TAC Table of Contents
He had been performing duties as the Boy of Steel only a short time, but almost from the start, Lana Lang, the pretty teen-aged acquaintance of the Kent family, had tried to prove her suspicion that her childhood friend Clark Kent was really Superboy. If only she realized how important it was for the youth from the planet Krypton to protect his secret identity at all costs. Now it seemed her impish schemes were successful and she had achieved her goal.
Late in the weekday afternoon, Clark had been at Kent's General Store almost an hour when the perky, sly, red-headed Lana Lang came through the front door.
"Hi Clark, hi Mr. Kent," she spoke.
They both returned the greeting.
Lana was the only customer in the building and was in the far corner of the store, filling her basket with her needed items.
"Hey Clark," she yelled over her shoulder, "you're going to the History Festival, aren't you?"
"Sure, wouldn't miss it," he responded.
"Yeah, me too. I might go as Annie Oakley, but I'm not sure yet. How about you?"
"No, I don't think I'll go as Annie Oakley," he laughed.
The remark obviously irritated her, "Very funny. Leave the comedy to Jerry Lewis."
Just then, they all heard the blaring of sirens as two police cars sped by the store heading out of town.
"Dad, I'd better go," he whispered.
"Go ahead," Jonathan answered softly just as Lana approached the counter ready to be checked out.
"Uh, Clark, I think I just heard the buzzer on the back door. It may be that delivery I've been expecting. Will you go see?"
"Sure. Lana, my Dad will ring up your things."
He walked briskly to the storeroom door, closing it behind him.
"All right, Lana, let's see what you have here."
The always suspicious Lang, never missing an opportunity, ran from the counter towards the back room.
"Lana, you shouldn't go in there!" Jonathan shouted to no avail.
Clark had removed his glasses and sweater in his changing to the Boy of Steel.
"I must investigate those sirens as quickly as I..."
He heard the door burst open.
A big smile broadened her face, "Caught cha! I knew it! Clark Kent, you are SUPERBOY! There's no need to try and talk your way out of it, because I caught you dead to right!"
Grasping for an explanation as quickly as possible, he stood right in front of her, his Boy of Steel uniform perfectly visible from his waist up. Fortunately, an idea popped into his brain. "No, Lana, you're totally wrong as usual. I'm the one who had a surprise, and you just ruined it."
"Oh yeah, what surprise?" she responded.
"Since you were talking about the History Festival, I came back here to put on what I was going to wear. I was planning to go as Superboy. My Mom made this replica of Superboy's costume for me. I was putting it on to show it off to you."
"Oh, I don't believe that at all, Clark, or rather Superboy?" she answered, not willing to give an inch in her discovery. "I know your Mom can do a lot of things, but even she couldn't copy Superboy's outfit to look as good as what you're wearing. And I'll prove it to you."
"What are you going to do?" he asked, trying to step back but was already against the wall of the store's back room.
"Superboy told me that his costume was indestructible just like he is," she exclaimed as she approached the lad. "So if that is Superboy's uniform..." She grabbed the outfit at the neckline and gave a strong jerk.
To the shock of both of them, the cloth gave way with a three-to-four inch rip.
Clark thought to himself, "Oh my gosh. What a lucky break. Being in such a rush to get to school this morning, I grabbed my replica uniform. This is perfect."
The redhead stood in shock, her hands up to her mouth, "Oh no, I'm sorry."
Regretting what he was about to do, but feeling it was necessary, "Thanks, Lana! Thanks a lot! Look at what you've done because of your stupid obsessions. My Mom spent hours making this for me (which was true) for the festival, and you've ruined it. I hope you're satisfied."
Her eyes began to water, and quickly tears were running down her cheeks.
"Clark, please forgive me. I-I didn't think..."
"That's about right. You didn't think, Lana. These crazy ideas you've been having have gotten completely out of hand. Now you've ruined my plans for the festival. Maybe you should just leave!"
"I said I was sorry."
"Apologies aren't enough this time. Just go!"
She did a one-eighty and ran from the back room out the front door of the store, leaving her grocery items behind. Kent corrected his attire and returned to the front and explained to Jonathan what had just occurred.
"She looked very upset as she left, son."
"Yeah, she was. I'm sorry I had to get so rough with her, but she really crossed the line. The wisecracks she makes about my being Superboy annoy me, but she went too far this time, even if she did catch me red-handed."
"Son, I tried to stop her."
"Oh, it isn't your fault. She was going to do it no matter what. Hopefully, the tongue lashing will convince her she should let it all go. At least, I hope she does."
The early evening found the Kents in the living room, Jonathan reading the Smallville Sentinel, Martha in her favorite chair trying to repair the spare super uniform damaged at the hands of Lana Lang in her ongoing quest to prove Clark was, indeed, the super hero.
The Kent lad was stretched out on the sofa about to doze when the telephone rang. The elder Kent got up, answered, talked for half a minute, then hung up.
"Martha, you'd better hide that. Company's coming."
"Who?" she asked.
"The Langs will be here in about twenty minutes. Lana wants to talk to you."
"Oh mercy, get up Clark. Everybody straighten things up. I want the place to look neat."
"Mom, the house looks fine. Here, I'll take the uniform up to my room."
Almost on time, the doorbell sounded. Jonathan let the guests inside.
"Mrs. Kent, I'd like to talk to you if I might," the teenager requested quite sheepishly.
"Sure dear, let's go into the kitchen. We'll leave the men in here."
Once seated, Martha asked Lana what she wanted to talk about.
"Oh Mrs. Kent, I'm so sorry for what I did this afternoon, ripping Clark's costume for the History Festival. I hope I didn't ruin it. Can it be repaired?"
"Well, Lana, I don't believe I'll be able to fix it as it is. I would have to make a new top for it. And there won't be enough time before the festival."
"Oh no! I feel awful."
"Listen dear, what you did was wrong and inconsiderate. But it's just a piece of clothing. May I be completely frank with you?"
"Lana, you and Clark have been friends for a long time. Why, you two grew up together. Not that you're not still growing, but you know what I mean. I am much more concerned about your friendship, which I'm afraid is getting a bit shaky."
"What do you mean, Mrs. Kent?"
"Clark has told me how the relationship between the two of you has changed since, well, since you've gotten the idea that my son is this Superboy. Things you have said and done to Clark have been very irritating, not only to him but to his father and me as well. Irritation can turn to anger, and I'm afraid that if you continue to act in this manner, your friendship with Clark will, well, be over. And none of us want that. So I'm asking you to back off and lighten up. Can you do that?"
"You know Lana, I think having Superboy here in Smallville is a wonderful thing for all of us, the way he helps people and all. I'd hate to see anyone do anything that would make him decide this is not where he wants to stay, because he might just leave. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
"Gosh no, I think Superboy's just dreamy. I hope he never leaves."
"Well, that's fine. Then you might want to remember our conversation from time to time," Ma Kent suggested.
"You ladies through in there?" came the voice of Professor Lang. "Remember Lana, I have an eight o'clock class in the morning, and you have school."
"We're finished," Martha answered, as she and the teenager came through the swinging kitchen door.
"Martha, I'd like to pay for the damage Lana caused to Clark's festival costume."
"Oh no, that's isn't necessary. Clark said he'd probably go as a cowboy, right son?"
"That's right," the younger Kent answered.
"Well, thank you for letting us intrude on your evening."
"No trouble at all," Jonathan remarked, as he started leading the Langs to the front door, just as the table lamp began flashing on and off.
Martha, speaking quickly, "Jonathan, I thought you were going to fix the short in that lamp before it burns the house down."
"Sorry dear, I forgot all about it."
"Probably just a loose wire, Jonathan," the professor stated as the door was closed behind them.
Clark headed for the bookcase, "Better see why the police are calling."
The Kents jumped a bit when the doorbell rang again.
Jonathan again opened the door. Lana whished right past him, "Forgot my pocketbook," which she retrieved from the sofa. "Sorry to bother you again. Where's Clark?"
Martha responded, "I think he went upstairs."
"Oh, O.K. Good night."
"Good night Lana," Ma Kent responded.
Heading for the door, the redhead yelled up the stairs, "Night Clark." Hearing no answer, she repeated herself.
"Probably taking a shower," Jonathan suggested.
