Forever Superman

Forever Superman

by Anne Spear raggedyanne@iwon.com

Rated PG-13

Submitted June 2001

__________

A shadowy figure entered a dark alley and laid his burden down to one side. The burden became a beautiful young woman. The mysterious figure left her sitting on the ground with her back against a building. Her legs were straight with ankles crossed and her hands were folded in her lap. The figure then moved casually back onto the streets of Metropolis.

Later that same night, Superman was flying his normal patrol above the city. It was a slow night, so he was thinking back on Clark's earlier date with Lois. It was one of the few times they'd gone out recently where he didn't have to rush off and save someone. Mayson was gone; Dan had stopped hanging around. Everything seemed to finally be falling into place. In fact, he'd started to seriously consider telling Lois his secret. He realized that if he didn't tell her soon, she'd find out somehow on her own. Waiting as long as he had was really pushing his luck.

Superman was so wrapped up in his own thoughts he almost didn't see the falling object about 300 yards away. As he sped to catch the object, he realized it was a man wearing a long black coat. His arms were spread wide in a free-fall position. There was no way the man was parachuting at this time of night and, if he were, he'd have pulled the cord by now.

Superman drew up behind the man and grabbed him under the arms. Instead of going limp like Superman expected, the man twisted away and floated under his own power, about two feet from Superman. As he turned, Superman saw that he looked to be between 35 and 40 years old. He had blond hair, glowing yellow eyes and inch long fangs.

"Who...WHAT are you?" Superman asked, shocked.

The strange man stared back at Superman. "That's not important," he answered. His voice was deep, almost like a growl, and had an echo effect. "You never saw me."

"Of course I SAW you," Superman argued. "Why would you say that?"

"I should have known you'd be a resister," the stranger commented before darting off.

Superman was startled and, by the time he'd recovered, he was unable to catch up to the other flyer. After doing a few more laps around the city, Superman finally gave up for the night and went home.

Next morning, the elevator doors opened and Clark started to enter the newsroom when Lois pushed him back into the elevator. "What's up?" he asked as she pressed the lobby button.

"I got a tip that another body's been found." Lois turned to Clark, who gave her a questioning look. "The two women who were drained of blood...they've got a third one."

"Oh, no." All Clark could see, in his mind's eye, was the face of that...thing he'd found last night. If his fears were true, it probably had something to do with that poor girl's death, and he'd just let it get away.

When the doors opened, Lois noticed Clark's faraway look. "Hullo. Earth to Clark."

"What?" Clark broke his stare and started walking across the lobby. "Sorry, I was thinking about something," he explained to Lois.

"You were really spaced out there. Are you sure you're alright?" Lois asked.

"I'm fine. Really," Clark assured her.

At the crime scene, Lois and Clark were able to talk to Inspector Henderson. While Lois was grilling the detective, Clark managed to move over to where the body was laid out on a stretcher. He turned her head in each direction until he found what he was looking for; two small puncture marks on the left side of her neck. Before they left the area, Clark made sure that Lois saw the marks. Once they were in Lois' car however, she couldn't hold back anymore.

"Please tell me you're not thinking what I think you are," she told Clark.

"What is it you think I'm thinking?" he countered.

"That woman was NOT killed by a vampire," Lois insisted.

"With the total lack of blood and the marks on her neck, why isn't it possible?" Clark asked.

"Because vampires don't exist."

"And five years ago, neither did an alien who flies," Clark pointed out.

"WHY do you always do that?" Lois asked.

"What?"

"Every time we run into anything with the remotest possibility of being supernatural, you have to compare it to Superman," she answered.

"Because it's true. If I had come to you even three years ago and told you about Superman, you'd have thought I was crazy," Clark explained.

"But I've SEEN Superman, talked with him; I know he's real. When you can show me a real live vampire, then I'll believe in them." Clark just shook his head. "Look, why don't we go see the Medical Examiner and check if the other two victims had those same marks. We don't know anything until we find that out," Lois suggested.

"Okay," Clark agreed. "Did you find out who's in charge of the investigation?"

"His name is Detective Knight and he won't be on duty until 8:00 tonight," Lois answered.

Lois pulled into a parking spot at the morgue and they both got out of the car.

A short time later, Lois and Clark got back into Lois' car. "That doesn't prove anything," Lois insisted, stubbornly.

"The ME said the loss of blood was the only possible cause of death and the puncture marks found on all three victims was the only way the blood could have been drained," Clark reminded her.

"So, what's your point?" Lois asked sarcastically.

"Putting aside my very valid theory, maybe we should check out the victims next. They may have something in common," Clark suggested.

"Fine," Lois agreed.

At the office, Clark followed Lois to her desk and, seeing Jimmy nearby, caught his attention and waved him over. "We need as much info as you can get on all three victims," Clark explained.

"Sure," Jimmy agreed. "What are their names?"

