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by Mike Cline

Chapter 1

It was nearly 2:00 a.m. when Martha Kent reached the top of the stairs, turned on the lamp sitting on the hall table and gently tapped on her son's closed bedroom door.

"Clark...Clark...wake up."

"What is it Mom?" Clark asked as he opened the door.

"Mrs. Ellsworth is on the telephone. She is very worried. Rusty hasn't come home. Maybe you can calm her down."

"Sure," Clark replied, reaching for the upstairs phone beside the lamp. "Hello...Mrs. Ellsworth?"

The troubled lady apologized for waking up two-thirds of the Kent household. She then told Clark that Rusty had been scheduled to work until around eleven, and she expected him home shortly thereafter. "I'm worried out of my mind. He should have been home long ago. I thought about calling the police but thought you might have an idea where Rusty might be. I was hoping he was there with you."

"No, he isn't here. I haven't seen Rusty since this afternoon. He did say he had to work, however."

"Oh Lord, I guess I should call the police."

Clark stopped her. "That's probably not necessary at this point, Mrs. Ellsworth. I'll bet Rusty stopped at the Burger Barn or somewhere to get something to eat and ran into somebody he knows. They're probably sitting in a booth talking and have lost track of the time. Let me make a few calls and check around, and I'll call you back. Now, please don't worry Mrs. Ellsworth."

"Thank you Clark. I'm sorry to bother you with this, but since Mr. Ellsworth passed away, well, Rusty's all I have and I know I worry too much, but..."

"Yes ma'am. Try not to worry. I'll let you know what I find out. Good-bye."

"She's a nervous wreck, Mom," Clark relates to Martha.

"I know son, I hope he hasn't been hurt or been in an accident."

"I doubt it, Mom. Like I said, probably ran into a friend after work and they're just talking somewhere, but I'll go look for Rusty, but as Superboy. Since it's dark, I'll use my window instead of the tunnel. Now, you go on back to bed, and don't you worry."

"All right, son, but I doubt I'll be able to sleep," Ma Kent replies as she goes back down the stairs.

Within a few seconds, Clark's pajamas hit the floor, and his alter-ego, Superboy leaped through the open bedroom window into the night sky.

Chapter 2

Soaring over the hamlet of Smallville early on a Saturday morning, Superboy saw little activity. Only two eateries and one gas station operated round-the-clock.

No sign of friend Rusty at either the Pizza Palace or the Burger Barn. The gas station looked all but asleep, only the blinking neon Esso sign showing any signs of life.

But as Superboy passed over the Smallville Sentinel, the town's six-day-a-week newspaper, where Rusty worked part-time as assistant to custodian Oscar Hamilton, "There's Rusty's truck, parked in the alley next to the loading dock. Why would he be here this time of night?"

Landing beside the door to the press room, Superboy checked the vehicle and found no one. As he approached the door leading into the building, he saw that it was ajar.

"Either he is working late, or something is not right here," he thought to himself, "he certainly wouldn't leave the door unlocked."

The Boy of Steel entered the Sentinel building. "I'll use my x-ray vision to see if anyone is here." Scanning the area, he spied Rusty, sitting in a chair on the second floor.

Ducking down behind the sleeping printing press, Superboy emerged as Clark Kent. "Clark told Mrs. Ellsworth that he would look for Rusty, so Clark will find Rusty. No need getting Superboy involved. Too much explaining."

He took the stairs to the upper floor and was startled to discover his friend in the Editor's office. And the locked door had been jimmied open.

"Rusty, what are you doing here in the middle of the night?" There was no response. Again, Clark called out. Nothing. Having turned on a light, he saw that Rusty's eyes were glazed over and that the lad was not himself. Placing a call to the police, Clark told the desk sergeant what he had discovered and perhaps the editor, Laurence Larson, should be called. "I'll wait here," Clark informed the police.

Several minutes passed before law enforcement arrived in Larson's office, followed shortly by editor Larson himself.

"What's going on here!" demanded Larson. "Seems a working man can't get a good night's sleep anymore without two hoodlums breaking into his building! Wait a minute...that's Rusty, he works for me! And Clark Kent, I would never had suspected you would do something like this. Why, I've known your folks for years!"

"Now hold on, Mr. Larson," Officer Henderson interrupted. "We don't know exactly what is going on here...yet. Young Kent said he found Rusty here, that the boy's mother had called him and told him that her son had not come home, and that he went looking for him. By the way, Kent, how did you get to town? I didn't see your dad's truck anywhere outside."

"Uh, someone gave me a ride," Clark answered sheepishly.

"Young Ellsworth looks like he's been drinking," the editor blurts.

"Rusty doesn't drink, sir," Kent answered, again coming to the aid of his friend. "But something is wrong with him. He needs to see a doctor."

Officer Henderson instructs his patrolman to take Rusty to the emergency room right away and have him checked out. "Make sure they draw blood. That'll tell us if he's been drinking. Kent, you stay put."

"Yes, sir."

"Mr. Larson, what time did the boy finish work tonight?" the officer inquired.

"I don't know for sure, I wasn't here. But we can check his time card and I'll call Oscar, but they're usually out of here by eleven. I don't like anyone to be here after that."

"Well, the door to this office was definitely pryed open. Does Oscar or the boy have a key to this office?"

Larson answers, "No, just me. The boy has a key only to the back door and the custodian's closet. All the offices they clean are left unlocked at night."

"Well, can you look around your office, Mr. Larson, and see if anything is missing."

The editor checks all of his desk drawers and finds nothing out of the ordinary. But then he notices something. "Wait a minute, someone has been in my filing cabinet. The third drawer isn't closed all the way."

After thumbing through its contents, Larson tells Henderson that everything seems to be in order. "Hold it! There is a file folder missing."

"Do you know which file? It may be what the culprit was after," inquired Henderson.

"Yes...yes I do. How bizarre. It's my file on...Superboy."

"SUPERBOY!" clark blurts out.

"Yes, ever since Superboy first appeared in Smallville a while back, I have kept a folder him."

"What sort of stuff is in your file" Henderson wanted to know.

"Oh, anytime we run a story about him either helping someone of doing things for the town. There's a couple of audio recordings of speeches he has made at the high school, the Red Cross, the fire department, things like that. And clippings from the Metropolis Daily Planet. Superboy makes their headlines as well as ours. Yes sir, that's what the thieves took. They took my Superboy file."

"But the Ellsworth kid didn't have it on him. He probably had an accomplice, you know, handed it off to him. You don't happen to have it, do you Kent?"

"NO! I told you how I ended up here. Ask Mrs. Ellsworth. She'll tell you."

"Well, now that we know what was taken, the question is why would anyone risk breaking in here and going to jail just to take a file on Superboy?" Henderson wondered.

Larson answered, Curiosity perhaps? You know, we see Superboy in Smallville quite often when he's helping others, but other than that, we know very little about him. I mean, where he lives and things of that nature. I've even heard several folks speculate that Superboy might live behind the disguise of someone else, but that's just the grapevine and the Ladies' League gossiping. But it is something to think about."

Feeling it was time to remove himself from this sensitive conversation, Clark asked Henderson if he could go, that he needed to contact Mrs. Ellsworth and meet her at the hospital.

"Sure kid, but I'll probably need to talk with you more about all of this."

"Yes sir, good night," Clark replied as he went into the hall, stopped at an open office to call Rusty's mom, then on to the hospital just two blocks down the street.

Chapter 3

Getting virtually no sleep, Clark was up very early. Fortunately, Kryptonians do not require as much rest as Earthlings.

By eight o'clock, he was sitting next to Rusty's hospital bed as his friend finished his breakfast tray.

"Clark, I really want to thank you for coming to my aid during the night. Officer Henderson told me what happened when he was here a while ago."

"Did he ask you a lot of questions?"

"Not really. The doctor told him he'd have to come back after lunch. I'm still pretty groggy."

Clark asked Rusty what he could remember about the night's events.

"Oscar and I finished work around 10:45. We walked out together. I had forgotten to take anything to eat, so I was starving, so I stopped at the Burger Barn on the way home. I sat at the counter like I usually do when I'm alone. A few minutes later, a man sat down on the very next stool. We exchanged 'hellos' and about that time my BLT came, so I started eating. Then we talked some more."

"About what?" Clark inquired.

"Just general stuff. He asked me if I went to Smallville High, I said yes; if I worked after school, I told him I worked part-time at the Sentinel; what sports I like, I said baseball and football; and if I had a girlfriend, I said unfortunately no, at least not a steady one."

"Anything else?"

"Not really, I just answered what he asked. And that's the last thing I remember...until I woke up in this bed a little bit ago with a doctor and nurse staring down at me."

"Rusty, had you ever seen this man before?"

The lad answered, "Nope, total stranger. Said he was passing through Smallville on his way to Metropolis for a meeting on Monday."

"Does the doc know what happened to you?"

"He said I had some kind of drug in my system...a 'truth serum' of some kind, like what was used on POWs during the war. Clark, this guy had to be the person who gave it to me. The doctor said he probably put it in my milk when I wasn't watching him. All I know is that I was just sitting there eating my sandwich, and my lights went out. Officer Henderson said that I broke into Mr. Larson's office and stole something from his personal filing cabinet. But I didn't! At least I don't remember doing it. He didn't tell me what I stole. Do you know?"

Young Kent replied, "Mr. Larson said that, as far as he knew, the only thing missing was a file folder and some tape recordings of Superboy. And since you didn't have the file when we found you, I'm sure they're thinking your 'accomplice' now had it. He even asked me if I had it."

"Clark, I don't need to steal a file about Superboy. I know Superboy."

"I know, Rusty."

"Well, if someone is gonna break into the Sentinel, why not hit the payroll office? There's probably some cash there. Why would anyone want to steal a Superboy folder and nothing else?"

"Maybe someone thinks there's something in the Superboy file worth more than money. Rusty, I can't tell you how much I wish I knew. Anyway, when do you get to get out of here?"

"The doctor said probably tomorrow. The drug should be out of my system by then." The worried boy added," but will I get to go home or will they take me to jail?"

"I doubt that will happen, Rusty. After the police talk with the doctor further, I'm sure they'll realize you had no idea what happened and aren't responsible. I've got to get to the store. Dad's all alone."

"Thanks again, Clark, and for stopping by."

"See ya, Rusty," Clark answers, leaving the room.

Chapter 4

At 8:45, Clark rushed through the front door of Kent's General Store, the family-owned business. "Sorry I'm late, Dad."

"That's O.K., son, it's been slow so far. I'm just ringing up some things for Mrs. Coates."

"Good morning, Clark," the lady says.

"Morning, Mrs. Coates. Tell Phyllis I said hello. We have some classes together."

"I know. She talks about you a good bit. I'll tell her you said 'hey'."

"That'll be $16.48, Mrs. Coates...out of twenty...and here's your change. We appreciate your business and hope you'll stop back by soon."

"I'm sure I will, Mr. Kent. Goodbye, Clark."

"Bye, Ma'am." And another satisfied customer headed down the street.

Clark then told his father of the events that began some seven hours earlier, from Mrs. Ellsworth's telephone call (which failed to awaken the tired store owner) up through the hospital visit to Rusty.

"Incredible, son. Things like this are very rare in Smallville. I'm glad Rusty's going to be all right. His mother doesn't need this kind of stress, with Mr. Ellsworth being gone less than a year."

"No, neither one of them does."

The bell on the front door gave out a loud ring, signifying someone had entered the store.

A tall, thin man with dark oily hair and pencil-thin moustache walked around an aisle or two until noticing Jonathan and Clark behind the counter.

"Good morning," he said, greeting the store owners.

"Good morning, sir. May I help you find anything?" the elder Kent replied.

"Just looking over your nice little town. Thought I'd come in and browse a bit. You don't see many general stores around these days."

"No, I guess we're part of a dying breed," Jonathan laughed. "If you need any help, just holler." He turned to Clark, "Son, can you get to stocking some shelves with the new merchandise that came in yesterday? We can't sell it from the store room."

Clark grinned, "Sure, Dad."

The potential customer continued his stroll around the store before coming to rest at the counter. "You do sell a little bit of everything here, don't you?"

"Pretty much. No livestock or automobiles but most anything else. I'm Jonathan Kent and that's my son Clark."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Kent. You too, Clark. My name's Canfield...Martin Canfield." Looking outside, "Is Smallville always this quiet?"

Pa Kent answered, "Actually, most of the time it is. Everybody knows everybody. A nice peaceful place to live and raise a family. Now and then, we see a bit of excitement. Too much drinking on a Saturday night or the teenagers spinning their tires and making-out at the drive-in. That's pretty much it."

"Not much crime?" the visitor asked.

"Oh, not really, at least nothing major. Like I said, a peaceful town. But when things do get testy, we have an excellent police department and, of course, Superboy."

"Ah, yes, Superboy. I've seen him on the television news and read about him in magazines. And he seems to make the newspapers a lot. Just you know him?" asked Canfield.

"I've met him a couple of times. Helped me fix a flat tire on my truck a while back. We're lucky to have him," was Jonathan's answer.

"Where'd he come from? Anyone know? And how long has he been around here? I assume he lives here in Smallville since he's seen here so often," Canfield's curiosity continued.

Kent, getting a bit apprehensive about the seemingly endless Superboy questions, answered, "A year or so, I guess. Is that right, Clark?"

