Chapter 10: Him
Lois was nursing a tall cappuccino as she and Richard rode the elevator to the newsroom. She was already on her third cup of coffee since breakfast. It had been a long night.
She had hardly slept, her mind kept going over her recovered memories. She had been so happy, those precious few days when she thought that they would be together forever. The whole experience had been… not quite real… but amazingly real at the same time. And now those beautiful days were tainted with a wash of anger, which had been simmering all these hours. She gripped the paper cup a little too tightly as the elevator slowed and came to a stop.
The doors opened.
She took a swig of caffeine courage and purposefully walked into the room.
She scanned for him – she couldn’t deal with even thinking either one of his names right now – as inconspicuously as possible. Not at his desk. Not in Perry’s office. She breathed an unexpected sigh of relief. He wasn’t here yet.
She gave Richard a brief parting kiss, trying not to remember the one from the night before, and briskly walked to her desk. She unceremoniously dumped her coat over the chair and purse by the desk, and sat down. It was time to get to work. She pushed all of the rage down to deal with later. Lois Lane might be a little hot-tempered, but no one would dare say she was anything but a complete professional.
They would be meeting with Perry in about a half an hour, to give an update on the reconstruction story that they had been working on. No, damn it, that she had been working on, while he was out looking at apartments… Or saving the world. Whatever.
She yanked her purse from the floor, nearly spilling everything out in her irritation, and began digging for her camera phone. She had to see if she could upload the photos she had taken in the L & V Construction office yesterday. Thank God she hadn’t been forced to actually plunge into the water to avoid her pursuers… but that brought a thought of him again and she shoved it aside, much like the disordered contents of her purse as she searched.
Crinkle. Her hand closed on a yellow sheet of folded paper. The DV List. She opened it slowly and read through it again. She closed her eyes against hot tears, which she blinked away as she folded the paper and began to toss it in the wastebasket.
She stopped. He could easily read it, figure out what it meant. He obviously knew that she had discovered his secret. But what he couldn’t know is that the memories he had erased had all come back. And for now, she intended that it stay that way.
So she crumpled the paper into a tiny ball. Wait. His X-ray vision could easily read through mere crumples. She hurriedly smoothed it out and threaded a wrinkled corner into her shredder. When the machine was nearly finished chewing it to bits, she panicked again. His super-speed could reassemble the pieces in moments! She lifted the mechanism from the collection bin, and retrieved her cigarette lighter from her purse. Flicked it on…
“What are you doing, Lois?”
Jimmy stood next to her desk, looking at the flame with a mixture of amusement and puzzlement. Beside him, carrying an armload of files and looking very much the worse for wear, stood her erstwhile ‘partner.’
She flipped it off. Had she gone insane? “Oh, nothing. Testing a theory.” She nonchalantly tossed the lighter back in her purse and replaced the shredder.
“Good morning, Lois,” he said, eyes haggard.
She assembled her face into a mannequin-like mask. “Good morning.” None of the pain and anger she was feeling showed outwardly except in her eyes. Inside, her heart raced – and she figured he could probably hear it – but damn him, she would not give him any chance to explain. He could grovel right here in front of the whole bullpen, and she wouldn’t care…
Jimmy had begun talking, somehow oblivious to the tension between them. “…and we were able to find out some more about this…” He paused and finally noticed that neither one of his co-workers had been paying him the slightest attention.
He snapped out of it first. “Yeah, Lois. We were doing some digging around in the Planet’s morgue, and I think we stumbled across an interesting news item.”
She shrugged and turned her attention back to her purse, finally pulling out the phone. She spoke to Jimmy, pointedly not responding to his words. “Would you mind just setting the files here? I want to know… I just need to get these photos uploaded before our story meeting with Perry.”
“Sure thing, Miss Lane. Clark told me you had quite the adventure getting those yesterday.” He laughed, impressed. “Good old Lois.”
Her eyebrows lifted as she looked at his apologetic face, and she tried desperately not to spit nails. “He did, did he?” The words came out with only a trace of venom. “Yes, well, all in the line of duty, I always say. If you boys don’t mind…?” She gestured to her computer, hoping they would both take the hint.
As the two men went back to their respective desks, Jimmy talking away about something or other, he sent glances her way. She was glad he hadn’t pressed the issue. In fact, he’d been smart enough not to come check on Jason last night. She shuddered to think what she might have said or done with no cooling-off period…
Lois attached the data cord to the USB port and began to sift through the photos. They were pretty blurry, but maybe image enhancement software could make them clearer. All pretty standard stuff though. Layouts, lists of services rendered, contracts… if only she had been able to get a copy of the company’s charter, or list of board members! A second trip was probably in order, if she could only figure out how to get back in there. Their security would undoubtedly be tightened after her little act of espionage.
Well, at least she had her list of damaged sites. The list, coupled with her suspicions about the relative newness of the company were enough to go on for now. She started to reach for the file Jimmy had deposited on the ledge, only he would be so old-fashioned that he wouldn’t just search the online archives…
“Lane! Kent! Let’s hear about that story you two are working on!” Perry called gruffly from the doorway of his office.
“Be right there, Perry…” she called over her shoulder, gathering up her notes and the file, just in case.
As she stepped through the doorway, he followed like a puppy dog behind her. She took a chair next to the right-hand corner of Perry’s desk, and he leaned awkwardly against the bookcase.
“All right, tell me what you’ve got.” Perry said, all business.
Before Clark could make excuses, she jumped in. “Well, Jimmy and I went down to the Harris Building collapse yesterday morning. In talking with the fire inspector, he suggested that a building as new as that one should not have been as damaged as it was. With Richard’s help, I did some research on the other damaged buildings around the city. Quite a few of them were built within the last two years, and many of those by the same company: L & V Construction. I went to their offices to do a little ‘research’…” She took a breath in her report to look at her partner, daring him to interrupt. When he didn’t, she continued. “I wasn’t able to dig up much dirt, not yet. But I think there’s a larger story here, Perry.”
Perry frowned in thought. “You may be right, Lois… Kent? What’s your take on this?”
In that high-pitched, eager, and now irritating voice, he began, “I agree with Lois, Mr. White. The Harris Building might have been constructed with substandard materials, and if Lois’ hunch is right, we need to follow up on it.”
She suddenly remembered the odd scanning look he had given the building yesterday, and realized a basic truth with a shock. All this time, all his years as a reporter, he had been using… no, abusing his gifts in his line of work. Some hero – save the day, cheat the system. All those times he had scooped her, and she had thought it was just bad luck…
She fairly growled as she put in, nodding toward him – she was still unable to speak his name, “We haven’t had much time to compare notes yet. I hardly saw him yesterday… as busy as he was…”
“Busy, Kent? Tell me what you’ve found out.” Perry leaned interestedly over his desk.
Ha, ha, caught, you sneaky sonofa…
“I—I think I may have an idea about the ownership of L & V Construction.”
Lois’ mouth dropped open. Even he couldn’t have beaten her to that information… how did he…?
“If you don’t mind, Lois.” He gestured to the file folder Jimmy had given her. She handed it over numbly. He opened the contents of the file and pointed to a particular clipping inside. “Look at the engagement announcements here…”
Lois’ curiosity got the best of her, bitter or not, and she peered at the small print.
He continued. “If I’m right, then I think I have a pretty good guess what the letters L and V might stand for…”
Her eyes went wide with the implications… and she involuntarily spoke the names aloud. “Luthor… and Vanderworth.”
Next: Chapter 11: Gifts