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Underground - Chapter Twenty-Six - London

Special thanks attached to this one: to my Brit-picker, van_el, who laughed at the first reading and approved of the second look-through. ;)



Taking a moment to stare out at the street below him, letting his eyes slowly observe every brick and window of the building before him while rising to gaze at the London skyline, Clark juggled his cell phone from his pocket and flipped it open, scrolling through the contacts page. He pressed the green phone when Lois’ name was highlighted, taking another look at the building’s windows, giving into temptation and using his x-ray vision to peek into a few of them. He doubted he’d be so lucky to find Richard in the area he was staying, but there wasn’t any reason to not look. Lois would probably suggest he search his own building before he checked-in with the authorities.

He could hear her heartbeat, slow and lazy. If she would ever wake up and answer her phone…

Eventually, he heard her bed jerk when she started, and smiled at the small string of curses she released at the person bold enough to call her in the middle of the night. He knew she’d thank him eventually. I’m surprised she hasn’t figured out it’s me already…

Her phone stopped ringing. Voice thick with sleep, Lois drawled, “If this is some moronic drunk who thinks he’s calling his favorite fishing buddy, I’ve got news for you.

He stuttered. “Oh, g-gosh, Lois… did I wake you up? I forgot that you’d be asleep."

She seemed to wake up a little more at that. “Clark?” she scoffed, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know anything about the time difference?

“Well, sure, Lois. I just remember you saying that, ah, you wanted me to call you. You know… when I got to London?”

Now she was awake. “You’re there? Are you walking the streets?

“No, no. I’m in my apartment.”

Good. Listen, Clark, before you go to the authorities, I think you should check out the building you’re in. Try and see if you can sneak up to the front desk and read residents names. Do anything you can. And don’t forget to flash that badge everywhere you go, okay? You never know if the answer is right under your nose.

Clark took a moment and scanned the floor below him. An elderly man was watching the news while his dog snoozed on the rug beside him. “Right, Lois. And you tend to have pretty good instincts.”

Of course I do. I’ve been doing this long enough that they should be fine-tuned, right?

“I’m sure Mr. White could say the same thing about your spelling.”

There was a long pause on the other line. “Quit getting off the subject, Clark.

“Sorry.”

I’m serious, though – this would be a great opportunity to shed your humility for once and be aggressive in a case. Ask names, get numbers, addresses, and for the love of God, please do your best not to spill your coffee, or trip over a wedge in the carpet, or anything else you usually do.

“Well, golly, Lois. It sure sounds like you d-don’t have any faith in me. I have been back at the Planet for a while, you know.”

I know, Clark. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just…” As she uttered those words, she seemed to have a complete change of heart. She muffled the mouth of the phone with her hand, but Clark could clearly hear her mutter, “Oh my God, what am I doing? I’m leaving a kidnapping investigation to a hayseed!

He grinned. If he needed any more proof that she wished she were there instead if him, there it was. Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose – a habit that seemed to stick regardless of whether or not he was with her – he stuttered, “Ah, Lois? Are you still there?”

Yes, Clark, I’m still here.” She spoke quickly as if his voice startled her out of her thoughts. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that… well, you’re you. And I’m me. And when one of us works without the other, well…

Oh, how he wanted to hear her try to talk her way out of this. Instead, he grinned warmly, bidding it to enter his tone. “Lois? I wish you were here, too.”

Complete silence met him from the other line. Finally, she quietly said, “I really do trust you, Clark.

“I know. Look, I might not be the brightest crayon in the box, but I know that you’re more aggressive in cases like this than me. Your investigative gene must be aching to be here.”

Clark, how many times do I have to tell you that pessimism is counterproductive?

Her questioning of his negative attitude instead of the case at hand warmed him. “As many times as it takes for me to remember, I guess.”

Well, start the osmosis process and let it get through already, will you? You’re a great reporter, and this is a great chance to sharpen your skills.

He blinked. “Uh, Lois? I don’t think the osmosis process means what you think it means…”

Whatever, Clark. You know what I’m trying to say. Just… don’t be afraid to be aggressive for once, okay?

“It’s okay, Lois. I promised you I’d do whatever I could to find Richard. I don’t plan on backing out anytime soon.”