"I guess so," the lad replied, as he continued to stock the shelves.

"Folks here don't seem to know much about him. The important thing is that he's usually around when people need him. When did you get into town, Mr. Canfield, and planning to stay with us long?" Jonathan asked, putting the visitor on the receiving end of questions.

"Stopped here yesterday. I had a grueling week on the road, traveling salesman, and was plain wore out. So I checked into the hotel up the street and got about fifteen hours of shut-eye. I have a big sales meeting come Monday morning. I'm just passing through on my way to Metropolis."

That last phrase perked Clark's attention. "That's what Rusty said the man at the counter told him last night," Clark thought to himself. Young Kent made his way to the counter, "Dad, I need to see you in the store room about..."

At that point, the town alarm began blaring. "A fire!" Jonathan shouted.

Simultaneously, Jim Hammond threw open the front door, "Jonathan! Dan Grayson's repair store is on fire, and the water pressure's way down. The whole block might go up if we don't stop it!"

Jonathan, making for the front door, yelled, "Clark, I've got to go! You stay here and take care of things!"

"O.K., Dad. Anything I can get you, Mr. Canfield?"

"No, boy, I'm gonna wander down the street to the fire."

Clark then rushed into the store room, shutting the door behind and immediately made his switch to Superboy. He pushed back a big wooden crate nailed to a trap door to a secret tunnel which lead away from the building into the woods. He had dug the tunnel so he, as Superboy, could enter and leave the store without detection. Only he and his parents knew of its existence. The red and blue-costumed lad dropped into the tunnel, and the trap door closed behind him.

Coming back into the store and now wanting the lad's assistance, Canfield opened the door to the back room, "Son, can I pay you for a pack of cigarettes? Young man...Clark?" Not getting an answer, he entered the back area looking for the missing boy. "Now, where did that kid go? He didn't come out the front door and the back door is still padlocked from the inside. WHERE IS HE? And how did he get out?"

Chapter 5

Down the street, Smallville firemen could only watch as flames began to spread throughout the Grayson repair shop.

"Anyone in there?" shouted fire chief Bill Kennedy.

"No, thank goodness. I was the only one in there when it started," Dan Grayson answered.

"Dan, we're doing the best we can, but with the water pressure down like it is, I don't know how much we can do."

Just then, the assembled crowd gasped as the flames began to disappear. "What the...!"

Superboy stepped out of the store onto the sidewalk. "It's out, Chief Kennedy. Doesn't appear to be much structual damage inside. Just smoke."

"How'd you do it, Superboy?" asked the chief.

"Nothing my super breath couldn't handle."

Grayson shook hands with the superhero, "I owe you everything, Superboy. You saved my neck."

"You're very welcome, Mr. Grayson. Glad I was flying over Smallville and saw the smoke. Now, if you'll excuse me..." and he jumped into the air and disappeared over the trees behind the town.

Jonathan Kent extended a helping hand, "Dan, if you need anything, let me know. Please excuse me. I need to get back to the store. Clark's all alone."

There was no one in the Kent General Store when Jonathan returned. In the store room, Superboy entered through the trap door. Seconds later, Clark emerged from the back.

"You did a great job, son. A little repair work, and no one will ever know there was a fire."

"Thanks, Pa. Did you happen to see anything of Mr. Canfield when you were down at the fire?"

"I didn't, but I was pre-occupied with what was going on," answered senior Kent.

Clark explained to his dad that right before the fire alarm erupted, he needed to tell him something about Canfield. "Like what, son?"

"When Mr. Canfield said he was 'passing through Smallville on his way to Metropolis', that's the same phrase the man told Rusty last night at the Burger Barn. And that he got to Smallville yesterday, just hours before Rusty was drugged. There could be a connection."

"You mean you think Canfield could be the man who drugged Rusty? Could just be a coincidence, Clark."

"Yeah, maybe, but I'm going to go up to the hotel and ask some questions about this Mr. Canfield," Clark told his father as he was leaving the store.

Parked on the shoulder of the highway about twenty miles outside Smallville was a shiny new black Cadillac. The automobile's occupants consisted of a single man. Listening to the radio, he heard the breaking news account of how Superboy had extinguished the downtown fire within minutes.

The man, thinking out loud, "Interesting how just after hearing the fire alarm, the Kent kid went into the back room, but when I followed, he was gone with the back door locked from the inside. Then Superboy appeared very quickly right down the block and put out the fire. I wonder...the Kent kid and Superboy are roughly the same age, same height, same hair color. Hmmm...things are adding up."

The man closed a file folder he was holding, tossed it into an attache next to him on the front seat and snapped the case closed.

Martin Canfield pulled the Caddy back onto the highway and continued onward towards Metropolis.

Clark had a puzzled look on his face when he returned to their store.

"Anything?" his dad inquired.

"When I asked Mr. McCredy at the hotel what room Mr. Canfield was staying, he told me Canfield had checked out a little bit ago. Mr. McCredy said he was supposed to stay until tomorrow, but he was told an important business matter had come up, and he had to leave right away. Wonder what changed his plans?"

"Son, it could be anything. He said he had a business meeting Monday in Metropolis. Maybe something to do with that or maybe a family emergency came up. Don't jump the gun."

Clark conceded, "Yeah, maybe. But this whole thing with Rusty and the mystery man, and now, this Mr. Canfield. And a missing newspaper file about me, I mean, Superboy. It could all be connected, but there's no proof linking it all together. I have an idea. Superboy needs to drop by the hotel. I'll need a roll of scotch tape. Be back in a while, Dad."

A moment later found Superboy approaching the front desk of the Smallville Hotel. The clerk on duty, Arthur McCredy, exclaimed, "Superboy! What a pleasure. Would you like to register?"

The Kryptonian replied, "Actually, no. But I would like to ask a favor. Could you spare a few index cards and might I visit the room in which a Mr. Canfield stayed last night? The room hasn't been cleaned yet, has it?"

"No, not cleaned yet. Mrs. Harper's on her lunch break. Be my guest," he giggles. "And here are the index cards and the key, second door on you right upstairs."

Inside room four, Superboy thought, "The room is probably full of fingerprints from a lot of different guests, but, AH!, my best shot at getting Canfield's prints...that drinking glass on the nightstand." Using the tape, he lifted several prints from the glass exterior, then attached the tape strips to the index cards.

First stopping by the desk to thank Mr. McCredy, he then flew to the Smallville P.D. and asked Officer Henderson, who was grumpy having to work the weekend shift, to check the fingerprints for any kind of match.

"I'll let you know," was the policeman's promise.

Then Superboy returned to the Kent store, where, as Clark Kent, waited on customers the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter 6

On a sunny Monday afternoon, Clark Kent headed for the parking lot of Smallville High School to board the bus that would deliver him home.

"Hey Clark, wait up."

Perky and pretty red-haired Lana Lang ran up beside Clark and grabbed his hand. They were a couple. "I'll drive you home. Who wants to ride that smelly old bus?"

"Hey, thanks, Lana."

The two jumped into the front seat, tossing their school books into the back. Lana turned the key and peeled out of the parking lot in the brand-new 1961 Chevy Impala her dad, a professor at Smallville Junior College, bought her for her sixteenth birthday.

"Take it easy, Leadfoot, we don't have to set a new land speed record," Clark told her as they turned off onto the country road which lead to the Kent residence. "I've already had enough dealings with the police lately."

"Yeah, how's that going, Clark? Rusty wasn't at school today. Is he O.K.?"

"He'll be all right. Just takes a few days getting that "truth drug" out of his system."

Lana inquired, "Do you think the cops are going to arrest him for breaking into Mr. Larson's office?"

"I don't believe so. Once they talked to his doctor, they realized Rusty wasn't responsible for what he did. He gave them a description of the man, and they'll go from there."

As the Chevy approached the Kent home, Clark found himself staring at this pretty girl, thinking how much he really liked her. "If she would only stop trying to prove that I'm Superboy..."

Interrupting his thoughts, Lana slammed on the brakes, skidding a few few on the dirt driveway, bring the Impala to a sudden halt.

"Here we are!" she shouted.

"Maybe I should get out and kiss the ground," young Kent replied.

"Funny, Clark, funny."

Martha Kent was sitting on the living room sofa reading the latest Saturday Evening Post as the teens entered the front door.

"Hi, Mom. Lana drove me home, or maybe I should say, flew me home."

"Hi, Mrs. Kent."

"Hello, kids. How was school today?"

"All right, I guess," Lana answered before Clark could get a word out. "We're going to work on our algebra homewook."

"Well, I just took a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies out of the oven. I'll bring you some."

"Thanks, Mom."

They took their seats at the dining room table and spread out their school work. Clark took particular notice of how closely his girlfriend sat next to him. "Lana, I need a bit more room, please. You're almost on my lap."

"Well, what's wrong with that?" she fired back, "I bet if you saw me sitting on Superboy's lap, you'd be jealous."

"As if that would ever happen..." he laughed.

She teased, "Well, maybe it will and maybe it won't. You don't believe Superboy might be interested in me?"

"Ah, the cookies...thanks again, Mom."

"I hope I won't be a bother if I get back to my magazine," Martha answered as she sat back down on the sofa.

"Not at all."

A half hour later, the cookie plate was empty, and the algebra homework was but half finished.

"More cookies, anyone?" the gracious hostess asked.

"No thanks, Mrs. Kent. But they were great."

A minute or two into the next math problem, the redhead straightened up in her chair, "What was that noise?"

"What noise?" young Kent asked back.

"I heard a beeping noise. You know...beep...beep...beep."

Jokingly (knowing full well to what she referred), Clark replied, "Maybe one of those flying saucers from outer space landed in the front yard. Lana, let's take a break. I can't see anything but equations."

"Funny boy," she answered, not amused.

Clark and his mother's eyes made contact, Martha knowing that Clark needed Lana out of there as the beeping noise was actually a call for Superboy.

"Lana, I know what, come help me in the kitchen. I still have five dozen more cookies I have to make for the Ladies' League bake sale."

"O.K., Mrs. Kent. And Clark, while we're baking cookies, you can cuddle up on the sofa and take yourself an itsy, bitsy nap since you're so tired," she taunted as she went through the door into the kitchen.

With the coast now clear, Clark approached the bookcase behind his father's desk. Pushing a hidden button, the shelves swung open, revealing a small hidden area known only by the members of the Kent household. Clark entered, swinging the bookcase closed behind him.

The beeping noise Lana had heard was emitted from a special short wave radio linked directly to the Smallville Police Department. "This is Superboy, how can I help you?"

"Superboy, we have a situation out off Appletree Lane. Some old coot in a deserted shack open-fired on one of our men patrolling the area. Two tires are flat, and the officer is pinned down behind his squad car. You can probably get there before we can."

"I'm on my way," Clark exclaimed as he began peeling off his sweater and shirt, revealing the "S" insignia on his super costume.

On the other side of the bookcase, Lana has returned to flirt, only to find the room void of her boyfriend. "Geez, where has he gone now? He's always disappearing. You'd think he was a magician," stomping back to the kitchen.

Superboy, ready for action, lifted a trapdoor and dropped into the dark hole, which was actually a tunnel just like the one at the Kent store. Exiting in a wooded area, he was in flight to Appletree Lane.

Chapter 7

The Boy of Steel hovered over the Appletree Lane shack, surveyed the situation, then came to earth right behind the compromised officer.

"Superboy, thank goodness. I was just doing my afternoon patrolling when shots rang out and my tires went flat. Whoever is in there is a crackerjack shot. Anytime I tried to make a move, he's fired at me," a rattled Officer Gannis related.

"Just stay down."

Walking towards the dilapidated structure, Superboy shouted a warning, "You inside, the fun's over. Do this the easy way. Come out with your hands in the air or I'm coming in for you. You won't like how that will turn out."

A pair of rifle shots blasted the silence. Two hot bullets ricocheted off the red and yellow "S" on the crime fighter's chest. "Very well, if that's what you want!"

The Kryptonian crashed through the side wall of the shack, splintering the pine boards into fragments. He grabbed the rifle from the assassin, bent the barrel into a pretzel and planted a right fist on the shooter's glass jaw. He then carried the unconscious man to the patrol car and dumped him into the back seat.

"Well, I'll be," Gannis exclaimed while cuffing his prisoner. "It's Turk Jackson. He has a record longer than a 33 1/3 album. I thought he was still in state prison."

"Well, he'll be back there in a short time but for a long time," chuckled Superboy. "Officer Gannis, two flats and only one spare?"

"No problem. Headquarters has a tow truck and another car on the way, so Mr. Jackson and I will be back at the station in no time. Thanks for your help, Superboy."

"My pleasure. Mr. Jackson will probably sleep for a while," he answered, leaving the ground, then making the quick flight back to the Kent home. Emerging from behind the bookcase, Clark greeted his mother, "I'm back, Mom. I saw from the air that Lana's car was gone. How long did she stay?"

"Uh, not very long at all after you left, or as she put it, your magic act. Be prepared for the cold shoulder at school tomorrow."

"I know. I've been frostbiten from it before. Mom, what am I going to do with Lana? I'm crazy about her, but you know how careful I have to be with her. I'm not sure who she likes more...Clark or Superboy."

