'What the hell am I doing here?' Lois asked herself, shaking her head at her own stupidity. The police normally wouldn't even allow this kind of a meeting but Lois had some connections. 'I'm cashing in favors to talk to my stalker. They're going to need to clear out a padded cell for me pretty soon.' Her instincts however, told her that she should come. They weren't always right but she'd long ago decided that she would rather listen to them and be disappointed when they were wrong, than not listen to them and be disappointed when they were right.
She entered the interrogation room nodding to the officer who was watching the prisoner. He raised his eyebrows and she responded with a shrug, to which he responded with a shrug of his own. He shot a warning look at the prisoner and then he left, closing the door behind him.
She took the seat opposite the man whose name, she had learned, was Justin Stokely. He was very non-descript. Very ordinary. Brown hair, average build, average height and average looks. Under normal circumstances you could probably spend ten minutes in the same room as him and never realize he was there.
"It was the umbrella you know." She opened.
He looked thoughtful and then nodded.
It had rained in Metropolis for a week and she noticed this one umbrella because she liked the pattern on it. Then she noticed the guy carrying it. Then she noticed that he and his umbrella were always around. From there it had snowballed, culminating in a police investigation which had revealed the duration of his obsession. Years. He had been pursuing her for years, even taking the same flights as her, visiting the same places. Not always, but frequently enough to shock her. She looked at him again. So ordinary. Except...
"Don't you wear glasses? You were wearing glasses before. Did they take them away?"
"Yeah, they think that I'm a suicide risk because of my psychological history, but I don't need them anyway."
"Why do you wear them then?" asked Lois, deciding not to let the phrase 'psychological history' phase her.
"I've noticed that some people won't notice you if you wear glasses and blending into the background is...that is was my business." He replied with a small smile. He leaned forward suddenly intent.
"Does anyone know that you're here? That I called you?" He asked. Lois' eyes narrowed.
"I'm sorry, this is not....it will become clear why I'm asking." He attempted to assure her. He was oddly convincing.
"Richard." She answered, finding it bizarrely amusing.'He's never met Richard, but he knows Richard....He's never met me, but he knows me...he's never met..." She frowned.
"No. Except for the police of course."
"Yes. Detective Shore..." He trailed off, thinking. Lois' gaze sharpened on him. He shouldn't have known that name. Justin noticed her change in posture.
"You send him birthday and Christmas cards every year since 1999."
Lois felt a shiver about to form but suppressed it.
"I'm sorry Lois. I wasn't thinking. This is so difficult...I have some important things to tell you... you can tell, can't you? Reporters instincts?"
"Something like that. But stop burying the lead."
"Some of what's important requires context, but point taken...when the police went through my apartment they confiscated my computer. There are encrypted files on it that we don't want anyone to see. Do you have a piece of paper and a pen?"
Lois impatiently rooted around in her purse and tossed him a pen and a notebook. There was some rattling of his cuffs as he wrote something and then passed her the notebook.
Lois read it and paled.
"You brought me down here to blackmail me?"
He looked shocked.
"No! No no no. This is...'helping you' I guess might be overstating things, given that the problem is my fault. The fact remains that the problem must be dealt with and..." He held up his hands as far as his shackles would allow.
"So you want to conspire to steal evidence from the police while in one of their interrogation rooms?"
"Actually there's an easier way. Tell them my arrest was a mistake, that you don't want to pursue any prosecution and that they should let me go. At which point they will be forced to give me my possessions back and we're golden."
Lois stoop up.
"Your help feels a lot like being held over a pit."
Justin raised his hands again, this time in a calm-down gesture.
"It's just the easiest way Ms. Lane. You have other options. Going to the other person to whom that message would mean a great deal for instance." he tilted his head significantly while darting his eyes upward.
Lois cautiously took her seat again.
"You said the rest required context?"
He heaved a sigh.
"The rest is a kind of explanation. And then one other thing which you should know." Lois gave him the 'I'm-waiting' face.
"I moved to Metropolis shortly after ...you know who 'arrived' and..." Something twigged in Lois' mind.
"Wait, this is all about Him?! You've been stalking me to get to Him?" She interrupted.
A guilty look crossed Justin's face. Lois was furious. Her stalker wasn't even her stalker, 'What the hell is this world coming to?'
"You're right and you're wrong Ms. Lane. What I did, was because of him but not because I wanted to meet him or anything of that nature."
"Well?" Lois asked impatiently.
"I'm trying to explain, you see I'm a very phobic person. I have acrophobia, some agoraphobia, a fear of disease and accidents, a certain degree of hypochondria... you get the picture; I'm a mess. Or more accurately, I was a mess. I moved to Metropolis after Superman came because I thought it might help me rationalize away some of my fears. And it worked. Little by little. When it became apparent that he had a more than passing interest in you, I started following you...it made it easier to believe that everything would be alright. I got the house close to yours but not too close..."
Lois held up a hand to stop him.
"You've been following me around for vicarious superhero protection?"
"That is the gist of it."
"And the following me on flights?"
"I'm normally afraid of..."
"Flying, right." He nodded and continued
"And so I had never been to some places I have always wanted to go." He paused. "You allowed me to see so much..."
'Are those tears in his eyes?' Lois sighed.
"Alright so... the story is pathetic-fear-man instead of weird-stalker-guy?"
"More or less."
"You followed me even while he was gone."
"I was sure he would be back and I was never sure that he was totally gone." 'He had more faith than I did...what a whack-job.' The fact that he turned out to be right was irrelevant. She believed him somehow though, and also believed that he would never tell anyone what he had discovered. 'I trust the whack-job...I'm messed up" she thought.
She also felt an odd sense of peace. When she had been getting ready to come down to the station she had felt a ...thing, she didn't have a word for it, but it had seemed, like for a split-second, that the world itself was a lie and she was about to see something real. The actual revelation wasn't a revelation and while chilling, it hadn't been the thing, so she was relieved and only slightly disappointed.
She made as if to speak, but Justin was looking her in the eye and he had a hand up(or as up as he could get it) to indicate silence.
"There's still one more thing."
The last word resonated unnaturally in Lois' ears and she became really still, feeling like she was unable to move.
"I don't know how it's possible that you don't know this one more thing already. It doesn't seem possible given the other thing that I know you know." He motioned to the notebook that rested on the table between them.
"I am sure that you don't though, and as much as I owe you, I owe someone else at least as much. And that person deserves a chance at happiness."
He reached for the notebook and pen and opened it to a fresh page. Lois could barely breathe. He leaned forward to write, and then stopped, then repeated the process several times. Finally he wrote something, it couldn't have been more than a few words. He closed the notebook and slid it over to her. Lois watched it as it came toward her.
"I never actually wrote that down, or said it, or anything... I realized it and then..." He shrugged. He said some other things, but Lois couldn't hear him, everything was fuzzy and all she could do was stare at the notebook while he called the officer to come and get him and they left her alone.
With the notebook.