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A Superboy Story
by Mike Cline
Chapter 1

The winds of change continued into the Smallville summer of 1966.

Clark Kent and his close group of friends had walked the aisle in late May and received their diplomas from Smallville Junior College.

Each of them then faced serious decisions to make regarding their future plans.

Pete Ross, Kent's best friend since childhood, decided he would hold off on continuing college for the time being and would apply for enlistment in the U.S. Army. Then, after his hitch, he could get his four-year Bachelor's degree under the G.I. Bill. His father, who owned one of the two insurance agencies in Smallville, had died suddenly back in the Spring from a heart attack. His dad had not left an estate as large as Pete and his mother had expected, so paying for two more years of college would be a hardship. Plus Mr. Ross had served his country in the Army during World War II. Young Ross figured he could honor his father's memory and conserve what monies his mother had by going the military route.

Going this route also meant he would have to leave behind his girlfriend Lisa Landon. They had been dating since the previous Fall, and the couple had been through plenty. Early on in their relationship, Pete had discovered that the lovely Miss Landon was not only a college sophomore but was also a visitor from another planet, now known world-wide as Supergirl. She had been rocketed to Earth several years prior to their meeting. Besides himself, only Clark and Martha Kent knew that Lisa and Supergirl were one and the same.

As for Lisa Landon, she had decided to also suspend her formal education with an Associate degree and seek employment in or around Smallville. She yearned to obtain practical experience in the business world, hopefully in a job which kept her close to people. Finding employment came quickly for her. With a good word from Clark's earth mother Martha Kent, Dan Grayson hired Lisa as his full-time bookkeeper and assistant manager at his business, which had originated as the family Kent's General Store.

Lastly, there was Clark, the maturing Smallville resident who used the mild-mannered exterior to conceal the secret that he, too, was born in another galaxy, sent to earth as a newborn and found and raised by the Kents. Since his early teens, he had openly been helping his fellow citizens and fighting crime as Superboy, one of the most recognizable figures on Earth.

During his sophomore year at SJC, Clark had really taken to journalism, and had decided to major in such, as opposed to his original desire for a career in science. His college education would not be postponed like Pete and Lisa's. Starting in the Fall, Clark would continue on as a junior in the much larger college and city, University of Metropolis. But in the three-month interim, he had lined up an intern position at the Smallville Sentinel. Editor Laurence Larson was glad to have him, even if the paper's budget didn't allow for a salary. Kent said that was not a problem. He just wanted to pick up some experience and learn as much as he could about the newspaper game. He would be able to work with his good friend Rusty Ellsworth, who had begun working there while in high school as a part-time custodian, but with some help from Superboy, had been given the reporter's position he had yearned. Another bonus for Kent being at the Sentinel was the access to the national news service teletype machines. With them, he could keep up with events which could require his services as the Boy of Steel.

Her graduation from Smallville Junior College presented Lisa Landon with a small problem...where to live. No more dormitory access, and she had no home in which to return. She had lived her first year on Earth at the Midvale Orphanage, so she couldn't return there, nor would she wish to do so. The problem was quickly resolved when Martha Kent declared that Lisa could move in with her. It would fill the void which occurred when Martha's sister Edith's health deteriorated to the point that older Martha couldn't take proper medical care of her sibling. There was too much lifting and negotiating the stairs. Since Smallville had no such facility, Edith had gone to live out her life at a "rest home" not far from the orphanage in Midvale. Some folks called the place "the poor farm" or "the county home." Martha felt guilty about having to place Edith there, but she had no realistic alternative. But having Lisa in the house would be a blessing, Martha believed, and she had secretly always wanted a daughter as well as a son. Lisa was crazy about Martha as well. But the young lady expressed some concern about her moving in at the Kent home right away. Clark would be living there until he left for Metropolis in September. What might the neighbors and townspeople think of a young man and young woman living unmarried under the same roof? Perhaps she should rent a room somewhere else, perhaps the Smallville Hotel or a boarding house, until Clark left. Martha would hear none of that. "Do you think I'm concerned about what old busybodies might say or think? Not at my age. This is my house, and I'll do what I doggone please in it. Now that's the end of that. And I have a feeling that with both of you here all summer, that revolving bookcase is going to get a real workout."

So, the weekend after graduation, she moved her clothes and what few belongings she had into the third bedroom of the Kent country home. And the following Monday morning, Superboy and Supergirl flew into Smallville, assumed their earthly identities, had a quick breakfast at Tony's Diner (the pancakes there were incredible) and reported to their respective jobs.

Chapter 2

Upon arriving at her new place of employment, Dan Grayson welcomed Lisa to the growing staff (she made it three) of his establishment. Besides himself and Lisa, the only other employee was a fairly-nice looking young man, Brody Murphy. Brody stood about six feet, had reddish-brown curly hair and green eyes. And how those green eyes lit up when he saw the lovely Landon girl. Most of the morning was spent with Dan showing Lisa around the store. Brody waited on the customers while Lisa took the tour. She would be working mostly in the small office in the stock room, which Dan had constructed, not knowingly, over the trapdoor Clark once used to come and go when Superboy was needed. The tunnel leading away from the store had been filled in by young Kent before Grayson took possession of the business, but had he been able to see into the future, Clark could have left the tunnel as it was, as it would have been useful to Supergirl now. Lisa was to handle the purchase invoices, sales receipts, inventory records and make out the payroll for the three now working at Dan's store. And, if needed in a pinch, help wait on customers.

A couple of blocks down the street stood the Smallville Sentinel, where Rusty Ellsworth welcomed his long-time friend Kent. When Clark asked him how things were going, Ellsworth answered that, thanks to Superboy's giving him his big "break" in bringing Supergirl to him for her first interview, everything had been uphill. He loved what he did and couldn't be happier. No current girlfriend, but that was O.K. (for now). The job kept him busy six days a week and often nights as well. Rusty still lived at home with his mother. Ever since Mr. Ellsworth had passed when he and Clark were in ninth grade, his mother really never got passed it, and the youthful reporter worried about his remaining parent. But he had prepared his mother that the day would eventually come that he would have to move out.

"RUSTY!" a booming voice bellowed.

"Yes, Mr. Larson."


"Come on Clark, the lion is roaring. Let's go see what he wants."

A moment later found Rusty and Clark standing at attention in front of the editor's desk.

"Why is it, Mr. Ellsworth, that I have to hear on the local radio station that someone broke into the high school, and I don't have a reporter on the scene?"

"I'm on it Mr. Larson. Come on Clark."

"YOU'D BETTER BE! and DON'T SLAM...!" the veteran newsman shouted as Rusty slammed the door, making the boss wince. "Come on Clark. My car's right outside."

"You know Rusty," Clark responded, "This doesn't sound like such a big deal. I was hoping to walk around the building and sort of, get a feel for everything. I'll go with you on the next assignment. O.K.?"

"O.K., if that's what you want," Rusty answered, never breaking stride.

As soon as Rusty had cleared the door of the press room leading to the outside alley, Clark followed him out, but instead of going along, watched as his buddy peeled out in his '59 Fairlane, then ducked behind some stacked pallets of raw newsprint, and soon sprung into the air as the Boy of Steel enroute to his alma mater Smallville High School.

Dan Grayson had just finished sweeping the sidewalk in front of his store. Upon entering, he informed his two employees that he had just seen Superboy streaking across the treetops.

Lisa's curiosity was aroused.

Inspector Henderson of the Smallville PD was standing in the main hall of the school building with Principal Winters when the super hero approached them. They exchanged greetings as the youth thought to himself, "Isn't Winters ever going to retire?"

The main door gave a huge bang as reporter Ellsworth made the scene. As he stopped before the three, the first thing out of his mouth were words of amazement, "What in the world is that?"

The four stood staring at one of the walls of the main hall. On it, someone had graffitied in bright red paint SOON IT WILL END.

"What in the world does that mean?" Rusty asked.

"No idea," answered the school administrator.

On the floor remained the opened can of paint and a used brush. The paint on both the wall and brush had completely dried.

Superboy excused himself briefly and stepped into the nearest classroom. Rolling up his left blue sleeve just far enough to reveal the special watch he wore to contact either the police or Supergirl, he sent a vibrating signal to his counterpart. At her desk, Lisa answered in a very low voice.

"This is Supergirl."

"This is Superboy calling. Could you meet me in the main hall of the high school? I want to get your take on something."

"I'll leave right away." She rose immediately, stepped out into the stock room and asked Grayson if she could "run down the street for a moment." He nodded in the affirmative. As she neared the front door, Brody asked her where she was going. She answered she'd be right back. Of course, she went down the street only as far as the nearest alley.

In a few short minutes, Supergirl had joined the others in front of the painted message, which Rusty was photographing. He snapped a few shots of the brush and can as well. "Any other vandalism or anything missing?" Henderson was asking. No other signs of pranksters anywhere else. Determining if anything was missing could take days, but on his first inspection of the campus, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to the aging principal.

"Could just be a case of some kids with too much time on their hands, I guess," Winters suggested. "But what a strange thing to write."

Rusty added, "Maybe one of those Doomsday nuts."

"I'll take the paint brush and can to the lab and check them for prints. Otherwise, I guess we're through here. We'll do what we can Mr. Winters."

"Thanks, Bill."

Superboy asked the principal if he had on hand any paint to cover the odd writing. A couple of extra cans of the original brown color were in the supply room. The two in red and blue fetched the paint needed and at super speed had completely covered the unwelcome message. Rusty snapped a picture of the two painting, but when Sid, the Sentinel darkroom guy, developed the photo, it was but a blur.

Chapter 3

By the time Rusty got back to the Sentinel, it was mid-morning, and Clark was finishing up his "important" assignment of distributing the morning mail to the proper people. The reporter went straight to his typewriter to get his big vandalism story on paper, before he forgot the details.

Kent soon joined his friend, sitting on the corner of the old oak desk that had probably been in use since the Great Depression. He inquired about the incident at the high school, and as Rusty related the "story of the decade," Clark commented, "Mr. Winters is still there?" (Even though he had just seen him.)

"Yeah," Rusty laughed, "This is his 80th year. He's going to retire at the end of the century."

Clark joked that he remembered how Lana Lang used to say that Winters loved hearing himself on the intercom so much that maybe someday he would become a big radio star. "Guess that never worked out for him."

As Ellsworth continued telling what had happened, he stopped, "Clark, what's that on your shirt?"


"You have a brown stain on the front of your shirt. Weird, it looks like the same color as the paint Superboy and Supergirl were using at the school."

The concealed super hero looked down, and sure enough, it was a splotch of the paint that somehow, in all the flurry, managed to get inside the pouch on the underside of his cape where Kent's clothes were kept when Superboy was in action. Thinking quickly, he answered, "Drat! I spilled some of my Yoohoo on my shirt. I better soak it before the stain sets. I'll be right back." When Clark returned from the rest room, Rusty was finishing up his story and apparently had thought nothing more of his friend's clothing misfortune.

Brody Murphy, on his morning break, stepped into the General Store office where he found Lisa busily going through stacks of paper work. He offered her a cigarette, which she declined, and as he started to light his, she asked him to please not smoke around her work area.

"Oh, sorry. I didn't know if you smoked or not. Mr. Grayson doesn't mind if I smoke back here. He does."

"Well, just not in the office area, please. O.K. Brody?"

"Sure, no problem? Lisa, I was wondering if you might be willing to, say, go out with me, like, Friday night? We could grab a bite and go bowling or maybe see a movie at the drive-in.

"That's nice of you to ask Brody, but I've been seeing someone steady for a good while."

"Oh, I didn't know. Boy, is my face red," he answered.

"Don't be embarrassed. It's O.K."

"Might I ask his name?"

"Sure. Pete Ross. We've been dating since last Fall," Lisa replied, hoping that would end the conversation.

It didn't. "Yeah, I remember Pete. He was a class ahead of me in high school. Nice guy. But I heard he joined the Army and he's gone."

"Yes, he did and he is. But we're still in touch."

Brody increased the pressure a bit and told Lisa that long-distance relationships rarely worked out, and he was there, on the scene, if she caught his drift. Lisa repeated that she appreciated the offer, but she would have to decline his offer. Then she swung her chair around to dig through a nearby filing cabinet. Fortunately, Murphy took the less-than-subtle hint and walked off, finally lighting up.

Around mid-afternoon, Rusty and Clark walked back into the Sentinel, having checked out a minor traffic accident in which a driver swerved to miss hitting a cat in the street and clipped a fire hydrant. "I can see tomorrow's headline now...WATER OFF ON DUNLAP STREET DUE TO KITTY CAT. Geez, what a slow news day. I'll never win my Pulitzer reporting stuff like this."

"It has been rather dull today, hasn't it," Kent replied. "I guess all your stories can't be on the level of introducing Supergirl to the world."

The disappointed reporter grabbed a copy of the day's paper getting ready to hit the street to see if his high school story made the front page. Finding his story on page two, he lamented, "Nope, not today. I guess a little vandalism at Smallville High can't compare with Vietnam, a famine in India and Bobby Kennedy's trip to Africa. Oh well."

"Well, after all, you don't create the local news Rusty. You can only write about what happens."

Ellsworth agreed but told Clark that if things stayed this quiet, he'd end up covering neighborhood tea parties or the flower show with Jiminy. Kent laughed.

The rest of the afternoon dragged until everyone in the building probably heard someone yelling at the top of his lungs, "ACCIDENT IN THE PRESS ROOM! WE NEED HELP!" Everyone within hearing range ran to the press room door and saw Charlie King pinned to the floor by a huge roll of raw newsprint atop his legs. It had slipped of the press as the crew was preparing things for the next day.


Since Lisa was nearby, Clark summoned her via their signal watches. Still performing office duties and fortunately alone, she answered the call to hear, "This is Superboy. You're needed in the press room at the Sentinel. Hurry!"

Using her x-ray vision to observe both her boss and young Murphy waiting on customers in the front of the store, she bolted out the back door of the store room, and while racing to the accident scene at super speed, transformed into the Girl of Steel. She quickly entered the newspaper building, just as an ambulance pulled into the alley beside the door. She requested everyone to step back away from the injured King. Then, gently lifting the large roll of paper with little effort, several men carefully pulled their now unconscious friend to safety. Supergirl set the roll down just as the medical crew reached King. Clark and Rusty overheard one attendant tell the other that it looked like both legs were crushed pretty badly. Clark then noticed the boss, Laurence Larson with tears in his eyes. He asked that everyone finish up for the day as he was going to the hospital with his injured employee.

All in the area thanked Supergirl for her assistance. As she started for the door, Rusty asked her if she had any comments for the story he would be writing. "Well, what can I say? I wish the gentleman a full and speedy recovery and regret this horrible accident. Does he have a family?"

Terry, another press room employee, answered, "Yeah, a wife and three kids. But they won't suffer financially. The Sentinel is family. We take care of our own." Terry walked away, sobbing.

As she again turned to leave, Rusty whispered to Kent, "Have you met her?"

"Well, I..." He started to reply.

"Supergirl, I'd like you to meet my good friend Clark Kent. He's interning here for the summer."

Extending her hand, "It's nice to meet you Clark."

"Great meeting you, Supergirl. Maybe we'll run into one another again sometime."

"That would be nice, Clark. And good luck with your internship. Rusty, I have to go." And very quickly, Lisa was again at her desk working, without anyone at the store knowing she had ever left."

When they got back to his office, Rusty told Clark, "I think Supergirl really liked you."

"Oh, stop it Rusty!"

The reporter, putting paper into his typewriter, laughed a bit, then grew serious, "Damn, I'd much rather be writing about the cat and the fire hydrant than poor Charlie King."

Chapter 4

Lisa was helping Martha wash and put away the supper dishes. Having shared the news of the tragic accident of the afternoon with her over their meal, Martha was very concerned about the entire King family. "What an awful thing to happen. I've known Charlie King since he was a little boy, and Roberta has always been such a dear. And three children. It's not going to be easy on them."

She decided she would fix several different casseroles and drop them by the King house the following morning. Lisa offered to help, even though she had little cooking experience. Martha welcomed her assistance, and besides, it was time for the blossoming woman to know her way around the kitchen, she thought.

Clark had stretched out on the living room sofa and was watching television. Lisa stuck her head into the room and asked what he was watching. HIGHWAY PATROL was his answer. "I remember watching it as a kid with my Dad. It was one of his favorite programs. He liked Broderick Crawford a lot."

Mr. Crawford's name didn't ring any bells for Lisa, as she had been living on a planet in another galaxy when the show first aired. She informed Clark what she and Martha were doing in the kitchen, and he replied that as soon as Lt. Dan Matthews brought the evening's criminal to justice, he was going to patrol Smallville and hoped he wouldn't have to be gone long.

Only a couple of minutes passed, as the ladies were getting their casserole ingredients ready, Lisa felt the vibration from her signal watch. She pushed open the swinging door to the living room. "Did you get that, too."

"Yes," he answered.

"Do you want me to take it, or you?" she asked.

"I will. I was going out anyway." Answering the call, "Yes, this is Superboy." Lisa remained to eavesdrop.

"Superboy. Henderson here. I'm at George Dickerson's Trucking Company. There's been a breakin and a robbery."

"I'm on my way, Inspector." He asked Lisa to tell Martha that he had to go out. Lisa shook her head as she watched Clark go through the revolving bookcase into the secret room, where Clark made his fast dissolve into Superboy, and using the trap door and secret tunnel leading into the woods away from the house, was quickly in flight.

As he descended, the soaring figure observed two squad cars, red lights making their circular rotations. He landed right beside Henderson. The officer informed him that the office door had been bashed in and the safe had been blown. Both desks had been ransacked as well as two filing cabinets. Papers were thrown everywhere. In short, the office was a mess.

"Here comes George now," Henderson noticed as a slightly beat up pickup skidded to a halt in the dirt. Owner Dickerson slammed the door and ran over to the two.

"George, have you met Superboy?" Henderson asked. Not even answering, he headed for the office. "Hold it George, don't go in there yet. My men are still taking photographs and dusting for prints. It's a crime scene, ya know."

Dickerson turned around and returned to the officer. "You say the safe was blown?" He replied in the affirmative. "Did they take the money?" The cop told the owner they found no money so apparently the intruder did. "How much did they get, George?"

"I can tell you exact. One thousand, eight hundred and forty-four dollars and twenty-two cents. This week's payroll. I got it from the bank just this afternoon. Payday for my people is Wednesday. I was going to be gone all day tomorrow. Supposed to take a load of furniture over to Silsby for a customer, so I went to the bank today. Damn, what am I gonna do? I can't replace that money by Wednesday."

"Isn't the money insured?" the Boy of Steel asked.

"No. I didn't have that rider on my insurance. Lank Ross was always hounding me to add it, but I kept putting him off, and then Lank dropped dead, and I forgot about it. Damn!" Dickerson walked off slowly, stopped at his truck and leaned on the hood with both hands.

"There's something else you need to see Superboy. This way." The two walked around the back of the office where Superboy immediately saw the message, painted in bright red. He had seen the writing before...SOON IT WILL END.

"Well, it appears that our high school culprit isn't satisfied with just vandalism. Now it's theft," the lad remarked.

"Plus breaking and entering, destruction of private property and any other charge I can think of to slap on him, er, them."

"You left out "her" Inspector?" the super hero chuckled a bit.

"You think a female did this! Nah!" the cop answered with irritation in his voice.

"Probably not Inspector, but who can tell? Maybe you'll get lucky with some prints."

"There could be fingerprints of hundreds of people in that office. It's a long shot, but it's about all we can go on. I'll notify all the local merchants to be wary of anyone spending a large amount of money. Usually, if a petty thief steals a big sum of cash, it burns a hole in his pocket right away," the cop replied.

A pair of headlights turned off the highway into the parking lot. The '59 Fairlane, like the pickup, slid on the dirt coming to a stop.Henderson greeted Rusty Ellsworth, who in turn greeted Superboy, who in turn informed them both that he was leaving.

"Thanks for including me Inspector. Let me know if anything turns up."

"Thanks Superboy, I will."

"Where ya goin' Superboy?" snooped the Sentinel reporter.

Home was the reply.

"And where might that be?" Rusty laughed slightly.

"Rusty, you're a good reporter, but sometimes, you ask too many questions," came the answer as he lifted upward and disappeared into the darkness.

"Clark's back," Lisa told Martha, "I can hear him with my super hearing. He's coming through the tunnel." She took off her apron and headed into the living room.

By the time the Boy of Steel came up into the secret room, Lisa was awaiting him. "Tell me about it," she requested.

The lad seemed a tad annoyed. "Lisa, don't ever leave the bookcase open like this. Make sure you close it every time." She quickly did as he asked.

"I'm sorry, but there's no one here but the three of us."

"Doesn't matter. You must always be careful. Don't assume anything. And when you come home, always change from Supergirl to Lisa in this room. Don't ever go into the living room as Supergirl. Understand? And use your x-ray vision before opening the bookcase and make sure Mom doesn't have company. Understand?"

"I will. I guess I dropped my guard," she said quietly, dropping her head. He put his hand on her shoulder.

"I'm just trying to help. You know the importance of our secret identities," he replied as he removed Clark's attire from his cape. "Well, are you going to stand there while I change?"

