THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Kirk Hastings
(Note: Joi Lansing was considered for a regular continuing character role in "The Adventures of Superman" as Sgt. Helen J. O'Hara after the success of her role as 'Superman's Wife' in the final season, filmed in the fall of 1957. But the series was canceled upon the death of George Reeves. This story could have been one of those "continuing adventures", taking place during December of 1958.)
Perry White, the gruff, graying editor of the Metropolis Daily Planet (the city's largest newspaper), put a teletype message down on his desk long enough to press a switch on his intercom.
"Miss Bachrach," he said into the device, "Has Clark Kent gotten back yet?"
His secretary's tinny voice came back: "Yes, Mr. White. he came in just a few minutes ago. He's in the city room."
"Send him into my office, will you?"
A minute later Clark Kent entered White's office. The big man walked over to his boss's desk, wearing a thoughtful expression. "You wanted to see me, Chief?" he asked.
"Yes—what happened on that police call?"
The expression on his face betrayed that Kent was concerned, and somewhat angered too, by the experience he had just gone through. "I think we got to him in time, Chief. It was a pitiful sight—the kid couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen years old. He'd swallowed almost a quart of bleach. The ambulance took him to Mercy General Hospital on the west side to have his stomach pumped. I told them to call me on his condition. We should be hearing from them any time now."
"You're positive it was a suicide attempt? It couldn't have been an accident?"
Kent shook his head. "No chance, Chief. The kid wrote a note before taking the bleach, saying how he was going to 'get back' at his father who beat him, and his mother who left over a year ago."
Kent turned away from White's desk and walked across the room, grunting in disgust. Turning back toward White he continued: "It turns my stomach to see so many kids in this town barely out of adolescence, poor, lonely, rejected, and bitter—being driven to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide—because their parents don't know enough or care enough to accept them, or treat them like real human beings."
White put his ever-lit cigar down in the ashtray on his desk and looked back at Kent. "You know as well as I do, Kent, that the suicide rate goes up this time of year," he said, "when family and social pressures are often at their greatest. It's just the way things are."
"I know, Chief. But it really angers me that — "
White's phone rang, cutting Kent off. White moved to answer it. After listening for a minute he hung up the receiver and looked back at Kent.
"That was the hospital. They say the kid's going to be pretty sick for a while, but he'll pull through. They got him just in time."
"Thank God," Kent breathed, half to himself. After a moment, he added: "Now all we've got to do is find out how to get that kid out of that dump he's living in and get him some decent parental care, so that he won't try a stunt like that again."
"I feel as bad about it as you do, Kent," White replied, "but that's not our responsibility. The courts and civil services will have to handle that."
"Some times that's not enough, Chief. The courts often can't act as quickly as they need to—and what these kinds of kids often need anyway is personal involvement and caring, not the legislation of some nebulous group or legal committee."
"We can't save the entire world, Kent," White said quietly. "Even Superman can't do that."
How well I know Kent thought, as he moved over to the office window. He surveyed the great city spread out below him, its many lights winking in the darkness. From this distance the city looked almost beautiful. But Kent knew what was really going on behind that misleading facade. He noticed that it was beginning to snow.
"There's a lot of lonely people out there tonight, Chief," he finally said, still looking out the window. "Many of them are dying inside right this minute. Some of them are dying for real, and won't even live to see Christmas." The holiday was only two days off.
White picked up his cigar again and took a puff on it. He did not reply.
# # #
Clark Kent stepped out onto the sidewalk from the lobby of the Planet building. It had been a long day, and he was glad his work day was finally over. He was exhausted, but his exhaustion was more mental than physical. Being a newspaper reporter he often had the opportunity to see more than his fair share of suffering and tragedy. This day had been no exception. He pulled his coat collar up about his neck and pulled down the brim of his hat. The action was more for appearance's sake than anything else. He walked off down the street, his hands in his pockets, wondering what it must be like to feel intense cold.
