By Kat Picson (Kat5107@aol.com) and Craig Byrne (CraigByrne@aol.com)
Summary: There's something suspicious happening on the set of Jimmy Olsen's favorite TV show, and entertainment reporter Cat Grant recruits the Daily Planet's help. Jimmy talks Perry into sending him to California and, with the help of his old friend Sarah Goodwin, proves his merit as an investigative reporter. (Episode # 23 of The Unaired Fifth Season)
The double doors to 438 Hyperion Avenue swung open, and Clark Kent led his pregnant wife into the living room. Lois Lane was hobbling into the room on crutches, her left leg raised slightly off the ground.
"Easy, Lois," Clark warned. He placed his hand on her back.
Lois grimaced at the pain that shot through her ankle.. "Thanks, Clark." She sat down on the couch, and Clark took a throw pillow from the couch, placed it on the coffee table, and then gently placed her injured foot on it.
Clark watched as Lois rested her head on the back of the couch and closed her eyes. He had been quiet on the "flight" to the hospital since Lois was in so much pain, but she was fine now. Since the doctor had said it was a mild sprain, she would only need the crutches for the next week or so.
"I can't believe it!" Lois exclaimed, lifting her head and staring at her foot in disbelief. "I've been so careful these past eight months, and I trip in the kitchen."
Clark sat down next to her, put his arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. "You were also in the kitchen in the dark, at three in the morning, getting your nightly snack of anchovy and crackers." Lois glared at him, partly because she was embarrassed he knew her secret and partly because she resented him for never having the problem of being injured. Clark smiled. "It's OK. The baby's not due for another month, and you won't have the crutches for more than a week."
Now Lois couldn't help smiling either. Her baby — *their* baby — was coming soon! She felt butterflies and trepidation all at once. But she looked at her husband and her worries disappeared — for now. His smile always seemed to have that effect on her.
Lois leaned over and kissed Clark's lips. "I love you," she whispered, "for always knowing the right thing to say."
Clark pretended to look embarrassed, but he kissed her back. "Well, I'm kind of speechless now …"
"Captain's Log, Stardate 43215.5 …" spoke Bill Church Jr. into a microphone. He sat alone in a boardroom in the basement of one of his Cost- mart discount stores.
"It's been a few months since I was released on lack of evidence," Bill said to the recorder. "Idiots," he snickered. "I got out with the help of a woman named Dominique Cox. She was *supposedly* running Intergang from inside the big house, and orchestrated Mindy's takeover of Intergang in the first place. When she saw things looking a little too hot, and Mindy was sure to get caught, I was brought in. What a woman." He shook his head as if overwhelmed but continued.
"Now it's my turn to return the favor. Mrs. Cox tells me there's something amiss in one of her legit holdings, and if we can take care of that problem, we'll be able to fund our other … 'projects.'"
There was a knock on the door. "There she is," he said before pressing "stop" and putting the recorder in his top desk drawer.
The door opened, with a square of light casting shadows into the dark room. At the center of the light stood a dark, beautiful woman. Her wavy black hair had been straightened and pulled into a stylish, sophisticated chignon, and she wore a tan linen suit. Dominique Cox looked stunning despite the four years she had spent in prison.
"Ready to go with the plan?" Mrs. Cox asked slyly.
"I thought you'd never ask."
The young woman waited outside the airport terminal. He said he would meet her here. She brushed her right hand through her curly brown hair and watched the cars come and go. She figured Jimmy Olsen would have a great vehicle, something quirky but professional. After all, he was a full-fledged reporter for one of the world's largest newspapers now, a far cry from his "gopher job" of a couple of years ago.
The Lexus stopped a few feet ahead of her. "Nah, too rich," she thought. "He just got the job a few months ago." A yellow 1998 Volkswagen Beetle passed. Her friend wasn't there.
"Jimmy, where are you?" she said to herself, tapping her foot. A somewhat beaten-up 1969 Dodge Charger sputtered forward. The woman recognized the young man inside.
"Sarah! Psych101!" He jokingly called her by her IRC nickname. "Would you like a lift?" Jimmy asked with an inviting smile.
Sarah Goodwin grinned. "Jimmy! MetroBoy!" Sarah retorted. Jimmy switched the hazard lights on and got out of the car. He took Sarah's suitcase from her hand and put the bag in the backseat. He pushed the seat back into place so Sarah could sit.
She surveyed the car before getting in. "This is a … nice car you have here. She opened the door and got in. "The doors actually open; that's a good sign," she said to herself.
"Huh?" Jimmy asked.
"Nothing," she said, shrugging.
"So … how have you been?" Jimmy said.
"Not bad," Sarah replied, smiling as Jimmy manuevered the car in the heavy airport traffic. "I brought the blooper reel."
"You rule!" Jimmy exclaimed with a little too much enthusiasm. He calmed down before saying, "I mean, that's really, really great."
Sarah looked out the window at the smoggy Metropolis skyline that used to be so familiar. "So what's going on? I saw something on the news about some major crime syndicate leader getting caught."
"Mindy Church," Jimmy answered. "Everyone thought she was a bimbo, but it turned out she was really smart. She was Bill Church Sr.'s wife, and she allegedly ran Intergang for the past two years — she may have been behind it all along. Church was never sentenced, because there was no evidence. There were signs that *someone* was going to destroy a Cost-mart, but nothing saying it was him. He was released from prison about a year ago for lack of evidence. He had a son who was also sentenced, but I think I heard he was released recently too. No apparent connections though between the other Churches and Mindy anymore."
"Interesting. Classic criminal case," Sarah commented.
The two of them drove down Interstate 354 into Metropolis until they came to Jimmy's exit. "Roll up your windows," Jimmy told Sarah. "We've got to drive past Suicide Slum — *I* don't live there, but we've gotta pass it on the way."
Rather than looking at the uncomfortable sights in the dirty area of Metropolis, Sarah played with her fingers as she changed the subject. "So how far are you from the Planet?"
"About fifteen minutes," Jimmy told her. "Thirty in rush hour. The Metropolis Television Museum is a few blocks from there; I know you've got to check that out for your project."
"Great," Sarah said. The conversation continued until Jimmy pulled his car to a stop by the curb. "We're here," he announced.
They locked the car and walked through the small parking lot to the back door. Jimmy punched a few numbers into a keypad and they were in. Jimmy motioned toward the stairs.
"No elevator?" Sarah asked.
"Nope," Jimmy said. "Don't worry; I'm only on the third floor."
When they got to the top floor, Jimmy stuck his key into the door and opened it. "Welcome to Casa del Jimmy," he said grandly.
Sarah looked around. The apartment was totally different from what she expected. Jimmy would make a very interesting psych paper. There was a battered seven-foot couch, a coffee table, a brown vinyl recliner patched with silver duct tape, and some old lamps, but the carpet was vacuumed, and there were no beer bottles lined up on the fireplace mantel like some of Sarah's male friends from the university. Even the throw pillows on the couch were arranged neatly.