She was quiet again. “Thank you, Clark.” She released a humorless chuckle, an almost bitter tone in her voice. “It’s good to know that someone’s willing to do everything to help.

His heart sank. His words pregnant with meaning, he responded, “I do everything I can, Lois. In the meantime, you get some rest, okay? I’ll let you know if anything happens.”

All right. You remember what I said about your apartment, okay?

“I will. You just do me a favor.”

Sure. What’s up?

“Don’t try to overwork yourself while you’re resting, okay? You can start writing the notes for the story, but leave the phone calls to me.”

She scoffed, but she sounded surprised. “How did you know…?

“I know you, Lois. You can’t sit around doing nothing for long, especially when there’s a case at hand, and definitely when it involves family.”

She sighed. “Lucy took the phones out of my room.

“Then how are you talking to me now?”

He could hear the utter deviousness in her voice. “I stole my cell phone back when she wasn’t looking.

He groaned “Lois…”

What? It’s my phone. And I promised you I wasn’t going to do anything with it.

“What are you doing to do when she tries to find it tomorrow?”

Meh, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Not a big deal.

He chuckled. “Lois Lane, you’re something else.”

And don’t you forget it.” Their conversation dwindled, her voice sobering when she next spoke. “Good luck, Clark.

“Thanks. Get some rest, okay?”

She didn’t answer. The lone click and the silence afterward was enough to tell him she had already hung up. He couldn’t blame her. He flipped his phone shut. He knew that if he were in the same situation, he probably wouldn’t want to talk a lot about it, either.

The thought made him pensive as he grabbed his apartment key and made his way out of his room. Really, he and Lois suddenly had a lot in common. Both knew what it was like to have missing family, and both lived with the fear that they might be all that’s left. Of course, Lois wouldn’t ever be alone – she had Jason. And, regardless of whether or not she knew it, she had his father. While Lois had five years to get used to the idea of motherhood, Clark was still adapting to the thought that he wasn’t truly alone anymore. While he wasn’t able to be with Jason as often as he wanted, he knew it wouldn’t be long before his true parentage began to show itself. He didn’t know what he’d do then. Would that be the moment of truth? Would Clark Kent have to reveal his greatest secret in order to properly take care of his own son?

He couldn’t begin to imagine. In Lois’ words, he’d cross that bridge when he got there.

The walk to the police station was uneventful, but full of sights and sounds of London’s inner city. Clark, having flown over the city numerous times, knew where he was going almost as well as he knew the bullpen of the Planet, or the farmland back home in Smallville. The station itself was large and easy to see for the public, wedged between two other businesses that had been built in the forties, but had been expanded to accommodate the growing city and the evolving world outside its doors. Lampposts illuminated the sidewalk in the evening hours, and the afternoon sun gleamed on the newly cleaned windows and large black letters reading the name of the station. Walking towards the building, he nodded and grinned at two officers nearby, remembering Lois’ words and flashing his badge for no other reason.

Grabbing the worn iron handle, Clark gently pushed the door open and made his way inside, intentionally tripping over the doorframe and landing on the tile floors with a resounding THUD. He heard the creak of the secretary’s chair when he stood and looked over his desk. “My God! Are you all right?”

Clark quickly stood himself up and straightened himself, looking at all of the uniformed people with an embarrassed smile and clearing his throat. “Uh, yeah. You, uh… you might want to get that fixed.” He jerked his thumb behind his shoulder, indicating the frame.

He watched the officer stare at the frame over the door, seeing the bafflement cloud his eyes, apparently wondering just what Clark had tripped over. When his brown eyes connected with Clarks, it took him a moment to blink away confusion. Seeing people trip into the station doors was something that obviously didn’t happen everyday. “Can… can I help you?”

Clark flashed him a bright smile. “Yes! Ah, I’m Clark Kent - from the Daily Planet? I’m here to see Officer Meliene about the kidnapping of Richard White. Doug Petty sent me.” Reaching into his pocket, Clark pulled out his badge and the business card Doug had given him, sliding them across the desk in front of the officer. “I think he’s expecting me.”

The brown eyes blinked back from under raised eyebrows. “You’re Clark Kent?”

Clark nodded his head enthusiastically. “Daily Planet, Metropolis.” He tapped his badge for emphasis, smiling again.