"Oh, O.K. Good night."
He locked the door behind her. Then went and looked into the hidden room.
"He's gone. Apparently the police needed him."
As the Lang car pulled out of the Kent driveway onto the road back towards Smallville, Lana asked her father the time.
"It's about 7:15. Why?"
"Oh, just curious.
Twelve hours later, Professor Lang yelled up the stairs to his daughter.
"Lana, it's seven-thirty. I'm leaving for school. You need to hurry up. Your bus will be here in a few minutes."
"I'm ready Daddy. I'll be down in two minutes."
"O.K. honey. See you tonight. How about Tony's for dinner?"
"Sounds good Daddy. Love you, bye."
About the same time the college instructor was starting his car, the mischievous redhead bobbed downstairs and headed straight to the telephone. Dialing her number, she waited for an answer.
"Good morning, Police Department? Can you give me some information, please?"
"How can I help you Miss? Is this an emergency?" the officer asked.
"No, no. No emergency. But I would like to know if there was a police emergency last night around, say 7:15?"
"Hold the line Miss, let me check the log." After a short pause, "The fire department was dispatched to a call at 7:09."
"Anything very serious?" Lana inquired.
"Mmmm, a skillet of grease left on the stove caught fire at a residence on Bleeker Street."
"No one was hurt, I hope."
"Uh, no ma'am, no injuries. Some cosmetic damage to the kitchen, mostly smoke damage. The boys got it under control pretty fast."
"One more thing...do you know whether or not Superboy was involved?"
"Uh, let's see...the log states Superboy was there. Why are you asking Miss?"
"Oh, I'm calling for the school newspaper. Thank you for the information."
"You're very welcome."
Hanging up quickly, "Darn you Clark! Just when I want to believe you, this happens. Taking a shower, my foot. You were on your way to Bleeker Street as soon as we walked out your door. But I'm not going to say a word. I promised your mother. I'm just gonna lay low and keep my eyes open...for now."
Had the place been kept up, the neon sign would have read Blue Moon Diner & Tourist Cabins. Instead, passersby after dark saw from a distance Bl e Moo Di e & To i s t Cab in a fading blue.
Business at the place had peaked in the mid-fifties. Since that time, new structures called motels invaded the areas which outskirted the big city of Metropolis.
Still the Blue Moon had its share of customers, mostly wayfarers on a limited budget. At three bucks per night for a cabin, it kept the rain off transients and some folks who moved in and had never left. These regulars called themselves Blue Mooners.
Two of the transients, staying their third straight night, sat in a booth at the next-door diner, washing down their hot roast beef sandwiches with paint thinner-tasting java.
"What we got left, Van?"
"We're down to our last fifty," the other answered.
"Geez, that's not very much."
"You think I don't know that? I'm looking for a job."
"You mean, you're going to go to work, Van?"
"No you idiot! Job! Job! Some place for us to knock over."
"Oh, I get it. You scared me, Van. I thought you was going to get respectable."
"Shut up, Albert. I've never had a respectable job in my life, and I don't intend to start now. I'm reading the Daily Planet, looking for my kind of job opportunity. We need some dough so we can get out of this dump."
"Yeah, my mattress ain't very comfortable."
"Well, I'm more concerned about my stomach than your mattress. We need something that will keep us in smokes and booze for more than just a week. I'm tired of robbing gas stations and country stores. Petty stuff. What we need is a big score, and Albert, this might just be our lucky day."
"Ya find somethin' in the paper, Van?"
"Maybe. There's a town about an hour from here called Smallville. Ha! What a funny name for a town."
Albert added, "Yeah, almost as funny as Ivesville. You remember Ivesville, don't you Van? That's where you hit that man with your gun pretty hard. I wonder if he ever woke up. Why'd you hit him so hard, Van?"
"Listen Albert, when I stick a pistol to the tip of someone's nose and tell them to give me all the money in their register, that's what they should do, instead of trying to be a hero, so he left me no choice. Now you distracted me. Oh yeah, here it is. This Smallville is celebrating something called Youth History Festival this coming Saturday. It takes place uptown where all the stores are. According to this article, sounds like the whole town participates."
"Youth History Festival?" What's that?"
"It says that all the high school students dress up like famous people and hang around the town all day. It says there's a parade and other activities. Might fit perfectly into our schedule, Albert?"
"That's neat that the kids study history, Van, and get a good education."
"Yeah, too bad you missed out. Albert, I'm thinking that in this little town there has to be at least one bank. While all the commotion from this festival is going on, well, it might be just the time for us to sneak in and clean out the place. There ought to be a big enough load to keep us in high cotton for awhile. Then we could check into a decent place for a change."
"Whatever you say, Van."
"Here's what we'll do. The festival is Saturday. This is Wednesday. Tomorrow we'll drive to Smallville and look the town and the bank over. If it looks promising, we'll go back on Saturday and help ourselves."
"Gee, you think of everything, Van."
"I try Albert, I try."
Lana Lang's observations of young Kent had gone without incident the previous school day. She couldn't keep an eye on him at all times, but did have several classes with him and saw him before and after school. Lunch in the cafeteria as well. All had gone the way it used to go before Superboy appeared in Smallville.
As she rode the bus to school this morning, she was trying to put her suspicions about him to rest. "Maybe it is my imagination. Am I just subconsciously wanting to believe Clark and Superboy are one and the same? And if so, why? Maybe because Clark and I are such good friends, that would make me best friends with Superboy, too? And Superboy is so dreamy."
The squeaky brakes of the bus jolted her back to reality.
Stepping off the vehicle, she immediately saw Judy and Phyllis. The three walked inside together. Passing Pete and Rusty in the hall, she asked them if they had seen Clark. She told them he hadn't been on the bus.
"Probably late again," Pete answered. "He'll be here," he continued as the first bell sounded.
The students filed into their respective homerooms. Five minutes later, the tardy bell followed.
The redhead stared over at the empty desk which usually contained her friend, but it didn't. "First day of school I can remember Clark has been absent. He never gets sick. I hope nothing is wrong with Mr. or Mrs. Kent." Then something dawned on her. "Wait a minute. In yesterday's paper, there was an article that said Superboy was meeting with the Mayor and police today about security for the History Festival on Saturday. The very same day that Clark is absent from school."
She began to get irritated...again.
"Darn you Clark Kent. Just when I'm trying to forget about your being Superboy, you up and pull this. A coincidence...maybe. But highly unlikely. Well, I tried, but now I'm right back where I was. I've got to think of some way to get the evidence I need."
Lana made a call to the Kent home that evening, seeking Clark's excuse for his missing school. He told her he hadn't felt well when he got up earlier that morning and thought it best he not go to school.
"If I was coming down with something, I didn't want to pass it on to anyone else."
"How noble of you Clark," she told him, then said she was glad he was feeling better. "So you're coming to school tomorrow?"
"I expect so," he responded.
She hung up the phone and thought, "Perfect. Because I'm going to lay a trap for you, Clark Kent, and you're going to walk right into it."
Before the first period bell the following morning, the schemer was busy writing away on something when she suddenly stopped.
"Now to put my plan into action," she quietly chuckled. "Say Clark, I've run out of ink. May I take some from your pen, please?"
Always ready to help, he handed her his fountain pen, "Sure Lana, help yourself."
She fiddled with her pen as if having trouble pulling the lever open. Aiming it point blank at her friend's face, she released a stream of ink which hit its target dead on.
"Oh dear, I did have ink after all. Clark, I'm so sorry."
He whipped out his handkerchief and wiped his face, but the ink had done its damage. Numerous splotches stained his face. Asking to be excused, Kent hurried to the rest room, but washing with the liquid soap in the dispenser did little good. He returned to his homeroom desk just as the first period bell rang.
"Clark, I am sorry."
"Sure Lana," he replied, grabbing his books and leaving the room again. As he walked down the hall, a number of students were giggling when they saw the mess on his face. "She seemed a bit giddy about this, as if she did it on purpose. Is she up to her old tricks again about exposing my secret, or was it really an accident?"
"Hey Kent, go wash your face," an upperclassman shouted.
Hearing that made the devilish Lana smile. "It won't do any good. That's indelible ink. It'll take a couple of days to wear off. Now if I can run into Superboy today, his face should be stained, too. And then I'll know for sure."
