Metropolis was just settling in for another evening rush hour. Though the sun was still above the western horizon and could be seen reflecting off the tops of the highest buildings, the streets were hidden in the shadows of twilight. The lights on the globe of the Daily Planet flickered on as the city eased into darkness, announcing to the world that business at the paper never slept. A few blocks from there were Lois and Clark, leisurely strolling down the street, hand in hand.
"We did Chinese Monday night, and last night we did Italian," Lois explained.
"And you don't like Mexican," Clark added.
Lois looked at Clark. "That's not true."
"Oh, then let's see. Do you like enchiladas?"
"Do you like burritos?"
"No. Too dry."
"What about ..."
"I like tacos," interrupted Lois. "Those are Mexican."
"Really?" asked Clark. Then without waiting for a reply, he asked, "Do you feel like tacos tonight, because I know this great little Mexican ..."
"No," Lois cut off Clark in a sing-song tone of voice.
Clark sighed heavily. "Then what?"
"I don't know, I could really go for ..." Lois' voice drifted off as she slowly stopped in front of a shop window.
Clark looked up and saw the sign that read, "The Baby Basket." He looked back to Lois, then inside the window, and walked up behind his wife.
"Oh Clark, look at all the cute baby things," Lois crooned at the window. "What an adorable baby blanket, and -- oh, look. Look at the silver rattle over there on the left." She pointed to a gleaming silver rattle, almost the shape of a mini barbell. It was tucked in with a crib comforter which had tiny teddy bears in a sea of pastel colors on it. They both stood there for a few moments admiring the items in the window.
"Clark? You think we'll ever have a baby of our own?" Lois looked at her husband's reflection in the window. Even there, in the reflection, she could see his quiet strength, his invulnerable constitution, and it still amazed her that she hadn't seen it before a few years ago.
"I don't know," came Clark's soft answer in her ear. "If what Dr. Klein said is true ..."
"I know. But he could be wrong, couldn't he?" her voice almost pleaded.
Clark shrugged his shoulders. "He's been wrong before, but ..."
"But that doesn't happen very often," Lois finished for him.
She turned her attention back to the baby rattle, envisioned a little s-shield engraved on it, and continued, "What I wouldn't give for him to be wrong."
"Well, I meant to tell you last night, but that private adoption agency we were looking into called, and they are willing to accept our application and start the ball rolling." Clark watched his wife's reflection in the glass closely for her reaction.
A half smile twisted onto Lois' mouth. "They'll probably just reject us later as too risk-intensive to be good parents, just like what's-her-name from Good Beginnings."
"Lois, that woman was nuts," Clark stated.
At that moment, the door to the shop opened with the ringing of a bell, and a woman walked out pushing a stroller in front of her. Both Lois and Clark watched her as she looked both ways, then started to cross the street. A horrible screeching of tires erupted around the corner, and a taxi cab was soon barreling down the street, headed directly for the woman and her baby.
In a flash, Clark was gone and Superman was on the scene. He swooped down in front of the cab, placed his hands on the black and white hood, stopping the cab before it could hit the woman and the stroller.
"Oh thank you, Superman, thank you!" The woman pulled her baby out of the stroller and hugged him close. "You saved us both, thank you!"
"You're welcome," Superman said, then turning to the cab driver who had stepped out of the car, he said, "You should drive more carefully, especially during rush hour." After a quick inspection of the cab with his x-ray vision, he added, "And you might want to have your brakes checked."
The cabby just scratched his head and looked bewildered. He nodded dumbly to Superman's instructions as he glanced at the woman's baby. Superman shook his head, and took off into the sky, and was gone. Seconds later, Clark was trotting down the street towards Lois, straightening his tie.
"That cab driver almost killed that woman and her baby," Lois stated. "What would have happened if you hadn't been here to stop it?"
"But I was here to stop it," Clark stated, "and everything turned out fine." Again, Clark's head shifted up and he got that distant look in his eyes.
"What is it now?" asked Lois, strain creeping into her voice.
"A kid over in the park. I should only be a minute," answered Clark, and in a whoosh, he was gone, only to be back about a minute later. "A little girl was climbing a tree and lost her hold. I caught her before she fell."
"Oh." Lois was staring hard at Clark. "What if you hadn't been there? That little girl probably would have fallen and broken something, maybe even her neck."
"But I was there, Lois," Clark repeated.
"Clark, even you can't be everywhere at the same time. Who's to say you won't be off in Tibet helping to save millions of people from earthquake damage, and our child could be falling from a tree and possibly break his, or maybe her, neck?"
"Lois?" Clark looked at Lois with concern.
"I mean, is it really such a good idea to bring a child into this world? It's so ... dangerous."
Clark took Lois into his arms. "I will always be here for you and any child we might have." Lois was pushing her face into Clark's chest when his head lifted again as he heard something. "Lois, I have to go again." Clark gently pushed Lois away.
"Not again. This is the third thing in less than five minutes." Lois let out an exasperated sigh.
"I can't help it." Clark shrugged, indicating that he also didn't know why he was so busy.
"Take me with you," Lois demanded.
"Lois," Clark's voice warned.
"Take me with you," she repeated. "I want to spend some time with my husband, and if I have to go with you on every rescue tonight, then so be it."
Clark rolled his eyes and started to protest, but knew better. He grabbed her shoulders, held her close, and after briefly looking around to see if anyone was looking directly at them, he whooshed them into the air.
Superman landed in a dark alley with Lois in his arms. He gently put Lois down, then rushed over to figure lying on the ground.
It was a woman, probably in her early twenties, dressed in skin- tight, hot-pink pants, a bright yellow shirt, with a black leather jacket and black leather pumps. All of it was smeared with blood from various knife wounds on her neck and torso, and the cause of death was obvious. Her blond, curly hair was matted with blood and dirty from lying in the street, and her heavily made up face was smudged, making it hard to tell where her lipstick ended and the blood began. Her eyes were wide open with an empty stare full of terror.
"She's dead," Superman announced after checking for a pulse in her limp wrist.
"Who could do such a thing?" asked Lois, turning away for a moment, unable to look at the bloody mess.
Superman x-rayed the victim briefly, and beneath the blood that had welled on her chest and abdomen, he could see what had been done. "Her throat was slit, and she was cut open from her chest to her ... privates." A shiver ran down his spine at how gruesome the murder before him was. He glanced around the alley, starting to look for the killer, when he heard a small noise come from Lois.
"Lois?" He asked tentatively, moving towards her. "What is it?"
"Oh, Clark. If I hadn't slowed you down, you probably would have been here on time," she practically sobbed. "It's probably all my fault she's dead."
They were still alone in the alley. Superman moved closer to Lois and pulled her to his chest and held her tight. "It's not your fault. It could never be your fault." Lois clung to the super hero, her tears lost on the s-shield. After a few moments, Superman pushed her gently away.
"People are coming. We need to call the police," Superman explained.
Lois sniffed, then reached for her bag and pulled out her notepad. "You're right, Clark. You go change and call the police, I'll start working on our next story."
Superman hesitated. "You okay?" Her hand covered her mouth as she nodded. "I'll be fine. Now go."
Superman was gone. * * * * * * * * * *
The elevator doors inside the Daily Planet's newsroom slowly slid open and Lois and Clark walked out. The room was still busy with activity, but most of the reporters had gone home, and the print staff was gearing up for the morning edition. Perry White saw the two of them as they descended the stairs, and cut them off before they could reach their desks.
"I see working an eight hour day isn't enough for you two. I thought you were going out to dinner. Jiminey, you two deserve some personal time together."
"Hi, Perry," greeted Lois quietly. "We were on our way to dinner when ..." her voice dropped off as she remembered the dead woman. Even though Clark assured her it wasn't her fault that the woman was dead, she still felt, deep down, that the woman might still be alive if she hadn't forced Clark to take her with him.
"When we found a woman knifed to death in an alley," Clark finished for her.
"Any witnesses?" asked Perry, glancing at Lois, and shifting his gaze back to Clark.
"No. Superman was there, and he couldn't find anything or anyone who could have murdered her. Then I went to call the police, and Lois stayed to take notes," Clark further explained.
Lois shook off her feelings of guilt, and let the reporter inside take over. "Her name was Candy Thomas, and she looked to be a prostitute. She was probably walking home from a job. The police checked for finger prints and other evidence and found none. It was just a murder. She wasn't robbed, or at least it looked like she wasn't robbed, because there was over a hundred dollars still in her purse."
"Huh," was all Perry said as he listened to his two prize winning reporters tell their gruesome story.
"The interesting thing was how she was murdered," Clark continued.
"I don't think 'interesting' is the right word here, Clark," Lois corrected. "Maybe horrifying, grisly, or even offensive."