"Surprised, huh?" Jimmy said with a grin. "I've been cleaning for a few days. You would not *believe* the mess." Jimmy gave Sarah a tour of his small apartment. The kitchen was just an alcove in the corner of the living room, and a card table served as a dining table. Jimmy's bedroom was filled with black and white photos he took in his spare time as well as a large poster of Melissa Lockhart.
"Let's watch some 'Sally,' and then we'll hit the town," Jimmy said eagerly.
Sarah stood in the living room, surveying the place once more. "So where am I going to sleep?"
"Uh, er, ah …" Jimmy fumbled.
"I'll take the couch," Sarah said before Jimmy could answer. She pulled out two videotapes from her backpack and held them out to Jimmy with a smile. "Blooper reel, or director's cut of the pilot?"
The waiting room was virtually empty as Perry White opened the door carefully. He started toward the receptionist's desk, but a voice called to him.
Perry sighed in relief that she had showed up. "Alice," he said with a nervous smile.
"You came," she said. Her smile was just as nervous as his.
"I was thinking the same thing about you," Perry said.
He sat down next to his ex-wife in the comfortable plush chairs that lined the wall of Dr. Friskin's office. He had called the therapist on Lois' advice. Lois had said that if it hadn't been for Dr. Friskin, it would have taken Lois another three more years to realize that she was meant to be with Clark. Then Lois confided to Perry that Dr. Friskin had even helped Superman.
"Alice, I'm a bit anxious about this," Perry whispered. "Maybe it was a bad idea —"
"Perry and Alice White?" The door to the doctor's office had opened, and a woman in her fifties with a warm smile and a calm voice stood in the doorway. Perry thought she looked like a woman Alice would have been friends with. He became less nervous.
Perry and Alice stood up and shuffled into the doctor's office. It was decorated with wood paneling and leather furniture with a few plants and a large picture window. Dr. Friskin sat in an armchair and motioned for Perry and Alice to sit on the couch.
"So," Dr. Friskin began, "let me begin by introducing myself. It might help to open up to me if you knew a bit about me." She smiled. "My name is Dr. Barbara Friskin, and I've been married for twenty-five years. I received my degree in psychology from Metropolis University and my psychiatric degree from Johns Hopkins University. I've been practicing in Metropolis for the past fifteen years, since my husband and I moved back here from San Diego." She picked up a notepad from the table next to her and poised her pencil. She looked expectantly at Perry then Alice, back and forth. "Did one of you want to continue by introducing yourself?"
Alice cleared her throat. "My name is Alice White. I went to Brown University for a couple of years, but quit when I married my husband and moved to Metropolis with him. I have two sons, TJ and Jerry. Before I was divorced, I spent my days doing charity work and volunteering. Since then, I've taken a job as an executive assistant at a law firm." She looked at Perry and swallowed hard. "Perry and I divorced two years ago because he was spending more and more time at work. I never saw him. He came home, went to bed, woke up, and went back to work." Tears rimmed Alice White's blue eyes. "I missed my husband, and he was married to his newspaper." She looked up at Dr. Friskin. "A man can't have two wives."
Perry looked down as if in shame. It was going to take a lot to win back Alice.
"Mrs. Cox, a pleasure to finally meet you," Bill Church Jr. said, extending his hand.
"Charmed," she said. "Is Kanisky in place?"
"Got him," he replied.
"Good," she said.
"You know, I was wondering," Bill said. "OK, we're going to this meeting, and you're claiming to be a 'Max Wagner.' Now what I want to know is, *how* did 'Max' get sixty percent ownership of the LBS television network, and who is 'Max,' really?"
Mrs. Cox looked away, but not before Bill caught a cryptic smile on her face. "Oh, just an alias so I can't be traced," she said. "Besides, I didn't want them to think an alleged former criminal was running a TV network. I transferred the stock from Lex Luthor's personal account about an hour before he and I were caught with that Daily Planet insurance scheme. You know, on the day he jumped."
"Interesting … and he had no idea?" Church asked.
"No clue. Lex may have thought he was at the top of the world but when it got down to it, he was about as clueless as your mother-in-law," Cox announced.
The telephone rang, and Bill picked it up. "The limo's here," Bill said, leading Mrs. Cox outside.
Jimmy and Sarah walked out of the copy room at the Daily Planet giggling as the repairman tried in vain to fix the eternally jammed copier. Jimmy continued to introduce Sarah to Planet employees as they walked past.
The elevator opened and the Planet's editor stalked out, looking perplexed. Jimmy had heard him mumbling something about "relationship counseling" earlier, and it looked like Perry had not enjoyed it.
"I'd stay clear of Perry," Clark advised as he walked by Jimmy and Sarah, jabbing a thumb in Perry's direction. He stopped at Lois's desk, where his wife was sitting and typing a story.
"Lois!" Perry's forehead was wrinkled with worry and anger as his eyes fell upon the woman, who still had one foot bandaged. "Judas Priest, didn't I tell you to stay off your feet for the rest of the week?"
Lois looked up at her boss from her chair then looked down pointedly at her feet. "I *am* off my feet," she said.
"I meant at home!" Perry stormed. He looked at Lois sternly, who shrugged with a smile. Perry knew he'd been had. He slinked into his office muttering, "At least they're working."
Jimmy turned to Sarah mischievously and said, "The first lesson in Journalism 101 — accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. Never assume that everyone understands exactly what you mean."
Lois, Clark and Sarah laughed.
When the novelty of Jimmy's joke wore off, Sarah looked around and asked, "Where's your desk?"
"Oh, we were just getting to that." He continued through the maze of desks and finally stopped in front of a slightly cluttered cubicle. "This," Jimmy said, "is my desk." He pulled his chair out for Sarah, who sat down and slid closer to the desk. She examined the message notes, photos and other knick- knacks on Jimmy's desk. Superman figurines, a G.I. Joe, a cup of pens and pencils, a pager and a small cactus. But the main pieces were an autographed postcard of Melissa Lockhart, the star of "Sally McNeill," and a photo of Jimmy with Perry on a fishing trip.
She looked up. "No pictures of any women?" She seemed almost disappointed.
Jimmy was surprised, but he tried to hide it. "Uh, well …" He looked into Sarah's hazel eyes and couldn't bear to lie to her. "There hasn't … really … been anyone, um, special lately." Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief.
Sarah shrugged and smiled. "I've been waiting three days to ask you that question."
Jimmy grinned. "Really? Huh." He kept his eyes on Sarah, but his ringing telephone interrupted the moment.
"James Olsen," he said on the phone. "Cat! Cat Grant?" Jimmy's grin grew wider as he realized the former socialite of Metropolis was actually calling his line.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Jimmy," Cat purred. "Remember when I was there last week, and you were talking about some IOC thing —"
"IRC," Jimmy corrected.
"Yeah, whatever. Anyway, it was about that show on TLN — 'Sally McNeill,' right? "
"Yeah," Jimmy said. "Why do you ask?"
Cat lowered her voice as if she didn't want anyone but Jimmy to hear her. "You heard about the 'accident' on the set the other day?"
