Island hideaway. For all we know, that could be a ruse. Richard rubbed his eyes, staring at the list in front of him. The Vanderworths – and the dozen or so corporations they’d set up to dodge taxes – owned an obscene amount of property. Most of it was turning out to be office buildings, warehouses, apartments, and condominiums. None of them were islands, or hideaways for that matter. This was maddening work, but it was their best lead on Luthor so far. Too bad it was going so slowly with just the three of them,
But you know someone with some free time, don’t you? Someone who’s already volunteered to help, at that. Richard sat up, thinking. They did need all the help they could get, but he would have to be very careful… “Uncle Perry, I’m calling Ms. Lang. She’s got the free time, she can help us.”
“Ms. Lang? The designer?” Perry’s brow furrowed, and then he scowled. “Richard, you – Olsen, get us some coffee, will you?”
“What, Chief?” Jimmy looked up in surprise, but quickly accepted the task as a way to escape the endless fine print before him.
Once they were alone, Perry sighed heavily. “You’re mixed up with her, aren’t you?”
Richard tried to look blank. “What? Uncle Perry, what the heck are you talking about?”
The editor glared at him, growling, “Drop the stupid act, boy. What’s going on with you and the designer?”
“Nothing,” Richard said forcefully. And for the moment it was true. “Listen, she’s an old friend of
Perry considered, and Richard pressed a few more reasons into his pause. “We need some more help here. Just going through these lists – the Vanderworths have property stashed all over the place. And there’s no guarantee we’ll find it here. You’re right, we can’t pull reporters off stories, but Lana’s show is over now and she’s got spare time.”
His uncle leaned forward, met his eyes, and said calculatingly, “Fine, call her. But I’m not saying a word when Lois sees her here.”
Richard rolled his eyes as he got out his cell phone. “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it,” he muttered, his mind still preoccupied with worry. As soon as the words left his lips he heard the slip and corrected, “Cross that bridge. I meant to say cross.”
Perry just raised an eyebrow as Jimmy walked back in with the coffee. Richard glared as he opened his cell phone and dialed, thinking, I don’t need his approval anyway; what I need is help, and Lana volunteered.
The flight back was … interesting. He’d slipped an arm around her waist as she stood next to him this time, and taken her hand to balance her as he took off. It was much like their first – well, first planned flight together, with him flying leveled out and Lois held by his side.
Lois and Kal-El were both wrapped in thoughtful silence. They had each lost someone dear to them. Even if he wasn’t yet certain that the twins were his, he adored them, and beyond that, Luthor had robbed him of his childhood memories. He and Lois were both feeling violated and vulnerable at the moment, knowing that Luthor had taken what they treasured. Worse yet, they were both plagued by memories: of the last time they had been in the Fortress, of their last days together before he left.
It was in that mood that Kal-El suddenly said, seemingly apropos of nothing, “I’m sorry I left you, Lois.”
She turned to look at him, eyebrow rising. Was that ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was leaving,’ or ‘I’m sorry I split up with you’?
The look was lost on him. A part of his mind was charting their course, flying low to avoid radar. The less Luthor could track their movements, the better. But the majority of his thought was centered on those last two months. That was a terrible time for me. Lois suspected nothing – not yet anyway – and I couldn’t give her reason to. I had to keep seeing her, in both guises. And every time she’d flirt with Superman, every time she’d smile at
It was almost a relief when I stumbled across that article in the back of Science Monthly. The new satellite telescope had been discovering new stars and even planets for months; it wasn’t front-page news any more. Only when I saw just where this latest planet was found did my hair stand on end. And the possibility of non-natural formations on the planets surface … a few of the new planets looked like they might have evidence of intelligent life. The majority of scientists agreed that those were probably like the supposed ‘face on Mars’ that everyone’s been talking about for decades; just an accident of form. But on that planet, in that particular section of the sky? I had to go.
At least, that’s what I told myself then.
Lois’ voice brought his attention back to the present, her tone striving for merely curious. “Did you know, the last time you saw me? Not as Clark – I know you wouldn’t have told me as
He sighed. “Not … precisely. I kept telling myself building the ship was an exercise, that I’d have it if I needed it. I always thought that it was about fifty-fifty, stay or go…” I really was in denial about it. I kept thinking things like that right up until the moment the ship’s hatch closed behind me. Taking a different tack, Kal-El told her, “I tried to tell you once. I went by your apartment meaning to tell you everything – this was after I’d seen the images myself in
Lois remembered. He’d been in
He took a deep breath, and she felt the expansion of his ribs beside her as he held her close while they flew. “I couldn’t figure out how to start … and then you, you didn’t remember anything that happened. You said something sweet and flirtatious, the way you always were with me, and … I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. If I’d said anything to you, I probably would’ve wound up definitely not going.” Kal-El sighed at himself. “I’m rambling, I know. I was … very torn, then. Seeing you hurt worse than anything I’d ever felt, but I still thought I’d done the best thing for both of us by erasing your memories.” A low, sarcastic chuckle. “It took six years and an Ella Fitzgerald song to show me how very wrong I was.”
“You loved me too much to tell me you were going,” Lois mused, and then her tone turned a trifle sharp. “But not enough not to leave me wondering. And waiting, like a fool.” And just about the time I got over the abandonment, I started gaining weight. Surprise!