"Oh, sorry," she laughed as she breezed back towards the living room, closing the bookcase.

Less than a minute passed, and Clark plopped back down on the sofa. Martha passed through the room, told her son she was tuckered out and was turning in. She wished both youngins a good night and disappeared into her downstairs bedroom. Lisa took her place in Martha's chair and thumbed through a magazine. "What are you watching now?"

"Andy Griffith. The TV Guide said this is the episode where Barney Fife finds a brief case loaded with cash. Well, Barney's not the only one who came into money tonight. Whoever hit Dickerson's place got eighteen hundred dollars in greenbacks."

"Wow, lot of money," she answered. "Clark, while you were gone, I was thinking...have you considered changing your name to Superman? You're twenty-one now and hardly a boy anymore."

He sat up and swirled around and planted both feet on the floor. "Actually I haven't thought about it. What made you say that?"

"Well, you are twenty-one now, you're hardly a boy anymore. And Superman sounds more dynamic and menacing than Superboy."

"I don't think that needs to be settled tonight. Besides, it's been a long day. I'm going to bed. After all, tomorrow's another work day...and for you, too. And you actually get paid at your job." He laughed.

"You're right, I'll get the lights," she offered.

Always the gentleman, Clark allowed Lisa to ascend the stairs ahead of him. Each reached their respective bedrooms at the same time, directly across the hall from one another. Perhaps oddly, they simultaneously both turned toward each other and as their eyes met, said goodnight, each perhaps studying the other for a second before entering their rooms and closing the doors.

Chapter 5

A few minutes before eight the next morning, Clark checked in with his Smallville Sentinel mentor and friend Rusty Ellsworth, who was proofing the story he had written late into the night of the burglary at the trucking company. Feigning ignorance, Clark was inquisitive about the details. After all, Superboy knew all about what had happened, but as far as Rusty knew, Kent didn't. The reporter handed him the two sheets of single-spaced paper for his perusal. After he pretended to digest the info, he commented that Rusty's story was sure to make page one in the day's edition. Then Clark asked for an update on the injured Sentinel employee Charlie King.

"Charlie died during the night."

Kent froze from the shock. "What?"

From what he had been told since getting to work, Charlie might have thrown a blood clot from his injuries and had a fatal stroke during the night. An autopsy was to be performed during the morning.

"How awful," was about all Clark could muster.

"Yeah, terrible. Charlie was a great guy. Friendly as hell, would do anything for anyone." Rusty wiped his eyes. "Clark, what I need you to do for the next, say, two hours, is walk around the building, getting comments from folks of what kind of man Charlie was. Then, hit Main Street and talk to people in town. Then get back here and write it up as a story. If Mr. Larson likes what you write, I'll try to get him to run it as a sidebar story next to mine. Got it?"

"Got it." The intern grabbed a notepad and pencil and headed down the hall.

The early customers in Grayson's General Store, all women, were whispering about Charlie's passing. They had heard the local news report over WSML, Smallville's 1000-watt AM radio station. Lisa Landon was in the front of the store consoling several of the ladies, who were good friends with Charlie's widow Roberta.

"Oh, you're the young girl who's living with Martha Kent, aren't you?" She replied and told the small group that Martha had prepared several casseroles to take to the Kings.

Among the early customers was Gladys Parker, one of the town's biggest snoops. Lisa had heard that Gladys spread gossip around town as if it were manure on her flower beds.

"Isn't Martha's boy Clark living at home, too."

Landon answered, "Yes ma'am, just for the summer. Clark's starting Metropolis University in the Fall."

"Even so, it doesn't seem proper to me for a young man and a young woman who aren't married to be..."

Dan Grayson passed through the group, stopping the busybody's comments, "Morning ladies. I'm sure having Lisa living with Martha is a great comfort to them both. Wouldn't you agree, Mrs. Parker?"

"Well, I suppose, Mr. Grayson. But without benefit of clergy, I don't..."

"Is there anything else I can get for you Mrs. Parker?"

"No, I'm finished," she replied sheepishly.

"Well, I do hope you'll shop with me again real soon. And tell your son Luke that I'm looking forward to the high school football season this Fall, won't you? He'll be playing again, won't he?"

"Oh yes, he'll be a senior this year. He's the best player on the team, you know."

"I'm sure he is," Grayson said, walking behind the counter and seeing that Gladys left the premises. "Lisa, is the bank deposit ready?"

"Yes sir. It's on your desk."

"Thanks. I'll lock the office. Brody and I will be in the alley unloading a truck until the bank opens at nine. Until then, I need you to stay out here in the store."

"Yes sir," Lisa said, thinking how lucky she was working for a such a nice boss.

By the time Grayson returned from the bank, Kent had made his way down main street and decided to stop in to get a few remarks about Charlie King from Dan. "Good to see you Clark," pointing to Lisa, "I believe you know my pretty new employee."

"I certainly do. As a matter of fact," Clark let slip without thinking, "we flew into town together this morning."

"Flew?" the puzzled store owner asked.

"What Clark means, Mr. Grayson, is that we were running a little late this morning and we drove a bit faster than we should have so we could get to work on time," was Lisa's cover.

"Kids, listen, better to be a little late than to risk having an accident."

"You're right, Mr. Grayson," the two answered in unison. Clark turned and asked Brody Murphy if he had any thing he'd like to add about Charlie King. The kid stated that he was very sorry to hear what happened but really knew Charlie only by sight.

Dan recalled a funny story about King as Kent wrote it down. Clark thanked him, winked at Lisa and headed for his final stop, the drug store. Just as he was entering, his watch buzzed his wrist. Stepping away from the door and sure no one was within hearing distance, he answered. Lisa, now behind the counter at Grayson's had also responded.

It was Henderson. "Oh good, both of you. I'm leaving headquarters en route to another breakin. SOON IT WILL END has struck again. And this time, we have a body."

Lisa, crouched down behind the counter as not to draw customers' attention, replied, "It's difficult for me at the moment to get there. Superboy, could you please meet the Inspector?"

"Yes, I will. Thank you Supergirl. Inspector, where should I meet you?"

The Boy of Steel was shocked when the detective answered, "The Lex Luthor mansion."

"I'll be there shortly."

"Are you talking to somebody back there, dearie?" Lisa looked up from the floor to see a grey-headed woman leaning over the counter.

"Oh, well sort of. Talking to myself. I was looking for something."

"You, too. Honey, I talk to myself all the time. And sometimes I even listen," and she went on her way.

Young Landon slowly paced thinking, "Someone killed Lex Luthor?"

Chapter 6

It took Kent a few minutes longer than expected to reach his destination. As he briskly walked across Main Street to a secluded spot behind the town's only retail furniture store, he was stopped by several different folks on the street who hadn't seen him in a while and just wanted to "catch up."

But he shortly came to land in front of the Luthor house, a place he had visited several times in the past. None had been a pleasant experience, and it was unlikely this one would in any way be different. Three patrol cars, one of them Henderson's, were parked in front of the town's biggest residence.

"Superboy, our graffiti wizard has graduated from simple vandalism to what appears to be murder."

"Luthor dead?" the super hero asked gingerly.

"No, not Luthor. Rock Templeton. Dead in the front hallway. Luthor's bodyguard, employee, whatever you want to call him. Head bashed in, probably with a crowbar. There's one by the body with blood on it. The lawn man arrived around seven-thirty to cut the grass, saw the front door kicked open and saw the body from the porch. He drove to the gas station down the road and called it in, or that's his story. We'll check him out. Drives over from Cliffton once a week to mow."

"That's a pretty long drive just to mow one yard. Or does he have other customers in Smallville?" Superboy inquired.

"Not sure...yet. Like I said, we'll check him out. But if Luthor's the only yard he mows in town, it's probably a full day's work, as large as this place is. Maybe the payday is worth it to him. We'll find out. Come on inside, but watch where you step," instructed the officer.

They stopped near the lifeless corpse. It lay on the expensive hallway carpet, now most likely ruined from the crimson puddle which had oozed from the victim. Above Rock, painted on the wall, in foot-high bright red lettering, was the now-familiar phrase, SOON IT WILL END. A few feet away on the floor was a broken mahogany frame with its former contents, a copy of the well-known "dogs playing poker" painting. The cover glass was shattered and spread across the floor covering. Henderson hypothesized the intruder likely took the painting down, perhaps looking for a wall safe. A nail was still in the wall about six feet from the floor, and there was a rectangle of the wall paper a different shade from the rest. The frame appeared to be of the same size. Superboy agreed with Henderson about the artwork. No signs of a violent struggle near the body. Templeton could have heard the door being kicked in, came into the hall to see what was going on and was struck in the head by the intruder.

"Maybe, Inspector, but if the intruder was still on the front porch, Templeton would have had time to put up some form of defense. He was a pretty tough guy, ya know. But it looks like he didn't. I'm inclined to believe the burglar had already entered the house."

"He could have heard Rock and hid here, right inside the dining room, and when Rock reached this point, hit him here. See, there's blood splatter on the wall. Then Templeton fell backwards to where he is. The lab boys can tell us more about that after they finish their work," the cop responded.

Two officers descended the stairs to report to Henderson that there were no signs of any kind of struggle or burglary anywhere upstairs. Neat and clean as a pin, they stated. The two others investigating the rest of the downstairs had the same findings.

"By the way," the Boy of Steel asked the Inspector, "Anyone seen Lex Luthor? Might be interesting what he can add to all this."

"I heard a while back that Luthor was in Europe, Inspector," volunteered one of the patrolmen.

"Thanks Kelley, I'll check with Immigration on his passport status to verify."

Several quick steps were heard bounding onto the porch. "Hold it right there," the cop guarding the door instructed. "Inspector, we are amidst the prescence of the Smallville Sentinel." Rusty Ellsworth stood, looking with sad eyes at Henderson hoping he wouldn't be turned away. "Let him in, but Rusty, stand behind me. Don't disturb ANYTHING."

"I know the drill, Inspector. Hello again Superboy."


The anxious reporter asked to be brought up to speed. As soon as that was accomplished, "O.K. to use the phone, Inspector. As soon as I jot down a few notes, I want to phone it back to Clark Kent at the Sentinel so he can get started on the story."

"Yeah, there's a phone right over there," he pointed to a small table fifteen or so feet further down the hall.

Hearing his other name mentioned, Superboy asked the detective to let him know of any developments. He had to beat Rusty's call to the newspaper.

No more than five minutes passed when the old, black rotary phone on Ellsworth's desk gave a loud ring. "Clark Kent speaking. Oh, hi Rusty. WHAT! A murder at Luthor's? Yeah, I'm ready. Let me have it." Rusty talked a mile a minute, but the super intern had it all on paper at the same time Rusty asked, "Got it all?"

"Yep, got it," he answered and hung up the receiver.

Then it dawned on him that with the homicidal distraction, he hadn't yet written his original assignment, the Charlie King testimonials. Closing the door to Rusty's office to protect himself, he loaded the typewriter with a sheet of paper, and as fast as the old Remington could keep up, typed the two page sidebar story in less than thirty seconds.

Not knowing how soon Rusty would return, Kent took his creation directly to editor Larson, since deadline was approaching. The sometimes gruff boss motioned to drop it on his desk, which was already covered with papers. "I'll look it over when I get a chance. That's all, Clark."

Kent left Larson's a bit disappointed. No way the man had time to read his story and get it to layout for the day's paper. But writing it was a good experience for him just the same.

Fifteen more minutes nearer deadline were gone by the time a hot and sweaty Rusty burst into the office. He tossed the notepad on the desk beside his buddy. Here's everything I got. Start writing the murder story.


"Yes Clark, you wanna learn the news game? Well, here's your chance. Start writing! I've got to see Larson."

He ran down the hall, passed Larson's secretary as she waved her arms trying to stop him, into the editor's office. "Ellsworth, I'm on the phone with Mrs. Larson." Rusty informed the boss of the murder. "Kent and I are writing it now. Give us fifteen minutes."

"Gotta go, dear!" Mrs. Larson's call was terminated. "Ja get any pictures?"

"Yes sir!"

"Well, get them to the darkroom!" Rusty ran out. Larson buzzed composing, "Mallory, hold page one for a replate. We'll be a little late getting her on the street today."

A winded Ellsworth ran back to his office, "Got it?" he yelled in Kent's direction. "Yeah, here it is!" Rusty grabbed it out of Clark's hands and got it pronto to his boss, who had time only for a quick glance. "Get it to Mallory!" The youngster's exit actually blew a few sheets of paper off the desk onto the floor. Back on the intercom, "Mallory, story's on the way to you. Here's your headline: MURDER AT LUTHER MANSION."

Chapter 7

The day's Smallville Sentinel was churning away on the press. Things were in a lull so Clark and Rusty headed to the Burger Barn for a bite. Once their order was taken, the two rehashed the extremely hectic morning they had experienced, a complete 180 from the day before.

"That's the newspaper game, Clark. Slow one day, then a whirlwind the next. We never know. You'll have to get used to that kind of schedule if you want to be a reporter. A reporter is on call round-the-clock, every day of the week. Of course, we get assigned days off, but sometimes we get called in on those days too. Same type schedule as a doctor, except we don't make nearly as much money, unfortunately."

Little did Rusty know that Clark's life was already that way, with his duties as Superboy. "I think I can handle it, Rusty."

Just as their food was served, nothing fancy - - just burgers, fries and milk shakes - - a male figure approached their booth.

"Hey Clark, I apologize for cutting in, but could I see you for a minute, please?"

Kent looked up to see Brody Murphy, Dan Grayson's employee from the store. "I guess so, Brody. But I don't want my food to get cold."

"Won't take but a minute. It's important," Murphy promised.

The two went to one of the only two empty booths in the establishment. "What's up, Brody?"

"I was hoping you could help me, Clark."

"I will if I can. What's on your mind?"

"I assume you know Lisa Landon pretty well, don't you?"

"I suppose so. I met her right after we both started college. Why?"

He continued, "Well, I mean, you and Lisa live together, and..."

Cutting him off, Kent clarified the situation. "Lisa is staying with my Mom and me for the summer. The term 'live together' might give the wrong impression."

"Oh yeah, I get it. So there's nothing between the two of you?"

Before Clark can speak, "Don't get mad. The reason I'm asking is that I'd like to take her out, but if the two of you have something going..."

"Lisa has been seeing Pete Ross for some time, Brody."

"Yeah, I know, but he's gone into the Army so I figured that was over. Is it?"

"Brody, she and I really haven't discussed it. That's their business, not mine. I do know that they have exchanged several letters since Pete started boot camp, but that's all I can tell you. I suggest that if you want to ask her out, ask her out."

"Well, that's just it, I did, and she turned me down."

"Did she give a reason?"

Murphy replied, lowering his head, "Well, she did mention Pete Ross."

"Well, Brody. That should answer your question."

"I was hoping that since you were friends, you might put in a good word for me."

"Brody, let me tell you something about myself. I don't like to butt into people's private lives. I respect their privacy, and I expect the same in return."

"Oh, you mean like when everyone in town was saying you were Superboy."

Clearing his throat, Clark answered, "Well, that would be one example. And, on the other hand, Pete Ross has been my best friend since we were both little kids. I wouldn't do anything to hurt him. Whatever happens between Pete and Lisa is up to them. I really can't get involved with that. You're seeing Lisa at the store most every day. You're around her as much as I am. You'll just have to deal with it and hope it works out. I hope you understand my position."

Murphy told Clark that he did understand, and that he'd just be patient and see how things went at the store. "But it's just that I think she's great."

"Lisa is a wonderful person, Brody. On that we agree. Now, I need to get back to my lunch."

"Of course. Clark, I appreciate you talkin' to me."

"O.K. Brody." They parted, Brody through the door and Clark back to his lunch and Rusty. "Great...limp, cold fries. Yuck!"

Back at the Sentinel, the two had barely sat down in Rusty's office when down the hall came a gruff shout, "ELLSWORTH! KENT! I need to see you!"

"Here we go again!" Rusty moaned. "Let's go!" They walked briskly to the "lion's den" passed the go-on-in signal from the secretary. "You wanted to see us?"

"Why, yes Rusty, that's why I called you in here." Kent stood a bit behind his friend since he was the unpaid newcomer. He assumed this had mostly to do with Rusty anyway. "Great job today! Between the Dickerson robbery, poor Charlie and the murder, you've been a busy young man, but you own the front page today Rusty. I'm proud of you."

"Gosh, thanks Chief," the lad responded. Kent was happy for his buddy.

As the pair turned to leave, Larson stopped them, "I'm not finished. You also did well, Kent."

"Thank you, sir."

"Good human interest article on Charlie King. Very sincere, emotional, written from the heart."

"You mean, you ran it?"

Handing the apprentice the finished edition, "Here, see for yourself."

Clark and Rusty shared the newspaper. Under the fold down the left side opposite Rusty's story of the accident read CHARLIE KING, A FRIEND TO SMALLVILLE by Clark Kent. Grabbing the headlines was the Rock Templeton homicide with the byline reading "by Rusty Ellsworth and Clark Kent."

Clark seemed unworthy of praise for the Templeton article. Rusty did all the legwork, and he hadn't even been to the murder scene (as Clark that is). "Hey, I fed you the info, Clark, but you wrote the story."

"Thank you, Rusty," a humbled Kent said.

"O.K. you two, enough of the heart and soul. Go find something to do." Passing through the door, Larson stated, "And Rusty?"


"Don't call me Chief."

Settling into chairs in the Ellsworth cave, Clark laughed and remarked that yesterday Rusty was depressed because he didn't make page one, but today he was all over it. "Like I told you, Clark, that's the way this business is."

Dinner at the Kent house was one of Martha's hamburger / noodle casseroles. She was not there to eat it however. There was a meeting in town at the church, and being on the Church Council, she never missed. So as the two super heroes, in their Earthly disguises, enjoyed Martha's culinary delight, Clark related the conversation he had with Brody Murphy. He thought Lisa should know about it.

"Brody seems like a nice enough guy, but I really don't want to go out with him," she stated. "Pete's only been gone three weeks, and I'm not even sure how his being away is going to affect our relationship."

"Have you heard from him lately?"

"I got a letter last week. They're keeping him very busy. He said he was exhausted, but yet, his letter didn't sound a lot like the Pete I know."

"Well, boot camp is tough. He's probably still trying to adjust. It's a far cry from eating potato chips in a dormitory," he laughed.

Clearing the table and washing the few dishes took the duo less than a minute. They both moved to the living room, where Clark flopped on the couch, which had been his custom for a long time, and Lisa sat in Martha's chair opposite him.

"You want to watch TV?" he asked her.

"Not unless you do. I'll just read."

"Me either, peace and quiet would be nice, it happens so rarely," he replied, nodding off. Even a superboy gets tired.

While he slept, Lisa continued holding the Saturday Evening Post, but she really wasn't reading it. Her eyes were fixed on Clark. She was very content thinking how happy she was, how things had transpired to the point that her dream had come to fruition...working alongside Superboy. He had accepted her into his life, and now she found herself in a family-like situation with a loving person in Martha. Losing her own parents when her home planet Septron disintegrated, she was beginning to think of Martha as her substitute mother.

Suddenly, Clark jerked and woke up.


"I guess so," he answered. "How long was I out?"

"Close to an hour," came the reply.

"Mom home yet?"

"Not yet."

He asked what she had been doing. Lisa told him nothing, hadn't left the chair.

"Well, I think I'm going on up and call it a day," he announced just as a police call stung their wristwatches. "It never fails. You or me?"

Lisa answered, "I'll take it. You took last night's." Dropping her voice slightly, she answered, "Go ahead, this is Supergirl."

"Supergirl. Henderson. Our SOON IT WILL END guy has struck again. Another homicide. Smallville Hotel."

"On my way." Turning to Kent, "Another murder, within twenty-four hours. This is getting out of hand."

She started for the secret room. "I'll go with you," he stated as the two figures vanished behind the bookcase.

Chapter 8

Following his signal, the two soaring Samaritans came to rest in the alley beside the Smallville Hotel. Three patrol cars, with out-of-sync red lights lighting up the main street in a strobe-like manner, were parked out front of the building, blocking the nearer lane of traffic. Superboy told his partner to go on in and take care of business, and he would enter a minute or so behind her, but as Clark Kent, eager young reporter.

As he donned the white shirt from the pouch in his cape to conceal his well-known red and blue outfit, he thought, "Two homicides in one day. What in the world is happening?"

Worn-out Inspector Henderson was gathering information from his men and examining the crime scene. Three hours sleep the night before and the second homicide just over twelve hours had taken its toll on the aging police office. But a lawman's work never stops, until he does.

"Who is the victim Inspector?" Supergirl inquired.

"Arthur McCredy, owner of the hotel. Co-owner actually. He and his wife. Sweetest, kindest man you could ever meet. Did you know him?"

"No, I never met him. You forget, I have been here but a short time really."

Wet-headed Rusty Ellsworth (fresh from a nighttime shower at home) burst through the old wooden door from the street. "What we got Inspector?" He stopped talking when he spotted the dead old man sprawled on the worn carpeting beside the lobby check-in desk. "Mr. McCredy, oh my God no!"

