That said, sorry this is late, all. Anissa and I both have sore throats and some sort of stomach bug. I don't even. Healthy, what is that? Some sort of promised land? *headdesk*
Mad Dog Lane was back. Lois had spent the morning sweating various sources by phone, and part of the afternoon doing research in the Hall of Records. Kal-El had finessed some of his sources too, and tagged along for the records search. His speed-reading ability was immensely useful there, especially combined with his ability to look straight through a stack of files, reading each one along the way.
Lastly, they went to see Inspector Sawyer—or Lois did. Kal-El got one of those emergency calls, but it wasn’t like she needed a super-powered protector to see an old friend. At least, not when she arrived bearing scotch.
Maggie opened the door to see Lois’ smiling face and a bottle of Glenmorangie The Nector d’Or. Her response was less than welcoming. “What do you want, Lane?”
“Is that any way to talk to your best friend in the Fourth Estate?” Lois asked.
At that, Maggie actually guffawed. “I think Tobie might be my actual best friend in journalism, Lois.”
“She’s your wife. There’s a difference.”
“Says the girl who married her best buddy from around the office.”
“What can I say? Clark makes a mean cup of coffee.”
“Yeah, he also makes a damn good set of twins,” Maggie shot back, her glacial blue eyes dancing with amusement.
“Don’t get any ideas, Mags,” Lois taunted with a smirk, and Maggie laughed back at her.
The banter back and forth was just a warm-up. Arriving with scotch meant Lois was on the hunt for a story, and Maggie really disliked being a source. But hell, they were both after the same thing: justice. Neither of them liked it when scumbags managed to evade punishment for their crimes, but Maggie was inhibited by due process and the search and seizure laws. She couldn’t investigate based on a hunch.
She could investigate based on a meticulously-researched front-page article published in the city’s biggest newspaper, though, and that would convince her to play ball. Raines would howl, of course. Tobie had told Lois more than once to marry her own damn cop and stop stealing hers.
Lois had repeated that remark to Kal-El once, and he had smiled. “Not a cop. I never forget that I operate without official sanction, although I’m on the same team with the police. Sometimes I think of myself as a hall monitor of sorts, though.” And that remark was pure Clark Kent, through and through. Lois had rolled her eyes.
Maggie finally sighed and stepped out of Lois’ way. “You’re lucky to catch me at home, y’know.”
“Yeah, well, I called the office first,” Lois replied, setting down the scotch and taking a seat at Maggie’s kitchen table.
“And they actually told you I was home? That’s a breach of procedure.” Despite the hour, Maggie poured them each a cup of coffee. Reporters and cops drank the stuff twenty-four hours a day.
Lois took her coffee and sipped it. Milder than the newsroom brew, but then, Maggie actually cleaned out her coffee maker at home instead of letting it develop a patina of pure caffeine. “No, they told me you were unavailable, and I didn’t hear anything from my source in the D.A.’s office that would lead me to think you were there, so I took a chance that you might be home early. Must be nice, being one of the big wigs.” She smiled to show that the teasing was just that.
Maggie had the throaty laugh of a long-term smoker, and sat down with her own coffee. “Says the assistant editor of the Daily Planet.”
“Not this week.” And even then, even when she knew Perry meant it as much as a way of letting her blow off steam as a reprimand, Lois still seethed a little.
“You got demoted?” Maggie arched a blonde brow.
“I ran away from a boring conference, and now the Chief is smacking my hand to teach me better,” Lois said drolly. “But, I am still the best damn reporter under that roof, and I’ve got my teeth in a story. Actually it was my up-and-comer who found it first, but this one’s big.”
“This is the banking scandal in Chinatown, right?” Maggie said.
“So there is an investigation,” Lois said, her eyes alight. “Oh, and I didn’t bring a tape recorder, and you’re totally off the record, Mags.”
“There’s really not much to tell.” The blonde sighed, looking at the scotch as if there were answers in the golden liquor.
Lois just leaned forward, one elbow on the table, and propped her chin on her hand. Maybe it was time to wheedle. “Tell me anyway?”
“The whole doe-eyes thing doesn’t work when I know damn well there’s more Cujo than Bambi in your DNA, Lo,” Maggie informed her.
