That said, onward we go:
Deep in dreamless sleep, Elise snuggled into the pillow under her cheek, warm and comfortable. She felt safe here, the scents in the air both familiar and not. Things had been awful yesterday, crazy beyond the point of belief, but at the moment she felt as though she had found a shelter against it all in her dreams. That comfort was broken when something cold and wet lingered on her bare toes. The shock of the contact, so out of place with her current mindset, ripped Elise out of her drowsy state, noticing as she opened her eyes that she was in Kala’s room. That explained the recognized scents. Blinking and frowning, still not a hundred percent aware, her gaze wandered down and saw that the Kents’ dog, Bagel, was sitting beside the bed and staring at her. Ah, the usual suspect. “Were you licking my toes, you freak?” the girl asked in disgusted disbelief, wrinkling her nose before pulling her foot back under the covers. Bagel whined happily and jumped up on the bed, trying to lick Elise’s face. It didn’t really surprise her that Bagel started wagging harder at ‘freak’, remembering that Kala had teased the beagle by calling her that at times. Nevertheless, a faceful of foot-licking dog was not something she wanted this early in the morning. “Eww! Gross! Bagel, get down!”
It took a couple of minutes to calm the dog down, Elise resorting to scratching her back until the beagle finally felt the tithe had been paid and trotted out of the room. With such a wonderful wakeup call to start her day, it was no surprise Elise got out of bed with a roll of her eyes and an irritable groan. She wasn’t exactly a morning person on the best of occasions, not quite as much of a grouch as some people, but after broken sleep in a strange bed she was far from at her best. Memories of last night were trickling back, and she wanted to be fully alert for the meeting Mrs. Lane-Kent told her would be happening today. Hurrying to get ready, Elise couldn’t help thinking briefly how surreal things had become since the New Year.
Without even a look up the hallway, Elise ducked into the hall bathroom shared by the twins. Thankfully there was no Jason to be faced yet; she sighed with relief on that front. She just wasn’t ready to deal at this minute. Washing her face with what had to be Kala’s peppermint soap helped her foggy brain start to wake; brushing her teeth would have been nice, but she hadn’t packed for a sleepover and didn’t want to use anyone else’s toothbrush. A thorough swish of vanilla mint mouthwash had to suffice. At least she’d had clothes to wear today; the twins’ mom had told her she could use something from Kala’s closet today if she wanted and, thanks to Kala’s habit of ‘borrowing’ from anyone remotely close to her own size, making a choice wasn’t difficult.
That done, Elise took a deep breath and prepared herself to face her ex. Opening the door to the bathroom and coming out into the hallway, she adjusted her mental armor. Better to get this out of the way so they could stop all the awkwardness. If she was going to help them find Kala, she and Jason had to clear the air a little. That, however, didn’t mean that either of them was going to like it much. Heading up the hallway toward the kitchen, the aroma of brewed coffee reached her, and she couldn’t help the way her mouth watered. Caffeine was exactly what she needed right now, she thought with utter gratefulness. And, as fate would have it, it was her ex who was in the kitchen, brewing coffee and making breakfast for Kristin.
Coming up behind her, the older girl gently ruffled her hair until Little K looked up at her. Elise couldn’t help but notice that the little redhead looked hollow-eyed and miserable. Knowing how sunny her personality was normally, it hurt to see. She’d spent last night curled up with Lois, and not even the comfort of having her Lo-Lo beside her could make up for yesterday’s trauma. Those blue eyes were so woeful, and the older girl went to hug her. “Hey, sweetie,” she murmured against her ear.
Wordlessly accepting the affection, Kristin held on to Elise tightly for a couple minutes. Jason, looking at them, finally spoke up, “Elise, you want breakfast? We’ve got toast, cereal, bagels…” His tone was even, trying to keep this as light as possible.
