TAC Table of Contents
(A lost Adventure of Superman)
The first season of The Adventures of Superman was filmed in 1951. The second season was filmed in 1953, and from then through 1957 further adventures were filmed. But what happened in 1952? Certainly Superman had other "lost" adventures during that year. This is one of those adventures.
* * *
"But chief," said Lois, "Think of the children!"
"Yes, chief," Clark added. "All those poor orphans."
"Golly, chief," Jimmy pleaded, "you've got to have a heart in there somewhere."
Perry White had at first only glowered through his glasses at the papers on his desk. Now he raised his eyes and glared at Jimmy.
"Olsen, whether I have or haven't a heart is not for you to know." He put his cigar in his mouth and immediately took it out. "And don't call me chief!"
Jimmy lowered his eyes and toyed with the pen set on White's desk. "Yes, sir."
Perry stared at Jimmy's hands with such intensity that if the editor was endowed with X-Ray Vision, its heat would have given Jimmy singed fingers. The cub reporter fumbled and stuck his errant hands in his pockets.
"And as far as the orphans are concerned, I have as much sympathy for them as anybody. But I'm not going to do it! And that's final!"
Clark perched himself on a corner of White's desk. "Chief, it was your idea to have the Planet host this year's Christmas party at Metropolis Orphanage."
"Every year a major Metropolis business hosts the party, has a toy drive, and provides a tour of their offices for some of the kids," Lois reminded him.
"And every year the owner of that business dresses as Santa Claus for the party," Jimmy offered, before wishing he hadn't.
"Well, I'm not the owner of the Daily Planet. And I'm not dressing up as Santa Claus! Let Kent do it!"
"I don't think I'm right for the part," Clark said, shaking his head. "Besides, Superman is going to make an appearance as well."
Lois turned on her colleague. "Oh? And just what makes that a problem, Mr. Kent?"
Clark adjusted his glasses. "Well, someone has to act as contact for Superman to make sure he gets to the orphanage on time."
"I see. And why does that always have to be you, Clark?"
"That's not important right now, Lois," Clark replied. "Chief, you would really make a great Santa."
"He wouldn't need any padding," Jimmy said with a grin. "He's already got the belly for it."
For a third time White trained angry eyes on him. "Another word like that and you'll find a big fat zero on your Christmas bonus check!"
Jimmy finally got the hint and stayed quiet.
"Mr. White," Lois began beseechingly, "all of those wonderful children have lost their parents. They don't know what it is to have a real Christmas, sitting around a bright green tree with their family. Having Santa Claus come and visit, and hand out toys, is one of the few good things they can look forward to. You don't want to disappoint them, do you?"
White took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingers and thumb. "You three are giving me a headache. I can't fight you all. I'll think about it. I won't promise anything, but I'll think about it."
Clark looked at Lois and shrugged.
"Now get out of here and get back to work. We have a paper to put out."
Clark held the door for the other two before following them into the hallway.
"Do you think he'll do it, Mr. Kent?" Jimmy asked.
"I hope so, Jimmy. I'm sure he won't let those kids down."
* * *
Kevin Carlson gazed at the autographed photo of Superman that hung above his bed in the dorm. His hero stood arms akimbo, his head slightly turned and his eyes peering into distant space. He had written to the Daily Planet and they had sent the picture. The inscription read, "To Kevin, from your friend Superman," in bold pen strokes. It was a black and white photo, but he imagined the bright colors of the costume in spite of its shades of gray.
Of course, Kevin had never met Superman. He had learned that the Planet was offering autographed photos of his hero to the first 500 who wrote in, and he had immediately responded and been among the lucky chosen.
He had lived at the Metropolis Orphanage for virtually all of his twelve years. Not much was known of him, except that he had been left on the orphanage doorstep as a baby with a note that gave his name and a plea to raise him. That was all he had ever been told, and as far as he knew, all that the orphanage officials knew of his origin.
Kevin had been educated in the orphanage school, and was in sixth grade. He made good grades, but not exceptional. He was the smallest of his age, and wore glasses for nearsightedness. He wished he could be tall and powerful, like Superman. He hoped one day he might be able to build himself up, but he knew he could never be as strong as his idol.
The voice of Mr. Luber, the head of the orphanage, came over the loudspeaker.
"At this time we ask that all who are to take the tour of the Daily Planet please come to the rear entrance of the building. The bus is waiting for you there. Please move in an orderly manner. Thank you."
Kevin liked Mr. Luber. He treated all the children with respect and patience. In turn, everyone responded to him in kind. Well, almost everyone. There was Jake Barton, big blond-headed kid who got his kicks bullying the smaller boys. Kevin, of course, was one of his frequent targets.
About twenty of the children had been chosen by lot for the field trip. Kevin was one of the lucky ones, and he went down the steps and through the hall and down some more steps before coming to the rear door. He looked around. Jake wasn't included. He was glad. That bully would just make it hard on the rest of them, who were looking forward to visiting a real newspaper office.