Clark was tired of the ribbings he took throughout the day. They continued on the bus ride in the afternoon. His mother was working at the store, so he decided to go straight home.
As Lana got up to leave the bus, she said, "See you tomorrow, Clark. And like I said earlier..."
"You're sorry about the ink, yeah, I know," cutting her off.
His frustration got the best of him. As he closed the kitchen door behind him, it almost broke off the hinges. He plopped on the living room sofa and quickly dozed off. A half hour had passed when he sat up. Still restless, he thought a walk in the woods might help calm him down.
It didn't. All he could think of was Lana's obsession. "I guess that talk with Mom meant nothing to her. Great Scott! There's dark smoke up ahead. I'd better change to Superboy and investigate."
Finding concealment in a thicket of shrubbery, his lightning change of clothing took little time.
Looks like the smoke might be coming from over near Parson's Pond," he determined as he left the ground.
The Boy of Steel flew towards the billow of dark smoke, unaware that an impish redhead was fanning the flames.
"This harmless smudge pot really pours out the smoke. It's sure to attract Superboy's attention. I'll hide, and when he gets here, I'll see whether or not his face is ink stained, and if it is, I'll finally have my proof that Clark and Superboy are the same guy. Ha-ha."
A split second later, as the Boy of Steel neared the billowing cloud of smoke, "Oh no! The fire is another of Lana's traps. She'll know my secret if I don't wash these ink stains off, and if I do, I'll never be able to get them back on exactly the same way. Must think fast, or this will be the end of my dual identities."
Abrupty, Superboy plummeted downward, "There's only one solution, and it lies a few hundred feet below the surface of the earth. I can spread light clay over my face in a layer thin enough it will cover the ink stains without changing my facial features."
Having noticed the approach by air, Lana Lang had ducked into some bushes. She saw Superboy quickly toss the abandoned smudge pot into the water. The cloud of smoke immediately subsided.
"Now to make sure Lana gets a good look at me," he thought as he turned towards the area in which he knew she was hiding.
"Hmmm, Superboy's face is clean, no ink stains at all. One more step. Find Clark and see if the stains are still visible on his face. As soon as Superboy leaves, I'll ride to the Kent farm as fast as I can."
Twenty minutes later, there was a knock on the front door. Clark opened the door to face his adversary.
"Lana, what are you doing way out here?"
"Clark, your face, the ink is still on your face."
"Yeah, thanks to you. What did you do? Drop by so you could play another trick on me?"
Looking past her, he spotted her bicycle. "You rode your bike all the way out here?"
"Uh, yeah. I needed the exercise. Just wanted to say hey and apologize again about the ink. I hope it comes off soon."
"I was about to start scrubbing when you knocked."
"Oh good, then I won't keep you. I'd better head home. See you at the festival tomorrow. Who ya going as?"
"Wyatt Earp, my second choice," he answered, making reference to his aborted plans of going as Superboy.
"Yeah, that's my fault, too. Clark, I am sorry for all of this stuff."
"Uh huh. Who are you going as?"
"It's a surprise. But you'll see me. Bye."
As the redhead pedaled the bicycle, headed home, she thought how stupid she had been even thinking Clark Kent could be Superboy.
There was a bit of a nip in the air this September morning, but by nine o'clock, it was starting to warm up to the point that the Smallville kids didn't need to wear coats over their History Festival costumes.
The Board of Education had approached the Merchant's Association about putting on this shebang. No reason education couldn't be fun, or so said the Board's chairman. The downtown storekeepers had gone along with the plan, even though it meant that the main street was roped off and verboten for their customers' cars. All parking would have to be on the side streets, of which there were few.
Jonathan Kent was one who hadn't objected. As an officer of the association, he was also a sitting member of the Smallville Town Board. He figured if he had the merchandise people really wanted, they'd walk through the driving snow to get it, or at least a block or two from their parking places.
Clark was taking the morning off from Kent's General Store. His mother Martha was filling in for him. By half past nine, young Clark was up at the town square, leaning on a lamp post, twirlin' his shootin' iron, pretending to be legendary lawman Wyatt Earp. He chuckled a bit thinking how the folks of Smallville would react if they knew he really was a lawman when he was in action as his alter ego of Superboy.
The main street was now filled with Smallville High teens dressed in costumes which ran the gamut from Betsy Ross to President Kennedy. Pete Ross and Rusty Ellsworth showed up, Pete as Daniel Boone, Rusty...a bit more difficult to identify.
"Sorry, Rusty, you got me. Who are you supposed to be?"
"Are you kidding?" he remarked, "I'm Bobby Darin."
Pete and Clark got a laugh out of that.
"Bobby Darin, an historical figure?" Clark needled his friend.
"Heck yeah. 'Mack the Knife' is a classic."
"Uh oh," Pete noticed. "Here come the girls."
Strutting down the sidewalk came Lana Lang and her entourage. Phyllis was dressed as Annie Oakley, Noel as Pocohontas, Judy as Clara Barton. And leave it to Lana to show up as Cleopatra, with rubber snake around her neck.
"Thought you were coming as Annie Oakley," Clark inquired.
"Changed my mind. Gave my Oakley costume to Phyllis. I think Cleopatra fits my personality better, don't you fellas? Royalty, I mean."
"Queen Bee maybe," Kent responded, getting a punch in the arm. He felt no pain.
Clark then spotted Bob Cummins, the kid in the near past who then had possession of his prized red and blue super outfit.
"Hey Bob, good to see you out and about. How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good, Clark. Ribs are still a little sore," referring to the school yard beating he had taken from bully Rip Mitchell. "I hope he doesn't cause me any more trouble, because I'm sure he'll be around somewhere today."
"Stick with us, Bob. He won't bother you. He's already on probation. He knows what will happen if he incites any more trouble," said Kent assuredly.
The guys held their ground at the square as the parade of characters continued. Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, Martha Washington. And there were two or three teenage boys dressed as Superboy. Their costumes were a far cry from Martha's work, but close enough so that anyone could tell who they were supposed to be.
The real Superboy was flattered.
Bob Cummins had come to the festival as Robin Hood. In talking to Clark, Pete and Rusty, Bob explained how he had seen a Robin Hood movie on television recently that had really impressed him.
"And the guy's name who played Robin Hood was Arrow Flynn, whoever he is."
Clark and Pete caught Bob's error but neither corrected their timid classmate.
Pete and Rusty suggested they all walk around and take in the sights, the sights being girls, but Clark declined, opting to stay at the square.
"Better hang around here in case there are any gunfights I have to break up," he laughed.
"O.K. Mr. Earp, we'll see ya later," they answered as they went away.
Actually, he remained fixed on the corner because he, as the Boy of Steel, had promised the police he would be on guard for anything out of the ordinary, and this was the perfect spot to see down both of the town's busiest streets. So far, the festival was going well, and folks seemed to be having a good time. He hoped Superboy would not be needed.
"Hey Clark," a voice behind him spoke.
"Bob, I thought you went with Pete and Rusty."
"No, I decided to stay here. I really don't want to run into Rip Mitchell."
"Like I said, Bob, he won't bother you."
"Well, just the same. Hey, isn't there going to be some sort of a parade?"
"Yeah, a small one. Western theme. A few covered wagons, a stagecoach, some cowboys and horses. Should be starting pretty soon," Kent responded.
An hour or so later, walking down the other main street of town came Lana and her girlfriends, on their way back from Tony's Diner, when they ran into Pete and Rusty.
"Having fun, guys?" the girls asked.
"Yeah, but my feet are starting to hurt," came Rusty's reply.
"Well, it should be about time for the parade to be starting. We'd better hurry so we'll have a good place to stand," the redhead suggested.
"I just love cowboys," Noel announced.
Before reaching the square, one of the parked vehicles they passed, but didn't notice, was a beat-up, old panel truck.
The first clear spot on the curb they could find was in front of Kent's General Store. Lana waved through the window at Martha and Jonathan.
"Look Jonathan, aren't the kids cute in their costumes? But I don't see Clark with them."
"I think Clark is trying to keep some distance from Lana these days, Martha. You know what I mean."
Back at the town square, young Kent and Bob Cummins looked on as the parade entries headed towards them.