She couldn’t help but be relieved at the white flag. “I’ll just get something to drink. You just worry about Little K. I’m a big girl; I know my way around a kitchen.” Giving him a small relieved smile, she turned toward the refrigerator. Once her expression could only be seen by the inside of the appliance, she felt her brow furrow with worry. Jason was looking haggard too, his eyes shadowed, and though Elise was an only child, she could imagine how he felt. He and Kala had been always been so close, even though they agreed on little these days. Neither of them had ever seemed content unless they knew where the other was. This must be killing him.
She was so deep in thought that the sound of his voice caused her to startle. “Elise,” he said softly, and she took a moment to calm her nerves before she looked over her shoulder at him. “That was pretty brave, what you did yesterday.”
Elise couldn’t help the smile that rose to her lips; with things between them the way they were, she knew what it cost him to say something like that. “Yeah, well, you looked like you needed a little help,” she replied, grabbing the bottle of mango juice out of the fridge and walking over to the cupboard she knew contained the juice glasses. And, despite her decision to maintain the peace, she couldn’t resist adding, “Besides, I couldn’t let her shoot you. I wouldn’t get the chance to tell you ‘I told you so’.”
Much to her surprise, Jason didn’t react defensively. There was a flicker of pain over his features, clear disappointment in himself, but then he laughed softly. “Well, you know, I let the best girl I’ve ever known get away from me; I guess I instinctively had to go for the worst next. Karma sucks.”
Elise arched an eyebrow at him as she poured the juice. True, she had been more than a little disgusted to have been replaced by something as obviously a rebound as Giselle, and as quickly as it had happened, knowing the truth of Giselle’s intentions put a different spin on things. Not that it let Jason off the hook entirely, but still… “Jason, stop. There’s no way you could have known,” she finally said. “I mean, she had everyone fooled.”
“I should’ve known.” Jason sat down heavily next to Kristin and dispiritedly watched her munch her cereal. Under his breath he added, “I knew it was a mistake. No one in the family liked her. Kala hated her…”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Elise had to laugh. “Jason, seriously. Kala hates every girl you date.”
“Not you.” He had still been looking at Kristin when he said it, but looked up at Elise after a moment with an expression of such absolute longing that her heart caught in her throat.
“Jason, you and I broke up for a reason,” Elise said unsteadily. Why was it so hard to look into those blue eyes and remind him of this? And why did she have to remind herself as much as him?
“Tell me what that was, again,” Jason said, “since I wasn’t the one who wanted to split up.”
Elise took a deep breath. Oh yeah, your stubbornness was one reason. “We were moving too fast,” she replied.
“Moving too fast?” Jason inquired. “We barely did more than kiss.” Neither of them would mention their make-out sessions in front of Kristin; the little girl was all too likely to ask one of the adults what making out was, and tell them exactly where she’d heard it. Still, not even that had gone very far: everyone had kept their clothes on.
Sighing loudly, Elise retorted, “Hello, you asked me to marry you. Your whole family freaks my parents out – if it’s not your mom and dad headlining the news, it’s your stepmom being a freakin’ multi-millionaire and wanting to take us all to Florida for a long weekend! Not to mention you don’t even act like a teenage boy half the time, you talk to my parents like you’re another adult and sometimes they even forget you’re a teenager. You can carry on an intelligent conversation while I’m changing in the next room, and you think it’s sexy when I ramble on about biochemistry!”
“It’s not my fault that I think you’re as close to perfect as I’m gonna get in this lifetime,” Jason shot back. “Elise, look in a mirror! You’re gorgeous, you’re brilliant, I can talk to you for four hours straight and never even notice the time. Besides, I didn’t mean get married right now.”
And it was exactly that kind of logic that drove her nuts. No other guy had this much sense. “Jason, I’m not sure when you missed the memo, but you’re sixteen,” Elise said sharply. “You’re supposed to be obsessed with breasts and trying to jump every girl you’re with, not talking about who you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
It was obvious from his expression that he was morally offended. “Now wait a minute! Not all guys are like that. I like looking at girls as much as any guy, but I’m not gonna drool like a moron. Elise, I grew up with a twin sister – I’m not gonna be all freaked out around girls. Besides, that’s rude. Are you really complaining because I have some manners?”