Clark nodded his agreement. "The medical examiner who showed up on the scene said that her throat had been slit first, and then the rest was done afterwards, probably while she was still aware."
"Judas priest," exclaimed Perry. "It's not enough to just kill someone nowadays, but now they have to rearrange ..."
"Perry, please." Lois looked a little green around the edges.
"Oh, sorry," Perry looked at Lois, a little surprised. "I didn't think there was anything that could gross you out. All the same, this guy had to be able to sneak up on her and catch her unaware in order to pull this off."
"Or maybe the victim knew her killer," suggested Lois.
"Maybe," started Clark. "But that alley was dark. Someone could have hidden in the shadows and snuck up on her from behind."
"It seems that the two of you have work to do, and I'll leave you all alone to write this story. Think you can get something ready for the morning edition?" Perry looked from one to the other. Lois and Clark glanced at each other, then both turned to Perry and nodded.
"Good. I love a late-breaking story." Perry started to turn away, then turned back to them. "But don't stay here too late. You still have a dinner date to go on." With that he smiled and walked away.
Lois reached into her bag and pulled out her notepad as she said, "Well, we better start writing."
The phone on Lois' desk rang, and Lois picked it up on the second ring.
"Daily Planet. This is Lois Lane."
"Hi Lois. This is Star. I'm so glad I found you," came Star's excited voice over the phone.
Lois covered the mouth piece with her hand and whispered to Clark, "It's Star."
"Star?" Clark mouthed and Lois continued to listen to the voice on the phone, the words racing into her ear.
"I tried calling your new home. Oh, congratulations, by the way on your marriage. Clark's a really cute guy. Anyway, you weren't home, so I thought I would try the Daily Planet. If I hadn't found you there, I don't know where I would have looked next. Maybe I would have run outside and yelled help to get Superman's attention, because he always seems to know ..."
"Star. Slow down," Lois said, interrupting Star's rambling monologue. "What's up?"
"I'm glad you asked," Star continued. "Well, I've got this new job, and I really like it. One day while I was working ... well, I haven't been feeling myself lately, and ... I could really use someone to talk to."
Lois started to protest. "Well, Clark and I are working on this ..."
"Please. Don't say no. Could you come over? Just for a little while?" Star practically begged.
Lois put her hand over the mouthpiece again. "She wants me to go visit her," she whispered to Clark. "Says she's not feeling well."
"You go ahead. I'll write the story," Clark responded.
"You sure? I wouldn't want to leave you with all ..."
"I'm sure," interrupted Clark, nodding his head for emphasis.
Lois let out a deep sigh. "Okay, but only for a little while. I'll be over in a few minutes," Lois spoke into the phone.
"Oh, thank you, Lois!" Lois could hear the relief in Star's voice. "I'll turn the light on for you."
Lois hung up the phone and grabbed her coat. She picked up her notepad and handed it to Clark. "Here are my notes. I shouldn't be long."
"Take your time. I'll finish up here with a little help from super speed, and I'll meet you home later. Maybe we can watch a movie or something." Clark winked.
"Or something," Lois repeated, a little mischief in her voice, then leaned in to give her husband a kiss. * * * * * * * * * *
Lois raised her hand to knock on the door to Star's apartment, and it opened before her knuckles touched the wood.
"Hi," Lois said. "Was my brain broadcasting that I was here?"
"Uh, hi, Lois." Star seemed distracted. "Oh, no, I saw you walk up the front steps." She walked away from the door, leaving it open, her hand sliding from the knob.
Lois invited herself in and closed the door behind her. "How are you feeling?" she asked as she followed Star into the living room. She glanced around the room, decorated in a somewhat eclectic fashion. There was a wind chime in the window with stars and moons hanging from a sun, an orange lamp shade with black fringe, a brass Chinese incense burner, and even a crystal ball on a desk cluttered with papers and books. The book on top was entitled "Astral Traveling and You."
"I'm feeling okay. You?" Star wandered about her apartment, looking lethargic, slowly lifting magazines, articles of clothing, looking on the floor and under the furniture.
"Missing something?" Lois inquired, confused with Star's sudden change from her excitement on the phone, to the detached mood she was in now.
"An earring. I lost it sometime today."
Lois held up a white paper bag she had been holding and showed it to Star. "I brought ice cream. It's Choco Chocolate Monster Chip. I thought you might like some."
Something Lois said snapped Star out of whatever spell had come over her. "Lois! Oh, you came! I was craving Choco Chocolate Monster Chip ice cream ... and a half yard of ale, though I'm not really sure what a half yard is. You never told me you were psychic."
Lois' brow furrowed. "I'm not. It's my favorite flavor and I like it when I'm not feeling quite myself."
"Oh," replied Star, puzzled. "Well, let's get some bowls and dive in. I'm so glad you came. I've been feeling weird lately, you know, stomach aches, headaches, kinda like when you have PMS, you know, the week before when your seratonin levels are down and you snap at everyone who comes near you and you are just generally ..."
"Star!" Lois broke in, "That's why I'm here."
"You're not feeling well either?"
"No, because you're not feeling well and you asked me to come visit."
"Right. I did." Star fumbled with some brightly colored bowls and spooned some of the ice cream into each. "Let's sit here in the kitchen. My living room looks like my sister's bedroom."
The two sat down, each with a bowl of ice cream. Lois dug in and took a bite, and Star just swirled her spoon around. The silence between them was thick and uncomfortable. Puzzled by Star's behavior, Lois watched Star for several long minutes before asking her next question.
"So, you mentioned on the phone that you got a new job," Lois stated, breaking the silence and hoping to get Star talking again.
Star looked up from her ice cream and Lois could see her eyes snap into focus. "A new job. Yes, I did! It's really great too. I'm working at the university helping out with history research."
"History?" Lois seemed surprised. She scooped another spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.
"Yeah. I've been helping one of the history professors research old England. We started around the early 1600s, and we've been working our way to the present."
Lois smiled. "You must really know your away around the library by now."
A look of confusion crossed Star's face, then changed to understanding. "No, no. He already knows everything that is written in books. No. The professor and I are going to the source for more detailed information."
Now it was Lois's turn to look confused. "The source? You've been traveling to England?"
"You could say that. Old England, to be exact." Star finally took a bite of the quickly melting substance in her bowl.
"This is really good," she mumbled around the ice cream filling her mouth.
*Old England. Historian. He,* Lois thought, beginning to wonder if Star was talking about H.G. Wells and his time machine. How could she have come in contact with him?
Star's voice broke in on Lois' thoughts. "The professor tells me the name of someone that lived during a certain time period in a certain place in England, and I call upon the spirit and channel the person for him, so he can ask the spirit questions about the time."
"Like you did for Clark when he needed help with the Dead Sea Scrolls," Lois remembered out loud the time she and Clark were investigating Larry Smiley.
"Uh-huh. It's really cool. We've talked to some interesting people during that time. You know, this is the first time I truly feel like I'm using my gift to really help people, and it doesn't hurt that the pay is good and steady," Star explained around another mouthful of ice cream.
Lois slowly put another spoonful into her mouth, and let the spoon linger there as she considered what Star was telling her. She wondered what reputable historian would use a psychic channeler as a source for information. She could see it in the footnotes of some historic journal; Psychic Channeling by Star. Even if the information was correct, no one would listen to him. He'd be the laughing stock of community. Again Star barged in on Lois' thoughts. "You're wondering who would use a psychic as a source for historical information."
"I ... no ... I was ..." Lois stammered, frustrated that Star had been able to read her so easily.
"Lois, remember I told you your brain is like a cheap TV, lots of static, but broadcasting loudly." Star looked Lois straight in the eyes. Lois wondered if Star had any aluminum foil she could borrow.
Star could see Lois's discomfort. "It's okay, Lois. I know that not everyone holds a lot of respect for people like me. Hey, it's part of being a psychic. The professor sees things differently, and he's been able to verify a lot of the things we have discovered through my channeling."
"Hmmm," Lois mumbled. "So what happened? You said that you weren't feeling well."
Star hesitated for a moment, then put another spoonful of ice cream in her mouth. Slowly she swished it around, then swallowed it, before she answered Lois's question.
"During one of the sessions, I had just called up someone for the professor, and at first it was going well, then I got this horrible headache and I felt sick to my stomach, and now it won't go away. It comes and goes in horrible waves, and I just don't feel like myself."
*Is it contagious?* Lois thought to herself, then banished the thought as fast as she could so that Star wouldn't "hear".
"Have you been to see a doctor?" Lois asked.
"No," came Star's simple answer.
"Well, maybe you should, and maybe you should stop channeling for a while. It's probably not helping," Lois suggested.
Star sighed. "You're probably right."
