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Peril By Sea: Epilogue

by Tom Nichol

based on the episode of the same
name from the 1955 season of the
Adventures Of Superman

Two weeks had passed since Ace Miller and his smuggling gang had been forced by Superman to surrender to the authorities after attempting to destroy Perry White’s laboratory by means of a torpedo launched from his private submarine. Realizing that there was an overwhelming amount of evidence against them, Miller and his partners in crime had pleaded guilty to all charges. That decision, however, had not helped them in the least. The Federal judge trying the case had thrown the book at all of them, imposing the maximum sentence allowed by law on each and every count, and then ordering them to serve all of those sentences consecutively—the effective equivalent of life imprisonment with-out parole! He had also imposed the maximum fines permitted by law on each and every count, there-by bankrupting not only Miller himself, but the entire gang as well!

This unprecedented turn of events had made nationwide headlines. Of all the newspapers in the country, however, none played up this story more than the Metropolis Daily Planet. Of course, since Perry White, the Planet’s owner and publisher, along with two of his reporters, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane (along with Police Inspector William Henderson), had been Miller’s intended victims, such actions were not only understandable, they were to be expected. Indeed, more than a few eyebrows would have been raised, to say the least, had that not been the case.

In any event, now that the Miller gang had received their sentences, and had been summarily carted off to Federal prison to serve their sentences, life at the Daily Planet was slowly returning to normal. In view of the good that had come from Jimmy’s mistake in publishing an article about Perry White’s top-secret scientific research, the Editor had long since forgiven Jimmy, both publicly and privately. Jim-my, however, had yet to forgive himself. He had more than once, in fact, seriously considered leaving the Daily Planet altogether, although he hadn’t mentioned this to anyone.

Despite this, however, Jimmy’s mother, with whom he resided, could tell that something was very, very wrong with her son. Her pleas to Jimmy to discuss what was on his mind had been gently but firmly disregarded. Her concern reached a peak when she noticed that her son had begun receiving letters without a return address. These letters had put Jimmy into a blacker mood than ever. So much so, in fact, that on one occasion, when she knew that Jimmy was on an out-of-town assignment, and would not be back for a few days, when one such letter turned up in their mailbox, Mrs. Olsen took it upon herself to open it, and look at its contents. One glance was enough to explain everything. Boiling with rage, she promptly went straight to the Daily Planet Building. There, she sought out Clark Kent, who she knew her son regarded as a mentor.

When Helen Olsen barged into his office, looking angrier than he had ever seen her to be, Clark was instantly concerned. “I’m glad I found you here, Mr. Kent,” she began. “I don’t know if you’ve no-ticed it or not, but ever since that wretched Ace Miller business, Jimmy’s been very upset. In fact, I’ve never seen him as depressed as he is now! It was only this morning that I discovered why. Ever since Ace Miller pleaded guilty, he’s been getting letters on an almost daily basis—letters without a return address! He’s NEVER gotten letters like this before, and every time he gets one, he goes into a fresh tailspin of depression!”

As Mrs. Olsen spoke, Clark Kent’s face became increasingly stern and hard. Like many reporters, he had received a few “poison pen” letters during his career. Most of them he simply tossed into the trash can. This, however, sounded much more serious, to say the least! His concern was validated when Mrs. Olsen concluded her story by explaining about the letter she had opened that very morning. She them extracted the letter from her purse and dropped it on Clark’s desk as though it had just come out of the Metropolis sewer. “Please open it, Mr. Kent, and read it for yourself!” she urged.

The reporter did so—and stiffened as though he had been stung by a wasp! The text of the letter read simply, “Get out of Metropolis, and don’t ever come back. Otherwise, you and your mother are as good as dead! Don’t call the police or your precious Superman, or I’ll come after the two of you at once! I mean business!” There was no date or signature, and the letter had been crudely printed.

Almost before Mrs. Olsen knew what was happening, Clark all but flew through the door of his office, his face looking angrier than anyone at the Daily Planet had ever seen. Spotting Perry and Lois talking at the door of Perry’s office, Clark snapped, “Lois! Perry! Come into my office, please! It’s urgent!” Startled at the commanding tone in their colleague’s voice, the duo promptly complied. It took less than a minute for the situation to be explained. Now it was Perry’s and Lois’s turn to be angry. The Editor-In-Chief of the Metropolis Daily Planet instantly used Clark’s office phone to call both Inspector Henderson of the Metropolis Police Department and the Agent-In-Charge at the Metropolis office of the United States Postal Inspection Service, and apprised them of the situation. The two men arrived less than ten minutes later.