Martha sits down at the kitchen table with her son, "Clark, I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you. Lana might be torn with the situation, too. I can tell by watching when you two are together that she cares for you a great deal. It's a testament to you as a person that she cares for both of you. I suspect her feelings for Superboy are more like having a crush on a movie star. But for Clark, a true friend."

"I wish I could tell her my secret, but I know that's not possible. She would be in constant danger from my criminal enemies, just like you and Dad would be. I always have to be on my toes when I'm with her because she often makes cracks about Clark being Superboy. I never know what she's up to."

"What kind of cracks?" Martha asks.

"Oh, a couple of weeks ago, she said something like why don't I take her to a drive-in movie, and when I told her I couldn't that night, she said that she might ask Superboy to take her. Then maybe she could go sometime with both Clark and Superboy, but that might not be possible, if..."

"If what?"

Clark continued, "Well, she stopped right there. That's what worries me. In the past, she's tried a number of times to trip me up in her finding out my secret, so that's why I say I have to be extra careful when she's around. But I want her to be around. See what I mean?"

"Yes, I understand. I know it's difficult for you."

A few hours later, Professor Lang and Lana were finishing their dinner. "Great dinner, honey. My night to cook tomorrow."

"Thanks, Daddy."

"Do you want to watch some TV with me?"

"I'd like to, Daddy, but I have some Algebra to finish. I meant to do it all at the Kent's this afternoon, but Clark disappeared...again."

Lang asked, "Disappeared? Did something happen to him?"

"No, not like that. He was in the living room one minute. I went into the kitchen with his mother for just a moment, and when I went back into the living room, he was gone. So I came home. He can really be rude sometimes. On the way home, I thought of Superboy and what he might be doing at that exact moment."

"Sorry, dear, I don't get the connection. What does one have to do with the other?"

"Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Daddy, have you ever noticed how sometimes Clark disappears one second and Superboy shows up right after that? Or the other way around?"

"Can't say I have, honey."

"Well, I HAVE! And more than once."

Professor Lang laughed, "Lana, if you're implying that Clark Kent and Superboy are the same person, well, I might have to make an appointment for you with one of my collegues. Ha...ha..."

"Well, just thinking out loud, Daddy. I'll finish my algebra, then we can watch some television."

"SEA HUNT's on at 8:00. One of my favorites," the professor answered.

In the Kent living room, Clark got his father up to speed with the day's activities. "Glad you were able to help Officer Gannis. He's a good man...been a customer for at least ten years."

At that point, Clark heard the beeping sound of the secret short wave radio. "Sounds like a job for Superboy, Dad." Clark quickly vanished behind the bookcase.

To Pa Kent's surprise, Clark returned in a matter of minutes.

"False alarm?" Jonathan asked.

"It was Officer Henderson calling about the Canfield fingerprints Superboy took him Saturday. There was a positive match in the F.B.I. records in Washington. The prints belong to a habitual felon who's been either indicted or convicted of just about everything, including murder. They couldn't make the murder charge stick, but he's done time in Attica and Leavenworth for other felonies. Somehow, he was paroled six weeks ago. Turns out his name isn't Martin Canfield after's Marty Mitchell."

Only light streaking through the Metropolis hotel window from the night skyline provided the vision necessary for a telephone number to be dialed.


"Hey, it's me. How was the flight from Germany?"

"Like always. Well, was your trip to Smallville worthwhile?"

"I'd say so. You were right. The hick newspaper did have a substantial file on Superboy. I have it, and I've read it all. Virtually everything anyone in town knows about him is in there. I agree with you about him having another identity. And I have a pretty good idea who it is. I actually met him as the other guy. Now, all we have to do is prove it, and we'll have him in our hip pocket. When do you want to meet?"

"Tomorrow night, ten o'clock. Usual place. Make sure you bring the file."


Lana sat on her bed, not finishing her homework, but instead, in deep thought. "O.K., Clark Kent, you think you can treat me like you did today and get away with it? Well, I'm here to say that you can't. Even if you are Superboy and have to dash off to help someone, you could at least have the common courtesy to tell me the truth. After all, I am your girlfirend. Well, come school tomorrow, I'm going to find out for sure if you are Superboy, once and for all!"

Chapter 8


So read the banner stretched above the main entrance at Smallville High School the following morning when students arrived for class.

Clark, Pete and Rusty stepped off the bus to find Lana and her girlfriends Phyllis and Noel waiting for them.

"Isn't it exciting, Spring Festival and all?" the girls exclaimed.

"Uh, yeah, sure," the males replied, a bit less enthusiastically.

"What's wrong with you guys! There's the big parade through downtown Smallville in the afternoon and then the big dance in the gym Friday night. It's the highlight of the year!"

"Uh, yeah, sure," the males replied, a bit less enthusiastically.

"Oh, come on girls," Lana told Noel and Phyllis. "Let's go inside. Boys, geez,what can I say? They don't know what's really important."

As they were left stranded in the parking lot, Pete asked his buddies if they had dates for the dance. Clark said he was taking Lana, and Rusty told them he's escorting Elaine Carson.

"I don't have a date," Pete stated sadly.

"Why don't you ask Judy Nugent?" Rusty suggested. "She probably doesn't have a date yet."

"Judy Nugent? The quiet girl in homeroom who transferred in this semester? The one with the owl-framed glasses and freckles? Not a chance."

"Why not, Pete. I've talked to her a few times. She seems real nice. And what's wrong with freckles? I read in a movie magazine that Sandra Dee has freckles. That's no big deal," retorted Clark.

"Sandra Dee does not have freckles. I saw A SUMMER PLACE three times at the drive-in, and there were no freckles!"

Rusty answered, "Pete, they put makeup over them. That's what they do in the movies. You really ought to ask Judy. You don't want to go stag. If you have a date, it will be easier for us all to hang out together."

"Well, I'll think about it." And off they went into the school.

As the students sat in homeroom waiting for the first period bell, a voice came over the school intercom, "Good morning, students. This is Principal Winters. No doubt you all saw the big banner outside the school this morning concerning our Spring Festival this Friday. It's going to be a big day here at SHS. Classes will be dismissed Friday at noon, so students can finish work on the floats for the parade. At 4:00, the parade through the town will begin. The queen and her court will each ride in their own convertible, donated by our two local car dealerships. And the grand marshal of this year's parade will be...Superboy!"

A giant roar went up in the classroom.

Lana leaned over to Clark, "Oh my gosh...Superboy! Isn't that fantastic? What a big surprise!"

"Sure, Lana, it's swell."

"Well, you don't sound very excited about it."

"No, it's really great, Lana, really," Kent answered. Naturally the announcement came as no surprise to him as he had accepted the principal's invitation a week earlier.

"And now, for the announcement of the Queen's Court," Principal Winters continued. Based on the student body voting held last week, the Maids of Honor will be...Phyllis Coates, Myra Van Cleave, Noel Neill and Nancy Quinn."

There was another roar from the students.

"And your Spring Festival Queen will be...Lana Lang."

More loud cheering.

"Oh my gosh!" Lana screamed, "I don't believe it."

"Congratulations, Lana," Clark smiled.

"Wait a minute, Clark, you knew about this last week. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Lana, the ballot-counting committee was sworn to secrecy. I couldn't tell you."

"Well, I should have forced or tricked you into telling me, Mr. Kent."

"Don't know about that, Lana, I'm pretty good at keeping a secret," he chuckled.

After finishing the reading of the day's announcements, the bell for first period rang, and the halls became crowded with the wayfarers headed to their respective classes, all of them buzzing about the festival.

Third period every Tuesday found Clark in chemistry lab, alongside his lab partner Pete Ross. As the teams worked at their stations, Pete informed Clark that he had decided to ask Judy Nugent to the dance.

"That great, Pete. But let's pay attention to what we're doing. Messing with acid can be dangerous."

Oscar Quinn, the chemistry professor, instructed the teams to carefully pour their beaker of hydrochloric acid into the flask of a prepared solution.

Pete, ignoring Clark's advice and rambling on about Judy and the dance, let the beaker of acid slip from his hand. The glass container shattered when it hit the lab table, splattering Clark.

"Darn! Clark, are you all right?"

The fast-thinking youngster turned his body, facing the wall. Fearing the worst, as he looked down, he saw that the chemical had instantly dissolved a baseball-sized hole in his striped shirt, exposing a corner portion of a red and yellow "S" and a blue patch of his secret outfit underneath. To prevent the class from discovering his secret identity as Superboy, the lad immediately covered the exposed area with his arms and ran from the room.

"Wash your skin!" Professor Quinn yelled as Clark passed, "Class, I'll be back as soon as I can." Quinn, assuming Kent had run to the nearest washroom, followed, but upon arrival, he found the place empty. "He should have come here. Where did he go?"

Instead, Kent had dashed to the boys' locker room. Fortunately, the gym class was out on the baseball field, so the locker area was vacant. Opening his locker, he quickly grabbed and put on his Smallville Physical Education sweatshirt, covering the visible
costume of his alter-ego.

On his way back to the lab, he encountered Professor Quinn and explained that he was not injured. "Fortunately, the acid didn't get on my skin, just my shirt. I'm fine." Of course, the damaging liquid did get on his hands, but it could do no harm to the Boy of Steel.

Pete was very, very apologetic to Clark. "I'm so sorry. I'm just clumsy and stupid."

"No, Pete, you're NOT. You just weren't paying attention. Anyway, everything's all right. It's just an ordinary piece of clothing."

However, the clothing under that clothing is anything but ordinary.

At lunch, Lana ran over to Clark in the cafeteria, all excited. "Oh Clark, we all heard what happened in chemistry. Are you O.K.?" pecking him on the cheek.

"Yes, I'm fine...really."

"What's with the sweatshirt? You know gym clothes aren't permitted in the cafeteria."

Clark, thought to himself, "Oh, Lana, if you only knew."

"They made an exception since my shirt was ruined. Believe me, I couldn't very well finish the day the way I was," came his answer.

"Oh, O.K. Hey, I'll drive you home today. I need to talk to you about something very important." Before running off, the perky redhead leaned over and gave him another kiss, this time flush on his mouth, drawing a rise from the nearby kids eating their lunch.

The far-from-ordinary day at Smallville High ended as Lana and Clark were on their journey to the Kent home. Per usual, he had to caution the driver, "Take it easy on the gas pedal, Leadfoot."

"Hey, who's driving this car?" Lana snapped.

"That's what worries me," Kent laughed. "Now, what did you want to discuss with me? And what was that big kiss at lunch all about?"

"Just wanted you and everyone there to know that I love you, Clark. And that I don't want anything to happen to you like what happened in chemistry today."

"Well, I love you too, Lana Lang."

"Oh, do you, Clark, really?"


"And speaking of chemisty..." the lass continued.

"Were we?" questioned the lad.

"We were. Our chemistry book says that acid can cause serious burns if it gets on the skin."

"I know that. Fortunately, it didn't."

"Or maybe it really did...and you weren't burned because..." her voice trailed.

"What in the Sam Hill are you going on about?"

"Well, what I'm saying, let me put it in the form of a scientific theory...(a) Acid won't burn Superboy, (b) You weren't burned, thus, (c) maybe you're Superboy."

Clark, irritated, "That's just wonderful. First, you tell me you love me. Then you immediately start talking about Superboy. That makes me feel really great! Look, Madame Curie, let's drop this nonsense. You pretend that I'm Superboy, and I'll pretend that you're Connie Stevens. Fair? That should make for a wonderful relationship."

"All right, I'm sorry," answered the redhead.

"So, have we covered what you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Partly," she went on. "Isn't it wonderful that Superboy is going to be Grand Marshal of our parade?"

Came the reply, "Back to him again...O.K...yes, Lana, it's wonderful. I already said that it was. And I think it's great you are the Spring Festival Queen. And since we're going together, does that make me the king?"

"Gosh, hadn't thought of that. Anyway, you will be escorting the queen. And Superboy will be at the dance, too."

"I know...I know."

"Really. How did you know that? Mr. Winters only announced that Superboy would be in the parade. He didn't announce he would also be at the dance. I only found out about that right before we left school when Mr. Winters stopped me in the hall."

"Gosh, she did it to me again. Gotta think fast," thinking to himself.

"Uh, I overheard a couple of teachers talking about it last week when the committee was counting the ballots. That's how."

"Oh...well, here's some good news...since I am the festival queen, I used my "royal" authority to make some arrangements for the parade.

"Such as," Clark inquired carefully.

"We all know the queen and her court members and the Grand Marshal are going to ride in the parade, right?"

"Uh huh...and?" he plowed on.

"Well, Mr. Kent, lucky you...I signed you up to be Superboy's driver! Won't that be great!"

"NO!" Clark screamed, without thinking.

"And why not?"

"Lana, listen...uh...well...I wanted to see the parade, and how can I see the parade if I'm in the parade?"

"Sorry...too bad...done deal," she chuckled.

"I won't do it!" was the reply.

The Impala's brakes locked, and the car slid to a sudden halt. "Clark, if you won't do this itsy bitsy favor for me, you can walk the rest of the way home. Don't call me, don't talk to me, don't anything me. What's the big deal? It's just driving a car through town. Holy cow!"

"Very well," young Kent slowly answered. "I thought you said you loved me."

"Oh, but I do."

"You have a strange way of showing it, Lana Lang."

The Chevy resumed its journey down the dirt road.