Kevin had seen the snow outside his window, but didn't realize how much of it there was. It was over a foot deep. The city snow plows had cut paths through the network of streets, but large drifts still edged the sidewalks. The weather had warmed; it was still cool, but some of the snow had melted only to freeze overnight into ice. Kevin almost slipped on one hidden patch, before climbing aboard the bus.
He got a window seat, and looked out as the school bus pulled away. Some of it seemed as though the clouds themselves had settled upon the ground. Other areas were slushy and darkened with road dirt. He preferred the white, unspoiled fluffiness of the snow that lay on lawns. Here and there a snowman stood, smiling his coal-nugget smile and waving his tree limb arm. Wreaths adorned doors, and even the occasional Christmas tree stood sentinel watch through a picture window. Kevin smiled. This was going to be a good day.
There was a swerve, a slide, a screech of brakes, and the bus spun a full 180 degrees, miraculously missing the other vehicles on the drift-narrowed road, before coming to a stop. Kevin felt for a moment like some of his internal organs had been part of a juggler's act. He looked around, and several of the others had also been shaken up, one or two actually getting up from the floor. The driver came back to see if everyone was all right, helped some into their seats, and returned to the front of the bus.
"Boys and girls, we're stuck on the road. We can all be thankful that no one was hurt. I see a drug store down the block. Now, if you'll all stay quiet and obey Miss Shayne, I'll go call for help."
Miss Shayne was one of the orphanage schoolteachers, and she came to the front of the bus. The driver stepped off carefully and Kevin watched as he walked to the nearby drug store.
The children were excited and frightened, and Miss Shayne's quiet voice calmed them. Even so, it seemed a long time before the driver returned.
"I've called the Daily Planet to let them know why we'll be late," he told Miss Shayne in a whisper that Kevin overheard, "and tried to get another bus. They won't be able to send one for a while."
The driver and Miss Shayne led them in some songs to pass the time.
Kevin wished Superman could rescue them.
* * *
Superman didn't need an overcoat, but Clark Kent would look strange without one as he stood at the garage entrance to the Daily Planet waiting for the orphanage bus. He feigned a shiver as he kept his hands in his pockets. The bus was late; not late enough to worry about, perhaps, considering the traffic caused by the narrowing of the streets from the high snow drifts. Still, Clark was concerned. He hoped nothing had happened to the bus.
Beanie the office boy came out, shivering in his inadequate jacket and his eponymous brimless cap pulled tight to his head. He hurried to Clark's side. Beanie was the only one on the staff whose role in life was lower than Jimmy Olsen's. Even so, Jimmy didn't lord it over him like he might have done. As Jimmy aspired to one day be the next Clark Kent, Beanie aspired to be the next Jimmy Olsen.
"Mr. Kent!" Beanie cried.
"We just got a call from the bus driver." His voice still cracked with early adolescence. "They've had an accident."
"Was anybody hurt?"
"No. But they can't move, and another bus won't be able to come for nearly an hour."
Clark knew what he had to do. His eyes grew steely hard behind the concealing glasses.
"Beanie, I have an errand to run. Stay here in case they show up before I get back, okay?"
"Sure, Mr. Kent."
Clark started into the garage, and picked up speed as he got out of Beanie's view, whipping off his hat and glasses as he ran. He found a dark corner, there was a flurry of motion, and the topcoat and drab gray flannel suit were discarded. He stepped into the light.
He stood in the deep royal blue, brilliant red and glistening gold of Superman!
The Man of Tomorrow hurried through a side door, closing it behind him. A running start, a mighty bound, and Superman was in flight!
In moments he spotted the bus, turned the wrong way with no means of correcting its misdirection. Superman landed beside the bus. He saw the children inside, cheering and screaming. He smiled and winked at one of the pretty young girls, then stepped aboard.
"Everyone all right?" he asked.
The cheer was louder.
"Just hold tightly to your seats, and I'll give you a ride to the Daily Planet building."
"Is it really you?" a small boy with glasses asked.
Superman smiled and saluted. "Yes, it's really me."
He stepped off the bus and reached underneath, gripping the chassis. He lifted, and he heard the kids gasp a little inside. If they hold on, they'll be all right, he thought. He maneuvered until he held the front of the bus on his shoulders. This was the most massive object he had lifted since he had carried that diving airplane to a safe landing a year ago, during the "Mind Machine" adventure. It was no great strain, but it took even the Man of Steel some effort to raise the bus carefully and keep its occupants safe. Superman's features reflected that effort as he lifted the entire bus on his back. A gathered leap and he rose into the air with his burden.
It was a short flight, and he soon landed at the garage entrance, easing himself and the packed school bus to the earth.
The children, still cheering, piled out of the bus and gathered around their hero. The small boy with the glasses was ahead of most of them.
"Thanks, Superman," he said.
Superman smiled. "You're welcome. And what's your name?"
"Kevin Carlson. Gee, I wish I was strong like you."
Superman knelt to see him eye to eye. "Remember, Kevin: no one can do the things Superman can do. And that especially goes for flying."
Kevin grinned. "I know that. I promise I won't try to fly or anything. I'd just like to grow up to be big and strong."