On looking over the latest letter, the two law enforcement officials soon determined that the letter’s text indicated that there was a personal motive involved, rather than an attempt by Ace Miller or one of his cronies to retaliate in the wake of their arrest and conviction. The postmark on the letter indicated that it had been mailed from the main branch of the Metropolis Post Office. Mrs. Olsen explained that, as far as she knew, Jimmy had begun receiving the letters less than a week after the Miller gang had been sentenced in Federal court.

It seems to me, Chief,” Clark remarked, “that there is a possibility that someone right here at the Planet might be involved. I hate to say it, of course, but it’s a possibility we can’t afford to overlook!” His boss nodded; that thought had occurred to him, too. What mattered most right now, as far as Perry was concerned, was seeing to the safety of both Jimmy and his mother. “When is Jimmy scheduled to return from his current assignment?” Perry asked. “Any time now, Chief,” Lois replied, “and certainly no later than tomorrow. He’ll most likely come back here first, because he’ll probably have several rolls of film to turn in for processing.”

After a hurried conference, it was decided that, until Jimmy did return, his mother would be kept under 24-hour police protection at the Olsen residence. Whenever Jimmy did return, Perry White, Inspector Henderson, and John Davenport, the Postal Inspector, would immediately be notified. They would rendezvous at the Daily Planet Building and get whatever other information Jimmy might be able to provide, and then proceed from there with their investigation. “Oh, and one more thing, Clark,” In-spector Henderson added, “be sure and notify Superman as to what’s going on!” As the others all concurred, Clark, his jaw muscles bulging angrily, responded, “Oh, you can be sure I’ll do that, Bill!”

As it turned out, it was only two hours later that Jimmy Olsen hurried into his place of employment. Just as Lois had predicted, he turned in a full half-dozen rolls of 35mm. black-and-while film to the Daily Planet’s in-house photo lab, then went directly to his desk—only to find Perry, Clark, and Lois awaiting him, all with stern expressions on their faces. They immediately conducted him to Perry’s private office. There, to his dismay, he found his mother waiting for him, along with Inspector Henderson, Postal Inspector Davenport, and Special Agent Gary Allen of the FBI.

As Jimmy stood in front of his boss’s desk, Perry White opened a drawer, took out the letter that Jimmy’s mother had brought to the Daily Planet that very day, and flung it down onto the desk. The young redhead’s face blanched as he saw it, and realized what was going on.

How long have you been get-ting these letters, Olsen?” the Editor demanded. Jimmy, his face now as red as his hair with shame, meekly replied,

About ten days, Mr. White—the first one came exactly one week after Ace Miller’s sentencing hearing.”

Jimmy, why didn’t you tell someone about this?” Lois inquired.

I thought it was a joke at first, Miss Lane,” her young colleague answered.

Sending a threatening letter through the U.S. Mail is no joke, Jimmy,” Clark sternly responded.

Kent is right, Olsen,” Perry added. “It’s a Federal offense, punishable by up to 20 years in a Federal prison! Isn’t that right, Davenport?”

Yes,” the Postal Inspector replied, “and that’s for each letter that gets sent! So, whoever did this could easily be facing the equivalent of life imprisonment without parole!”

The redheaded cub reporter blinked in astonishment. “I—I had no idea it was that serious!” he stammered. Then, seeing the stern look on his mother’s face, he collapsed into a chair and began to cry. He felt as if his whole world were crashing down around him. Mrs. Olson instantly went to Jimmy’s side to comfort him. Even Perry White’s stern expression softened to one of compassion, as he remembered some of his own past misjudgments in the course of his long career.

It was a good five minutes before Jimmy was able to compose himself. Even then, his face bore a look of shame and depression.

I can’t seem to do anything right,” he whispered. “Maybe I should just quit the Planet and find some other line of work!”

No, Jimmy, that’s not true!” Inspector Henderson put in. “You’ve made a few mistakes along the way, to be sure—but who doesn’t? Besides, your mistake in publishing that article about Perry’s research turned out to be a blessing in disguise! It did, after all, bring Ace Miller out into the open, so that he and his gang could be caught and punished as they deserved!”

Perry nodded his emphatic agreement, then added, “Besides which, Olsen, whoever sent you these damnable threats wouldn’t be likely to just up and quit if you did leave. My own experience with criminals such as this gives me every reason to believe that they’d really come after you then—not to mention your mother here!”

Jimmy’s face turned white as a sheet, and he began trembling in every limb as he realized the full implications of his employer’s statement. The thought that his silence might endanger his mother terrified the young redhead. “What—what do you want me to do?” he asked.

