. At first, the cold-eyed blonde had claimed to be from his lawyer’s office. That had gotten her past the guards to see him, but Zod didn’t believe her. After a brief attempt to bluff him, she’d told him the truth – she was Mercy Graves, an associate of Lex Luthor.
Oh, that name. If there was any human Zod loathed as much as he hated Jor-El, it was Luthor. Jor-El, at least, was a noble son of Krypton – monstrously arrogant in his defiance, rigidly fixed in his ridiculous ‘principles’, and a hypocrite who berated others for their lack of vision while ignoring his own massive blind spot. Luthor, however, was nothing more than a human cur – a slinking beast that alternately fawned over and snapped at the hand that fed it. Motivated by greed and lust for power, he had no honor, no loyalty, no shred of any virtue a Kryptonian could respect.
What Luthor did have, as Mercy explained, was a pressing need for a native speaker of Kryptonese. For the right translator, he could offer many things: freedom, for a start. And eventually, a deeper and more thorough revenge against Kal-El.
Understandably intrigued, Zod had discussed it with her at some length. He was well aware of Luthor’s tendency to double-cross his allies, but considered it a worthwhile risk. That was before he was smuggled out of prison, his death faked, only to arrive at the research facility and discover that Luthor had left out a few details of the arrangement. Such as the fact that this was essentially just another prison, and here, his jailer carried kryptonite.
Zod had expected as much, and relied on Luthor’s short-sighted arrogance as well as his own wits. His captivity had not been entirely unpleasant – the scientists respected him, and the security staff feared him. Luthor himself had been gloating over the reversal of their fortunes since the moment Zod arrived, and the general mostly ignored him. He dared not harm Zod, and Zod would not kill him. Yet.
Their uneasy détente now had a new factor thrown in. The daughter of Kal-El … granddaughter of Jor-El. Kala Kal-El, Last Daughter of Krypton. Zod had not had much time to form an opinion of her, but so far his first impressions were favorable. She spoke their language, albeit with a noticeable human accent, and she was defiant in the face of overwhelming odds. She also had sense enough to recognize Luthor as her deadliest enemy, and yet was wise enough not to trust Zod himself immediately.
Her style of dress met with Zod’s approval as well – all black, much like his own preference, though she showed entirely too much skin for Zod’s taste. It did not truly befit a Kryptonian to reveal so much, he thought. Ah well, perhaps it was a feminine trait – Ursa had had much the same impulse in her clothing choices.
Decision made, Zod rose and walked to the crystal panel just inside his own room. He smiled slowly; Luthor and his scientists did not yet understand everything about the crystals. They had learned how information could be stored and displayed on them, and begun to explore the crystals’ potential for growth. Encoding that growth to take a specific form was considered as much art as science on Krypton; Zod had made sure to wax lyrical about it, impressing the humans with the complexity of the process.
But one thing he had not mentioned to Luthor was the resonant capability of the crystals. All of the growth from one seed crystal shared certain properties, including resonating at a frequency and amplitude particular to that batch of crystal. Thus Kal-El’s Fortress worked together as one unit, all of the massive crystals channeling the sun’s rays down to its power source. In essence, the structure communicated with all of its parts, coordinating the shifts in power.
Zod laid his hand against the crystal panel, knowing it had been grown from the same seed as the panel outside – and that both matched the inner and outer panels on Kala’s room. Luthor and his men imagined that these sensitive liquid crystal screens contained only the programming for the doors, but they were wrong. Once the panel lit up, Zod withdrew his hand and flicked it with a fingernail.
The crystal chimed, its sound muted, and the display wavered before showing a schematic of the hall. The panel he had touched was lit up, and Zod merely had to lightly touch the image of the one in Kala’s room to activate it.
Even now, that panel was chiming in answer, and it would surely capture Kala’s attention. This technology had been used on Krypton to send messages as well as to secure the inhabitant’s homes; why use two separate devices when one would so easily serve both functions? Luthor’s minions had never thought to strike the costly panels, thinking them as fragile as the limited human technology they superficially resembled.
“Kala Kal-El,” Zod said, keeping his voice low and respectful. “I wish to speak with you. You may call upon me at your convenience.” That was enough to pique her interest, but not enough to frighten her or to give her a firm grasp on his motives. He seated himself again, and awaited her response.