"I'm sure you will someday."
Kevin grinned, but soon the smile faded.
"What's wrong?" asked Superman.
"I grew up in the orphanage. "They tell me I was left on the doorstep, when I was a baby. All I've ever wanted was to know why my parents left me, and to have a real family."
"I'm sure some fine couple will adopt you, Kevin. And they'll be just like your real parents."
The grin returned, though not as bright.
Superman stood. "I'll have to be going. Have a great tour, kids." He took a running leap and vanished into the air.
Beanie came forward. "Hi, kids. Welcome to the Daily Planet. My name is Beanie. I'm head copy boy around here, and..."
"And we'll visit Beanie in the city room in just a few minutes," said Clark, coming behind him. He adjusted his tie and coat. "I'm Clark Kent, a reporter here on the Planet, and I'll be conducting your tour today." Miss Shayne led the applause, which Clark noted with a smile was not as great as that for Superman. "Now, the city room is on one of our upper floors, and it's too far to climb the stairs. And the passenger elevator won't fit all of you. So you're going to have a treat: we're all riding at one time in the freight elevator. Follow me."
* * *
Lois and Jimmy had reached the Whitney Trucking Company without incident. The toys that had been donated had been stored in the Whitney warehouse. Mr. Chambers, the chief dispatcher, greeted them when they arrived on the loading dock.
"Glad you folks got here okay."
"I'm particularly careful when I drive in the snow," Jimmy said.
"Yes," said Lois. "You actually kept to the speed limit."
"Aw, Miss Lane..." Her smile showed she was kidding, and he smiled back.
"Well, everything is ready for the run," Chambers said. "We only have two trucks going out that day. One's carrying gold bullion to a bank in a neighboring town, and the other is the one carrying your toys." He pointed out the two trucks as he spoke. Jimmy noticed that one was marked AE49703, and the other AE49705.
"The numbers are almost identical," Jimmy said. "If somebody makes a mistake, there'll be a lot of orphans who'll get gold bars for Christmas."
Chambers frowned. "We're extremely careful here, young man. Both trucks will arrive where they're supposed to."
"I'm sure they will, Mr. Chambers," Lois said. "Now, we'd like to ask a favor."
"We'd like to ride in with the toys. Will that be all right?"
"I don't see why not. Both trucks are leaving 8:30 AM on the 24th. If you can make it here about fifteen minutes before then, we'll be glad to give you a ride."
"Thanks. Come on, Jim."
Jimmy started toward the steps of the loading dock and a short, bald, barrel- chested fellow in overalls bumped against him.
"Hey, watch it, kid!"
"Yeah. Sure. Sorry."
The man scowled at Jimmy and went back to work.
"Wow! He sure gives me the creeps," Jimmy said to Lois.
"That's Joe Harris," Chambers explained. "He's
an ex-con. The boss gave him a break, hiring him. He's a bit
rough, but most of these stevedores are."
* * *
Kevin had really enjoyed the tour. The city room, Mr. Kent's office, the photo lab, the typesetters, and the giant presses in the basement were fascinating. Mr. Kent was a swell guy, too. Not as swell as Superman, of course. Kevin knew he couldn't grow up to be Superman; but he decided he'd like to grow up to be a reporter, like Mr. Kent.
They were now in the lobby of the Daily Planet Building. It was a little past noon, and Kevin wasn't the only one getting hungry.
"Everybody ready for lunch?" Mr. Kent asked.
There was a chorus of agreement, including Kevin.
"There's a diner right on this same block, where we reporters often go. It's called Tony's, and we've arranged with him a good healthy lunch for each of you. So button up your coats and follow me."
Mr. Kent waited until everyone was ready and led the way out the revolving door. The city had cleared the sidewalks, and they trooped down the concrete path to Tony's.
The first thing Kevin saw when he entered the diner was a rifle hanging on the wall in a corner. The barrel of the rifle was bent. Tony, who was greeting everyone in his usual apron and chef cap, saw Kevin looking in wonder at the rifle.
"Superman did that," Tony told him, beaming. "Superman grabbed that rifle from a crook, and bent it. He gave it to me as a souvenir."
"He did?" Kevin asked, his mouth gaping. "Wow!"
"Superman's my friend," Tony announced to the entire group. "You'll be having two of my Superman specials: a Super Burger and Super Soup."
As the others chose tables and seats, Kevin stood admiring the rifle. Mr. Kent came to his side.
"Did you see that, Mr. Kent? Mr. Tony says Superman did it."
"Mmm hmm. That's quite a trophy, isn't it?"
"Well, you'd better find yourself a seat. Tony's about to serve lunch."
"Sure. Thanks, Mr. Kent."
As Kevin turned away, seeking an empty chair, a stocky bald man rushed through the door and collided against him. "Watch it, kid," he said.
"Sorry," Kevin said.
The man glowered at him and went to a table where two men sat. One was tall and powerfully built, the other slender and rather plain.
"Here's the dope," Kevin heard the bald guy tell them. "Truck number AE49703, 8:30, the 24th." He reached in his jacket, handed them a paper, and hurried out.