Jimmy's curiosity piqued. "Yeah …"
Cat let out a breath. "What did you hear?" she asked carefully.
"Breezeway said that someone had told her that a prop gun had been mistakenly loaded with real bullets, and that a stunt guy was accidentally shot in the knee," Jimmy said, his face taking on a concerned expression. "What's going on, Cat?"
"My show got a call from their public relations agent. I'm guessing they want to gloss this incident over with some exciting hype. I'm about to call Perry and suggest that you come out and join me. I have a funny feeling about it. Besides, they're about to shoot the season finale — it's a movie of the week airing in June."
Jimmy broke out in a wide grin. "Are you serious? I would love to! I'll transfer you to him right now." Jimmy hit a button on the phone.
Sarah looked at him expectantly. "Well? What was that? Who's Cat Grant?"
"Oh, she used to work for the Planet, a long time ago," Jimmy explained. "She just started working for 'Access Entertainment,' that magazine show that comes on TLN every night. Anyway, she said there's something going on at the 'Sally' set, and she wants me to see them shoot the finale!"
"You are so lucky!" Sarah exclaimed. "I would love to get on that set! For my thesis project, I mean," she added.
Jimmy's eyes lit up. "Hey, if Perry green-lights this assignment, maybe you can come too! I'm sure Cat wouldn't mind, if I asked her first. I mean, you *will* be going back to California soon."
"Does this mean you'll be booking a flight back with me?" Sarah asked with a wide grin.
Jimmy's response was an equally wide grin.
Stuck at her desk, Lois watched as Jimmy and Sarah excitedly dashed into Perry's office and then noticed Clark making his way toward her from the restroom. He sometimes flew out in and out of the window in there, and today he had used it to rush to a mugging nearby. Lois went over her follow-up story on Mindy Church, adding some quotes from her recent phone call with Inspector Henderson.
"How are you, Lois?" Clark asked.
Lois shrugged. "I hate sitting here," she said. "I mean, I'm excited about the baby and everything, but look at that." She gestured toward Jimmy and Sarah, who were talking to Perry animatedly. She wondered why they were so worked up. "Three months ago, I would have rushed into Perry's office just like that, ranting and raving, probably about a similar story. I'm just so *restless,* Clark. I'm having a baby — way excited about that — but I miss doing my job the way I used to — way excited to get *back* to that." She paused. "Is there something wrong with me?" She looked up at her husband with an expectant look on her face.
And Clark smiled. "Lois," he said.
Lois' expression didn't change. "Yes, Clark?"
He kneeled so they were face to face. "Breathe, sweetheart."
Lois took a deep breath, but before she could say anything more her telephone rang. She stared at it for a moment before picking it up. Clark went back to his desk and checked his messages.
"Lois Lane," Lois said into the phone.
"Lois," a male voice mumbled. There was some chewing and a gulping sound. "It's Bobby here. Got a minute?"
Lois was intrigued. It was a rare day when Bobby Bigmouth called. Usually she had to pry him out from the woodwork with bribes of something edible.
"Sure," Lois said, picking up a pad. Her pencil was poised.
"Nah, I mean, are you gonna be at the office for awhile?" he asked. Lois heard him take another bite of whatever he was eating. "Word on the street is you sprained your ankle a couple days ago, and I thought I'd drop by."
Lois was shocked at the way Bobby could get information so quickly — and so accurately. "Sure," she repeated, placing her pencil back on the desk. "I'll be here all day."
"Great," Bobby said. "I'm downstairs on the street. The sandwiches at this deli are getting much better. You should try it."
"OK, Bobby," Lois said. "I'll see you."
"Bobby Bigmouth is calling you?" Clark said in disbelief from across the room.
Lois shrugged. "I know — it's amazing," she said.
The elevator bell and the scent of pastrami signaled Bobby's arrival.
"Lois!" he said, smiling and bending down to peck Lois on the cheek. "You look radiant. I brought you a pastrami sandwich. I just had three of 'em — they're delicious." He saw Clark. "Clarkie-boy! You guys both look great — the expectant little parents."
"Bobby —" Lois began.
"I know," Bobby said, lowering his voice. His tone turned serious. "This is highly unusual, my coming out here to see you instead of having you come to me with all the food and stuff. But I've heard a couple of things that you might want to know. You two are the only people that can figure this out."
Lois leaned closer toward Bobby, intrigued. Clark propitiously brought two chairs for Bobby and himself.
"What's up?" Clark asked eagerly.
Bobby's gaze wandered from Clark to Lois, and back to Clark. "I have reason to believe that a supposed 'big-wig company' is sabotaging TLN."
"The television station?" Clark said. "Why would anyone want to mess with a TV station?"
Bobby shrugged. "If you've got viewers, you control what people think and believe," he said. "TV's easy. Almost everyone's got one, and if they're watching you, you've got it made. They buy the margarine advertised on your station, and they all go to coffee shops just like the one the main characters go to. It's all about money."
"Bobby's right," Lois said. "What else do you know?"
"Well," he said. Lois could see he was starting to get nervous. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out what looked like another pastrami sandwich. "The supposed company has some criminal ties, *and* they're bringing back some 'ghosts from the past.' Lois, I don't know what that 'ghost from the past' comment is supposed to mean, but that's exactly how I heard it."
"Heard it from where?" Lois prompted.
"You know I can't tell you that," Bobby insisted. "Just … I'm just telling you to look into things. Things may not be what they seem."
"Intergang," Clark said out of the blue. He had been staring off into nowhere, lost in thought. "Do you think it's Intergang?"
Lois looked at Clark. "But Intergang is dismantled. We caught Mindy Church."
"Things might not be what they seem," Bobby reminded her.
Lois thought hard. "OK," she said. "Suppose it is *still* Intergang. What would they do to sabotage TLN?"
"Lois, Clark!" Perry called as he walked out of his office. Jimmy and Sarah were at his heels.
"Lois, I gotta go," Bobby said. "I'll be at the Tenth Street Taco Bell if you need me." Lois looked at his quizzically. Bobby shrugged. "They have good Gorditas, OK? I'll see ya both later." He waved to Clark as he walked away, still munching on his pastrami sandwich.
"I'm sending Olsen here to California for a little while," Perry announced to Lois and Clark. "He's going with Sarah and Cat Grant to check out that show. What's it called? 'Ally McBeal'?"
"'Sally McNeill,'" Jimmy corrected. "We get to go to the TLN studios and everything!" he explained to Lois and Clark.
"Wait, TLN?" Clark said. "What's going on at that set?"
"My guess is they're trying to put a spin on the accident that happened last week," Sarah said. Perry looked at her questioningly. "I'm doing my master thesis on television and its effects on the viewers," she explained.
"What accident last week?" Lois asked, frowning.
"Stunt person got capped in the knee," Jimmy explained. "A stunt gun was loaded with real bullets. And Cat did say she had a funny feeling about the PR person calling her."