“No, I’m complaining because you have no right to go around being the perfect guy and pretty much ruining my chances of seeing anyone else, because none of them can ever measure up to you, and then going and springing marriage on me when I was fifteen! What was I supposed to do, Jason? That one-true-love stuff only happens in fairy tales!”
“It does not,” Jason insisted. “Dad fell in love with Mom at first sight, and there was never another woman for him.”
And, of course, he would bring that up. She should have expected it. Okay, then, time to bring in the big guns. “Yeah, but what about before her?” Elise retorted, arms crossed.
Jason stumbled to a halt on that, but recovered to reply, “Actually he wasn’t dating in high school, he had a huge crush on Lana, but they’re still friends all these years later.”
Oh, that was enough to make your brain hurt. “Wait, Mrs. White was your dad’s high school sweetheart, and Mr. White is your mom’s ex-fiancé? That’s weird.”
That got an embarrassed shrug. “It’s just the way things turned out. Mom says it ties up all the loose ends. And anyway, what’s this about me being perfect? I’m not perfect, and even if I was, that’s totally not a reason to break up with me.”
Elise threw up her hands in defeat. He wanted the truth; he deserved at least that much. Might as well tell him some of it, if not all. “No, Jason, you’re not perfect. You’re just too good to be true – if life was a book, you’d be the really sweet, attentive, virtuous, non-creepy guy who turns out to be an obsessed stalker or a vampire or something.”
After a fleeting shocked look, Jason burst out laughing, and Kristin stopped with her spoonful of Cheerios halfway to her mouth. Most of the conversation had gone over her head, dismissed as the same sort of nonsensical argument that usually happened between older kids, but now that Jason was laughing like a hyena, she wanted to get the joke.
It took a full five minutes for Jason to get himself back under control, five minutes in which Elise’s expression grew more and more annoyed. Wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, he finally managed, “I promise you, I’m not a vampire.”
Elise just stood there and glared at him with frosty disdain. “Now that we have that cleared up.” She wanted to be angry at him, but she just couldn’t summon the fire for it. To be honest, even if she was the butt of the joke, it was still good to see him not brooding. Wherever Kala was, Elise knew that she’d understand and approve.
For a long moment, she and Jason just looked at each other, Kristin eyeing both of them. Then Jason said quietly, “So we’ve established that I’m not a stalker vampire. Does this mean we’re friends again?”
“Yeah, we’re friends,” Elise said, feeling oddly relieved. “Just don’t ask me to marry you any time soon, okay?”
Before Jason could even begin to voice his exasperation, Kristin piped up with what she thought was the most important aspect of their discussion. “If you two get married, can I be the flower girl?” Both teens looked at each other, and Jason couldn’t help grinning a little. Elise just rolled her eyes.
Richard didn’t want to leave her, but Lana insisted that he go to the meeting Maggie had called. “One of us has to stay in the loop,” she told him gently. “Clark’s feeling so guilty, he’ll want to keep us both locked up in a safe house.”
“He’s way too ready to take the blame,” Richard muttered, kissing her hand. “All right, beautiful, I’ll go. One of the officers will probably drive me, since I’m going to see Maggie. You sure you’ll be fine here?”
“I’m sure. Go.” She’d convinced the nurses earlier to remove the morphine line and give her some pills instead, leery of the powerful narcotic. With one more kiss, and then one more after that, Richard finally left the room.
Alone at last, Lana sank back into the pillows propped behind her and closed her eyes. What she really, really wanted to do right at that moment was fall asleep for about a week. She ached everywhere; each cut sharpened into a line of fire if she moved wrong, and her muscles were sore from the unaccustomed strain of vaulting the sofa and running for her life. Her hand, at least, had settled to a dull, steady complaint.