Kevin frowned in curiosity. He didn't like the man's looks, or the looks of his two comrades. He followed the man out the door. He went about a half block past The Daily Planet Building and into an alley. Kevin slowed down, approaching the alley cautiously.
Suddenly two strong arms grabbed him, and before he could yell a hand was clamped over his mouth.
"So, a nosey kid, eh?" It was the stocky man from the diner. He held Kevin in a tight grip.
Kevin wished he could scream for Superman.
"Hey, what's going on here?" a voice called.
Kevin's eyes grew wide with hope. The next best thing to Superman: a policeman!
The man dropped Kevin and ran into the alley. The officer ran after him. Kevin heard the thud of bodies, a brief struggle, and the officer returned holding the stocky man by the collar of his jacket.
"What happened, officer?"
Kevin turned. It was Mr. Kent, who had evidently noticed that he was missing.
The policeman was medium height and rugged looking. "This fellow was manhandling this young boy here."
"I never seen the kid," the captive protested.
"No? I recognize you, Harris," said the officer. "Remember me? Tom Murphy. I helped put you away."
Harris scowled at nothing in particular.
"I'm Clark Kent, reporter on the Daily Planet."
"Oh, Mr. Kent," said Murphy. "I read your paper all the time."
"You know this man?" Clark asked.
"Sure do. They used to call him Nutcorn, because of a snack he likes. Nutcorn Harris, I arrest you in the name of the law." He glanced down at Kevin and winked.
Kevin beamed. He was impressed.
"Did he hurt you, son?"
"No sir. But there's more of them!"
"More? What do you mean?"
"Two men back in the diner."
"I think I know the one's he means," Clark said.
Murphy put cuffs on Harris, and the four returned to Tony's diner.
The men were gone.
Tony hovered around and listened.
"Who were these men, Mr. Kent?" Murphy asked.
"I don't know. I noticed them, just like Kevin here did,"
"Not much. Something about a truck, the number AE49703, and 8:30 AM on the 24th."
"Hmmm," Clark mused. "Sounds like plans for a hijacking."
The kids were all watching and listening. Tony came forward.
"You mean crooks were here, in my diner?" Tony asked.
"Yes, Tony," Clark said. "Do you remember the two men who were sitting here?"
"Yeah. They sat here an hour with nothing but coffee. I thought they looked suspicious."
Jimmy and Lois arrived.
"Hey, that's the guy!" Jimmy said.
"What guy?" Clark asked.
"At the trucking company. He works on the loading dock. He bumped into me."
"Me too," Kevin said.
"That ties in," Murphy said. "You were giving your pals a tip-off for a hijack, weren't you?"
"Was I?" Nutcorn retorted. "You ain't got nothin' on me, copper."
"No?" Murphy said. "How about assault on a minor, maybe attempted abduction? Enough for me to bring you down to headquarters."
"Can you handle him, officer?" Clark asked.
"Sure. I'll just call a squad car, and we'll take a nice ride. C'mon, Harris."
Officer Murphy took his prisoner out.
Clark turned to the crowd. "The excitement's over, kids. Go back and finish your lunches, and we'll get you back home."
Kevin took a seat near the reporters. Tony soon brought their lunches.
"Crooks in my diner," Tony said to Clark. "I'd better call my friend Superman!"
"I think Superman's already on the case, Tony," Clark said.
"Oh? What makes you think that?"
"I think Kevin is one of Superman's friends, too." Clark winked at Kevin.
Kevin grinned wide as he enjoyed his Super Burger.
* * *
When lunch was over, Clark, Lois, and Jimmy walked the children back to the Daily Planet. The bus was waiting for them.
"I hope you all enjoyed your day here," Clark said. "Study hard, get good grades, and maybe one day I'll see some of you here again. Who knows, one of you might someday work here like my good friend Jim Olsen."
Kevin looked at Jim. Yes, one day he would be a cub reporter like him. But when he was older, he wanted to be like Clark Kent. After all, he already had the glasses.
The children got on the bus and the reporters went inside. Kevin sat by a window again, and craned his neck to see what he could of the tall building.
The driver had tried the engine three times, and it wouldn't start. The cold weather was making it stall.
Slowly, the bus rose from the street. Kevin knew that feeling. Superman was giving them a ride back!
Again the school bus flew through Metropolis, to alight at the orphanage. As they got off the bus, Superman stood greeting them. He shook hands, patted heads, and had a good word for each of them. Kevin got off last, so he might have more time with his hero.
"Thanks, Superman. And there's something I've got to tell you."
"There's going to be a hijack, on Christmas Eve."
"That's what I'm here about, Kevin. I want to see Mr. Luber for a minute. Will you come with me?"
Superman entered the orphanage, Kevin trying to keep pace with him. They soon reached the office and Superman asked the secretary if he could speak with Mr. Luber. She ushered them right in.
Mr. Luber was of medium height, of indeterminate age, and of a quiet, gentle manner. He shook Superman's hand.
"It's an honor to have you here, Superman," he said. "Hello, Kevin. Did you enjoy your tour?"