"Samantha Harrison, Allyson Dondero and Colleen Williams," Lois supplied.

Jimmy jotted the names into a notebook. "Got it," he answered, started to hurry away, then stopped. "Oh, before I forget. Are you guys coming to see the movie with us tonight?"

"What movie and who's us?" Lois asked.

"A bunch of us are getting together to see 'The Dracula Project'," Jimmy answered.

"Never heard of it," Clark commented. Lois just shook her head.

"It's supposed to be a documentary that proves that vampires are real. Everyone knows it's a low-budget hoax, but they say it's still pretty scary," Jimmy explained.

"As much as I'd...love to go see such as interesting movie, we can't," Lois answered sarcastically. "We're meeting the detective in charge of this case tonight."

After lunch, Clark found a folder on his desk. The note stuck to the front of it showed that it was the information from Jimmy. Clark took the folder to Lois' desk, where she was checking her voicemail. He waited for her to hang up the telephone receiver and announced, "I've got the info on the victims."

"Let's hear it," Lois requested.

Clark opened the folder and flipped through the pages. "Okay, Samantha Harrison was 25 and an actress. Allyson Dondero was 23 and she was a model. They had the same agent, Estelle Thornton. Colleen Williams was 19 and worked at Lacy's Department Store. They all went to different high schools and only Samantha Harrison went to college. Allyson Dondero grew up here in Metropolis. Colleen Williams was from Connecticut and Samantha Harrison came from Michigan. It looks like they had absolutely nothing in common."

"There has to be some reason that the killer picked these three women," Lois commented.

"Well, the only link between two of them is Estelle Thornton. I guess we go talk to her," Clark suggested.

At the Thornton Agency, the receptionist showed Lois and Clark into Estelle's office. Estelle was between 45 and 50 with very blonde, short permed hair. She shook their hands as they introduced themselves. "Too bad," she commented, with a heavy New York accent.

"Excuse me?" Lois asked.

"Darlin', with your looks, I could get both of you jobs all over the world. You," she said, indicating Clark, "I see in GQ and Calvin ads, and you, Sweetie, could be a Bond girl."

"Really?" Lois asked and looked at Clark who glared back at her. "No, we'd just like some information on two of your clients."

"That kinda stuff is confidential," Estelle started.

"We're investigating the deaths of Allyson Dondero and Samantha Harrison," Clark explained.

"Oh, such a waste," Estelle lamented. "Both of them had such talent. And so young..."

"Did they know each other?" Lois asked.

"No," Estelle answered. "Allyson started here five years ago, right outta high school. Samantha signed with me last summer."

"So, they were never on any jobs together?" Clark asked.

"No," Estelle confirmed. "Far be it for me to speak ill of the dead, but Allyson, poor thing, couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. But, when it came ta modeling, she was the best. Photographers would hire her just from her portfolio. And such a joy to work with. Always on time, never cranky."

"What about Samantha?" Clark questioned further.

"She'd been busy, too. Mostly commercials. You probably saw her in that cell phone spot." Clark just shrugged. "She did have an audition for that movie openin' tonight, the Dracula thing, but they said she didn't have the right look. Ah, c'est la vie, ya' know?"

"Did they both live alone?" Lois asked.

"Allyson did. She had no family left. But Samantha lived with her older sister, Rebecca."

"Thank you for your time, Ms. Thornton," Lois said as she stood and shook Estelle's hand. "You've been very helpful."

Clark also stood and shook hands as the older woman answered, "Anytime. And you remember to call me if you change your minds about that modeling thing."

Outside the office building, Lois headed for her car. "So, do we interview Samantha's older sister next?" she asked.

"I doubt we'll get much from her," Clark answered. "Besides, how would you feel about talking to reporters if something like this happened to Lucy?" Lois just cringed. "Look, it's after six already. Why don't we get some dinner then go meet with Detective Knight?" he suggested and Lois agreed.

Just before 8:00, Lois and Clark entered the police station and approached the desk sergeant. "We're here to see Detective Knight," Lois requested.

The sergeant looked over at a tall blonde man who was standing near the door to the inner offices. That man, wearing dark pants, a white shirt and hunter green vest, turned when he heard Lois request. "I'm Nicholas Knight," he announced. "How can I help you?"

As the detective moved toward the reporters, Clark fought to hide the shock he experienced when he saw the older man's face. It was the same as the vampire he'd run into the night before. The glowing eyes and fangs were gone, of course, but it was definitely the same man. Clark couldn't believe that the same creature he suspected of killing these women was assigned to investigate their murders. And to make matters worse, Clark couldn't expose it without exposing his own secret.

Lois, with her back to Clark, didn't notice his internal struggle. "I'm Lois Lane and this is my partner, Clark Kent," she informed the detective. "We're from the Daily Planet."

"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent. What can I do for you?"

"We're investigating the murders of Allyson Dondero, Colleen Williams and Samantha Harrison," Lois explained. "What can you tell us about your findings?"

