Smallville/Spider-Man 4: Resolve


The sign that hung in the door of The Retreat, a greasy spoon on the outskirts of Metropolis, indicated that it was closed for the evening. Inside, however, two dozen men wearing business suits and packing heat sat at the small tables in the dingy dining room, glancing nervously around the room and murmuring to one another in hushed tones.

In the large booth in the back corner sat one Silvio "Silvermane" Manfredi, the geriatric crime boss whose Maggia family had kept a stranglehold on all illegal dealings in New York City since Daredevil sent the Kingpin of Crime to prison several years earlier. Silvermane was joined by Bill Church Junior, the lantern-jawed son of the current head of the Metropolis division of Intergang, a syndicate of underworld criminals that had their hands in everything from drugs, racketeering, prostitution and gambling to kidnapping, extortion, murder and the black-market sale of weapons of mass destruction.

Silvermane's fork scraped against his plate as he pushed a huge hunk of rare porterhouse steak into a mound of mashed potatoes, covering the meat in a glob of gravy. He slowly brought the forkful to his mouth with his gnarled hand as he happened to cast a glance up at the television monitor that hung in the corner above the bar.

"Well, skin me alive and call me luggage," Silvermane wheezed, gesturing to the television with his fork as a blob of mashed potatoes plopped off of it. All the eyes in the room turned to the TV.

A WGBS newscast had just begun. It was a special report covering that evening's presidential election. The returns were still coming in, but billionaire industrialist Lex Luthor was poised to take the election in the biggest landslide since Ronald Reagan.

Church chuckled. "I suppose that's good new for us, eh, Silvio?"

"Suppose it is," the old man replied, biting into the hunk of steak. "Otherwise this little meeting tonight would be rather pointless, now wouldn't it?" He patted a small briefcase that sat on the table between them and the two men grinned knowingly.

There was some commotion near the front door. It opened with the jingling of a bell as two of Silvermane's men ushered in a newcomer. Wearing a long black trench coat over an Armani suit and looking quite unamused was Lex Luthor himself. He sighed with mild annoyance as the two henchmen patted him down, searching for any concealed weapons.

"Now now," Church said, jumping to his feet. "Is that any way to treat the next President of the United States?" He rushed to the door and waved the thugs away. "Come in, Mr. Luthor, please, come in. I apologize for the lack of hospitality."

Lex brushed himself off. "I hope we can make this brief," he said. "I expect I have a victory party to get to shortly."

"Yes, yes, we just heard," Church said, gesturing to the television. "Congratulations, Mister President." He flashed Lex his most charming smile. "Won't you please join us?" Every eye in the room followed Lex and Bill Church Jr. as they made their way back to the table that Church shared with Silvermane.

Once the three men were seated, Lex folded his hands and rested them on the table in front of him, leaning forward expectantly. It was only then that Church noticed that Lex wore a single black glove on his right hand.

Church raised an eyebrow and pointed at the glove. "Still mourning Michael Jackson?" He laughed boisterously at his own joke. Silvermane shot him a disapproving look and he stopped abruptly.

"You have five minutes of my time, gentlemen," Luthor said curtly.

"Oh, I think we'll be having much, much more of your time and attention than that, Mister President," Silvermane replied. He reached over to the briefcase, and his brittle hands slowly unlatched the clasps. He lifted the lid and produced a manila envelope. His hand trembling slightly, with the rigors of age or with excited anticipation it was not clear, he handed the envelope to Lex.

Never breaking eye contact with Silvermane, Lex opened the envelope and slid out the documents inside with a stone-faced expression of disdain. Finally, he looked down at the papers he now held in his hand. He shuffled through them slowly.

"They say you're looking at a landslide victory, Lex," Church said, gesturing once again toward the television monitor. "Now that's damned impressive."

"Indeed," Silvermane nodded in agreement. "I wonder, though, Mr. Church. I wonder if all those voters would be rushing to the polls in droves if they knew they were voting in a mental patient as president?"

Lex continued to flip through the documents. It was his medical records from the time he spent as a patient at Belle Reve Sanitarium, where he'd undergone electroshock therapy after a supposed psychotic breakdown.

Church threw a hand over his mouth in mock astonishment. "Are you... Are you even ALLOWED to be president if you've been in a... well, in an institution?" He looked at Lex, feigning panic. "Lex, do you think they'll still let you be president if this gets out?"

Lex sighed. He placed the files on the table and shoved them back toward Silvermane.

"Oh, you can keep those," Silvermane said. "We have lots and lots and lots of copies." He let out something that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a wheeze.

"What do you want?" Lex asked flatly.

"Intergang and the Manfredi crime family have been butting heads for years, Lex," Church interjected. "Fighting for control of the country's biggest and most powerful cities. However, after a series of pretty intense negotiations, we've come to an understanding. We've decided to join forces. Play nice. Share the sandbox, if you will."

"We have some very powerful men in our pocket, Luthor," Silvermane said. "Cops. Judges. Congressmen. Senators. All turning their heads the other way to allow our existence. But with expansion on the scale that our combined organizations will be able to achieve, we need something much more."