Physical symptoms were the least of her problems at the moment. Ever since coming out of surgery, Lana had put on a brave face, forcing herself to be calm and collected. Richard had seemed amazed by it, and several of the nurses had even commented on her fortitude. Inside, however, she was battling the urge to just break down and cry, demanding that someone come watch over and protect her. A little voice kept insisting that this wasn’t her fight, and she ought to leave the war against Luthor to those who had begun it and were at least partly trained for it. She was a designer, for God’s sake, not a hero, not ex-military, not even a born fighter like Lois.
But to turn away now was to betray more than one trust. She had only met Kala when the girl was six, but loving the twins had been part of loving Richard, and Lana adored them both just as much as she loved Kristin. All three were her children; love trumped biology every time, and she had only to look at Clark to know how true that was. Both twins had returned that love absolutely. While no one could take Lois’ place in their hearts, they were both generous enough to let Lana in. If she wanted to be worthy of her oldest daughter’s devotion, Lana couldn’t turn back until Kala was home safe, no matter where she was or who stood between them.
And then there was the other promise Lana had made. As Ella Lane lay dying in a hospital bed much like this one, she had taken Lana’s hand and whispered, “I love my girls, and I would never trade either of them … but sometimes I wish you were my daughter, too.” That confession had brought tears to the designer’s eyes, and her throat had been too tight to reply when Ella continued. “Lois doesn’t listen well, especially not to good advice. Dare her to climb the Daily Planet building, and she’ll be out there with climbing hooks the next morning. Ask her to wear a safety harness and rope, though, she’ll laugh at you and do it with just her bare hands.”
Lana had chuckled at the analogy, winning a smile from the older woman. “She’ll only listen to me – and you,” Ella had murmured. “I’m her mother, and you’ve become the closest thing to an older sister she has. I think Lois takes your advice because she knows you admire her for her reckless bravery. You love her for being everything you aren’t, and she loves you for the same reason. She knows you’d never try to cramp her style…”
“Only tone down her language, a little,” Lana had finished softly. “You’re right, as always, Ella. That’s exactly how it is between me and Lois.”
“I’ve had time to watch and think. And I’ve seen more and thought more about it than either of my girls has guessed. Lucy will be all right. She’s going to miss me, but she has her life squared away. She’s always been the bright one, sunlight to Lois’ midnight – and a stormy night, most of the time. Lois thrives on turmoil and trouble, but it can still get to be too much for her. That’s why I have to ask you something I would normally only ask of my own flesh and blood.”
Immediately, Lana knew what she was meaning to say. “I’ll watch out for Lois. I love her like my own sister anyway, and I would do my best for her no matter what. You don’t even have to ask, Ella. Lois and Clark are as much a part of my life as Richard and all three kids are.”
“Good,” Ella had sighed, her hazel eyes slipping closed. “Someone has to be the light to shine the way through the storm…”
And the light can’t go out, Lana thought, opening her eyes and looking around her own hospital room. She had taken it upon herself to watch over the entire family, to smooth out their little disputes wherever possible, to be the gracious good humor that allowed so many strong, passionate personalities to coexist. Lana knew she had a manipulative streak to her personality, but she had long ago tamed that into something she could use to coax her family into greater happiness and harmony.
Now, though, her usual gentle measures weren’t working. Even Richard seemed to think that Lois and Clark were getting along fine, focused on finding Kala, but Lana heard the silences between them, saw the hostile expressions quickly smoothed over. All was not well in the Lane-Kent house these days, and not just because Kala had been kidnapped. Lois and Clark didn’t stand a chance at fighting Luthor if they were divided themselves; he would be more than glad to drive them apart and conquer them separately. After all this time, his thirst for vengeance must have grown unbearable, and Lana shuddered to think what he would do to his enemies when he had been so willing to order the death of someone who had never really done anything to him.