"Ooh, I want to go, Chief," Lois pleaded. "I just got some information that there's some shady dealings going on at TLN —"
"Lois!" Clark and Perry exclaimed in unison.
Lois looked innocent. "What?"
"There's a baby coming," Clark reminded her. "Stay close to Metropolis so you can have the baby with the doctors you trust, not some strangers." He turned to Perry. "I'll go by myself."
"No!" It was Lois' turn to protest. "I want you to be here." She quieted down. "If I have to stay, my husband stays with me."
"*Jimmy* will go," Perry said definitively.
"And Sarah will be with me," Jimmy added. "She lives in Los Angeles, and she's leaving in two days anyway. We'll go check out what's going on at the set, and Lois, we can touch bases about that shady-dealings thing you were talking about."
Lois rolled her eyes. She hoped this would be the last time she would be out of the loop.
The limousine stopped outside of the towering LBS building. LBS was a television network founded by Lex Luthor in 1979; series like "Murphy Green" and "Houston" were quick to become hits and raise LBS to number one in the Neilsen television ratings. However, in recent years LBS's audience had begun to fade.
Bill and Mrs. Cox exited the car and went into the building, where they headed for the "special elevator" that was the only way to reach the 27th floor.
"Nice place here," Bill noted, while surveying the brass-trimmed elevator. "I've gotta know though, why a TV station? Aren't there faster ways to make money?"
"I wouldn't comment on that if I were you," Mrs. Cox said curtly. "Intergang needs a front. Need I remind you that *your* brilliant idea for a front was a *thrift store*? How good is that?"
Bill was silenced by that comment. They finally exited, and went to the boardroom where they met their co-conspirator.
"Mrs. Wagner!" a woman said, leading them into a empty boardroom. "Come in!"
"Thank you, Ms. Sesrat," Mrs. Cox said, giving Bill "the look" to remember that here, Dominique Cox was "Max Wagner."
"Bill Church Jr., Amy Sesrat … Amy is the CEO of LBS …"
"Pleasure to meet you," Bill said, extending his hand and admiring Amy's good looks. She was a stunning brunette, with natural red highlights glimmering in the late afternoon sun that streamed through the plate-glass windows. She was dressed for business in a silk pantsuit, but she still exuded sex appeal.
The three sat down and began discussing the problems with LBS's Monday night lineup. The lineup had defeated every other show in the ratings until rival TLN, a newer network, premiered a new show called "Sally McNeill." In the five months since "Sally" hit the air, LBS's ratings had plummeted … and the "crown jewel" of the LBS lineup, Monday evenings, was destroyed.
In the middle of the conversation, Mrs. Cox heard the sound of her cellular phone ringing, almost as if she was expecting it.
"Please excuse me," she said, before exiting the room. "Mr. Church can finish this meeting in my stead." She then left the room.
"So what do you propose we do about this disaster?" Amy said after Mrs. Cox left the room.
"Actually, now that you asked, I have a plan," Bill spoke up. Amy's luminous hazel eyes focused on his brown ones. "Sure, 'Sally' is a problem. But we have made plans to take care of that little problem. And I think you know what I'm talking about," Bill said vaguely.
Amy searched Bill's face for an indication of what he meant. As she realized what he was thinking, her eyes grew wide. "Murder?" she asked, horrified.
Bill shook his head. "No, no, no," he said. "You're jumping to conclusions, Ms. Sesrat. We're not killing them; we're just … scaring them a little. A gunshot here, a little death threat there … and I have just the way to do it." Bill went to the corner of the room to an intercom. "Beverly Ann, please let Mr. Kanisky in."
Kanisky entered from a different door than the one from which Mrs. Cox had exited. "Amy Sesrat, meet Stanley Kanisky."
"Call me Stan," the man said. He was a sturdy man in his forties, with premature gray hair and horn-rimmed glasses.
"Stan is the head props guy at 'Sally.' I am paying him, out of my own pocket, to carry out this plan. Clever, huh?" Bill grinned.
"Does Mrs. Wagner know about this?" Amy asked.
"What she doesn't know, won't hurt her," Bill said. "Besides, if this 'Sally' thing continues, *all* of us could be looking for new jobs … or we could be out of a serious boatload of money. So does anyone object?"
Neither Amy nor Stan spoke up. Bill laughed evilly.
The cab driver dropped Jimmy and Sarah off at a posh condonimuim in the hills. A courtyard surrounded by apartments was accentuated by shrubbery, and Jimmy consulted the directions Cat had faxed to the Daily Planet the day before.
"She's in unit 1203," Jimmy said, looking up at the group of mailboxes in front of the courtyard. "This is the right courtyard."
They found Cat's front door easily. Jimmy rang the doorbell as Sarah admired a potted plant on the Spanish-tiled porch.
"This is a nice set-up," Sarah commented.
Jimmy nodded in agreement.
The door was opened by a blond-haired man with boyish features. He was wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts.
Jimmy looked up in surprise. "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm looking for Catherine Grant's apartment —"
"Oh, Andy, are they here?" Cat Grant's voice called out. She appeared behind the man.
"Oh, Cat," Jimmy said in relief. Jimmy was surprised to see Catherine Grant wearing baggy cotton pants and a loose blouse with beach slippers. Her auburn hair was pulled up in a high ponytail with a satin ribbon, and her face was scrubbed clean except for some shiny lip gloss. Jimmy had been expecting to see the Cat Grant he had seen at the Daily Planet — revealing, tight clothing, high heels, and polished makeup. He brushed the thought away and continued to speak. "I — I thought we got the wrong apartment. This is Sarah Goodwin."
"Hello," Cat said, shaking Sarah's hand with a smile. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," Sarah said, smiling back.
"Jimmy and Sarah, this is my … house guest," Cat said. "Andrew Moffett."
Andrew shook their hands and retreated up the stairs. "I'll be in the bedroom," he said.
"We can go into the den," Cat said, gesturing for Sarah and Jimmy to follow her.
The house was decorated with white wicker furniture and pastel prints. Even the mirror hanging above the couch had a wicker frame. The house was bright with skylights everywhere, and the floors were hard wood and polished to a shine. Jimmy and Sarah followed Cat through the airy, high-ceilinged living room into a large alcove.
"This is a great house, Miss Grant," Sarah said appreciatively.
"Oh, thanks," Cat said. "And call me Cat. Actually, I'm borrowing it from an actress friend until I get my own place. She's on location in Chicago."
Cat sat down at the large desk and motioned for Sarah and Jimmy to sit in the chairs facing her. She pulled out a file from the bottom desk drawer.
"Here's the research I got on 'Sally McNeill,'" Cat said, pushing it toward Jimmy. "I'm thinking I might be a little presumptuous, but after watching Lois and Clark with the investigative work at the Planet, this set some bells ringing in my head."
Jimmy and Sarah's heads were bowed together as they skimmed the reports. The show's public relations thought it would be a good idea to have an entertainment magazine cover some exclusive scenes from the show's movie.
"'Access Entertainment' is there to quell the rumors," Sarah said as she sat back in her chair.