"I believe what Mr. Manfredi is saying here, Lex, is that you're not going to be the people's president," Church said. "You're going to be our president."

"We own you, Luthor." Silvermane grinned fiendishly. "We get federal funding for our enterprises. We get a 'get out of jail free' card for all of our people. We get to –"

Lex stood up and adjusted his coat. "Your five minutes are up. Goodnight, gentlemen."

"I don't think you quite understand the gravity of the situation here, Lex," Silvermane barked, his voice rough and raspy. "If you walk out of this room, we send copies of your Belle Reve records to the Planet, the Bugle, the Star, the Register, the –"

"These extra copies you have of my file," Lex said, straightening his tie. "Where are they right now?"

Silvermane and Church burst into laughter.

"Why the hell would you even think that we'd tell you that?" Church asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"I just hope they're not the copies that you gave to Hammerhead, your associate with the adamantium-laced flat-top cranium," Lex replied, a slight smile crossing his lips. He tilted his head to the side and stared at Silvermane as the men fell instantly silent. Church's jaw dropped as he looked quickly back and forth between Lex and Silvermane.

"How..." Silvermane rasped. "How exactly would you know that...?"

Lex shrugged. "You know the funny thing about a guy with adamantium grafted to his skull?" he asked. "You don't even need to give him a pair of cement overshoes to send him to the bottom of Metro Harbor."

"Bullshit!" Silvermane yelled, slamming his hand down on the table and sending his fork clattering to the ground. He was fuming mad. "If you really killed Hammerhead, you'll pay dearly for it, Luthor," Silvermane continued. "He was one of my best men. But no matter. We have operatives all over the country. If you think killing one man will stop us..."

"Who said anything about killing just one man?" Lex leaned in over the table. Still staring at Silvermane, but speaking to Church, he added, "Still watching the news, Billy?"

Church spun around to look at the television screen again. The anchors had moved on from the election coverage for the moment and were now giving a breaking news update. Philanthropist Bill Church Senior and his wife Mindy had been found dead in their upstate New York home in what the police were currently calling a horrific murder-suicide.

Church sprang to his feet. "Dad?" he gasped. "What did you do to my dad, you son of a bitch?!"

Lex shoved Church roughly back into his seat. "What the news isn't likely to cover is the death of Bruno Manhiem, although if they do they will likely refer to it as an 'unfortunate hunting accident.' Or of Vincent Edge, 'killed by a drunk driver' earlier this evening." He gave each cause of death in an overly sarcastic tone, the smile on his lips growing wider as he spoke.

"Damn you, Luthor," Silvermane said, his whole body shaking with fury.

"Your Enforcers, Montana, Ox, and Fancy Dan were killed in the crossfire of a drug deal gone wrong. Joey Bermuda died of a brain hemorrhage. Lenny Stoke, heroin overdose. Diana Stride, stabbed by a jealous ex-lover. Lucky Leon, killed in a random mugging in Hobs Bay."

Church, starting to panic for real now, turned and made a frantic gesture to the men seated around the room. Every single one stood up and whipped out a handgun, training it on Lex.

"Your top operatives are dead, gentlemen. All within the last few hours, and all completely untraceable to me. You have aspirations of taking over this country? I have news for you..."

The news returned to coverage of the election. Even though the returns were still coming in, the margin was so wide that they were already declaring Lex Luthor the next President of the United States.

"...I already did."

He turned to walk out, and was greeted by the sound of twenty-four handguns being cocked. He stopped in his tracks and turned back toward Silvermane and Church, though not in reaction the guns that were pointed at his head. Rather, he seemed as though he'd forgotten one more crucial point.

"Did I mention one of the perks of being the president?" he asked.

Church and Silvermane were too dumbfounded to even reply. Instead they merely glanced at each other, then back at Lex.

"I'd like you to meet my secret service detail," Lex finished.

The font door exploded in a hail of gunfire and broken glass. Bullets tore through the well-dressed men gathered around the diner as they whirled around, only far too late. The front window exploded and the door blew in off of its hinges as two men burst into the dining room with a gun in each hand. The one with the shaved head, goatee, and target insignia carved into his forehead was known as Bullseye. The one with the infrared sight attached to his eye and currently sporting a cowboy hat was called Deadshot.

Lex stood completely motionless as bullets whizzed all around him. Silvermane scrambled to the floor, ducking under the table, and Church dove toward the bar and attempted to take cover behind it. The rest of the hired guns returned fire as best the they could, even as they were taken down in red fiery bursts. Blood splattered across the diner and bodies slumped to the floor as Bullseye and Deadshot continued to blast away, taking down man after man in what amounted to some kind of demented competition between them.

"Nine... Ten... Eleven..." Bullseye muttered as he picked off each stooge.

Deadshot criss-crossed his arms and fired again, taking out two more.

"Bloody showoff," Bullseye spat. Then, as if to raise the stakes, he turned around and fired a shot over his shoulder, killing another henchmen.

Deadshot laughed. He leapt up on the bar and bent over, firing the guns between his legs. Two more down.

Lex walked toward Bill Church's hiding spot behind the bar, stepping casually over the bodies of the dead and ignoring the bullets that continued to fly all around him like a swarm of mosquitoes.

