Jason had had enough. He wasn’t about to let Giselle get the upper hand again. This time when he lunged for her, he tackled her to the ground, hard enough that the gun spun out of her hands and the breath whooshed out of her lungs. He couldn’t even find an ounce of pity for her as they grappled on the floor.
Giselle caught him on the chin with her elbow, and stars burst in his vision. The slender girl was wriggling out of his grasp, going for the gun, and Jason grabbed the back of her shirt, hauling her down again. She was quick and slippery as an eel, one second her knee driving into his chest, the next her nails raking his arm.
Angry, Jason used his weight and strength to pin her down, catching her forearms. For a second he seemed to have won, but Giselle threw her head back and screamed piercingly. “Help me! Rape!” In shock at that completely unfounded accusation, Jason’s grip loosened.
It was just the opportunity Giselle was looking for. She lashed out, punching Jason in the throat. It hurt, but it wasn’t the incapacitating blow she meant it to be, and he shook off the pain in time to see her getting up again.
Jason threw himself at her again. Her green eyes were full of venom as she stared up at him, and Jason held her wrists tightly, pinning her to the ground. She tried to struggle, but this time he wasn’t letting go. He stared intently down into the face he’d kissed so many times, and no emotion was left in his heart except the need to make sure she didn’t hurt anyone.
The girl abruptly went limp, then rocked her hips against him. Her whispered taunt, delivered from behind her fall of raven hair, was completely husky and malicious. “Bet you’ve been fantasizing about this.”
Okay, there was room for one other emotion: anger. “Shut. Up.” Jason snarled the words and punctuated them with a squeeze of her wrists to make sure she knew he was serious.
Giselle scowled, then shifted her gaze to something behind him. Jason didn’t dare take his eyes off her, but he knew it had to be Elise. “Take care of Kristin,” he managed to say. “I’ve got her.”
“That’s what you think,” Giselle hissed, but Jason didn’t respond. Elise hurried to find the little girl, while Jason held onto Giselle and tried to control his temper. He knew if he got angry enough, he’d make a mistake
Pretending relaxation, Giselle sighed deeply. “You know, if you weren’t such a prude, it would’ve been you. “ Not understanding, Jason kept silent, so she elaborated. “If you would’ve just gone on one trip with us, it’d be you who went missing instead of your sister. Unfortunately for Kala, you have too much moral purity to even think it. I was starting to wonder if you even like girls, honestly.”
That last didn’t sting him the way it would have most boys his age, but the comments about Kala did hurt. “Shut up, Giselle. You don’t know the first thing about me.”
Giselle, seeing that she scored a mark somewhere, grinned wolfishly at him.
Maggie had called for backup, but thanks to her driving and her personal vehicle’s exquisitely tuned engine, she and Lois arrived at the penthouse first. On the elevator, she turned to look at the reporter, and her expression was as stern as Lois had ever seen it. “Follow my lead when we get there,” Maggie said in a low, serious voice. “I just want you to watch my back, all right? No heroics unless I say it’s called for. And whatever you see, whatever happens, don’t fire the first shot. Let me take care of that – it’s less paperwork.”
Lois nodded. Early in her career, before the Superman stories, she’d done a series of not-exactly-complimentary articles on the Metropolis Police Department. Maggie Sawyer, then a recent addition to the force, had written a letter to the editor challenging Lois to see the world through a cop’s eyes. That had resulted in Lois enrolling in police academy, getting the same training as anyone who wanted to be an officer. She’d even gone on patrol just like any rookie, and her perspective on police work had certainly been broadened – though she never became as blatantly pro-cop as Raines ultimately did.
That experience had also resulted in her friendship with Maggie, and further opportunities the average reporter didn’t get. Lois had been to classes on how to handle hostage situations, she had full use of the police firing range, and she’d infamously taken the evasive driving course. Of all of Maggie’s non-police friends, Lois knew she was the most qualified to be playing backup right now. She had the firepower and the training.