Chapter 9

A few minutes before ten o'clock at a somewhat seedy motel on the outskirts of Metropolis, a new Cadillac pulled up in front of cabin seven. The dark figure of a man carrying an attache exited the car, stepped up to the door and lightly knocked.

"Yes, who is it?" came from inside.

"It's Marty."

The light in the room went out, the door opened halfway, and a voice beckoned, "Come in, Marty. Sit down at the table."

The host turned on the lamp which sat on the table, "This is all the light we'll need. So, your trip to Smallville was a successful one."

Ex-con Marty Mitchell replied, "I believe it was. Here's the Superboy file."

"I'll read it after you leave. So, you believe you can put your finger on this guy?"

Mitchell shared his information, from his arrival in Smallville, how he got the file, the meeting of the Kents in their store, through Clark Kent's disappearance from the store's back room.

"I had planned on staying as long as it took to get a lead on Superboy. Then I read the clippings in the newspaper's file, particularly on local citizen's comments addressing Superboy's personal info. That nobody knows where he lives, how he's seldom seen unless there's a crisis, and especially a number of comments assuming he might disguise himself as somebody else. It didn't make sense to me that he would hide out in a cave or something and show up only when he's needed. I figure he's got to live among the townspeople where he has access to the everyday goings on. So I walked around downtown the other morning looking the place over. I stopped a number of folks telling them I was a tourist hoping to meet Superboy. They all said they knew who he was, but didn't know how to find him. I went into a number of stores telling them the same line but no luck. The Kent kid was the first teenager I saw that morning. My plan was to talk with him, feel him out whether or not Superboy hung around with kids at the high school, but the kid's old man was there, so I started with him. Then this fire alarm went off and everyone scattered. The old man ran down the street, and the kid ran into the back room, leaving me there all alone. I could have backed a truck up to the door and taken half their merchandise, no one was there to stop me. Then I went into the back room to talk with the kid since his dad had left. But the kid was gone too. I couldn't risk being caught back there in case anyone showed back up, so I left. But I did notice the only back door was padlocked from the inside, and both of the windows were locked too. So as I left the store, I wandered down to where the crowd was at this fire, and Superboy was there. I saw him. Then it dawned on me that I might run into the kid I "Mickey Finned" so I high tailed it out of town."

"Marty, you might have been a little lucky with the Kent kid, but you did good work. He sounds like a strong possibility."

"I think so Boss. If the kid is also Superboy, he could have gotten out of that room somehow and been at the fire in a minute or less. I mean, it was just three or four stores from where we were. Then return to his store, change his clothes and nobody would be the wiser. I really want to get back into that storeroom. If I can find out how he got out of there, that might be the clincher."

"You're right, Marty. We need to be sure. But I can't send you back to Smallville. It could easily attract the kind of attention we don't need. Someone you already encountered might recognize you. I'll send someone else to pick up where you left off. And I have just the perfect person in mind."

"O.K. Boss, so what do you want me to do?"

"Marty, you will do nothing. Your work is finished...for good." The ex-con saw only a glimpse of blue steel. A silenced bullet blasted into his forehead. Compulsive lawbreaker Marty Mitchell slumped over in the chair. He had broken the law for the last time.

The other figure calmly got up, took the attache which contained the Superboy history, turned off the table lamp, exited the motel room and faded into the thickness of the night.

Chapter 10

Clark was sitting in his school desk when the final bell of the day sounded. The students filed out, chattering to one another. Clark remained seated.

"Going to stay all night Clark," joked the teacher.

"No ma'am. I just need a couple more minutes to finish a paragraph, then I'm going."

"Well, I have a meeting, so I'm going now. Shut the door when you leave, will you?"

"Yes ma'am. Goodnight."

Now alone in the classroom, Clark, using his super speed, finished all of his homework assignments in twenty seconds, grabbed his books, and headed down the main hall of the building.

As he's closed his locker, Rusty ran up to him, "Good, you're still here."

"What's going on Rusty?"

"Is Lana driving you home?"

Clark replied, "Not today. I have to relieve Pa at the store. He has a town council meeting in about an hour."

"Great. I'll take you to the store, but first, I have to drop by the police department. You can go with me. It won't take but a minute."

"And why do you have to go to the police department? Bald tires on your truck again, Rusty?"

"No, Officer Henderson called me last night and asked me to come in and see if I can identify a photograph of the man who drugged me."

"Well then, let's go!" Clark, thinking to himself, "What a coincidence. I had planned on dropping by the P.D. as Superboy, but this will work just as well."

Ten minutes later, the two young men walked into Officer Henderson's office.

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Henderson?" Rusty asks.

"Yes, Rusty. Oh, how are you Kent?"

"Fine sir," was Clark's reply.

"Rusty, I'm going to spread out on my desk photographs of six different men, and if you see the man who talked to you the other night at the Burger Boy, pick him out."

The boy immediately grabbed the fourth photo. "This is the man!"

"Are you absolutely positive?"

"YES SIR! I'll never forget that face."

Clark offered, "Why that's the man who came in our store Saturday morning and talked with my dad and me. He said his name was Martin Canfield."

Henderson answered, "That might be the name he gave to you and the name he used to register at the hotel, but his real name is Marty Mitchell. Has a record a mile long."

"Marty Mitchell, huh," Clark answered, even though he already knew the man's real name.

Rusty blurted out, "Mr. Henderson, you catch this guy and I'll dance into the courthouse and testify he's the man...after what he did to me!"

"That won't be necessary, Rusty, it will never happen," came the policeman's answer.


"Because he's dead."

"WHAT! Dead?"

"He was found dead this morning, at a motel a few miles this side of Metropolis. Cleaning lady went in to clean the room and found him slumped over in a chair, with a bullet in his head. Funny thing, too. The bed had not been slept in, nothing found in the bathroom, no luggage or anything, just a very dead Marty Mitchell. A car registered to him was parked outside."

"So what do we do now, Mr. Henderson?" Rusty inquired.

"Nothing. It's over as far as we're concerned. The murder occurred in the jurisdiction of Metropolis. It's their case. The man who drugged you is dead, you're O.K. That's the end of it."

"Mr. Henderson, was the file folder taken from Mr. Larson's office in the room?" asked young Kent.

"No, like I said, nothing there but a very dead Marty Mitchell."

"Then it isn't over," Clark added, "Do the Metropolis police have any leads?"

"The MPD's thought, for now anyway, is that Mitchell met someone at the motel and the person who was already there probably killed him. As to why, who knows at this point? Could have been an argument, a card game, even a drug deal gone bad. The room was registered to a Clem Beauchamp, but that's probably as phony a name as Martin Canfield. No one at the motel ever saw Beauchamp, or whoever. Reserved the room by phone and paid by a moneygram before arrival. Left instructions for the door to be left unlocked. They're trying to ID some fingerprints other than Mitchell's and the cleaning lady's. That's all I know. I'll alert them that you identified Mitchell's photograph. Thanks for coming in Rusty. Say hello to your mother."

Clark and Rusty walked out onto the sidewalk towards Rusty's truck. "Hop in, Clark. I'll drop you off at the store."

"I think I'll walk, Rusty, thanks anyway. I need some fresh air since I'll be inside for the rest of the afternoon."

"O.K. Clark, I'll see ya tomorrow," Rusty responded, as he fired up his vehicle and pulled away."

Kent, walking down an alley, removed his glasses, thinking out loud, "I can get to the store quicker as Superboy, and that will give me a few minutes to talk with Pa before he leaves for his meeting." A few seconds behind some stacked crates and the Boy of Steel was in the air toward the secret entrance of the tunnel which lead to the Kent General Store.

Jonathan Kent, ready to leave, impatiently saw his son Clark enter from the store room. "There you are, son, I was about to give up on you. I have to leave a little early for the meeting."

"Can I tell you something first, Pa?"

"Sorry, son, it will have to keep until supper," as the bell on the door rang from being opened.

An hour and a half later meant six o'clock. Clark locked the front door, turned the OPEN sign around to CLOSED, entered the store room, transformed to Superboy, left through the hidden trap door, and headed home for another Martha Kent deluxe dinner.

Chapter 11

"Thank you, Dear Lord, we pray. Amen."

The Kents, seated at the dinner table, began the rotation of servings for the nightly family meal. This night, it was Martha's County Fair award-winning country style steak with mashed potatoes and some green beans she had canned the previous summer. Along with her homemade biscuits, the Kent family was in high clover.

"Now, son, what did you want to tell me at the store this afternoon?" Jonathan got the ball rolling.

The youngster related everything he and Rusty had learned visiting police headquarters.

"MURDERED! Canfield, I mean Mitchell, was murdered. That's incredible!"

"I know, Dad. Shot in the head."

Martha interrupted, "Clark, we're having our dinner."

"I'm sorry, Mom."

"And the Metropolis police have no leads or anything?"

"Not according to Officer Henderson," Clark answered. "This entire situation is very unnerving, and regardless of the kind of man he was, no one deserves being shot in the head. Gosh, sorry again Mom. And a big concern remaining is that the file about me, well Superboy, is out there somewhere. There's no way to know if Mitchell took it with him to the motel, or if he did and the killer now has it. But I have to find it. It's become such an issue in my life over the past few days, and I don't even know what's in it. There could even be material that somehow links Superboy back to you two. I don't know. If I were certain it was just some speeches I made and some Sentinel stories about how I rescued Mr. Barnhardt's cows from drowning, that's no big deal. But Mr. Larson is a smart man and has a lot of connections in the journalistic world. He could have stuff he acquired from people from anywhere."

"Clark," Martha interjected, "Instead of wasting your energy worrying about what might be in the file, I'd concentrate on how to find the file."

"You're right, Mom, but I'm at ground zero there as well. Any ideas, Dad?"

"Well, I'm thinking...Martha, some more potatoes please? Thanks. Clark, all I can think of right now is to stay in touch with Officer Henderson, but as Superboy. If Clark keeps asking, that would look suspicious. Another biscuit please, Martha."

"I just have a gut feeling that Mitchell didn't do all this for himself, he was working for someone else. Otherwise, why would he be killed, unless this Smallville stuff and his being in that motel aren't related. There's just not enough evidence that leads anywhere. Oh, I could just go outside and uproot a tree!"

"Now, stop talking like that and eat your supper," Martha scolded. " I pressed your best suit this afternoon for the dance Friday night. Don't forget to order a corsage for Lana. What color dress is she wearing?"

"Uh, I don't know. I'll ask her tomorrow."

"Well, don't forget."

"Son, have you thought more about how you're going to handle this parade situation Lana has "arranged" for you?" asked Pa Kent.

"Not really. I've had this other stuff on my mind and haven't given it much thought."

"Well, you'll have to think of something. Obviously you can't drive the convertible as Clark and ride in the car as Superboy while going down the main street of town."

"Not funny, Dad. I'm sure this arrangement of Lana's is another one of her schemes to prove that I'm Superboy. Anyone could drive that car. But she had to use her influence as festival queen to set this up. Women!"

Jonathan, pushed back his plate, "Martha, I can't eat another bite. But how do you keep topping yourself with meals like this time after time? Oh, I forgot to ask, how did your bake sale go this morning?"

"Oh, Jonathan, the Ladies League raised nearly two hundred dollars. Ruby Jones is taking the money to the Midvale Orphanage tomorrow morning. She asked me to go with her, but I declined."

"That's wonderful, Martha. I know they can use the money."

"I almost forgot. Dad, is it O.K. if I get off from the store Saturday around three o'clock? Rusty and Pete are going to go camping at Mr. Sartania's pond. His son Chester will be there too. Mr. Sartania gave his permission. I'll be home in time for church."

Pa Kent gave in, "Sure son. That will be fine."

Chapter 12

"It's 7:30 Clark. You're going to be late for school!" Martha all but shouted through her son's closed door.

"I'm up, I'm up," a sleepy voice answered.

"Your breakfast is on the table, son."

Ma Kent was putting the finishing touches on her scrubbed skillet when Clark took his place at the table.

"That's more like it. I knocked on your door at 7:15, and you said you were awake."

"Sorry, Mom, I guess I dozed back off."

She told Clark that she had already taken his father to work as she needed the truck to run errands during the day. "Come straight home from school. I have some things I need you to do for me.

"O.K. Mom."

"The bus will be here any minute, so eat your breakfast." They heard the blowing horn. "Oh my goodness, it's here already."

Clark, using his super speed, devoured his breakfast in seconds, kissed his mother on the cheek, "Bye Mom. See you after school." And out the door he went.

"I wish he would chew his food better," Martha thought to herself. Always a mother.

Mid-afternoon found Mrs. Kent in the living room ironing in front of her favorite soap opera when Clark came through the front door. "Hi son, how was school?"

"Fine. Everyone's all geared up about the festival tomorrow, so there probably wasn't much learning going on today. Even the teachers seemed distracted."

"Did you ask Lana about her dress?"


"A nice white orchid will go perfectly with a blue dress. I need you to go into town and pick up some things for me. I was going to do it all this morning, but I decided at the last minute to ride with Mrs. Jones to Midvale Orphanage, so I didn't get my errands done."

"Sure, Mom. What do you need?"

"Well, run by the florist and get Lana's orchid. Do that last so it won't be in the heat too long. Run by the drug store and pick up your father's prescription, pick up my iron from Mr. Grayson's repair shop. He called a bit ago and said that it was ready. Then bring your father home when he closes the store. Can you remember all that?"