Lois looked at her now empty bowl, then back at Star. "I have to run. Sorry I can't stay longer, but it's been a long day, and tomorrow promises to be even longer."
Star's eyes slowly drifted up to look at Lois. "No, go. It was very sweet of you to come, and I really appreciate it. And I will take your advice, I promise."
"Anytime," Lois smiled.
They both got up from the table, and Star walked Lois to the door. "You know, this old brownstone isn't the same without you living here," Star stated with a sigh.
"Well, we'll just have to visit more often. Maybe Clark and I could have you over for dinner sometime," Lois proposed.
"Yes, that would be nice." Star leaned over and hugged her friend. "Thank you again for coming."
"You're welcome." Lois squeezed back, and then pulled away and headed out the door. "See you later. Feel better." * * * * * * * * * *
Lois scrambled with her keys, carefully keeping her bag on her shoulder and a sack of groceries from falling as she unlocked the door to the apartment. Once unlocked, she pushed the door open with her foot and edged inside, closing it with the same foot.
"Hi honey," she puffed, as she dropped her jacket and bag on the floor where she stood. "I stopped at the store to pick up some food, since it doesn't look like we'll make it to dinner tonight."
"How's Star?" inquired Clark as Lois started towards the kitchen with the groceries. She looked over at Clark for the first time and realized he wasn't actually sitting on the couch. He was floating on his side with his hand supporting his head, about two feet off the floor, with the television on to the late night news. She stopped and smiled, shaking her head, then continued on to the kitchen.
"She was really weird," she yelled from the kitchen.
"How so?" asked Clark, still hovering in front of the television. The weather report was coming on. "She's already pretty weird."
"You know how she usually talks a mile a minute, straying down some tangent and you have to pull her back?"
"Well she was like that about half the time I was there. The other half, she was almost like she was sedated. When I walked in the door, it was if she didn't remember asking me to come over, and then a minute later, it was like I had just arrived and she realized I was there." Lois moved about the kitchen putting things away, reaching into cupboards, opening and closing the refrigerator, etc. She left out a block of cheese, a pepperoni stick, and a box of crackers.
"You mentioned before you left that she said she wasn't feeling well. Maybe she's just under the weather. I know you're not quite yourself when you're ill," Clark reasoned.
Lois poured a couple of glasses of white wine, grabbed a wooden cutting board and the food she had left out, and headed into the living room. "Maybe. It just seemed weirder than normal, even for Star." She placed everything down on the coffee table. "Dinner is served."
"Yum," Clark floated into a sitting position and lowered himself onto the couch. "You're usual gourmet cooking, I see." Lois looked indignant. "I don't see you in the kitchen slaving away."
"I'm kidding," he teased, as he stood up, grabbed Lois around the waist, and pulled her down next to him on the couch. Lois fell into her husband with a tiny squeal. She started to protest, but Clark cut her off with a passionate kiss to the lips.
A commercial for some pizza place came onto the television, with loud annoying sounds, and broke the mood. The two separated, and reached down for some cheese and crackers.
"Did you guys talk about anything in particular?" Clark queried further. He picked up a knife and started slicing the pepperoni stick.
"Yeah. She mentioned she's doing research with a history professor at the university on the history of England."
"History?" Clark asked, an eyebrow raised in doubt.
"That's what I said. She's been channeling people out of England's past so that this historian can ask them questions. Hey, she seems to enjoy it, and she said she feels like she's finally doing something useful with her special talents."
"Well, good for her." Clark was going to say more, but a news flash on the television broke in and caught both their attentions.
"... in an alley between Bourbon and Santos streets, a woman was found stabbed to death. We're going live to the scene."
"Is this the one we found earlier?" Lois asked.
Clark shook his head. "This looks like it just happened, or it would have been one of their leading stories."
"You didn't hear anything?" Lois asked with a concerned look on her face.
"No. I heard a couple of other cries for help, and rescued a car with a family of four from falling off the Metropolis bridge, and an old woman from having her purse stolen. Nothing else." The two sat and listened further.
"Just a few minutes ago, a man on the street discovered a woman stabbed to death in the alley just behind me. She did not have any identification on her, and no one on the scene seems to know her. If you have any information that can help with the identification of this murder victim ..."
Lois didn't need to hear more. She walked over to the door, put on her coat and picked up her bag. She then raised her arms and announced, "Let's go. We've got a story to write."
Clark got up with a smile, spun into Superman, then reached over and clicked off the TV. He walked over to Lois, gently picked her up, then whooshed them both out the window. * * * * * * * * * *
The normally dark alley was brightly lit with the headlights of the ambulance, the many police cars, and the camera crews. The flashing red and blue lights alternately bounced off the walls of the surrounding buildings, while the murmur of hushed voices filled the confined space.
Lois walked up to the crime scene, pushed her way to the front, stating her position with the Daily Planet the whole way. The people parted to let her through, some recognizing who she was, others recognizing the name of the newspaper. Superman swooshed to the ground just inside the yellow tape barriers set up, and the officer who seemed to be in charge briskly walked over to him.
"Superman, I don't know how much you can help. The woman looks like one of the local call girls, though no one can say for sure who she is," the officer explained. "When we got here, there was no sign of anyone ever being here, no fingerprints, nothing, only this mess. Her throat was sliced open, and then the killer removed her liver."
"Her liver," Superman half asked, half stated. The officer looked at the super hero. "What would he want with her liver?"
Lois had pushed her way under the barriers, and quickly approached Superman and the officer.
"Ms. Lane," the officer greeted.
"Is this like the one earlier today?" inquired Lois.
Superman nodded. "A dead prostitute cut up pretty badly, only this one is missing her liver."
Lois held her hand to her mouth, then took a deep breath and regained control of the revulsion churning in her stomach. "Was she robbed?" Lois asked the officer.
"Not that we could tell," answered the officer. "She still had some valuables on her when the M.E. checked her out."
At the mention of the medical examiner, Lois looked around for one, spotted a white lab coat, and headed in that direction. "I'm gonna take a look around. See if I can see anything," announced Superman, and with a whoosh he was airborne.
The officer stood there for a second and watched Superman disappear into the night sky above, then moved to follow the reporter.
Lois tapped the M.E. on the shoulder. "Excuse me. Lois Lane. Daily Planet. Can you tell me anything about how the woman was murdered?"
The M.E. just glanced at Lois, and then walked away.
"Hey, wait a minute, come back ..." she started indignantly, when someone touched her shoulder. She spun around and saw a familiar face. "Inspector Henderson."
"Ms. Lane," he greeted. "This is a police matter, and you really shouldn't get involved."
"I'm already involved. Clark and I found a woman similarly murdered earlier today, and now I'm trying to find out if we have a serial killer on the loose," she pointed out to the inspector.
"That was you and Kent who reported it?" Henderson asked. Lois nodded. "I just got thrown onto this case a half hour ago, and haven't had a chance to review the files yet."
"Well, that's not my problem. There are obvious similarities between the two cases. Both women, both hookers, both ... sliced and diced, and neither was robbed. Do you know when this woman died?" Lois asked.
Henderson grabbed the M.E., who came over and stood between the inspector and the reporter. He gave Lois a sidelong glance, then addressed Henderson. "Inspector. What can I do you for?"
"Do you have an estimated time of death?" Henderson asked. The M.E. scanned his notes on the clipboard he was carrying.
"Based on body temperature and settling, I would say around 10:45 this evening."
That's only a few minutes after I left Star's apartment, Lois thought to herself. "I was out walking to the market when this happened," she whispered out loud.
"A practice I would stop for now until we catch this guy," Henderson recommended.
There was a movement of air, and Superman floated down to the ground, joining the little group. "A good idea, even though this guy seems to like prostitutes, and Lois doesn't fit into that category."
"True," Lois said, nodding slightly. A tiny smile crept across her face and her eyes came up to meet Superman's. He obviously recognized the mischief he saw there, and knew exactly what it meant. "Lois," Superman warned. "This guy is too dangerous to be considering what you're considering." "What?" Lois replied innocently. She glanced from Superman to Henderson, their faces wrought with serious concern, and sighed heavily. "Well ... okay. I won't go undercover, but only because ... because ... you asked me not to," she said, directing the last part toward Superman. "Smart choice," muttered the inspector. "Smart choice."
The street vendor was all ready to make their usual orders when Lois and Clark walked up. "Two coffees, one regular with cream and four sugars, one decaf, low-fat milk, no sugar," he said with a smile.
"No, make mine a regular, this morning, Raul," Lois corrected.
"Late night?" Raul asked conversationally.
"You could say that," responded Lois. She then glanced about the street full of people scurrying to work, bundled in their winter coats already. A little gust of wind blew up her dress and she pulled her long brown coat closer around her legs.