"Exactly what kind of rumors have been circulating?" Cat asked with an eyebrow raised.
Jimmy and Sarah exchanged a look. "Well, it's all *rumor*," Jimmy said. "And it's from the Internet, which means people are hesitant to believe it. Fans have been saying there's something fishy going on at the set."
"Fishy like?" Cat prompted.
"Well, first it was scripts disappearing," Sarah broke in. "Not just copies of scripts, but like *master copies.* Then last week, someone told the press and the Internet newsgroup that someone had been shot in the knee with a prop gun." Sarah shrugged. "We just thought it was bad luck, or you know, a little bad press leaked to generate some heat about the show."
"It looks like the PR people don't like it," Cat said. "They didn't generate any of these leaks, because I'm going there to squelch them." She opened a pocket organizer and flipped through it. "You two are coming with me tomorrow." She looked at Sarah and then at Jimmy and her eyes narrowed. "Jimmy, do you know how to work a television camera?"
"Sure," he said. "I may need to brush up a little bit, but I can handle it."
Cat turned to Sarah. "You can be my production intern," Cat told her. "You'll be helping Jimmy and me."
Cat stood up. "I'll meet you two here tomorrow morning at six sharp. 'Sally' production starts at eight."
Jimmy drove the "Access Entertainment" van past the security guard at the TLN, hardly able to contain his excitement.
"Oh my gosh, there's the set for 'Six of One'!" he said, pointing it out to Sarah, who sat in the shotgun seat. "You know, the show where all the friends hang out in a coffee shop!" Sarah leaned over eagerly to peek at the entrance, where actors and actresses were outside, standing around. Cat, sitting in the back and applying lipstick, rolled her eyes.
"Ooh, there's Paolo Montalban!" Sarah said excitedly. "He is so cute."
"He's got a girlfriend," Cat said, apparently bored. "Some college student in San Diego. And you guys better calm down by the time we get to the set. You guys have to be act like you're used to all this."
Jimmy and Sarah settled down a little bit, and Jimmy followed the signs to the soundstage.
Cat looked at her watch: It was 7:45. "Good, we're a little early. We're supposed to check in with —" she consulted her notes "— Edna Garrett. That's the public relations person who set this all up."
A red-haired woman in her fifties approached Sarah's side of the van. "Are you the folks from 'Access Entertainment'?"
Sarah smiled. "Yes, I'm Sarah Goodwin, Miss Grant's production assistant. This is James Olsen, the camera operator."
"Wonderful," the woman said. She had a friendly smile and an easy manner. "I'm Edna Garrett. Everyone around here calls me Mrs. Garrett; I got that nickname because long ago I was Joe Polnaczek's nanny, and he's called me that for years. But anyway, I'll be showing you around the set today."
"Nice to meet you," Sarah said, smiling back.
"Where should we park?" Jimmy asked.
Mrs. Garrett pointed. "Right over there is fine."
As soon as Jimmy had parked and Sarah had helped him with the hand-held camera, the four ventured into the soundstage.
Mrs. Garrett led the way, introducing Cat to crew members and extras as they walked through the soundstage.
"That's Alex and Jennifer," Mrs. Garrett said, pointing to two people standing on scaffolding. "They do lighting … and over there is Penelope Brewster — she's in charge of lighting." A dark-haired woman standing nearby waved. Mrs. Garrett continued. "There's Ricky and Alfonso — Ricky is the assistant director for this particular episode, and Alfonso is the choreographer." Mrs. Garrett lowered her voice. "Apparently Melissa and Bellaire — that's Sally McNeill and her roommate — are going to be doing some dancing in this episode," she confided. Sarah's and Jimmy's eyes grew wide as they stared at each other, in awe at being let in on the show's secret season finale.
They reached the back of the soundstage, where mirrors were set up and people milled around. Some seemed to be actors and extras, who were flocked by wardrobe and makeup people, and others seemed to be in charge, holding scripts and barking orders.
"Now at most shows, the actors get made up in their trailers," Mrs. Garrett explained. "But we have a co-op style makeup table here." She stopped to let Cat, Jimmy and Sarah observe.
"Oh my gosh, there's Melissa Lockhart!" Sarah said in an excited whisper, poking Jimmy in the side. She pointed to a petite woman sitting in a chair, having her makeup done by a young black woman. "And Joe Polnaczek!" She was referring to the slightly wacky man who played Sally's boss, Richard Trout, who was standing near Melissa. He was being fitted for his sport coat.
"Hey!" Jimmy yelped. "I'm holding a camera here!" But it was obvious that he, too, was overwhelmed at seeing the stars he watched every Monday evening, no matter what.
"Sorry," Sarah said, calming down.
"That woman doing Melissa's makeup," Mrs. Garrett said. "Her name is Dorothy Ramsey. She and Melissa are very good friends. You should probably interview her." Cat scribbled a note in on the pad she was carrying, making sure she caught everything.
As the four of them passed, the actors and the makeup artist were laughing and talking animatedly.
"I hear the episode we're filming is going to be big," Dorothy Ramsey said to Joe and Melissa as she carefully applied blush to Melissa's cheek. "Lots of guests: Nell Carter, Michael Landes — you might remember him from 'Union Square' —and that kid from 'Dawson's Creek' with the goofy eyes, so we can get the teeny-bopper viewers."
"Oh, great," Melissa said, rolling her eyes. She flipped through the script in her lap. "Well, look at it on the bright side — at least Eugenie didn't write this one."
Joe, Dorothy and Melissa giggled at the private joke. Despite having to work long days, the three of them shared a bond.
"Dorothy, have you heard how Natalie is doing?" Melissa asked, referring to the crewmember who was accidentally shot in the knee.
"Nat's going to be all right, and returning to work in about two weeks," Joe said. "They got a temporary stunt person to take over while she recuperates. Don't you read your memos?"
Melissa shrugged. "Well, I just got this script last night. And I'd rather worry about my *lines*. Are Sue Ann and Nancy in this one?"
"No," Joe answered, "but Cindy and Molly are."
"OK, good," Melissa said. As the three of them continued talking, Jimmy, Sarah, and Cat followed Mrs. Garrett. Jimmy looked as if he was going to burst with excitement.
Sarah gave Jimmy a dirty look, and Jimmy pretended a serious expression as the three of them passed Melissa. After passing a corner, Jimmy got excited and burst into laughter! "That was Sally! I mean, Melissa! We were four feet away! Wow wow wow. Breezeway is *not* gonna believe this!"
Cat and Sarah looked at Jimmy, and then looked at each other and shook their heads.
Lois banged her crutch on the floor as she sat down at the dining room table for dinner. "I *love* going undercover!" she announced, her lower lip sticking out.
She watched Clark as he pulled a pan out of the oven. "I think that was one of the first things I learned about you," her husband said. "Let's see: the Lexor Hotel, the Metro Club and your debut as a lounge singer, the Metropolis Men's Club …" Clark trailed off, as if to prove a point.
Lois sniffed the air and smiled, leaning over slightly to peek at the pan Clark had pulled out of the oven. "What are we having?" she asked excitedly, switching from pouty to eager.