"Here they come, Clark," Bob announced.
"Yep," he replied in his best Gary Cooper voice.
As the first covered wagon went passed, out of nowhere, Bob pulled a toy arrow from his Robin Hood quiver, and prepared it for a launch.
"Let's see if I can hit the side of the covered wagon. INDIAN ATTACK!" he yelled, releasing the projectile.
Seeing it all too late, Clark screamed, "No Bob, don't!"
"Too late!" Kent thought to himself. "Great Scott! The arrow hit the horse! The horse is panicking! He's rearing up. The kids in the wagon are in danger. This is a job for Superboy!"
"This is awful, Bob. I can't stand to watch!" Kent yelled at his friend, then disappeared into the crowd. An instant later, in a secluded spot in the nearest alley, he quickly shed his Wyatt Earp outfit, becoming the real Superboy, not one of the festival's imitators.
"That horse is so scared it may buck violently if it sees or hears me. There's only one thing to do...dive underground like a human drill. I'll bore through the earth as fast as I can until I see the horse with my x-ray vision right above me. It won't be scared because it won't know I'm underneath it."
A moment later, two strong hands of steel broke through the street and grabbed the horse's back legs, bringing it to a stop.
"Look! Superboy stopped that runaway horse dead in its tracks from under the street," one townsperson shouted.
"That's amazing!" said another.
"Is there anything he can't do?" yelled a third.
Thinking it best to avoid the crowd, the Boy of Steel reversed his tracks back through the path he had made and seconds later, Wyatt Earp had returned to the lamp post.
His friends scurried to his spot. A thought crossed the mind of one of those friends, but when Lana saw Kent was where he had been all morning, she scolded herself for, yet again, thinking he could be Superboy.
"Did you see that Clark?" she asked.
"Yeah, I saw it. Pretty incredible, wasn't it?"
Young Bob Cummins was nowhere to be seen.
Out of guilt and embarrassment, the Robin Hood wannabe had run home as best as his injured ribs allowed.
Another hour or so had passed when Lana Lang conveyed to Clark Kent she was worn out and should probably go home.
"Already?" he asked.
"What do you mean already? Phyllis, Judy and Noel left a good while ago. The crowd's breaking up. The festival is done. I'm going home."
"Well, OK Lana, I'll see ya later."
"Ah, c'mon Clark, how's about walking me home? I'll make you some lemonade. If you're as thirsty as I am, you could drink a whole pitcher of it."
"Very well," he relented.
"Well, don't make out like it'll kill you. Let's go." She hooked her arm through his.
"Hey, what's that for?"
She answered that people might think they were a couple if they walked arm in arm. He just sighed.
Heading down the street towards Tony's, both of them noticed a panel truck (the same one Lana hadn't noticed on the street earlier in the day) backed into the alley behind the bank.
"Look at that Clark. Doesn't that make you mad?"
"Why should I be mad?" he replied.
"Well, because that truck is parked right below a No Parking in Alley sign. We should find a policeman."
"Leave it alone Lana. You want me to walk you home? Then let's go."
"Not until I find out who owns this truck," she said as she pulled away from her escort and approached the vehicle. "It's from out of state. J24Y97. Remember that Clark. It's the license plate number.
Just then, they heard a muffled sound which they thought came from inside.
"Clark, I think someone's robbing the bank."
"Oh, there goes that imagination of yours," he stated as he used his x-ray vision to peer through the cement walls. Seeing that she was actually right for once, and to get away so he could spring into action as Superboy, he informed her that he just remembered he was supposed to check in at the family store just in case his dad needed some help with customers. "I'm afraid you'll have to walk home alone after all."
"Oh no!" she retorted, locking their arms again. "I'm not letting you out of my sight, Mr. Kent. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
"Lana, we need to leave," he instructed, just as the two men holding guns and carrying several leather bags, burst through the back door of the building.
"Damn! A couple of kids," one thug said to the other.
Before anyone could react further, the fiery redhead grabbed one of the men. "You're not robbing our bank mister! Clark, go get the police!"
"Stay right where you are kid!" the man named Van demanded. "Hands up!"
Lana was going at the other with all she had. The robber dropped his bags and backhanded the girl into the building's wall. She fell to the ground. Kent started to her, but was struck over the head with the butt of his captor's pistol. To save his cover, he fell to the ground, feigning unconsciousness.
"CLARK!" she screamed.
"Van, let's put them in the back of the truck. We can use them as hostages if we need to. Help me with him." The two lifted the dead-weight Kent and pushed him inside the truck. "Now the girl."
But when they turned, the girl was gone.
"Where did she go, Van?"
"I don't know. Probably for help. We can't take time to find her. Here, get in back with the kid. Tie him up. We have to get out of here. I'll take it slow until we're away from town so we won't attract attention. Then we'll hightail it back to the Blue Moon."
Slowly, the panel truck exited the alley, made two lefts and one right, then was on the road back towards Metropolis.
By this time, Lana had made her way back to Main Street, screaming like a banshee, in her quest for a police officer.
Kent continued to play oppossum in the truck. Since he was "knocked cold," he permitted the dim-witted Albert to tie his hands behind him. Albert, not the brightest bulb in the theater marquee, didn't notice that as soon as he finished tying Kent's hands, the super youngster snapped the twine as if it were a spider's web. But his hands remained hidden from the captor.
It was another five minutes or so before Clark decided to "come to." As he woke up, he groaned.
"Oh, my head is killing me."
"That's what happens, kid, when you try to be a hero in front of your girlfriend."
"You don't really believe that you and your friend are going to get away with this, do you?"
"Quiet kid, or I'll have to gag you. I'm thinkin'."
"About what, how your partner's gonna double cross you and cheat you out of your cut of the money?"
"Van wouldn't do that."
"Oh, so his name is Van. What's yours?"
"I told you to shut up."
"My name's Clark."
"I don't care if it's Dill Pickle. Now, quiet!"
"Since you're not from around here, maybe you didn't know Smallville has a pretty good police department for a little town."
"Oh really. Well, sonny, Van and I just walked into your town and cleaned out your bank without your great police department ever the wiser. And that bank, what a crackerbox. Did you know that your bank's only alarm is a button under a teller's window? I didn't even have to bypass an alarm system to get in the back door. God, how I love small town banks."
"The alarm button is at the window of the bank president's mother. She's one of the two tellers."
"Oh, bea-u-ti-ful. The bank president's mother," he laughed hysterically. "Smallville sounds like that hick town on television. Do all your cops carry their bullets in their shirt pockets?" laughing again.
"No, I don't think so. But, you know, the police have someone who helps them fight crime...Superboy."
"Who did you say? Su-per-boy? What the hell's a Superboy?"
"Like I said, he's a young guy who helps the police department."
"Well, it must be Su-per-boy's day off 'cause I ain't seen him around, have you?"
"No, but no one ever knows when he might show up."
"Well, let him show up. I've got six shiny new slugs in Roscoe here (waving his pistol) with his name on them."
"Hey, what was that?" the youth exclaimed.
"What was what?"
At a speed too fast for the human eye to track, Clark swung his right fist around making perfect contact with the jaw of his captor. Albert hit the wooden floor of the old truck hard enough that Van felt it in the cab.
"Having some fun back there with the kid, Albert?" Van chuckled. "Don't hurt him too bad, not yet."
Clark knelt by his sleeping host, who was already into the next week.
"Sorry, pal, for what I'm going to do, I can't have an audience," he remarked as his glasses were removed.
Van mashed the accelerator almost to the floor, getting every bit of the old 65 m.p.h. it could muster.
The Boy of Steel now stood over the "resting" Albert. "One down, one to go," he said as he crashed through the side of the panel truck and streaked skyward.
Halting the fleeing panel truck containing bags full of stolen currency and two bank robbers was easier for Superboy than it was for Martha Kent to bake an apple pie.
When the two Smallville police cars reached the truck, the first cop out was Bill Henderson, gun drawn.
"We've been waiting for you, my new friends and I. The one on the left is Albert Hodges, Van Sickel on the right. The bank money is all in the bags in the back of the truck.
Looking at the hole in the side of vehicle, Henderson asked, "What happened here?"
"Oh that. Well, Clark Kent needed some fresh air."
"Well, where is he?"
"My guess is that he jumped out of the truck."