As Kent walked he studied the people walking around him. People had always fascinated him, and their weaknesses—both physical and mental—stirred a great compassion within him. He himself had never really experienced dependence or infirmity ... but perhaps that was why he felt so strongly about it in others.
As Kent watched the people hustling and bustling around him he thought of one quality he did share with many of them—loneliness. That seemed to be one of the most common ailments of modern society—one from which even he, with all his unearthly power, was not exempt. Perhaps it was because of his great power that he was not. It separated him from others who were not like him.
Memories of Krypton, the giant planet on which he had been born, flashed through his mind. It had never been easy for him, growing up in a world not his own. Of course, the fact that he had lived almost all of his life on Earth made it seem very much like his natural home. But almost every day he was reminded that he was—different. He was an alien. And because he had always had to live a double life—had always had a secret that he had to protect at any cost—that made it even more difficult for him to feel as if he really belonged. He was, in fact, trapped in a sort of self-imposed exile. He could never allow himself to get too close to anyone, for fear that his closely guarded secret might one day slip out.
But then again, he had freely chosen his own fate. He had discovered early in life that with great power (at least in those instances where there was conscience) there also came great responsibility. And in looking around at the adversity and hardship around him, his choice had not really been a difficult one. He knew what he had to do, and he had made his decision. He could no more deny his unique help to those in desperate need than he could change his past. There was no way he could ever stand by and do nothing when someone else was afflicted, persecuted, or abused, knowing that he possessed the power to change things when others could not.
And yet, as Kent walked through the night, he could not ignore the fact that even with his great abilities there were times when even he was helpless. He recalled the boy earlier that evening, and how he had been almost too late to save him. There were times when even he was not quite fast enough, or strong enough. Those were always times of great frustration for him.
Kent suddenly stopped. A harsh sound abruptly assaulted his super-sensitive ears. It sounded like squealing car tires.
He waited a moment. Presently a car came careening out of the side street just ahead of him. As it barreled through the busy intersection it hung a sharp right-hand turn, just barely missing a number of other cars and pedestrians. As it shot by where Clark was standing he could see a man leaning out of the passenger-side window, aiming a pistol back from where they had come.
Seconds later a police car came speeding out of the same side street. It rounded the corner also and roared down the street, in hot pursuit of the first car.
Here we go again Clark thought as he turned, yanked his hat off, and raced into a nearby alley.
Seconds later the red-and-blue-clad figure of Superman sprinted out of the alley. Lifting his arms to the sky he leaped mightily up into the air, the snow swirling madly about the sidewalk from his backwash.
The two cars were almost a mile away by now, still weaving in and out of traffic, the police car's siren wailing. The man hanging out of the first car's window was still taking potshots at the swerving police car when his driver suddenly let out a yell.
Before he knew what was happening the man with the gun found himself violently thrown back inside the car, where he collided against the dashboard as the vehicle came to a sudden halt in the middle of the street.
The next thing he knew the passenger door of the car was ripped clean off its hinges. It disappeared somewhere out into the snow. Then a pair of hands reached in and yanked him out of the car.
"Superman!" was all he could get out, before one of the Man of Steel's powerful hands grabbed his gun, pulling it from his grasp. Superman crushed the gun into a shapeless hunk of metal in his fist, and then tossed it away. Then with a single punch to the jaw the man knew nothing else.
The police car jammed on its brakes and jerked to a stop just behind the stalled auto as the car's driver leaped out and made a break for it. In one smooth leap Superman sprang up over the car's roof and landed next to the running criminal, where he was able to grab him. Another punch to the jaw and the second hood dropped to the ground like a stone.
The two officers from the police car came running up. "Thanks a lot, Superman!" the first officer said, as his partner proceeded to examine and handcuff the two unconscious felons. "We caught these two jokers in the middle of a drug deal, but they were able to get away from us."
Superman smiled and gave the officer a friendly pat on the shoulder. "Just doing my job, like you are," he said.