"Fraid so, Rusty. Someone bashed his head in with that paper weight (pointing to a dark blue object with a flaking stenciled photo of Harry S. Truman on the side), three feet from the body. That's not all. Mrs. McCredy, upstairs, the same. Arthur was dead when we arrived. Mrs. McCredy died just before Supergirl arrived."

The same door hinges gave a loud squeak as Kent entered.

"Clark, it hasn't been five minutes since I talked to your mother."


"I was home taking a shower. My Mother told me that something was up as she could hear sirens. So I jumped out, threw on some clothes, called your house, your Mom answered and told her we probably had a story and to tell you to get to town as quick as you could."

"That's what I did. Got here the fastest way I knew." Changing the subject, "Oh no! Mr. McCredy!"

"His wife too," Supergirl added, "She's upstairs. Inspector, why would she be upstairs?"

"The McCredys lived in room one. Had been since Sarah, their youngest, left home. They certainly didn't make a fortune running this place for forty years, but I guess made enough to raise five kids. Used to live in a modest house on Apple Tree Lane. Sarah, the last at home, left about a year ago. Married and moved to Tulsa. Arthur figured he and Ethel didn't need that "large house" for just the two of them, so they sold it and moved in here. Put a fridge and two-burner stove in their room. Seemed to like it all right. Oh Kelley, I need you to track down the other four children and let them know what has happened."

"Yes sir, right away, may take some time."

"I know, but when you find one, maybe they can tell you where the other four are."

"Right," answered Patrolman Kelley as he hit the sidewalk.

"When did this happen?" Clark, Rusty and Supergirl all asked, almost simultaneously.

"Arthur's body was discovered about forty-five minutes ago by this gentleman (pointing to a man seated in a chair across the dimly-lit lobby). Sir, would you come over here please?" As he approached the four, Henderson continued, "This is Frederick Vallen."

Interrupting the officer, "I go by Fred. God, this is awful! Who would do such a thing? Killing a tiny old man?"

Supergirl interjected, "Mr. Vallen, how did you happen to be here? Are you registered?"

"Well, I wanted to be. I mean, no, not yet. What I mean, please excuse me, I'm a bit shook up, never seen a murder before, in person, I mean, just in the movies and on TV. Are you really Supergirl?"

"Yes, I am. Now can you please answer my question?"

"Oh sure, gosh, it's great to meet you. You do so many nice things for people. Superboy too, but this is the closest I've ever been to either one of you (Clark grinned a little). I live on the other side of Metropolis, about five miles out of the city heading northwest. I sell machinery parts for a living. Been out on the road for about ten days. Finished up mid-afternoon today and was anxious to get home. Miss my wife and kids. Have two, Benjy, a boy and Claresse, a girl. Both red-headed. Anyway, I don't sleep too good when I'm not in my bed, and it's been over a week since I've been home. Oh sorry, I already said that. So I was on my way home, but nearly fell asleep driving just before entering the town limits, so even though I wanted to get home to my family. Did I say that I had two kids? A boy..."

"Benjy, yes, you mentioned that," she stopped him, "Now try to relax and tell us the rest."

"O.K., O.K., I'm fine. Well, figured I shouldn't risk falling asleep at the wheel, so I stopped here for the night. My car's right out front. The dark green '62 Ford Fairlane."

"Hey, I have a Fairlane. A '59. Hey, what kind of mileage do you get?"

"RUSTY!" Henderson yelled.


"Go on Mr. Vallen."

"Came in through the door and that little man, that one right there (pointing to McCredy) was right where he is now. I saw blood and went crazy. Can't stand the sight of blood. Even when I knick myself shaving, I get all queezy and have to sit down. Sorry, I guess I lost my head for a second, then ran out on the sidewalk screaming "HELP!"

"Kelley was in his squad car heading in to the station, and saw Mr. Vallen, parked his car, came inside and found Arthur. He called it in. I got here in less than four minutes. I was almost home and had to turn around. While I waited here with Mr. Vallen and Arthur, Kelley went upstairs to check on Ethel, figuring she'd be in their room. Kelley found her on the floor, bashed in the head. When he got to her, she was able to tell him, let me check my notes...'Arthur came through the door. Man behind him with gun. Wanted money. Told him we didn't have any up here but downstairs. Hit me with gun. All I remember. Where's Arthur?' Then she died."

"Any painted message left upstairs Inspector?" the caped female asked.

"None. Just the one over there on the mirror. This time, it looks like red spray paint. No streaking, no brush marks. O.K. Mr. Vallen, I have your information. You can go. But I may need you again."

"Officer, do you think it would be all right if I slept in one of the rooms upstairs? I'll never make the hour-and-a-half drive home."

"Well, normally I would say no. This hotel is a crime scene. But since there are three other tenants already here, I suppose so."

"Thanks, who do I pay the eight dollars?"

"I guess this time it's on the house, Mr. Vallen. Just don't wander around during the night. There will be officers here until morning. We'll be talking with the other guests."

"No sir, once my head hits that pillow, I'm out. Nice meeting you Supergirl. Wow, what till Benji and Claresse find out I met Supergirl. They won't believe it. Benji and Claresse are my two kids. Both red-headed."

"Yes, Mr. Vallen. Good Night."

As the weary traveler climbed the steps, hat in one hand, suitcase in the other, Rusty commented how helpful the salesman had been. "Sometimes, they're too helpful," Henderson gruffed. "Actually Kelley's been more helpful than our Mr. Vallen. What Ethel told him before she died helps some. Assuming it's the same person who's been "painting the town red," we now know it's one person, an armed male. Too bad we didn't get a better description."

"Of course, Mrs. McCredy saw only one man. There could have been others who waited down here," Supergirl added, bursting the detective's bubble.

"Yeah, I thought of that. I'm also trying to think of a connection between Dickerson's place, Luthor's house and this, pardon me for saying, semi-seedy hotel."

Kent tossed in his two cents worth, "I'd say the obvious answer would be money, at least with Dickerson's and Luthor's. He blew the safe at the trucking company and probably would have done the same at Luthor's, had he had time to locate it. But by his breaking in the door at Luthor's, he had to have reason to believe no one was home. Either that or he wasn't thinking at all, because the noise would have brought anyone there to the front of the house."

"Which is probably what happened," Rusty offered, "Rock heard the door being broken, came to check it out and got a crowbar in his skull as a reward."

Supergirl, not being left out, "Then probably panicked and fled the scene and forgot about the safe."

Henderson agreed that all of their suggestions seemed logical, but why rob the Smallville Hotel to get, at the most, probably less than a hundred dollars? "The hotel is the odd man out here. We have plenty of puzzle pieces, but they're not fitting together."

Chapter 9

Clark and Lisa, in their other guises, had arrived back at the Kent home and informed Martha of what had happened at the Smallville Hotel. She was heartbroken. "Such good people, so pointless," was all she could muster.

"It's lucky no one was at George Dickerson's office the other night, or we could be talking about another homicide," Lisa noted.

"Yeah," Clark responded. "You know, Inspector Henderson mentioned that the puzzle pieces weren't fitting together. But I've been mulling all this over, and maybe they actually do, if..."

"If what?" she questioned.

"Dickerson's and Luthor's were hit at a time when the culprit probably assumed no one was around. But the hotel, early in the evening, most anyone would know that someone would be at the desk to register any guests. Now, I know there's a contrast there. But if we're dealing with someone who might not be thinking clearly, that could explain the lack of reasoning in robbing the hotel. I'm not saying that's the way it is, but it could be an explanation. And if this person thought he knew enough to believe Luthor's house was vacant, it could point to someone who lives around Smallville and knows something about Lex or Rock's comings and goings. Because there's always hired help at Luthor's house if he's in town. You know, the cook, the or both of them are there everyday working. I don't know..." his voiced trailed off. "Either way, someone out there has killed three people, and until we catch him, no one in Smallville is safe."

"Get any sleep, Inspector?" the eager Ellworth reporter inquired.

"If you mean last night, no. I've almost forgotten what my bed looks like. You're here awfully early. Had breakfast? I can offer you a donut that will taste like a bagel."

"Uh, no thanks. Had a nice breakfast at Tony's Diner this morning. As for being early, a reporter's hours are like a cop's. Unknown and anytime. Actually, Kent's at the Sentinel working on the hotel story. I wanted to know if there have been any updates concerning Dickerson's break-in or Rock's homicide. I realize it's probably too early for the McCredys."

Henderson obliged his young, most of the time friend, occasional adversary. "Starting with Dickerson's Trucking Company, we found nothing outside that could help us. Car and truck tracks everywhere, mostly on top of one another. We're having the red paint from Dickerson's, Luthor's and the high school analyzed to see if we can get a brand name. But we had to send that to Metropolis. Our lab is great at fingerprints, but we don't have the advanced equipment for breaking down paint. Hopefully, we'll get the results in a day or so. Same for the hotel paint, although it was sprayed not brushed. Print-wise at Dickerson's, lots, perhaps a hundred different sets, many smudged, all over the room and furniture, but the only prints on the safe were George Dickerson's. Our intruder must have worn gloves, because I don't believe George robbed himself."

"What about any of the employees?" Rusty asked.

"I'm not leaning that way, because none of them had reason to believe there was a lot of money in the safe. George makes bank deposits every day. The only money kept in the safe normally is the petty cash, which he said was $50.00, just enough in case he or his secretary needed to make change."

Ellsworth tossed the theory that the employees knew the payroll would be in the safe. Henderson shot that down, reminding him that Dickerson had picked up the payroll money a day early. If an employee was going to hit the safe for the payroll, it would have happened the following night." So Rusty asked who else knew George went to the bank a day early? "As far as I have determined, just the bank teller."

"Did you check out the teller?" The cop answered that the teller was the bank president's mother, and he couldn't picture 75-year-old Edith Lackey blowing a safe. Plus Edith didn't drive.

Pointing a finger at the journalist, he cautioned, "And I don't want to read a word about Edith Lackey in the Sentinel, understand."

"Yes sir. What about Luthor's place?"

"I checked with the Department of Immigration, and according to his passport information, the esteemed Mr. Luthor has been in France for the last three weeks. As for fingerprints, the place was virtually spotless. During his absence, the maid has kept the place neat as a pin, following Luthor's instructions. Since he left town, she's cleaned the entire mansion. When I spoke with her, she said that the place was not disturbed, except for Rock's bedroom. Seems the late Mr. Templeton had done some entertaining in there with, according to the maid, several young ladies. She found beer and wine bottles, cigarette butts with lipstick, and some discarded items one can purchase for a quarter at the drug store or gas station bathroom, if you know what I mean."

"Well, at least, he left this world a happy man," Rusty joked.

Henderson simply cleared his throat. He advised Rusty that there were some dirty plates in the sink. Apparently the Rock didn't spend time washing dishes between the maid's twice-a-week visits. "There was virtually no food in the house, so he must have done most of his eating out. The picture frame we found on the floor was clean, so again, the intruder was probably wearing gloves. No prints on the crowbar either. That's about it."

Lisa Landon entered Grayson's store with a bank bag containing the change and currency for the day's operation. Dan Grayson asked if everything went all right. She replied and stated that everyone in the bank was talking about the McCredys.

"Just terrible," Dan stated, "Known them for years. When I was a boy, Arthur would stand outside by the lamp pole while he smoked, and he would often give me a nickel when I passed by. I'd go across the street to the drug store and get an ice cream cone. I went to school with his son Hubert. We were pretty good friends. I can't imagine why anyone would wish harm on those gentle folks."

Helper Brody Murphy came in from the store room and asked his boss what he wanted him to do next. Dan asked if all the bags of grain had been stacked, and Murphy answered yes. Grayson then told the two that he had some things he needed to take care of at home and would be gone for about an hour. "I'll leave the store in your four capable hands."

"O.K., Mr. Grayson," Lisa answered as she turned to go to the office where paperwork awaited.

"Hey Lisa," young Murphy said.

"What is it Brody?"

"Heard from Pete lately?"

"Brody, I told you that..."

He cut her off to say that he didn't mean any offense, but repeated his opinion of long distance relationships. "Lisa, listen. You're here and I'm here. There's no reason the two of us can't go out and have some fun. I mean, I'm just talking about burgers and bowling. I'm not asking you to marry me. Pete would understand. He's probably having some fun himself."

"Brody, please stop. I told you no. I'm flattered but you need to respect my feelings." She started to continue as the bell on the door gave a loud ring. Two women entered the store. "You have customers and I have paperwork." She went into the back of the store, then the office, closing the door behind her. She hoped Brody would take the hint if he saw the closed door.

Kent was on his third draft of the McCredy story at slightly faster than earthly speed when he spied Rusty coming down the hall. He slowed his typing down, giving the Remington a deserved rest. Rusty tossed his notepad down beside his friend. "Here's what I got from Henderson. You finish the lead story and I'll do the sidebar."

"At the rate I'm going, I'll be here all day. This is my third crack at it. It just doesn't feel right."

"Writing on deadline isn't easy, Clark, sometimes you have to settle for less-than-perfection. Just tell what we observed last night and what we were told. That's all you can do. And even if it feels right, old Larson will probably make changes in it anyway. The editor has the final say-so. But the fewer changes the better, if ya get my drift."

"I get it," Kent answered just as his watch tingled his wrist. Rusty was staring him right in the face, so responding to the call was virtually impossible. He hoped Lisa could handle whatever the urgency might be.

"This is Supergirl," she answered, keeping her voice at an audible minimum.

"Sorry to bother you, Supergirl," the officer's voice stated, "but Almira Sessions' boy Tobey has his head stuck in the rod iron fence at the courthouse. The on-duty firemen are in a training class, and I..."

"No problem. I'll take care of it."

Stepping out of the office, she saw Brody was still waiting on the ladies who had come into the store, and three more had joined them, so she could easily get away. Landing at the site of the troubled Tobey, she bent the iron bars just enough that his mother could free the lad. She returned the bars to their original place. Mrs. Sessions seemed embarrassed. All she could say was "Boys will be boys."

"Tobey, be more careful next time, O.K.?"

"Uh huh," the kid muttered as he watched the pretty young lady ascend into the sky. "Mommy, can you do that?"

Quickly back at Grayson's, she entered the back door and made for the office. "Hey Lisa," Brody called. She rushed into the office, getting the door shut and locked just as Brody jiggled the knob. "Hey, unlock the door." She donned Lisa Landon's outer garments and brown wig. Opening the door, "What is it Brody?"

"Do we have any apple butter? Customer wants some."

"Should be near the jellies, Brody."

"Oh, I was looking in the dairy case near the butter. Thanks. You don't need to lock the door. I won't hurt you," he laughed.

She again closed the door behind him. Leaning with her back on it, she gave a sigh of relief. "That was close."

Chapter 10

Barely escaping Brody Murphy's seeing her as Supergirl in the store room of Grayson's General Store, Lisa Landon went through the morning mail, separating the contents into stacks of invoices to pay or things that just needed filing. It was also the day to catch the store ledger up to date, so the rest of the day would spare her little slow time.

Grayson announced to both his crew that it was a quarter to noon. Might be a good time for their lunch hours. The store wasn't very busy, and an approaching thunderstorm would probably keep things that way for a while. Brody seized the opportunity by asking Lisa to ride with him to the Burger Barn. His truck was in back of the store, and they could probably be inside the eatery before the clouds opened up. Like his date requests, she politely declined his lunch offer. "He's a bit slow at taking hints." Upon her negative response, he told her it was just lunch between two people who worked together, not a "date." She expanded on her decline, explaining that she wasn't really hungry and preferred to stay indoors to avoid the storm. "I'll just snack on something at my desk." Murphy showed disappointment on his face and exited the store through the back door, perhaps shutting it a bit harder than necessary as a message to Lisa of his disappointment.

A few minutes later, her watch tingled her arm. Alone in the back of Grayson's, she could answer freely, "This is Supergirl."

"Hey, it's me."

"Oh, hi. Anything wrong?"

"No. Just needed to tell you that Larson's sending Clark and Rusty to Metropolis for most of the afternoon to interview some actor who's in town pitching his new TV series. You'll need to watch over things. I'll see you at our regular spot this evening."

"I'll look after things here. I'm really looking forward to seeing you."

Kent, thinking her last sentencea bit odd, was jolted by the slap on the back by his mentor. "Ready to go?" Rusty Ellsworth said.

"Yeah, I'm ready."

By high noon, the rain had begun, very heavy rain accompanied by booming thunder and cracks of lightning, a typical summer storm.

She started writing the necessary checks to pay for the store's inventory purchases. Again her left wrist felt a vibration. Answering, she was advised by the desk sergeant on duty that the storm had snapped a power line about two miles outside the town limits on the road which led to Cliffton. "I'll head there right away," she responded to her caller. Since it was her appointed lunch hour, she exited without telling Dan Grayson she was going out. As she arrived quickly at the dangerous location, two live electrical wires were dancing in the wind, sparking each time contact was made with the ground. The familiar face of Officer Kelley greeted her. Wearing his slicker, he was still soaking wet, standing on the road making sure no passing citizens could be injured by the unpredictable hot cables. Grabbing the sparking lines, she flew them up to the pole, and using her heat vision, seared them back to the same points they had originally been attached. Soon the danger was eliminated. Waving to Kelley, she made her way through the turbulence en route back to Grayson's. As she started her descent, she fortunately noticed a familiar object making its way to the ground below...her wig. Swooping back around, she caught it. "Wow! I sure can't afford to lose this," placing it back into her cape's hidden pouch. Before entering the store's rear entrance, she surveyed the store to find that Dan was out front waiting on the store's solo customer, Laurence Larson of the Smallville Sentinel. "Clark's boss."

Inside, she made like a top at super speed to dry her red and blue outfit, then covered it with Lisa's clothing and was back at the store's checkbook.

Another ten minutes had passed when she heard her co-worker return. Walking past the office, he placed a paper bag on her desk. "What's this?" she inquired.

"Your lunch. Chicken salad on toast."

"Brody, I didn't ask you..."

"I know, I know. But just because you won't be seen out in public with me doesn't mean I can't bring a you a sandwich. It's no big deal. But you're probably not hungry anyway."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, maybe because after telling me you were going to work through your lunch hour, you did go out after all. I really don't appreciate you lying to me, Lisa."

"What makes you think I went out somewhere?"

"For one thing, your hair is wet. But never mind, forget it! I'll never disgrace you again by asking you out. We'll just have to put up with each other every day here," as the storm moved inside.

Lisa sighed, thinking she probably deserved that lashing. And her wet hair, or rather, wet wig! How could she be so careless? Slip-ups such as this could jeopardize her secret.

Chapter 11

Late afternoon found Rusty and Clark zooming down the highway on their way back to Smallville. Their interview with actor Ron Ely had gone well. Rusty was excited about the new TARZAN TV series coming in the Fall. He had seen a couple of the newer movies with the jungle man at the Smallville Drive-In. The older ones, he had watched on television. In his bedroom closet was a stack of the Dell comic books he had kept from his childhood. "You like Tarzan, don't you Clark?"

"Sure. Remember the movie where he went to New York to get Boy from those circus people?"

"Oh yeah! And he dove off the Brooklyn bridge! That guy didn't really do that, did he?"

"Somehow, I doubt it, Rusty. I know Johnny Weissmuller was a great swimmer, but diving off the Brooklyn Bridge, no."

Ellsworth continued as he drove, "Superboy could do it though."

"Yeah, I guess he could," Kent smiled but was helpless to answer the page he was receiving via his wristwatch. Lisa would have to handle it.

Parking his '59 Fairlane behind the Sentinel building, the two stepped out into the employee parking lot. Rusty made a quick beeline towards the entrance, wanting to get his Ely interview on paper as quickly as possible. "Ya coming," he turned to Clark.

"I'll be there in a minute." Seeing the door shut behind his friend, Kent paged Supergirl. "Did you call me? I couldn't answer in the car."

"Yes," came her response. "Inspector Henderson wants to see both of us. I told him we would be there as soon as I could locate you."

"O.K. It's a quarter to five. Can you meet me there in twenty minutes?"

"I should be able to," Lisa answered.

Clark went to Rusty's office, and after being assured by his friend / mentor that it had been a calm afternoon, Rusty said it was all right for him to take-off. "I sure will," Kent chuckled at the irony of his buddy's choice of words. Outside in the alleyway, off came the glasses, shirt, tie and trousers and up flew the young man from another planet. He chose an indirect path to headquarters for his own security reasons. Using his detective friend's open window, he stood beside the cop's desk. "Next time you come to see me, be sure that window's open. The city fathers are going to permit us to turn on the air conditioning the day after tomorrow."

"It is warming up in Smallville, unfortunately, in more ways than one. Supergirl not here yet?"

"Haven't seen her," Henderson answered. The Boy of Steel informed him she would be there as close to five as she could. "We can give her a few more minutes." But before he could sit, the second crime fighter had entered as well. "O.K. great, why don't both of you have a seat."

Henderson took a sip of his Coca-Cola before beginning. "Either of you want something to drink? It's on me."

They both declined.

"Let me know if you change your mind. Now, here's what I wanted to tell you. The paint analysis came back from the lab in Metropolis. As I thought, the paint from Smallville High, Dickerson's Trucking and the Luthor house were all brushed. The paint from the hotel was sprayed. Both turned out to be manufactured by Schuler Paint Company, out of Topeka. Both shades are called Crimson Kiss Red."