You helped search the last time, she reminded herself, and you were willing to die to stop him from killing Lois and Clark. Maybe that’s cause for a grudge. But still, if Luthor would have her and her child assassinated in their own home for so little, what would he do against Clark, his nemesis? And Lois, who had fought him on so many fronts, was a target on her own as well as the perfect way to hurt Clark.
No, Lana couldn’t afford to give in now. She had to find a reserve of strength previously unsuspected, and most especially, she couldn’t let any of them see how scared she really was. Clark had to be thinking that he should keep her as far from danger as possible, and the slightest display of weakness would convince Lois and Richard, too. If this was a war, the three of them were all far more skilled combatants than Lana could ever be. But she was their equivalent of a platoon’s chaplain, taking care of the minds and hearts and souls of the rest, and that made her as essential to this as any of them.
A soft knock at the door, and Lana smiled. All of that brave reasoning was behind her decision to have Kay arrive after Richard left. “Come in,” she called to her assistant, sitting up in bed.
The brunette hadn’t seen her boss since before the attack, and she opened the door tentatively. One glance at the bandages, and Kay gasped in horror. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “Lana… It was true…”
“I’m fine,” the designer said, trying for her usual warm smile. “It looks much worse than it actually is. All of the cuts are superficial, and even my hand should heal quickly.”
As reassuring a tone as she was trying for, Kay’s expression never changed. “Things like this shouldn’t happen to people like you,” the younger woman said adamantly, hurrying to her boss’ side. “Is there anything I can get you? Some water, anything?”
Lana couldn’t help chuckling. “Yes, actually. Could you go down to the nurses’ station and ask them for the forms I need to sign myself out of here?”
That statement earned a frown of disbelief. “They’re discharging you already?”
“No, I believe it’s called signing out AMA, or against medical advice,” Lana replied smoothly, as if she had only asked for that drink of water. “Either way I plan to be out of here by morning, even if I have to get you help sneak me out the back door.”
The disbelief had only deepened, Kay staring at her employer like she were spouting ancient Greek. “Have you lost your mind?” Kay hissed. “People are trying to kill you out there! Stay in here where it’s safe and there are two cops outside asking for ID.”
“Kay, there’s no good reason for me to stay here at this point,” Lana said firmly, “and no, I don’t consider cowardice a good reason. One of my children is still missing, and I refuse to hide here when I could be helping find her.”
Sharp gray eyes searched Lana’s face and found the strain there, the tightness around the eyes from pain and exhaustion. Kay scowled, muttering, “I could strangle Richard for getting you mixed up in all this…”
“It’s hardly his fault,” Lana began to correct her, but Kay was having none of it.
“Yeah, it is,” she interrupted. “Back when it was just you and me and the business, nothing like this ever happened! Everything was fine; the biggest worry we ever had was making sure suppliers delivered on time and the seamstresses didn’t get too overworked. Then he came along with all of his baggage: his ex who’s Superman’s ex, and every lunatic who wants to get at the hero tries to kill her or her kids – along with anyone who happens to be standing nearby, which these days, is you. These people are freaking crazy, Lana, and it must be contagious, because now you’re trying to go out there and give that nut Luthor another chance to kill you!”
“Kay,” Lana said sharply. “One, it isn’t Richard’s fault. He didn’t set out to put me in danger; he fell in love with me, and I fell in love with him. Two, even if I had died yesterday, I wouldn’t regret being with Richard.”
That silenced Kay for its sheer shock value, and Lana continued calmly, “I have three beautiful, wonderful children because of him, and I only had to wear maternity clothes once. I have a circle of loving, supportive friends whom I would never have met under normal circumstances. And I have Clark and Lois in my life: a friend from back when we could barely spell our own names, and a woman who’s almost my complete opposite and yet somehow one of my dearest friends. Not to mention they provide free babysitting services. I still have the business, and I still have you.” She left unspoken the fact that Kay was as much her friend as her assistant, but added with a slight grin, “Besides, if I hadn’t fallen in love with Richard, you would never have met Laurel.”