The officer – whose nametag, Clark observed, read Higgins – stared disbelievingly at the badge. He looked up at Clark for another moment, blinked, then pointed at a row of unoccupied chairs in front of his desk. “I’m… please. Have a seat. Let me have a moment with Officer Meliene and I’ll be back with you in a few minutes.”

With another bright smile, Clark nodded his head and allowed Higgins to take his badge and card, turning on his heel to the blue colored seats and sitting in the one closest to the desk. Craning his neck just a bit, he could see Higgins walk through the doors behind his desk and into what he believed to be the main office area. It didn’t take him very long to reach Meliene’s office, but it appeared he broke up a meeting when he entered the slightly crowded room. “Excuse me, sir,” Clark heard him say, “I’ve got someone here who I think is playing a game with us.”

Clark leaned back in his seat, crossed his legs at the ankles, and pretended to stare at the walls in wide-eyed wonder while listening in. “Oh really? Who is it this time?”

“Well, I… I wanted to be sure about something, actually. Officer Petty – from Metropolis, right? – he was sending someone from the Daily Planet. Someone held in high esteem like Lois Lane?”

Another voice – Clark guessed this was Meliene – affirmed the question. “Yes, but I told you it wasn’t going to be Lois Lane. She’s on injury leave for the moment. Who did they send? Are they here?”

Higgins sounded nearly apologetic. “A Clark Kent, sir.”

“Clark Kent? Are you serious?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Clark could see Higgins turn around and stare at him. He pretended to play with his cuticles. “I think so. Weren’t you expecting him?”

“I was told to expect someone from the Daily Planet, but I didn’t think they’d send him!”

“That’s Clark Kent?” A woman this time, leaning forward in her seat. “We are talking about the Lane/Kent duo, aren’t we? Didn’t he leave for five years?”

“From what I understand.” Clark heard the tap of metal and plastic against wood. “He gave me his press badge and a business card. He couldn’t have gotten that unless Doug gave it to him personally.”

“What makes you think that isn’t Clark Kent?” Meliene sounded a bit impatient. Clark adjusted himself in his seat and rocked his head against his shoulders, trying to pop his neck.

“Nothing makes me think that isn’t Clark Kent, sir. I’m just… amazed I guess. And a little confused. He was gone for five years, wasn’t he? It almost seems like a big case to put someone into when they’ve been gone.” Higgins lowered his voice as if Clark were in the room with them.

“What difference does it make? He was sent here personally by Doug to investigate the kidnapping of Richard White. He might be five years removed from the profession, but don’t you forget he was paired with Lois Lane for a reason.” There was a pause. “What are you doing standing there, Higgins? Send him in.”

Shoes scuffled against the hardwood floor. Moments later, Higgins returned to the front desk and gestured to Clark, holding out the badge and business card. “Please, come in. I’ll take you to Officer Meliene’s desk.”

Clark nearly jumped out of his seat, adjusting his jacket and giving Higgins another broad grin while taking the badge and card. On his way there, he heard Meliene continue talking to the woman. “Ledford, I want you to gather a small team to take to Tony Anderson’s apartment, and I want you to take Mr. Kent with you. If there’s anything at all that he wants to investigate personally, let him do so.”

“With all due respect, sir, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

He could see Meliene lean back in his chair. “This man has helped solve countless crimes. He’s almost an investigator himself. If Doug trusts him enough to send him here, I trust his instincts – with or without a five year absence.”

It was at that time that Clark hesitantly knocked on the doors to the office. Tall and lean with a prominent bold spot and a thin beard, Meliene stood from behind his desk and gestured for Clark to come in, while at the same time dismissing Ledford with a nod of his head. Clark pressed back against the doorframe and allowed the much smaller woman to move past him before turning to Meliene, pinning his press badge to his lapel. “O-officer Meliene?”

Meliene extended his hand. “Clark Kent, I presume? Trey Meliene. It’s an honor to meet you, sir.”

Clark returned the firm handshake. “Oh, no, no! The honor is mine! It’s a privilege to meet law enforcement on the other side of the Atlantic.”

“You make it sound like the Daily Planet doesn’t let you get out much.”

Clark paused. “You’d be surprised.” He took off his jacket and sat in the offered chair. “I’m sure you don’t need me to inform you why I’m here.”