Lana felt light-headed as she staggered out of the kitchen. The last few minutes were a blur of fear and rage, and she wasn’t really thinking anymore. Enough presence of mind remained for her to grab a dishtowel on her way out and scrub her face, getting the worst of it off her.
One thought dominated: Kristin. Lana made her way to her daughter’s bedroom, leaning against the wall for support and unaware of the bloody handprints she left behind.
The little girl had gotten out of bed and come out to her doorway, bleary-eyed from her cold and the medicine she’d been given. “Mommy, what’s goin’ on? Was Dusty makin’ a mess?” she murmured sleepily, though she was clearly worried by the loud sounds she’d heard. Then she looked up at Lana, her blue eyes wide and perplexed. “Mommy, what were you doing? You’ve got paint all over you. You didn’t say you were going to paint today.” Even as Kristin said it, fear started to trickle in.
“It’s okay, sweetie, it’ll wash off,” Lana soothed, and was shocked to hear her voice come out as a reedy whisper. Relief washed through her at seeing her child safe and sound, and it took the last of her strength with it. She managed to slide to her knees instead of falling, and hugged Kristin to her. Her daughter couldn’t know what happened. She had to act as though she had a made a little mess with paint in the kitchen. “It’s okay, it’s all gonna be okay, everything’s fine now.”
Kristin sniffled and clung tightly to her, not quite believing those reassurances. Neither of them paid any attention to the blood that streaked Lana’s arms and soaked her blouse. It was already staining the carpet beneath them.
“How are things going?” Luthor asked, hovering anxiously behind Mercy. A wireless receiver rested against her ear, looking much like a common Bluetooth accessory but designed for use with L-Tech’s proprietary satellite communicators.
“On which front?” she asked. In front of her was a screen showing Kala’s room; the girl was standing up, looking at the door, which unfortunately wasn’t in the camera’s view. Mercy switched to the hall camera, but no one was outside. “I can’t tell what she’s looking at.”
“We don’t have to worry about her for now,” Luthor said. “What about her family?”
“There’s no word yet from Hope.” That said, Mercy glanced at the clock. She frowned. “I expected her to check in by now. How long does it take to kill a designer?”
“Maybe there were complications?” Luthor surmised.
“Let’s go to plan B, just in case.”
Kala stared at the panel beside her door. Zod’s voice alone had unnerved her, and his politely-worded request only discomfited her more. What could he want from her? Kala paced, cradling her arm, as she considered her options.
First of all, Zod was not just an enemy. He was the enemy, the one her parents had feared the most, a being with all of Superman’s powers and none of his humanity. He and his followers had killed people just because they could. Add to that the fact that he had sworn vengeance on the House of El, and Zod was absolutely the last person Kala would’ve trusted.
But he’d rescued her. Zod had taken her side against Luthor’s goons, and he clearly hated Luthor. Unless this was all an elaborate setup to make her trust Zod…
Not likely, Kala decided. Luthor had seemed genuinely furious, and Zod’s loathing seemed very genuine. It was a possibility to keep in mind, but for the moment, she had to assume at least something was true.
Schecter had warned her about Zod, claiming the general only served his own interests. Well, that certainly fit with Zod’s past behavior, but the mere fact that one of Luthor’s employees was telling her to avoid him was actually a point in Zod’s favor. Whatever Luthor wanted Kala to do, she probably ought to do the opposite, since Luthor definitely didn’t have her best interests in mind.
But still. Zod. A criminal so bent on domination that the Kryptonian council had condemned him to eternal living death in the Phantom Zone. A villain who would have stripped her father of his powers and kept him as a slave, a permanent reminder of Zod’s superiority over Jor-El. A man with every reason to hate Kala, and he was inviting her over for a polite chat?
Even if she did decide to speak with him, she had to be wary. Zod had to want something from her; that much of Schecter’s warning she believed. The question was, what was it? And more importantly, if Kala accepted his invitation and walked into that room, would she be able to walk out again?
Zod had powers, but so did she. Kala remembered a time not long ago when she’d raced her father through a field of winter wheat on the outskirts of Smallville. They’d been closely matched, Kala suspecting that he had held back for her sake. But then, as they crossed a meadow, she’d heard the bark of gunfire somewhere nearby.