"Prescription, iron, orchid, Dad, I mean, prescription, iron, Dad, orchid. Got it. I'll go now."

"Thank you son."

Heading up the semi-bumpy dirt road towards Smallville, Clark was in deep thought. "I still have to figure out a way to get out of driving the car in the parade tomorrow afternoon. Ooooh, that Lana makes me so mad sometimes, always trying to prove that I'm Superboy. Why can't she just..."

Without any warning, there was a huge explosion from under the hood of the truck. The vehicle came to a stop sideways on the road. Another explosion and the truck became an inferno. From the dense black smoke, the figure of Clark walked into sunlight.

"Great Krypton! What happened!"

Clark then noticed that the blast has taken its toll on his apparel. Standing on the country road, he was dressed 25% Clark and 75% Superboy.

"Thank goodness no one's around. I've got to get home right away and take care of this." Clark completed the change to the Boy of Steel and flew towards the secret tunnel entrance in the woods. Seconds later, after using his x-ray vision, making sure Martha was still alone, he entered the living room through the bookcase.

She was startled to see Superboy enter the room. "What are you doing? You never dress as Superboy in the house!"

"The truck exploded and burned. It's a goner, Mom. Be right back." In an instant, he was up the stairs to his bedroom and back down. "The blast burned my clothes. I've got to get back out there. Somebody's bound to come along, and Clark has to be there. Call Dad and tell him what happened." Superboy exited via the bookcase and was back at the scene in seconds. Coming over the hill was a fire truck and police car. He quickly jumped behind some bushes and covered his red and blue outfit with fresh attire.

He stepped onto the dirt road just as the vehicles came to rest. Officer Henderson was the first to reach him. "What happened, Clark?"

"I was heading towards town when, out of the blue, they was a huge noise and the truck caught on fire."

"How in the world did you get out without being hurt?

Observing the spare tire on the road behind the destroyed vehicle, Clark, thinking quickly, answered, "Well, I wasn't in the truck when it blew up. I hit a bump in the road, and the spare fell out of the back. So I had stopped and was back there picking up the tire when the truck exploded."

"I'd say you are one lucky boy. If you had been inside the cab, I wouldn't be talking to you."

"Officer Henderson, we're finished here. We have the fire out. I'll send for a tow truck," interrupted a fireman.

"O.K. Hank. Any idea what might have happened?"

"Probably a ruptured fuel line. Gasoline hit the hot engine and...kaboom. We'll probably know more after we get it in the shop and go over the wreckage. You're a lucky boy, young man. Glad you're all right."

"Thank you, sir," Kent replied. "Officer Henderson, how did you know to come out here?"

"Fire department got a call from Mrs. Carmichael up the road here. She saw a big cloud of black smoke. That's not normal, you know. Hop in, I'll give you a lift home."

Clark, instead, asked for a ride into town. He still had errands to run.

The early evening found the three Kents in their kitchen, Jonathan at the table smoking his pipe with Martha and Clark washing and drying the supper dishes. Hearing the telephone ring, Jonathan said, "I'll get it," as he headed into the living room. He was back in five minutes.

"Let's sit down. That was Henderson at the police department."

"What is it, Jonathan?" a concerned Martha inquired.

"It turns out that our truck didn't have a leaky fuel line after all. It was a BOMB!"

"BOMB!" Clark and Martha gasped!

"They hope to know more tomorrow, but they've found a portion of the casing and detonator of the bomb. There's no question. It was no accident. Oh, Lord, Martha, if you had run your errands this morning, you would have been in the truck."

"Who would want to blow me up!" Martha said, shaken and angry.

"Henderson assumes it was meant for me. He asked me if I knew of anyone who would want to kill me. I told him no. I really don't. I try to get along with everyone."

"Nonsense," Jonathan," Everyone in Smallville likes and respects you."

"I am on the Town Council. Maybe a disgruntled citizen is angry about an issue the Council has dealt with, but I can't think of anything controversial that has come before us for several years. Oh, Martha, I don't understand this at all."

Clark, rising from his chair, "I'm going to check the entire house with my x-ray vision to make sure there aren't any more surprises. Then I'm going on my evening patrol around town and when I get back, Superboy will be on guard all night."

None of the Kent family got much sleep that night.

Chapter 13

When the citizens of Smallville awoke the following morning, it was to mixed emotions. It was raining, and raining heavily. The farmers were glad to see it as the year's corn crop had recently been planted. But for Smallville High students, it was an unwelcome sight.

"It's not fair!" Lana told her father as they had breakfast. "Today's Spring Festival day...the parade and the dance."

"Sweetheart, just because it's raining now doesn't mean it will rain all day. I bet the sun will be out by lunch time."

"It better be!" the redhead stated, leaving for school. Her ire was shown by the slamming of the door.

Upon their arrivals at SHS, the students ran from the buses and cars into the building to prevent their soakings. As they sat in their homerooms, Principal Winters' voice came across the intercom, "Good morning students. It looks as if we may have a problem with the day's festivities. I shall monitor the situation and make an announcement by eleven o'clock concerning our scheduled parade. As for now, classes will end at lunchtime as previously announced."

Lana leaned over to Clark's desk, "What do you think, Clark? Do you think it will stop raining?"

"Well, how would I know? I'm not a meterologist."

"Thanks. You're a lot of help," as the bell for first period sounded.

The school secretary walked into Principal Winters' office. "There's a young lady who wishes to see you."

"Please bring her in."

Winters' eyes brightened as he spied a late twenties woman, shoulder-length blonde hair and sparkling green eyes.

"Mr. Winters?" she inquired. "My name is Muriel Bradford from the Metropolis Blade. My editor sent me to Smallville to do a feature story on your school's Spring Festival."

"Oh, really?" he responded, studying the press credentials handed him. "And how can I help?"

"I was hoping to spend the day at your school and interview faculty members, students, and of course, you, regarding the day's events. What it means to everyone and to the town, that sort of thing. Naturally, you would be featured very prominently. My boss thought it would make for a great human interest story, and he's promised me plenty of space."

"I think that would be wonderful," he answered. "You have my approval. When would this story be running in the Blade?"

Bradford answered, "It would run in Sunday's paper, in the People section."

"Sure, that will be fine. However, I'll have to ask that you not disturb anyone while they are in their classes. Feel free to talk with the students during class changes and morning break. As of now, classes are set to let out at lunchtime for our parade this afternoon. But that will depend on the weather. How long do you propose to be here?"

"Oh, I'm prepared to stay through the dance tonight, if that's O.K. I want to cover everything from right now forward, including the parade."

"Very well. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you," the somewhat flirting principal told his guest.

"Thank you Mr. Winters," she replied leaving his office, "I certainly will."

The eager reporter wasted no time in tackling her story.

After first period, she interviewed close to twenty students, male and female, as they rushed through the halls for their next class.

During the ten-minute morning break, she came across a group consisting of Lana, Clark, Rusty, Pete, Phyllis and Judy. They're all still distraught about the weather, except maybe Clark.

She introduced herself, and the kids were happy to accommodate her. All liked to see their names in the newspaper, especially in a big city paper like the Blade.

"What's it like growing up in a small town? I don't really know because I was brought up in Detroit, then worked for a paper in Dallas, and now Metropolis."

"It's O.K."

"Yeah, not bad."

"What's your name?" she asked Pete.


"Pete, what do kids your age do for fun and excitement?"

"There's the soda fountain at the drug store, the drive-in theatre, the bowling alley."

"I'm Rusty. I work at the Smallville Sentinel after school. And I like to fish and camp out."

Phyllis chimed in, "Girls have slumber parties and play a lot of records, and of course, talk on the phone with girlfriends."

"How about you, young man. Your name?"

"Uh, Clark."

"What do you like about Smallville?

"It's a friendly town. Everybody knows everybody and willing to help each other out. You know."

"Great. Thanks. What's the best thing about your town? Is Smallville really the corn capital of the United States?"

Lana answered, "Well, the Chamber of Commerce thinks it is." They all laughed.

Bradford asked, "Anything else of worthy note?"

Almost in unison, "Superboy!"

"Tell me about him."

Phyllis replied, "Don't you know about Superboy?"

"Well, of course, I've heard of him. But I've only been in Metropolis about a month. Do any of you know him?"

"I do!" Pete yelled. "Superboy and I are real good friends."

"Yeah right," Rusty snapped sarcastically, "Just because Superboy pulled you out of a well last summer doesn't exactly make you blood brothers." Everyone laughed again.

"How about you Clark?"

"Well, I've met him, but that's about it."

Bradford continued, "Does Superboy go to school here?

"Oh no," most answered in unison. "No one knows much..."

The third period bell rang.

"We have to go," announced the group.

"O.K. Thanks for talking with me.

Shortly, the Metropolis reporter was the lone person standing in an otherwise empty hall.

Chapter 14

Just as eleven o'clock rolled around, Principal Winters, as promised, was back on the intercom with an announcement.

"This is Principal Winters. As you can all tell by looking out your windows, the rain has not let up since our arrival this morning. I have just spoken with the Metropolis Weather Bureau, and they have told me that the rain should continue in Smallville well into tonight, maybe early tomorrow morning. We may receive as much as two inches of precipitation before it stops. Due to these conditions, I must cancel our scheduled parade for this afternoon. The band cannot risk damage to their uniforms getting soaked, and the convertibles we had lined up would have to have the tops up. And we can't ask the townspeople to stand out in the pouring rain to watch. I regret this very much, but, as they say, you cannot fight Mother Nature. The dance, however, will proceed as planned, beginning at seven o'clock. We will now revert to the normal school day schedule. Again, I regret this must be done. That is all."

A collective groan could be heard all over the high school, perhaps with one exception...Clark Kent.

Sitting at his desk, thinking to himself, "Whew! That solves my dilemma of having to drive Superboy in the parade. Maybe this won't be such a bad day after all."

But two doors down in another classroom, Lana Lang was mad as a hornet, "Clark, you lucky dog! I knew I had you this time, but I'm not going to let a rainy day stop me from proving that you're Superboy. I'll think of something else!"

Chapter 15

Vehicles of all makes and colors filed into the student parking area of Smallville High School. Guys in their best Sunday suits and gals in their fancy dresses adorned the area. Many were still disheartened that the day's rain had washed out the afternoon parade, but Mother Nature gave the Spring Festival attendees a break. The rain had subsided around six o'clock. At least all the fresh dresses were spared getting wet scurrying into the gymnasium.

Clark and Lana exited her Impala from the front seat, while Rusty and date Elaine Carson from the back seat.

"Hey, there's Pete and Judy," informed Rusty. "Hey, we're over here!"

The three couples met up at the bottom of the steps and entered the gym as a group.

The festival committee and faculty had the gym decorated beautifully. Crepe paper streaming everywhere, balloons, glitter, even corn husks (probably suggested by the C of C). On the stage was an ornate throne (at least by Smallville standards) with two smaller thrones on each side. By evening's end, Lana would rule the festival as queen from the center throne.

Everyone was saying hello to everyone, avoiding the faculty when they can. Pete said that hanging around the faculty members wasn't cool. "Kookie would never do that," he stated.

Several minutes later, Principal Winters took to the microphone. "Here he goes," said Elaine. "Yep, he loves to make speeches," added Lana.

"Good evening students of Smallville High School. Welcome to the Spring Festival dance. Let's forget about the parade situation and make up for it here tonight by everyone having a wonderful time. Now, please be on your best behavior. Don't spoil tonight by not being ladies and gentlemen."

"Oh brother," murmured Rusty.

Winters continued, "Around nine o'clock, we shall have the formal announcement of our Queen's Court, followed by an appearance of our guest of honor...Superboy. Superboy will then dance the first song with our Queen. So, for now, let the fun begin!"

The records played and played and played. A fast dance, a slow dance and a continuing mixture. Rusty complained at the refreshment table that the new shoes he was wearing were making his feet hurt. "Well, at least you didn't wear your gym sneakers like you threatened to do," his date Elaine told him as she dragged him back onto the dance floor.

"Hey, there's that reporter. Hey, Miss Bradford!" Rusty shouted.

Cutting through the dancing couples, she passed by and said, "Hello Larry. Having fun?" "I'm Rusty."

"Sorry Rusty. I talked to a lot of faces today."

"That's O.K.," he answered. "Gosh, you're pretty."

Elaine, riled, told him, "Remember, you brought me to the dance. Besides, she's too old for you. She's gotta be at least twenty two."

The clock moved forward, and soon it was time for the special event. The principal again monopolized the microphone. "We shall now proceed with the Queen's Court. Ladies, when I call your name, please come up on the stage and take your place in your assigned seats."

Needing to slip away, Clark excused himself from his group of friends, "I'll be right back. I spilled punch all over my hands and they're sticky. I need to wash them."

"Wash your hands? You'll miss Lana's coronation," they reply.

"No I won't. I'll be right back." Clark walked slowly out into the hall. Removing his glasses, he vanished around the corner.

The four Maids of Honor, now in their seats, "And now, young ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor to present to you this year's Queen of the Spring Festival...Miss Lana Lang." The place erupted. Lana walked onto the stage and took her place in the queen's throne. "And now, to place the crown on Miss Lang's head," the principal continued, "I give you our special guest of honor...SUPERBOY!"

The place erupted, even louder.