"Yes sir. It was exciting."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Mr. Luber,"
"A crime? Kevin?"
"Yes. He overheard what might be a vital clue in stopping it. One of the criminals is in custody, at police headquarters. I'd like to take Kevin there so he can give Inspector Henderson the information he has."
"Of course. I'm very proud of you, Kevin." Mr. Luber smiled. "We may have a budding police detective here, Superman."
"No sir," Kevin said. "I want to be a reporter, like Mr. Kent."
Superman laughed. "Well, Kevin, a good reporter has to be something of a detective too, at times."
"I know that from Mr. Kent himself," Superman added.
"Now, if you will excuse us?" Superman said.
Mr. Luber opened the window, Superman gathered Kevin in his arms, and took a running leap into the air.
They soon landed on a ledge outside of Inspector Henderson's office window, and Superman handed Kevin in before dropping in himself.
Inspector Henderson and Officer Murphy were in the office. Harris was handcuffed to a chair, and had obviously been worn down by the other two men's relentless interrogation.
"Superman!" Inspector Henderson exclaimed. "And I guess this is young Kevin."
"Yes sir," Kevin responded.
"Hello, Kevin," Murphy said.
"Hello, Officer Murphy."
"Well, Superman, it took a bit of doing but we've got the gist of it," Henderson said. "Harris is the inside man. He got information on shipments and passed it on to his buddies."
"That hijacking last month," Murphy said. "Come to think of it, that was a Whitney truck."
"But this time we've stopped 'em before they can strike again," Henderson said.
"Thanks to Kevin," Murphy said, smiling.
"Now," said Henderson, "there's a few things to iron out regarding the charges against Harris here. Kevin, Murphy says Harris assaulted you and was probably planning on abducting you. Is that right?"
"Well, I guess so. He grabbed me, and I guess he was going to take me somewhere."
Henderson frowned. "Only trouble is, you're a minor. You can't bring charges."
"Then let me bring them for him," Murphy said. "After all, I saw the whole thing."
"Okay. Kevin, thanks." Henderson ruffled Kevin's hair. "You may have helped us prevent a major crime." He opened his door and signaled an officer, who entered. They let Harris loose from the chair and manacled his wrists together. Henderson said to the officer, "Take him down and book him." He turned to Kevin. "Would you like to see how we fingerprint a prisoner?"
"Okay. I'll come down with you, so they know it's all right."
When Murphy and Superman were alone, the former said, "That boy Kevin is sure bright. And brave, too."
"He certainly is."
Murphy shook his head. "You know, my wife and I can't have children. I'd sure like to have a son like Kevin."
"You should consider adopting him," Superman said. "There's going to be a party at the orphanage Christmas morning. You might want to come."
"I'll talk it over with Alice. Maybe we will."
Henderson and Kevin soon returned. Murphy drew Kevin aside to talk to him, while Superman and Henderson conferred.
"Thanks to Kevin, most of the job's done. We just have to get in touch with the trucking company, find out which route that truck is taking, and set a trap for them."
"Inspector, it might be better if I follow the truck and catch them. If they spot any cars following, or suspect some of your men are hiding in the truck, we'll lose them."
Henderson thought a moment and nodded. "You're right. I know I can count on you. Thanks."
"Now you may be able to do a favor for me," Superman said quietly. "Kevin's last name is Carlson. He was left at the orphanage about twelve years ago. See if you can find out anything about his parents."
Henderson glanced over to where Murphy and Kevin seemed to be hitting it off and smiled. "I'll be glad to, Superman."
* * *
It was early on the morning of Christmas Eve, and Jimmy parked near the loading dock at Whitney Trucking. He and Lois got out of the car and climbed the steps onto the dock. There was a familiar rush of wind, and they looked skyward.
Superman landed on the dock.
"Hi, Superman!" Jimmy said. "What brings you here?"
"A plan to hijack the gold truck." He smiled. "I guess you two are riding with the toys?"
"Yes," said Lois. "We wanted to get a full day head start so the toys will be there for Christmas morning."
"Here's Mr. Chambers," Jimmy said, and the dispatcher came over to them, a clipboard in hand.
Good mornings were said all around, as well as Merry Christmas, and Chambers consulted his clipboard.
"Here's the truck carrying the toys," he said, indicating it. The truck bore the number AE49703.
Superman frowned. "I thought this truck was to carry the gold bullion."
"No, this is the truck with the toys." He opened the rear gate. "See?" As he said, the truck was full of toys. A bench was left available for Lois and Jimmy to sit on during their ride.
"Mr. Chambers, I believe Inspector Henderson called you and warned you of the planned hijacking."
"This is the truck Nutcorn Harris told his cohorts carried the gold."
"Well then, he was mistaken."
"Or maybe Kevin was," Superman mused.
"Inspector Henderson said you were going to follow the gold truck for us," Chambers said.
"That's right. So that truck is..."
"AE49705, over here." He took Superman to the second truck, which was loaded with gold ingots.
"Either way," Superman said, "this is the truck I'll follow."