"How do you do it?" she asked Raul.
Both the vendor and her husband looked at her with one question in their eyes. "Do what?"
Lois sighed. "It's freezing out here. You're the only street vendor left in all of Metropolis. Not that I mind, mind you, you make the best coffee in the city ..."
"And he's right outside the Daily Planet," added Clark with a smile.
"Yeah, that too," Lois conceded, "but don't you have a winter job or something?" Just then, someone behind Lois sneezed loudly and another went into a coughing fit. "All this weather is good for is to make someone sick."
As Lois turned to go into the Daily Planet, Clark shrugged his shoulders at the street vendor, and handed him some cash for the coffee.
As Clark lightly jogged to catch up with his wife, Lois blurted out, "You know, Clark, there are so many things in this world you have to protect a baby from. The weather, colds, flu, chicken pox, falling from trees, runaway cabs, kidnappers, mad scientists, vampire wannabes, homicidal maniacs ..." Her voice trailed off.
"Lois, that's just part of being a parent, and who knows if we will ever be parents. Besides, I think you're being a little paranoid." Clark knew he had said the wrong thing just from the look on Lois's face.
"Paranoid!" she barked. "I think I have a right ..."
"I'm sorry," interrupted Clark. "It's just that I was never sick as a child. If we are ever lucky enough to have one, maybe he or she would be just as immune. And the other things Superman can take care of. How do you think ordinary parents handle raising kids in today's world?"
Lois, the burning in her eyes dying to a dull red, answered, "Ordinary parents don't have their lives threatened as part of their job description. Even you can't be everywhere at the same time, like last ni--" She stopped when she saw the hurt reflected in Clark's eyes.
"I'm sorry. It was my fault that you didn't make it there in time." Lois reached for Clark's hand and squeezed.
"No, Lois. You're were right the first time. It wasn't your fault I didn't make it on time. I didn't even hear the second one until it was on the news." He pulled his hand away and walked towards the Daily Planet's revolving door. Lois grabbed him and forced him to look at her. The immense Daily Planet globe stood still above them, shading the morning sun and casting a dark shadow across Clark's face.
"Clark ..." she started, but he cut her off.
"No, Lois. I've been thinking about this. There is a murderer loose in this city, he's killed twice, and I can't even find a clue as to who it is, never mind be there in time to stop it. It's like I'm trying to catch a ghost."
Lois looked up into Clark's pain-ridden face, his brow furrowed with intense emotion, all carefully contained. Her hand came up to touch his face. "We'll figure it out. We always do, you and I." Clark just looked at Lois, doubt reflected in his eyes. "Come on, let's get to work on this." She turned him towards the revolving door, tucked her hand inside his elbow, and they both walked into the building. * * * * * * * * * *
The newsroom was bustling with activity. People were walking everywhere, donuts and coffee in hand, the talk ranging from the murders to Superman's inability to save the women. Some believed that the streets would be a better place with the prostitutes gone, while others found pity for the poor women forced into such an awful profession because they had nothing and no one to take care of them.
Lois took a sip from her coffee, slipped her coat off, and folded it onto the back of her desk chair. Clark was already seated, checking his phone messages. Both of them could hear Perry yelling about something from within his office. Seconds later, Jimmy exited the office.
"Morning Lois, CK," greeted Jimmy as he walked by them with a box in his hands.
"G'morning, Jimmy," returned Clark.
"Hi," Lois said watching Jimmy blow by her. "When you're done there, come back."
"Sure thing," Jimmy responded as he disappeared around the corner.
Perry walked out of his office and headed straight for the two reporters. "Lois! Clark! Can I talk to you a minute?" The two turned around to face him, and he noticed the tired look in their eyes. "Late night last night? You two finally go on that dinner date?"
"No, Perry, we were at the murder scene of the second murder last night, and by the time we got home, it was late," answered Lois.
Perry nodded. "I heard about that last night and wondered if you two would manage to get over there, and uh, well, I have to say, you never disappoint me."
"Chief, it seems that both murders were done by the same person. There are just too many similarities. They were both prostitutes, both stabbed and mangled, and both weren't robbed," Clark explained. "The only difference was that the second woman had her liver removed.
"Uh, that was one of the reasons I came over here to talk to you two. Inspector Henderson called just before you got in. Seems the police received a letter late last night." The Editor in Chief handed Lois a piece of fax paper. "He faxed me over a copy. He said the original was written in red ink and that they couldn't find any fingerprints."
Lois took the paper and started to skim it, her brows furrowed as she found it difficult to read. "This is terrible," she said. "Listen to this ..." Lois began to read the letter.
"After all these years, my knife is still nice and
sharp. What grand work last night's job was. Ha. Ha.
Two little whores ripped wit my knife, and I didn't
even let one of em squeal. How can they catch me know.
I love my work and glad I have started again. I am
down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do
get buckled. The liver was very nice maybe I will try
a kidney next. You will soon hear of me with my funny
little games. Guess who."
Lois lowered the paper. "This man is sick," she said with disgust. "He obviously knows we don't have anything to go on, and he's taunting us."
"Uh," Perry muttered as he listened intently. "Have either of you talked to Superman? What does he think?"
Lois glanced at Clark, then replied, "He is just as baffled as we are." She glanced back at Clark with apologetic eyes. "The murderer is always long gone by the time he gets there, and either the murderer's invisible, a ghost, or has a really good hiding place.
"What are you planning to do next?" inquired Perry.
"We were just about to do some research, and see if there are any similar cases in the past, and also call the police to see if they have any other leads yet. I'll also try to contact Superman to see if he's found anything new." Clark adjusted his glasses in almost an absent- minded gesture. "He'll be interested to know about the letter."
Lois looked directly into Clark's eyes and said, "He'll find something. He always does." Clark could feel the confidence in her words, and it made him feel warm inside. It reminded him of how much he loved her. He turned his eyes toward Jimmy as he walked up to join them.
Lois grabbed the young photographer's attention. "Jimmy, Clark and I need for you to find everything you can on any serial murder cases in the past that involved prostitutes who were stabbed and mangled, possibly having organs like a liver or kidney removed, and who weren't robbed."
"I'm on it", Jimmy replied, and he started to turn around to leave.
"Oh, and," Lois grabbed Jimmy's arm. "Also see if the guy wrote letters to the police, badly written ones, at that." Jimmy nodded and ran off.
Perry chuckled softly at the way Lois took the reins and controlled a situation. "All right. Well, let me know if anything develops." The two nodded and Perry left them alone and headed back to his office. Clark settled into his chair, picked up the phone, and started dialing the police. Lois turned around and dug into her bag, pulled out her notes from the previous night and sat down to study them.
The elevator doors opened and Star burst out from within. She practically ran to Lois's desk, seemingly frantic with fear in her eyes.
"Star?" Lois asked, standing up to greet her friend. Clark swiveled his chair around to see who was coming.
"Oh, Lois! Lois! Not right! Can't remember things. Scared!" Star blurted incoherently.
Lois grabbed the psychic's shoulders and gently guided her into her chair. "Star, calm down. I don't understand what you're saying. Take a deep breath and start again."
Clark hung up the phone before anyone answered and came over to join Lois. He knelt down next to the chair. Star turned to look at him. Tears welled in her eyes.
"Oh, Clark!" Star cried. "Lois! Something's not right. I can't remember things, how I got somewhere, where I had been."
Lois held Star's hands in her own and concern filled her features. She waited for Star to continue.
"After you left last night, I felt so much better. I decided to go to bed. I remember getting in bed, closing my eyes, and the next thing I remember, I was outside the brownstone sitting on the front step," Star explained. "It's kinda like when you were a college student, and you go to your first frat party, and they ask you if you want a beer, and you say no, because you don't want to drink. So they offer you lemonade, and you discover that after four or five that there is grain alcohol in it, and you are so drunk that you don't remember how you got back to your dorm or who the guy is in your ..."
"Star!" Lois and Clark said in unison, bringing Star back from her wild tangent.
She smiled sheepishly. "Only I hadn't been drinking," she added in a quiet voice.
"Are you still feeling sick?" Lois asked, recalling what Star had told her the night before.
Star nodded slightly. "Ever since that day I channeled that doctor guy for the professor."
"Doctor guy?" inquired Clark. "Can you tell us a little more?"
Lois looked at her husband with a hint of curiosity in her expression, then turned back to Star. "Tell Clark what you told me," she encouraged.
Star looked from Lois to Clark, her eyes pleading for help. "Well, I got this job working for Professor Greenwich, helping him research English history. We started around the 1600s, calling up the names of people who lived during those times, from peasants to noblemen. I would channel them, and he would ask them questions."
"Tell us about the last time you channeled," Clark prodded.