"Since when do reporters write about three separate murders at one time?" Detective Knight answered Lois' question with a question.

"Since we realize that the three cases are related and probably killed by the same person or persons," Lois answered, a little annoyed that he would try to evade her question.

"Oh, really? And what makes you think these murders are related?" Detective Knight smiled and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Maybe the BITE marks on the neck of each victim," Clark answered, watching carefully for any reaction. He was not disappointed when the detective's smile faded and his arms moved slowly to his sides.

Lois was visibly shocked by Clark's outburst. "Okay, so nobody really thinks those are bites marks but they are the cause of death on each victim and it does prove that they were all targeted by the same killer, so are you going to talk to us now?" she babbled.

Detective Knight took a deep breath. "Perhaps we should discuss this in private," he suggested, and led the way through the inner office to an interrogation room. He held the door open as Lois and Clark entered the room and took seats on one side of the table. Detective Knight entered the room and slammed the door. "How do you know about the puncture marks?" he insisted as he moved to the opposite side of the table. He stopped and leaned forward, placing his palms down on the table. "Who leaked that information?"

"No one leaked anything," Lois assured him. "Clark just happened to notice the marks on Colleen Williams this morning, then the medical examiner verified them on the others."

"Very observant, Mr. Kent." Clark didn't answer; only glared at the detective. "Alright," Detective Knight continued, standing upright again, "it's true. The marks were on all three victims and we feel they're related as well. But I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't report that one detail just yet."

"So that when you catch the killer, only he'll know that one fact," Lois guessed.

"Exactly," the detective nodded.

"What else do the murders have in common?" Lois asked.

"Not much, unfortunately," Detective Knight admitted. "Allyson Dondero and Colleen Williams were both last seen at a club called 'Kestrel'. Allyson went there to meet a date, according to her best friend, and Colleen arrived with a group from work but left with a man that she met there. We're assuming they're the same man, but since none of Allyson or Colleen's friends ever met him, we don't know for certain.

"Samantha, on the other hand, had never been to this club, as far as we can tell. She was last seen at an audition in the Krump Building. Her car was still in the parking garage the next morning. Her body was found the day after across town.

"Each body was found in an alley, two days after she disappeared; all different alleys, all miles from where she was last seen. There were no fingerprints, hair or DNA evidence on any of the victims. In fact, it looked as though they died without any struggle at all."

"Well, I think that about covers it," Lois started but stopped when Detective Knight sat down opposite her and stared into her eyes.

"Perhaps you'd like to powder your nose," he suggested and Clark was sure he heard an echo in the detective's voice.

"That's a good idea," Lois agreed. She stood and walked toward the door. Detective Knight rose and opened the door for Lois. A uniformed policewoman happened by just then.

"Could you show Ms. Lane to the ladies room?" Detective Knight asked the officer. Once they were gone, he shut the door and turned back to Clark. "So, what shall we talk about now, Mr. Kent, or do you prefer 'Superman'?" the detective whispered.

"What?!" Clark was shocked.

"Apparently, we both have secrets that we hide from the rest of the world, especially our partners."

"I don't know what you're referring to," Clark insisted, unconsciously adjusting his glasses.

"There's no sense in denying the obvious, at least to my kind. I'm sure your disguise is adequate against humans, but we have senses beyond mortal abilities," Detective Knight assured him.

"Such as?" Clark asked.

"Such as hearing," the detective explained. "Did you know your heartbeat is faster than any human, under any conditions? And I have heard some rapid hearts in my time."

"What else?" Clark asked, fascinated.

"Well, your body temperature. I'm sure you're able to control it when necessary, but right now I am feeling more heat from you than I can describe. Look, we can discuss what's bothering you until we're both blue in the face, but Ms. Lane will be back any minute and my partner is wandering about here as well. I don't think either of us want them to overhear any of this." Detective Knight paused to watch for Clark's reaction. When nothing happened, he continued. "Could we meet later tonight and discuss this in more detail, privately?"

"Sure," Clark reluctantly agreed, "whatever."

"I'm off duty at 4 am. How about we say the roof of the Daily Planet building?"

"Fine," Clark answered, curtly. Since their business was concluded, for now, Clark brushed past the detective and yanked the door open, nearly pulling Lois in with the knob she was holding. "Are you ready?" he snapped at her.

"Okay," Lois answered, hesitantly. She wasn't sure what put Clark into this foul mood, but she would definitely find out. "Thank you for your help, Detective. I hope we can call you if we have any other questions."

"Certainly," Detective Knight answered, smiling. "But please, call me Nick."

Lois would have continued, but Clark was already pulling her out of the room by her forearm. Outside on the steps leading to the sidewalk, Lois finally managed to free her arm from his grasp. "WHAT was that all about?" she demanded.