Superboy stepped from behind the stage curtain, acknowledged the crowd's approval, took the crown from a satin pillow and placed it atop Lana's head. He then took her hand and lead her down to the dance floor, and the queen's dance began.

"Congratulations Lana Lang," he told her.

"Thank you Superboy. This is a dream come true." The music continued. "Oh, Superboy, you are a great dancer. Don't tell him I said this, but you dance much better than Clark Kent."

"I...won't," was the reply.

"Superboy, this must be what Heaven is like. I feel like I'm floating."

"That's because you are."

Lana looked down and saw that the two of them were floating a foot above the floor. Her expression brought a laugh from the crowd. But soon the song was over. The Boy of Steel returned her to her throne, gave her a soft kiss on her cheek, waved to the crowd and flew out the front door of the gym.

Rusty gasped, "Man, that was INCREDIBLE, huh Pete!"

"I'll say," Pete agreed. "Where's Clark? Oh, they you are. Did you see all that?"

Clark, having just returned, "Yep. I saw every bit of it."

Lana returned to the group. Elaine and Judy were pea green with envy. "You got to dance with Superboy! WOW!"

The special part of the evening now over, everyone headed back onto the dance floor. On the way, Lana was congratulated by Muriel Bradford, still with notebook in hand, working on her story. "Clark? It's Clark, right?"

"That's right."

"Could I borrow you for a moment? I'd like to get a few comments from you on how it feels to be the escort of the festival queen. You don't mind, do you Lana?"

"No, go ahead. I'll be at the refreshment table, Clark."

"This won't take but a minute, Clark. It's so loud in hear. Let's step down the hall where it's quiet."

"Whatever you say," Clark responded, following her down the hall.

Chapter 16

Down the hall out of sight of anyone and only a trace of the gymnasium noise, Muriel Bradford stopped, "This is far enough."

"Gosh, it is pretty loud in there. So what questions do you want to ask me?" Kent inquired.

The reporter began, "Let's start with...Lana's dancing with Superboy, did that make you jealous?"

Clark was surprised by her question, "Uh, no. Not at all. Why should it?"

"I guess I struck a nerve with your male ego."

"It's not that Miss Bradford. He would have danced with whoever had been selected queen. And it was just one dance."

She answered, "I understand your not being jealous. There is really no reason for you to be jealous of Superboy, being that you ARE Superboy!"

There was nothing but silence. Finally able to speak, Kent replied, "Miss Bradford, what are you talking about?"

"You heard me. You have perfect hearing. I mean just what I said. I know that you, Clark Kent, are Superboy, so let's stop playing games with one another! You get me."

"Look, lady, I don't know why you're doing this, but..."

Interrupting him, "What would you say if I told you that I was in the vicinity of your home yesterday afternoon?"

"What! WHY?"

"Why...because that's where I planted the bomb in your father's pickup truck. That a good enough reason?"

Clark, about to completely lose control, "YOU COULD HAVE KILLED MY MOM OR DAD!"

She answered calmly, "I've done worse in my life than blow up an old man or woman. Now, you need to calm down and lower your voice. I promise you, for once you are not in charge of the situation."

Holding back his anger, Clark continued, "Why would you want to kill my parents?"

"I don't. It's you I'm after. Geez, kid, do I have to draw you a diagram? Listen, yesterday morning I saw that your mother drove your father to work, then returned home with your truck. About a half hour before your bus dropped you off after school, I installed the explosive. I assumed that one of you would drive back to town to bring your father home. So I had a 50/50 shot it would be you. I won. You drove the truck. Look, I don't like killing people unless it's necessary. I'd felt bad if Mrs. Kent had died, for a minute or two anyway. As for you, I already had good reason to believe that you are Superboy. If you weren't, you wouldn't be standing here, and that would be such a shame. But if you were, the explosion wouldn't hurt you. And here you are, so I am correct. Clark Kent is Superboy. That's about it."

"Hardly," he answered, back in control. "After what you did, do you think I'm going to let you just walk out of here and do nothing! I'm turning you over to the police for attempted murder!"

"Better think twice about that. I'll tell them your big secret."

"My word against yours," Clark boasted. "I'll chance it."

"Before you touch me...I just remembered something else. Have a look at this." She handed Kent a manila envelope. "Open it."

Shock took hold of the youngster as he pulled out an 8x10 photograph which showed him clearly standing on the dirt road beside the smouldering truck, his Clark Kent clothing shreaded and burned revealing him as Superboy. "That kind of tilts the scale back my way, don't you think? Pretty good picture, huh. You know, if my name was really Muriel Bradford and if I really worked for a newspaper, I might have a future as a photographer. And before you start ripping up that picture, I should tell you that I have a stack of copies, in a very safe place."

"So you were at the blast site as well as my house?"

"But of course," she boasted. "Gotta make sure I got the job done. It's like this, Clarkie, I'm pretty good with explosives. I've used them many times. The bomb in your truck had a timing device set to go off five minutes after the truck was started. So I simply drove towards town at the legal speed I assumed you would drive, hid in the woods by the road and waited. My predicted spot of impact was off only thirty feet, not bad I'd say. I saw it all, and with a telescopic lens, I got a beautiful photo. So get this taking me to the cops stuff out of your head."

Pausing for a moment, a dejected Clark asked, "So what do you want?"

"Nothing for the moment, but sometime soon, you'll hear from me again. An acquaintance of mine and I have some big plans, and those big plans now involve you."

"Plans involving something illegal no doubt?" he asked.

"Oh, but of course, Clarkie. So just to make sure we have an understanding, let me summarize our partnership. If you are not totally cooperative with me, those photos I have will be released to every television station and newspaper in the country, and your Clark Kent identity will be worthless. If, by chance, you decide that you will sacrifice your secret identity, just remember, I know where your parents are, and I know who your friends are. You can't protect all of them all at once. Remember what happened yesterday. I have no conscience. I'll kill as many of your people as I have to. So long, partner."

"I am NOT your partner!"

"You'd better stop thinking that way. It isn't healthy. Talk to you soon," as she turned away and walked confidently out the back door of the gym into the darkness.

Clark could do nothing but stand helplessly and look down the dimly-lit hallway.

Chapter 17

Sleep and young Kent were strangers the entire night. How could he get any rest with what had transpired at the dance?

Question after question ran through his mind. This mystery woman who called herself Muriel Bradford. Who was she, really? He knew she wasn't a Metropolis reporter as claimed, but instead a confessed executioner. She mentioned an acquaintance. Who could that be? Was she be connected in any way to Marty Mitchell? Did she kill him? Did she now have the file folder stolen from the Smallville Sentinel?

He didn't have any answers, but he now knew she had photos showing that Clark was Superboy. And with these photos, he was a victim of blackmail. When will she contact him and what will be her demands? She mentioned an "acquaintance," so she wasn't acting alone. Who can that be?

He can't go after her in any way, or she'll release the extortion photos.

The Boy of Steel had never been in this kind of situation. He was at a loss of what to do.

By sunrise, he had decided that, at least for now, he will not tell his adoptive parents. This kind of news would be such a shock that either of them could suffer serious health issues. He would not take the risk. After all, it's his problem. He caused it. He would have to take care of it...if possible.

The Kent General Store opened at the usual eight o'clock, just like every Saturday. It started busier than usual with people in and out of the store. Most of the women wanted plants to set out or seeds to get their vegetable gardens going for the spring and summer.

Mid-morning, the bell on the door gave a loud ring. Clark looked up to see Rusty and Lana approaching.

"Morning Clark," Rusty spoke up, "Ready to go camping this afternoon? We're going to have a great time. We'll catch our fish dinner right out of Mr. Sartania's pond, and fry them up right there over our campfire."

"Yeah, that'll be great. Hey Lana?"

Lana, a bit subdued, "Hey Clark. I must say, you weren't a barrel of laughs most of last night. Are you feeling better?"

Clark responded, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to put a damper on your evening. I guess the loud noise and loud music gave me a headache near the end of the dance."

"Well, you didn't say ten words on the way home. I thought perhaps you might be jealous because I danced with Superboy."

"No. Headache. Not Superboy. I'm glad you got to dance with him. What did you talk about?"

Lana exaggerated, "Oh, he told me he wanted to take me out for a date, fly me to Metropolis and light up the town. I told him you were my boyfriend, so I had to think it over."

"Really?" Rusty jumped in.

"Well...not exactly. Actually, he didn't ask me out at all, but he was very, very nice."

"So Clark, I'll pick Pete up on the way back to town, then stop by here to get you around three. Did you bring all your gear?"

"Yeah, Rusty, it's in the back. I'll be ready at three," Clark answered.

Heading for the door, Lana turned to say, "Well, you pioneers have a good time. Catch enough fish to bring home. Gotta run some errands for my mom. Bye..."

"I've got to get back to work, Rusty."

"Gotcha, see ya at three. Boy, it's gonna be great!" The door slammed behind Rusty, almost knocking the bell off the door.

Chapter 18

"Thanks, Mr. Smullens. Come back," Clark addressed a store customer.

Several blasts from a truck horn signified that it was camping time. "Dad, Rusty and Pete are outside. O.K. for me to go?"

"Sure, son, I can handle it from here. Have a good time and remember, you promised to be home tomorrow in time for church."

"O.K. Dad," Clark replied, grabbing his gear but thinking to himself, "How can I have a good time with what's hanging over me?"

When Clark reached the street, Rusty yelled to young Kent to toss his stuff in the back of the truck and hop in. He did so, joining Rusty and Pete in what was now a cramped front seat.

"Well men, we're off. This is going to be great. Fish right out of the pond for dinner. And just spending time with the guys," an excited Rusty exclaimed, heading down the town street, making a right turn onto Maxwell Road, which would take them out the ten miles to the Sartania farm.

Upon their arrival, they found that Chester Sartania was there ahead of them. "Just pull it off the road, Rusty, and park it there,"requested the host boy.

The guys unloaded their stuff and walked down to the pond, where Chester had already pitched his tent. "Who wants to bunk in my tent?" he asked. "Doesn't matter to me."

"Oh, I will," Rusty, the first to answer said. "That all right with you guys?"

"Sure," Pete and Clark answered in unison.

"O.K. Clark, let's get our tent set up," suggested Pete. Clark agreed but suggested that their tent not be as close to the pond as the other. "I'd rather be a little bit further away from the water. How about there?" he requested, pointing to a spot about twenty-five feet from the other tent."

"Whatever you say," Pete agreed.

"While you guys get your tent set up, Rusty and I will get wood for the campfire," Chester told all.

"I can already hear those catfish sizzling over our fire right now," Rusty answered.

Those tasks completed, the four teens got out their rods and tackle boxes, and quickly, there were four lines in the pond, baited for innocent fish to latch on.

Two hours later, it was time to cook supper and eat. Chester had the fire going. Each of the guys sat down and held their hot dog covered sticks over the flame.

Rusty was angry, "Chester, where are all those catfish that are supposed to be in your pond? We didn't even get a nibble."

Chester, annoyed, "Apparently, they're still in the pond. And we did get a nibble...Clark caught a coat hanger."

"Funny, funny, funny."

After a delicious meal of hot dogs and beans, the four gathered back around the fire for the usual topics of conversation...girls and girls. The dance was mentioned. What girls looked great and what girls didn't. Superboy's being there and that sexy blonde reporter from Metropolis, something Clark didn't need to hear.

Soon it was dark, and after a few ghost stories that they'd all heard before, the fire was getting low. So they decided to turn in and get an early jump with the sun and try their luck with the fishing poles again before breaking camp.

Rusty and Chester went to their tent, and Clark and Pete went to their's. Pete sheepishly asked Clark if he was going to wear pajamas. "No, Pete, we tough guys don't wear pj's on a camping trip. We sleep in our clothes," laughing.

"Well, my mom made me bring a pair, but I'll just wrinkle them up so she'll think I used them."

"Sounds good," Clark said. And soon the rugged men of the wilderness were fast asleep.

After dark, some heavy clouds rolled in bringing with them the usual springtime thunder and lightning. Clark was awakened by his super hearing. "I hear screams." Sitting up, he used his x-ray vision to see an automobile overturned in a deep ditch about a mile away on the road to Midvale. "Gee, there's people trapped in that car. This is a job for Superboy. I'll have to slip away."

He got out of his sleeping bag, stepped outside the tent and began removing his Kent clothes. A loud clap of thunder then startled Pete. Just as he opened his eyes, a huge bolt of lightning illuminated the area. He was unable to move when he saw Clark complete his transformation to Superboy and leap into the air out of view. "Oh my gosh! I must be dreaming!" The lad whispered, "Clark! Clark!" Getting no answer, he reached over to Kent's sleeping bag, finding it deserted. "I'm not dreaming! I did see Clark changing into Superboy."

Meanwhile, the Boy of Steel arrived at the wrecked car, pulled it from the ditch and rested it in the road. "Is anyone hurt?" he asked the occupants. "Superboy, my kids and I are not hurt, but I think my wife's arm is broken. Again, using his x-ray vision to examine the lady's injured limb, he concurred. "Yes, there is a fracture. But don't worry. I'll fly her to the hospital and inform the police to get help out here for you. Just stay with your kids. Help will be here shortly."

"A deer ran out in front of us and I swerved and lost control. Thank you Superboy." The lad from Krypton carefully took hold of the injured woman and lifted off for Smallville."