Stars eyes darted back and forth between the two. She clenched Lois's hands tighter. "We were up to the 1800s. The professor asked me to call up this doctor guy, um ..." Star hesitated and gently knocked on her head with her hand. "Tumblety, I think that was his name. Yes, Dr. Francis Tumblety. The professor really wanted to talk to this guy because he was a bit of a traveler. He had been to the United States, Canada, and various parts of Europe, and the professor though the doctor could help him compare England to other countries at the time." She hesitated for a moment.
"Go on," Lois said softly.
The corners of Star's mouth turned up slightly. "Well, I called, and he came ... and when he took over my body, well, that's when I felt sick to my stomach. When he was gone, I got this terrible headache that won't go away, and now I can't remember where I went last night." Star started to cry and Lois pulled her in for a hug. "I'm so scared," she mumbled into Lois's shoulder. "Something's not right."
"Have you seen a doctor yet?" asked Lois.
Star shook her head. "Not yet, but I haven't done any more channeling."
"Maybe you could see another psychic who has the same abilities you do," Clark suggested.
"Yes," Lois agreed. She gently pushed Star away so she could see her face. "Maybe another psychic will know what you are going through and how to help you. Do you know anyone?"
Star brought her hand up to rub her nose and wipe her eyes. "I do. I can call her."
Clark reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Star. She took it with thanks in her eyes, then blew her nose loudly.
"How about I walk you home, and you can call your friend and get some rest?" Lois offered.
Star nodded and slowly stood up with Lois supporting her elbow. Clark grabbed Lois's coat and helped her with putting it on, and kissed her tenderly on the cheek.
"I'll keep working on the story. You make sure Star is okay." Clark gave Lois's hand a squeeze. "There's something I want to check out." His hand came up and gently tugged on his tie.
Lois winked knowingly, and she then turned her attention back to Star, and helped her to the elevator. Clark headed to the storage room, tugging a little harder to remove the tie. * * * * * * * * * *
Superman flew in the sunny blue sky high above Metropolis, his red cape flapping fiercely with his speed. He briefly surveyed the city below, letting a brief moment of enjoyment slip in as the wind softly buffeted him from below. It was cold, but it didn't bother him. He loved the freedom he felt when he flew, and no matter how often or for what reason he did it, it was still his favorite power.
Having sighted the first murder scene, he angled down and was on the ground in seconds. He took a moment to see if anyone was around, then seeing no one, he spun back into his suit and tie. He pulled his glasses from his pocket and placed them on his face, completing the disguise, and making him less noticeable than the flashy red, blue, and yellow of Superman. He wandered over to the area marked off with the yellow tape, and slipped underneath it into the crime area. He stepped up next to the outline of the woman's dead body still marked on the ground, dried blood staining the pavement. He knelt down and looked closely, lowering his glasses slightly.
Nothing. The alley was like any other. It was full of trash, had lots of dark crevices, corners, and doorways, and the killer could have slipped into any one of them unnoticed. Clark walked around, x-raying the piles of garbage, checking the doors which he found all locked, and shook his head in puzzlement when nothing obvious showed up. In his mind's eye, he remembered with picture perfect clarity the night of the murder. He had checked the alley for the murderer, and had found nothing. What did he expect to find now? The question rolled over and over in his head as his investigation continued to tell him nothing. He decided to return to the spot where the woman was murdered, and as he walked down the center of the alley, the sound of his footsteps echoed off the walls. Then the sound changed. He looked down to see what he had stepped on, and found a grate that led into the sewers.
Lowering his glasses, he looked past the grate into the mucky sewer pipe, and something glittered. He tried to see it better, but it was buried in mud and the grate, which contained lead, was interfering with his vision. He reached down and tugged on the grate, and found it to be lose, and removed it. He quickly scanned the area for people, saw no one, and hovered down into the sewer. Once at the bottom, he reached down and picked up the glittering object. A few wipes with his fingers to remove the muck revealed a gold earring, a woman's gold earring. He pocketed the piece of jewelry, then scanned about for anything else and found nothing more. The muck was too watery for footprints too hold their form, and after looking up, Clark realized that the earring probably fell through the grate, out of reach of whoever lost it.
Having complete his search, he hovered back up into the alley, and discovered a wino watching him, wide eyed. Before Clark could put his feet back on the pavement, the wino was already shuffling away, his dirty overcoat swishing behind him. Clark could hear the poor man muttering to himself. "Man, I hav'ta give up'da really cheap wine. It's a'makin' me hallucinate." * * * * * * * * * *
Clark casually strolled into the alley where the second woman was murdered. The yellow tape fluttered lightly with the cool breeze and Clark could easily spot the outline on the ground where the woman had been. Again he lowered his glasses and microscopically searched the ground around the area, x-rayed the buildings and piles of garbage near by, and found nothing. He did find a grate, similar to the other one, leading into the sewer. He reached down to open it, and found that it was loose as well. A smile crept across his face as he theorized how the killer had managed to get away. He must have dropped down into the sewer, which would explain why Superman hadn't seen anyone when he arrived. *Well, not next time*, Clark thought to himself. * * * * * * * * * *
"Now don't forget to call a doctor, and that friend of yours," Lois reminded as she stood in the doorway to Star's apartment, ready to leave with the doorknob in her hand.
"I promise, Lois," came Star's tired voice. "I promise."
"Okay. I'll call you later to see how you're doing. Bye." Lois closed the door behind her, listening for the click on the latch. She walked down the hallway, past the door to her old apartment, then out the front door onto the street. She looked back up at the window to Star's apartment and whispered quietly, "Feel better." * * * * * * * * * *
Star watched as the door to her apartment closed and locked, then turned and walked toward her bedroom. Her feet shuffled along the floor, minus their usual spring, and her fingers rubbed her temples in a circular motion. She stumbled on the carpet in the hallway and caught herself just in time to avoid falling. She managed to make it into her bedroom where she plopped down onto the autumn colored quilt. Slowly she laid down on her side, pulled her knees up to her chest and dragged the other side of the quilt up over her body. She clung to the quilt with white knuckled hands and pressed her eyes closed as if she were watching some horror show. She silently prayed for sleep, and within minutes, she was asleep. Her hands relaxed their grip and her facial expression softened.
About five minutes later, her eyes flew open, wide and staring. An expression of menacing anger crept into her facial features, with her brows deeply furrowed and her eyes smoldering from within. She rose from the bed and walked to the antique mirror over her dresser and looked at the image she saw there. Her dark curly hair was wild and out of control, her expression tainted with a hint of pure evil, and her eyes, no longer a soft brown, were pitch black. She studied her image for a moment, then lifted her head up and laughed, but not with her voice. It was the voice of a man. * * * * * * * * * *
"Please let me know if you find out anything new," Clark spoke into the receiver, his desk covered with large maps of the sewers under Metropolis. "Thanks." He hung up the phone and returned to studying the maps. Lois exited the elevator and headed straight for her desk, her long coat flowing out behind her.
"How's Star?" asked Clark, as Lois pulled off her coat and threw it over the back of her chair.
"I'm worried, Clark," she said, without a simple greeting of any sort.
"She'll be okay, once she gets the help she needs," Clark soothed.
"What? No, I'm not talking about Star. I'm sure she'll be fine too. I'm talking about this world and how dangerous it is. How can we even be thinking about having a child, or even adopting one? What makes us think that we can do this?"
Clark stood up, walked over and leaned against Lois's desk. "What brought this on?"
"That woman last night was murdered while I was walking home. And then I got to thinking about all the times you showed up just in time to save me, not to mention all the times you needed rescuing yourself. And what about if someone finds out that ..." Then she whispered, "Superman," and continued normally, "... has a child. He would become a target, and our lives would never be the same."
"Lois, we took that same chance when we got married," Clark reasoned. "What if someone found out 'Superman' had a wife?" Clark also whispered the name of his alter ego.
"And look at our jobs. We're investigative reporters. We are always getting into dangerous situations. Maybe we should consider giving up this way of life, write the obituaries or the movie reviews, and you give up being the Man of ..." she stopped when she realized how ridiculous she sounded.
"Lois, you would never be happy unless you were crawling around looking for the dirtiest dirt, and the world needs the Man of Steel. If we do this, Lois, there will be changes in our lives, but that doesn't mean we have to give up doing what we love doing."
Lois looked down for a moment, then back up at Clark, her brown eyes brimming with unshed tears. At that moment, Jimmy walked up with his arms full of books, papers, and magazines. "Hi, guys. Um, bad timing?" he added, seeing the two deep in conversation.
"No, Jimmy," Clark assured his young friend. "What have you got for us?" Lois pulled away from Clark and turned her attention toward Jimmy.
"Well, I really had to dig, and I mean dig. I had to go so far back, it seemed like I was reading a history lesson," Jimmy exclaimed.