"We'll protect the toys, Superman," Jimmy said.
Superman smiled. "I'm sure you will, Jim. And keep an eye on Miss Lane too, will you?"
A few minutes later and both trucks departed on their respective routes.
Superman flew over and just behind the gold truck, staying hidden above the clouds, his Telescopic Vision keeping the truck in sight. The route led onto the highway, and to a neighboring town where there was a gold reserve. The truck made its way and Superman remained alert for any suspicious vehicle that shared the highway with it. There were none. The truck reached its destination without incident.
Superman landed by the truck. Guards came from the building and one of the drivers unlocked the truck. As two men stood at guard, the others carried the gold inside.
"Everything under control here, Captain?" Superman asked the officer in charge.
"Yes, Superman. Thanks for seeing that the truck arrived safely."
"You're welcome." Superman frowned in thought a moment.
"I think I know what happened to the would-be hijackers," Superman said. "If you will excuse me?"
The Man of Tomorrow had taken to the air even as the captain gave his assent.
If Kevin was right, then Nutcorn read the number wrong, Superman thought. It's the only explanation.
Superman had seen the route the truck of toys was taking, and soon found it. He hoped he would be on time.
* * *
Lois and Jimmy tried to enjoy the ride, but it was rather bumpy. The packages with the toys had been well loaded, padded, and covered. Lois and Jimmy weren't.
"Well, at least it's a short ride," Jimmy said.
"You said it," Lois agreed. "Good thing the tucking company warehouse is right outside of town."
They never made it to town.
There was an exclamation from the driver and his "shotgun," the truck screeched to a halt throwing Lois and Jimmy against each other, and several muffled voices, including a couple of new ones. There was an argument, and finally the reporters heard the sound of keys in the lock of the tail door. The door was opened and they blinked at the bright sunshine glaring off the remaining snow. Jimmy made out the uniformed drivers and two men holding guns.
"Well, well. What have we here?" one of the men said. "C'mon, get outta there."
Jimmy went first, to help Lois down.
"Now. All of you. Line up over here."
The four captives obeyed orders. As one held his gun on them, the other climbed into the truck and lifted the concealing tarp.
"Hey. This isn't gold."
"No. It looks like Christmas presents."
"Christmas presents?" The second man was distracted a second in surprise, and one of the drivers jumped him. The gunman recovered quickly enough to send a shot into the guard's leg. He crumpled to the ground. "You're lucky I missed," the gunman snarled. The guard nursed his leg.
The second guard made a move toward his comrade, and the other man covered him from the truck. "I wouldn't try it."
The two hijackers stood side by side.
"Toys, huh? What is this?"
"I'll bet you boys were after the gold bullion," Lois said.
"Well, instead you've got the truck with the toys headed for Metropolis Orphanage."
"What? Well they're no good to us."
"Good. Then you'll just let us all go and make sure those orphans have a Merry Christmas, right?" Jimmy asked.
Lois threw him a look of disbelief.
"No. Nutcorn must have messed up. The cops already have him. It's only a matter of time before he squeals on us."
"What'll we do?"
"We can't get the gold truck now. And if we let these four go, the cops'll be after us in no time." He thumbed back the hammer on his revolver. "We can't take the chance."
A rush of wind and a figure in deep blue and brilliant crimson stood between them and the four erstwhile targets. The bullets bounced from the gleaming red and gold shield on his chest.
Like many before, they emptied their guns at Superman, threw them, and turned to run to their car. Like many before, Superman caught them each from behind, lifted them up, and cracked their heads together.
Superman went over to Lois and Jimmy. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Superman. But he needs help."
"Your handkerchief, Jimmy; and a good stick."
Jimmy brought the needed items and Superman tied a quick but efficient tourniquet. "I'd better fly this man to a hospital," Superman said. "You have a radio in your truck, don't you?"
"Call your dispatcher to send the police for these two. Then I think you can deliver the toys without any trouble."
"Sure," said the other driver. "Thanks, Superman."
The Man of Steel towed the crooks' car away bare-handed. He lifted the wounded driver in his arms and flew away.
* * *
Superman checked in at Police Headquarters after he had seen that the guard was going to be all right. He entered Bill Henderson's office.
"Thanks to you, Superman, those hijackers are all locked away. How is the guard?"
"He'll be all right. It could have been much worse."
"That's good to hear. But I guess his family will be celebrating Christmas with him in the hospital."
"His wife and daughter were there when I left. They seemed like they can make the most of it.
"How about that information I asked you to check out, Inspector?"
"About the Carlson boy?"
"The name rang a bell. His parents, Doug and Jean, were witnesses against Big Ed Bullock at his trial. They were under protective custody during the trial, and I remembered they had an infant son then. Well, a few months after the trial they were found murdered. We caught the murderers, but no sign of their son was ever found."
"Then the Carlson's, knowing they were in danger, probably left young Kevin at the orphanage so he'd be safe."
"That's the way I figured it."
"Thanks, Bill. Now I know what to tell Kevin."
* * *
The snow had remained on the ground, and Bing Crosby would have reveled in this White Christmas.