"I like the name," Supergirl stated.

"I guess a woman would," the detective chuckled. "This afternoon I checked with the Schuler people, and there's only one place of business here in Smallville they sell to, and that's...Grayson's General Store."

The two super heroes glanced at one another.

"What is it?" the cop asked after spotting the glance.

"Nothing really," Superboy responded. "You're not thinking that Dan..."

"Of course not. But our killer could have bought the paint there, if he's local. Let me see if I can get Dan on the phone."

Henderson next heard Brody Murphy's voice, "Grayson's General Store...yes, just a moment...Mr. Grayson, phone call for you."

Five seconds later came a "hello."

"Dan, Bill Henderson, got a minute. I need to ask you something."

"Sure, just a minute...Hey Brody, can you wait on Mrs. Parker?...O.K., sorry Bill. So what do you want to ask me?"

"I understand you stock Schuler Paint."

"That's right."

"How about Crimson Kiss Red, brush and spray?"

"Well, I did, I mean the brush kind. Took me forever to sell the two cans I had. I didn't re-order it. It's too bright for barn painting. The Schuler salesman saw me coming on that stuff. Now, the spray, it's not a big seller, but I might continue with it, for the time being. I sell a can of it once in a while. Matter of fact, I had three cans of it on the shelf for a couple of months, but finally sold all three last week."

"To the same person?" Henderson asked, getting a bit excited.

"Yeah, why is this so important, I mean, does Crimson Kiss Red spray paint have gold nuggets in it?"

"Can you somehow check and let me know who bought those three cans?"

"Bill, I don't have to check anything. I made the sale personally. I remember who bought them."

"Who, Dan, who!"

"Larry Larson."

"From the newspaper?"

"Yeah, only Larry Larson I know. Stopped in on his way home one afternoon last week. Said he wasn't sure how much of the stuff he needed, so he took all I had, bless him."

"How about the gallon cans?"

"Well, it's been a while since I sold them. I'd have to dig through my records for that information. And I'd have a name on the invoice only if it was a charge. Cash and check purchases, I just write cash on the invoice, no personal info."

"Dan, I need you to check that for me, will you?"

"Sure Bill, I'll have my efficient, and may I add pretty, new employee Lisa do it first thing in the morning."

"Thanks, Dan." He hung up the receiver. "I'm assuming you both did some super-hearing eavesdropping, so you heard what Dan said?" They nodded. Supergirl had grinned when she heard her boss say she was pretty. "Now let's call Laurence Larson." The cop placed his call but was told that Larson had just left for the day.

"Well, I guess I'll just ride over to his house and make a friendly visit. You two are both welcome to ride with me, unless you don't want to be seen in a police car?"

Superboy laughed, "Always a pleasure to ride with you Inspector."

The three's timing was perfect as Larson was stepping out of his car in the driveway as Henderson's squad car came to a stop.

"Well, hello Bill. And Superboy? AND Supergirl? Goodness, to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I need to talk to you for a moment. It's...uh, official business."

"Oh?" the concerned editor questioned, "What is it?

Henderson pressed, "I understand you purchased three cans of red spray paint last week at Grayson's Store."

"Well, yes, is that a crime?"

"Of course not, may I ask why you bought them?"

"Bill, would you mind telling me what this is about?" Larson requested.

"Would you just answer my question?" Henderson pressed a tad harder.

"You tell me what this is about, and I'll answer your question. Sorry, but the old newspaper man in me is curious. AND you sound mighty formal in your voice."

"Very well, Larry. The red paint found at the hotel homicide scene the other night is the exact same kind of paint you bought last week, and I'm just trying to run it down. Now, your turn."

"I bought the spray paint, three cans of it actually, to paint our patio furniture."

"Bright red?" Superboy interjected.

"Hey, that was my initial response too. Kate and I bought a set of rod iron patio furniture, I'd say, about three years ago. She wanted white. I told her it would show dirt too easily. Didn't matter. Had to be white. Well, now she's been after me for a month to paint it another color. She said the white shows dirt too much." He groaned. "She never listens to me. Superboy, you plan to get married?"

The Boy of Steel stammered a bit before Larson interrupted, "Well, if you do, get used to stuff like that. No offense Supergirl. So I told her I'd paint it the first chance I got. Then she told me she wanted it painted red. I said 'RED!' Had to be red. And not just red...but as bright a red I could get it. Well, there's no point in trying to change her mind. So I went to Grayson's and told him I wanted the brightest red spray paint he had. He had three cans of whatever shade of red you said it is. I didn't know how much I would need for a table and four chairs, so I bought all Dan had. I didn't want to run out and then find out he didn't have any more if I needed it. That's why I bought the paint. Happy?"

"Have you used it yet?"

"No, was gonna paint last weekend, but it looked like rain, so I didn't." Changing his tone, "Can you imagine sitting down on patio furniture the color of a fire engine to eat a meal?"

"Can I see the paint?" the detective requested.

"Sure, I put it in the garage. This way." The three waited as Larson opened one door of the separate wooden building, then followed him to a workbench. Haven't even taken the cans out of the bag. See for yourself."

Henderson looked inside the paper container, then turned to the two in red and blue. "There's only two cans here, not three."

"What do you say?" Larson quickly responded.

"I said one of the cans is missing. Any idea where it might be?"

"No idea at all! Bill, I feel as if I should be upset with you. I mean, coming to my home and all but calling me a criminal."

"Larry, listen," Henderson started.

Superboy quickly stepped in, putting his arm on Larson's shoulder. "Mr. Larson, the good Inspector wasn't accusing you of any crime. It's his job to check out all possible leads. Someone could have easily gotten into this garage and stolen the paint, then used it. The building isn't locked. You hear of stuff like this frequently, being a newspaper editor. And I'm sure you want the McCredys' killer brought to justice as much as we all do."

"Of course I do. I want to print the killer's name in bold type on the front page of my newspaper."

"Larry, thanks for your time. Give Mrs. Larson my best."

"Sure, Bill, sure. Now is it permissible for me to go inside my own house. I promise I won't skip town."

"Of course, just doing my job Larry."

There was a gruff clearing of the editor's throat.

As the trio of crime fighters headed for Henderson's car, "You're not thinking Larson's our man, are you Inspector?" Supergirl inquired.

"I certainly don't want to, but I can't rule him out. He is the one who bought the paint."

"Sure, but like I said, Inspector, anyone could have stolen it from his garage."

"I know that, too," the worn-down cop answered.

As she was getting into the passenger side of the patrol car, to break the tension, the blonde in the blue skirt slapped the back of the guy in the blue tights, "Well, Superboy, ARE you going to get married?"

Chapter 12

As the three Kent household members enjoyed their dinner, Clark noticed, on several occasions, Lisa's staring at him. But he said nothing. Martha noticed it as well. As the ladies dried and put away the dishes, the man of the house sat on the living room sofa in deep thought. Still trying to put the crime spree's pieces together so it would all make sense. Not that there's any sense to killing, but there had to be a reason someone had done what he had done, unless the perpetrator was simply a homicidal maniac. Clark was buying the theory that robbery was the primary reason, not the killing part. Rock and the McCredy couple were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, he believed. Whoever was behind it all had to know Dickerson's safe had a lot of cash that very night, or he was just lucky, and Kent didn't put much store in luck. Someone knew Dickerson went to the bank that day and withdrew the payroll funds. Fortunately, the office was empty that night and no one was hurt. As for Luthor's, it would be a pretty logical assumption that a large sum of cash would be on the premises at most any time. Everyone around knew Lex Luthor was the richest person in Smallville. It was the hotel which was the stumper. Even with no vacancies on any given night, at eight bucks a guest, the day's take wouldn't amount to two hundred dollars. The phrase SOON IT WILL END had been sprayed onto the wall at the hotel but brushed on at the other sites. Could the hotel have been hit by a copycat who didn't know he was using a different manner of leaving the graffiti? The articles Rusty (and he) had written in the Sentinel had described the crime scenes in detail. Perhaps it was a copycat, but his gut feeling said it was the same guy, and Ethel McCredy had stated it was a guy before she died.

"What are you doing?" Lisa asked as she entered the room.

"Oh, just thinking about our SOON IT WILL END guy."

"Yeah, I've been doing the same thing. I'm sorry to say that so far, I still have more questions than answers. Are you going to stretch out as you normally do, or may I join you?"

"No, have a seat," he responded.

Martha joined them, sitting in her favorite chair. "Are either of you going out tonight?"

"I don't think so Mom, unless it's necessary."

Lisa added, "Me either. They'll call us if we're needed."

"Should I turn on the TV?"

"If you want to watch something, go ahead," he answered his mother.

"No, I don't really feel like looking at anything tonight, and everything's a rerun in the summer, and I've probably seen it. Think I'll do some sewing in my room. And that will probably put me to sleep." She started for her room. "Don't forget the lights."

"O.K. Mom. Good night."

The two sat quietly for a short time. Then Lisa asked Clark, "Do you think Inspector Henderson thought Mr. Larson might be the killer?" Kent answered no. But he had to check out the sale of the three cans of spray paint. "To be honest with you, I thought we were going to find that all the paint had been stolen from his garage. I was surprised that two cans were left behind."

"And I'll be spending tomorrow morning going through all the store invoices for who-knows-how-far back looking for the other two cans. That isn't going to be any fun."

"Well, don't worry about that tonight. Tomorrow will come fast enough." Changing the subject, Clark remarked, "I couldn't help but notice that you were staring at me during supper. Any particular reason? Has my face gone green or something?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't aware I was staring. Well, actually, I guess I was. And no, your face hasn't gone green. As a matter of fact, you have a very nice face, a kind face," she answered as she ran her fingers across his left cheek. "Clark..."


"I'm not really sure how to say this, and I don't want to upset you, but..."


"Well...I think...I'm falling in love with you."


She replied, "Is that all you can say?"

"Actually, I could say quite a lot, but I'd rather answer another way." He gently put his right hand around the back of her head, and pulled her towards him until their lips came together. They enjoyed a long kiss before separating. "That...was nice."

"I'm not so sure," she teased, "let's try it again." The second kiss was even longer. "Yes, that was nice."

She leaned against his chest, while twirling her right index finger in circles on his torso. "I've felt this coming on for a while, even before we graduated, but I was confused. I don't want to hurt Pete. But I can't control how I feel. I love you Clark."

"Well, Lisa, this may surprise you, but I love you, too." He told her that he had been holding back as well, also because of his best friend. "But I don't want to hurt Pete any more than you. He joins the Army to serve his country and I cut in on his girl. Some friend."

"You shouldn't feel that way, I'm involved just as much as you. I'll always have feelings for Pete. But things just started to change. I can't help it. And it would be dishonest to all of us if he and I stayed together if I didn't love him anymore. Brody Murphy was right when he said a long-distance relationship would be difficult. I didn't want to tell Brody he was right, because he'd probably never leave me alone. Oh, Clark, what should we do?"

"Just see what develops, I suppose. But for now..." He kissed her once again, then stood up. "I think the best thing I should do is go and take a shower," he remarked laughing a bit. Then I'm going to hit the hay."

"I'll stay down here for a while, in case there's a call."

He bent down, gave her one more kiss, then started for the stairs.

Ten minutes later, She went to her room.

After another ten, with teeth brushed, pajamas on, Clark was turning down his bed, when there was a light tapping on his door. He turned and opened the door no more than six inches. Standing on the other side in the hallway, dimly lit by a nightlite, was what looked like an angel...Lisa, sans wig, her blonde hair as smooth as silk, covered by a pale blue negligee, which stopped just above her knees, about the same spot as her Supergirl outfit.

"Hi," she whispered. They both made like statues for a few seconds until he broke the silence and stepped back, "Come in."

Martha was, as she predicted, starting to fade with her sewing. She was ready for slumber. As she leaned over to set her stitchery on the lower shelf of the nightstand, she saw one of her old photo albums. She smiled, picked it up and began thumbing through the photographic memories. "Look at that cute little Clark," she said. Turning a few more pages, she thought, "I bet Lisa would get a kick out of seeing these pictures." The family matriarch got to the floor, donned her robe, and started up the stairs, carefully holding on to the guardrail. Reaching the top, she made the right turn, stopping between the two closed bedrooms and whispered, "Lisa?" Hearing no response, she repeated as she gently knocked. The door hadn't completely closed, so it opened but a few inches. Leaning her head inside just enough to repeat Lisa's name, the light was still on but there was no one there. She entered no further. Her first thought was that Lisa had been needed as Supergirl and had left the house. But then her eyes spotted the red and blue uniform hanging in the closet. Closing the door, she turned towards the stairs. The light from Clark's room barely lit the spacing between his door and the floor. But as she continued towards her destination, Martha heard female giggling from her son's bedroom. Without missing a beat, she guided herself back to the ground floor, exhaled a deep breath and muttered "Oh dear."

Chapter 13

Clark came through the swinging door into the kitchen. Lisa was already sitting at the table, taking small sips of her coffee. Martha stood at the stove with her back to the table putting the finishing touches on the morning's breakfast. Before Kent could be seated, Lisa gave him an eye signal that his mother seemed upset. As he slid up to the table, Martha turned around, placed two plates of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and ham in front of the couple and grabbed the third plate for herself just as the toaster popped up. She stacked the four pieces of brown toast on a plate and set it in the middle of the table. The way she dropped the plate from about an inch up told Clark that the meal would be consumed under strained emotions. "Morning Mom," he spoke.

"Morning," was returned with no elaboration. She poured herself and Clark coffee, returned the pot to the burner and took her seat. Each began to eat, looking down at their plates. The tension at that table couldn't be cut with the knife being used to spread the butter and jelly on the crunchy bread. Several minutes, seeming more like several hours, passed before Kent asked his mom if she had slept well.

"No, I didn't. Actually, I was probably awake most of the night staring up into a pitch-black room."

"I'm sorry Mom."

"What do you have to be sorry for?"

"No, I'm sorry you didn't sleep well," he said, trying to avoid the direction he knew the conversation might be heading.

"All right," she firmly stated, "Let's stop walking on eggshells and playing with one another. I know what went on last night. I want you to know that I was not snooping on either one of you. But I went upstairs to show Lisa some pictures in one of my photo albums and found her room empty. I didn't need Sherlock Holmes to tell me where you were (looking Lisa's way)."

"Mom, if you'll let..."

"Let me finish, please. Listen, I accept the fact that both of you are legally adults and have the right to do what you wish. But as adults, you both need to understand that you have to deal with the reponsibilities that go along with being adults. And with the decisions we make, there are sometimes consequences that go along with our actions. Some consequences are minor, but some have long-term effects on our lives."

"Mom stop, please. I really need to stop you for a minute," Kent insisted.

"All right, what is it?"

"What you think happened last night, didn't happen. It started out to, but Lisa and I talked it over and decided that we should take some time with our relationship."

"Relationship?" Martha inquired.

"Martha," Lisa began, "Clark and I love each other. We certainly don't deny that. It just happened. You understand falling in love."

"Lisa, honey, of course I do. I've fallen in love several times in my life. But you and Clark's falling in love is a bit more complicated. We're talking about four people here, not just two. Each of you live as two different people. That's complicated enough as it is. And difficult. What I'm trying to say is, "Did you fall in love with Clark or with Superboy? And was it Lisa falling in love or was it Supergirl? Do you see what I mean?”

"I do Martha. I do. Let me just say that even though Clark and I live our lives as two different people, that's for the most part, just from the exterior. You know, a wig or a pair of eyeglasses. But in our hearts, Lisa and Supergirl have the emotions and philosophies, and I believe Clark is the same way. Your son is the good person you and Mr. Kent reared. You taught him the things he needed to learn. And he learned much of what he knows being Clark Kent. So, you see, Superboy is not really a different person than Clark, but more of an extension of Clark. The same holds for me. It doesn't matter if I'm flying into outer space with him or sitting on the couch with him, I love him the same."

"Is that how you feel, son?"

"Yes, Mom, it is. Neither Lisa or I ever saw our relationship working together becoming this way. It just happened. We talked it over last night. We understand it will change some of the perspectives of, well, what we do. But we're both willing to take that chance. We'll adjust, Mom, you'll have to trust us. Just because we are both who we are doesn't mean we can't have personal happiness, does it?"

"Of course not, son. It's just more complicated. But since each one of you has special abilities, and not just being able to fly through the air or see through brick walls, I hope you have the emotional abilities to match."

"Don't worry, Martha. We'll be fine," Lisa comforted and shifted gears. "A minute ago, you mentioned that you had been in love several times. Was Mr. Kent not your first true love?"

"Oh mercy no. I fell head-over-heels in what I thought was love during the eighth grade. A boy named Gibby Jenkins. I persuaded him to take me to a school dance. We hit it off from the start and ended up going out together for about three years. Then the mill closed down where we lived. It was the Depression. Things were bad. But my father got a job in one of the mills here, so he moved us all to Smallville. I never saw or heard from Gibby again. Years later I heard that he didn't come back from Korea. So many of them didn't you know. But my very first day at my new school, which was the same Smallville High, I saw this good-lookin' fellow in the hall, and my heart about exploded. Talk about love at first sight. Jonathan Kent. Cuter than Cary Grant, I thought. His buddies called him J-Bird."

"J-Bird?" Lisa laughed.

"J-Bird," Martha continued. "Well, I want you to know that I made it clear to him almost right away that I was available, so we went for a drive one Friday night. The week after graduation, we got married. This house was where Jonathan was born and grew up. All his brothers and sisters eventually moved away, but he and I stayed. After his parents were both gone, he worked it out with the others that he would keep the house. And this is the only place I've lived since we were married. We never had children, although we wanted a couple of 'em, that is, until that day that this guy over here came streaking through the sky and crash-landed in our pasture. Jonathan called it one of those "new-fangled" rockets. Since he fell from the sky, we always thought of Clark as our gift from Heaven."

"When did you start noticing that your "bundle of joy" (she said sarcastically, grinning at her new boyfriend) came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men?"

"Almost right away. We figured he was just a couple of months old when we got him. One morning, I was..." She stopped herself. "Look at the time. You're both have jobs to get to. Finish your breakfast before it gets completely cold. We'll finish this later."

Both plates were empty in seconds due to some super-speed eating. Martha was kissed on the cheek, once from each direction. As the two left the kitchen, she asked, "Leave it open." She took a sip of her coffee, made an unpleasant face when the cold liquid hit her lips and watched the two young adults disappear through the often-used bookcase.

"Good luck, kids."

Chapter 14

Soaring faster than usual towards town, the two in red and blue immediately made up the short time they had to get to their jobs. A slight problem faced them, however, as they approached their destinations. Dan Grayson and employee Brody Murphy were outside the back of the General Store unloading a grain delivery. And a truck loaded with rolls of newsprint, along with several Sentinel employees, occupied the alley leading into the newspaper building. Not opening for another hour, the public library showed no signs of activity, so the flying duo set down in the back. She made a quick change to her alter-ego. He decided to check in at the Sentinel as he was, so he suggested he go one way and she the other.

Thinking about mounds of old invoices she would be digging through trying to track those cans of Crimson Kiss Red paint, she turned the corner of the library and stepped onto the town sidewalk heading towards Grayson's. Coming towards her were two girls, probably eleven or twelve years of age, on their roller skates. "Let's race!" one girl said to the other. Lisa also observed a break in the sidewalk ahead of the oncoming youngsters. "They're not paying attention. When they hit that bad spot, they'll fall for sure." Quickly using her heat vision, she fused the crack until it was smooth enough for them to pass over it. She stepped aside as they passed, and they continued on, never knowing they could have been badly injured.

Everyone in the Sentinel who spotted Superboy walking down the hall either yelled to him or patted him on the back as he passed. "Hello Rusty," he greeted the eager reporter.

"Hey Superboy, how ya doin'?"

"I'm fine, thanks. Still like your job?"

"Man, yeah! Don't tell Mr. Larson, but I'd do it for half what he pays me."

"Very well, my lips are sealed. So, you're doing O.K.?"

"Are you kiddin'? Eighty bucks a week, before taxes."

"Well, good for you. I stopped by to see if you had any further information on the murders."

"Nah. I was hoping you came to give me something." He looked down at his watch.

"Something wrong?"

"Sorry, Superboy, not really. It's two till, and Clark's not here yet. He's usually here by now."

"Clark Kent? I think I saw him down the street as I was flying into town. I'm sure he's on his way. And since neither of us have information to share, I'll be on mine."

"On your what?" the young newsman asked.

"On my way. I said Kent is on his way, and I'll be on mine."

"Oh yeah, I get it. Well, thanks for coming by. Maybe next time we'll have something to share."

The Boy of Steel exited into the alleyway, now vacant. The paper truck was gone. Clark Kent immediately entered through the same door.

"Good morning," Kent said as he sat down in what had become his chair.

"Hey Clark, you missed Superboy. He was just here."

"Actually, I saw him outside. What did he want?"

"To see if I had any new info on the murders. But I don't."

"Hmmm," young Kent muttered.

A couple of blocks down the street, Lisa Landon arrived at the front door of Grayson's General Store to find the door was still locked. Walking around to the back, she spoke to both Dan and Brody. Grayson told her they were running a few minutes behind and would she open up for him and wait on anyone until the truck was unloaded. "Yes sir," she answered.