"What do you mean?" Lois asked.
"Well I jumped onto the computer and tried to look up murder cases in the last twenty years that fit the criteria you gave me; women, prostitutes, stabbed and mutilated, even missing organs. The only case that even comes close in the last twenty years was Jeffrey Dahmer, and well, he wasn't picky. He killed anybody, not just prostitutes."
"So ...," prodded Clark.
Jimmy shuffled through the papers, and handed Clark a sheet of paper. "So I went back forty years, then a hundred. Then I told it to search the last two hundred years, and I came up with this." He pointed to the title on the page he had handed Clark. Lois leaned into Clark and read over his shoulder, and they both read the first few sentences on the page.
"Jimmy, this is about Jack the Ripper," Lois stated. "What has this got to do ..." she stopped as she read further.
"This is incredible," Clark sighed as he continued to read.
Jimmy shrugged. "It's the only case that matches all the criteria you gave me. He only killed women who were prostitutes, he mutilated their bodies, and one case reported having the liver removed. He even wrote letters to the police."
"But Jimmy, this guy is dead. No one can live that long, not even Jack the Ripper," Lois said in disbelief.
"No, but someone could copy him," Clark theorized.
Jimmy nodded. "There's enough information out there on him." Jimmy indicated the pile of stuff he had brought with him. "There are all sorts of books, magazine articles, heck, even the Internet is full of websites on the guy, listing all the possible suspects, their life stories, all the victims, etc."
"That's true. No one knows who the Ripper really was, and someone could be copying how he did things, claiming to be the Ripper, giving the illusion that he is immortal." Clark flipped through the sheets and scanned the pages for any relevant information.
Both Lois and Clark stop reading when their eyes pass over the names of all the possible Ripper candidates. "Clark, do you ..." Lois started.
"Yes. Dr. Francis Tumblety. He's on the list." Clark flipped through a couple more sheets looking for any background on Dr. Tumblety.
"He was one of the people suspected of being the Ripper," Jimmy explained. "He had done a bit of traveling, but was in England at the time of the murders, and was said to have hated women." He reached over to the papers in Clark's hands, flipped a couple of sheets, and pulled out four pieces of paper. "I got these off the Internet. These are the actual letters he wrote to the police."
Lois reached up and positioned the paper so she could read it, caught her breath as she read the first few lines. Clark read the first letter out loud.
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they
wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look
so clever and talk about being on the right track.
That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am
down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do
get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the
lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I
love my work and want to start again. You will soon
hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some
of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over
the last job to write with but it went thick like glue
and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha.
The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and
send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn't you.
Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then
give it out straight. My knife's so nice and sharp I want
to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.
Jack the Ripper"
Clark stopped reading and handed the sheets to Lois. "This is just like..." he mumbled as he searched his desk for the faxed letter that Perry had given them.
Lois read the last line of the Ripper's letter.
"PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got
all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet.
They say I'm a doctor now. ha ha"
"Clark, you don't think ..." Again, Lois stopped before finishing, afraid of what her brain was telling her.
Clark shrugged his shoulders, then shook his head. "I just got off the phone with the police, telling them that I thought the killer might be a woman, instead of a man, and has been escaping the murder scenes by using the sewers."
"What makes you think it might be a woman?" questioned Lois.
Clark reached into his pocket and pulled out the gold earring he had found and held it out for his wife to see. "This."
Jimmy looked from Lois, to Clark, to the earring, and looked totally confused.
"Where did you find that?" Lois further inquired, taking the gold earring and looking at it more closely.
"In the sewer near where Candy Thomas was killed," explained Clark.
Lois closed her hand around the earring and looked up towards the ceiling, her mind working fast, putting her memories into proper chronological order.
"I was at Star's apartment about an hour after the first murder took place." She stopped and tried to remember her visit with Star. "She was looking for an earring she had lost."
Clark shook his head. "A gold earring? This could be anyone's. It may not even belong to the killer."
Lois shrugged. Jimmy stood there trying to piece together what it was the two reporters were talking about.
"Star is not the type of person who would ever hurt anyone," Clark continued, though doubt was creeping into his voice. "It's probably just a copycat killer, some mentally disturbed person with a fascination for Jack the Ripper."
They both looked at the paper again in Clark's hands. Their eyes fell on the name of Dr. Francis Tumblety again, and they noted the date, the late 1800s; the same date as the Dr. Francis Tumblety that Star said she was channeling for the history professor. While the three of them stood there contemplating what facts they had before them, evening had fallen upon Metropolis and the lights in the newsroom had come up around them. The hum of the Daily Planet had changed with the switch from the day shift to the night shift, and none of it was noticed by the three. It was a small cry for help, cut short, that penetrated the Man of Steel's concentration.
"Lois, I almost forgot," Clark prompted, touching his tie, and glancing at Jimmy. Lois, recognizing the look on her husband's face and the touching of the tie, quickly thought up a lie.
"The dinner reservations. You'd better get down there and make sure we get a table tonight."
Clark smiled, a "thank you" reflected in his eyes, and ran up to the elevator, leaving Jimmy and Lois standing alone by Lois's desk. * * * * * * * * * *
With a quake of thunder, Superman arrived on the scene, another dark alley, only to find what he had found before. There, lying in a shadowed corner, was a woman obviously knifed to death, and no sign of the murderer.
"All right, I know you have to be here somewhere, and I know where to look," he said into the darkness. Determination filled his voice in an effort to convince his mind that he would succeed before the next victim died. The three women he had been unable to save weighed heavy on his mind, and he had begun to doubt his own ability to be there for Lois and any child they might bring into the world.
He shook off the thoughts and his own doubts and quickly searched the alley. As before, there was a grate in the pavement. He grabbed one of the cross bars, easily removed it, and flew down into the sewers. Quickly his eyes adjusted to the pitch blackness in the large pipes of the sewer. He discovered that the murderer had planned well this time. He was standing in the junction of several pipes, and the water and muck in the pipes was loose enough not to hold footprints.
He concentrated on listening, turning up his hearing to see if he could pick up any sound of the murderer escaping. As the levels rose within his ears, all he could hear was running water, rats scurrying from pipe to pipe, and the footsteps and voices of the onlookers gathering around the woman's body above. A frustrated sigh escaped his lips as he switched to x-ray vision, only to find the pipes must have been old, because they contained lead.
"I just can't seem to win," he said with an exasperated sigh. In a blur of red, blue and yellow, he flew from pipe to pipe, the sonic boom he created vibrating the street above, and still he found nothing. He flew up through the open grate to the street level and noticed that a rather large crowd had gathered, as well as Lois, Jimmy, Inspector Henderson, and a medical examiner. The lights of an ambulance and a couple of police cars illuminated the alley, chasing the darkness away into obscure hiding places.
"Superman," came Lois's voice from the crowd. She stepped around the body and started to walk over to him, followed by Jimmy and Henderson.
"Did you find anything?" Lois asked, glancing at the open grate behind Superman. Superman looked at Lois and could tell from the look on her face that she had read his own expression, enough for her to know that he hadn't found anything, and that he was frustrated by it all.
"No, huh?" she more confirmed instead of asked.
"That sucks," added Jimmy. "It's hard to believe ..." he stopped, seeming to realize that what he was going to say next wasn't appropriate.
"All of the evidence is the same, only the woman is different," explained Inspector Henderson. "A prostitute, her throat slit and her torso ripped open. At least this one still has all her parts."
Lois looked thoughtful for a second, her brow slightly furrowed. "Maybe he," she paused, then continued, "or she didn't have enough time ... you know, Superman got here too fast. If only we could know ahead of time when and where the next strike was going to be."
"Well, I'm going to keep searching," Superman announced, and with a whoosh and a thunder clap, he flew up into the night sky and was gone.
"I sure hope he finds something," the inspector murmured, half to himself, half to the Man of Steel, high in the sky above them.
"He must be bummin'," Jimmy expressed. Lois looked at him, and he continued, "He usually catches the bad guy before things get this bad."
"Jimmy, he ..." she stopped before she said anything to let him and the inspector know that she knew more about Superman than she should have. She took a deep breath. "He'll find the murderer, don't worry. He's getting closer, he just needs ..." Again she stopped.
She shoved her notepad and pencil into Jimmy's unexpecting hands. "Here, you stay here and take notes. I've got an idea." She turned and started to leave, walking briskly to the alley entrance.
"Lois, be careful," yelled Jimmy after her.
Henderson watched her disappear around the corner of the buildings, and turned to look at the young photographer. "Does she know what she's doing?" he asked.