The look on Kay’s face was positively mulish with reluctance, the younger woman staring at Lana as the redhead returned the look steadily. Once Kay saw that Lana wasn’t going to back down, she gave a gusty sigh of defeat. “All right, you got me there,” the brunette grumbled. “Fine, I’ll get the forms – but I still think you’re taking a huge risk.”
Lana only smiled in reply. Some things were worth the risk.
Kala had woken up feeling a little groggy from the pain medicine. She decided to go without drugs while she got up, and a hot shower in the bathroom attached to her bedroom blew most of the cobwebs out of her mind. She’d been looking and listening everywhere for any cameras in the room and found none. At least that’s a relief. He may be a scary bastard, but he’s not a pervert. Afterward, she discovered the suitcase and backpack she had packed were in the room with her, so at least she had clean clothes. It bothered her that she hadn’t heard them come in, but was pretty certain that the room was sound-proof.
Once dressed, the pain in her wrist started up again. Frowning, she glanced at the bottle of pain pills next to the sink. The fact that Luthor just casually left them at her disposal without a thought of her possibly overdosing to get away from him was starting to disturb her. Of course, he did have cameras in the bedroom itself, so maybe that was his reasoning. No, he knows you don’t want to die, that’s all. And he’s monitoring everything you do. Besides, you’re more useful to him alive, so he’s not going to poison you, either. Take the stupid pill or the pain will be a distraction. Kala ultimately took half a pill with a glass of water from the tap. That quickly muted the pain in her wrist, but left her awake enough to think clearly.
The decision proved to be wise, as she’d only been awake for a few minutes when Schecter showed up at her door. “Want some breakfast?”
“Sure,” Kala responded with a sarcastic grin. “Wanna let me go home? My brother makes a mean French Toast.”
That earned her a small chuckle. “Wish I could, but not until you unlock those files for us.”
And they were immediately back to that. There had to be a way she could buy some time on that, give Dad and Mom a chance to find her. Giving a sigh that she hoped wasn’t too theatrical, Kala rolled her eyes. “I told you I’d think about it.” This would work for now, but she’d have to come up with a plan soon.
“C’mon, let’s get breakfast,” Schecter coaxed, and Kala followed him, yawning and trying to pretend she was much sleepier, much more doped up, than she really was.
Breakfast turned out to be served buffet-style in a large cafeteria, and Kala immediately knew why Schecter had escorted her. Several of the security guys gave her dark looks when she walked in. More frightening, though, were the expressions on the faces of the scientists – some of them looked utterly fascinated, but with no sense of connection. Kala realized with a shudder that they were looking at her like some sort of lab animal, not like a fellow human being at all.
The two groups had segregated themselves just like jocks and nerds in a high school cafeteria, and that at least was ridiculous enough to calm Kala’s nerves. She didn’t have much of an appetite under the circumstances, but filled a plate anyway, knowing that she’d feel the effects of the pain pill more intensely if her stomach stayed empty.
She was doing fine, returning the nasty sneers and bug-under-a-microscope looks with an expression of haughty defiance, until she saw the pancakes. Whoever the chef was down here made them medium-sized, just like Jason. And they were blueberry. The thought of her twin and his culinary specialty made homesickness rise up in a choking wave, and Kala had to close her eyes and bite her lip when what she really wanted to do was scream Jason’s name loud enough for him to hear her, no matter how far apart they were.
She startled when a voice broke into those thoughts. “You all right?” Schecter asked with a curious look, sounding gentle and concerned.
Kala hardened her will against him, against yielding to anyone who worked with Luthor. “I’m fine,” she said, cold and calm, just like Mom dealing with a recalcitrant source on a story. But she couldn’t look at the pancakes again, and sat down to force herself to eat what was on her plate without even tasting it.