John Davenport answered, “Do you still have any of the other letters you’ve received, Mr. Olsen?” “Believe it or not, I have all of them,” Jimmy answered. “They’re locked in my upper desk drawer.”

Then let’s get those letters and turn them over to Inspector Davenport here,” Perry directed. “The sooner we begin taking action to counter the efforts of whoever is behind this, the better, I’d say!”

Yes, by all means!” Inspector Davenport replied.

With that, Jimmy and his companions went over to Jimmy’s desk. There, Jimmy unlocked the upper drawer. From that drawer, Jimmy pulled out a sheaf of correspondence, including not only the letters themselves, but also the envelopes they had been mailed in. At Inspector Davenport’s direction, Jimmy slid the letters and envelopes into a large manila envelope. Mrs. Olsen then handed her son the latest letter and envelope, which he also placed in the manila envelope. He then gave that envelope to Inspector Davenport, who sealed it and marked it as evidence to be used in the upcoming investigation. “Believe me, Mr. Olsen,” he assured Jimmy, “you are doing the right thing, despite the warnings I’m sure you’ve received saying not to contact the authorities about these letters! I promise you, we’ll do everything in our power to bring whoever did this to justice as quickly as possible!”

While Agent Davenport sent the letters in to the Postal Inspection Service laboratory for analysis, Inspector Henderson and Perry White started digging through the Planet’s personnel files. It was only a day or two later that they discovered that there was, in fact, a recently-hired clerk in the Circulation Department who was distantly related to Ace Miller. Running the new clerk’s name through the Metropolis Police Department’s criminal records, they soon found out that the young clerk had been involved in a number of bullying incidents during high school, and had been sent to the state reform school several times. He had also been arrested for blackmail and extortion on several occasions; however, none of those charges had stuck, because the victims had all refused to testify against him.

Included in this young hoodlum’s criminal file were several handwriting samples. Inspector Henderson forwarded the samples to the Postal Inspection Service Laboratory, recommending that Jimmy’s letters be checked against them. When the Laboratory reported a positive match, Inspector Davenport then forwarded the letters and envelopes to the headquarters of the FBI in Washington, D.C., for latent fingerprint detection and comparison. It took only a matter of hours for that agency to determine that the young suspect’s fingerprints were on every one of the letters and envelopes that Jimmy had received.

At that point, the Postal Inspection Service, working together with both the FBI and the Metropolis Police Department, placed the young hoodlum under 24-hour surveillance. Every branch office of the Metropolis Post Office was notified of the situation, with instructions to be on the lookout, not only for the suspect himself, but for any other letters that matched the ones that had already been mailed. Only two days later, the suspect was spotted at the main branch of the Metropolis Post Office, first buying a sheet of postage stamps, and then affixing one of those stamps to an envelope with no return address. The destination address on the front of the envelope, however, was Jimmy Olsen’s home. No sooner had he placed the letter in the mailing slot, however, than the young suspect was surrounded and taken into Federal custody. The letter which he had just deposited into the mailing slot was promptly retrieved and turned over to Special Agent Davenport, who opened it in the suspect’s presence. As ex-pected, the letter demanded that the young redheaded reporter leave Metropolis and never return. This time, however, the letter stated that if Jimmy did not comply within 48 hours after the letter was delivered, a sniper would be dispatched, with strict orders to kill both Jimmy and his mother at his first opportunity!

To further insure that the charges against their suspect would stick, a fresh set of the young hoodlum’s fingerprints was taken on the spot. The newest letter was then dusted for latent prints. When more than a dozen such prints were found, an FBI latent fingerprint expert examined them. Within fifteen minutes, he reported that every one of the latent prints were identical to the prints that had just been taken from the young suspect. At that point, the now-former employee of the Daily Planet was formally taken before a Federal Magistrate and charged with multiple counts of sending a threatening letter through the United States mails, as well as extortion. On learning of the suspect’s criminal background, and that he was related to Ace Miller, a convicted Federal felon, the Magistrate instantly ordered that he be held without bond. He was thereupon carted off to the maximum security section of the Metropolis Jail to await trial.

Jimmy collapsed in relief when he heard that the man who had so viciously threatened both his life and his mother’s was now in custody. It would be several more weeks, however, before the young thug was formally indicted by a Federal grand jury and a trial date was formally set. When he learned of what his young cousin had allegedly done, however, to everyone’s surprise, Ace Miller angrily disavowed any knowledge of his hot-headed young relative’s actions, and condemned his conduct in the strongest terms.