Well, they always got around to straight talk eventually. No amount of bribery, threats, or begging would move Inspector Sawyer, but it was just possible that she might impart some information if there was a good reason for it. And to Lois’ mind, there was always a good reason, or she wouldn’t be there in the first place.
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, organizing her thoughts. “Mags, I think Joeng Oi-Kan has got his fingers in a whole lot of pies, and none of them are legal and above-board. We’re talking big. Like, everything from insider trading to illegal immigrants being outright sold to massage parlors to some kind of banking scandal. Oh, and just possibly espionage, but I don’t think I can find proof of that. And I have a week to run it down before Perry drags me back into that office by the scruff of my neck and makes me a damn administrator again. And then there’s also Suen and Lei and a couple others, but Joeng is the one I want to reel in.”
Maggie stared at her a moment, and finally said, “All right. Informants tell us that there was a run on Suen’s bank during the worst of the recession. That’s when Joeng turned up on the scene. Apparently Joeng bailed him out.”
“Wait. Joeng has that kinda money, he bailed out an entire bank?” That boggled Lois’ mind. It was bad enough dealing with Lana, also known as Mama Warbucks, and her tendency to pick up expenses if she wasn’t stopped—oh, and casually drop trust funds on the kids. Picturing someone with enough money to bail out a bank was quite frankly scary.
The blonde shrugged. “He does, or his friends do. And when certain people hear that Joeng has deposited fifty million in a bank, they think it’s probably gonna last a while.”
“So tell me about Joeng’s friends,” Lois asked.
That earned her a bitter smile. “Look, we know Joeng has been a very, very bad boy, but he’s made of freakin’ Teflon. Everything slides right off him. Every case we’ve tried to bring, the D.A. won’t let it go to trial for lack of evidence. And he’s right. If we swing and miss, he’ll just run home, and then we won’t be able to extradite him for any other crimes we find. But he likes this country, the way a fat man likes a big juicy steak, so he’ll stay as long as he can. Probably laughing at us the whole time, thinking we’re too stupid to catch him.”
Lois chewed her lip thoughtfully. “You just need something to nail him with that he can’t wiggle off of.”
“All we need is solid evidence connecting Joeng to organized crime, or to the brothels, or to Lei and military secrets. But Lois—don’t get too close. These people don’t play.”
“Are you trying to tell me it’s too hot for me?” Lois shot back, outraged. “You think the boys at Stryker’s Island play? How about the mob? Or that senator who was so deep in misuse of campaign funds he thought it’d be a good idea to throw me off a train? Huh, Mags? Or how about Lex fucking Luthor, hmm? Also known as the reason I shoot with the other hand now.”
Her furious voice had all the finality of a door slamming shut on a tomb, and Maggie sat back, staring at her. “Lo, listen. I can’t ask you to go breaking and entering and running around playing spy versus spy with these guys. The last informant we had got made, and we found him floating in the bay minus several important bits—and that was before the fish started on him. It’s not that I think there’s anyone in this whole city who can put one over on Mad Dog Lane. It’s just … I’m getting to a point in my life where I really, really can’t stand to zip any more friends into body bags.”
“Don’t worry about me, Mags,” Lois said, reaching out to cover the blonde’s hand with hers. “I’ve got the brains and the guts and more years of reporting experience than I’ll ever admit to, but I also have one thing that trumps all of that.”
“Oh yeah?” Maggie said, clearly amused by her gumption.
Lois made sure to enunciate clearly, her eyebrows darting up. “Three magic little words I like to call: close air support.”
At that, Maggie laughed. “All right. Take your superhero and go find yourself a story, and find me something to nail this sonofabitch with. Just be careful, dammit!”
As Lois left, she knew she was immediately going to go against that. Kal-El really hated to be part of anything that involved breaking and entering, and she only had a couple hours when she could be reasonably sure Suen’s office would be unoccupied. Maybe her wonderful yet law-abiding husband would stay preoccupied just long enough.
Then all she had to do was break into a bank.
It had been toward the end of the set for their performance at Thee Imperial when Kala felt a goose walk over her grave. Something was wrong; panic tightened her heart for a minute. For a moment, her voice nearly went out with the wave of fear, but she got it under control. Only Sebast seemed to notice, though he let it go when she winked at him.
The feeling didn’t stop, just lingered enough to feel electric on her skin, made her feel edgy. Only one thing ate at her like this, nagged and didn’t let go. It was Jason. It had to be something wrong with Jason.