"I don't know," Clark admitted, angrily. He looked up at Lois's face and saw how confused she was. His attitude softened when he realized that he was taking his anger over this situation out on her and that wasn't fair. "I just don't trust him."

"I think I see what's happening here," Lois announced as they headed for her car. "You're jealous."

"What?!"

"Of course," Lois continued. "Just last week, we decided to commit to each other. Now, we're working with a very attractive, charming older man and you can't handle it." Lois paused and cocked her head to one side. "Is it because he reminds you of Lex?"

"No!" Clark insisted, then thought for a moment. "Well, not until just now," he admitted. "But it's not because he's charming OR attractive. He's arrogant and definitely hiding something...just like Luthor."

"Well, you have nothing to worry about," Lois assured him and opened the driver's side door.

Later, in his apartment, Clark had changed into jeans and a red T-shirt. His laptop computer was open on the coffee table and was searching in the Daily Planet database.

Once he'd grabbed a snack from the kitchen, Clark sat on the couch and moved the computer so he could get a better view. On the screen was displayed a photo of Detective Nicholas Knight. All of his personal information; home address, birth date and place were listed. Clark hit "next" in order to get more information. The following screen showed the detective's Metropolis service record, which was very short due to the fact that he arrived in town only two months earlier. Clark checked his notebook and realized that the first murder was a month and a half ago. That seemed a little too coincidental.

Clark hit "next" again and found the detective's record from his last assignment in Canada. There were no disciplinary actions listed, but a few commendations had been given, mostly for solving difficult cases. Of course, Clark thought. With powers like his, it's easy to solve difficult cases.

Detective Knight had been assigned two partners. The first, Detective Donald Schanke worked with Knight for two years until he was killed in a plane crash. Knight apprehended the man who caused that crash with the help of his second partner, Detective Tracy Vetter. Detective Vetter also died in the line of duty when a suspect broke free and managed to get a fellow officer's handgun. The report mentioned that Detective Knight, while trying to talk the perpetrator into giving himself up, was between the fired weapon and Detective Vetter, yet somehow he was missed.

Detective Knight resigned from the Toronto Police Force after he discovered his best friend, Dr. Natalie Lambert dead in his apartment. It looked as if her throat had been slashed. Her murder was still unsolved.

Clark shut his laptop and leaned back. He didn't really know what he had been looking for, but he still felt like he hadn't found it. He did know one thing, though. Detective Knight seemed very good at hiding what he was from others. In that respect, they seemed to have a lot in common. Clark sat up when he heard a police siren go past his apartment. He listened closer and found out that they were headed for a robbery in progress. Clark spun into his suit and flew out the back window to see if he could help.

At 4:10, Superman scanned the roof of the Daily Planet building before he landed. Detective Knight was already there and he was alone. As Superman touched down, Nick approached him and asked, "Satisfied?"

"What do you mean?"

"You hovered for a moment when you got here," Nick explained. "What were you looking for, an ambush?"

"No," Superman answered, "I just like to be prepared."

"You must have been one helluva boy scout," Nick commented.

"Well, you wanted to talk," Superman said, crossing his arms over his chest, "so talk."

"It won't do any good if you've already made your mind up against me," Nick explained. When Superman made no move of comment, Nick sighed and continued. "Somehow, I have to convince you that I have nothing to do with those murders."

"Why not?" Superman asked. "You probably killed Dr. Lambert."

For just an instant, Nick's eyes felt misty, but he quickly blinked the unshed tears away. "So, you were checking up on me," he started, then took a deep breath. "It's true, I did kill Nat, but it was an accident. She was trying to make me mortal again. It's something I've wanted for the past hundred or so years. She had a crazy theory that drinking her blood would do the trick. But it was just too hard to stop and before I realized it, she was dead. I will regret that moment for the rest of my life, such as it is."

As Nick was explaining, Superman's stance softened. "I believe you," he told Nick, who just stared at the younger man in shock. "I was determined to distrust you, no matter what. Maybe it was due to the Hollywood stereotype that portrays all vampires as evil. But when I mentioned your friend, I saw real grief over what happened. I can't believe that you could kill those women, then lie so convincingly about it."

"I'm glad you believe me now, because I could really use your help. Even from the air, I can't possibly cover the entire city each night. But both of us patrolling might make all the difference. He has no real pattern of when he kills. There were four weeks between the first and second murders but only two weeks between the second and third, so he could strike again at any time."

"Understood," Superman nodded.

"I don't think he's a real vampire. He's probably a mortal who's delusional or looking for attention," Nick explained.

"Why?" Superman asked.

"Because we have other ways of getting supplied now. Hunting openly creates witch-hunts and our numbers have dwindled far too much to cause that to happen again. Besides, I've spoken to some of the regulars and they'd know if it was one of us," Nick continued.

"Any thoughts on the club, 'Kestral?' "Superman suggested.

"Believe it or not, it actually is a hangout for vampires," Nick laughed. "The killer probably didn't even know that when he chose the place. I doubt if he'll grab a third victim from there, though."