"While it was moving?" the cop inquired.
"I suppose so. Didn't you see him along the road on your way out here?"
"No, I didn't."
"Well, I'll go look for him. He'll most likely need a ride back to town. I can take care of that. So if you have everything under control here..."
"I do, and thanks Superboy. Oh, the D.A. may need you to testify."
"That will be a pleasure," he answered as he lifted off the ground.
Watching him disappear from sight, Henderson and his back-up cuffed the two men.
"Sickel in that car. Hodges, you'll ride with me.
The District Attorney wasted no time in moving forward. Bank robbery and kidnapping felonies were a rarity in Smallville.
The courtroom was filled with spectators that Monday morning.
"All rise," the bailiff instructed as Judge Hamilton took his seat.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the judge started, looking at the six people selected as the Grand Jury, "this is not a trial. Our purpose is twofold: (1) to determine if a crime or crimes have been committed, and (2) to determine if there is sufficient evidence against Albert Hodges and Van Sickel that they be bound over to Superior Court to stand trial for what they have been charged. Do you understand?"
The half-dozen nodded yes.
"Very well, Mr. District Attorney. You may proceed."
"The People call Clark Kent to the stand."
The Kent youth sat in the witness chair after being sworn.
"Mr. Kent, will you tell this court where you were two days ago, that being Saturday afternoon, at approximately two o'clock?"
"I was at the Smallville High Youth Festival uptown."
"And what were you doing?"
"Just standing around until a friend, Lana Lang, asked me to walk her home."
"And did you walk her home?"
"We started out towards her house. But when we passed by the alley behind the Smallville Bank, Lana stopped."
"For what reason?"
"She looked into the alley and saw a truck parked illegally."
"What kind of truck?"
"It was a panel truck. A rather beat up panel truck."
"Well, Lana got really mad..."
"Objection," shouted the Public Defender. "The witness can not testify to what was in the young lady's mind."
"Sustained," Judge Hamilton responded.
"Let me put it another way, Clark. Did Lana Lang say anything that would indicate her mood?"
"Yes. She said she was mad because a truck was parked right below a No Parking in Alley sign."
"Then what happened?"
"She walked into the alley towards the truck."
"And what did you do Clark?"
"Nothing at first. But when she said the truck had an out-of-state license plate, I followed her. She told me that J24Y97 was the plate number, and I should remember that. I then looked at the license tag myself."
"Your Honor, I offer into evidence a copy of the vehicle's registration certificate from the Illinois DMV showing a panel truck with license J24Y97 is registered to Van Sickel."
"Granted," Hamilton nodded.
"Now Clark," the D.A. continued, "then what happened?"
"We, sorry, I heard a muffled sound from inside the bank building."
"Yes sir, two men came out the back door of the bank."
"Are these two men anywhere in this courtroom?"
"Yes sir, they're sitting at that table."
"Let the record show," Bruton stated, "that the witness is pointing to Albert Hodges and Van Sickel. Now Clark, did you notice anything about them out of the ordinary?"
"Each of them was carrying two black bags."
"Then what Clark."
"A soon as they came out of the bank, they saw Lana and me. Both of them dropped the bags they were carrying and pulled pistols out from under their coats."
"Well, Lana went after one of the men, Mr. Hodges. He slapped her really hard with the back of his hand and she fell backwards against the building. I started towards her, but the other man hit me in the head, and I must have been knocked out. Then they put me in the back of the truck."
"Objection," again from the Public Defender. "If Mr. Kent were unconscious, he would have no way of knowing how he ended up in the back of the truck."
"Sustained," Hamilton ruled.
"But Your Honor, a future witness will testify that is exactly what happened," the D.A. argued.
"Then we'll let that witness so testify. The objection is sustained. Let's move on Mr. Bruton.
"What is the next thing you remember Mr. Kent?"
"I was in the back of the truck with Mr. Hodges. I could feel the truck was moving."
"Mr. Hodges and I talked a few minutes. During our conversation, he told me what a crackerbox bank we had in Smallville. He talked about the burglar alarm system in the bank."
"He wouldn't tell me his name, but he did say his partner's name was Van. Then he threatened to gag me."
"Clark, you were able to get out of the truck. How did you do that?"
"Superboy smashed a hole in one side of the truck, and I went through it."
"You mean you jumped out of the truck while it was moving?"
"Yes sir. When I left the truck, it was moving."
"Didn't you consider the danger in doing that?"
"All I knew was that I needed to get out of the truck."
"Didn't your captor try to stop you from escaping?"
"Do you know why?"
"I believe he was unconscious."
"How did that happen?"
"Uh, Superboy, I think. As soon as I saw the hole in the truck, I got out."
"I'm finished with the witness, Your Honor," Bruton stated as he took his seat.
Aherne, the Public Defender, walked slowly towards the witness chair which held Clark Kent.
"So, Mr. Kent, you testified that you saw my two clients come out the back door of the Smallville Bank, is that correct?"
"And each of them was carrying, in your words, two black bags?"
"Did you, at any time, see what was in the black bags?"
"Well, no I didn't, but..."
"And did you, in fact, see either Mr. Hodges or Mr. Sickel actually take money from the Smallville Bank?"
"No sir, but..."
"Thank you," he said, cutting Kent off at the ankles.
"But why else would they be in there on a Saturday when the bank was closed?" Clark continued.
"YOUR HONOR!" Aherne protested.
"The Grand Jury will disregard Clark Kent's last statement. Strike it from the record," the judge instructed the court reporter. "Clark, just answer the questions asked of you. Do not volunteer any information."
"Yes, Your Honor. Sorry."
"Continue, Mr. Aherne."
"I'm finished with the witness," was the defender's response.
Judge Hamilton told Clark he could step down. "Next witness, Mr. Bruton."
"The People call Lana Lang."
As the redhead took the witness stand, Clark leaned over to his mother Martha and told her he had to leave. "Superboy is the next scheduled witness after Lana. Make an excuse for my leaving if you have to." She nodded.
The questions for Lana Lang, for the most part, repeated those asked of Kent. She did testify it was the two defendants who loaded her friend into the back of the panel truck. She testified that it was during that time when she was able to get away from her assailants and run back to Main Street where she told a policeman what had just occurred. That concluded her involvement in the situation.
Public Defender Aherne offerned no questions on cross examination.
Lana returned to the gallery and took her seat next to Martha.
"Where's Clark?" she immediately asked.
"Lana, it is a school day. Shouldn't you go, too?"
"Not me. Superboy is the next witness. I'm sticking around to see him."
"Is it that important to you to miss school, dear?"
"Oh, it sure is. I'd do anything to spend time with Superboy."
"Any more witnesses, Mr. District Attorney?"
"Yes, Your Honor. The people call Superboy to the stand."
The door at the back of the courtroom opened and in walked the Boy of Steel, called as a People's witness in the preliminary hearing of Albert Hodges and Van Sickel, the two men arrested for robbing the Smallville Bank and kidnapping Clark Kent.
The people in the gallery clapped when they saw their local hero.
"This is not the Smallville Community Theater. There will be no applause from the spectators, or there will be no spectators," the judge admonished.
As Superboy walked down the aisle and through the gate to the witness stand, his red cape swirled, similar to an American flag in a light breeze.
The bailiff administered the oath, then asked the witness to state his name.
"Your full name," the bailiff requested.
"That is my full name," he replied with a slight grin.
The bailiff looked towards the bench, "That's good enough, Marv. We know who he is," instructed the judge.
District Attorney Bruton approached the witness, "Now Superboy, would you please tell the court what exactly was your involvement in Saturday's alleged bank robbery and alleged abduction of Clark Kent?"
"I saw an old panel truck heading out of Smallville headed towards Metropolis. Clark Kent was being held against his will..."
"Objection," shouted the Public Defender.
"Sustained," Judge Hamilton ruled.
The D.A. stared at the lad on the stand, who rephrased his answer, "Clark Kent was in the back of the truck, so I smashed a hole in the side of the vehicle, the side facing the shoulder of the road. I then stopped the truck and apprehended the two men inside."
"Do you see these men anywhere in the courtroom?"
"Yes, the two men are sitting at the defendant's table."
"Did you just happen to find a large sum of money in the truck?"
