sean_montgomery (sean_montgomery) wrote,

Underground - Chapter Ten - Doug

            The Doug Petty that Clark was expecting to meet the next morning wasn’t the Doug Petty who answered the door. Lois must have forgotten to mention that the picture was several years old. While the photograph had a stocky man with a receding hairline, this man was several pounds heavier with a bald spot. His smile was bright and welcoming when he opened the door to his office. He turned and gestured into the room before him, allowing Clark entrance. “I’m happy you were able to make it, Mr. Kent. When I got your phone call, I was very concerned to hear it was from you and not Lois herself. How is she doing, by the way?”

            Clark turned and smiled at the officer. “She’s doing fine. It’s hard for her to get around, but I think Lucy is doing her best to help her with that.”

            Doug smiled and closed the door. “Yes, Lucy is a spitfire, isn’t she? Always was. Nearly as bad as Lois. On only one occasion have I seen the two together, and believe me, Mr. Kent, it’s nothing you’d want to be apart of. When those sisters start arguing, you’d better get out of the way. Richard learned that fast.”

            Doug pulled a seat aside for Clark and walked behind his desk, closing a set of Venetian blinds as he did so. The busy office, eerily similar to the newsroom of the Planet, was quickly covered. When Doug settled in his chair, the legs groaned with his weight. “So, Mr. Kent, what can I help you with?”

            Clark froze for a moment before pulling out a pad of paper. “Yes, well, um… actually, I was hoping if you’d answer a question for me. Off the record.”

            “Sure. Anything you’d like. Just as long as it isn’t used for blackmail or anything.”

            Ignoring the rumbling chuckle from the older man, Clark centered his hearing on Doug’s heartbeat. “Not to sound prying, but you look different from the man in the picture.”

            “What picture?”

            “There’s a picture of you and Richard at the White household that Lois showed me. Forgive me for being blunt, sir, but you look different.”

            Doug’s confusion completely melted with his laugh. His heartbeat didn’t change a bit. “Oh, you mean this one?” He grabbed a frame from his desk and handed it to Clark. “That was taken nearly six years ago. Can’t deny that there’s a little less hair and a little more weight, but time does that to you. That is the picture you were talking about, right?”

            Clark relaxed and smiled. The photographs were one and the same. “Yes, it is. Thank you for that. I don’t mean to seem imposing, but I wanted to be sure that Richard’s friends are who they say they are.”         

            Doug took the frame back. A gleam was in his eye. “I can see you’ve been around Lois for a while. It looks like she’s finally rubbed off on you.”

            “Uh, ‘rubbed off’?”

            Doug leaned forward in his seat, the excited gleam brightening. “Off the record with you, Mr. Kent, I’m a very big fan of yours. I had heard from Richard that Clark Kent was supposed to be an awkward farm boy from Kansas, but Perry White holds you in highest regard, and Lois enjoys working with you. I was thrilled to see your names in the byline again. That said, I completely understand your concern for Lois and her family, and would expect nothing different out of you. Actually, had you said nothing, I would have been a little worried.”

            “Well! I, uh…” Clark nervously adjusted his tie. The man was everything Lois had told him he was, and he seemed honest enough. His consistency in heartbeat and demeanor made Clark relax even more. “Thank you?”

            “You’re welcome. However, I doubt you came here fishing for compliments. What can I help you with?”

            Clark flipped through his notebook and found the notes he had made on the dock wreckage. “Well, it was Lois’ understanding that you were in charge of the investigation. Can you tell me a little about your relationship with Richard and how this investigation got started?”

            Doug leaned back in his chair, which gave another groan. “Richard and I first met in high school and thought nothing about each other until we had chemistry projects together. It turns out his insightful wit and my humorous logic were wonderful partners, and we became fast friends after that. When we graduated college and parted ways, we were able to maintain the friendship by phone calls, and that’s how I found out Richard was working for the international section of the Planet Several months afterward, I got a phone call late at night.” Doug’s eyes momentarily took on a darker shade. “He was in Europe and told me that he had flown a plane across the countryside for a story. When he returned to it, the plane had been sabotaged. The fuel tank was empty and some key engine parts were missing. When I asked him why he was calling me and not the authorities, he said to meet me at the airport on a certain date. He had something important to tell me.”

            “And this was the time you discovered he was a pilot?” 

            Doug nodded. “He showed me the seaplane he had just purchased. There was this excitement and pride in his voice, but I could tell that something was bothering him. When I asked him about it, he said that he had an idea for a radio emergency signal that could be installed in the plane and initiated anytime he needed it. I had no idea why he was asking me, since I had just been accepted to the police force and had no clue where I would go from there, but he said that he wanted to be as safe as possible when he took another flight. Should something happen, he wanted someone on the police force to know about it, even if it was a rookie like me.”

            “So, was the plan approved by your bosses?”

            “Not until we could prove it worked. Richard and I spent months, nearly a year, perfecting that thing and making it work correctly. Once we were able to get a strong signal, we tested it mile by mile until we figured that it could send a notice within a fifty mile radius. During that time, I was elected to sheriff, got this office, and was made head of investigative matters. When I gave Richard the idea of an email or phone alert, we searched for all the necessary pieces until we had it. It’s funny - that was well over two years ago. We never actually used it until now.”