Abruptly his head jerked to one side as if he was listening to something.
"I have to go," he said. He leaped up into the air and was almost immediately gone amid the falling snowflakes.
At tremendous speed Superman flew high over the great city far below. He could see its lights twinkling in the darkness, many if them recognizable even at that height as red and green Christmas lights. But at that moment his thoughts were far from Christmas. His sensitive ears had picked up the sound of another gunshot issuing from a few blocks away.
Doesn't it ever stop? he thought to himself. Don't people ever take a holiday from trying to rob or kill one another?
He zeroed in on where the sharp sound had come from: a small corner grocery store located on the bottom floor of one of Metropolis's older tenement buildings. He zoomed downward and landed with a thump on the sidewalk.
Barging in through the glass door (which had bars on it, indicating what kind of neighborhood it was), Superman found himself face-to-face with a very desperate, unkempt-looking individual holding a small paper bag and a gun. Behind him the apparent owner of the store, a small Korean man, was kneeling on the floor holding his arm. Blood trickled down the man's white shirt sleeve, oozing from between his fingers.
The unkempt individual's eyes went wide when he suddenly saw the costumed figure blocking his exit. He leveled the gun at Superman's chest and squeezed off three quick shots, all of which bounced harmlessly off the Man of Steel. Superman grabbed the man's gun and once again squeezed it into a harmless lump of metal in his bare fist. He threw the gun aside and backhanded the man across the face, dropping him to the floor in a tangled heap.
Superman then went over to the Korean man and stooped in front of him.
"Let me see the wound," he said gently.
The Korean man shook his head, indicating that he did not understand English.
Superman repeated his statement again in Korean. Slowly the man lowered his hand from his wounded arm. Superman tore the sleeve of the man's shirt open and examined the injury.
"It's only a flesh wound," Superman told him, once again in Korean. "I'll have to stop the bleeding, though."
The man nodded that he understood.
Superman stared at the man's arm, using his heat vision to cauterize the gash. Then he used the torn part of the man's shirt sleeve to bind the wound.
Just then someone came in the door. "Superman!" came a familiar female voice.
Superman turned and stood up. Sgt. Helen J. O'Hara, her gun in her hand, stood there facing him.
"Hello Sergeant," Superman said.
Sgt. O'Hara holstered her gun. "What happened here?" she asked.
"Oh, just another one of a thousand robbery attempts that happen every day in this town," Superman replied, somewhat sardonically.
O'Hara circled around him, stooped, and examined the Korean man's injured arm. She smiled at him to reassure him, then straightened up again.
"Nice job on this man's arm," she told him. "Did you do it?"
O'Hara helped the man into a nearby chair, then went over to a telephone sitting on the customer counter. She dialed her precinct number and quickly reported the crime. Then she hung up and went over to the Korean store owner again, where she tried to explain to him that an ambulance was on its way.
"He can't understand you," Superman told her. "Let me help." He proceeded to translate O'Hara's statement. The Korean man nodded that he understood.
"Very nice," O'Hara commented. "I didn't know you knew Korean."
Superman smiled wanly. "I know most major world languages."
O'Hara smiled back—a smile which, Superman thought to himself, could light the darkest room.
"I'm impressed," she said.
# # #
It was mid-morning the next day when Jimmy Olsen came running into Clark's office at the Planet. "Mr. Kent! Did you hear the news about Sgt. O'Hara?" he breathlessly exclaimed.
Kent immediately looked up from his typewriter, where he had been writing a story. "No, Jimmy, what happened?" he asked, almost not wanting to hear the reply. He knew how dangerous her profession was.
Jimmy handed Kent a teletype sheet he had just retrieved from the city room. "It says that Sgt. O'Hara was abducted from her apartment late last night, and Walter Canby has claimed responsibility," Jimmy continued. "Furthermore, Canby told her fellow precinct officers through a phone call that the kidnapping was in retaliation for O'Hara and Superman working together to capture him after his attempt to rob an armored car of three million dollars almost a year ago. You remember, when he was trying to conceal his identity by calling himself 'Mr. X'?"