Meliene remained standing. “Unfortunately not.” He turned from his desk and walked to the large window behind it, staring at the multi-windowed building before him, dropping his head to the streets below. “When we first heard news about Richard White, I was one of the first to send Doug my condolences. He worked over here for a little while for basic training, and kept me informed of his progress overseas. He held Richard in highest regard, and quite frankly, I can’t blame him. The work he did for our local paper was evidence of a bright young star coming out on his own. It was a shame to hear of his disappearance, but,” Meliene turned around and sat in his desk. “I promise you that I fully intend to help you to the best of my ability. Which brings me to my point – the purpose of you being here. Doug said he found fingerprints of a Tony Anderson on the seaplane?”

“Yes, that’s correct, sir.”

“I find that very unusual. Tony Anderson was a petty criminal with a rather clean record in comparison to the murderers, thieves, drug lords and everyone else we get in here. To discover his fingerprints on that seaplane is… well, it’s very unusual, indeed. Fortunately for you, because of his criminal record, we have a home address that we plan on investigating as soon as one of my officers gathers a team. Would you like to go with them?”

“Do you have a warrant for that?” Clark knew the answer was obvious, but it seemed better to continue the guise of bumbling reporter than someone who appeared to know more than he did.

Meliene smiled, a small twinkle in his eye. “A man who failed a robbery attempt is in direct connection with a kidnapping. I think that is enough in itself to qualify for a search warrant.”

Clark smiled. “Right. Well, I-I’d love to tag along, if that’s okay. My investigative skills are nowhere near as good as Lois’, but if there’s anything I could help you with at all…”

“Mr. Kent, there’s little doubt in my mind that your ‘investigative skills’ will come back as soon as you get into that apartment. It just takes a little getting back into the environment, if you know what I mean.”

“Ah, yes. Yes sir, I do.”

“Good. Well, in that case, I’ll introduce you to Officer Ledford and anyone else she might bring along with you. I also wish you the best in finding anything you can about Mr. White’s whereabouts.” Meliene’s voice became very quiet. “I don’t think I need to remind you that journalism kidnappings rarely end well.”

Clark became subdued, nodding his head regretfully. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to find him. Until then, all we can do is hope for the best, right?”

“Although there is one thing I’m a little confused about,” Meliene said, leaning back in his chair. “With all of the publicity behind Lois Lane and her relationship with Superman… though I understand why she wouldn’t, I had wondered why she didn’t ask him to help in the first place. Wouldn’t he be able to… I don’t know, scan the whole world, swoop down and… right?” The officer took a drink from his coffee, missing Clark’s darkening eyes. “I understand that finding a missing person can’t be as easy as, say, stopping a raging wildfire or preventing an elderly woman from being hit by a car, but…” Meliene’s thin hand dropped to his desk. “Who knows? Maybe people just need to solve their problems the old fashioned way.”

Before Clark could answer, Ledford stepped back into the office, informing Meliene she had found a group of people ready to head out to the apartment. Meliene quickly dismissed the conversation and introduced the small group of people to Clark, then followed them through the tangle of desks back to the front doors. “If you have any questions about anything you might find this afternoon, don’t hesitate to call us.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out a business card. “You can reach me either at my office or at my home number. Any hour, any time, anything you come up with, let us know, and we’ll be happy to work with you.”

Overwhelmed by the compassion he saw in the older man’s eyes and the willingness to serve from the other officers, Clark nodded his head and grinned gratefully, hoping his thanks could be felt through his handshake. Before turning, he pulled Meliene a little closer to whisper, “I know I might not have as much influence as Lois on this subject, but… I’ll see if I can’t ask Superman to help us out somehow. I’m sure he’d be willing to lend a hand any way he could.”

Meliene’s eyes were full of thanks, though they were clouded with doubt. “That’s very generous of you, Mr. Kent. Good luck on your search.”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
athenesolon
Jan. 13th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
I'm enjoying this story, just thought you might like to have a review considering the amount of time since this was started (I don't tend to like to read WIPS unless it looks like it's been going a while and therefore has a plot already in mind).
sean_montgomery
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. If it's any consolation at all, the latest chapter has just been sent to the beta. It's time to finish this epic. I hope you hold on for the end. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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