The Lane-Kent penthouse was spacious by Metropolis standards, but at the moment it was very crowded. The entire extended family was there, excepting only the Smallville contingent, and every seat was taken. Richard had left the hospital to attend this meeting. Lucy and Ron and their three girls had arrived, and Cat and Tobie had been there before the first coffee was brewed. Perry White was there, Loueen with him and volunteering to keep an eye on the three young children. No one wanted Michelle, Bryan, and Kristin to overhear much of what was going to be discussed, but no one wanted the kids far from their sight. Too much had happened, and by now the news that Kala had been kidnapped shortly after running away had percolated through the ranks.
Sebast had been told on the phone that morning, and had gotten there as fast as he could. Walking through the door, the first thing he did was find Jason and pull the taller boy into a hug. “We’re gonna find her, mano,” he said. Sebast knew that no matter how Jason tried to seem brave, he was going out of his mind with worry. The adults were all probably too wrapped up in their own pain and their own plans to realize that what Jason really needed at the moment was a hug, and none better to give it than his sister’s best friend.
“We have to,” Jason replied, the huskiness in his voice proving Sebast right. Elise saw the two of them and went over to hug them both; all three teenagers were feeling Kala’s loss particularly sharply on the third day of her absence. For a moment, they simply stood together. So far, the New Year was distinctly unpromising.
“I should’ve rented the freakin’ coliseum,” Sebast heard Mrs. Lane-Kent mutter. The reporter was watching Bagel thread her way through the forest of legs to get to him, and he bent to rub her ears.
“I want this meeting here,” Maggie told her quietly. Sebast snuck a look at her while pretending to be preoccupied with the dog. The policewoman’s eyes were deeply shadowed; she’d been up most of the night, and it showed. “We’ve got the bugs, it’s fairly secure, and just in case Luthor has rigged up a surprise for us, we have close air support.” She raised an eyebrow at Lois, who smiled wanly; the reporter had promised everyone that Superman would be close by.
“Another coffee, Maggie?” Clark was looking almost as careworn as Lois as he approached her.
“Thanks,” the policewoman replied, looking over the group. “I think all of us are here, just about…”
She trailed off as the doorbell rang. Elise was turning to answer it, and Maggie shoved the mug of coffee at Clark and covered the space between herself and the foyer far more quickly than Sebast could have imagined. So when Elise opened the front door and revealed a rather sheepish looking Nick Powell, Maggie had hold of both boys’ shirts before they could recover from their shock and lunge at him. “Jason, Sebast, you’re going to have to defer kicking Nick’s ass until after we get Kala home.”
Sebast muttered a few choice words in Spanish, while Jason ground his teeth, glaring at the college student. Nick raised both hands, taking a deep breath. “Look, I want to find her as much as you do…” he began.
“No,” Jason spat, every word cold and precise. “You don’t. She’s … my … twin. You will never understand.” Sebast added profane agreement to that statement, and Maggie shook them both. At least, she tried to shake Jason, but in the heat of the moment she didn’t notice that he wasn’t moving.
“Knock it off,” she snapped. “Every minute you three spend acting like cavemen is a minute for Luthor to plan ahead of us.” That was the first time several people in the room had heard Luthor’s name mentioned, and everyone went pale. Maggie let go of the two teenage boys, gave Nick a look to let him know he should have just kept his mouth shut, and went back to the front of the room. “We might as well get started,” she said.
“Luthor?” Lucy managed to say at last. “Really?”
“Yes. Luthor’s behind this, and he has Kala.” That statement was greeted with several gasps and much muttered profanity, so Maggie continued, “Let me summarize, and those of you in the news business, this is not for publication, strictly off the record, and for your ears only. Forgive me if I repeat things some of you already now – I need to bring everyone up to speed here.”
That had their attention, and Maggie looked each of the reporters in the eye before speaking in her Official Statement voice. “First, you’ve all seen the news. Lana – that’s the L. in L. Lang design, Nick, not to mention Kala’s stepmom – was attacked yesterday. The news is calling it an intruder, but her attacker was an assassin and known associate of Lex Luthor. Lana managed to take down the assailant, but as we tried to get her out to Life Flight, a sniper on a nearby building fired on the group of us. He could have potentially killed Lana, Richard, Lois, and myself, but thanks to the timely intervention of Superman, we’re all still here.”