Kent stared blankly at the teletype sheet. "I remember. But how did Canby get out of prison?"
"That's just it," Jimmy replied. "He never went to prison. He's been free on bail ever since he was caught, while his lawyers have been fighting the case back and forth in court. I think he's in about his third appeal now."
Kent handed back the sheet. "Thanks for the tip, Jimmy," he said. "Let me know if there are any further updates, will you? I'll talk to you later." He picked up the phone and quickly dialed Inspector Henderson's number. Jimmy took the hint and left, on his way back to the city room.
Unfortunately, Henderson could give Kent no additional information. So far, Canby had made no demands, and there were no leads whatsoever as to where he was holding O'Hara.
Kent hung up the phone and began to pace his office, pounding his right fist into the other hand, thoroughly exasperated. He knew that Canby was holding O'Hara out of sheer revenge. He also knew that Canby was aware of the fact that O'Hara's abduction would have exactly the effect on him that it was having. He had grown quite fond of the courageous policewoman since they had first worked together putting Canby behind bars while they pretended to be married. He wouldn't put it past Canby to never communicate any further demands, in order to just let him squirm about O'Hara's fate. And there was no telling what he might do to her. He had to find her. But how?
Just then Lois Lane came into Kent's office. He stopped pacing.
"Clark, are you all right?" Lois asked, immediately noticing that he seemed to be greatly agitated over something. Kent tried to clumsily hide that fact by waving her off and sitting down at his desk. "I'm fine," he said, unconvincingly.
Lois wasn't convinced. "Are you sure?" she prompted, coming over to his desk.
"Yes, yes, Lois, I'm fine, really I am," Kent persisted. "What can I do for you?"
"Well," Lois began, "We're holding the annual office Christmas party tonight at around six P.M. in the city room, and I wanted to make sure that you were going to be there," she explained.
Kent shook his head. "No, Lois, I won't be there," he said without looking up. "It's been a tough day, and I'm afraid I don't feel much like celebrating right now."
Lois looked disappointed. "I'm sorry to hear that," she said sincerely. "Are you sure there's nothing I can help you with?' she asked again.
"No, Lois, there isn't," Kent replied. "Thanks anyway."
Realizing that she wasn't going to get anything more out of him, Lois turned and reluctantly left Kent's office. Kent continued to sit at his desk for some minutes afterward, brooding. Finally he stood up and started to loosen his tie, taking off his coat. After he had fully changed into his Superman uniform, he opened his office window and leaped out into the cold and overcast sky.
# # #
Sarah Kent was sweeping her front porch when she heard the sound, a sound like rushing wind. Then she heard a thump. Minutes later her son came out from around the corner of the old farm house.
"Clark!" she greeted him, a big smile on her face. He came up on the porch and she hugged him.
"Land sakes, I haven't seen you in weeks!"
"I know, mother," Kent admitted. "I'm sorry—I've been pretty busy."
"I'll say you have!" Sarah replied. "Almost every day I read about you in the newspaper! Come in! Come in and have a cup of tea!"
"That would be fine," Kent said. He followed his mother into the house.
Once they were settled at the kitchen table, Sarah looked at Clark. "Okay, son, tell me what's bothering you," she said.
Kent smiled, despite himself. "I never could fool you, could I, mother?" he admitted.
"Nope. Not since that day you were twelve years old and came to me wondering why, even then, you were different from other boys."
Clark vividly remembered that day too.
"Mother, I just don't know what to do anymore," he began. He looked down at the cup of tea sitting in front of him. "No matter how much I do trying to help people, it's never enough. For every crime I prevent, a hundred end up happening anyway. For every life I save, a hundred more are lost. And there are so many people I can't help at all—like when Dad died. I can't cure terminal disease. I can't put broken hearts together again. I can't make nations to get along with each other. I have all these powers, and I feel like I've been given the job to help other people—and yet it seems like I fail to help others as much, or more, than I succeed."