It was to be a White Christmas in another way as well: a Perry White Christmas. That is, if Clark, Lois, and Jimmy had anything to do with it.
"I look ridiculous," Perry sputtered. He was in the white fur-trimmed red suit of Santa. He didn't have the wig and beard on yet.
"Now, chief, I think you look great," Clark said.
"Besides, there isn't a mirror here in Mr. Luber's office, so you don't know how you look." Even Lois' patience was wearing thin.
Perry sat down with a sigh. "All right, Olsen. Help me put these boots on."
"Sure, Chief...Mr. White." He accidentally picked up the right boot and tried to fit it on the left foot. He pushed and twisted trying to get it to fit.
"Can you do it without breaking an ankle?"
"Sorry." Jimmy discovered his mistake and started placing the correct boot on the correct foot. He still had some trouble.
"The boots are the wrong size," Perry blustered. "That's it; I can't do it."
The boot slid into place.
"Well golly, Mr. White, it's hard to put boots on somebody else's feet." Jimmy took the second boot and pulled it on without trouble.
Perry stood up. "Well, I guess they'll do. I still don't know how I let you three talk me into this." He started toward the door.
"Wait, chief," Clark said. "You've forgotten the most important part." He held up the beard and wig.
"You don't think I'm wearing that?"
"It's either that," Lois said, "or you'll have to explain to those nice orphans why Santa had a shave and a haircut."
Perry grumbled a few things as Clark adjusted the beard and wig on. He came toward Perry with a small bottle of evil smelling liquid.
"What in blazes is that?"
"A little spirit gum, to hold the beard in place," Clark said. "You don't want some child pulling it off, do you?"
There was some more grumbling, a few minor adjustments, and Perry White stood in his secret identity of Santa Claus.
Perry was giving an extremely un-Santa frown. "All right. I'll just go in, wish them Merry Christmas, and get out."
"I thought you were going to give out the presents?" Jimmy said.
"Superman's supposed to come too, isn't he?" Perry asked. "He can do it."
They opened the door of Mr. Luber's office.
"All right," Perry sighed. "Let's get it over with."
Mr. Luber was waiting at the door of the auditorium. "Mr. White, you make a great Santa. I would hardly know it was you."
Perry glared at him and gestured for the door to be opened.
Mr. Luber stepped into the auditorium. He held up his hands and called for quiet.
"Children, here's the moment you've all been waiting for. I have the pleasure to present: Santa Claus!"
Perry stepped into the auditorium, and the children cheered. One little girl came running up and grabbed him around the leg.
"Oh Santa! I've been waiting for you so long!
Clark, who had come in with Lois and Jimmy, noticed something and whispered in "Santa's" ear. "Chief, is that a tear running down your cheek?"
"It's just that awful stuff you made me put on," Perry insisted. He looked around him at all the trusting, expectant faces. A grin slowly grew on his face. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" He didn't know where the laugh had come from. He didn't even recall willingly doing it. But the effect on the children was wonderful. He did it again. "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas, boys and girls!"
The children all crowded around him, hugging and tugging and screaming with joy. There was a nice easy chair set near a bright festive tree. The packages from the toy drive were sheltered under its branches. Perry slowly walked over to the chair, the children opening a path for him. He sat, and still they crowded him in their excitement.
"All right, children," Mr. Luber said. "Give Santa some room."
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" laughed Perry. "Yes. Sit down, children. Make a half circle, right here."
They formed the half circle, several rows deep, and quieted down.
"He's having a good time in spite of himself," Lois said, smiling.
"Yeah. Who would have thought Mr. White could make such a great Santa?" Jimmy said.
"I figured he had it in him," Clark said. "He just had to have a chance to prove it to himself."
* * *
Kevin sat and watched a while, as "Santa" handed out presents. He knew there was no real Santa Claus; but he had never told that to the younger kids, and had no intention of ever telling them.
He saw Mr. Kent standing with Miss Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and rose and went over to them.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Kent, Miss Lane, Mr. Olsen."
"Call me Jimmy."
"Mr. Kent tells me you want to be a reporter."
"I sure do. And I want to work at the Daily Planet."
"Any particular reason?" Clark asked.
"Well, you all seem to see a lot of Superman. Maybe I can get to write stories about him someday, myself."
Clark smiled. "I'm sure Superman would like that, Kevin."
"By the way, isn't Superman supposed to be here today?" Kevin asked.
Clark adjusted his glasses. "That's right. We've been so busy getting ready..."
"Too busy for what, Clark?" Lois asked.
"Well, it looks like Superman's been detained. I guess I'd better see if I can contact him. Excuse me." Clark left the auditorium and was soon down a hall.
"Can Mr. Kent call Superman?" Kevin asked.
"Yes, and he's the only one who knows how to do it," Lois said. "I've often wondered about that."
"Well gee," Kevin said, "Mr. Kent's a swell guy. I guess he's a good friend of Superman."
"Yes. Well, I've wondered about that too."