Deer season was supposed to be over, but apparently at least one hunter thought the law didn’t apply to him. The blast startled Kala, and she’d been in a fey mood anyway, energized by the slanting sunlight and the chill air with its scent of snow. At the gunshot, Kala had taken off, hitting her full speed. It seemed like she crossed the meadow in an instant, the withered grass a blur beneath her feet.
The trees on the other side had slowed her down, and only then had her father caught up to her. He’d looked worried, and Kala hoped the hunter hadn’t seen them. Only later, when she was racing home from her disastrous evening with Nick, did she realize just how fast she was. She didn’t have Superman’s endurance, but she’d beaten him in a very brief sprint.
She had speed enough to evade him, and his strength meant nothing if he couldn’t even get his hands on her. Kala realized she was preparing herself to go see what Zod wanted; all the pros and cons had sorted themselves out in the back of her mind. He wasn’t trustworthy – but he had saved her. So she was going to talk to him.
Steeling herself, Kala took a deep breath and went to the door.
Deep in the Daily Planet archives, Lois flipped through the old articles on Luthor, looking for clues about where he might have taken Kala. Richard and Clark were involved in the same task, though Clark was focused so tightly on it that he’d tuned out the rest of the world. Never before had Lois had to call his name more than twice to get his attention. His intensity made her feel sick with guilt; sooner or later, she’d have to tell him about her deal with Luthor. She’d been spared that so far by Clark’s independent discovery of Luthor’s involvement, but the truth would have to come out eventually.
Lois’ cell phone rang, and she answered it with a distracted, “Hi, Lana.” But before the reporter could ask what was up, the redhead spoke.
“Lois?” Lana’s voice sounded off, dreamy, as if she didn’t know who she’d called. “Oh. Lois. I think … there might be some trouble…”
Clark’s head snapped up then, meeting the apprehensive glance his wife gave him. Lois already didn’t like Lana’s weird pauses, or the faintness of her tone. “Lana? Are you okay?” she asked, her heart in her throat. Oh, God. Something else has happened.
“No…” came the answer, and then Clark was simply gone, papers blowing in his wake. Lana continued in the same faraway tone, “Lois, I think you … might want … to call Maggie… I don’t…”
Ice-cold fear raised gooseflesh up her arms then, just from way Lana’s voice seemed to drift. “Lana, hold on,” Lois said urgently, trying to control her panic. Richard had come to her side after Clark’s sudden departure, and he was reaching for the phone. Before he could even ask what was happening, Lois held her hand out to him first. “Gimme your keys, Richard. We have to go. Now.”
“Why?” he said, snatching them out of his pocket and slapping them into her palm. They headed for the door at speed. His voice rising with fear, he demanded, “Lois, what’s going on? What’s happened?”
Lana’s voice was growing softer, more distant now. “Oh. Nine one one… I should … call…”
“No, honey, stay with me,” Lois insisted, taking off at a run for the elevators once they had made it into the main basement corridor. Something told her that just knew the instant it took her to hand it over to Richard, the redhead would hang up or drop the phone. She had to keep Lana on the phone, had to keep her talking. He was right behind her, silent and afraid.
Lana didn’t answer, and Lois raised her voice a little, wrestling the terror that tried to creep into her voice. “Lana? Dammit, Cheerleader, don’t you dare hang up this phone. Stay with me, please.”
That roused her, the redhead murmuring, “What’s…? Someone’s … here…”
“Lana, stay with me, do you hear me? Stay with me!” Lois pleaded, holding down the elevator button. Thankfully a car was near their floor, and Lois knew the trick to make the elevator car go directly to her chosen floor without stopping for anyone else. She and Richard headed to the parking deck as fast as the elevator would take them.
“Sorry, Lo… I…” And then the phone clicked, the call lost.
“FUCK!” The swear echoed loudly through the mostly-empty garage as Lois resisted the urge to throw the phone, attacking the redial button in irate dread. “Dammit, Lana, you better not…”
That was enough for make Richard grab her shoulder roughly, his expression plainly terrified. “Lois, talk to me! What the hell is going on? What’s wrong with Lana?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped at him, jerking away, her phone ringing steadily. “We’re wasting time. Something’s wrong – we need to be there right now. We’re taking your car, and I’m driving. Call Maggie on your line, tell her to get her ass to your apartment yesterday.”