Sarah listened to her son quietly and patiently. "Is that all?" she asked.
Kent looked up at her. "No. Last night Sgt. Helen O'Hara was kidnapped, and I have no idea where she's being held," he went on. "There isn't a thing I can do to help her. Yet if I don't, I feel almost certain that she is going to be killed. If she is, I will always blame myself for that."
Sarah screwed up her forehead as she commiserated with her son. After thinking for a moment, she finally spoke.
"Son, we brought you up to care about other people and to do what's right," she began. "And you've done us right proud with the way you've been able to do that with your Superman identity. You help people all the time, and you don't use your powers for personal gain. But there's only so much even you can do. You can't solve everybody's problems. But you can solve some of them—I reckon quite a bit more than most people can! And that's what it's all about: doing the best you can to the best of your ability, whatever that is. Nobody's meant to do it all. Not even you." She pointed to the old antique Nativity set sitting on a nearby end table; a set that she had been putting out at Christmastime since before Clark came to live with them. "You got a responsibility to do what you can do, that's true—but the rest you gotta leave in the Lord's hands. Ain't that what Christmas is all about?"
Clark smiled back at her. "Of course, Mom. You're right. You're always right."
Sarah laughed. "Land sakes, son, nobody's right all the time! But in this particular case I think I am. Don't fret about all the things you can't do—just concentrate on the things you can do, and you'll be just fine."
They both stood up, and Clark hugged his mother. "Thanks, Mom. I can always count on you to tell me just what I need to hear," he said in her ear.
Sarah looked up at him. "And as for that business about Sgt. O'Hara—well, I believe in you, son. You'll think of something to get her free."
Clark smiled at her again, and kissed her on the forehead. "I'll be back tomorrow morning, Mom, same as always."
"I know you will. Bring me some good news then, will you?"
He nodded, hugged her again, and then turned and headed quickly for the front door.
# # #
The doorbell rang at the penthouse apartment of the Beresford Arms Apartments. The door was almost immediately opened from the inside by a big bull of a man dressed in a natty suit.
"Yeah? What do you want?" the big man asked.
The man who had rung the bell was a tall, well-built individual dressed in an expensive suit and wearing an equally expensive overcoat. He had a dark, well-trimmed mustache, and wore a stylish fedora on his head.
"I need to see The Fixer right away," the tall man said.
"And who might you be?" the husky man replied.
"Tell him Luigi Dinelli wants to see him."
"That's all right, Babe, let him in," came a voice from inside the apartment. Babe stepped inside and allowed Dinelli to enter. The man known as The Fixer came over to greet Dinelli.
"I'm very honored to meet you," The Fixer said, shaking Dinelli's hand. "I've heard a lot about you."
"Thanks," Dinelli responded. "I've heard a lot about you, too, Fixer. That's why I'm here."
The Fixer guided Dinelli over to a pair of overstuffed chairs sitting opposite each other and situated in front of a large fireplace. He gestured for Dinelli to have a seat in one of them.
"Can I get you a drink?" The Fixer offered.
"No thanks," Dinelli replied. "I'm here on urgent business." He sat down without taking off his hat or overcoat.
"What can I do for you?" The Fixer asked.
"I need to get in touch with a man named Walter Canby right away," Dinelli explained. "I have some extremely urgent business with him that can't wait. You know who I'm talking about?"
The Fixer retrieved a cigar from a box on the end table next to his chair and lit it. "Who hasn't?" he said, taking a puff on the cigar.
"I don't have Canby's current address. I figured you could get it for me."
"Sure I can," The Fixer told him. "I can fix anything—for a price."
"How long, and how much?"
The Fixer contemplated. "How about three hours, and one thousand dollars?" he said.