Jimmy shrugged and the inspector shook his head. * * * * * * * * * *
The shadows cast by the old style street lights appeared to have a life of their own, swinging and swaying, seeming to be trying to lure Lois into some unknown danger. Even the old brownstone where she used to live loomed over her with an almost menacing face made up of windows and doors. She hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, as if to climb them would be to climb into the mouth of a monster, never to return.
She shook off the creepy feeling and took a deep breath. "Come on, Lois, it's just a building," she whispered to herself. She glanced up at the sky. "At least I know you're on the job tonight," she whispered to the sky where she knew Superman, her husband, was on the lookout.
She turned her attention back to the steps leading up to the front door of the brownstone and thought of all the many, many times she had climbed those stairs, heading for the warmth and safety of her own apartment.
Well, it wasn't her apartment she was going to, but Star's, and she forced her feet to carry her up the stairs and in the front door. She made sure the door closed behind her, and then moved to Star's door, and tentatively knocked. When there was no answer, she knocked with more force.
"Star," she yelled at the door. "Star, are you home?" Lois tried the doorknob and it was locked. "Where could you be?"
The hallway was too quiet, and Lois wasn't sure if she would have felt any better if Star had actually been home. All the same, it didn't matter. She wasn't going to find Star there, so she turned and left the building.
She walked down the streets of Metropolis, past all of the familiar places she used to walk past when she lived in the area, and she realized that she missed them. She lingered in front of Tony's Flower Shop where Clark had purchased a bouquet for her. The shop was closed and the window was dark, and somehow it seemed different. She looked at the shops on either side, then across the street, and it all seemed different, menacing somehow.
She pulled her coat closer around her as if it would protect her from the unseen evil she felt. She counted her steps when she resumed her walking. She wasn't sure where she was going, and she wasn't sure what she was looking for. Maybe she should head to the university and talk to the history professor. Maybe she should go to the combat zone and try to talk to the women of the night. Maybe she should just go home to the warmth and safety of Clark's arms.
She approached a bench and a sign that indicated a city bus stop, and she sat down to think. She contemplated the story they had been working on, the brutal murders, a killer capable of eluding Superman, a letter to the police, and then Star. A cold breeze blew past her, and she drew her coat in closer around her, trying to ward off the chill that had crept into her very soul, not just from the weather, but from the horrible creepiness of her current assignment.
A noise behind her broke her train of thought, and she twisted around to see where it came from. There was an opening to an alley, the entrance illuminated by the street light next to the bus stop. At first she didn't see anything, then a movement caught her eye. Just beyond the edge of the light sat a figure against the wall, knees pulled up, arms wrapped around and head down.
Another sob-like sound escaped the figure's lips, and Lois got up from the bench and walked over. As she drew closer, the outlines of the shadowed figure solidified, and she saw dark curls covering the lowered head.
"Star?" she whispered. When the figure didn't respond, she walked a little closer and repeated, "Star? Is that you?" Being fairly certain that it was her, Lois took another step closer and placed her hand on the figure's shoulder
The figure's head came up with a start, the curls tumbling to the sides, revealing Star's face, strewn with tears. "Wha ..." came her trembling voice in response. Her dark eyes, moist with unshed tears, slowly focused with recognition as she looked at the reporter's face. "Lois?"
"Yes, Star, it's me," Lois responded, kneeling down in front of her friend.
Star's gaze followed Lois's familiar face, then switched to the alley and buildings around her. Terror crept into her expression. "How did I get here? Oh Lois ..."
Lois watched as Star's eyes drifted back to her, the expression on the psychic's face changing from bewildered terror to cold evil. She started to stand up and move away when Star's hand darted out and grabbed her wrist and held on with amazing strength. Star stood up, dragging Lois to her feet.
"Star! What are you doing? You're hurting me!" Lois protested, trying unsuccessfully to pull free.
Star only laughed in a voice deep and not her own, with a maniacal tone to it. She held onto Lois's hand and dragged her a little deeper into the darkness of the alley.
Lois was nervous, even a little scared. She had not expected the voice she had heard, the voice of a man, coming from Star's lips. She considered calling Superman, but rejected the idea. Star was her friend and she could talk her through it.
"Star is asleep right now," the masculine voice said in a distinctively British accent.
"Then who am I talking to?" inquired the reporter as she again tried to pull away.
"You can call me Jack," came the answer, the grip on Lois's arm tightening.
Lois began to think, and think quickly. This was her friend. They knew each other. Star would never hurt her. Besides, she wasn't a prostitute. The ripper only killed prostitutes ... if this really was Jack the Ripper.
"I want to talk to Star," she said in an attempt to get Star back in control of her body.
Jack's eyes narrowed. "You have already talked too much to Star. I like where I am, here, in this time. So much better than before, and I don't want to leave." He laughed again then cut it short. "You and your curiosity and your suggestions stand in my way. You are a danger to my existence."
Fear and desperation slithered their way into Lois's consciousness. "I want to talk to Star," she repeated, then decided to address Star directly, in hopes that the psychic was in there, awake, just unable to reply.
"Star, if you're listening, it's Lois. Your friend, Lois Lane. I used to be your neighbor. Please, won't you talk to me? I need your help," Lois pleaded.
Jack's eyes glittered, slowly turning from the hard stare of a deranged killer to the gentle softness of Star's.
"Lois? Where am I?" Star asked, her voice her own, filled with confused terror.
"Star? Is that you?" Lois asked quickly, hoping her eyes and ears weren't deceiving her. Star nodded slightly, clearly confused by the question.
"Star, listen carefully," Lois grabbed the opportunity to explain to Star what she believed to be happening. "The guy you were channeling for the history professor, Dr. Francis Tumblety, is really Jack the Ripper and he's still with you. You need to get rid of him, Star, you have to try!"
Shock filled Star's face as she realized the horror of what she had done. She started to nod in agreement with Lois, then her expression started to change, an obvious struggle written in her features as Lois watched Star try to stay in control as Jack pushed his way back to the surface. Jack won the struggle and focused angry eyes on the reporter in front of him. A deep growl slipped from his downturned mouth, between the clenched teeth, the muscles in Star's lower jaw twitching with the strain.
Lois quickly tried to pull away before Jack was fully in control again, but it was too late. He glanced at her wrist and tightened his grip, his growl switching to a rumbling laugh.
"That is quite enough!" he snarled at her. Star's other hand moved toward the pocket in her jacket and Lois realized what was probably there.
Lois lost any hope she had of helping Star on her own. She opened her mouth and started to scream. "Superm--"
Jack's hand abandoned the jacket pocket and came up and throttled Lois, cutting her cry short. He pushed her to the ground and brought his other hand to join the first on her throat and proceeded to strangle her. Lois struggled, kicking out with her legs and pushing at Star's body with her hands, unable to escape the unexplainable strength her friend possessed. Her mind raced with panic as she realized that Superman was not coming. Where was he? Her consciousness started to slip away and her struggles lessened.
*Clark, I'm sorry*, she thought as her mind fell into darkness.
The city bus pulled up to the bus stop, and the driver opened the door and looked out. He saw two figures in the dark, one lying on the ground and the other on top. He put the bus into park and stepped off the bus.
"Hey, what's going on over there?" he bellowed, moving a couple steps closer, afraid to be too far away from the safety of the bus.
The figure on top moved, head looking towards the bus driver, then jerking away. Quickly it stood up and moved away, disappearing into the dark shadows of the alley, leaving the other figure, unmoving, on the cold, black pavement. The bus driver heard the clanking of metal, and thought he saw the first figure slip into a hole in the street, but he wasn't sure.
Seconds later, Superman showed up, swooping down and landing right next to the unmoving figure. Gently he picked her up and cradled her in his arms. "Lois?" came his soft voice, as he noticed the bus driver move in closer.
"Superman, I saw someone, another woman, with curly hair, I think, on top of her just a few seconds ago, I think, trying to strangle her," the bus driver explained, his words racing out of his mouth.
"Did you see where she went?" Superman asked, turning his full attention to the bus driver.
The bus driver looked down the alley and pointed. "Went down a hole over there somewhere. Never seen anything like it."
Superman looked and saw the grate and noticed it had not been settled back into place as the others had been. The murderer was in a real hurry this time. He contemplated going after the killer, but when he looked back down at Lois, he realized she wasn't breathing, and he only had minutes to get her to a hospital to save her life.
"Call the police," the superhero told the bus driver, "and tell them what you saw. Thanks for your help." He took off and was gone, the bus driver watching with his mouth agape. * * * * * * * * * *
Superman landed just outside the emergency room of the Metropolis General Hospital, with Lois limp in his arms. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he hurried inside as the double wide doors automatically opened for him.
Doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and waiting patients all watched with blatant curiosity as the man in tights brought in the unconscious reporter.