But her son and daughter were in the apartment, and Lois could tell Maggie was worried about that. This was personal, and Lois wasn’t even sure herself if she could stay objective. “I’ll let you handle it,” she said at last. If there was anyone beyond the immediate family she trusted with her kids’ lives, it was Maggie.
The elevator was close to the top floor, and Maggie drew her gun, holding it cocked and ready up by her shoulder. Lois did the same, focusing on just taking one breath and letting it out. She had to be calm, she had to be prepared for anything…
When the elevator doors opened on the hallway to the penthouse, the first thing both women saw was the open front door. From inside the apartment, they heard a piercing scream, a girl’s voice shrieking, “Help! Help me, he’s gonna kill me!”
Maggie and Lois ran for the apartment, but the policewoman checked at the door. Lois had to stop or run into her, so she flattened herself against the wall as Maggie peeked inside. Now Lois had time to realize it was Giselle screaming for help.
“Easy,” Maggie murmured, and then she was around the door moving into the apartment, smooth and fast. Lois came right on her heels, hyper-aware of her surroundings and of the gun in her hands, its barrel still pointed up.
What Lois saw was far from what she expected. Jason had Giselle pinned down on the floor, one hand holding her wrists, the other fist cocked back to strike her. He looked up at Maggie dazedly. “Move,” the cop snapped, and Jason scrambled to his feet, backing away.
Giselle rolled over and started to get up, but Maggie was on her, a knee in the girl’s back and the muzzle of her service pistol nestled against the back of Giselle’s head. “Stay down, hands behind you, right now.” The instant the girl complied, Maggie handcuffed her. “Stay there,” she growled.
Once the girl was in Maggie’s crosshairs, Lois gave her son a brief but relieved hug. He could see the anxiety in her face, knew that something more than this had frightened her, but she charged on without letting him ask. “Thank God, you’re alright. Where’s Dormouse?”
Before he could answer, Elise was in the doorway. “In your study… Holy shit!”
At the unexpected voice, Maggie was on her feet, gun aimed squarely at Elise, which had caused the girl to swear. “Hands on your head,” she snapped, and Elise did so with her eyes wide and her knees shaking.
He had completely forgotten that Elise had gone upstairs in all the excitement. Quickly moving away from his mother, Jason moved to shield Elise from the firearm. “Aunt Maggie, she’s okay. She came in and tried to help me when Giselle was going to shoot. She’s safe.”
“I don’t trust anyone right now,” the policewoman muttered.
Lois was currently keeping her eyes on Giselle, ready to aim the gun at her if necessary. But when she flicked her gaze over to see Maggie drawing a bead on the girl, and the look of horrified amazement on Elise’s face, she spoke up. “Seriously, Mags, she’s cool. We’re known her for quite a while now. She’s okay.”
“Jason, go check on Kristin,” Maggie said sternly. Her gaze locked poor Elise to the spot. “You, stay right there.” Taking one hand off her gun, but keeping it squarely aimed at Elise, she took out her phone and dialed. “Dan, have we got anything on Elise?”
Lois couldn’t hear his answer, but she heard Jason come back into the room. The boy took one look at the current tableau and gave an exasperated sigh. “Kristin’s fine; she’s already falling asleep again because of the medicine. Aunt Maggie, come on. Look, could you not point the gun at her, please?”
“Yeah,” Elise muttered, shocked. The brunette was the color of powdered sugar at the moment, staring at the gun as if it was a snake poised to bite. “I think I just pissed myself, for real. Shit.”
The lieutenant wasn’t hearing a word of their complaints, intent on the voice on the other line. “Thanks, Dan,” Maggie said before closing up her phone, and lowered the gun at last. “You can sit down, Miranda Elise Thorne, but no sudden moves.”
That simple phrase had an unexpected reaction. “Miranda?” Jason said, looking at her with comical surprise.