Ten minutes had passed when Dan relieved her up front. He informed her he had pulled the sales receipts for the last two months and had put them on the desk for her inspection. She wasted no time in digging into them. Keeping them in order and starting with the most recent, she saw an immediate problem when she found a charge slip with a paint sale. The receipt was written "gallon paint" and the price, but that was the only notation. The charge slip did not specify the color of the paint that was sold. Continuing through the stack, now going back three weeks, all sales of gallon cans of paint were listed the same way. Hearing Brody working outside her office, she closed the door and, with super speed, quickly finished the entire stack. They were all the same.

Making her way to the front of the store, she couldn't help but notice Brody hard at work. He was mumbling to himself. When their eyes met, he came to a dead halt. "What are you looking at?"

"I'm sorry Brody, I didn't mean to stare, I heard you say something. I thought you were talking to me."

"Well, I wasn't."

"Do you fell all right Brody?"

"I feel great! Why are you asking?"

"You're wringing wet. Are you sure you're O.K."

"Look, why shouldn't I be wringing wet. It's summer. It's hot! I've been unloading forty-pound grain sacks for over an hour. You'd be hot too if you had to do any real work, not just push papers around."

"All right. I'm sorry," she offered.

Her apology was rejected. "Look Lisa, you made it clear you want to have nothing to do with me, so you don't need to pretend to be concerned, whether I'm hot or wet, or ANYTHING! Just leave me alone!"

The door to the front of the store opened just far enough for Dan to lean in and ask if anything was wrong. "I could hear voices in the store. The customers heard it too."

"It was my fault, Mr. Grayson. It won't happen again," Murphy stepped up. "Mr. Grayson?"

"Yes, Brody."

"Would it be all right if I took a half hour and went home to shower and change clothes. I've got grain stuck all over me and it seems I'm giving off foul odor from sweatin' that is offensive to Miss Landon. I'll only take half an hour for lunch to make up the time."

Grayson's and Landon's eyes connected. "Sure, Brody, that's fine."

"Thank you. I'll be back in half an hour." They heard his truck peel out down the alley to the street.

"Could I speak with you for a minute, Mr. Grayson?"

"Let me finish up with these folks first, and Lisa, I have no problem if you call me Dan instead of Mr. Grayson."


"That's better," he replied.

Brody, still upset, slammed the door of the back porch of his house. He stormed into the kitchen past his mother, who was standing at the sink snapping fresh green beans. "Aren't you going to speak to your mother, and why are you home?"

"HELLO, and I'm going to take a shower. I stink!"

She asked if he was feeling all right. He answered loudly that he felt just fine. "I'm going to take a shower!"

Mrs. Murphy stopped at the closed bathroom door. "Brody, honey, did you take your medicine this morning?"


"I asked you if you took your medicine this morning. Your allergy medicine and your medicine for anxiety."

"No, but I will. First, I'm taking a shower!"

The poor single parent just turned, went back into the kitchen and resumed her bean snapping. Ten minutes later, her son, now fresh and neat, headed for the back door. "I'm going back to work."

"Can't you kiss your Mother?" He took the time to honor her request. "Did you take your medicine?"

"Yes, I took my medicine."

"Both of them."


"Your allergy medicine AND your anxiety medicine?"

"Anxiety medicine?" he answered.

"Yes, the medicine you told me the doctor gave you for anxiety, to keep you calm."

"Oh...yes Mother, I took it. See ya at supper." Seeing the beans in her hand, "Green beans huh, can't wait." And the door slammed.

"Now, Lisa, what's on your mind?"

"Mr. Grayson, I mean Dan, I went through the stack of the sales receipts you left out for me."

"Already? All of them?"

"Yes, it didn't take long. You haven't sold that much paint the last two months."

"No, I guess not. Most folks around Smallville do their painting at the start of spring. The big jobs anyway, then they get their crops planted. So, what did you find?"

When she told him paint colors were not specified, he seemed surprised. "By golly, that's right. I forgot. I should have remembered."

"I'm just curious, how do you reorder by color if you don't keep records?"

"Uh, to tell you the truth, I just check the shelves out here and in the back, then order what colors that are low. It's, uh, easier for me that way than to have to dig through all the paperwork."

"I see," she replied. "Thank you."

Walking back to her desk, she thought it strange that knowing this was a police request, he would forget to mention it to Inspector Henderson right away.

Sitting at her desk, she heard the back door slam.

"Great, Brody's back."

Chapter 15

Much to her delight, Lisa noticed that her co-worker Brody Murphy was in a much better mood when he returned to Grayson's General Store. The shower, she assumed, must have cooled him off. He stuck his head into the office and apologized to Lisa for "going off" on her. She told him to forget it.

Mrs. Murphy had her fresh green beans in the pot on the stove. Knowing her son's habits, she assumed his bedroom would be a mess yet again since he had made an unusual trip home in the middle of the morning. Upon entering her only child's fortress of solitude, she quickly saw she was correct. The dirty clothes, covered with specks of grain, were thrown on the floor and on his single bed, the same one he had used since he was only a few years old. Picking up the discarded garments gently to prevent the grain from getting deeper into her carpet, the thin, frazzled woman noticed her son's bed not as she had left it when she made it up after Brody had left for work the first time. The spread did not hit the floor evenly. She was always meticulous about getting it just right. Nothing was too good for her boy. And her mother had always told her that if unexpected guests drop by, as long as the beds were made and the dishes were washed and put away, her house was presentable. But now the spread looked as if something had been slid under the mattress. She shook her head in a bit of disgust as she, one time, had found several magazines near the same place. Magazines that weren't of the Famous Monsters of Filmland variety.

As she pulled the hidden object out from the mattress, she was puzzled. She held in her hand, not a magazine, but a small black leather pouch which zipped on three of the four sides. She knew Brody didn't like her "snooping around" his things. They had several confrontations about that recently. But the woman's curiosity overcame her. Inside the pouch she found a syringe and needle, some rubber tubing and two small plastic bags, both empty, except for small white flakes in each. Also contained in the pouch was her missing eighth table spoon she had some time back searched high and low for in all the kitchen drawers. Mrs. Murphy had given up on ever finding it, assuming she had accidentally thrown it away in the trash. She had no idea what all of this might be, but after giving it thought, figured it was probably the prescription her son had told her their doctor had prescribed for his anxiety. "Why couldn't the doctor just give Brody pills or capsules like he usually did?" But not wanting another spat with her boy, she returned the pouch to where she found it.

Lisa Landon was still curious about her boss not remembering to tell Inspector Henderson about the sales receipts not identifying paint colors. Sure, it was possible he simply forgot like he said, but it didn't quite ring true to her. After all, he owned the store and had been following this procedure for quite a while. Her thoughts were interrupted with Grayson's voice calling out, "Lisa could you come here please?"

Stepping out front, she asked, "Yes, sir?"

"Would you do me a big favor?"

"Of course."

"I just remembered that I left the house this morning without my lunch. Meatloaf sandwich leftover from last night's dinner. Take my truck, and run to my house and pick it up for me, will ya? You know where I live, don't you?"


"The truck's out back. Keys are in it. The sack is on the kitchen counter."

"Yes sir, I'll be back shortly." She passed by a busy Brody in the store room on her way out. He asked where she was going. She told him and why. "Oh," was his only response.

A moment later, something popped into Dan's head, causing him to bolt into the store room. "WHERE'S LISA?"

"She's gone. Something wrong, Mr. Grayson?"

"Uh, no, not a problem," the store owner answered, walking back behind the counter with a look of concern on his middle-aged face.

It was only fifteen minutes later when Lisa turned into the alley for the back of the store. Being a fairly novice driver, she applied the brakes a bit too hard. The truck stopped suddenly, making the bagged lunch and flashlight on the front seat fall to the floorboard.

Turning off the engine, she got out and turned around to retrieve Dan's midday meal and replace the flashlight to the seat. Bending over, something caught her attention. An old hand towel partially wrapped around a metal container. Both can and towel had stains on stains. Holding the can in her hand, she read the label...Schuler Crimson Kiss Red paint. It had been opened and, judging from its weight, partially used. That explained the stains. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" said a voice which made the young girl jump.

She spun around to see Brody standing at the back door. "Just putting Mr. Garyson's flashlight back on the front seat. Afraid I hit the brakes too hard and the flashlight kept on going."

"Yeah, if you're not used to driving someone else's vehicle, that can happen," came his answer. She re-wrapped the can inside the towel, putting it back under the seat. "Hey, Mr. Grayson came looking for ya right after you left. Seemed kinda upset. I told him you had already gone." He offered her a smoke, then pulled back, remembering she didn't indulge.

"Well, guess I'll get back to work," she replied as she past him.

On her way to deliver last night's meatloaf, she was upset about finding the paint can. All of a sudden, she was having bad vibes about her boss. He seemed like such a nice man, but events of the day (the sales invoices and the spray can) were very troubling. Maybe he came chasing her because he remembered the can was under the seat, and she might find it. "Here's your lunch."

"Oh, thanks Lisa. Everything go all right."

"Yes sir. Brody said you came looking for me just as I left. Anything wrong?"

"Wrong, no, nothing wrong. Uh, ya know, it occurred to me that after I asked you to run home for me, I, uh, wasn't sure you had a driver's license. You do, don't you?"

"Oh sure. Clark taught me how to drive a few months ago."

"Fine. Good boy, that Clark," Grayson answered. "Kinda late getting your license, wasn't it? Most kids want to as soon as they turn sixteen. So, how do you like driving?"

"Oh, it's fine. I like flying better."

Not aware of what she really meant, he answered, "Yes, I like to fly. Well, thanks again for getting my lunch for me."

"You're welcome," she answered as she went back to her desk, thinking that Clark should know about her discovery as soon as possible.

Chapter 16

Pulling a sheet of paper out of his Remington so fast the carriage made a saw-like sound, Rusty proudly stated, "Done! How about some lunch?"

"Oh, lunch," Kent replied, "Rusty, I promised Lisa I would meet her at Tony's. She wanted to talk to me about something. You don't mind if I skip today, do you?"

"Nah, you guys go on. I'll run some errands and see you back here in an hour or so."

The couple sat in Tony's Diner sipping their water. Looking up above their booth, Lisa saw a rifle mounted on the wall. It was unusual looking because the barrel of the rifle was bent backwards. "The Superboy rifle, huh?"

Kent grinned and answered, "Yeah." The owner himself came to take their order. "Afternoon, Clark. This your girlfriend?"

"Tony, I'd like you to meet Lisa Landon. We went to Smallville College together. She works for Dan Grayson."

"Well, I'ma very happy to meet you. Now, what can Tony get you today?"

"BLT and a Coke for me, Tony. Lisa?"

"Tuna salad on toast and milk please."

"Coming right up." As he started to walk away, Clark stopped him, "Hey Tony, Superboy been in lately?"

"You kiddin'? Why, Superboy eats here almost every day."

Lisa played along, "Is that right Tony? He must like the food here."

"Oh, yeah, he loves it. Ya see, Superboy and me, well, we'rea close friends. He bent that rifle there."

"That's what Clark was telling me."

"One day a mean man came in here and tried to hold me up. But because we best friends, Superboy, he was here in a flash. He took the rifle away from the guy and bent it so it no shoot. Then Superboy and me, we took the man to jail. Right Clark?"

"That's what I heard Tony," winking at Lisa.

The restaurant owner answered, "No, don't takea my word for it. Justa ask Superboy when ya see him."

"Oh, I believe you Tony. And besides, you're closer to Superboy than I am. When you see him, Tony, say hello for me."

"I sure will Clark."

Lisa asked, "Hey Tony, what about Supergirl? Do you know her, too?"

"Supergirl, oh sure, we good friends, too. But I not know her as much as I know Superboy, but she's very nice. Luncha coming right up."

As soon as Tony was clear, Clark and Lisa began discussing what had transpired during the morning. Clark was in denial, believing it wasn't possible that his family's long-time friend Dan Grayson could have anything to do with the recent robberies and the murdering of three innocent people.

"I don't want to believe it either, but I saw what I saw," she said. "Clark, what should we do?"

"The one thing we shouldn't do is jump to conclusions based on circumstantial evidence and something he said he forgot."

"People have been convicted on circumstantial evidence before," she pointed out.

"Yes, I know. But this is Dan Grayson. I've known him all my life. I know I'm biased, but I don't want to do anything until we know more. Dan can't be involved in all this. I'd stake my secret identity on it."

"So you don't think we should tell Henderson?"

"Not yet, Lisa. I don't want to disgrace Dan in this town with so little to go on and have it not pay off. If more turns up, we'll do what needs to be done. But, I'd like to wait. Will you go along with me on this, please?"

"Of course. And I'll keep my eyes and ears open at work," she answered.

As the young crime fighters munched on their sandwiches, Lucinda Hobbs, Smallville's busiest of busy bodies and clerk at Gower's Drug Store, stopped rearranging the cigar shelf  to wait on an early afternoon customer.

"Oh, good afternoon Louisa," the snoop greeted her old friend. "Haven't seen you in here lately."

"No," Louisa replied. "Haven't really needed anything. But I can use a few things today."

"What can I get for you dearie?"

"I need a jar of Vaseline, a jar of Noxzema and a bottle of my hair coloring. You won't tell anyone about the hair coloring, will you Lucinda?"

"Why, heavens no, dearie, my lips are sealed. They'll never hear it from me. That all?"

"Oh, almost forgot. I need a refill on my arthritis medicine."

"Let me tell Mr. Gower about the refill, and I'll be right back to get...let's see, Vaseline, Noxzema and, uh, you-know-what."

Hobbs made a quick walk around the counter. Coming to a translucent glass window, she bent her head over so she could speak through the small hole at the bottom. "Mr. Gower, refill on Louisa Murphy's arthritis prescription."


"Yes, dear."

"While I'm here, I might as well get Brody's two prescriptions filled. The one for his allergies and the one for his anxiety."

Lucinda Hobbs relayed the message to the town's only druggist.

"It'll be a few minutes, honey. There's a couple prescriptions ahead of you. Read a magazine. The new LOOK came in yesterday. I won't charge you to read it."

The bell on the drug store door rang as Rusty made his entrance. "Oh hey Mrs. Murphy, Miss Hobbs." Lucinda never married, and it wasn't difficult to figure out why.

"Russell," Louisa Murphy answered. "How's your Mother?"

"She's fine, Mrs. Murphy, I hope you are."

"As well as can be expected, I guess," came the response.

"Can I help you with anything Rusty?" Lucinda asked.

"Not just yet. I'll just look around."

A couple minutes later, Mr. Gower, no more than five and a half feet tall, with thinning grey hair and a small matching moustache, stepped from his cubby hole where he did most of his work and placed two bottles on the counter next to where Lucinda was standing. "Mrs. Murphy, here is your arthritis refill and Brody's allergy refill. I don't have a prescription on file for any anxiety medicine for him."

"Well, Mr. Gower, you must have one. He went to the doctor and the doctor gave him medicine for anxiety. He's been all nervous and excited for the last couple of weeks. One minute he's fine, then the next he's short-tempered and unpleasant. One time he almost...well," she stopped short. "So I sent him to the doctor."

"Well, I'm sorry, but I have no such prescription for him. Perhaps you could check with his doctor."

"I guess he had it filled somewhere else," she fretted.

"Well, this is the only drug store in Smallville. But perhaps he filled it in Metropolis or Midvale. Are you sure you didn't misunderstand him?

"I couldn't have. He told me he had a prescription for anxiety, and my baby wouldn't lie to me. This is so confusing."

Mr. Gower touched his employee's arm, "Lucinda, perhaps Rusty can use some help over there." She reluctantly walked away, afraid she might miss out on some juicy gossip.

Moving Mrs. Murphy back towards his work station, he asked her in what way she was confused. She told him of what she had found under her son's mattress, not really understanding why their doctor gave him a prescription so complex instead of just a pill. Knowing immediately what she had described, Gower tried to console his customer and friend. He handed her purchases to her, "A charge?" "Yes, please," she responded. "I'll look into it for you and let you know what I find out, how's that?"

"Thank you, Mr. Gower."

"Not at all," the kind man answered.

Rusty, not able to decide on anything, left the store with Mrs. Murphy. "Mind if I walk with you as far as the Sentinel?"

"That would be nice, Russell," she stated as Rusty grimaced, hearing the name he never used.

Gower stood motionlessly, digesting what he had been told by this poor woman.

As she passed by him, headed back to the cigar shelf, Lucinda Hobbs whispered, "Did you know she dyes her hair?"

Chapter 17

Poor Gower was distracted most of the afternoon, having trouble focusing on the work he had to get done. Prescriptions had to be filled for his customers who routinely stopped in on their way home from work. From the description Mrs. Murphy had given him about her son's little black pouch, he was convinced Brody was using illegal narcotics, most likely heroin. But what should he do? Should he call the police and report his suspicions? He had no proof, just hearsay conversation. After all, he hadn't seen the pouch. And although the chances were slim it wasn't narcotics, if he were wrong, he would cause a lot of grief for this single mother and her only child. And Louisa Murphy's health was fragile. A big shock or scandal could cause serious damage to her well-being.

The day's edition of the Sentinel was soon to hit the street. It was a slow news day in Smallville. With no new information about the town's shocking crime wave, all Rusty and Clark could contribute were the previous day's arrests, and none amounted to anything more than traffic citations and one domestic dispute. The Pridmores had been at it again. Patricia Pridmore had stormed into the magistrate's office the previous afternoon claiming her husband had struck her with a wet bath towel. By the time the magistrate filled out the proper paperwork for her to sign, she changed her mind about pressing charges and left. This wasn't the first time the husband and wife had quarreled. It probably wouldn't be the last. The front page consisted of world and national goings-on.

Lisa still had that can of spray paint on her mind. She kept a close eye on Dan Grayson, hoping her gut feelings were wrong. Brody acted properly for most of the afternoon but began talking to himself again as quitting time approached.

It was a rare afternoon that neither Superboy or Supergirl were needed. Clark and Lisa liked times such as this. It usually signified that all was well in their small town.

Rusty and Clark walked out of the Sentinel at about the same time Lisa and Brody left Grayson's. The work day, at least regular hours, was finished. Brody took off in his truck, Rusty in his Fairlane, leaving Lisa and Clark behind to meet behind the General Store where they made quick wardrobe changes and flew off in tandem for home. Reaching the secret room of the Kent house via their secret tunnel, they postponed their transitions for several minutes. They chose to enjoy each other's company.

It was ten minutes after six when Gower locked the doors of his drug store. He had stayed open a bit longer so any latecomers could pick up prescriptions, but the last came at 5:50. As he got behind the wheel of his car, he decided he would follow through on what he had decided to do. He'd go the couple of streets out of his way on his way home to drive by the Murphy residence. He assumed that being the dinner hour that both Brody and his mother would be home. But if the boy's truck wasn't there, he would stop to talk with Louisa. He approached their home slowly. The truck was not in the driveway, so he parked on the street and went to the front door. "Just a minute," he heard from the inside. It was nearly a minute when Louisa Murphy finally opened the door. "Mr. Gower?" She was holding a wet washcloth to her cheek. "Are you all right, Mrs. Murphy," he asked.

She answered that she had bumped into an open kitchen cabinet door, but she was fine. He wasn't so sure about her answer and could tell she had been crying. He asked if he could come in for a moment and if she would show him the black leather pouch she had described to him earlier. She agreed. "Have a seat, Mr. Gower. I'll get it." She returned rather quickly and informed the druggist that the pouch wasn't where she had found it that morning. He asked if Brody had been home. "He came in after work. I told him to wash up for dinner. He told me he wasn't hungry and was going back out after he changed clothes. And I had worked most of the day fixing a nice supper for him. Fresh corn and green beans, biscuits and baked pork chops. But he said he was going out and when I answered back is when he, I mean I walked into the cabinet door. Mr. Gower, I don't know what's come over him lately. One minute he's my boy Brody, and the next, well, it's like he's a different person. Short-tempered, disrespectful. I don't know what to do with him. The medicine the doctor gave him seemed to be helping, but now you say that there wasn't any medicine. I don't understand."

"Is there anything else you want to tell me, Mrs. Murphy. I'll do anything I can."

"No, but it's nice of you to drop by. Please tell your wife hello for me," she asked as she walked her guest to the door, unable to hide the fact she wanted him to leave. "I certainly will," he replied. "Now, if we can do anything for you, please call on us."

"Thank you." And the door closed.

Making his way down the front walk to his car, Gower convinced himself that her son was definitely using narcotics. The highs and lows of the drugs accounted for his mood swings and personality changes. He was also convinced that Brody was abusing his mother. Both beliefs, however, might be difficult to prove. First he wanted to share this information with his wife and get her opinion, but he had already decided to call police headquarters the next morning and turn it all over to them.

He pulled away from the curb and headed for his home, not seeing the parked pick-up truck at the end of the block behind him.

Chapter 18

Peaceful slumber came to a sudden halt when the loud ringing of the telephone pierced the dark bedroom. A fumbling hand wasn't able to grasp the receiver until the fourth ring.

"Hello," answered the half-asleep voice.

"Mr. Gower?"

"Yes, this is Gower. Who's calling?"