There was a whoosh of wind, one of the windows was blown open, and Superman landed in the room. The crowd around him was as excited as it had been when "Santa" came in before. Kevin hoped the man playing "Santa" wasn't jealous.
The pleasant task of handing out the presents went even faster, as Superman assisted "Santa." Soon all were playing with their new toys, and Kevin was setting up the men for the chess set he had gotten. Superman knelt down with him.
"Do you know how to play chess?"
"Yes. Mr. Luber taught me."
"How about a game?"
They began playing.
"This is great, playing chess with you. How did you learn?"
Superman mused for a moment as he made his next move.
"Kevin, I'm going to tell you a story; a story I've only told a few. I learned some of it when I was about your age. The rest I learned from two friends of mine, Prof. Roberts, an astronomer, and Prof. Lucerne, a physicist. Do you know what they do?"
"I think so. An astronomer studies outer space. I'm not sure about a physicist."
"You're right about astronomers: they study the stars and planets. A physicist studies atoms and molecules, and the natural laws that make things work the way they do. Do you understand?"
"Prof. Roberts told me that years ago there was a planet called Krypton. It was destroyed, by some cosmic catastrophe. Prof. Roberts saw the explosion himself."
"Prof. Lucerne told me more. There was something different about Krypton; something that gave its inhabitants great powers. Anyone from Krypton could do things that no one else could do. And those powers were even greater for someone from Krypton who had come to earth."
Kevin listened and thought a moment. "You mean, you're from Krypton?"
"Yes. Talking to the professors, I had some vague memories of when I was just a baby. You see, my father must have known that Krypton was going to be destroyed. He and my mother sent me to earth in a rocket ship, so that I survived."
"Then, you're an orphan too."
Superman nodded. "A kindly couple, farmers, found the rocket and raised me."
"And you were adopted."
"Yes. I was twelve when my foster mother told me about coming to earth in a rocket. And I was Superman before I met the professors and realized I must have come from Krypton."
"Then, your parents gave you up so that you would live."
"Yes. And Kevin, I've learned about your own parents."
Kevin had forgotten about the game. "You have?"
"Yes. They testified against a dangerous gangster, and lost their lives for it. But before that, they left you here at the orphanage, so you'd be safe."
"They lost their lives bravely, after standing up for what was right; but they made sure first that you would be safe."
"Just like your parents did for you," Kevin said.
Superman nodded. "Just like my parents"
"We heard there was a party," a voice said from the doorway. "Are we invited?"
Kevin looked up. At first he didn't recognize the man, without his uniform. The man came closer, and he recognized the grin.
"Hello, Kevin. Remember me?"
It was Officer Murphy, and the lovely petite red-head with him must be his wife. Both were laden with packages.
Mr. Luber came over. "Kevin, it looks like you have guests."
"I'm Tom Murphy," the officer said, shaking Luber's hand. "And this is my wife Alice."
"Glad to meet you both."
"And of course, this is Superman," said Alice Murphy, extending her hand to the Man of Steel.
"I'm glad you and Tom accepted my invitation," he said.
"And this, of course, is Kevin." Tom Murphy introduced the boy to his wife.
Kevin smiled up at them. "You've brought more presents for us?"
"No, Kevin," Alice said. "These are all for you."
"For me? Gee, thanks."
Alice knelt down next to Kevin. "Do you play chess?"
"Yes, ma'am. Superman and I were playing."
"I know how to play checkers," Alice said, "and Tom has been trying to teach me chess."
"Officer Murphy plays chess?"
"And he's very good at it, too."
"Tom," Superman said, "why don't you pick up where I left off?"
Tom Murphy hesitated a moment then knelt with them.
Superman came over to Lois and Jimmy. Perry, still in full Santa regalia, soon joined them.
"I've never seen so many kids so happy," Perry said.
"And it's all because of you, Mr. White," Superman said.
They watched the children for a few moments, each of them drawn one by one to Kevin and the Murphys.
"Kevin is particularly happy," Perry said.
The game was over, and Tom won. Kevin laughed. "I wish I could play that well."
Tom Murphy smiled. "Maybe I can teach you."
Kevin's eyes lit with excitement.
Tom stood up. "Mr. Luber, Superman, Santa, could all of you come over a minute?"
Alice and Kevin stood with him. Soon all the adults had gathered around them.
"Mr. Luber, Alice and I were wondering something."
"What's that?" Luber was already smiling.
"How soon can we adopt Kevin?"
Tom Murphy placed his arms around his wife and his new son.
Superman smiled. Kevin had gotten the Christmas gift he had always wanted.
Stephen L. Brooks was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and lives in Baltimore County. He's been a Superman fan since about the age of five, and "discovered" his hero through George Reeves. Now in his mid fifties, Superman is still his favorite fictional character, with such lumineries as King Arthur, Robin Hood, Zorro and the Lone Ranger competing for second place. He was graduated from Towson State College, now Towson University, and is a former English teacher. Since 1978 he has been a librarian for a Federal agency, located in Baltimore. He and his wife Vicki were married in 1980. He has published his first mystery novel, The Raid, completed a second, and is working on future stories, including more Adventures of Superman.
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"