Swearing under his breath, Richard did as she told him to, while Lois listened to the answering service pick up. “Damn you, Lana, you can be more stubborn than I am,” she whispered as she redialed again. “Don’t you dare give up. Don’t you dare.”
Lois and Richard got to the basement in record time, both of them running for his parking spot. Lois dove into the driver’s seat, hurriedly adjusted it so she could floor the accelerator, and peeled out of the garage. For once, Richard didn’t say a word about her driving or about his beloved convertible. He was too busy trying to get Lana to pick up. “She’s not answering,” he muttered agitatedly.
“She said she was gonna call emergency,” Lois replied with forced calm, threading the sleek silver car between two taxis. “They probably won’t let her get off the line. And Clark’s already there.”
“It’s Luthor, isn’t it?” Richard asked dully. “Has to be. But why would he go after Lana? She’s never done anything to him…”
Lois felt tears welling up, and angrily dashed them away. She couldn’t answer Richard; she knew exactly why Luthor had done this. He intended to make her suffer, and striking out at someone so close to her – someone who wasn’t used to the idea of defending herself – it was just the kind of cruelty Luthor would devise.
Her phone rang, and she answered it with a curt, “Not now.”
“This is important,” Tobie Raines snapped, and when Lois didn’t hang up, she continued, “Have you heard from Lana today?”
Warily, Lois replied, “She called a few minutes ago. Why?”
“Because I just got an anonymous tip, and so did Cat,” Tobie said. “A digitized voice saying Lana Lang had been murdered.”
Lois swore even more graphically than before. “I can’t say anything, Tobe. But I’m on my way there right now.” The Daily Star editor cursed as Lois hung up the phone.
They scorched up to the Whites’ apartment building, Lois leaving the Saab illegally parked on the curb. The flashing lights of police cruisers and an ambulance painted the afternoon in lurid colors as Lois and Richard ran into the lobby. They were stopped by uniformed police officers, but flashing their press passes got them by – the cops knew whom to expect.
Richard made it to his own front door slightly ahead of Lois, and would have barreled through if Maggie Sawyer hadn’t been standing there. She blocked him and Lois both, snapping, “This is a crime scene,” before adding in a softer voice, “she’s gonna be fine.”
Richard had been kept in suspense for far too long, and he tried to shove past the policewoman. That move got him pinned to the wall in the foyer, Maggie’s forearm across his throat. Lois took the opportunity to slip past, Maggie warning her, “Be cool, Lane.”
Lois never spoke, only nodded with acknowledgement and disappeared into the apartment.
Richard, of course, didn’t take this well. It didn’t matter at that moment if it was a friend holding him back. Trying to pull her arm away from his chest, Richard growled, “Maggie, let me go. I want to see my wife.”
“You will,” Maggie said, holding him still. “Richard, calm down, you will. I just don’t want you to go in the kitchen, all right? All right? I have to preserve the evidence. And don’t freak out when you see Lana. Most of the blood on her isn’t hers.”
That brought around another wave of panic and rebellion. “What do you mean, most of the blood?” Richard tried to struggle again, and Maggie glared at him until he stopped.
“The EMTs just got her settled down and coherent. Don’t get her all stirred up again, okay? She’s gonna be fine. It looks a hell of a lot worse than it is.”
With that, she finally released him, and Richard bolted down the hall toward Kristin’s room. Lois had made it there first and was kneeling on the bloodied carpet, holding Lana’s hand gingerly while two EMTs worked on her.
Richard had to catch his breath; it was a good thing Maggie had warned him. Lana was literally soaked in blood. Her hair was black with it, her blouse was drenched, and though she’d obviously tried to clean up her face, blood still stained her skin. Those sea-green eyes he adored were currently dazed, and it took a moment for Lana to register his presence.
“Richard!” She flung herself into his arms, surprising Lois and the EMTs by moving that fast, and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Lana, love,” he whispered, his voice choked, unmindful of the blood now soaking his shirt. She started to sob brokenly, clinging to him, and the rest of the world might as well not have existed for the two of them.