“Oh, shut up, Jason. I never go by Miranda,” Elise muttered while making her way to the couch, color coming back into her face as she glared at her ex with utter distain. “And I better never hear it out of you or I’ll never save your butt again. I hate that name.”
Giselle laughed nastily. “Jeez, Jason, you don’t know anything about any of your girlfriends, do you?”
“You shut up until I ask you a question,” Maggie said to her, and her voice was deadly calm. She hauled Giselle to her feet by one arm, the girl protesting, and all of them could hear the sirens approaching. Quickly reading Giselle her rights, Maggie added, “So, you wanna tell me what’s going on, or do I have to sweat it out of you at the precinct?”
The response was immediate and not exactly a surprise. “I want a lawyer.”
“It’s your right to have one,” Maggie said, her tone almost conversational again. “Just know that, if you lawyer up on us, we’re gonna throw everything we have at you and hope some of it will stick. Talking now, we might be able to help you.”
“Screw that. I’d be better off in jail.”
“Fine. How about telling me where your mother is?”
“She’s not my mother,” the black-haired girl said irritably. “And I don’t even know her real name.”
“What about your name? Is Giselle Davenport who you really are, or just a fake identity you created to spy on this family? And just what am I gonna learn when I run your fingerprints down at the precinct, hmm?”
But Giselle refused to say anything more, and the police arrived in force. Lois had just enough time to holster her gun before her living room was full of cops. Leaving Maggie to deal with it, she went to check on Kristin.
The little girl was waiting anxiously in the study, and pounced on Lois when she walked in. “Lo-Lo!” she cried, hugging her. Lois saw that Jason had gotten her cleaned up and into one of her gowns from the clothing stash kept at the Lane-Kents’ house. This one was a Hello Kitty one Kala had picked up for her someplace.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Lois murmured, relaxing gratefully. It was nice to just be a mom for a moment, instead of a reporter or a half-assed cop.
Of course, that thought reminded her of what had gotten them all into this mess: her older daughter. Lois’ heart contracted painfully, her throat tight, and she squeezed Kristin a little more for wishing that she could hug Kala again. I’d forgive her everything, even let her date Nick – under our supervision of course – if only it would bring her back to me right now. Oh, Kala.
Jason and Elise had followed her into the room, the latter still a bit wide-eyed. “Mom, what’s going on?” he asked.
Lois glared at him, then looked significantly at Kristin. She was not going to explain things in front of the youngest. Hearing about Lana’s narrow escape would just traumatize her. So far, it seemed like her cold and a dose of children’s NyQuil had left the details a bit foggy in Little K’s mind.
Jason just sighed. He had always known when he saw his mother on edge to back off, but at this moment, he felt himself teetering as well. No answers wasn’t an option this time. “Mom, me and Elise just barely escaped being Swiss cheese and Little K was covered in ‘paint’, so can we go out to the patio or something? Because I really need an explanation.”
He had a point. If this was how bad things were going to get, he needed to be warned. It was too late to try to hide what was happening from him. Not when Luthor was sending the Devil to her doorstep. With a long heavy sigh, Lois nodded. He deserved to know. “Elise, would you keep an eye on Kristin for a sec while Jason and I talk?”
Elise just looked back and forth at the both of the for a minute before giving a slow nod. “Yeah, sure. No big deal, I’ll go play with Munchkin like nothing happened. You betcha. If I can get an update later,” the girl replied pointedly. Kristin, who had always adored her, was content to be held while Lois and Jason went out to the stairwell.
“Start with whose blood was all over Little K,” Jason said, before the study door had fully closed.
“Not Lana’s. At least, some of it was Lana’s, but she’s fine. She’s in the hospital, she’ll be okay.” Seeing Jason’s mouth start to open, Lois hastily added, “The blood came from the woman who attacked her. Lana
Jason’s jaw hung open. “Oh my God,” he whispered. “How?”