"It's the police department, Mr. Gower. So sorry to disturb you, but there's been a break-in at your drug store, and we're going to need you to come down here."

"I'll be there in fifteen minutes."

The distraught druggist turned on the bedside lamp and replaced the receiver into the cradle of the phone.

"What is it, dear?" his wife asked, having been awakened.

"Someone broke into the store, and the police want me down there. I need to get dressed."

"Do you want me to go with you?"

"No, no, sweetheart, you go on back to sleep. I'll be back as soon as I can."

"What time is it?" she asked.

"It's 9:35." He kissed her forehead, grabbed his clothes and went down the hall to the bathroom to dress.

Further out in the country in a different direction, two signal watches gave alerts to the two who wore them. A female voice spoke first, "This is Supergirl."

"Supergirl, this is Henderson." A yawn interrupted his calling. "There's been trouble at Gower's Drug Store."

"I'll be there shortly." She threw back the covers, opened her bedroom door and started down the hall. Clark was already standing at the top of the stairs. "I heard. You want me to go?" he asked.

"No, I'll take it. Go on back to bed. If I need you, I'll call."


Down the stairs and through the bookcase, Supergirl was en route to town before Clark could climb back into his bed.

As she approached the crime scene, she observed the now all-too-familiar parade of parked patrol cars. She landed just a few feet from an officer. "Inspector Henderson here?" she asked.

"Yes, inside."

"What is it, a burglary?"

"The cop responded, "Burglary and homicide."

"Homicide? Who?" she inquired.

"Store owner, Mr. Gower. You can go on in."

Henderson brought her up to speed. Side door kicked in, safe blown, any money that might have been in the safe was taken, some drugs gone (exactly what drugs unknown), Gower on floor in his prescription area, bad head wound which probably accounted for his death (the coroner would confirm) and a message sprayed in red on the wall near Gower's lifeless body.

"Don't tell me," she said, "SOON IT WILL END."

"I'm afraid so," Henderson moaned. "I've sent a man to get Lucinda Hobbs. Maybe she can shed some light on the stolen drugs and possible missing money. According to the three cash registers in the store, the day's take was around six hundred dollars, assuming the registers are reset every day. And there's not a dime in the place, not even money to open with in the morning. I also sent a man to be with Mrs. Gower. This is going to devastate her. They'd been married nearly fifty years."

"Who called it in?" Supergirl asked the beleaguered detective.

"Officer Kelley, making his routine patrol around 10:30. Saw the door open, came in, and found things just as they are. Radioed in at 10:32. I got here at 10:55. Called you and Superboy as soon as I arrived. I almost got to bed tonight."

"Excuse me, Inspector," Officer Chandler, still guarding the door, interrupted.

"Yeah Chandler."

"Just took a dispatch from the station. Call just came in. Murphy residence, Fulton Street. Somebody dead."

"I'm on it. Kelley, I have to take another call. You take over here." Turning to the super hero, "Will you stay here and assist Kelley?"

"Of course," she responded.

"Kelley, Supergirl will stay here to help out. The coroner and Lucinda Hobbs should be here shortly. You know what to do when she arrives, right."

"Yes sir," the young patrolman answered his boss.

"And Supergirl, I'd appreciate it if you could get in touch with Superboy. If he's available, we could use him."

"Yes, Inspector, I believe I can locate him."

Henderson started his patrol car and headed to Fulton Street. Not wanting to wake up the entire town, he chose a silent approach. Entering the residence, he first saw Brody sitting on the edge of the couch, hands on chin bawling like a baby. "Your mother?" He nodded. "Where?" came the cop's next question. Young Murphy pointed towards the kitchen. As he approached the room, he was thinking a heart attack, stroke or something of the sort. Louisa Murphy wasn't in the best of health. But it took him no time at all realizing he had walked into another crime scene. She was sprawled on the floor of the kitchen, face up. She had bled from the nose enough to form a small pool beside her head. There was swelling on her face, and bruises had begun to form.

Henderson used the living room phone to call it in to headquarters. Then asked the sergeant to locate Superboy and request he come to the second murder scene. He then sat down next to Brody. "Son, I have to ask you some questions, are you up for it?"

"I guess so," the distraught boy answered.

"Tell me what you know."

"I just came in a bit ago and found her on the floor. I called the police right away. That's all I know."

"Which door did you enter?"

"Back door."

"What time did you come home, and where had you been?"

"It was around 11:15, I guess. I didn't really look at my watch. But I left the bowling alley when they closed at 11:00 and came straight home. So 11:15 sounds about right."

The detective continued as he took notes. "What time did you go out?"

"Around 7:30, I believe, because I got to the alley about 7:45."

"Did you go alone or pick someone up on the way?"

"Well, I went alone, but I was supposed to meet Butch Raffety at 8:00."

"O.K. Brody, you're doing fine," Henderson went on, "And did Raffety show up?"

"Yeah, a few minutes after I got there."

"And Raffety was there the entire evening?"

"Yes, we walked out together."

"What time did you get home from work?"

"5:45 I'd say. I was at the store until 5:30."

"So you and your mother had supper together?"

"Yes, well actually no. She had supper ready when I got home, but I wasn't hungry. I had a headache, so I went to my room and took a nap. I was going to eat something when I woke up, but I slept until around 7:20. There wasn't time by then even though she tried to get me to eat. I told her I had to go and that I'd eat at the snack bar when I got to the alley, which I did."

"What did you have?"

"A hot dog, fries and a Seven-Up. Why is that important?"

"It's routine, son. A police officer gets all the facts he can."

"Well. That's really all I know," he insisted.

"One more question Brody, had you and your mother had any trouble?"

"Trouble! Of course not! think I KILLED her!"

"Son, I didn't say that at all. Like I said, I have to ask these questions. It's my job. Some of the questions aren't pretty."

There was a quiet knock on the door.

Henderson volunteered, "Let me get that." Opening the door, he stepped back, "Superboy, come in. This is Brody Murphy. Brody...Superboy."

"Yes, I know who you are. The guy who is supposed to help people. Why weren't you here to help my mother? She's in there...dead!"

"Brody, I am very sorry about what has happened. But I can't be everywhere at once."

"Too late for apologies. Officer, may I go to my room. I want to lay down."

"Sure, but I need you to stay there. We'll be here for a good while. The men from our crime lab will have to do what they do, and the coroner will be here as soon as he can. It may take most of the night. Oh, Brody, one more question. In your comings and goings since you came home from work, did you see anything, I mean anything out of the ordinary in the neighborhood. Any strangers walking on the sidewalk that sort of thing."

"Uh, let me, I don't think so...except..." his voice trailed off.

"You saw someone..."

Brody cut him off, "No, I didn't see any strangers, but there was a vehicle parked down the street."

"Was this when you came home from work?"

"No sir, when I was leaving for the bowling alley."

Checking his notes, the detective confirmed, "That would be about 7:30?"

"Yes sir. I mean, it wasn't a strange vehicle. I know whose it is, I just wondered what it was doing parked on my street at that time of night. It was starting to get dark, and when I saw it, I thought he would have been home by then.

"Well, whose car was it?"

"It wasn't a car. It's a truck."

"Well, whose truck?"

"Mr. Grayson's."

Chapter 19

Rusty Ellsworth stood on the outside of Gower's Drug Store looking in. Patrolman Kelley, left in charge, refused to let the reporter enter until Inspector Henderson returned.

"You're going to hear about this Kelley," Rusty shouted, "I represent the press, first amendment, all that stuff."

"Then represent the press from the sidewalk!" was his retort.

Supergirl walked over to Ellsworth, trying to comfort him, "Rusty, Kelley's just doing his job. Take it easy on him. You'll get the information you need. Right now, there's a lot going on. Let us work."

"Can't you tell me anything Supergirl?"

"We're trying to piece some things together. But someone killed Mr. Gower and perhaps robbed the drug store."

"Mr. Gower is dead?"

"I'm afraid so. The lab men are about finished up here. The coroner's inside going over things now."

"Do you know what time it happened?"

"Officer Kelley called it in about 10:30. The coroner will have to determine the time of death."

"Where's Henderson?" was the reporter's next question.

"He was here but was called away to something else. I'll talk to you more later. I need to get back. Please, be patient."

"One more thing, Supergirl, did the killer leave his calling card in red? You know what I mean."

"He did."

A very aggitated Lucinda Hobbs had looked over the entire store. She confirmed to Kelley that there was money stolen. Gower cleared the registers every day, so according to the totals, the intruder got $597.00 and some change. She had stayed at work until 5:45, and since the bank closed at 5:00, Gower couldn't have made a bank deposit. But this was not unusual. Often, he waited to balance the ledger the next morning, then went to the bank. In the thirty years he had run the business, he had never been robbed. As for the missing drugs, she had no idea what was taken. Someone would have to check the stock against the inventory sheets to determine what was missing. And that someone wouldn't be her. She wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Just thinking of what had happened to her long-time boss and friend was making her queasy.

Kelley asked another officer to return Lucinda to her home and see she got inside safely. "We'll call you if we need you. Thanks for coming down. You've been a big help."

That comment made Lucinda Hobbs feel like the Queen of England.

Law enforcement in Smallville, including two super heroes, were on the crime scenes until almost dawn. The coroner got both of the victims to the morgue. His surgical work would begin in a few hours. Henderson, in a state of haziness from lack of sleep and food, stopped by his house long enough to shower, shave, change clothes and wolf down a big breakfast (including almost a quart of black coffee). Then drove straight to his office. Clark and Lisa had reported home for a change of clothes and to give Martha the horrific news of her two friends. As they made their flight back into the town to report to their respective jobs, Henderson contacted them, first thanking them for their help during the night and then to request their presence at his office around one o'clock. "I want to take a hard look at all the evidence we have and try to make some sense out of it."

Superboy and Supergirl both told him they would be there.

Upon hearing the events of the night from Rusty, Clark had to show surprise and shock as he knew nothing of what had happened (as Kent anyway). "Why didn't you call me?" he could safely ask now.

"I wasn't trying to shut you out, Clark, but I had it covered. After I got what Kelley and Supergirl told me at the drug store, I went to the Murphy house. Henderson and Superboy were there and gave me what they could about Mrs. Murphy. Hope you're not mad."

"No, I'm not mad."

"But I need you to take one of the homicides, and I'll take the other. You and I are going to own the front page today, buddy. Which one do you want?"

"Ummm, give me Mrs. Murphy," being more familiar with that case since he was actually there.

"If you have trouble reading my notes, just ask and I'll translate," Ellsworth instructed.

The two typewriters clicked almost in harmony as the young men prepared their respective stories. Even typing at human speed, Clark seemed far ahead of his mentor. Rusty seemed jumpy and nervous, having to replace sheet after sheet in the carriage of his machine.

"Anything wrong, Rusty?"

"Having trouble concentrating. Can't seem to focus on what I'm doing. I guess I'm distracted."

"I can go to another office if my typing is bothering you."

"It's not you, Clark. It's...well...oh, I might as well tell you. Crap, Clark! I've been drafted!"

Both Remingtons were now silent. "Drafted!" Kent exclaimed.

"When I got home yesterday afternoon, there was a letter waiting for me on the table. My mom was trying not to cry. She knew what it was."

Kent asked, "What did it say?"

"You mean besides 'Greetings'? Well, it said I am to report for my physical in Metropolis next week. Depending on how that goes, I guess they'll tell me."

"Rusty, I don't know what to say."

"Clark, it isn't that I'm against serving my country. But why now? My career as a reporter's just getting into high gear, and I was hoping if I was drafted, it would be later down the road. I expected to be called eventually, I mean I am 1-A, but geez, not now."

"Have you told anyone else?"

"Nope, no one. I've been thinking if I should tell Mr. Larson, because I guess there's always a chance I could fail my physical, and then I would have bothered him for no reason. What do you think I should do, Clark?"

"Oh, please don't ask me. I really don't know what to tell you."

"Well, I guess I can decide later. Let's get back to work. Deadline in ninety minutes."

Both Dan Grayson and Lisa Landon were surprised, almost shocked, when young Brody Murphy reported for work, considering his mother had been murdered only twelve hours earlier. Both expressed their deepest sympathies. "I might as well come to work. It might help me keep my mind off what happened. Sure don't want to stay at home. It's a crime scene, a damn crime scene. The cops told me that I should actually not go home, not even to sleep, until they completely finish up. So last night, I slept in my truck."

"Son, I wish you would have called me. You could have slept at my place."

"I actually didn't do much sleeping anyway, so it's no big deal."

"Well, for the time being, you can stay at my house."

"Thanks Mr. Grayson. You sure I wouldn't be putting you out?"

"Not at all. You'd be good company. My wife's in Kansas City for a few days visiting her two sisters. I have plenty of room."

"Well, if you really don't mind, I'll take you up on that. Oh, I'm gonna need some time off to make arrangements for my mom's funeral. As soon as the police release her body, that is," he stated, lowering his head.

"Of course, I'll be glad to help you with that too, Brody, if you need me. Your mother was a fine woman. You meant everything to her."

"Thank you. I should get to work. Anything urgent you need me to do, Mr. Grayson?

"Yeah there is. Luke Maynard is coming by for a load of mulch. You can go ahead and stack twenty of the large sacks near the delivery door."

"Yes sir."

Lisa stood outside her office area watching Brody move the large bags to the back door. Even though the two of them hadn't gotten off on the right foot, she did feel badly for him. Nineteen, maybe twenty years old, no parents. She wondered what he would do know that his mother was gone. She hoped their small frame house was paid off, so he could, at least, sell it if he needed money. His pay from the store surely couldn't cover all the bills he would have. Even though it was only mid-morning, the Smallville summer day was heating up quickly, almost to ninety already. Brody was panting and had worked up a good sweat. He hadn't noticed Lisa's watching, so without thinking about the consequences, he peeled off his long-sleeve shirt and tossed it over a chair close by. With her sharp vision, the young girl was taken back at what she saw. Black needle marks near the bend of his left arm. These "tracks" were often a sign of mainlining heroin. Was Brody a junkie, she asked herself? It could explain the sudden mood swings she had witnessed and been a target.

Chapter 20

Superboy was seated in the detective's office. He and Henderson were awaiting Supergirl's arrival. The lawman stood at his window looking for her. "Here she comes," he said, opening the glass panes and stepping back. As soon as she was inside, he quickly returned the windows to their original positions. "Don't want to waste the air conditioning."

"It does feel better than the last time I was here, Inspector," the Boy of Steel chuckled.

"Burns me up how the commissioner won't let us turn on the A/C until the middle of June. Gotta save the taxpayer's money he says, while he sits in his office with a window unit running...since the first of May."

"Shouldn't we get started?" she asks.

"Yes," he responded, taking his seat behind the desk. "What I want us to do is to take a look at each one of the incidents starting with the high school, review the evidence we've acquired at each site and see if we can come up with a common denominator."

"Sounds logical," the two red and blue dressed figures stated.

"First, the high school. A door jimmied open, SOON IT WILL END painted with a brush on a wall in the main hallway. Nothing stolen, no damage to the property. We assumed it was a malicious act of breaking and entering and vandalism, probably by one or more kids with nothing better to do on a hot summer night. No fingerprints to help us. Next up, Dickerson's Trucking Company, also hit at night, office door not jimmied but kicked in, safe blown..."

"What kind of explosive Inspector?" she inquired.

"Residue we found indicates ordinary dynamite. Duct tape on the safe tells us the stick was taped to the front of the safe by the tumblers. Not a complicated process. Most anyone could do it. The same painted message, this time on the back of the building. Again no useable prints. Bank bag containing $1844 taken. Dickerson's insurance covered the damage but not the money. Next the Luthor house. Front doors kicked in like at Dickerson's. Rock Templeton's head crushed by a crowbar.  No useable prints. Nothing apparently damaged or stolen. Same painted message on wall. Picture on floor suggests the intruder was looking for a wall safe."

"That's really speculation, isn't it Inspector?"

"Yes, Superboy, it is. I'm also speculating that the reason nothing in the house was disturbed was because Templeton appeared suddenly and the intruder killed him, then probably panicked and fled the scene. Next is the hotel. No forced entry. Doors were unlocked. Arthur McCredy's head beat in with a heavy paper weight. Ethel McCredy killed upstairs. A man wanting money, she said before dying, hit her in the head with gun. The blow from the gun killed her said the coroner. Cash drawer emptied. Speculating," he looked at Superboy, "a small amount of money was taken. Same message painted on wall, except this time, spray painted. Now to last night. Gower's Drug Store, side door knocked in, safe blown in same manner as Dickerson's, money stolen, right at $600 according to Lucinda Hobbs, same message, again spray painted, on wall near Gower's body, some drugs yet to be determined probably stolen. And, of course, no useable prints unless Lucinda did it. Her prints are everywhere except Gower's prescription-filling area. Of course, I'm not serious about that. Then to the Murphy house. No sign of forced entry, no sign of struggle, no painted message anywhere, just poor Louisa Murphy on the kitchen floor in her own blood and her son in the living room. And that is the physical evidence we have at this point."

"Autopsies completed on Mr. Gower and Mrs. Murphy?" Superboy asked.

"Yes, finished right before lunch. How Horace can stand to eat right after what he did this morning, I'll never know. But here are his findings. Gower died from a severe blow to the head by a firm metal object. Fits the pattern as the other murders. In this case, though, we haven't found the murder weapon. Louisa Murphy died from a severe beating to the face and head. No foreign objects were used. She was beaten to death by someone's fist or fists. She died of a massive concussion and head trauma. Her left cheekbone and jaw were shattered. Kids, someone savagely beat the living daylights out of that poor woman. No fingerprints in the house were found, other than her own and her son Brody's."

"What about Brody's alibi. Did it check out?" asked the Boy of Steel.

"Yep. He told me he left the house at 7:30 and arrived at the bowling alley at 7:45, where he remained until 11:00, then went home, finding his mother's body around 11:15. This was corroborated by his friend Butch Raffety. Raffety told me they were together the entire evening."

"Did the coroner fix the time of death?"

"Supergirl, Horace said Louisa Murphy died anytime between 7:30 and 8:30."

"What about Mr. Gower?"

"Gower was killed between 9:30 and 10:30. BUT, there's a fly in the ointment about Gower," Henderson stated.

"What do you mean," Superboy asked, leaning forward.

"I talked with Mrs. Gower this morning before the doctor sedated her again. This has hit her hard. Doc said she's near a complete breakdown. But here's what doesn't add up...she said that Gower got a call from the police department asking him to come down to the drug store because of a burglary. He got this call at 9:35. Well, no one here called Gower at all. We didn't know about the burglary until Kelley called it in at 10:32."

"That is very interesting," the female crime fighter acknowledged. "So someone, claiming to be a policeman, lured Mr. Gower to the store, robbed and killed him and vanished before 10:30."

"It has to be. The phoney burglary call explains why he was at his store at that hour. I can't make much sense out of all of this. Nothing is consistent all the way from start to finish," the detective moaned.

"Well, let's look at the people we know who could be connected to all of this," Superboy suggested. "In theory, there's the school principal. But I don't see any connection between him and any of the other incidents. Mr. Dickerson, I don't see any reason why he'd damage his own building and steal his own money. If the money was covered by insurance, maybe, but we know it wasn't. I'm sure you checked that."

Henderson replied, "Of course I did, and it wasn't covered."

"There was that man at the hotel, what was it , Van Allen or something?" Supergirl added.

"Frederick Vallen," the cop answered, "No, he's not involved. Just a poor salesman who wanted to go to sleep and found a dead body. Next?"

"Well, not that I suspect him of anything, but Laurence Larson, he bought the same kind of paint used at two of the crime scenes, and had one can disappear from his garage."

"Superboy, you said disappear, not stolen," Henderson asked.

"We can't make any assumptions. We know Larson bought three cans of paint and we found only two. It could have been stolen or Larson could have used it. Now we know he hadn't used it for painting his patio furniture, which is why he bought the paint, this all according to him."

Superboy cautioned, "Inspector, there's someone else who has to be considered. You won't like it and I don't either."

"Say it anyway," the cop demanded.

"Dan Grayson."

"I just can't believe that Dan is involved in any of these horrible things."

"Neither of us want to believe it either. However, we know the red paint came from his store. By his own words, he told you he sold it to Larson, which means he also knew where the paint went. He could have taken that can out of Larson's garage. And last night Brody Murphy told you he saw Grayson's truck parked down the street from the Murphy house. Up until then, I was thinking that we were dealing with two different killers, because Louisa Murphy's death seemed to have no common threads with the others. And I am sorry to tell you there's something else that has come to my attention. And I apologize for not telling you this immediately, but I wasn't wanting to believe Dan Grayson had any involvement, just as you don't."

"Well, what is it?" a puzzled Henderson requested.

Locking eyes with Supergirl briefly, "Lisa Landon, one of Grayson's employees, accidentally found what could be that third can of spray paint in Grayson's truck."

"And you know this how?"

"She told me in confidence. She was confused about what to do. See, she likes Dan as much as we do. I take full responsibility, Inspector. I convinced her not to say anything for the time being and that I would handle the situation. So I place myself in your hands."

"Hands...what...oh knock it off. Ya think I'm going to throw Superboy into the slammer? Come on." He got up from his desk.

"Where?" Superboy asked.

"To Grayson's store. I want to talk with Dan...and Lisa Landon."

