Chapter 6: Need to Know
Lois slid the file drawer open ever so quietly, and shone her penlight across the tops of the folders. Hanson… Harley… Hatcher… Damn! Nowhere in the beginning of the H’s. She placed the light between her teeth, and double checked.
Aha! Buried between two folders was the file she had been searching for… Harris. She sifted through the pages, searching for some clue, some evidence of malfeasance. She needed to find something quickly, and her nerves were beginning to fray.
She had broken into the office after she discovered the door to be locked. Luckily, it looked as if the damage mentioned on the recording had sidestepped the administrative office of the company. This wasn’t her first instance of breaking-and-entering, nor would it be her last, but even a business with considerable damage would have security guards patrolling the facilities. Maybe even more so, to control looters. She needed to be fast and efficient.
Lois pulled her cell phone from her purse, and began snapping photos of any official looking pages in the file. She would have more time to study them later.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching in the hallway outside. She flipped the penlight off, and stiffened in place. There was nothing else to do. If whoever it was heard any movement, or the sound of the file drawer closing, they would be sure to check it out. She held her breath – it was silly of her, she knew, but…
Her luck held, and a man, a security guard by his uniform, passed by without shining a light into the window of the office. She let out the breath she’d been holding. Gently closing the drawer, she began to make her exit, but stopped. A business permit was tacked to the wall near the door. Is that right? She peered at the text on the document more closely. Est. 2004. Wow, the company was barely two years old, by the look of it. How had they managed to snag so many high-profile contracts?
Turning back to the files, she began a search for the business charter. She needed to know who the company president was, who was on the board of directors, and so forth. She found the right set of files in a cabinet on the other side of the room and opened the first folder…
The footsteps came back. He must be returning the way he had come. The cabinet she was searching this time was right next to the window. The amber rays of sunset streamed in through the slanted mini-blinds, illuminating her form, even in the darkened room. If only I’d thought to close those, she reflected idly as the guard passed by the door again. She held her breath once more…
And thankfully, he passed by without specifically checking in. She got down to business again, looking for some sort of list of names.
Without warning, keys jingled in the lock. Why hadn’t she heard him return? She froze, looking like a deer in the headlights, probably, as a flashlight shone full in her face.
The guard, grizzled hair poking out from under his lopsided hat, lowered the flashlight for a moment in shock. “What the–” he said, astonished to see an intruder, and a woman in professional attire at that.
Think fast, Lane. “Um, hi.” She set the files gently back on top of the open drawer.
He seemed to recover quickly from his initial surprise. His eyes narrowed, and he resumed shining the light in her face. “What are you doing here?” he demanded, not at all amused.
She quietly closed her cell phone and slipped it back into her shoulder bag as she spoke in a chirpy voice. “I was the temp today, and I forgot to finish filing. I didn’t want to get in trouble with my supervisor. You know how they are: no likey, no paycheck, so…” With each phrase, she came a little closer to the door.
Lois could tell he wasn’t buying any of it, not surprisingly. He began to reach for his walkie-talkie to report her.
“Wait!” she tried to stall him. “I know what this looks like… And I promise you that I have a really good reason to be in here after hours…” He jerked the handset from his belt.
“Oh, never mind,” she said, cutting off her ramble with a well-placed kick to his paunchy stomach.
The man doubled over in pain, sinking to the floor, and she leapt over his prone figure to race down the hallway. If Clark had only shown up to meet me here, she grumbled internally, then he could have played lookout for me! She pelted down the hallways, slamming through an emergency exit, which, of course, set off a horribly loud exit alarm.
Hitting the open air, Lois looked frantically around for an escape route. To her right, she heard a shout. Dashing from a nearby building, a considerably younger, more athletic-looking security guard ran toward her at top speed, a walkie-talkie already to his lips. She hopped awkwardly out of her heels, and began to run barefoot, not caring what happened to her feet. She headed the only way open to her, desperate not to be caught… again… toward the pier and the open water. Well, I’ve always been a good swimmer…
Lois growled in frustration as she sprinted to the edge of the dock, “Clark! Why are you never around when I need yoooooou!” She hurled her body out over the waves, not bothering to worry about her clothes, and braced herself for the shock of cold, salty water…
And found herself speeding upward into the sky, held tightly in blue spandex-covered arms. She looked up at her savior with a mixture of relief and exasperation. “Do you wait for these moments on purpose? When you said you were always around, I never thought you meant that literally…”
He kept silent as he flew her steadily away, smiling enigmatically. He set her down on the other side of the harbor, far away from where L & V Construction was located. He had picked a quiet spot, where several ships had been anchored for the evening. Superman gently stepped away from her, and said, blue eyes sparkling, “Well, it’s nice to see at least some things haven’t changed.”