Faced with his own cousin’s condemnation, and with the overwhelming evidence against him, the young extortionist pleaded guilty to all charges. As in Ace Miller’s case, however, the presiding Federal Judge sternly imposed the maximum sentence permitted by law on each and every count, and then ordered that the young defendant be required to serve all of the sentences consecutively. Since there is no parole in the Federal prison system, this sentence insured that the vindictive young hoodlum would never see the outside of a prison cell again as long as he lived.

As might be expected, the Metropolis Daily Planet played up the story for all it was worth. It was only natural that the Planet published a Special Edition on the day when Ace Miller’s cousin was formally sentenced. There was a particularly stinging editorial by Perry White, who was not only the owner and Editor-In-Chief of the Planet, but a trained lawyer and former Mayor of Metropolis as well. In his editorial, Perry made a strong case for the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in American society, stating that, if such vicious actions as these were allowed to go unpunished, the very foundations of American liberty would be undermined. He concluded by saying, “While Mr. Olsen’s initial hesitancy in reporting this situation was and still is understandable, it is nevertheless to his credit that he finally found the courage to inform the authorities of the vicious and totally undeserved threats being made against both himself and his mother. With the perpetrator now sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, the Olsens, mother and son, can now go on with their lives in peace! Hopefully, this case will serve as an example for other victims to follow in the future!”

Two days later, Jimmy was once more called into Perry White’s office. As before, Lois and Clark were present, as well as Inspector Henderson, Special Agent Davenport, Mrs. Olsen, and Special Agent Allen. Somewhat to the young reporter’s surprise, another man was present. From his uniform, Jimmy quickly deduced that he was a high-ranking officer of the United States Coast Guard. “Olsen,” Perry began, I’d like you to meet Commandant John Billingsley of the United States Coast Guard. He’s here to make a very special, and, I feel, a well-deserved presentation.”

Thank you, Mr. White,” the Commandant replied. “Mr. Olsen,” he continued, turning to Jimmy, “despite the initial mistake you made in the Ace Miller affair, the fact remains that you brought Mr. Miller out into the open, so that he was caught and punished. Since then, we’ve been able to hunt down and capture several other smuggling rings that Miller was working with. Their illegal efforts were robbing the United States Treasury of more than ten million dollars a year in taxes and customs duties. In view of the fact that your efforts led directly to the smashing of these smuggling efforts, it has been decided that your efforts should be appropriately rewarded.” The Commandant paused momentarily as he pulled an envelope from his inside jacket pocket. “It is therefore my privilege and pleasure to present you with this check in the amount of $50,000. It is also my privilege and pleasure to inform you that, by the direct order of the President of the United States, this reward shall be exempt from all Federal, state, and local taxes. Congratulations!” With those words, the Commandant handed the check over to Jimmy, along with a warm, firm handshake.

Jimmy was almost ready to faint as he gazed at the check. His mother and his friends gathered around him to offer their congratulations.

A moment later, his employer asked, “Well, Jimmy, do you have anything to say on this occasion?”

Yes, Sir,” Jimmy answered. “First of all, I am extremely grateful for this reward, even though I had no reason to expect anything like this as a result of what I now know to have been an impulsive and foolish decision. I can only say that I’ll do my best to learn from it, and not make such a mistake again. That in turn leads me to ask you something, Mr. White.”

What’s that, son?” Perry responded.

Well, as I’m sure we all remember only too well, the last time I was paid a lump sum like this, I made a fool of myself—there’s just no other way to put it!”

You mean, I take it, that million-dollar gift you received two years ago”? Perry inquired.

Jimmy nodded emphatically. “Yes, Sir, that’s exactly what I’m referring to,” the young redhead replied. “Needless to say, I don’t want to come anywhere near making that kind of mistake again! Mr. White, I know you have a lot of business and financial and investment contacts. Could you help me to decide the best way to put this reward money to work over the long haul, so to speak?”

A warm smile of approval came over the older man’s features. “Jimmy, I’ll be more than happy to do that,” he replied, “and may I say how delighted I am that you’ve learned as much from your mistakes as you obviously have!”

Flushing with pleasure, Jimmy responded, “I guess you could say I’m finally growing up, huh, Mr. White?”

That’s exactly what’s it’s called, Jimmy,” Clark put in. “You’ve made some mistakes along the way, that’s true—but that’s part and parcel of the process of growing up! No two people grow up in the exact same way, or at the same pace—not even identical twins—but the simple fact is that without making mistakes along the way, there can be no such growth! It’s all part of what makes us who and what we are!”

Well said, Mr. Kent,” Perry responded, “and now, may I suggest that we get a picture or two of Olsen here receiving his check, and then Miss Lane can write a short article to go with it in this evening’s edition of the Planet, and thereby officially bring this whole affair to a close!”

Posted June 23, 2017

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