"I agree. So, the plan is to just patrol until something looks suspicious?" Superman asked.

"That's it," Nick confirmed. "Until we get a solid lead, we're up against a wall. Here's my card, including my home number, just in case."

Next morning, Clark was awakened by a hammering on the front door. He tied a robe over his boxers and put his glasses on as he stumbled up the stairs to open the door. Outside, he found Lois holding a brown paper bag in one hand and balancing a tray of styrofoam cups in the other. "Were you still asleep?" she asked, amazed. "At this hour?"

"What time is it?" Clark asked groggily, as he stepped aside and motioned for Lois to enter.

"After 9:30," she answered and moved into the kitchen. "Why don't you go get dressed while I fix your coffee. Light and sweet, right?"

Clark stood in the kitchen doorway and leaned his shoulder against the wall. He just watched as Lois placed the bag and tray on the table, then slipped her purse and laptop case off her shoulder and placed them on a chair. She turned away from Clark and took plates from the cabinet, then the milk from the fridge. When she turned back to the table, Clark asked, "Lois, why are you here before noon on a Saturday?"

"I was up and I figured you would be too, so I thought we could work on this story some more, maybe research the victims and their acquaintances again. Do you have any cream cheese?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"For the bagels," Lois supplied, motioning to the brown bag.

"Oh, uh, check the door of the refrigerator," Clark directed her.

Once she'd found the tub, he announced, "I'm going to take a shower to wake up," and shuffled into the bathroom.

While Clark was busy, Lois placed the half-dozen assorted bagels on a platter, fixed her coffee, then made up a bagel for herself. When Clark reappeared about five minutes later wearing a polo shirt and slacks, his coffee was set aside along with a plate, knife and napkin. Lois was eating her bagel with one hand and typing with the other.

"Find anything interesting?" Clark asked as he sat down next to her.

"Only stuff we already knew," Lois answered. "I wish we knew what each victim looked like. Maybe that's the common denominator."

"Last night I was able to hack into the police database. Maybe they have pictures available," Clark suggested, heading into the living room for his laptop. He retrieved the unit and opened it at the kitchen table. He was able to pull up the last site visited and searched for case files.

Lois was surprised how easily Clark found his way around this site. "How did you do that?" she asked.

"Jimmy's been helping me get more internet savvy," he explained. "It's not that hard once you know what you're doing." He clicked on the mouse a few times, then announced, "Got it," and turned the unit so both he and Lois could see it.

"They're all dark-haired, that's it," Lois commented.

"Maybe there have been other similar murders that the police aren't aware of," Clark suggested. He turned the computer back to face him and started typing again. "Maybe I can get into Gotham's police records."

While Clark was absorbed in his hacking, Lois stood and turned on the radio.

"And in national news, Hurricane Alex cut a devastating path through the Florida Keys yesterday. Although most residents were evacuated in time, there are still approximately 100 people reported missing. At present, rescue workers are unable to reach the affected areas due to washed out bridges."

"Why would anyone choose to live where there's only one way in or out?" Lois asked rhetorically.

As soon as Clark heard the report, he started to think of a valid excuse to get him away from home all day. "Ya' know what...I just remembered that I promised a friend...I'd help him move today," he improvised.

"Oh, okay. I'll just get going. I really shouldn't have come over without calling first," Lois answered a little too quickly and started to gather her things.

"No," Clark assured her. "You're always welcome here. You're not mad, are you?"

"Me, mad?" Lois asked. "No, of course I'm not mad. You made a promise and you can't break a promise. Besides, I have lots to keep me occupied at home." She followed Clark to the front door and waited as he held it open for her. "You go have fun and I'll see you on Monday. Don't forget our breakfast date," she added, patting Clark on the chest, then she was gone. Clark just shook his head and closed the door. Once he was sure Lois was gone, he changed into his "work clothes" and flew out the back window.

If Clark had not been so distracted by the news of the hurricane, he might have noticed how eager Lois was to leave his apartment. As soon as she arrived at home, Lois connected to the police website that Clark had just shown her. She found the crime scene photos of all three victims. Aside from having dark brown hair, she'd seen one other thing they had in common. Each were wearing dark, conservative clothes.

Colleen Williams, the youngest and most recent victim, was wearing a black flared skirt which fell to just above the knees and a purple blouse.

Allyson Dondero, the model was wearing an emerald green brocade dress. The hem was mid-shin and the neckline was high with a heart-shaped cutout.

Samantha Harrison had worn a navy skirt with pink flowers on it and a short-sleeved pink sweater to her audition.

Lois started a mental inventory of her clothes on her way to the bedroom closet. By flipping through the outfits hanging there, she verified what she already knew, that the best-suited dress was the brown print she'd purchased at the Corn Festival in Smallville. She didn't even know why she still had it. She had only bought it so she'd fit in better with the locals and planned to give it to Goodwill as soon as she returned to the city.