"Yes sir. Close to $25,000, contained in four black leather bags."
"What did you do after you stopped this truck?"
"I waited on the scene with the two men until William Henderson of the Smallville Police Department arrived. I turned the men over to him and then I left."
"And where was Clark Kent when you apprehended the truck?
"Clark Kent wasn't there. Just Hodges, Sickel and me."
"So how did Clark Kent get away?"
"You'd have to ask him, sir."
"Thank you Superboy, I already have. Your witness, Counselor."
"Thank you, Mr. District Attorney," Aherne said graciously. "Now, Superboy, I must say that you are an incredibly remarkable young man."
"Thank you," he answered sheepishly.
"I mean, you can fly through the air like a bird. I can't imagine what that must be like."
"Actually, I don't fly like a bird, but I can fly, yes sir."
"I meant it metaphorically. So how long have you had this talent?"
"Well, a good while now."
"Do you possess any other unique abilities that no one else does?"
"Well, I can move extremely fast, so fast I can't be seen. I am very strong and have very powerful sight and hearing."
"I see. And what do you mean when you say powerful sight?"
"I can generate heat rays with my eyes, heat hot enough to melt metal. I can also see through things."
"See through things? Do you mean like an x-ray machine?" Aherne continued.
"Judge, I really don't understand why he's asking all of these personal questions."
"He is permitted to do so, Mr. District Attorney. Superboy, just answer counsel's questions," Judge Hamilton responded.
"Thank You, Your Honor," Aherne went on. "So Superboy, you go to school, correct?"
"I didn't hear your answer, Superboy. You do go to school, don't you?" Hearing no reply, he repeated, "Well, are you enrolled in school or not? According to state law, minors must attend school until they are sixteen."
Martha Kent squirmed a bit.
"Objection, Your Honor," D.A. Bruton shouted. "I've tried to be patient, but opposing counsel is badgering this witness. Superboy is not on trial here."
Before the judge could rule on the motion, the Public Defender fired back, "Your Honor, I have the right on cross to question the credibility of a witness and to impeach him, if possible."
Hamilton stared at the D.A., "You know how the game is played, Mr. Bruton. Defense Counsel is correct. Your objection is overruled. Any more questions, Mr. Aherne?"
"Oh yes, Your Honor."
"Let's set the school issue aside for the moment. By the way, where were you born, Superboy? I'm curious as to how you acquired your amazing abilities."
"Where was I born?"
"That's the question."
"Well, actually, I don't know."
There was a light mumbling in the gallery.
"You don't know where you were born? How odd? What does your birth certificate state as your place of birth?"
"Uh, I've never seen my birth certificate."
"Well, if you don't know where you were born, where were you brought up? For example, where were you living when you were ten years of age?"
"I can't say."
"You mean you don't know?"
"Yes, I know. I just can't tell you. I wish I could tell you, but I just can't."
"Then I'll ask you again...do you go to school, and if so, where?"
"I can't tell you that either."
"Are you saying that your answering my questions would violate your Fifth Amendment rights?"
"No, there's nothing incriminating about any of this. I just can't give you the answers you want. I'm sorry."
"Well, Superboy, if there's nothing incriminating about your answers, why won't you answer?"
The gallery of spectators was getting quite restless. Martha Kent was fighting back tears. Lana Lang was mad as a hornet. Why would this scumbag lawyer attack someone like Superboy? Hamilton sensed he was losing control of the situation.
"Answering your questions could put innocent people in danger," he admitted.
"I don't understand. What people? Please explain," Aherne insisted.
"That's all I can say," the Boy of Steel responded.
Aherne directed his statement to the bench, "Your Honor, I do not wish to appear that I'm telling you how to run your court, but by the actions of this witness, and his blatant refusal to answer my questions, none of which, he says, would incriminate him, he's crossed way over the line and should be held in contempt of this court!"
"Court is again in order," stated the bailiff.
Judge Hamilton, in an attempt to calm the storm of the Public Defender Aherne's cross examination of Superboy, had called a thirty minute recess. During the break, he summoned both attorneys to his chamber for a little "off the record" chit chat. Both lawyers agreed to get back to the main issue at hand, that of the bank robbery and kidnapping charges against Albert Hodges and Van Sickel.
"All right, Mr. Aherne, you may continue your cross of Superboy, and I hope you will remember what we discussed during our recess."
"Yes, Your Honor." Approaching the witness, "Now Superboy, I'm almost finished with you. Just a few more questions."
"You testified, did you not, that you saw an old panel truck driving out of Smallville headed towards Metropolis, isn't that right?"
"So you then stopped this truck and apprehended the two men in the truck, one driving and one in the back of the truck."
"Then you confiscated four black bags whch you said were full of currency."
"What made you think the bags were full of money? Did you open them?"
"Do my clients open the bags?"
"Then why did you think the bags contained money?"
"I used my x-ray vison and saw the money in the bags. Remember, I testified about having special visual abilities."
"Yes, I do remember."
At this point, Aherne stunned everyone in the courtroom by turning to the bench, "Your Honor, I move for an immediate dismissal of all charges against Mr. Hodges and Mr. Sickel."
"A DISMISSAL!" D.A. Bruton shouted.
"Yes Your Honor, a dismissal. My clients' Constitutional rights were violated up one side and down the other. There is no testimony that Superboy had any legal reason to single out the truck of my clients. He hadn't observed them doing anything illegal. No probable cause, Your Honor. He didn't see the truck parked in the alley behind the bank. He didn't witness my clients coming out of the bank. He even admitted to causing damage to my clients' property by smashing a hole in the side. Then, without a warrant, he conducted an illegal search of my clients' personal property, four black leather bags. He conducted this search by using his x-ray vision to see inside the bags. That amounts to the same thing as illegally opening them. And if he saw Clark Kent in the truck, he would have had to use his x-ray vision to see him as well. Well, Your Honor?"
"YOUR HONOR!" Bruton yelled again.
"Order! Order! I want silence in this courtroom or I'll have it cleared," Hamilton announced.
Finally, everyone sat back down and came to attention.
"Mr. Bruton, I don't like this any more than you. But defense counsel is correct. The rights of the defendants were violated, just as he said. Looking towards the defense table, "All charges against Albert Hodges and Van Sickel are dismissed. The defendants are free to go."
The Boy of Steel sat motionless in the witness chair. The room full of spectators looked squarely at him but not with the same admiration in which they had greeted him.
The lanky panel truck, complete with a three-foot hole in the right rear side, exited the impound lot of the Smallville Police Department and headed towards the city of Metropolis. The passengers had been given a new lease on life, that is, continued life outside of a prison cell.
"Pretty smart lawyer we had, huh Van."
"Yes Albert. I have to give the good Mr. Aherne credit. He really earned his salary today, although I suspect that most of the taxpayers who pay his salary aren't too happy with him right now."
"Yeah, he sure made that Superboy looked like a sap in court, didn't he Van?"
"Yes he did. And you know what Albert, you and I are just getting started causing trouble for Superboy."
"I don't get it. How can we make trouble for him?"
"Oh Albert, we can make lots of trouble for him, and I'm not going to waste any time at all in doing just that. He's going to pay for sticking his nose in our business and costing us that bank money. We're going to hurt that kid real bad."
"You mean like beating him up?"
"Of course not, stupid. We can't hurt him physically."
"Why do you always call me stupid, Van?"
"Because you are stupid. But I have an idea of how we can cook that Superboy's goose. But we're going to need a little help."
"And who's gonna help us hurt Superboy? Everybody seems to like him, except us, I mean."
"I think it's time to get the Hurds involved."
"The Hurds? You mean Harry and Agnes?"
"Do you know any other Hurds? Of course Harry and Agnes. What I have in mind is right up their alley. But our immediate problem is cash. We're just as broke now as we were before we robbed the bank. Between here and the Blue Moon, we need to knock over a store or gas station to tide us over," Van instructed. "I'll call Harry as soon as we get to the Blue Moon. Depending on what con they're running, they should be able to get to Smallville pretty quick. And in the meantime, I think the Lang girl might be able to help us, too."
"Who's the Lang girl?" Albert asked.
"She's the redhead who testified against us. Weren't you paying attention in the courtroom?"
"Well, I was mostly thinking of how many years we were gonna get locked up."