Back in the tent, Pete was replaying what he had just witnessed over and over in his head. "It's incredible! There can't be any mistake. I saw Clark turn into Superboy! I saw it! My friend Clark Kent is actually this amazing person Superboy. I'll have to pretend to be sleeping when he returns."

A few minutes later, Pete heard a light thud outside the tent and just seconds later, Clark delicately entered the tent and crawled back into his sleeping bag. "Pete, Pete, you asleep?" Clark gently whispered.

Pete didn't answer, to give the illusion that he was.

Clark, resting his head on his pillow, thought to himself, "Good. I was able to get away and back as Superboy without being missed."

Pete was finally able to get back to sleep, a smile on his face.

Chapter 19

The following afternoon, Pete Ross decided to ride over to the Kent home. Witnessing his best friend Clark's transformation into the Boy of Steel had been all he could think about since the night before.

Should he tell Clark what he saw or not? Maybe a chat with his buddy would help him decide.

"Hey, Pete, come on in," Clark welcomed him. "Ma, Pa...Pete's here."

"Come in and sit down Pete," Martha instructed. "So, Clark told us that your fellows had a fun time camping."

"Yes, ma'am, even if we didn't catch any fish," he laughed.

A few minutes into their conversation, Clark noticed, "Hey Pete. Is something wrong? You have a strange expression on your face?"

"No, nothing's wrong."

"Something on your mind, maybe?" his friend inquired.

"Well, this may sound funny, but I've been thinking about Superboy all day."

"Superboy?" the three Kents said almost in unison.

"Yeah. I guess it's because I saw him at the dance Friday night and he's always in the newspaper for doing good things for people. I was kind of daydreaming on the way over how great it would be to be like him," Pete continued. "You know, to be able to fly and to be strong like he is. I wonder where he comes from and of all places in the world, why he's here in Smallville."

Jonathan interjected, "Well, I suppose a lot of people have asked that question Pete. But nobody seems to know."

"But don't you think it's odd that we never see him doing things like just walking down the street or going to the movies, like all the other guys his age? He just appears when he's needed."

Martha offered, "Maybe it's because he wants to live a private life. I suppose if everyone knew more about him, Smallville would be packed with people wanting to see him, and that wouldn't be fair to him, would it?"

"And our small town wouldn't stay such a nice small town with tourists and curiosity seekers always around," Pa Kent added.

"I suppose you're right," answered Pete.

Martha stated, "We're very fortunate having Superboy nearby to help us all and to assist the police fight crime. If privacy is something he wants, I feel we should respect that. I certainly don't want to jeopardize his being near Smallville. Life in our community has been so much better since he's been here, hasn't it?"

"Oh, yes ma'am. You feel that way Clark?"

"Sure, I guess so."

"Well, I'd better be going. Thanks for listening to a goofy teenager on a Sunday afternoon" Pete started to leave.

"How about a piece of pie before you go?" Martha offered.

"Next time, Mrs. Kent, but thanks. See ya at school tomorrow Clark."

"O.K. Pete. See ya."

Young Mr. Ross started his car and headed out the driveway back towards town.

A few miles down the road, Pete pulled over to think. "Mr. and Mrs. Kent are such nice people. Obviously they've gone to great lengths to keep Clark's identity a secret. It must be tough on all three of them living with that everyday. And the things they said made a lot of sense. If the world knew Clark was Superboy, their front yard would be full of nosy people every day. They would never have a moment's peace. And Clark has always been a great friend."

At that point, Pete saw a red and blue streak flying across the clear sky.

"There goes Clark, uh, Superboy on his way to help someone." He smiled, "well, if the Kents want it to be a secret, then I'm going to keep their secret. I'll never tell anyone."

Shoving the vehicle into gear, he started back up the dirt road towards home proudly thinking to himself, "Imagine Pete Ross, besides the Kent family, you're the only person in the world who knows that Clark Kent is Superboy. WOW!"

Little did young Ross realize that his statement was incorrect.

Chapter 20

Monday morning found the students at Smallville High still buzzing about the festival dance.

But in the office of the school, Principal Winters was madder than a hornet.

"I can tell something is bothering you, Mr. Winters, may I help?" asked the secretary.

"Yesterday morning, I made a special trip to the newsstand to pick up a copy of the Sunday Metropolis Blade to read the article about the spring festival. And you know what...there was no article. And just now, I just got off the telephone with the editor of the Blade asking about our story, and he said 'What story?'"

I told him, "What story? The one about our spring festival written by Muriel Bradford. Then he told me he didn't know anything about it. And that he doesn't have a reporter named Muriel Bradford! What in the Sam Hill is going on around here!"

"That is peculiar," answered the school secretary.

"I'm not going completely crazy, am I? There was a reporter from the Metropolis Blade here last Friday, wasn't there? I mean, brought her into my office."

"Yes sir, I did. She was real all right. At least, she was a real person. A real reporter, well, maybe not."

Winters fumed, "Why in blue blazes would a pretty young woman make all of that up? And spend an entire day and night hanging around if she wasn't a real reporter. It doesn't make any sense to me."

"I don't know, Mr. Winters," was her reply.

Other than the principal's bad mood, things were calm in Smallville throughout the morning...almost. Clark was eating lunch in the cafeteria with his buddies when the school suddenly lost electricity.

Elaine Carson, looking out the lunch room window, shouted, "That old tree across the street finally came down...right through the power lines. Hey, maybe they'll have to let us go home early since we don't have power."

Clark, pushing himself back from the table, informed the guys, "Gosh! I just remembered something I was supposed to do. I'll be back in a minute."

"Ah, you can do it later," Rusty answered.

Pete Ross, knowing exactly why Clark needed to make a quick exit, said, "Go ahead Clark. I'll put up your tray."

"Thanks, Pete."

Clark walked quickly down the hall, out the door which lead to the baseball field. Making sure no one was in the vicinity, he ducked into one of the dugouts. Removing his shirt and sweater revealing his secret suit underneath, he thought to himself, "Nice of Pete to help me out, not knowing it enabled me to become Superboy."

Then, a flash of red and blue out of the dugout and landing on the other side of the school, Superboy lifted the tree off the street and the downed lines.

"Hey everyone, it's Superboy!" Elaine shouted. Soon a mass of students headed for the exit to get a better glimpse of their hero.

Within seconds, the Boy of Steel had fused the broken power lines with his x-ray vision, and the electricity was restored. "Back to class," he joked to the crowd of kids and lifted off into the sky.

Heading towards their next class, Rusty and Pete were overtaken by Clark in the hallway. "How did they get the power back on so fast?" Clark asked.

Rusty told him, "Superboy did it. It was really neat."

"Oh, O.K.," Kent answered.

Looking at Clark, Pete gave a big grin.

Chapter 21

Just as Clark finished clearing the dinner table for Martha, Jonathan stepped into the kitchen, "Clark, phone call for you. Some woman."

"Is it Lana?" he inquired.

"No, not Lana. She didn't give her name."

"Thanks Dad."

Sitting at the desk in the living room, the super youngster picked up the receiver, "Hello."

"Well, hello there Clarkie," a feminine voice spoke, "You know who this is, don't you?"

"Yes, I know. What do you want?" was his stern reply.

"The fun and games are over big boy. It's time to go to work. That won't be a problem, will it, Clarkie?"

"No problem," Clark answered, subdued.

"Good. The entire world doesn't have to know that Clark Kent is secretly Superboy, but of course, that could happen."

"I said no problem. What do I have to do?"

She continued, "Clarkie is going to need to play hooky from school tomorrow, ya got that?"

"And do what?" he asked.

"Just stay by your telephone. Tomorrow morning sometime, you'll get a call with your instructions. If by any chance, you don't answer the call, the news media will get those very striking photographs of you wearing that adorable red and blue outfit. Do you understand?"


Shouting, "then say you understand!"

"I UNDERSTAND!" he answered.

"Good. Sleep well tonight," and the line clicked dead.

Somberly walking back into the kitchen, Clark informed his parents that he will not be going to school the following morning.

"Why, son?" asked Martha.

"Superboy's going to be very busy tomorrow," the boy replied.

Chapter 22

Clark sat on the living room sofa much of the next morning waiting for the telephone to ring.

"Son, didn't you say that you were in for a busy day today?" Ma Kent asked, carrying clean laundry up the stairs. "Doesn't look much like it to me," she chuckled.

"I'm waiting for a phone call Mom. Then things will get busy." Clark, thinking to himself, "It's still best that my parents don't know the pickle I'm in. Telling them would only cause them unnecessary grief."

Bounding back down the stairs, Martha mentioned, "If there's things you need to be doing, I can take a message for you."

"That's O.K. Mom, it's important that I take the call," again thinking, "or she'll expose my Superboy secret identity."

"Suit yourself," Martha chattered, heading into the kitchen.

It was a few minutes before noon when the telephone sounded. Clark grabbed it after the first ring.

"Nice to hear that you're prompt and that you are taking me seriously Superboy," came that same feminine voice as the night before.

"All right. What do you want from me!" the boy asked.

"Listen and listen very carefully. I'll not repeat myself...At three o'clock this afternoon, the Metropolis Diamond Exchange will be receiving a shipment of South African stones worth around four million dollars. They are to be transported in a Brink's armored truck to the side door of the Exchange. Of course, it will be heavily guarded. Superboy will be there when the delivery arrives and will take possession of the diamonds. They'll be locked in a heavy metal container. How you get possession is up to you. After all, you're robbing the truck, not me. You will fly the diamonds to me at the Bolick Motor Court on highway 52 on the south side of Metropolis. I'll be in bungalow six awaiting your arrival. I'll know exactly when the truck arrives at the Exchange. I'll give you fifteen minutes to get there with the stones. If you're not, or if I see any sign of law enforcement, the world will learn your secret. I'm warning you. NO TRICKS!"

"And then what?" Clark inquired.

"I'll tell you when you deliver the diamonds. Now remember, NO TRICKS! Do you understand!"


Shouting, "then say you understand!"

"I UNDERSTAND!" he answered.

"Fifteen minutes after the truck arrives at the Exchange." The line went silent.

An hour later, a new sedan was parked along side the Smallville High School baseball field. The occupant watched a boys' P.E. class play a game. Moments later, a bell rang, sending the guys scrambling back to the main building. All but one, that is. Clark's buddy Pete stayed behind for a moment to gather up the bats and balls. Throwing the full bag over his shoulder, he headed towards the building. As he passed by the sedan, a friendly feminine voice rang out, "Hi, it's Pete, right?"

The lad stopped and said, "Yes, that's right." He leaned down to see into the car and recognized the person, "Oh, hi Miss Bradford. What are you doing here?"

"Just in the neighborhood for a story and saw you boys playing ball, so I stopped to watch for a minute."

"Oh, neat, well it's nice seeing you again, but I have to get this stuff put up and get to..."

She interrupts, "I was hoping you could do me a favor. Sit with me for a moment."

"Gosh, ma'am, I'd love to but, like I said, I have to..."

Another interruption, "Then I must insist," producing a shiny blue steel pistol. "Get in the car...NOW! Try anything, and I'll put three slugs in ya before you can turn around."

Convinced, Pete dropped the bag of equipment and got into the passenger side of the front seat. His head was met by a striking metal blow from the gun butt. The boy slumped over against the door. The
sedan then slowly pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway and disappeared over a ridge.

Chapter 23

Two pertinent events occurred simultaneously at 3:12 in the afternoon.

One was the doorbell of the Kent home sounding. Martha, working on her ironing and watching her daily soap opera, answered the door to find Lana standing alone on the porch.

"Well, hello Lana," Ma Kent greeted the visitor.

"Hi, Mrs. Kent. Since Clark wasn't in school today, I thought I'd check by and see what's wrong."

"Nothing very serious, dear. Clark woke up during the night not feeling well, so I thought I'd better keep him home today. Hopefully, he'll be back at school tomorrow."

Inquisitive Lana added, "That's good news. Could I see him and say hello?"

Martha, stammering a bit, "Uh...he's upstairs sleeping right now. Probably not a good idea to wake him. He needs his rest. But I'll tell him you came by and if he's feeling better after supper, I'll have him call you. How's that?"

Young Lang replied, "Oh, that's fine. Bye Mrs. Kent."

"Good-bye, dear."

Of course, Martha was spinning a tale when she said he was upstairs asleep. She was covering for her son Clark as he was off somewhere as his alter ego of Superboy.

Where he actually was, at 3:12 p.m., was landing in front of bungalow six of the Bolick Motor Court on highway 52, just south of Metropolis. He carried a two x two foot heavy metal case. Instantly, the cabin door opened.

"Glad to see you made it on time," the young woman, hardly a lady, said. "Let me open the trunk of my car. Put the case in it."

The Boy of Steel complied.

"Now give me the key." He again obliged.

The woman, known to Smallville as reporter Muriel Bradford, opened the box and gasped at the sight. "Look at that! Incredible! Just look at the sunlight sparkle off of four million dollars worth of diamonds."

Superboy warned her, "Don't you know it isn't wise to look directly into the sun?"

"What the hell does that mean?" she asked.

"Well, if you don't know..." he trailed off.

"Look, if I want a philosophy class from you Clarkie..."

Interrupting her, the Kryptonian inquired, "Now what happens?"