            “So how did you know where to start in the investigation?”

            Doug opened the inbox on his computer. While clicking through emails, he said slowly, “Richard always sent me emails on what he had gotten done where. He told me about this place on the docks which had been there for several decades and had done the best job he had ever seen on his plane. The last email I got from him was back in May. It had a copy of the receipt given to him and all the work done on his plane.”

            Doug turned the monitor and showed Clark the email. It was an exact replica of the document Lois had shown him earlier. “And when you went to,” he stopped and checked the name, then wrote it down on his notepad, “Hanley and Bros., what did they say?”

            “Nothing. The building had collapsed by the time we made it there. I knew Lois was going to look into it herself, but I felt horrible knowing that she was caught in that. Thank God for Superman.”

            Clark flipped through his notes again. “What can you tell me about the structural damage? Lois told me she thought the building had been abandoned.”

            Doug blinked in surprise. “No. Hanley and Bros. has been in service for a long time. As a matter of fact, I believe the business section of the Planet had an article commending the community service of Hanley and Bros. not too long ago. If she thinks it had been abandoned, she might have been referring to the wear and tear the building had taken over the years. For a place known for repairs, it sure needed some itself.”

            “Did you find anything unusual in the wreckage?”

            “Nothing that would suggest the collapse was anything but an accident. Really, the only thing strange was the roof damage. The shingles hadn’t been changed for a while and there was some evidence of leaking. Beyond that…” Doug shrugged.

            “And is this wreckage still at the docks?”

            “Not anymore. Once I realized that Hanley and Bros. was where Richard went for repairs, I had the wreckage moved to a secure location. It’ll be taken care of in a few days. We didn’t want the public to get into it.”

            Clark scribbled down the officer’s words and made abbreviated links to his earlier notes. When he was finished, he tapped his pen against the pages. “Is there a chance I could see the wreckage?”

            Doug gave him an admirable, if not sardonic, smile. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kent. This is police evidence. It’s not something we let people randomly investigate, even if they are close friends of Lois Lane or Richard White.”

            Clark nodded. “That’s fine. I’d assume then that all other pieces of the wreckage are there too? Including files and older receipts and such?”

            “It’s all with the wreckage.”

            “And what are you doing in the meantime about Richard himself?”

            “The email notification we received gives us an idea of where he is. We suspect that we might have a location on him in the next day or so.”

            The grin that had been steadily growing on his face was filled with amusement, though Clark was sure that Doug Petty would have no idea why. “That’s very good of you, Officer Petty. I’ll be sure to tell Lois that you’re doing what you can to find Richard. Thank you for your time.”


            The light of the moon was blocked by thick clouds that still rumbled with the growing strength of a storm. Keeping his altitude close to the skyline and his eyes trained on the docks, Superman flew over the city streets and barely noticed the whispers of awe when he passed by. Weaving his way by buildings and eventually lifting into the sky, he stopped at the docks and observed the scene before him.

            The police tape had been removed and the wreckage relocated like Doug had said. Concentrating his gaze on the wood, he found several scrapes and splinters of debris making a trail toward one of the buildings. It’s path lead him to another building sealed off, yellow tape stretching across its doors.

            Glancing to either side, Superman trained his vision once again on the doors before him, watching them melt away before his eyes. The wreckage had been stacked messily in piles, but seeing them was enough to add detail to his memory. His gaze scanned each part piece by piece until…

            He stopped, blinking, and focused harder. Buried near the bottom of the pile were the three sections that had been weaker. Lack of sunlight made it harder to see, but he committed it to memory anyway, intent on using it later to compare with the model he had made.

            He stiffened. Pushing away the sound of the waves, Superman could hear the irregular heartbeat and the choking sobs that racked her body. She must have woken up again. For a moment he listened to her sobs, feeling the once determined fire drain from his body with every gasping breath she took. Earlier, after he had left the Riverside house, he had taken his time walking through the city and listening intently to the activity in the house. He had stopped in his tracks when he heard her start to cry. For a moment he wondered if it wasn’t because she had to climb those stairs, but when he heard her voice, thick with emotion calling Richard’s name, he sighed. Being in an empty bed was taking its toll on her emotionally. He knew from personal experience.

            Pushing the thought from his mind, Superman took one last look at the wreckage before its inevitable disposal and flew back into the skies above. Once he passed the atmosphere and let his body hang suspended in space, he opened his hearing to the rest of the world.

            But her heartbeat, steady, strong, now even and regular, was the loudest sound of all.


            When he woke up his first thought was to move. It was a terrible decision. His neck burned with the action, and he groaned painfully.

            “Good. You’re finally awake.”

            He could tell light was burning from the other side of his eyelids, but something told him not to open them, knowing that doing so would only result in more pain. He tried to swallow instead, and found his throat rough and sticky. Letting his head fall back to his chest, he slowly opened his eyes.

            He was in a chair. His arms and legs were tied to the arms. There was a gag wrapped around his mouth, which would explain his dry throat…

            His eyes burned. He clenched them shut.

            “This isn’t a dream, I’m afraid. Opening your eyes again won’t wake you up.”

            The voice was to the left. Taking a deep breath to calm his racing heart, Richard White opened his eyes.

Tags: underground
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