"Done," Dinelli replied. He reached into an inner pocket of his overcoat, pulled out a billfold, and counted ten one hundred dollar bills from it. He handed them to The Fixer.
"Fine," The Fixer said, smiling from ear to ear as he counted the bills. "It's about Noon now. I'll have the information for you by three P.M."
"Good. You can reach me at this phone number," Dinelli said, handing The Fixer a card.
The Fixer stood up. "You'll be hearing from me," he said. Dinelli stood up, and both men shook hands again. Then Babe escorted Dinelli out.
Dinelli took the elevator down to the apartment building's lobby, then walked out onto the street. But instead of hailing a cab he turned, walked a short distance down the sidewalk, and then ducked into a narrow alley between buildings.
Once there, after making sure he was unobserved, he took off his hat and peeled the fake mustache off of his upper lip. Then he took off his overcoat, untied his tie, and removed his suit coat, revealing his Superman costume underneath.
# # #
In the living room of a small, nondescript house located somewhere in the sprawling outer suburbs of Metropolis, Walter Canby called his associate, Dugan, into the room. Dugan came into the room from the kitchen, holding a sandwich in his hand.
"I've decided it's time to get rid of Sgt. O'Hara," Canby said, matter-of-factly.
Dugan almost dropped his sandwich at Canby's statement. "But Boss," he replied, "are you sure you want to do that?" He was thinking of the possible legal repercussions of such an outright act of murder—not to mention what might happen to them when Superman found out.
"Yes, I'm sure," Canby told him coldly. "I never intended to give her back anyway. I tried to kill Superman himself once, and that didn't work. I'm convinced that killing him is probably impossible. But I can do the next best thing to get revenge on him: kill someone he cares about. Actually, that's better than killing him—he'll never get over O'Hara's death, and the fact that he will be partially responsible for it."
"But what will happen to us when he finds out?" Dugan pointed out, fear in his voice.
A strange look came into Canby's eyes, one Dugan had never seen before. "I don't care what happens to me. I want revenge on Superman for how he ruined my life! I don't care what I have to do to get it! Besides, as soon as it's done we'll get out of here. Go to another country. They'll never find us."
"How—how should we do it?" Dugan stuttered.
"Just go downstairs and shoot her."
Dugan hesitated. "Boss, I don't know ..."
Canby grabbed Dugan roughly by the suit collar. "Do as I say, or I'll do it myself. And I'll get rid of you too!" Canby shouted. There was a look of madness glinting in his eyes.
"All right—all right!" Dugan yelled. He pulled free of Canby's grasp. Slowly he headed for the door to the basement where they were holding O'Hara. He pulled his pistol from his pocket, then opened the door. He threw one last questioning look at Canby.
"Do it!" Canby ordered again.
With a sigh of resignation, Dugan started down the basement stairs. He descended the steps until he stood on the basement's concrete floor. A few yards in front of him sat O'Hara, tied to a plain wooden chair. She looked at him, no fear in her eyes.
"I guess you've come to kill me?" she asked, noticing the pistol that he had in his hand.
"Sorry, babe," he told her. "I'd rather not do this, but it's what the Boss wants. I got no choice."
O'Hara averted her face from him. "Then just get it over with," she said.
Dugan found himself admiring O'Hara's nerve, as well as her beauty, as he leveled his pistol at her. He started to pull the trigger.
Suddenly there was an odd rumbling sound from somewhere outside the basement. The next second the source of the sound became apparent: a wall of the basement collapsed in upon itself with a shower of dust and broken cinderblocks as Superman came charging into the room.
Dugan instinctively turned and fired at the costumed figure coming at him, but the bullets had no effect upon the Man of Steel. Reaching Dugan Superman slapped the gun from his hand and punched him once across the jaw. Dugan dropped to the floor unconscious.
Superman whirled and sprinted over to where O'Hara was. He quickly ripped the ropes off of her wrists and ankles.