“Do you mean, me getting into trouble? Or you having to save me all the time?” she shot back.
“Well,” he replied, stepping closer to her. “Both, probably.”
She tried not to smile. Tried to hold her emotions in check. My God, what is it about this man that makes you fall to pieces?she scolded herself. The only thing she could think to do was turn away, and focus on the setting sun. If she looked into those eyes again, she might say or do something she would forever regret. “I need to ask you a question.”
He kept his distance – he must have sensed that she needed space between them. “Anything, Lois.”
“When I told you that…” her voice began to shake, “…that I thought Jason was your son…”
“Yes?” His rich baritone voice seemed closer than before.
“You seemed to know it was true.” There was only silence to that statement. She drew a deep breath and looked directly at his strong face. “How can it be true?”
The last rays of the sun glittered in his soulful eyes. “Oh, Lois… believe me, it’s true.” This time, he was the one who had to turn away. “I–”
She waited, a little unnerved that the Man of Steel was at a loss for words.
He was silent for long minutes. Minutes in which she studied his heroic profile to try to catch a hint of what he was thinking. She had been waiting to ask him this question since that day in the hospital, since she had gently kissed him as he lay unconscious.
No, she realized, she had been waiting to ask him since she had first begun having vivid dreams of him while pregnant with Jason. The dreams had faded into obscurity, but they had all come flooding back when she had seen him for the first time in five years on the roof of the Daily Planet… when they had almost… kissed…
At that moment, he spoke, breaking her train of thought. “I did something all those years ago, something I have regretted with every fiber of my being.” Her thoughts of kisses flew out of her mind… he was going to tell her what had happened. After all, Superman never lies…
Wait. He… “You regret it?” Her heart plummeted. “You regret what happened between us?”
He turned his intense gaze back on hers. “No, Lois, that’s not what I regret. I treasure those memories.” Those eyes seemed to pierce her, holding her in an endless moment. His voice began to shake with emotion. “No, I regret what I did to you. What I did was… unforgivable.” His hands began to tremble as well.
She reached for his hands to steady them. What could be so terrible that his superhuman strength was failing before her eyes?
He pulled his hands away from her. Then he wiped a hand across his brow, his face turning a little green. “I have to go… I think there must be… something… under the pier.” He lifted unsteadily into the air, looking as if he were going to rise directly into the clouds.
“No, Superman, wait!” She stretched her hands out for him, but it was too late. He was now gaining altitude so quickly that she could barely see a red and blue blip against the sky. Why had he taken off so quickly? Was he afraid to tell her the truth?
She fumbled in her purse for her cigarettes. Lighting one in trembling hands, she took a long drag. “Superman. And I know you can hear me. Whatever you did, whatever it is you think is ‘unforgivable’… I need to know.” She puffed again, trying to calm herself. “I need to know… why I can’t remember.”
Lois began to wander, still barefoot, back toward the foot of the dock. She looked at her watch, and swore. In a half-hour, she was expected for dinner at the house. She stepped onto the boardwalk connecting the marina to the mainland, but suddenly remembered what he had said before he had flown away:“…there must be… something… under the pier.”
The intrepid reporter in her pushed away her nerves, and she set foot on the sand leading to the water under the dock. She looked carefully, and nearly did a double take. Could that really be what she thought it was? Directly under where they had been standing, a spike of dark green crystal poked up from the waves at low tide.
Fear started deep inside her as she remembered the sight. Superman, impossibly lifting the huge Kryptonite-laced ‘continent’ into space, as huge chunks of crystal dislodged and flew in all directions. Somehow, one of those chunks had come to rest beneath this pier…
Her heart leapt to her throat. It could be anywhere… Oh, my God… she thought, breaking into a run, my little Jason…
Next chapter: Chapter 7: Dinner