Bullseye holstered his guns and grabbed a handful of silverware from one of the nearby tables. With the dexterity of a circus performer, he lobbed knife after knife at the remaining henchmen. The knives embedded themselves in major arteries and the men fell to the ground instantly, twitching and spurting as they did.

Deadshot cackled as he unceremoniously capped the last stooge square in the forehead.

The diner was eerily silent now. Deadshot leapt down off the bar as he and Bullseye grinned wickedly at each other, taking fiendish delight in their grisly handiwork. The only thing that could be heard was a quiet whimpering.

Bill Church had nearly crawled to the back door of the establishment. As his hand reached trembling for the door, Lex turned toward Deadshot and calmly extended his hand, palm face-up. Without so much as a word, Deadshot placed one of his pistols into Lex's hand.

As Bill Church's hand touched the doorknob that represented freedom from this bloody nightmare, he felt the barrel of a gun against his temple. Through his tears, he began to laugh.

"Screw you, Luthor," he spat. "Screw you. You'll never get away with this. You can't take down Intergang. We have people everywhere."

"You really don't get it, do you, Billy?" Lex scoffed. "There is no more Intergang. Not anymore. You don't have people everywhere, you HAD people everywhere. Right now, as we speak, I'm having every single one of your operatives tracked down and killed. And whoever pops up to take their place will be dealt with just as quickly and just as severely. And Church? I did this without the resources of the office of the president at my disposal. I did this on my own. Can you imagine the kind of power I'll wield now that I'm the leader of the free world?"

Church slumped against the door.

"God help us all," Church sputtered.

"Not where you're going," Lex remarked. Then, with a BLAM, he blew a hole in Bill Church's chest. Church managed a brief sputter as he exhaled for the last time, blood gurgling and gulping in his throat. He slumped to the floor, the life slowly exiting his body like a deflating balloon.

As Lex watched Bill Church die, for the briefest of moments, he recalled the time not so long ago that he shot someone point blank like that. Chloe Sullivan. He'd felt a pang of regret at the time. Not so much at committing murder, but at the loss of a woman with so much potential. If only she hadn't gotten in Lex's way.

It was the last time Lex could recall feeling remorse. With the killing of Bill Church Jr., he felt none.

Lex turned his attention now to Silvermane. The old man sat with his back to a wall, a pool of blood around him, having apparently taken a bullet in the crossfire of the shootout.

"I can't feel my legs... Luthor," Silvermane hissed.

Lex pointed the gun at Silvermane, about to shoot him as well. But this time he hesitated. After a moment he crouched down beside him, bringing himself down to Silvermane's eye level.

"You're going to send a message, Silvermane," Lex said matter-of-factly. "To anyone else who even thinks about starting Intergang back up. You're going to tell them what you saw here today. You're going to tell him how the mentally insane President of the United States had them all mowed down one by one."

Silvermane responded by spitting squarely in Lex's face. Lex blinked a few times, then calmly wiped the offensive saliva off of his face with his sleeve.

"You're a sad, pathetic old man, Silvermane," Lex declared. "You have absolutely nothing left." He pointed the gun at Silvermane one last time, as if still debating whether or not to kill him. "Absolutely... nothing."

After a long, lingering minute, Lex rose to his feet. He handed the gun back to Deadshot. "Let's get out of here," Lex said. Bullseye and Deadshot silently followed the next president out the door, leaving Silvermane cursing behind them as he struggled to move his motionless legs.

Outside in the parking lot, a black stretch limousine waited for the three men. A young blond man leaned against the driver's side door, casually chewing on a toothpick. When he saw Lex coming, he moved to the back of the limo and dutifully opened the door for him.

"Mr. Allerdyce," Lex said in greeting. He nodded toward the diner. "Torch the place."

Bullseye gave a surprised chuckle. "Thought you said you wanted Silvermane to send a message?"

"I think the message will be loud and clear," Lex replied, getting into the car.

The young man called Mr. Allerdyce produced a lighter from his pocket. With a quick flick of his wrist, the metal lid flipped back. With a second flick, a huge torrential stream of flame shot across the parking lot, seemingly directed by the young man's very will. The building caught fire and was quickly overtaken by what became a raging inferno in a matter of moments.

Allerdyce snapped the lighter shut and returned it to his pocket as nonchallently as if he'd just lit a cigarette, then made his way back towards the front of the limo.

The limo quickly drove away from the scene, with Lex, Bullseye, and Deadshot in the back. A small television set continued to play news coverage hailing Lex Luthor's record-breaking presidential victory.

"Now that you've won the election, Mr. Luthor, what will be your first act as president?" Bullseye asked in a mock-reporter voice.

Lex leaned toward the television screen with interest as the newscast moved on to a story about Superman stopping a bank robbery earlier that same evening. The graphic superimposed just above the anchor's left shoulder was of the familiar "S" logo that Lex had come to despise. He clenched his black-gloved hand into a tight fist.

"My first order of business, without a doubt," he said through clenched teeth, "will be to do something about this country's glaring illegal alien problem."