Van responded, "Well, I was paying attention, and I think there's a link between her and Superboy."
"What makes you think so, Van?"
"For one thing, she was the only female teenager in the courtroom. Unlike the Kent kid, she didn't leave after she testified. And I saw her really get irritated when Aherne went after Superboy while he was on the witness stand. I've got the feeling that she has a thing for our fair-haired super hero, and I'm also betting she can give us some useful information about him."
"I don't see how Van. If she likes the guy, there's no way she'd help us."
"I didn't say she would help us willingly, Albert. I have an idea of how we can arrange a private conversation with Miss Lang. Tomorrow, we're going to...ah, skip it for now. Here's a little store up the road. Albert, looks like it's payday."
His voiced trailed off as he slowed the truck and made his turn into the dirt parking lot.
It was only ten minutes after perky Lana Lang got off the bus and entered the house she shared with her father, a professor at Smallville Junior College. Another school day as a freshman was in the books.
After a quick snack, she planned to go straight to her homework. Those plans were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.
"Hello," she answered.
"Is this Lana Lang?" the male voice asked.
"Yes it is. Who's this?"
"Miss Lang, this is Sgt. O'Connor of the Smallville Police Department."
"Oh gosh, is anything wrong?" she inquired.
"No ma'am. I'm calling to relay a message to you from Superboy. He asked that you meet him in the lobby of the Smallville Hotel as soon as you can. He said it's very important."
"What's it about, did he say?"
"No ma'am. He didn't tell me."
"Oh, O.K., thank you. I'll go right away."
She would never miss an opportunity to spend time with her new hero.
Hanging up the receiver at the other end of the call, Van Sickel turned to his associate, "It worked. She's on her way, Albert. You know what to do."
It took the young girl ten minutes to walk the couple of blocks to town and to the front of the hotel. She entered via the old, heavy wood door. She stood in the lobby all alone.
"Hello, Mr. McCredy," she called out for the owner, who was usually behind the check-in desk or nearby. There was no answer.
Stepping further into the lobby closer to the stairs, she tried again. "Superboy, are you here?"
In rapid succession, things went dark for her, and she felt a bee sting-like sensation in her left arm. Van Sickel put his finger to his lips, instructing Albert Hodges not to speak. What struggling Lana had attempted, subsided. The two men helped her negotiate the stairs. They took her through the second door to the left and sat her in a chair.
"Albert, the sodium thiopental has had time to take effect. You wait in the hall. Tap on the door if anyone shows up," Sickel instructed.
"Is this when you're going to talk to her?" he whispered.
"Yes Albert, now I'm going to talk to her. Now go."
The thinker of the duo pulled up another chair and sat facing his captive. He removed the pillow case from her head,"
"Miss Lang, can you hear me?"
Under the influence of the truth serum forced upon her, she answered yes.
"I want you to know that you are completely safe. No one is going to harm you in any way. I just want to have a peaceful conversation with you. Is that all right with you?"
Again she responded with a yes.
"Very good. Let us begin. I want to talk with you about your friend Superboy."
Van: "Miss Lang, let's talk about Superboy."
Van: "That's right. Superboy."
Lang: "All right."
Van: "Miss Lang, who is Superboy?"
Lang: "I don't understand the question."
Van: "Well, you know him, don't you?"
Lang: "Yes, I know him."
Van: "How well do you know him?"
Lang: "Not as much as I'd like to."
Van (smirking at her response): "How long have you known him?"
Lang: "Almost as long as he has been in Smallville."
Van: "And how long is that?"
Lang: "A couple of months. Before that, no one in Smallville knew he existed."
Van: "Do you mean he just turned up a couple of months ago?"
Lang: "Yes, he saved an airplane from crashing during the County Fair?"
Van: "And before that, no one around Smallville had ever heard of him?"
Lang: "No. No one. It was a real big deal when we first saw him."
Van: "How often do people see him?"
Lang: "Almost every day."
Van: "How do you mean?"
Lang: "He is always helping people in trouble."
Van: "So he lives in Smallville?"
Lang: "I believe so."
Van: "Where in Smallville does he live?"
Lang: "I don't know."
Van: "You don't know?"
Lang: "I don't know."
Van: "Isn't that odd, Miss Lang? You seem to know him pretty well and don't know where he lives?"
Lang: "I don't understand."
Van: "Well, does he have a house in Smallville, or say, rent a room in someone else's house?"
Lang: "I would have heard about it if he did. Everyone in Smallville knows everyone else."
Van: "Haven't you been curious?"
Lang: "Very curious."
Van: "You must have a theory about it, Miss Lang. Do you?"
Lang: "Yes I do."
Van: "And what is your theory?"
Lang: "I believe Superboy wears a disguise sometimes."
Van: "You mean when he's not helping people, he lives in Smallville disguised as another person."
Lang: "Yes, I believe so."
Van: "Why do you think he might do that?"
Lang: "I'm not sure."
Van: "So it would be logical that any young man who has moved to Smallville in the last few months is probably Superboy?"
Lang: "It would, but no young man has moved to Smallville during that time."
Van: "I see. So if no one has recently moved here, it would be logical to assume that he has been here for some time but has remained a secret, wouldn't you agree?"
Lang: "Yes, that makes sense."
Van: "So then, why do you think he has just recently revealed himself?"
Lang: "I don't know."
Van: "Does he go to high school with you and your friends?"
Lang: "If he does, he doesn't go as Superboy."
Van: "So he wears his disguise if he goes to school."
Lang: "He must."
Van: "You know most of the students at the high school, don't you?"
Lang: "I know every teenager in town. I'm very outgoing."
Van: "Could Superboy be one of your friends when he is disguised?"
Van: "Well, let's start with some of your closest male friends. Who would they be?"
Lang: "Thomas, Rusty, Pete, Bob, Chester and Clark."
Van: "All right. Let's see if we can narrow the list down. Have you ever seen Thomas or Rusty and Superboy at the same time?"
Lang (thinking a bit): "Thomas or Rusty? Yes I have. A number of times."
Van: "How about Pete?"
Lang: "Pete, yes...several times."
Van: "How about Chester or Bob?"
Lang: "Chester? Yes. Bob? Yes. I have seen them with Superboy."
Van: "That leaves Clark. That's the boy you were with when you saw me leaving the bank?"
Lang: "Yes. Clark is my closest male friend."
Van: "Your boy friend?"
Lang: "No, just friends."
Van: "So, have you ever seen Clark and Superboy together at the same time?"
Lang (pondering her answer): "No, I haven't. Clark is never there when Superboy is around."
Lang: "No. Never. When Superboy is there, Clark isn't there. After Superboy is gone, Clark shows up."
Van: "And you never thought it strange that you have never seen them together?"
Lang: "Yes. I have been suspicious almost from the beginning but not able to prove anything. When I bring it up, Clark says it's a coincidence or I'm just imagining things."
Van: "Give me an example."
Lang: "I walked in on him in the back room of his dad's store. He was taking off his sweater and shirt. He was wearing a Superboy uniform under his regular clothes. I thought he was changing to Superboy to help someone, but he said I was wrong."
Van: "Well, what did he say?"
Lang: "He told me he was wearing it because he was going to attend the History Festival as Superboy and just wanted to show his costume to me."
Van: "And you believed him?"
Lang: "It made sense the way he told it."
Van: "I believe you may have put too much faith in him, Miss Lang. I also believe you have been right all along. Your friend Clark Kent is Superboy. Doesn't that make sense to you?"
Lang: "Clark...Superboy? Yes, he must be. I must find Clark and ask him why he won't be honest with me about being Superboy. We've been friends a long time. I have to go now."
"No, Miss Lang," black-hearted Van Sickel stated. "First, I go. You count to one hundred, then you go."
Standing up, he headed for the door. As he exited, Sickel turned back to Lana and instructed her to start counting.
The door closed, he told Hodges, "O.K. Albert, let's go out the back way." Outside and behind the hotel, they jumped into a car occupied by another couple...Harry and Agnes Hurd.
"How did it go, Van?"
"Perfectly," he told the Hurds. "Let's get back to the Blue Moon. Slowly now. Don't attract attention."
"Hey Van, that girl gonna be all right?"