Kal-El winced. “Lois … I am sorry. Sorry I didn’t tell you what was going on, and sorry I ever left at all.”
To that she had no reply, other than to reach out with one hand as they flew close to the river, and let her fingers skim the water’s surface. Here’s a miracle, a man who can fly and the woman lucky enough to have reached the heights with him … and to the rest of the world it has no more impact than those ripples.
Abruptly she turned back to him, and there was a flash of fire in those hazel eyes. “You hurt me,” she said, and with that simple, painful declaration the last of her long-cherished anger evaporated.
“I know,” he whispered, pulling her closer against his side. “I know that, Lois. And I’m sorry for it. But I also hurt myself by hurting you – I didn’t forget, not even for a moment.”
The hour was growing late. The twins had eaten dinner, though they had little appetite. A large man had brought it to them, not one of the ones who’d dragged them onto the boat. He had smiled and said hi, but Jason and Kala had only watched him warily. Kitty hadn’t been back, and though they trusted her only tentatively, they were still cautious of everyone else on the ship.
This large room was lit by a skylight high above. Jason had played a few tunes on the piano before he realized that it was growing dark, and he looked up with trepidation. “Kala?”
She was already by his side, looking upward as well. “It’s gettin’ late.”
“Yeah,” Jason replied. Neither child spoke of it, but they had never liked the dark. Nor had they ever had to face its coming alone. Mommy and Daddy weren’t here, neither was Nana or Uncle Perry or Uncle Ron and Aunt Lucy. They didn’t even have Tala to keep them company, as the little dog had eventually scratched at the door, needing to go out, and one of the men had opened it for her.
They needed something to distract them, but Jason didn’t have it in his heart to play just then. Kala turned her gaze away from the lengthened shadows, and looked into the clear blue of her brother’s eyes instead. “Jason, there’s something I gotta tell you.”
He turned away from the worrying sight and looked at his sister. “What, Kala?”
“Remember when we were fighting that night when Mommy left the house? An’ I said I had a secret?”
Nodding, Jason said, “Uh-huh. I’ve got one too. But you wouldn’t tell ‘cause you were being a boogerhead.”
Kala rolled her eyes with a long-suffering sigh. “Anyway,” she said, “I’m gonna tell you now, okay?”
Jason just nodded.
“We’re gonna be okay ‘cause our real daddy’s gonna come save us,” Kala said softly. “That’s what he does … our real daddy is Superman.”
Much to her surprise, Jason gave her a perplexed look. “Nuh-unh, he can’t be! Superman’s Mr. Clark. I mean, Mr. Clark is Superman.”
It was Kala’s turn to startle back, shaking her head. “Nuh-uh! Mr. Clark can’t be Superman! ‘Cause if he was Superman then he’d be our daddy…”
“Kala, look,” Jason said. “They’re the same! He just combs his hair different and wears glasses when he’s Mr. Clark!”
His sister opened her mouth to reply, and really thought about it. Her jaw gradually shut, and she frowned. “But … yeah. Yeah. But then if he’s Superman why would he pretend to be Mr. Clark?”
Jason huffed. “Haven’t you ever wanted to be normal? All that stuff you can hear, radios in other people’s houses, Mommy and Daddy yelling?”
“Well, yeah,” Kala admitted. “Sometimes it makes my head hurt. But that’s just the way I am.”
“Sure, like I’m strong. I wish I didn’t hafta be so careful with my stuff all the time. Sometimes it’s nice just to be normal.” Then something dawned on him, and his eyes widened. “Kala! The reason we can do stuff – me being strong and you hearing really good – that’s probably ‘cause Superman’s our daddy!”
Kala rolled her eyes. “Well, duh,” she replied, never letting on that she had figured out the same thing only recently. “Just like me being so smart is ‘cause Mommy is our mommy.”
“D’ya think Mommy knows? That Mr. Clark is Superman?” Jason asked.
Kala sighed explosively. “Of course Mommy knows! She kissed Superman, you dweeb! That means she was in love with him. Don’t you know where babies come from?”
Affronted, Jason wrinkled his nose. “Eww, that’s kinda gross. Superman and Mommy kissing … yuck.”
Raising one eyebrow, Kala gave him a look. “You’re such a boy, Jason.”
Another few moments passed in silence, and both children eventually looked up. The skylight had grown even darker; the sky outside was now a deep blue, nearly black. Kala glanced longingly at the light fixtures above them; she hadn’t been able to find a switch or a pull chain or anything. Desperate for something to say to distract them both, she wondered aloud, “How come nobody else figured out that Mr. Clark is Superman?”
Jason shrugged. “They didn’t want to, I guess. People think that bein’ Superman is so cool, he’d never wanna be anything else.” He glanced at Kala and offered her a wan smile. “You didn’t figure it out, and you’re pretty smart. For a girl.”
Hazel eyes narrowed, but in the deepening shadow Kala couldn’t summon an angry reply. She settled for another of her trademarked sighs, looking elsewhere in the room.
That only emphasized the growing dark, however. Kala scooted closer to her brother, and in a small voice said, “I want Mommy.”
Jason put his arm around her shoulder and whispered back, “Me, too.
As the dark comes down around us like a cloak...