"She needs a doctor. Someone tried to strangle her, and she's not breathing," he said into the crowd of people, hoping that someone would know what to do. A doctor separated himself from the group of onlookers.
"Grab that gurney," he said to an orderly standing nearby. "Over here, Superman," he called, waving his arm to indicate where. Quickly Superman walked over to the doctor. "Place her here," the doctor instructed, indicating the waiting gurney. Superman did as he was told, and a nurse covered her with a sheet. Superman lingered, he touched her hair gently, then was about to lean in to kiss her when he caught himself, realizing people were watching. He was Superman, not Clark, and she was married to Clark. His stomach twisted itself into knots as he reluctantly pulled away, hoping no one noticed, yet not really caring if anyone had.
"Put her in room two and start an IV, stat, and get her breathing again!" the doctor further ordered, and then turned to Superman as the nurse and orderly rushed Lois down the hall.
"Will she be all right?" the superhero asked, concern clearly written on his face. He watched the gurney disappear into one of the rooms.
"We'll do our best," came the reply.
Superman shifted his gaze to the doctor. "Of course you will," he replied. "Please call her husband, Clark Kent, and let him know that she's here. I have a murderer to catch." His heart lurched, telling him to stay and wait to see if Lois was okay, but his mind told him he had to stop this killer before anyone else died.
The doctor nodded, and Superman raced out of the emergency room, his will alone dragging him from his beloved's side. * * * * * * * * * *
The windows to Star's apartment blew open as a blur of red, blue, and yellow zoomed through, the curtains straining on their rods, begging to follow him. Superman stopped and looked around the room. The crystal ball, the wind chime, the books on astral traveling, all normal things that Star would own, all right where they should be and nothing out of the ordinary.
He walked through the kitchen, down the hall, and into the bedroom. The bed was made, but it looked as if someone had slept on top of the covers. The autumn-colored quilt and half of it was pushed into a lump on one side. He checked her closet, then even the bathroom. It was there, in the bathroom, on the top of the toilet that he found the earring. He reached out and picked it up, recognizing the gold pattern that matched the one he had found the day before. * * * * * * * * * *
High in the sky above Metropolis, the wind gently tugged and billowed his cape as Superman flew. His sharp eyes searched the city below, his ears listened for the tiniest cry for help, hoping to find any sign, any disturbance that would give the murderer away.
He was looking for Star.
The bus driver had said he had seen another woman, one with dark curly hair, and she disappeared down into the sewer. If it hadn't been for Lois's condition, he would have been able to go after her. Quickly he banished that thought. It sounded to him like he was blaming Lois for not being able to catch the killer. If he had been there sooner, Lois would never have been in that condition in the first place, and he wouldn't be having these thoughts.
Flashes of Lois lying in the street, then again on the gurney in the hospital and him standing by, helpless, haunted his mind. His own self doubt flowered as he considered that maybe he couldn't always be there to protect a child if they ever had one.
As he slowly arced his way around to the harbor, he saw a flicker of movement where there should have been none, save for a seagull or two. This was much bigger than a seagull. Someone was standing on top of one of the towers of the large expansion bridge that crossed the Metropolis harbor.
Star clutched the thick support wire with white knuckled hands, her face pressed up against it and her eyes closed. The wind at the top of the bridge whipped through her hair, pulling her curls behind her head as if she were riding a motorcycle.
"I won't let you win," she whispered, then louder, "I won't let you kill again, not with my body." She opened her eyes and slowly looked down to the churning water far below. As vertigo tried to grab a hold of her, she could feel Jack angrily trying to claw his way to the surface. She closed her eyes and fiercely fought back, the conflict warring with her features.
"I will die, and you will die with me, and when you're gone, Metropolis will be safe again from your kind of evil." She opened her eyes once more and looked around. Searching the darkness as best she could, she did not find the Man of Steel, and she was relieved. She did not want him to save her. If she could not force Jack to leave her body, then she could force her body to leave this world.
"Good," she murmured to herself. "No Superman. It would be a bummer if he saved me, and in turn, saved you. You don't deserve saving, just like Lex Luthor didn't deserve saving. But Superman, bless his soul, he tried to save Lex anyway. I can't have that happen with you. You must die."
She looked down at the crashing waves below and drew in her breath. "Oh God, I've never prayed to you before, but please forgive me." She glanced at the heavens above, blinked, then looked down once more, and jumped.
At first it felt like flying as she looked at the lights of Metropolis below her. As they quickly rose above her, and as the water rushed up from below, the reality of what she was doing consumed her. Her lungs were about to burst, but she restrained from screaming, not wanting to be saved.
Her fear of dying this way finally got the best of her as the water rushed up to her as if it were a freight train. She let out a blood curdling scream that was long, hard, and loud. The wind pulled the sound away from her, and blew it away, along with the tears rolling down her face. With only seconds to go before hitting the water, Jack emerged once more and let out a long, howling, "No!"
Superman watched as the figure jumped from the bridge and started falling towards the water. He added a burst of speed to his flying to make sure he was there to catch the person on time. It was only when he heard the scream that he knew for sure that it was Star, and he concentrated a little harder on being there to catch her.
A sonic boom ripped through the air and Superman's cape brushed the waves as he swooped under Star and stopped her fall before it became fatal. He cleared the water and flew away from the bridge. Looking down at his passenger, he realized that she had passed out. He cradled her head to his chest, listened for her breathing and heard it slow and steady.
He slowed down his flight a little bit and started to head for the hospital. "You'll be okay," he whispered to his passenger, and she stirred.
"Am I dead?" came a confused question.
"No, I saved you," answered the Man of Steel.
She pulled away a little and looked at the emblem in front of her face. Recognizing it, she looked up and saw his face. "No," she cried, "No, no, no! You were supposed to let me die ... no. Please let me die! I can't let him go on killing! He has to die!" She started to cry uncontrollably.
Superman held her close. "No. There has to be another way. We will find a way to help you."
"I can't get rid of him. There is no other way," Star whimpered, sounding utterly defeated.
"I will help you," Superman assured her.
Star's sobbing turned to sniffles, then suddenly stopped altogether. Her eyes looked all around, then closed as she appeared to concentrate on something.
"He's gone!" Her eyes flew open, surprise clearly written there.
"What?" inquired Superman, not sure he had heard right.
"He's gone," she repeated. "That sick feeling in my stomach, it's gone. The fall must have scared him away."
"He must have been afraid of death," theorized Superman.
"Yeah, probably more than I was," agreed Star. "And I was pretty scared." * * * * * * * * * *
The hospital room was warm and cheery with the sun shining through the window and several flower vases on the stand next to the bed. Lois, in a hospital gown, robe, and slippers, stood on one side of Star's bed, and Clark in a blue suit and obnoxious tie stood on the other.
"So Tumblety was really Jack the Ripper, and he took advantage of the situation when you channeled him for Professor Greenwich," stated Lois.
"Yeah. I guess he liked it here, and he wanted to stay. Killing myself was the only way I could think to get rid of him, since all the other methods I usually use to dismiss a spirit didn't work," explained Star.
"The fall and the fear of dying again seems to have scared him away," added Clark.
Lois nodded. "I'm just glad Superman was able to catch you in time." She glanced quickly up at Clark and winked at him. "That's the funny part. I tried so hard not to make a lot of noise so I wouldn't attract him. He just always seems to be there when someone needs him." Star's brow furrowed as she thought about what she had just said. "It's too bad he couldn't have been there for those other women. I don't know how I can live with their blood on my hands."
"Jack's hands, not yours," corrected Lois.
"It wasn't your fault," Clark added, reaching for Star's hand and gripping it tight.
"I was the one who invited him in, and it was my body that did the killing." Star looked at Lois, noticed the bruising on her throat, and sadly smiled. "I'm just glad I didn't succeed in killing you."
Lois smiled. "Me too!"
"Me three!" Clark agreed.
"Well, I'll never channel again," stated Star. "Not ever, not no- how."
"Well one good thing came out of all this," Lois ventured. The other two looked at her as if she had three heads.
"What?" asked Clark.
"Nothing could have been good about this whole thing," Star shook her head.
Lois shook her head. "No, there was one thing, though no one will ever believe us, but we know who Jack the Ripper really was. The age old mystery has been solved. Dr. Francis Tum--"
"Don't say that name," Star cut her off. "I don't ever want to hear that name again, as long as I live.
Lois smiled and refrained from saying any more. Star looked from Lois to Clark, then to his hand holding hers. A look of enlightenment lit up her face. "You were thinking about your doctor, weren't you? Well don't listen to him. He's wrong about you."
Clark shook his head, half confused, half wondering. "No, I wasn't, actually." Lois shared a curious glance with him.
Star pulled her hand from his, made a light fist, and then knocked on her head. "This thing must still be screwed up."