"Are you all right?" he asked her.
"Yes," O'Hara replied.
Before she could say anything else Superman spun about and raced up the basement stairway.
Canby was at the top of the stairs. When he saw Superman coming up toward him his eyes went wide in fear and horror. He slammed the basement door shut and locked it. Then he backed away.
Seconds later the basement door flew off its hinges and crashed to the floor. Superman strode into the room.
Canby pulled his own gun and fired it repeatedly at the Man of Steel. But again the outcome was inevitable: the spent bullets flew about the room as they bounced harmlessly off Superman's chest. Canby then threw the empty gun, but it too bounced off Superman's chest.
Superman leaped forward and grabbed Canby, a expression of intense anger on his face. He cocked back his fist as if he intended to knock Canby's head clean off. But O'Hara suddenly came up behind him and grabbed his arm.
"Please Superman! Don't hurt him! Let the law punish him!" she cried.
Superman allowed himself to be restrained. He looked at O'Hara, and suddenly he came to his senses. He lowered his arm. O'Hara let go, and Superman shoved Canby backwards into a nearby chair.
"Thanks, O'Hara," Superman told her.
O'Hara smiled at him.
# # #
Early that evening a light snow began to fall over Metropolis. The Planet Christmas Party was just beginning to gain steam when Clark Kent walked into the room. Lois Lane noticed his entrance and immediately went over to greet him.
"Clark, I'm so glad you decided to come after all!" Lois said, smiling from ear to ear.
"Thanks, Lois," Kent replied. "I'm glad too."
Jimmy Olsen was across the room talking to Elaine from Tony's Diner, love light shining in his eyes. But he too excused himself when he saw Kent come into the room.
"It's good to see you Mr. Kent!" Jimmy said, coming up to him. "I was afraid you weren't coming. The party wouldn't be the same without you!"
Kent tousled Jimmy's hair. "Thanks, Junior," he said, appreciation in his voice. "It's good to see you too."
The three went over to the food table together, and Jimmy poured them all some punch. He lifted his cup.
"Here's to the Planet's three best reporters!" he toasted.
"Well, two and a half, anyway," came a voice behind them. It was Perry White, puffing on his ever-present cigar.
Suddenly Jimmy looked flustered, and Clark and Lois laughed. Perry laughed too.
Shortly thereafter Inspector Henderson entered the room, followed closely by Sgt. O'Hara. They both came over and started chatting with the Planet employees.
"I understand you just made a very important arrest," Lois said to Inspector Henderson.
"That's right," Henderson replied. "We finally got some concrete criminal evidence on a prominent underworld operator known as The Fixer. Thanks to Superman's help, we were able to find one thousand dollars in marked federal bills in his possession. That should be enough to put him away for a few months, at least."
"That's wonderful!" Lois told him. "I'd like to write that story!"
"Sure, Miss Lane. Come over to the precinct anytime and I'll give you the details."
A couple minutes later a copy boy came up to the group. "Hey, did you guys hear this?" he said, holding up a teletype message. "The 24th Street Mission just reported that a short while ago Superman appeared, holding up a huge platform with hundreds of boxes of food on it. The mission estimates that the food supplies will be enough to feed the residents of the mission for the next six months!"
"What a guy!" Jimmy said.
"Yes," Sgt. O'Hara added, "I don't know what we would do without him."
As she said this she looked directly at Clark, with a stare that suddenly made him feel strangely uncomfortable. He put his finger in his collar as if trying to unconsciously loosen it.
"Yes indeed," was all he could think of to say. "Uh, I think I'll get another glass of punch," he quickly added. He moved off toward the punch bowl.
As he passed the teletype machine, he noticed a bulletin coming out of it. He stopped to read it.
FOUR-ALARM FIRE AT SWAN HOTEL ... 2460 BESSOLO AVENUE ... MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW ...
Duty calls he thought. Moving quickly, he managed to slip out of the room unnoticed.