Kala held on until after their opening set was over, hoping and praying that it wasn’t something immediate. God, wouldn’t it just figure that he’d need her when she was in a far-too-public place? Once they were offstage, she pulled out her phone and sighed with relief to see that whatever was wrong, he’d had time to text her. Although the news she found there didn’t make her feel any better. This merited a lot more than a phone call. And now she knew exactly why her twin had to have been freaking out.
Backstage, Kala made some excuses to the guys and headed out. Good thing Sebast had been wiped out or he would have volunteered to come with her. It was only around ten when they had wrapped. Really, it would’ve been simpler to tell the truth—she was going to see her brother, after all—but Dustin was Jason’s best friend and would be curious. Too curious. Especially since it was the middle of the school week. As it was, volunteering to pick up some meds while she was out did the trick.
Now all she had to do was to get out there and hope that what Jase was worried about wasn’t as big deal as she thought it was. Her twin hadn’t been forthcoming in his texts, but the fact that he was asking her to take him for a power-up spoke volumes. Kala found him in his dorm, unaware that Tim had insisted he get some studying done while he was waiting for his sister.
Blurring past campus security and into the dorm, she slowed as she entered the floor where Jason was staying. Her presence got a couple of looks from people in the hall; Kala hadn’t bothered to change out of her stage outfit, and Goth rockers were rare enough at Johns Hopkins to cause comment. Not that Kala noticed. She was comfortable in her own skin, velvet, and cat-eye liner. Right now, her main priority was her dorky hero brother.
“Hey, Kal,” he said, opening the door and shaking his head at the sight of her. “Or should I say Elvira?”
“C’mon, Lizardboy.” Not a good sign, his looking this mournful. And tired. What the hell had he been fighting this time? But what he needed now more than concern was reassurance. And she needed to know what was going on. “Let’s get this show on the road. Or the roof, as the case may be.”
He followed her to the stairs, and once they were on the rooftop, Kala said, “Scope out anyone watching.”
After an embarrassed pause, Jason muttered. “I can’t.”
Kala raised an eyebrow. There was that cemetery goose again. “What do you mean, you can’t? You ran yourself down that low, you don’t even have telescopic vision anymore? What the hell have you been up to today?”
“Something like that,” he agreed. Jason’s innocent face fooled most other people, but Kala had always seen through him. She crossed her arms and stared until he sighed and gave up. “Kal … I was in a fight earlier today, and I got hit with some magic, and … my powers are gone.”
Her spine turned to ice at that. “Gone?” Kala whispered. “You mean, all of them? Completely gone?”
By way of answer, he tilted his head and showed her the abraded skin on his jaw. “I tried to jump back to HQ, and fell flat on my face. This was hours ago, Kal.”
The deep chill taking residence in her soul wanted her to flee. Such a small injury, but the fact that it hadn’t healed spoke of many more dark possibilities. If this could happen to him, it could happen to her, too, and what would she do without flight to soothe her heart and quiet her mind? To hover in the sunlight was her personal form of meditation, the only perfect stress relief available to her. Flying, and singing her heart out on stage, let Kala feel completely like herself.
But this was her twin, he needed her to be the strong one, and Kala could no more turn her back on him than she could abandon her own right hand. It was hard to imagine now exactly what he must be going through with this. Kala flung her arms around him and squeezed him in a hug that said everything she couldn’t express. “It’s gonna be okay. We’re going to figure this out, I promise.”
“That’s usually my line,” he mumbled, hugging her back.
“Yeah, well, now it’s my turn,” Kala said. “So you think we need to jump-start the powers?”
Jason nodded. “I went to the Fortress and got Jor-El to scan me. He says everything is fine, just dormant. He couldn’t boost me up with what the Fortress has stored, though. So I’m thinking, a concentrated dose of sunlight might do the trick.”
“I can do that,” Kala said confidently, and shifted her grip so she was holding her brother’s forearms. “Hang on tight—next stop, the sun-drenched skies of Midway Island.” It was earlier in the day there, and the tropical sunlight would be at full blast.
Jason frowned. “Isn’t that way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Kala, I don’t know….”
“Gotta go where the sun is,” she said cheerfully, and took off.
Kala moved fast enough that those who looked up at Jason’s trailing-off yelp of terror saw nothing amiss in the sky above them.