Maybe she'd held onto the dress because she really did have fun in it, especially when Clark won her the teddy bear. She'd also been wearing it when Trask nearly shot Clark. It was just lucky that Jimmy got Rachel to the farm in time to stop Trask.

Well, we got out of that mess in one piece, so maybe this same dress will be lucky tonight, too, Lois thought.

Later that night, Lois drove to Kestral and parked as close to the front door as she could. Inside the club, she ordered a white wine spritzer and chose a table near the bar. As she sipped from her glass, she glanced around the room. The interior was very shadowed and decorated in "early inquisition." There was even a coffin propped up on its end in one corner. Most of the patrons were dancing to a heavy metal song.

The bartender, wearing a white shirt and black, open vest, looked normal enough. He seemed to be getting instructions periodically from one man sitting at the far end of the bar. He was dressed all in black and his sandy-colored hair was cropped close in a crew cut. His manner was casual, but Lois noticed that he was aware of every person and movement in the room.

She suspected that this was the owner or manager of the club. Lois noticed another man, also sitting at the bar, closer to her table. This second man was younger than the first, probably 25 or 26. He was wearing black slacks and a red silk shirt. His dark hair was slicked back and Lois couldn't help but think of Superman, for just an instant. The only reason Lois noticed "red shirt" was because he was openly watching her. She decided that he was probably a good candidate for the killer, so she started flirting shyly with him. Before long, he had purchased another spritzer and was walking toward her table.

"You looked like you could use a refill," he commented before asking, "Mind if I sit?"

"Not at all," Lois answered, smiling.

"My name's Tom Robbins," he announced, offering his right hand.

"Lillian Samuels," Lois replied, placing her hand in his. Rather than the expected handshake, Tom brought Lois' hand to his lips and kissed the back. Lois barely managed to keep from rolling her eyes at the inane gesture. Instead, she giggled.

Once her hand was released, Lois took a sip from the fresh drink. Tom leaned back, rested his hands with fingertips touching on the table and watched her. "You're not drinking anything?" Lois asked.

"I don't drink...wine," he answered, darkly.

Oh, brother, Lois thought as she took another sip. This guy is really living the part.

"So, Lillian," Tom started, "what's your story?"

"Story?" Lois asked.

"You don't match the usual clientele," he commented, indicating the dancers. "At the risk of sounding cliche, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"

Lois nearly choked on her drink, but caught herself and improvised, "I was supposed to meet someone, but I guess he's not coming."

"He obviously doesn't know what he's missing," Tom complimented and Lois just smiled.

After about half an hour of polite "getting-to-know-each-other" conversation, Lois started to feel groggy. When Tom suggested they go back to his place, Lois was surprised to hear her own voice agreeing with him. Her last conscious thought was that Tom must have drugged her drink.

"Tom" drove in silence. Glancing at Lillian in the passenger seat, he realized how lucky he was that she made it into the car on her own before passing out. After Colleen, he couldn't afford being seen carrying another girl out of that club. He knew that she'd still agree to whatever he said after she woke up, but he figured he'd have to carry her into the warehouse before then. Good thing the area is deserted this time of night, he thought.

Next morning, "Tom", still wearing the same clothes as the night before, placed a chair beside the table which he'd strapped each of his victims to, and sat to wait for Lillian to wake up. The table was metal, but covered by multiple blankets in order to pad it. The restraints at Lillian's wrists, ankles, across her shoulders and forehead were also padded. This was not done for the victim's comfort, but to avoid any bruises in the event of a struggle. That way, the police would believe that they all trusted their attacker completely, perhaps even welcomed him.

As Lillian started to stir, "Tom" rose and walked into her line-of-vision. She still seemed pretty groggy.

"Good morning," he started. "Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Robert Tremaine. Perhaps you've heard of me?"

"No," was the curt answer.

Tremaine was a little taken aback. "Well, no matter. Soon, nothing will matter to you, Lillian."

"My...name's not...Lillian."

"What?" Tremaine knew that the drug acted as a truth serum, as well as giving the power of suggestion. "What IS your name?"

"Lois Lane."

"The reporter?"

"Yes."

"What were you doing in that club?"

"Trying to find the 'Vampire Killer,' " Lois answered.

"Well, you succeeded," Tremaine announced.

"Why?" Lois asked.

"Why what?"

"Why make it look like a vampire did the killings?"

"To promote my movie, of course," Tremaine replied. When Lois looked confused, he continued. "I produced 'The Dracula Project' entirely on my own; sold everything I could and went completely into debt; but it would be worth it when the movie was a success. After it bombed at the premiere, I knew I had to do something to get the public to want to see it..."

"So you killed three innocent women by draining their blood in order to get people to believe in vampires?" Lois asked, shocked.

"And it will work," Tremaine insisted, "as soon as word gets out about how they died..."