"Yes, Albert. The sodium thiopental is already wearing off. That's why we made such a hasty retreat. She'll be fine before she gets back to the lobby in the hotel."
Van the brain was correct. By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs, Lana was back to normal, with no recollection of what had just occurred.
"Well, hello Lana," Arthur McCredy, the hotel owner, greeted from behind the desk. "When did you come in, and what were you doing upstairs?"
"I just got here, Mr. McCredy. I was looking for Superboy. Is he here yet?"
"I don't understand Lana. Why would Superboy be here?"
"I got a call from the police department telling me to meet him here."
"Interesting. Sorry, dear, I haven't seen Superboy."
"And I didn't see you when I came in a minute ago, Mr. McCredy," she informed.
"I've been in the storeroom getting supplies for the guests."
She then asked if would be all right to wait a while for Superboy to show up. It was perfectly fine for the old gentleman. It gave him someone to talk to.
As the automobile headed towards the run-down tourist camp on the outskirts of Metropolis, the four dastardly people went over their plan to get back at the Boy of Steel for what Van called "butting into his personal business."
"He cost me a lot of money. So, you two are sure that you've got everything covered?" Sickel challenged the Hurds.
"Don't worry, Van. All the paperwork is perfect, both our copies and the "originals" in Levy City. It's all taken care of."
"But do all the documents look legit?"
"Van, settle down. You know I'm one of the very best in the entire country when it comes to doing, well, what I do," Harry responded with a bit of irritation in his voice.
And Agnes added, "And I know exactly what to do tomorrow morning. That kid won't know what hit him." She laughed.
"Hitting him ain't gonna hurt Superboy," Albert interjected.
"Shut up, Albert, just shut up," Van shouted. "And your appointment is at what time?"
"Nine o'clock sharp," Agnes replied. "Van, you haven't told us what you found out from that girl."
"I'm going to keep that to myself until after tomorrow morning's meeting. That way, you won't accidentally let anything slip. What the Lang girl told me will be part of phase two."
"As you wish, Van," Agnes answered.
"Yes sir, tomorrow is going to be a day that our nosy super hero will remember for a long time."
Clark was in the kitchen of the Kent home helping his mother Martha wash and dry the dinner dishes, when he heard his father calling out from the living room, "Son, something's going on. The lamp is blinking."
"Sorry, Mom, sounds like a job for Superboy."
"You'd better hurry," she instructed as her son put down the dish towel.
The youth swung open the bookcase beside his father's desk and vanished behind it.
"This is Superboy," he spoke into the short-wave microphone.
"Superboy, Bill Henderson calling."
"What's the emergency?" asked the super hero, already removing his glasses.
"Actually, there isn't one, I'm glad to say. So far, tonight has been quiet around Smallville. I'm calling to give you a message."
"Judge Hamilton's clerk Bonnie called me late this afternoon. His Honor would like to see you in his chambers tomorrow morning at nine o'clock. Can I tell him you will be there?"
Pausing to think, "Yes sir. I can be there. I'll have to..." He stopped himself before saying he would have to miss school. "Yes, I'll be there. Do you know why he wants to see me?"
"No, I have no idea. I'm just passing the message since the judge didn't know how to contact you directly."
"All right. Like I said, I'll be there."
"Thanks Superboy. Good night."
Replacing his eyeglasses, he slowly returned through the bookcase and sat on the living room sofa.
"You didn't have to go out?" his father asked.
"No sir." Clark then relayed Henderson's message. "I wonder why the judge wants to see Superboy."
"Don't you have any idea?"
"The only thing I can think of is he might want to talk to me about refusing to answer some of the questions when I was on the witness stand. The Public Defender said something about contempt of court. Gosh, I hope I'm wrong."
The following morning found Judge Hamilton and his clerk Bonnie Jensen in chambers, along with Harry and Agnes Hurd.
Both Hurds were dressed to the limit, Harry in his finest business suit and Agnes looking as if she were on her way to church, complete with Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat.
"Are you sure he's coming?" Agnes inquired of the judge.
"We were told by the police officer who spoke with him that he'd be here. He still has a couple of minutes," Hamilton answered. "Now, just stay calm, Mrs. Hurd. I'm sure it will all work out. I hope your accommodations at our hotel were suitable."
"Oh, yes, they were fine."
"The hotel is fairly modest, but the McCredys keep a clean place."
"Yes, it was fine," Agnes repeated.
There came a tapping on the door as it opened, "Superboy's here, Your Honor," offered a secretary.
"Send him in, please."
She stepped back enough so the Boy of Steel could enter.
Before the judge could speak, Agnes jumped to her feet, crossed the room and threw her arms around the youngster. "Steve! Oh, Steve! We've been so worried. And why are you wearing these clothes?"
Surprise and shock would be understating his reaction.
"Excuse me, ma'am. What's with this Steve?"
"Superboy, please have a seat," Hamilton requested.
Agnes unlocked her arms from around his neck as they both sat.
"Your Honor, what is going on?" he inquired.
"Superboy, you've had your parents worried. They said you disappeared a couple of months ago after having an argument. They've been looking for you."
"Parents? These aren't my parents. I've never seen them before!"
"You see, Your Honor. I told you he would say that. He did the same thing when he ran away two years ago," Harry stated.
"What?" the boy responded. "Your Honor, I don't know these people."
"Well, Superboy, try and calm down. According to these adoption papers the Hurds gave me, they are, indeed, your legal parents. These are court documents showing that fourteen years ago, Harry and Agnes Hurd adopted a young boy, age unknown, from the orphanage in Levy City. They named him Steven Harold Hurd, Jr. That would be you."
"Those papers are fake, Judge Hamilton," he argued.
"No, Superboy, they are legal adoption papers. After your folks came to see me yesterday, we verified the adoption by calling Levy City. The original copies are on file at the courthouse over there."
Harry and Agnes looked at one another and grinned. Harry was good at his work.
"In fact, the judge who signed the papers is someone I used to know, Judge Ronald Arbogas, may he rest in peace. I recognize his signature."
"There was no adoption! Did you check with the orphanage?" Superboy demanded.
"I'm afraid a severe fire at the Levy City Orphanage six years ago destroyed most of their files," the judge responded.
"Judge, I don't know these people, I'm telling you."
"Superboy, please listen to me. Since you came to Smallville a short while back, you have been a model citizen and helped lots of our citizens. We do so appreciate that. But the fact is...in the eyes of the law, you are a minor."
"But, Your Honor..."
"And minors can't live on their own. They have to live with their parents or legal guardians. And according to these documents, Mr. & Mrs. Hurd are your legal adoptive parents. They have come to take you home. Therefore, I must require you to go with them."
"Superboy...Steve...I realize that no one has the physical ability to stop you from doing what you want. And if you refuse to go, there's nothing I can do to stop you. However, in the time you have lived in Smallville, you have shown that you respect the laws of our country, our state and our town. And just because you have unique abilities, you do not place yourself above these laws, now, do you?"
"No sir, I don't."
"Young man, you are a model for our youth. For you to refuse to follow the law would be sending a horrific message to our young people, something we might never be able to undo. Now, you don't want to do that, do you?"
"No sir, but I'm telling you...these are not my parents. I've never seen them before."
Agnes, almost on cue, burst into tears.
"You see, son, how saying things like that hurts your mother. She loves you. I don't know what the argument was that caused you to leave the Hurds, but I'm sure the three of you can work things out. All teenagers clash with their folks from time to time. It's a part of growing up."
"But I have parents. I just can't tell you who they are," he begged.
"Well, if you can't tell me their names, I can't verify your claim. So, as an officer of the Court, I am returning you to the custody of your parents, the Hurds. Are you going to comply with my order?"
"The way you put it, Judge Hamilton, I suppose I have to."
Agnes wasted no time in throwing her arms around "her son" again. "Oh Steve, let's go home. Once you get home, everything will be fine. And we can throw this atrocious outfit away. You look like you ran off and joined a carnival. Coming Harry?"
"Yes dear," Harry replied, "and thank you Your Honor. We'll be all right."
"You're very welcome, sir."
As soon as the door closed behind the three departing, clerk Jensen stated that the town will have to go back to the way it was before.
"Yes," Hamilton agreed, "Smallville is really going to miss Superboy."
August 9, 2014
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"