Lois got up and edged over to Maggie, catching the inspector’s arm. “Mags, where’s Kristin?” she whispered, her heart icy at the thought.
But the blonde smiled and pointed to the ceiling. “We weren’t the first responders this time,” she says. “Your big blue boy scout managed not to mess up my crime scene, but he got Little K out. Said he’d take her to your son. She’s not hurt – she’s got some blood on her, but it’s either Lana’s or the attacker’s.”
The relief on the reporter’s face at this news was palpable. “What happened?” Lois asked, letting out the deep breath she had taken and taking in what she could see of the apartment. The drips and smears of blood along the walls and carpet were gruesome enough, but she had learned enough police procedure and forensics to know Lana hadn’t been attacked in here.
“This is all off the record, of course,” Maggie said, giving Lois the raised eyebrow that meant she was speaking as one friend to another, not a cop to reporter. “Best we can tell, this woman got in here somehow, and attacked Lana in the living room. She had a knife, and there’s blood spatter from where the attack occurred all the way into the kitchen, so Lana saw her and ran for the front door. The perp caught her in the kitchen, cornered her…”
She trailed off, looking at Richard. The EMTs were trying to pry him and Lana apart so they could continue working on Lana. Maggie pulled Lois out to the foyer before continuing quietly, “The perp picked a bad place to pin Lana. The way I figure it, Lana suddenly decided to fight back, and the knife block was right behind her. She grabbed that big chef’s knife and cut the attacker’s throat. Damn near took her head off. That’s where most of the blood on Lana came from.”
Lois heard admiration and uneasiness in those words. She was shocked; she would never have imagined that kind of violence from Lana. Herself, well, that seemed more likely. But then, Lana was protecting her daughter…
Maggie finished, “Then Lana took a dish towel, wiped most of the blood off her face, and went to her daughter – there’s a blood trail down the hall here. I guess that’s how Supes found them.”
“Damn,” Lois murmured. “Any idea who the attacker was?”
Maggie shook her head, her frustration with her answer clear. “Not yet. No ID on her.”
At that moment, Lois’ phone rang again, and Sawyer went to go help the EMTs. She pointed out that Lana had a wound completely through her left hand, and the redhead stared at it, dumfounded. At least it made her more cooperative.
Meanwhile, Lois saw Tobie’s number on the caller ID as she answered her phone. “Listen, Raines, this is a bad time.”
“No shit,” was her response. “What’s going on?”
“Tobie, I can’t talk right now…” Lois watched Lana lay down on a stretcher at last, one of the EMTs holding up an IV bag, and she heard a helicopter approaching. She realized someone must’ve called Life-Flight.
“Listen, is Lana really okay?”
“Yeah, she’s fine,” Lois said with a sigh, eyes on the redhead and Richard. “More shaken up than anything else. I really can’t talk about it…”
“So she was attacked? What the hell is this bullshit?” All of Tobie’s worry came out in her anxious profanity; all of the girls, except Lana and Lucy, had the habit of swearing prolifically under stress. “Seriously, who the goddamn hell is trying to kill the nicest damn designer on the planet? You or me, I’d understand, we piss people off for kicks, but Lana? Lois, do you have any clue what’s going on? Wait…”
Richard held his wife’s hand and Maggie walked beside the stretcher as the EMTs started to wheel her toward the patio door. From where Lois stood, she could see the afternoon light pouring incongruously into the living room as they took Lana out to get on the helicopter.
“What the fuck?” Tobie snarled. “Lois, another anonymous caller just tipped us. Now the story is Lana’s alive and she killed somebody?”
Lois had a precious crystalline moment of realization, where her very hair seemed to be standing on end. There was only one reason for a tip like that to come in just at that precise moment. “Oh God,” Lois whispered, and dropped the phone.
Then she bolted for the door, yelling, “Mags, they can see you! Get down!”
Maggie and Richard both seemed to turn around in slow motion, Lois’ heart racing. This had all been a setup from the very beginning, and Luthor had someone watching the story unfold. Someone who could very well be armed … and the most vulnerable three of the four adult family members were right here together. Perfect opportunity for an assassin…