"Lasagna," Clark announced. "And garlic bread."
"Ooh, yum," Lois said, practically drooling. As Clark placed a generous slice of the pasta on her plate, Lois reverted to the original topic. "Anyway, I was in the middle of saying I wished we were in California."
Clark sighed. "Lois, I wasn't the one who sprained my foot. And, might I add, you're eight months pregnant."
"Well, you *can't* sprain your foot," Lois reminded him, slightly envious. "And I still wish I could have gone to California again. What a great opportunity. The corruption behind a television show — the effects of Hollywood on ordinary people. That would make for a great feature." She stared disdainfully at her foot, which was resting on a chair. "And 'Sally McNeill.' Great show." Lois took her first heavenly bite and indulged. Clark was a great cook.
But Clark frowned as he took a bite of lasagna. "I never understood the appeal of that show," he said. "Too … I don't know. I don't like it."
"It's not like anyone's watching ABC," Lois pointed out. "I can't believe that movie you made me watch the other week — the one with David Schwimmer and all the nobodies. Oh, and that woman from the breast episode of 'Seinfeld.'"
"I love that actress," Clark said with an injured smile.
Lois loved to tease him. "I know you do," she said, smiling back apologetically. "But I wanted to go undercover."
Lois never ceased to amaze Clark with her roundabout discussions and her babbling, her strange but usually logical thinking. Clark grinned and realized how much he enjoyed these "normal" dinners with his wife.
Cat, Sarah, and Jimmy sat next to the director's chair, watching as Melissa Lockhart and Joe Polnaczek flubbed a scene.
"So what we need to find is Ex Johnson's rex-wife … uh, Rex Johnson's ex wife," Joe said, stumbling over his lines. Both started to laugh.
"Let's try that again." Melissa grinned at the cameraman.
The feeling on the set was one of humor; in every direction that Sarah looked, people were smiling … except for one. A man standing by the fake door to the "co-ed bathroom" seemed to have no reaction, as if something else was in his mind. He was wearing horn-rimmed glasses and had premature gray hair. Sarah noticed he kept reaching into a jacket pocket as if he was preparing something inside.
She turned around to tell Jimmy what she was seeing. "Jimmy," she whispered, tugging on his shirt.
"Sarah!" he admonished in a low voice, brushing her hand away. He was engrossed in the filming.
Sarah looked back toward the facade again, but the man was gone.
"What?" Jimmy said, finally turning to Sarah as the actors took a break. Crew members hurried around and past them, changing the set.
"I saw a guy. He looked kind of strange," Sarah said. She looked toward the unisex restroom facade. "He was just there …" she said, disappointed.
"Wait …" Cat whispered, pointing. "Is that him?" Her hand was in the general direction of Kanisky, who was heading off the set toward the refreshments table.
"Hmm …" Sarah started walking after Kanisky, trying to get a better look.
"Sarah — wait!" Cat said. She rushed after Sarah, with Jimmy hot on her heels.
"I'm going, too!" Jimmy called.
The three walked slowly out of the set. They saw the man pouring what looked like a vile liquid in a pitcher of iced tea.
"OK, we've got to tell someone," Cat whispered. She felt something poking her in the back.
"You're not telling anyone," whispered another man. He nudged a gun in Cat's back. "Come with me; we're going for a ride." He called to the bespectacled man. "Hey Kanisky! Look what we've got here."
Kanisky looked up and realized what was happening. He walked over quickly, took Sarah roughly by the arm and said, "Let's go … say anything, and die."
Lois lazily pushed the keys on her computer, running her hands over her hair. It was warm in the newsroom,the overhead fans turned idly, and the windows were just being opened. Clark had rushed out a few moments earlier to stop a brush fire just outside city limits, and everyone else was busy on their own assignments, so Lois was left to herself and her computer. She lifted her hair off her neck, letting the slight breeze of the fan brush over her slighly damp neck. Lois let her hair fall to her shoulders again, letting her hand fall automatically to the keyboard.
The database she had been scrutinizing didn't seem to have any information Lois could use. She decided to give up and switched to another database when something caught her eye. She got an idea, but she would need help getting downstairs to the "morgue," also known as the Daily Planet's library and archives.
Lois punched Perry's extension on her phone, cradling the receiver in her ear.
"Perry White," the editor said roughly.
"Perry, it's Lois," she said. "Can I get someone's help to go down to the morgue?"
Lois looked toward Perry's office. The editor was looking back at her. "Sure," he said. "Where's that husband of yours?"
"We got a call from the fire department," Lois said. "He heard about some fire right outside town, and he went to report on it."
"That's my boy," Perry said. "I'll take you down there myself. I need to get up for a little while anyway."
Perry hung up the phone and walked to Lois, picking up her notepad and notes. She picked up her crutches and they headed for the elevator.
The morgue was a misnomer for the newspaper's library. It was not dank, musty or tomb-like, as its nickname suggested. The morgue was brightly lighted, and there were research assistants and interns there during office hours, as well as three or four in-house librarians who kept tabs on all the archived editions of the Daily Planet and the other periodicals stored there expressly for the reporters' use.
Lois headed straight for the Periodicals section. The assistant librarian was at the desk.
"Hi, Genevieve," Lois said.
The young woman looked up from her computer. "Ms. Lane! How are you?"
"Fine, thank you," Lois said politely. "I'm looking for back issues of the Church Industries company newsletter. I remembered we had them archived here for some reason."
Genevieve's forehead wrinkled slightly as she tried to remember. She called up a file on her computer. "You know, it says here that we started getting a subscription in the 1970s. I can't imagine why." Genevieve shrugged. She stood up. "I know where they are though. You want me to show you?"
"Yes, please," Lois said gratefully.
Genevieve walked slowly toward the back of the room, making sure Lois could keep up. "Looks like you're going to have your baby soon," she said, making conversation.
"I'm at about eight months right now," Lois said.
"The whole Planet was really happy for you and Clark when the news started to get out," Genevieve said. She led Lois down an aisle lined on both sides with books. Suddenly she stopped and knelt on the floor. "Here they are. Bottom shelf, of course. What years do you want?"
Lois frowned, trying to gauge how far back she wanted to go. "Let's say — the past five years."
Genevieve smiled as she pulled out two bound volumes of newsletters and set them on a nearby table. Lois sat. "You're lucky. Church Industries only puts out newsletters quarterly. Will you be OK?"
Lois nodded and said, "Thanks."
Lois started with Winter 1993, paying special attention to the buy-outs and mergers in which Church Industries was involved.
An hour and a volume and a half later, Lois finally found what she was looking for.
"Yes," Lois whispered to herself in triumph as she placed a marker in the book. She stood shakily, trying to figure out how to carry the large volume to the copier.
"Yes what?" Clark asked. He was tightening his necktie. "Perry told me you were down here."