Supergirl's eyes again met her counterpart's. "Inspector, I'm not going to be able to accompany the two of you. I have somewhere important I need to be. You can let me know what you find out."

"Oh, sure. I will. You know what? I think we may have just solved this mess."

Chapter 21

Heading out the door of the precinct, Henderson yelled for Officer Kelley to join him. "What's up, Inspector?"

"Take a ride with me Kelley. Superboy, how about you?"

"Sure thing."

Henderson found a parking space a short distance past the front of Grayson's General Store. It took the officer two attempts to get a clean parallel park. "Not a word from either one of you," he warned his two passengers. As the threesome stepped onto the sidewalk, Superboy suggested they enter from the rear, as not to attract unnecessary attention on the street.

Supergirl had already returned, now in the guise of Lisa Landon, and was filing some paperwork as the visitors passed the office on their way to the front of the store. The two super heroes smiled at one another. Grayson and Brody Murphy were on the sales floor assisting several customers. Henderson stopped several feet from the store owner. "Dan, can I see you for a minute?"

"Oh hey Bill, sure, what's on your mind?"

"Dan, we should talk in the back where it's more private."

"Oh, all right." He called for Lisa to relieve him in the front of the store, but Henderson stated he needed to see her, too."

"Brody, can you handle this for a few minutes? I'll be in the back."

"Sure, Mr. Grayson."

The two officers, Grayson and the Boy of Steel stepped into the store's back room.

Henderson started, "Dan, I need to ask you a few questions. You have the right not to answer, but if you do refuse, we'll need to go to my office. I'm here on official police business."

"Well, what's this all about?" the bewildered Grayson asked.

"Dan, your truck was seen last night near the Murphy residence. Ya wanna tell me why?"

"Sure, I dropped by a friend's house near the Murphy's, but I was never at the Murphy's. What, you think I had something to do with Louisa Murphy's death? C'mon, Bill, really..."

"What friend's house?"

"Charlie King's."

The cop was taken a bit by surprise. "Charlie King's? Why were you at Charlie King's?"

"I took some groceries by for Roberta and the kids and to see how they were doing. Charlie's funeral was just the other day, and you know, usually after all the preparations and service are over, that's when it all really hits. I just wanted to see if I could do anything for them."

"What time did you get there, Dan?"

"Around 7:15, I'd say. Not exactly sure. I closed here at 6:00, then did some ordering, grabbed a bite at Tony's, then stopped by Charlie's on my way home."

"Why didn't you eat at home with your wife?"

"She's gone to Kansas City for a few days to visit her sisters. I ate at Tony's because my cooking isn't much to shout about."

Henderson, taking notes, continued, "So, you arrived around 7:15? What time did you leave?"

"I stayed probably a half-hour, so close to 7:45, give or take a few minutes. Roberta and I talked for a few minutes, then I played with her kids for a bit. Then she said she needed to put them in the tub and get them ready for bed, so I left."

"What did you do after that?"

"I went home, Bill."

"Straight home," Henderson quizzed.

"Straight home."

"Can anyone vouch for you?"

"No, I guess not. Like I said, my wife's out of town, so I was alone the rest of the night. Come on Bill, this is crazy."

"Dan, Louisa died between 7:30 and 8:30, and you were near the crime scene during that time."

"O.K. I was near the crime scene during that time but not at the crime scene. What possible reason would I have to kill that poor woman?"

"At this point, Dan, if I could supply you with a motive for killing her, we'd be at the station. But Dan, there's more."


Henderson called for Lisa Landon to join them. "Miss Landon, Superboy has told me what you told him you found."

She looked disappointed at him, "Superboy, you told him."

"I'm sorry, Miss Landon, I had no choice." Of course this banter was purely for the two cops and Grayson's benefit.

"Miss Landon, please, for the record, tell all of us what you have already told Superboy."

"I'm sorry Mr. Grayson. I feel badly for having to do this."

"You don't have to feel that way, Lisa, say what you have to say."

"Well, the other day when I drove your truck and returned to the store, I saw a can of red spray paint wrapped in a towel in your truck."

"What?" Grayson reacted, now obviously shocked. "Bill, I know nothing about that."

"Dan, do I need a warrant to search your truck and store? I can have one in an hour."

Grayson, now not so quick to waive his rights, thought for a minute and perhaps in a display of pride, told the detective that a warrant wasn't necessary. Search away, the store, his truck, even his house. He maintained he had done nothing wrong. Henderson told Kelley and Superboy to check the truck, which was parked in the rear of the building. Bill excused Lisa, who went back into the office.

"Bill, you really don't believe I had anything to do with the stuff that's been going you?"

The very solemn cop replied that as his friend, no. But as a policeman, he had to follow the evidence, albeit circumstantial.

Things took a nosedive for Grayson when Kelley and the Boy of Steel reentered the store's back door. In one hand, Kelley carefully handled the red-stained towel wrapped around the can of spray paint. And in his other hand, he carried a Smallville Bank deposit bag, with Gower Drug Store written on it in dark ink. Inside the bag was a little less than five hundred dollars. Kelley stated that the items were stashed under the front seat of Grayson's truck. A very sad Superboy verified what Kelley said.

"That does it. I'm sorry Dan, but..."

Superboy interrupted the officer, "Inspector, I know things don't look good for Mr. Grayson. But all the evidence pointing to him is circumstantial. Just because Mr. Grayson was on the same street as one of last night's murders doesn't mean he committed it. All of the neighbors on the street were there, too. And someone could have planted these items in his truck."

"Yes, Superboy, I'm aware of that. But Dan is also the only supplier of this paint in town, and even if he sold all of it he had, he knew Larry Larson bought it all because he made the sale to Larson. I'm sorry, Dan..."

"Inspector, Dan Grayson is one of the best friends this town has ever had. You know it, and I know it. I know I'm biased in thinking he's not responsible for any of this mess, but without motive, you know the D.A. is not going to proceed with it. Will you consider this, Inspector? Until you establish a motive for his involvement, hold off arresting Mr. Grayson, so he can continue running his business. I'm sure he will give us his word that he will be available for more questioning at any time and that he will not leave the community. How about it Inspector?"

"Well, Dan, do you agree to those terms?"

"Yes, Bill, I do. I place myself in your hands."

"Very well. Kelley, bring those items. Let's get back to the station."

"Thanks, Superboy. I don't know how to thank you. I hope you believe me when I tell you I had nothing to do with any of this."

"I do believe you, Mr. Grayson, but that's not going to be enough. Somehow, we have to prove you're not involved.

Chapter 22

His feet were perched up on his desk. Reporter Rusty Ellsworth was both in a quandry and aggravated. Clark had relayed what had gone down at Grayson's General Store. Rusty, too, was in the Grayson camp that Dan couldn't be responsible with the recent crime wave. However, the reporter in him felt compelled to write it up for a front page story, even though it would have to be in the next day's edition. The current Sentinel was already being delivered.

"If the radio station gets wind of this, Clark, they'll have it on the air in no time. Then if we don't report it, it will make the paper look bad, and Larson doesn't like the Sentinel looking bad."

"But, Rusty, you know what will happen if you print it. Dan Grayson's reputation will be severely damaged in town, even if he's later proven innocent. You know how people react to things like that."

"Yeah, I know, like when everyone believed you were Superboy. I get it. But Grayson's being the lead suspect is true. If it weren't for Superboy, Grayson would be in a cell at police headquarters right now. We can't overlook the truth just because someone's a friend. Oh, by the way, how did you come into the information about Grayson's involvement anyway? You weren't there."

"Rusty, you know a reporter never reveals his sources."

"Very funny. Did Henderson tell you?"

"Uh, no. All right, it was Superboy," Kent responded sheepishly.

"Well, you two sure are chummy these days."

"Not really, I just ran into him and asked him if there was any progress in the investigation, and he, uh, told me what had just occurred."

"O.K. ya see, he told you because he knows you're working at the Sentinel, and it's good copy. That's why we should print it, Clark. Everything inside me is telling me to write it up."

"I tell you what, Rusty, I'm going to go talk with Mr. Larson about this. You wanna come with me?"

"Not me! I can tell you what he'll say. He'll say a good reporter can make up his own mind. If you go asking him his opinion, he probably tell you you're no good at your job."

"Well, I'm going to risk it," Kent responded as he left his mentor alone, feet still propped on the desk. Oh well, Rusty thought how nice it had been working with his buddy.

Larson's desk was mostly cleared off for the day. The day's paper was in customers' hands, and Larson took pride in another day's good work. He had listened intently as Kent presented him with the facts and his argument that they should "sit" on the Grayson story until there were more developments.

"Clark, the Sentinel is run on integrity. We don't print things that we can't substantiate. We're not a gossip rag. I'm sure that if Superboy gave you this information, then it's accurate. Verify with Henderson if you want, but I feel we should report what has happened. I don't want to see Dan's reputation hurt any more than you, but it is our responsibility to print the news."

"Well sir," Clark said, taking a chance, "How would you feel if we reported that Henderson had questioned you about the paint cans in your garage? If we printed that, your reputation would be damaged the same as Mr. Grayson's."

"How do you know about that!" he screamed. "Superboy tell you that, too!" Kent sat motionless. "Next time I see that guy, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind. He's a, well, a super blabbermouth!"

"Just trying to be a good reporter for you, Mr. Larson."

"Kent, get out of my office!"

"Yes sir," he answered as he rose and made his way to the door.

With one foot out into the hall, Clark was called back. "Sit back down son. Sorry for my outburst. Clark, I want to tell you something. Once in a while, when I'm sitting here behind my desk, I get carried away and think like I'm the editor of the New York Times or the Metropolis Daily Planet and forget that I am actually the editor of the Smallville Sentinel. You just reminded me of that. Things are different running a little town paper. Sometimes, it's important and necessary that we weigh the information we have alongside the effects of what it might do to our citizens. We're all friends here in town, and I wouldn't want to be responsible for hurting anyone unnecessarily. Very well...until we know for sure that Dan is responsible for what's been happening or until he is arrested, we'll keep it out of the paper. This may come back to haunt me, but I want you to know that if Dan turns out to be the guilty party, the Sentinel will go after him with both barrels blasting. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir, it is."

"You have a gift for writing, Kent, I've learned that in the short time you've been here. I mean, your Charlie King story, you are that rare reporter who can write with your heart as well as your typewriter. I'd like you to consider full-time employment with the Sentinel."

"Well, thank you sir, but, as I told you, I'm starting Metropolis University in the fall, so I really can't consider it."

"Clark, one thing I always try to teach young people is to have options. You're in a much better situation if the choice is yours, not someone else's. I would never discourage anyone from furthering their education. But I'm offering you a chance to get hands-on experience in the field of journalism, and down the road, it could be very helpful to you if you chose to resume school. And I'll admit, I have a selfish motive in this. You'd be helping out the Sentinel, I mean, with Ellsworth being drafted and all. If he passes his Army physical, he's going to be leaving soon, and you're in a position to slide right into his spot."

"Mr. Larson, my mind's really made up about school, but I appreciate your kind words."

"I understand, Kent, but it's an open offer if you change your mind."

Chapter 23

"A junkie, are you sure?" Clark asked Lisa.

Martha was at the kitchen sink working on the supper dishes. Lisa had begged off assisting on this night as she needed to talk to Clark. The matriarch didn't mind going solo, as she assumed their conversation was important. Lisa explained to her boyfriend how she had come to the conclusion that Brody Murphy, her co-worker at Grayson's General Store, was using narcotics, perhaps heroin. "You don't get the kind of needle marks I saw on his arm from a tetanus shot. It all makes sense, Clark. The highs and lows of heroin addiction would explain the sudden changes in his temperament. One minute he's fine, then ten minutes later, he's wringing wet, shaking and yelling. The day his mother was killed, he went home mid-morning to take a shower because he had grain all over himself. His mood was very disrespectful, even violent before he left. But when he returned about a half-hour later, he was fine. Maybe he went home for a 'hit'."

"I guess that's possible," Kent responded. "But you said that you had an idea who was behind the robberies and murders. Are you thinking it's Brody? That's a pretty big leap from point A to point B. Why would he do such things? He knew Mr. Gower and the McCredys. He's known them his entire life. Why would he kill them, unless..." his voice trailed.

"Maybe you're now thinking the same way I am," she answered. "Money could be the reason. There's no way Brody could support a heroin habit on the money he makes at the store. To have a steady supply of heroin, he'd have to have a steady supply of money, big money."

"Assuming there was a large sum of cash at Luthor's house makes sense. But what about Dickerson's? How would Brody know that George Dickerson's safe would be loaded on that particular night? And the same goes for Gower's Drug Store. Sometimes Mr. Gower made his bank deposits in the afternoon and sometimes the next morning. You think he robbed the store and killed Mr. Gower just on a chance he'd strike it rich?"

Lisa confessed she didn't have an answer for that. What if his motive was strictly to commit robbery, and the murders just happened because something went wrong. No one was at Dickerson's, so no one was hurt. Brody might have thought Luthor's mansion was vacant, but Rock Templeton surprised him, so he had to kill him so he couldn't be identified. But the hotel. A mid-week night's take there wouldn't buy enough smack for two days. Why bother robbing the McCredys?

"Unless, perhaps, he was in withdrawal and wasn't thinking rationally. But what about his mother, she didn't have any money. And why would he kill his own mother, assuming the same person murdered her as well as the others. And the SOON IT WILL END message left at the crime scenes, except at the Murphy house. What's that all about? Lisa, there are too many inconsistencies. Nothing was taken at the high school, no one hurt, yet there was the painted message. But at the Murphy house, there was a murder but no message. It all doesn't come together."

She replied, "I know. But I still have a feeling, Brody's the guy we want. Call it my feminine intuition."

"Unfortunately, Inspector Henderson can't arrest anyone on feminine intuition. Brody may be a junkie and may need money to pay for his drugs, but I don't see how we can prove he's a murderer."

Lisa lowered her head in dejection. "You're right."

"Enough of this for one day," Kent suggested, "Let's get out of here for a while and go somewhere we can clear our heads."

"All right, where do you suggest?"

"Up," he grinned. He swung open the door to the kitchen and asked his mother if she needed any help. They had finished talking. She shooed him off, telling him she was finishing up. When told he and Lisa were going out, Martha asked if they needed the truck keys. They wouldn't, they would provide their own transportation. She told him to have a good time.

"Let's go," he told Lisa, taking her hand. Putting the bookcase back to its proper position, the two young adults embraced. She removed the eyeglasses from the bridge of his nose, and he reciprocated by pulling off the wig she used to cover her silky, blonde hair. Again their lips met, then parted and changed to their airborne attire. Lifting the trap door, the duo was soon exiting the secret tunnel in the woods away from the Kent house and propelling themselves into the clouds.

It was a beautiful Mid-western summer night. Mostly clear, stars visible with a scattered cloud covering over the now-troubled Smallville. As the couple floated in tandem, they drew close enough so they could soar with their arms around one another. At this moment, all was blissful for the two. They exchanged smiles and kisses. The world's super hero couple had developed strong feelings. Slowing down to an almost hover, they faced each other and professed their love.

"You know," he stated, "We're going to have to make a decision pretty soon as to how our relationship is going to go. When a man and woman are in love, well, we're going to want more."

"Like now," she whispered.

"Yeah, like now," was his answer.

Chapter 24

Cat·a·lyst [kat-l-ist]


1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.

2. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change.

3. a person whose talk, enthusiasm or energy causes others to be more enthusiastic or energetic.

4. Lisa Landon

One advantage of living in a little town like Smallville is that most of the stores one needs to visit on a regular basis are bunched together. Most folks, when venturing into town, usually find a parking space and make all of their shopping stops without having to move their cars. When their arms are full, they simply deposit their goods into the car and head on off to more stores. The Smallville business district is comprised of four blocks, all on Main Street. There is a town square, but the intersecting street is, for the most part, residential.

Not having their own automobiles, Clark Kent and Lisa Landon didn't have to worry about getting a good parking place. They used another form of transportation. Getting to and from town from the Kent home everyday was a breeze, literally. On this sunny, summer morning, the duo touched down behind Grayson's General Store. The area was clear of anyone, this time. Using the alley leading to Main Street, they parted as Clark headed up the sidewalk towards the Smallville Sentinel. Lisa had her hand on the front door of Grayson's when she remembered that her clothes were probably ready for pickup right across the street at the hamlet's only dry cleaners. So she crossed, entered and paid for her group of skirts and blouses, and started back across the way to report for work. Ten feet into the street, she bobbled then dropped her purse. The usual contents of a young woman's handbag spread across the asphalt. Her boss, Dan Grayson, was placing some displays on the sidewalk in front of his business when he spotted his employee bent down retrieving her scattered items. The driver of a car heading Lisa's way didn't see what Grayson had. All Dan was able to do was yell, "LISA, LOOK OUT!" Just as the front bumper was about to make contact, a blue streak moved her to safety. The car came to a sudden halt, making the rear tires purr.

"Young lady, that was a close one," said the Boy of Steel, making contact with his partner's eyes." He approached the driver of the car. "Morning Mrs. Parker, are you O.K.?"

"Yes, I think so. A little rattled. I'm so sorry, I didn't see anyone in the street. I was going to Elsie's to get my hair done."

"Well, fortunately no one was hurt. But please be more aware when you're behind the wheel of a car."

"Yes, I will Superboy. Tell the young lady I'm sorry. But she shouldn't have been jaywalking." The car resumed its journey.

As he approached the sidewalk, he scolded, "She's right, Miss Landon. You should always use the crosswalk at the corner where there's a traffic light."

"But the cleaners is just, you're right Superboy. I shouldn't have jaywalked. I won't do it again, I promise."

He handed her a broken comb and smashed tube of lipstick. "I'm afraid Mrs. Parker ran over these, but certainly better than running over you. There's been enough bad things happening in Smallville already."

"Well, thank you, Superboy, for helping me," she acknowledged.

"You're welcome, Miss Landon, glad I was nearby. So long, Mr. Grayson."

"Bye Superboy."

Just as he sprung into the air, he gave Lisa a wink.

"I'd better get you inside Lisa, in case Gladys decides to drive back by."

At almost eleven o'clock, Kent was banging his Sentinel typewriter when his signal watch shook his wrist. Alone in the office he had been sharing with Rusty Ellsworth, he answered freely, "This is Superboy."

"Hey, it's me. You alone?"

"Yes, Larson sent Rusty to cover the Methodist Church Ladies League luncheon. Our friend isn't happy. Why are you calling? Do you need Superboy's help again, Miss Landon?" he answered sarcastically.

"Ha, ha,"she replied. "Oh, by the way, thanks for the lecture you gave me on the sidewalk about jaywalking."

"That was purely for Dan's benefit. Having seen you nearly run down by a woman going to get her hair fixed might change his mind if he should ever have suspicions that you're Supergirl. You got the same lecture I would give anyone."

"Yes, boss, anyway, the reason I called is to ask you to stay close if you can the rest of the day in case I need you."

"You expecting trouble?" he inquired.

"Well, I hope not. But I'm hoping for a confession."

Kent asked, "A confession?"

"Yeah, from Brody. If the timing is right, I might give him a little nudge and see what happens."

"Brody? Listen Lisa, this whole thing could blow up in your face. Like we discussed last night, we don't have..."

"Thank you," she interrupted, "Bye."

"Lisa, wait." Realizing she had signed off, he could only shake his head.

Chapter 25

"Be the first to congratulate me Clark. I just turned in my exciting story about the Methodist Ladies League luncheon. If I don't get the Pulitzer for it, I'll jump off a bridge."

"That exciting, huh?" Kent replied.

"Oh yeah. The highlight was Lucinda Hobbs complaining there were too many pecans in the pecan pie. No, strike that, even more thrilling was the twenty minute acceptance speech Gladys Parker made when it was announced she would be the new president come September. If the Army takes me, I doubt boot camp could be any worse than sitting through all of that. Anything reportable this morning?"

"Well, it seems Gladys has been busy today. She nearly ran down Lisa Landon with her car on Main Street this morning," Clark responded. "Superboy prevented any injuries, so I decided not to write it up. It would just be embarrassing for both of them. So I worked on an article about what it's like to leave your hometown and go away to school. A human interest thing."

"Those are still your plans?"

"Sure, why not?"

"I thought you might be tempted to stay since Larson offered you a full-time job. Get some hands-on experience, save some money, you can always finish college later," Rusty hinted. "And if I do leave, you could slide right in and take over. You'd be great at it Clark."

"Well, it's one of the main things on my mind right now. I'm thinking it over." The other item on his mind was what Lisa was up to down the street at Grayson's General Store.

While Dan worked the front of the store, Lisa figured now was the time. She stepped out of the office to the back where Brody Murphy was stacking inventory. It took a few minutes before the lad noticed her staring at him.

"Something I can help you with Lisa," he asked.

"No. I'm fine."

He continued his task for several more minutes before he noticed she hadn't budged. Stopping again, he repeated his question. Again she said she was fine.

"Then why are you standing there staring at me?"

"Brody, I wanted tell you that I haven't been completely honest with you."

"Oh," he responded, "About what?"

"The real reason why I didn't want to go out with you."

"This again? Lisa, you made it very clear it was because of your relationship with Pete Ross."