Her expression softened a little when her gaze reached Jason. “Next, the girl most of you know as Giselle Davenport turned out to be a spy. We now know she’s twenty-two, not sixteen, and a career con. She’s not being cooperative, but we know she was hired by another Luthor associate to infiltrate this family. That means he’s been planning this at least since school began in September. Yesterday evening, Giselle arrived here with a gun, saying she was under orders to kill Jason and anyone else in the apartment with him – which means Kristin and Elise.”
Richard swore, sitting bolt upright. Maggie said quickly, “Jason managed to get the gun from her; she’s never done violent crime before, and I agree with his character assessment: she’s not a killer. However, she does have warrants out on fraud charges in three states.”
Lois gave her son a sympathetic look; he was staring shell-shocked at Maggie, who was saying, “Third, we processed the Davenports’ apartment. Not only did we find a handy little diagram that showed us exactly where all the listening devices in this apartment were hidden…” She had to pause to let the angry muttering die down again. Sebast shifted angrily in his seat at the notion that someone had been listening in to all of his private conversations with Kala. Only Lois stared straight ahead stoically, having already marked this down as another item to settle her score against Luthor. “…we also lifted prints from the apartment. There were several sets: Giselle’s, of course; Hope Taya, the woman who attacked Lana; and Mercedes Graves.”
Now it was Lois’ turn to swear. “Maggie, she’s the CEO of L-Tech!”
“And Justine Davenport is her alias,” Maggie replied, “based on the fact that she used the same photo for both drivers’ licenses.”
Even Cat and Tobie looked wide-eyed at the virulent torrent of obscenities Lois managed to pour forth. Clark turned red all the way to his ears, and Richard just leaned back with an impressed expression. Sebast’s eyes widened; that pungent language could have shocked a Metropolis cabbie. Maggie waited for Lois to finish before saying, “Was all of that English?”
“No, I can curse in French and Italian too,” Lois snapped. “Dammit, Mags, I’ve been looking into the Luthor/L-Tech connection for months! And the freakin’ CEO of the company was at my house every other week or so.”
Throughout all of this, Clark had been listening while a cold chill crept up his spine. At those last words, though, he felt frozen. Lois had been investigating L-Tech? The company they both knew was run by Lex Luthor, based on the vanity of the name and the Kryptonian technology it developed? If she’d been investigating that, why on earth hadn’t she told him about it? Sure, they were competitive about stories, but anything involving Luthor was far too important to hide from each other…
“Well, that’s just perfect,” Maggie said. “Because the next item on the list is the kryptonite in Luthor’s old underground hideout. It was a trap for Superman, baited with Kala’s sunglasses, which is why we’re fairly certain that Luthor currently has Kala. Why, we’re not sure, although given his long-standing grudge against both Superman and Lois, and the fact that Superman is personally involved in the search for his godchild, I can probably make an educated guess.” She didn’t have to spell it out for them; Luthor was using Kala as bait for one of his plans to destroy Superman.
Lucy had taken Ron’s hand, biting her lip as she glanced at her big sister. Lois always seemed to shrug off stuff like this, acting as though dealing with crazed criminals was a normal everyday occurrence, but not now. Not when it was her daughter in danger.
“Got any good news?” Cat asked bleakly.
“Not really,” Maggie replied. “All of you, by virtue of your connection to the Lane-Kents, are possible targets for Luthor. He’s already proven he won’t hesitate to attack any of Lois and Clark’s close friends or family in what’s presumably an effort to hinder their attempts to find Kala.”
“That includes you, Mags,” Tobie said quietly.
“Yeah, I know,” the inspector replied, resting her hand lightly on her holster.