"It never will," Lois stated. "The police are withholding that information."

"NO!" Tremaine kicked the chair across the room and started to pace. "Think, think," he muttered, "there must be something. Wait." He stopped and looked back at the table. "If I knew Superman's identity, he'd HAVE to protect me. Once I was out of the country, I'd be safe." He rushed to the table and grabbed Lois' shoulders. "Who is Superman?" he asked her.

"I don't know," she replied.

"You're still under the drug's influence. You have to tell me," he insisted.

"I can't tell what I don't know," Lois argued.

"How do you contact him?" Tremaine asked, releasing her shoulders.

"I can't; not directly."

"Then, how?"

Lois took a deep breath. "Whenever I give a message to Clark, he manages to get it to Superman," she answered, reluctantly.

"Clark? Your partner!" Tremaine realized. He retrieved a cell phone from his pants pocket. "What's his number?"

"No!" Lois exclaimed. "I'm...not...helping...you anymore!"

"Hmm. The drug must be wearing off," Tremaine surmised. "No matter. I'll just call information."

Clark finally made it home Sunday morning around nine. After changing into jeans and a plaid shirt, he went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. He had a sudden urge to call and check on Lois, but the phone rang just as he reached for it.

"Hello?"

"Mr. Kent?"

"Yes. Who's this?"

"My name isn't important, but someone here wants to say 'hello'."

"Clark?"

"Lois! What..."

"Don't listen to him, Clark. Whatever he tells you to do, don't! He's crazy! He..."

"Lois!"

"She's fine, Mr. Kent...for now. But that will change unless you come to 14 Sussex Road. Be here in thirty minutes and come alone. Is that clear?"

"Crystal."

After the line went dead, Clark pressed the flash button in order to get a dial tone. He fished Nick's card out of his wallet and dialed the home number. It was answered by the detective's machine. "Yeah, Nick Knight. I'm either in bed or incommunicado. So, if you wanna leave your name and number, go ahead."

"Nick, it's Clark. The killer has Lois and is insisting I meet him. Somehow, you HAVE to get to 14 Sussex Road in thirty minutes." Clark hung up the phone, changed into Superman, and flew out the back window.

Back at the warehouse on Sussex Road, Lois was trying to keep Tremaine talking. "Why would you think that anyone would believe in vampires? I mean, why make the movie in the first place?" she asked him.

"Because vampires do exist," Tremaine called from the other end of the room where he was searching for something.

"Yeah, right," Lois scoffed.

"Yes, it's true," Tremaine insisted. He walked toward Lois as he explained further. "I was at Kestral filming a documentary on nightclubs about a year ago and caught a group on tape. It wasn't until I was editing the segment when I realized what they were. At that moment, I began working on 'The Dracula Project.' Even when no one would fund it, I knew the world needed to be shown. That's why I've gone to so much trouble to promote it."

"How did you choose those women?"

"Samantha auditioned for my movie. I happened to run into her in the garage of the Krump Building. I hadn't decided on a course of action yet. We went to a local bar for drinks and she passed out as we were leaving the bar. I took it as a sign that I was meant to do this."

"What about the other two?"

"Allyson and I dated for a couple of weeks, even though she never told anyone about me. When she admitted that she was only trying to use me to get into a movie, I decided to use her instead. I just picked Colleen out of the crowd at Kestral, like you. It was so easy once I'd gotten the drug," Tremaine supplied, now searching the area near Lois.

"So you DID drug me," Lois realized, "with what?"

"It's nothing, really. Completely harmless once it wears off," Tremaine shrugged.

"How did you drain the blood?"

"Simple. Two hypodermic needles attached to tubes, a pump, then glass jars."

"And where did you dispose of over a gallon of human blood?"

"I have a friend who works in a blood bank and, for the right price, he doesn't ask any questions. Ah, ha!" Tremaine exclaimed as he found the item he'd been searching for, a foot long, serrated-edged hunting knife. He looked over at Lois. "What is this, an interview?"

Lois attempted to shrug through the restraints. "It's automatic," she explained.

"Well, it's finished," Tremaine decided. "I don't want to hear another word until your friend gets here."

"But..."

"Not another word," he emphasized, brandishing the knife.

Superman arrived at the correct address and scanned the interior from the air. Thankfully, it was not lead shielded anywhere. He saw Lois under restraints and a man standing over her waving a wicked-looking knife. Judging by the clothes and hairstyle of the man, Superman guessed that this was the killer who believed he was a vampire. From the defiant look on Lois' face, he knew he'd better get in there quickly. After changing in the alley behind the building, he banged on the front door.

"It's open," was the reply.

Inside, Clark forced himself to look surprised to see Lois strapped to the table. Her dress and hair were mussed, as if she'd been struggling to get free. The killer was standing behind her head with the knife poised just over her throat and he was watching Clark.

"Please lock the door behind you," Tremaine requested. "We don't want any uninvited guests."