"Well, that's what I mean Brody. Pete really had nothing to do with it."

"It seems like you're just dying to tell me something Lisa, so just say it and leave me alone. I'm busy!"

"O.K. I would never go out with a guy who 'uses'."

"Uses? What do you mean by that?"

"You know what I mean! Drugs! Narcotics! Heroin! Is that plain enough for you?"

"Ah, you're crazy? Now LEAVE ME ALONE!"

"I know you're a junkie Brody. I've seen the track marks on your arm."

The accused froze for a bit, then continued working. "You really need to leave me alone. You could get into a lot of trouble making false accusations like that."

"Then prove I'm wrong. Take off your shirt and show me your arms. If I'm wrong, I'll apologize."

Now, very upset, Brody stormed out the back door of the store. Lisa assumed her plan had been unsuccessful, so she summoned Kent via her signal watch.

Feeling the page, Clark excused himself from Rusty, "Little boy's room. Be back in a minute." Reaching the men's room, he answered.

Lisa confessed, "Well, I tried to rile him up but he left. I thought I could..." her voice trailed, "Wait, he's coming back."

Murphy reentered, pacing back and forth. He explained he went outside to calm himself down. Then he repeated what he had told Lisa about how she could get into trouble if she didn't shut up. Using his super-hearing, Kent monitored what was going on.

"Listen, Lisa. Even if I am using "h" and I'm not saying I am. It's my problem, no one else's. But I'm telling you, you're wrong."

"Then show me your left arm."

"You just won't quit, will you?" he answered, becoming short-tempered.

"Brody, I was thinking about it, and well, if a person had a heroin habit, that could run into a good amount of money, much more than you make working here at the store. You'd have to find money somewhere else. Like stealing. Maybe even Dickerson's Trucking Company. Somebody robbed them and got nearly two thousand dollars. That would keep you going for how long Brody, a couple of weeks?


"So where else in town could you find a large amount of cash, short of robbing the bank? Why, Lex Luthor's place, of course. Even though he's out of town, there's probably a fortune locked up in a safe, if you could find it. But when you broke in, you didn't know the Templeton guy was there. He saw you, and you killed him. Maybe you didn't mean to kill him, but you did."


"But why kill the McCredy's, Brody? They didn't have any money. Just two nice people. But you killed them, anyway!"


She pressed, "And Mr. Gower. Why him? You could have just robbed him."

"That wasn't me. Mr. Grayson robbed and killed Gower. The cops found the money in his truck."

"Oh, Brody, don't you realize that the police know you planted that money bag in Mr. Grayson's truck? And what's with the red paint. Why leave the same message at all your crime scenes?"


"Understand what Brody," she answered, "Tell me. Maybe I'll understand."

"It's all his fault," Brody explained, "He made me do it."

Back at the Sentinel, Kent had heard enough. It was time for Superboy to get down there.

"Whose fault, Brody?"

"HIS!," the enraged kid yelled.

"Who?" she inquired.

"I DON'T KNOW HIS NAME!" he yelled.

Grayson, hearing the commotion, stepped through the door into the store room. "What's going on back here?"

Seeing his boss, Murphy panicked and pulled a pistol from the back of his jeans. Without warning, he fired a shot at Grayson, hitting the door frame. Grayson quickly backed out, grabbed the arms of his two female customers and got them outside just as Superboy's feet hit the sidewalk.

"Brody's got a gun. He shot at me. He's got Lisa Landon in there with him!"

The Boy of Steel instructed Grayson to go next door and alert Inspector Henderson.

Superboy slowly entered the general store. Brody saw him immediately and grabbed Lisa. Holding his arm across her throat and pointing the gun at her head, he shouted, "One more step Superboy and I'll kill her. I WILL! Now back off!" He walked his captive to the door, closed and bolted it. Then the same to the back door. "Anyone comes in, she's dead! I mean it!"

Superboy, of course, knew Lisa was in no danger, but had to play along to protect her identity. Two squad cars, Henderson's and Kelley's, sirens blasting, double-parked right outside. A crowd gathered on the sidewalk. Jumping out, the detective instructed Officer Kelley to cover the store's back door. Entering the store, he asked Superboy the status.

"Brody Murphy's locked himself in the back room. He has a gun and Lisa Landon as a hostage."

"Brody Murphy? What the..."

"Brody's your killer, Inspector."


"Instruct your men to stand down or he'll kill her!"

Another set of footsteps sounded as Rusty Ellsworth ran inside. "What's going on?"

"Get out of here Rusty, now!" the Boy of Steel commanded.

"But, I..."

"NOW! Mr. Grayson can fill you in."

"What can we do, Superboy?" the cop asked.

"Nothing at the moment. I'm watching them with my x-ray vision. He still has the gun at her head. If we try to go in, he'll shoot her."

The hostage asked her captor, "You said someone made you do it. You mean kill those people?"

"I didn't want to, but he made me, the same guy who got me hooked on the stuff. Then I had no choice. I had to do what he said. If I did what he told me, then soon it would end, he said."

"But why kill your own mother!"

"I DIDN'T KILL MY MOTHER! He did! I loved my mother! She meant more to me than anything. When he told me what he had done, I wanted to kill him, too!"

"Who is this HE, Brody?"

"I told you I don't know his name! Somebody help me! I'm burning up! He's going to kill me! Help me!"

"Inspector, you have yourself a witness to his confessions if we can get her out of there alive," Superboy stated.

Lisa's plan had worked. Both she and Superboy had heard, first-hand, Brody confess to all of the crimes, except the murder of his mother Louisa Murphy. Now to diffuse the explosion she had started. "It's all right, Brody, just calm down, I'll help you. But I can only help you if you give me the gun. Do you understand? Brody? Will you give me the gun?"

"I can't. He's out there. If I go out there, he'll kill me."

"Who do you mean? Inspector Henderson? Superboy? They won't hurt you Brody. That want to help you."

"No, not them, HIM! He's out there somewhere."

Reasoning had failed, so the only thing Lisa could think to do was to try to get herself to cover, permitting Superboy to enter and diffuse the situation. When she felt her captor take a deep breath, she tried spinning away from his clutching arm. All she accomplished was Murphy's grabbing the collar of her blouse, ripping it as she twisted.

On the other side of the door, the Boy of Steel gasped at what happened. "Oh no!" he thought to himself.

"What the Hell?" Brody shouted, looking directly at his hostage, her blouse torn down the front, exposing a bright "S" insignia.

"You're Supergirl?"

"Brody, let me explain..." she attempted to calm him. "Now you know the gun can't hurt me, so let me have it so no one else gets hurt. I want to help you."

"She said it won't hurt her, so it's pointless! Now go and leave me alone! That's all I can do!"

Confused, she asked, "What do you mean, Brody?"

"STOP! DON'T MAKE ME!" he yelled, discharging three shots directly at her.

"I'M GOING IN!" Henderson exclaimed.

"No, Inspector, not just yet," Superboy stopped him.

"But he shot her!"

"I'll go, but in a minute. Please, Inspector, let me handle this!"

The hostage from the planet Septron crossed to the now-crying killer. Using the palm of her hand, she thumped him in the forehead just enough to render him unconscious. "Now, what to do about my clothes?"

"Superboy, I'm going in there right now. Please stand aside."

Seeing that all was clear, he easily kicked in the door. Lisa was sitting at her office desk, both hands on her face, as if she had actually been in danger.

"Miss Landon, you're O.K.?" the detective asked.

"Yes, I guess so, just shaken up."

"We heard three shots."

"He has the worst aim I've ever seen," she answered. "I thought I was a goner," she stated as she slide her right hand down to her skirt pocket which held the three flattened shells she had quickly picked up from the floor after they struck her dead-on."

"How did you subdue him?"

"Actually," she answered, "After he fired the gun, he panicked, I guess, then turned towards the back door and tripped and hit his head on the floor."

Henderson commanded Kelley and O'Halloran to take Murphy to the station and lock him up.

"This is yours?" Henderson asked, pointing to the ripped blouse on top of the desk.

"Yes, it's mine. During our scuffle, he ripped my blouse."

"That's why I held you back from entering, Inspector. I saw Miss Landon's blouse was torn, and I thought she might want to correct her attire before she had to answer questions. I'm sorry, Miss Landon, that I was privy to seeing that."

Lisa chuckled, "That seems a minor point now after what all went on. Ya know, I need to get my priorities straight. After nearly being shot, my main concern was my torn blouse? Wow, that's crazy? But, believe me, Inspector, I couldn't let you see me the way I was. Fortunately, I had a change of clothes here."

"Oh?" a bewildered cop asked.

"I picked up my dry cleaning this morning."

"Oh, I see."

She smiled, pinching the replacement blouse between two fingers, "I'm sure glad I had this with me."

The dedicated police officer missed the winks between the world's two most powerful persons.

Chapter 26

Two quiet weeks in Smallville had passed since the hostage incident and confession had taken place in Grayson's General Store.

"Superboy, I've been a cop for a long time, but this Brody Murphy situation is probably the strangest thing I have ever had to deal with since I pinned on my badge," Henderson told his invited visitor from behind the desk in his office. "I was hoping Supergirl could join us. She told me she'd be here. Maybe I should signal her."

"Inspector, she probably got delayed doing something. We can go ahead and start. I'll fill her in if she doesn't make it."

Outside the rear of the police department building, the feminine super hero came to earth.

"As you wish, and there's one other thing. We've known each other long enough that I would appreciate it you would call me Bill, like my close friends do."

"I'm honored you consider me a close friend. O.K., Bill."

"After all," the detective continued, "you're not a teenager any more. You're an adult now. One of these days, we'll all be calling you Superman instead of Superboy."

There was a tapping on the closed door. "Oh, there she is, come in Supergirl," he called. The door cracked open slowly. Lisa Landon stuck her head in.

"Good afternoon, Inspector Henderson," Landon greeted.

"Oh, Lisa, come in. I was thinking that you were Supergirl."

The remark startled her, causing her to shoot a concerned look at her counterpart. The Boy of Steel returned a quick reaction, signifying Henderson meant something else.

"What I meant to say was that I was expecting Supergirl. She was supposed to be here."

"I can come back later," Lisa offered.

"No no, it's fine. I just wanted to tell you that I talked with the D.A. this morning, and he wanted me to tell you that he doesn't know yet if you'll be needed to testify when Brody Murphy's case goes to trial."

"Oh, well, I saw the District Attorney this morning, and he already told me."

An irritated Henderson answered, "Then I'm sorry I got you down here for nothing. I apologize for making you leave your job for nothing."

"No, you didn't. I'm on my lunch hour. I was on my way back to work."

"Lack of communication between two departments. You'd think the D.A. could have had someone call me so I wouldn't have bothered you. I'm sorry."

"That's O.K. Inspector Henderson. It's not a problem. Well, I'll leave you two alone."

As she started out the door, Superboy shook her hand and asked her if she was doing all right, considering the ordeal she had experienced and how brave she had been. She told him bravery had nothing to do with anything. It was probably adrenaline that kept her from fainting dead away. "I'm fine Superboy, nice of you to ask." She squeezed his hand so he knew she approved of the little "play acting" he did for the officer.

Closing the door, the Boy of Steel returned to his chair. "When I think of what could have happened in that store room..."

"Yeah, she can say she wasn't brave all she wants, but I know differently."

Just as Henderson was speaking, there was another knock on the door. "Come in." The door opened again, and this time, it was Supergirl. "I apologize to both of you for being late and holding you up."

"That's quite all right. We hadn't really even started. Lisa Landon was just here about what the three of us are going to discuss.

"Lisa Landon?" the Girl of Steel answered, "Yes, we spoke outside."

"Well, let's get started. I know you two are busy."

"Yes, I'll need to get back to the Sentinel," he blurted out, immediately realizing his faux pas.

"The Sentinel? I don't understand," the cop answered, his curiosity peaked.

"Uh, yes, it seems Clark Kent needs my help on a story, and he can't get started unless I'm there."

"Oh, I get it. Anyway, here's what's been going on with our Brody Murphy. We transferred him to Metropolis the day after his arrest. Well, you already know that. He's being treated by both G.P.s and psychiatrists. The G.P.s are dealing with his heroin addiction, and the shrinks are evaluating him mentally. Seems this is one really mixed-up young man. The doctors are theorizing it all started with Brody and his mother. Louisa Brody was such an overbearing parent, they tell me. She didn't want her boy to grow up. She was so afraid he'd move away, like many do, that she laid so much guilt on him, the boy put up a defensive mental shield to protect himself. This shield, they're thinking, was the creation of an entirely different person. Not a real person per say, but real in Brody's mind. Kind of split personality. Reminds me of that movie about that creepy motel and the man and his dead mother he hid in their basement."

"Psycho?" Supergirl questioned.

"Yeah, that's the one. Of course, I'm no doctor, but that's what it sounds like to me. Anyway, according to the psychiatrists, and this is really wild, the "other guy" got Brody hooked on heroin to escape the dominance of his mother. Once he was hooked, he needed money to support his habit. So he turned to robbery. Dickerson's Trucking Company."

"But how did he know Dickerson's safe would be loaded with cash the exact night he robbed it?" Superboy asked.

"Turns out, very simple. Brody was heading to the drug store the afternoon Dickerson came out of the bank carrying the bulging bank bag. They passed on the sidewalk. So he assumed the money would be in George's safe. He used that money to buy drugs in Metropolis. Now, the doctors are going with the theory that this "other personality" was calling the shots, and Brody was the stooge. They believe that when Brody was "high" he was in control of himself, but when he came "down" this "other guy" took over and gave the orders. I'm telling ya, this is very complicated. The shrinks don't have all the answeres. They said it could take months to get to the bottom of everything."

"So the other killings?" she asks.

"Luthor's house was for money. The McCredy's, just for the sake of killing. This "other guy" convinced Brody to kill them just to prove Brody had to take orders from him. Now, Gower is a different story. The day Louisa Murphy was murdered, she discovered that Brody was hooked on heroin, except she didn't know exactly what was going on. But she confided to Mr. Gower what she knew. Something about Brody telling his mother he was taking anxiety medicine, but Gower didn't have a doctor's prescription. Gower was a smart old gentleman. He figured it out. Brody or the "other guy" saw Gower coming out of the Murphy house early that evening. As soon as Gower was gone, he went in, confronted his mother, she told him why Gower was there, and he beat his mother to death. Remember, Brody told me that he left his house at 7:30 and arrived at the bowling alley at 7:45, where he remained until 11:00, then went home, and found his mother's body around 11:15. Well, he may have "found" her body around 11:15, but he killed her before he left to go out, right after Gower left the house."

"O.K., that fits, but what about Mr. Gower? He died between 9:30 and 10:30, according to the coroner. What about Brody's alibi?" Superboy questioned.

"Well, it seems that Brody's alibi, Butch Raffety wasn't completely honest when he said Brody didn't leave the alley until 11:00. Seems Murphy did leave around 9:25 and returned right before the alley closed. Mr. Raffety told the D.A. that he had "forgotten" about that.

"Is the District Attornet going to charge Raffety?"

"I don't know, but he's making the kid sweat it out, not knowing if he is or not."

"Brody then called Gower around 9:35, posing as a policeman telling him the drug store had been robbed. So he lured Gower to the store and killed him to keep him from telling anyone about his heroin habit. Then blew the safe and stole the money," Henderson continued. "On his way to bowl around 7:30, he had seen Dan Grayson's truck parked in front of the Hill residence, and one of Brody's personalities, don't ask me which, decided to sacrifice the most of the money from Gower's by planting it in Dan's truck, along with the spray paint can which he had planted earlier, to throw us off his trail."

"It's all, actually, very clever, Inspector Henderson. Could Brody be faking this psychotic condition?" Supergirl inquired.

"Hey, don't ask me. That's the doctors' jobs."

"So, what is the signifigance of the SOON IT WILL END message?"

"They're thinking it has something to do with as soon as he killed his mother, his troubles would end. But they're not positive. May not ever really know. Like I said, this all could take months."

The Boy of Steel concluded, "So, Bill, do you think Brody will stand trial for his crimes?"

"I don't know that either. That's up to the doctors, the D.A. and a judge. But how sad, all of this. Five innocent citizens dead. Now I know Rock Templeton wasn't the nicest guy around, but he didn't deserve his head being caved in. But Gower, the McCredy's and Louisa Murphy. Gone. My God, what a world!"

"You mustn't lose faith, Bill, there's still plenty of good things going on out there. And it's our jobs to keep that balance on the good side."

"Well, one thing I do know, if you two ever left Smallville, I'd retire. I'm so used to having you both around to help us, well, I wouldn't want to go back to the way it was before I knew you. And, Supergirl, if this young man (patting Superboy on the shoulder) is going to call me Bill, I think you should, too."

"O.K...Bill," she answered. "You'll update us as you learn more?"

"You know I will." Walking them to the door, "Superboy, poor Clark Kent's probably pulling his hair out wondering where you are. And Supergirl, what's on your schedule the rest of the day?"

"Just some of the same I do every afternoon, then home."

"Oh yes, home, and where would that be?" he slyly asked.

"Now, Bill, you know I can't tell you that."

"Well, you both have to live somewhere. I just thought maybe you could let your old cop friend in on some juicy secrets. I'm sure you know that folks assume that each of you disguise yourselves from time to time so you can be in public without attracting attention. Like last year, when everyone was saying that you (looking at Superboy) and Kent were the same person. Of course, we all know that isn't true, but isn't there something you could tell me?"

"Very well, Bill. I'll tell you. You're a good detective. You'll find out eventually." Supergirl volunteered. "Superboy's really Lex Luthor and I'm Lucinda Hobbs."

"Oh, get out of here, both of you, before I arrest you for loitering."


"Are you sure about this, son?"

"Yes Mom," Clark Kent answered, "I've thought it through very carefully. I told Mr. Larson this afternoon that I'm accepting his job offer. I'm going to be a full-time reporter at the Sentinel. I also called Metropolis University and withdrew my application to start there in the Fall."

"Well, I respect your decision, Clark, but can you tell me what made you change your mind? Finishing college is very important. And those had been your plans since high school."

"One thing Mr. Larson told me when he asked me to stay on at the paper was how important it is to have options. Well, he provided me with an option. Working at the Sentinel gives me access to information about things that Superboy needs to know about. Not just locally, but all over the world. I won't have to be limited to just being called by the Smallville Police. This helps Supergirl as well. And if I moved to Metropolis, she and I would be separated to a large degree."

"I guess I can understand that," Martha commented. "But college. Guess I'm hung up on that."

"I can always get my four-year degree, Mom. And I intend to do that. It's just that right now doesn't seem to be the time. And you know how Lisa and I feel about each other. We want to be together as much as possible, not living in two different towns."

"Young love, yes, I remember how it was. Well Clark, I guess I can trust a son who can change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel in his bare hands to handle his own life."

"Thanks, Mom. So I guess this means, if you don't mind, that you'll have a boarder a while longer, but at least now I can pay you some rent."

She took his hands. "As long as you want."

Lisa was sitting on the couch thumbing through the day's edition of the Smallville Sentinel as Clark sat down beside her.

"Nice article in the paper today, Mr. Kent, " she said in a flirty manner.

"Thank you, Miss Landon." They leaned until their lips touched.

"I love you, ya know," he whispered in her ear.

"That's great, because I love you, too."

He stated, "And thanks for giving Mom and me a chance to talk. You didn't do any super-eavesdropping, did you?"

"Now, I wouldn't do that." She kissed him again.

"I have an idea. Let's go out for a while, someplace we can be alone," came his suggestion.

"Like the old deserted Robinson smokehouse where we used to meet?"

"Well, actually, I had someplace more romantic in mind. Say, someplace sunny in the Pacific."

"Sunny, at this time of night?" she chuckled.

"You forgetting your geography? It's still daytime in the middle of the Pacific."

"So it is. O.K., let's go."

The couple, hand in hand, stepped into the kitchen to tell Martha they were going out.

"Business or pleasure?" she asked.

"Mom, this time it's pleasure."

"Have fun kids," came her answer swooshing them away.

Moments later, the two exited their secret tunnel and were headed west by air. As they journeyed, the summer sky went from dark of night back into the light of day.

"That might be a quiet place," Superboy pointed to a small island.

"Looks nice," she responded. Using their x-ray vision, they saw no one in the vicinity, so they landed right where the blue ocean met the shore. Walking in the shallow water, the waves diminished to a trickle as it splashed against the four red boots.

"I told Mom about my decision to stay in Smallville. After I explained everything, she seemed content with it."

"Are you positive that's what you want to do?"

"Yes, I'm sure. It's the best thing to do, for the time being."

"Sweetheart, Iike I told you, Lisa could move to Metropolis, too."

"If we both moved our base to Metropolis, and Clark and Lisa both moved there, it could raise too many eyebrows. Smallville is good. And I'm fine with it, I promise."

"Well then, I'm fine with it, too," came her response.

"I've also been thinking about something else, and this seems like a perfect time to bring it up."

"You have my undivided attention."

The Boy of Steel wrapped his hands around hers. "I could draw this out into a long speech, but we both know how much we love each other."

A spark of anticipation shot through her body.

Looking into her lovely, cool blue eyes, he asked, "Supergirl, will you marry me?"

"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"