Lois sat back down. "Perfect timing," she said. She opened the book to show Clark the Fall 1995 newsletter. "I got an idea to check the mergers and buy- outs Church was involved in." She pointed to a small blurb. "They have twenty-five percent holdings in LBS, and someone named Max Wagner has sixty percent." Lois shrugged.
Clark's eyes widened. "Do you think they would sink this low?"
Lois shrugged. "What do you think?"
Clark didn't say anything for a moment. Frowning, suddenly he glanced at his watch. "Has Jimmy called or paged you in the last hour or so?"
"No," Lois said, glancing at her own watch. "It's almost five. He was supposed to call at one o'clock, his time." She shrugged it off. "He's probably having too much fun with Sarah. You think there's anything going on between those two?" she asked Clark with a teasing smile.
"Lois, that's none of our business," he said, admonishing her.
Lois gave him a cynical look. "You're joking," she said. "I was just speculating. People talked about *us* all the time, right before … well, you know, right before we started going out."
Lois rolled her eyes and whispered, "This, coming from Mr. Super-Vision and Mr. Super-Hearing."
Clark changeed the subject. "So what did you hear from Jimmy the last time you talked to him?"
Lois sighed and leaned back. "Oh, the usual. He called this morning after Cat interviewed the stars on the show. He and Sarah are completely star- struck. It's kind of cute actually."
"Well, we should check up on them in a little while," Clark said, slightly worried. "In the meantime, will you be needing help getting back upstairs?"
Lois smiled. "That would be nice," she said. "And can you photocopy these for me? Please?" she added.
"I like it when you admit you can't do everything yourself," Clark said as he picked up the book and helped Lois to her feet. "Sometimes I actually feel needed."
Kanisky pulled the limousine into a gated property somewhere in the hills of Los Angeles. The other man, whom Kanisky called Simpson, pointed a gun at Jimmy, Sarah and Cat. Jimmy estimated the drive to have lasted about a half- hour, but he couldn't be sure. He couldn't even look at his watch, as the man looked at them menacingly every time one of them tried to move.
"Where are we?" Cat whispered to Sarah.
Before Sarah could reply, Simpson thrust his gun into Cat's face. "No talking," he threatened.
Cat clamped her mouth closed.
Kanisky and Simpson led them into a beautiful, spacious Spanish-style house. The property was surrounded by high stone walls. The lawns were freshly cut, and there was an ornate fountain in the middle of the circular driveway.
"Whoever owns this place," Sarah whispered to Jimmy as they walked into the house, "has a lot of money. It's massive!"
Jimmy nodded, too scared to speak. He looked around. The house was airy and wide — larger than it looked from the outside — but it was empty. There was no furniture, and the walls were bare. The floors were clean, and there was a ladder in the middle of the foyer. The sounds of their shoes echoed in the emptiness of the room.
The threesome was led into a bedroom. The floors were carpeted, and painting materials had been carelessly left in the corner.
"There's rope over there," Kanisky instructed Simpson, pointing to a corner. "Tie them up." Simpson busily began to tie Cat, Jimmy and Sarah with the ropes as Kanisky kept his gun trained on them. The three captives sat in the middle of the room, helpless. Simpson left without saying a word.
"Excuse me," Kanisky told them, "but I have a phone call to make." He pulled his cellular phone out, went into the next room, and began talking.
"Mr. Church? Kanisky. I found a reporter from the Daily Planet and someone from some Hollywood entertainment show snooping around on the 'Sally' set, and I almost got caught … I thought you said I wasn't going to get caught, Bill; this was supposed to be fool-proof. What do I did with them? I've got them here with me … Three of 'em; Ralphie was helping me … yeah, Ralph Simpson … Like I said, three of 'em; the Planet guy brought his girlfriend …"
Sarah listened carefully, her eyes widening at Kanisky's words.
"You heard me right," Kanisky continued. "One more person comes close to figuring me out, I'm gone. Tell Sesrat to find someone else — I'm history. I don't *care* if you guys will pay me more money; what good is it if I can't spend it? Yes, I *will* get more … Polnaczek won't stand a chance. OK, anyhow, I'd better get back to these three … What do you suggest I do with 'em? … Heh, that's *good*, Billy-boy! Can't believe I hadn't thought of that." He switched the phone off.
While Kanisky was talking on the phone, Jimmy looked down and backward toward his rear end, to get Sarah's reaction. "Reach into it," Jimmy whispered to Sarah, whose hands, while tied, were still close enough to reach Jimmy's back pocket.
"Eww!" Sarah whispered back vehemently. "Jimmy, this is *not* the time to —"
"Sarah, there's a pager in there," he interrupted urgently. "Only it's not really a pager. Hit the button at the top," Jimmy whispered.
Sarah squirmed and got into the pocket and hit the button. No sounds, no bells, whistles or lights.
"What now?" Sarah asked.
"You'll see," Jimmy promised.
"Bill Church Jr. is out! I should have known!" Lois said. "We've got to find him, Clark, and bring him in."
"Okay, I'll go look —" Clark said, before getting a strained look. "Arghhh," he complained, as if he had a headache. He grasped his head with both hands.
"What is it?" Lois asked, concerned.
"A strange … sound …" Clark said, squinting his eyes in pain. "I need to find out where it's coming from. I'll be back. I'll find Church when I come back."
Clark went out the door quickly, changed, and flew into the sky.
Once up above, Superman looked east then west. The sound seemed to come from everywhere. Superman flew a little to the west; the sound got louder. Farther west, it got clearer. Superman found himself flying in the general direction of California.
The frequency became its loudest and seemed to be emanating from an adobe- style home, which fortunately had an open window. Superman X-rayed the house, flew in, and found Cat, Jimmy, and Sarah tied up. The sound was almost unbearable.
"Let me get you out of that," he said. He then untied Jimmy first, so Jimmy could help him with the others. Clark also noticed the sound was coming from Jimmy's *pocket*! "Turn that thing off," Superman said. "It's … distracting."
"Hey —" Kanisky walked into the room, his gun poised. But when he saw Superman, he turned pale and turned. Before he was halfway out the door, he found himself in the midst of a blue blur. Superman had tied him up.
Superman turned to his friends, who were by then untied by Jimmy.
"I guess this is over, huh, Superman?" Jimmy asked.
Superman thought for a moment. "Not until we find Church. Did Kanisky mention any other names?"
"Not that we heard," Sarah answered. "There was Ralph Simpson, the guy who helped that Kanisky guy … but he's probably long —"
Sarah saw another blur, and the next thing she knew, Simpson was sitting next to Kanisky, also tied up. "… Gone," she finished. "Or not," she added with a quick shrug.
"I know how you can find Church!" Jimmy said excitedly. "Kanisky probably called him, what 10 minutes ago? We can get the call traced —"
"— and I can throw in this evidence." Cat interrupted. She held a small black box in her hand. Superman, Jimmy, and Sarah all looked at Cat, dumbfounded.
Cat shrugged. "What kind of gossip journalist would I be without a tape recorder in my pocket? I got the whole thing recorded. No one's getting off this time."
"Well …" Superman grinned, rubbing his chin. "I guess it *is* over. But one question remains: Jimmy, what was making that god-awful noise?"