"Okay, I'm here," Clark stated, "now let Lois go."

"Patience, Mr. Kent. You're just here for information; she's my insurance policy. Tell me what I need to know and I'll let her live."

"What information?" Clark asked.

"I want Superman. I want to know who he really is and how you're able to contact him," Tremaine instructed.

"Are you sure about that?" Clark asked, trying to stall. He started going over his options at super speed. By entering this building as himself, he knew it was unlikely that he'd be able to leave in order to "get" Superman. He could probably make something up, like meeting at a prearranged place, but the killer would still want to know who Superman was and Clark didn't trust the angry look in the killer's eyes. He didn't want Lois to find out like this but, as long as he felt her life was in danger, and he didn't see that he had any other choice.

"I'm positive," Tremaine answered.

"Fine," Clark agreed. "Just remember, you asked for it."

First, Clark began to spin at super-speed until Superman appeared in his place. Then, while Tremaine and Lois stared in shock, Superman used his super-breath to force Tremaine away from Lois. Next, heat vision made him drop the knife. Another blur and Tremaine was strapped to the chair, while Lois was sitting up on the table. Superman finished tying Tremaine at normal speed and looked up at Lois. "Are you okay?" he inquired.

"Fine," she answered angrily and hopped off the table.

Superman went over to Lois, placed his hand at the small of her back, and led her away from Tremaine. "What is it?" he asked quietly.

Lois took a step away from Superman and turned around to face him. "I thought you were my best friend. How could you not tell me?" she asked, close to tears.

"I couldn't tell you, not at first. We barely knew each other; you barely tolerated me. Then, as we got closer, it just became more complicated," Superman explained.

"That's putting it mildly," Lois snapped.

"Now, wait a minute," Superman returned. "I'm the one who should be mad...at you."

"What?! Why?"

"You should know better than to go off looking for a killer all by yourself! I can't believe you put yourself in that kind of danger," Superman explained.

"I was just doing my job!" Lois argued, hands on hips.

"Then why didn't you tell me what you were up to when you left my apartment yesterday morning?" Superman countered. "I'll tell you why, because you knew I wouldn't let you do something so STUPID!!"

"YOU were too busy to work yesterday, remember? YOU had other plans."

"I was digging people out of the hurricane's wake yesterday."

Lois stared open-mouthed at Superman as the realization sank in. "You heard that news report and made up an excuse to get me to leave," she thought aloud. "How many other times..."

"Lois, please listen," Superman started, taking her shoulders.

Lois placed her palms on Superman's chest and pushed, hard. "No, I don't want to hear it. I don't know if I can ever forgive this." She turned her back to Superman and refused to look at him.

While Superman and Lois were arguing, they failed to notice Tremaine had gotten free and was sneaking toward the door. Just as he was about to get away, a form with smoke billowing from it came crashing through the full-length window beside the door. Lois and Superman both turned at the sound of shattered glass. Detective Knight tackled Tremaine and pinned him, face down, to the ground. He looked up at the angry couple and hissed, fangs fully bared. Lois screamed and hid behind Superman.

"It's alright, Lois," Superman assured her. "He's on our side."

Nick got up, lifted Tremaine to his feet, then handcuffed him to a set of exposed pipes. As Nick walked back to Superman, Lois continued to stare, even though he looked normal again. "Oh my god," she finally managed to say. "He was right. You do exist." When her cell phone started to ring, Lois wandered off in search of her bag.

"I think she's in shock," Nick commented.

"Considering how much has been thrown at her today, it's understandable. I just wish I could make it better for her," Superman lamented.

"I could arrange that," Nick offered.

"You mean that hypnotizing thing you do?"

Nick nodded. "Change back into your street clothes and I'll take care of it. If you could stand a little friendly advice; you really should tell her yourself. She's only going to figure it out herself eventually and I won't always be here to replace that memory."

Superman spun in place and was replaced by Clark. "I know," he agreed. "I've been trying to decide how to tell her for a while now. I promise, tomorrow, before we go to breakfast, I will tell her."

Later, Lois and Clark were at the Daily Planet, writing up the story for which Lois almost died. A printout had already been given to Perry for editing. "So, Superman just swooped in and grabbed the guy before he could do any more damage," Perry verified when he'd finished reading the article.

"Right," Lois confirmed. "Then Detective Knight and the police showed up to arrest him."

As Perry turned and headed back to his office, Lois picked up her bag and starting walking toward the elevators with Clark following her. "I'm going home to sleep for the rest of the day," she announced.

When the elevator door opened, Jimmy stepped out. Clark held the door while Lois asked Jimmy how the movie was Friday night. "I don't know," Jimmy answered. "The theater was broken into late Thursday night and that movie was the only thing stolen. I heard it was the only copy, too."

"Oh, well," Clark said, "now no one will ever see the proof."

"Come on, Clark," Lois scoffed. "Vampires? Get real."

The end