"For me...I have places to go. For you...nothing, and I mean nothing. You are to remain here for the next two hours, taking no action to stop me from completing my plans. And to make sure you do what you're told, it's only fair that I tell you I have taken out a, shall we say, life insurance policy on someone close to you. So you can lose two different ways. The world will learn your secret identity and someone very close to you will not see another sunrise. Now, are we clear?"

Superboy could only answer, "We're clear."

"Nice working with you Clarkie." The blonde closed and locked the case of gems, shut the trunk, and got behind the steering wheel. The superhero, standing back a bit in the cabin as to not attract any attention, noticed his blackmailer bending down as if looking for something on the floor of the car. After a few more seconds, she shoved the vehicle in gear, tore out of the motor court and accelerated down highway 52 towards Midvale.

On the ground under where the car had been parked, rested a black leather case. "What the...?" Superboy thought. Taking it back into the cabin, he opened the satchel. To his surprise and relief was a stack of the revealing photographs of Clark as Superboy as well as the negative. "This must be what she was looking for when she got into the car. But how did it get under the car?"

"The playing field just leveled off a bit," he grinned. With a flash of his heat vision, Superboy incinerated the case and all of its contents.

"Now, it's time for my blackmailer to pay the piper," he thought as he ran out the cabin door and headed skyward.

Chapter 24

Soaring high through the afternoon sky, Superboy reached into the hidden pouch on the underside of his crimson cape and pulled out a transitorized walkie-talkie. "Calling Inspector Shayne, do you read me, over?"

"Loud and clear, Superboy, over," came the reply from Metropolis police officer Don Shayne.

"The person we want is driving on highway 52 towards Midvale in a new black sedan, Kansas plates," reported the Boy of Steel. "Don't make a move until I tell you. She mentioned having a hostage for insurance, but right now, she's alone in the car. We've got to see where she leads us, because I don't know who or where the hostage is, over."

"Can she see you flying overhead? Over," asked Shayne.

"No," he answered, "I'm actually in the clouds out of sight. I'm using my super telescopic vision...hold on! The car is pulling off the right side of the road. It's stopped at either a tobacco curing barn or some kind of smokehouse. O.K. Two people came out of the building. One is a grown man. The other is a...oh no! The hostage is a Smallville High School student named Pete Ross. His hands are tied and he's blindfolded. The man just shoved him into the back seat and got in beside him. Hold off! We can't risk anything. They'll kill the Ross boy! Over."

"10-4," answered Shayne. "I'll stay a quarter mile behind them. Let me know if there's any change, over."

Superboy continued his flight over the fleeing sedan out of sight of its passengers. "She's going 85-90 miles per hour," he said to himself. Looking back, he could see Shayne's patrol car still on the trail.

Suddenly, a shot rang out from the criminal car. "Superboy, they made me! They're firing at us, over."

"Don't shoot, over," yelled the superhero.

Then Superboy gasped as he saw his friend Pete ejected out the door of the back seat, rolling across the highway.

"Inspector, the hostage is out of the car. I'll tend to him. Do what you have to do to stop that car!, over."

"Roger, over," was the reply. "Watch out for the boy as we pass," Shayne instructed his partner, "Now, step on it!."

Superboy zoomed down, landing beside Ross, who was grimacing in pain. "Pete, don't move," he instructed.

"Clark, how did you find me?"

"It's Superboy, Pete," while freeing the boy's hands and removing the blindfold. "You're pretty banged up. Be still."

"My shoulder's killing me."

"Yes, your collarbone is broken," x-ray vision revealed. "I've got to get you to the hospital." At this point, Pete passed out. "Inspector, I'm taking Pete Ross to the Smallville hospital. The rest is up to you, over and out."

Shayne's squad car increased its speed and drew closer to the fleeing vehicle. Again, shots rang out from the sedan. This time, the officers returned fire. Several more rounds were exchanged. At that point, Shayne's aim was true. His shot pierced the back window of the sedan, striking the blonde driver in the back. She slumped over the steering wheel, and the car veered first left, then right, then overturned several times, coming to rest upright. A few seconds passed before the police officers stopped their vehicle. Before they could exit their car, the sedan exploded into a vast inferno.

"Send for the wagon and fire department, Murphy. There's nothing we can do for them now."

Chapter 25

After nightfall that same evening, Superboy sat in Inspector Shayne's office at the Metropolis PD.

"How is Pete Ross, Superboy?"

"He's banged up a good bit. Skid burns from the pavement, scratches, a few cuts and a broken collarbone, but the doctors said he'll be back to normal in about eight weeks."

"What could he tell you about all of this," Shayne asked.

"I won't be able to talk to him until morning. He'll be sedated until then."

"Well, glad it wasn't any worse. He could easily be dead," the cop expressed. "So, may I assume you got the crate of diamonds back to the Exchange safely?" chuckled the lawman.

Answering, "Oh yes. They're safely back in the Diamond Exchange vault. You can check with them if you'd like."

"Your word's good enough for me Superboy. But how exactly did you get them in the first place?" Shayne inquired.

"Well, I was ordered to hijack a Brink's truck to get the diamonds, but that seemed too complicated, involving guards' safety and everything. So after I received my intructions, I called the President of the Exchange and just asked him if I could 'borrow' the diamonds for a little while. I told him the stones could help us capture a very dangerous criminal, and he released them into my custody... on my word he would get them back, of course," Superboy laughed. "He seemed a bit miffed that the box was scorched a good bit, but at least the gems weren't damaged. That's why they make the storage cases out of the same materials as commercial airliner black boxes."

"Yep," remarked the cop.

"Now, what did you find out about the man and woman?" Superboy asked.

"Not much. The car was burned to a crisp. The driver's body was pretty much consumed by the fire. All the lab could be sure of was the corpse was that of a woman. We'll probably never know who this 'fake reporter' really was.

"And the man?" the lad inquired.

"O.K. Brace yourself. When the fire department got the fire out at the scene, my partner and I looked the shell of the car over thoroughly, and there was no man!"

"WHAT! Of course there was!" Superboy shouted.

"Well, we know there was a man in the car during the chase. There were two people shooting at me, the driver from the left side and a man from the right back seat. He just vanished into thin air."

"Maybe he jumped from the car before the wreck."

"I don't see how, Superboy, my partner and I had them in clear vision from the moment of their first shot until the car rolled. We would have seen him if he had jumped out. I can't explain what happened to him. Believe me, it's all I've been thinking about since I got back to the station. Like I said, he just disappeared."

The Boy of Steel scratched his head, "Incredible."

The policeman then asked Superboy why he cooperated with the woman and brought her the diamonds in the first place. "Uh, very simple...She told me if I didn't work with her that 'someone very close to me would not see another sunrise.' I had to take her threat seriously. I didn't at the time know the identity or the whereabouts of her hostage."

"Very good. Just for my report. That's about it for now. Thank you for your help today, Superboy. I hope we can work together again in the future."

"My pleasure, Inspector Shayne, I will let you know if Pete Ross can shed any light on all of this. May I use your window?"

"Of course," smiled Shayne.

"Good night," Superman replied as he projected himself into the night, heading back to Smallville.

Chapter 26

Another mostly sleepless night was spent by the Boy of Steel trying to figure how the mystery man had made his escape.

Sitting at the table eating the breakfast Martha had prepared for him, the young man stated, "I'll have to miss another day of school, Mom. I have to go, as Superboy, to see Pete at the hospital. I'm hoping he can fill in some of the blanks of what happened yesterday."

"O.K., I'll cover for you again if anyone calls or comes by like Lana did yesterday. My goodness, such an incredible story you told us last night."

"It sure is, bye Mom," Clark kissed her cheek.

He trotted through the living room, disappeared through the revolving bookcase, shed his Kent clothing and was off to the hospital as Superboy.

Lots of heads turned and lips moved as the superhero made his way through the hospital corridors to the room of his friend Pete Ross. "Morning Superboy," was the majority of the greetings from people he encountered. "Good morning," he answered.

His knock on the injured boy's door was answered by Pete's dad. "Hello Superboy, I'm Lank Ross, Pete's father."

"Very happy to know you, Mr. Ross," he answered, even though Clark had met him many times prior.

"Son, I'll leave you two to visit. I'll be at work if you need anything, and I'll be back during my lunch break."

"O.K., Dad," the son answered.

Superboy pulled up a chair next to the hospital bed, "Pete, do you feel like talking a little. I'm hoping you can clarify some things about what happened yesterday."

"I'll try."

Pete then relayed to the Boy of Steel what had happened at the ball field at school. How the woman reporter had pulled a gun on him and made him get into her car. "Then she hit me with the gun and the next thing I remember, she slammed on the brakes and stopped the car. I was blindfolded so I didn't know where we were. But when she hit the brakes, something under the front seat bumped my feet. She opened her door and got out. So I reached down and grabbed what felt like a satchel or something. Then I got out and kicked the satchel under her car. I thought maybe it would help someone find me. Or, at least, I hoped it would."

"O.K., go on," Superboy said, thinking "so that's how the satchel got there."

"She took me inside and tied me to a chair. She told me not to "get cute" or she'd shoot me between the eyes. And if she did, I wouldn't be her first victim. That was good enough for me. She then made a telephone call. I don't know who she called. But ten, maybe fifteen minutes later, she let a man into the room. He had a very low and gruff voice. I was too far away to understand anything they were saying except, after he cut me loose from the chair and tied my hands, he said, 'We need to go.' Then he led me outside and put me in the back seat of a car and we drove off. I was really scared."

"I know, Pete, I know. Anything else?" Superboy comforted.

"We rode maybe ten minutes, then the car pulled off the road to the right. He got out, then opened my door and pulled me out. He took me into somewhere. It was really hot in there."

"It was a smokehouse, Pete."

"Yeah, that makes sense. Anyway, I think I might have dozed off from the heat and being scared and all. Next thing I remember he's shaking me saying, 'Get up' and 'Let's go.' Then we went outside and he put me back into a car. He said something and then I knew she was in the car with us."

"Did they talk to one another going down the highway?" asked the superhero.

"Yeah some. He said, 'Everything go O.K.?' She said, 'Yeah, fine. The goods are in the trunk.' 'And how was our friend?' 'Gentle as a pussycat,' she said. Then he said something like as soon as they were out of the country, he was going to release a photograph and then the entire world would know. And then she told him that the photo was missing. And he started yelling at her. Then they were violently shouting back and forth at each other, and I figured this was my chance to get away, so I reached over, pulled the door handle and rolled out of the car."

"Pete, you took a big chance doing that," Superboy informed.

"I know. But I figured that I rather take my chances of surviving that way instead of getting shot in the head. I really didn't have to give it a lot of thought. So, what happened to them?"

"Well, after you rolled out of the car, they wrecked and the woman was killed. The man, somehow, got away. Anything else you can tell me about him besides his voice?"

"No, never saw him. I was blindfolded. Sorry," a dejected Pete answered.

"That's fine, Pete, you've been a big help. Because I found the satchel you took out of her car at the motor court."

"GREAT! What was in it?"

"Uh, important papers that helped us figure out they robbed the Metropolis Diamond Exchange, and other stuff." Of course, Superboy didn't tell young Ross about the blackmailing photos showing Clark as Superboy, but they are but ashes now.

"Well, Pete Ross, I'll report what you told me to the Metropolis Police. Maybe they'll give you a medal," he chuckled.

"Thanks for saving me Supeboy. I'll always be grateful."

"Thank you, Pete. You're the real hero. Get your rest. So long," Superboy bid as he left.

"See ya Clark," Pete whispered.

Turmoils Of A Teenage Superboy” Epilogue

Several months passed.

Yet, most things remained the same. Smallville murmured with the usual hum of activity, the wheels of industry turned, breathing life into the city. Rusty and Elaine Carson broke up, got back together, then broke up again. Pete made a full recovery from his injuries, only a small scar on his shoulder as a physical reminder of that dreadful day. Perky Lana remained her normal self, wanting to make out with Clark one moment, then being suspicious of him the next.

Young Kent's double life remained as it had been for some time now, juggling Clark's going to school and working part-time at the family store and, as Superboy, helping and protecting people, both at home and afar.

As he slept, a middle-of-the-night phone call caused Martha Kent to beckon her son from slumber. He answered the telephone outside his bedroom door. "Hello, Clark, or should I say, Superboy. I suspect you have been wondering what became of me."

Knowing full well who was calling, Clark demanded, "Where are you and what do you want!"

"Ha...ha...that will be my little secret. You know, you're not the only person who can have secrets. Just consider this a courtesy call and perhaps, a concession. I admit you won the first round. But the game's not over. Just remember I know that Clark and Superboy are the same person, even though I can't prove least for now. But you cost me four million dollars, and somewhere down the road, that will cost you. Isn't it ironic that you don't know my secrets, but I know yours. Well, until our paths cross again..." A maniacal laugh followed, then silence."

"Hello, HELLO!" Clark yelled.

He immediately dialed the operator and asked if the just-completed call could be traced. "One moment," answered the feminine voice. Thirty seconds later, the operator informed Clark that the Kent telephone line had not been used for almost eight hours.

Young Kent walked slowly into his room and plopped back into his bed. Additional sleep was not possible. It occurred to him that this entire encounter had started with a telephone call piercing the night. And now, another. All he could think of was this phantom of a man, apparently a permanent thorn in his side. This mystery man...this Mister X.

Posted by
Jim Nolt
May 31, 2013

"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"