“With a knife,” Lois said with her expression dark. The vision of that blood-painted kitchen resurfaced in her mind, and she forced it away. This was no time to dwell on the fact that she’d almost lost one of her closest friends today
Jason managed to get himself composed enough to ask for a rundown of the rest of the day’s activities, and Lois updated him. It wasn’t much of a surprise that he could accept what Lana had done. After all, he’d killed a man in defense of Kala, and he still felt the repercussions of that desperate act. At this rate the whole damn family’s gonna need therapy, Lois thought angrily. Luthor, you bastard, I’ll send you the bill.
Kala left Zod without giving him an answer, and went back to her own room. Every instinct told her to delay – to put off telling Luthor or Zod anything concrete as long as possible. Time was on her side, after all. The longer she was down here, the more time Dad had to find her. And he would find her, of that Kala was certain. She couldn’t let herself doubt it for an instant.
But what Zod had told her troubled her. He sounded so reasonable, so sane, so very unlike everything she’d been led to expect. Jor-El’s warnings made him seem like a rabid destroyer bent on vengeance, and yet the man she’d spoken with was urbane, polite, cautious, even considerate.
And he thought of her as a full-blooded Kryptonian, an equal. Kala couldn’t help the pride that welled up in her chest at that. The only other Kryptonians she knew were her own family. Jason and Dad loved her, but she’d always be a little girl to her father, and she privately suspected that Jason thought she was silly for being so very Goth. As for Jor-El, Kala had the feeling that she was a bit of a second-class citizen. Jason was the one who bear the legacy of the House of El, he would become a hero, while Kala was just
‘Run along and play, little girl,’ Kala thought viciously, ‘and yes, it’s very nice that you learned how to speak the language correctly, and who Jax-Ur was and why he was important, and the layout of the city of Kandor. All of that is very nice, dear, but your brother and I have important things to talk about. Hero things, legacy things, manly things.’ God, I can hear it in Jor-El’s voice, even though he never actually said it. The self-important Giant Floating Head hasn’t heard much about feminism or equal rights for women, I take it. Lara must’ve been a very patient woman to put up with him.
Zod saw her as more than a child – he was trusting her, asking for an alliance, treating her like an adult. Kala felt inclined to accept his offer based on that alone. Who else in her life saw her as a grownup? Who else could understand what Krypton meant to her, why it was so important to be a part of that legacy? And Zod, he was actually from Krypton, he’d lived there, he’d walked in cities Kala had only read about, seen the Valley of the Elders firsthand. The things he knew…
Kala caught herself eagerly chasing after her favorite dream, the one where she magically got to go to a restored Krypton and was recognized as the daughter of the House of El. She’d had variations on that dream ever since she learned the truth of her parentage. Being half-alien had never scared her; in fact, if she had been able to visit Krypton, it was her human half that would be regarded as alien. Krypton was, in an ancient and primal way, the home she had never seen and would always yearn for.
But letting herself get all starry-eyed over the fact that Zod had lived there wouldn’t help her now. Sure, she could hit him up for some details about the planet and its civilization; that would make a great delaying tactic. Her main focus, however, had to be getting home.
Kala felt her throat tighten, and she closed her eyes. She was lying curled up in the middle of the bed, and nothing felt right. At first she thought it was just that this wasn’t her room, with all its familiar sights and sounds. But she’d never had problems sleeping over at Richard or Lana’s, or on vacation, or in Jason’s room…
Her breath caught. Jason. If only Jason were here, she could go to sleep, trusting him to watch over her. That was what was missing, the one thing that had always been a constant in her life up until now. She had never before tried to fall asleep somewhere she couldn’t hear her twin’s heart beating, and the lack of that familiar, comforting rhythm brought tears to her eyes.
She didn’t sob, though. Zod had told her where the surveillance devices likely were in this room, and she didn’t want to give Luthor the satisfaction of hearing her cry from homesickness. So Kala squeezed her eyes shut and let the tears leak out silently, forcing herself not to tremble. I want to go home, she thought pitifully. Please, all I want is to go home… Daddy, find me soon.