"Oh," Jimmy said, smiling. He held up what looked like paging device. Sarah remembered seeing it on his desk. "It's a pager Dr. Klein help me modify. It's a variation of the Superman signal watch I created a few years ago; you know, the one that didn't work. I guess this one did!"
"Oh," Superman said, nodding slowly. "Just be careful with it. Now, I guess I'll be taking you back to your homes?" Superman turned to place each arm around Sarah and Cat, to lift them by the waist.
Cat and Sarah seemed excited to be leaving with Superman, but Jimmy had a different reaction. "Uh, Superman?" he said. Superman turned around. "I was kind of wondering, I know you have some pull with Perry. You think you could manage to swing me a few more days out here so I can hang out with Sarah?"
Superman smiled. "I think I can work that out. You and Sarah stay here while I bring Miss Grant home. Oh, and Jimmy …"
"Yes?" Jimmy asked.
"Say hi to Melissa for me." Superman smiled before lifting Cat into the air. He hid a bigger smile as he saw Jimmy put his arm around Sarah's waist.
Lois, Clark and Perry walked slowly through the empty corridors of the Hall of Justice, their heels clicking on the hard marble. Mayor Susan Steel had called them for a private appointment.
"So," Lois said, trying to make conversation, "how are things with Alice?"
Perry sighed. "We're OK. She's got a lot of pent-up anger," he said. "I didn't know how angry she was until we started going to these sessions. Dr. Friskin is really helping us. I mean, she's helping us so we can help ourselves."
Clark grinned. "She is a great lady," he said. "I mean, Superman told me she was."
Lois grabbed her husband's hand as she remembered her sessions with Dr. Friskin. Lois smiled as she realized in hindsight what Clark — as Superman — must have told the doctor about her.
"Anyway," Perry continued, "I didn't realize how screwed up my priorities were." He looked squarely at Lois. "My family should have come first during so many times that the Daily Planet had taken priority. Alice has been hurt for so many years. Not to mention the boys. But Alice — she was hurt the most."
Lois nodded slightly, considering what Perry had just said. As always, Perry made sense. She looked down at her hand, grasping Clark's, and placed her other hand on top of her protruding belly. Was she scared of the child she was carrying within her? Was that why she was so anxious to return to work? And finally, was she being realistic in thinking everything would be exactly the same after this child was born?
As they boarded the elevator to go the mayor's top-floor office, Lois looked up at Clark. He knew what she was thinking. He let go of her hand and placed his arms protectively around her shoulders, squeezing her closer and kissing the top of her head. Perry looked at them and smiled.
"Perry! Lois! Clark!" The mayor looked up from her desk as the three entered her open door. Her secretary had already gone home for the day, and she was alone in the office.
"Mayor Steel," Lois said. She shook the mayor's hand. The mayor shook Clark's and Perry's hands as well.
"I just wanted to thank you for what you have done," the mayor said, motioning for them to sit down. "I had to do it personally. Especially with what you've done for the past few weeks. We couldn't have done it without you."
"You're welcome, Mayor Steel," Clark said.
"Bill Church Jr. and Amy Sesrat have been captured," Mayor Steel said, consulting a fax. "As well as a few other LBS associates. But no one has any idea who this Max Wagner is."
"I tried contacting him," Lois said. "I didn't get any calls back." She shrugged. "But it looks like Intergang really is gone. For good." She reached over and tapped the mayor's mahogany desk with her knuckles. "Knock on wood."
Clark chuckled. "You are so pessimistic," he commented.
"Yeah," Lois said. "But with our luck, next week we'll have to go through it all again, and we'll find out Lex Luthor was behind Intergang all this time."
The four shared a laugh at her joke in supposed privacy. But none of them knew of the hidden camera that had been installed inside the mayor's office, in the crevice of her office ceiling.
The receiving end of the camera's frequency was on a television screen in a penthouse of a building in downtown Metropolis. The tape rewound so the viewers could rewatch Lois Lane saying: "But with our luck, next week we'll have to go through it all over again, and we'll find out Lex Luthor was behind Intergang all this time!"
The two viewers laughed. One, Mrs. Cox, who had escaped getting caught, and the other, a man smoking a cigar and wearing a navy Armani suit.
"Well said, Lois," the man intoned with a hint of sarcasm. "But who said you need a crystal ball to predict the obvious?" The charismatic, evil smile and the deep, articulate voice could only belong to one person: Lex Luthor.
"I can't believe you've been behind all this for two and a half years, and no one knew," Mrs. Cox said.
"Mindy Church did know," Lex corrected her, "but she got sloppy. Her son-in- law, however, thought it was you. But as we know, Lex Luthor is not one to avoid having a backup plan."
Lex picked up two champagne flutes and filled them halfway with bubbling liquid. "Although I must admit, in some ways it has sickened me to stay in hiding for so long. What with those imposters claiming to be my children. And those clones — an interesting idea, but in the end, they each lacked my — creative spark."
Lex handed Mrs. Cox a glass. "A toast, Mrs. Cox. To the reclamation of Metropolis by Lex Luthor!"
The two laughed, knowing it was only the beginning.
TUFS, Episode #23: "Behind Every Woman…" AFTERWORD
BEHIND EVERY FANFIC
By Craig Byrne
The conclusion of the Intergang arc and the involvement of Lex Luthor probably has the most inspiration coming from a famous villain from elsewhere in TV land: J.R. Ewing. For those of you who don't remember the 80's (and the 80's rule), J.R. was the "bad son" on the oil-baron drama serial "Dallas" which ran from 1978 to 1991 on CBS. The kicker was that J.R. would do anything and manipulate anyone to keep or gain control of his family's Ewing Oil, and to rule the oil business.
To me, one good villain deserves another, and it got me to thinking that Lex, too, would do anything and manipulate to get what HE wants. Sometime last summer the idea fell in that "what if Lex was behind Mindy all along?"
As J.R. Ewing wanted Ewing Oil, what I believe Lex wants, besides power in general, would be to have control of the people. Metropolis, the country, the world. His #1 goal was always for everyone to look up to the greatness that was Luthor, and he'd do anything to get to that position. It's part of the reason why I was disappointed in post-"Phoenix" episodes that Lex appeared in. Lex wouldn't become that obsessive over Lois, no matter how beautiful she is.
Much of the plot for this one came from a phone conversation between Kat and I. We already knew what we wanted to do for "Avenging Angel," and we had to make a whole A-plot for what we wanted to do for this one…
Special thanks to Genevieve Clemens for editing this one. And a special prize to the first person who can tell us the theme all of the supporting characters' names from this story have. <G> Any resemblance between characters and real persons, living or dead, is PURELY coincidental. Thanks to Kat for EVERYTHING, and thanks to all of you for reading TUFS through the Intergang subplots. We hope you have been pleased with this subplot, and TUFS as a whole. Please, please, PLEASE send in your comments also… so we know what we're doing right (or wrong!)
See you in "Full Circle" this summer!