In the Blink of an Eye
Written by Team Acenaut :: [Sunday, 11 June 2017 22:19] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 02 July 2017 11:29]
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
by Team Acenaut
Night was falling over Metropolis, but Shuster Avenue was ablaze with neon signs and movie marquees and brightly-lit shop windows. Pedestrians hurried along the sidewalks, some on their way to restaurants and cinemas, others turning down the stairs to the 14th Street subway station.
Below the street, the crowd on the subway platform began to move forward as the D train came rumbling through the tunnel on the left. Suddenly a woman screamed. "Nigel!"
A man in a grey suit had fallen off the edge of the platform and lay motionless on the tracks, right in the path of the oncoming train. People watched in horror as the man made an effort to push himself up with one arm, but he seemed unable to get on his feet. The woman's screams grew louder …
A sudden gust of wind blew through the station. A blur of blue and red streaked along the tracks. And the crowd watched in amazement as a red-haired woman in a bright costume began pushing against the train, her gloved hands crumpling the grille, her legs braced against the railbed. Sparks flew from the wheels as the city's super-heroine brought the train to a screeching halt.
"It's Superwoman!" someone shouted, and the crowd burst into applause.
Superwoman knelt by the fallen man for a few moments, then carefully lifted him up off the ground and flew up to the platform. The crowd made way as she carried the man over to a bench by the wall and gently set him down.
A middle-aged woman in an evening dress came hurrying over. "Superwoman!" she gasped. "That's my husband. Thank you -- thank you!"
Superwoman smiled. "I'm glad I could help."
The train's driver had joined them. "Thank goodness you got here. I wouldn't have been able to stop in time. Is he all right?"
"Well, nothing seems to be broken, but he's dislocated a shoulder. That's why he couldn't get up. He's got some cuts and bruises, and he needs to be treated for shock. Do you have a blanket? And can you call for a medic?"
The driver nodded and ran back to the train. Superwoman turned to the crowd.
"Remember, folks," she said. "Stand back of the yellow line until the train comes to a stop. Safety first!"
And with that, she flew up the stairs and out of the station.
Outside the entrance, she soared up into the night sky, high over the tall buildings lining the avenue, before descending gently into a dark alleyway where a man stood waiting in the shadows.
The man stepped forward, holding out a handbag and some articles of clothing. "Trouble?" he asked.
Superwoman took the handbag and the clothes. "A man fell in front of a subway at the 14th Street station. Luckily, I heard his wife screaming."
"Is he all right?"
"A few bumps and bruises, but he'll live."
"Thanks to you."
"I was in the right place at the right time, that's all. I'll be right back."
She slipped into the shadows at the back of the alley and emerged a few moments later wearing a light summer dress and a light jacket. She took a brush from her purse and ran it through her hair a few times, changing its color from a vivid red to a nondescript brown.
The man took a pair of glasses from his shirt pocket. "Don't forget these."
"Right." She put on the glasses and held out her arm. "Ready?"
Arm in arm, they stepped out of the alley and joined the line that stretched halfway down the block from a movie theater.
"I don't know, Lex," said Lana, looking at the poster on display outside the ticket booth. An enormous white shark, jaws open, was rising from the depths of the ocean toward an unsuspecting swimmer. "I've heard this movie is kind of scary. Are you sure you can handle it?"
Lex grinned. "Just hold my hand during the scary parts."
* * * * * * * *
READER! YOU'VE THRILLED TO THE ADVENTURES OF
LANA LANG WHEN SHE WAS THE TEENAGE SUPERGIRL
OF SMALLVILLE! BUT HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED
WHAT BECAME OF HER AFTERWARD? THEN READ ON!
THE YEAR IS 1975. GERALD FORD IS IN THE WHITE
HOUSE … "LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER" IS RISING
TO THE TOP OF THE CHARTS … AND THE RED SOX
MAY BE HEADED FOR THE WORLD SERIES!
LANA AND HER HIGH-SCHOOL SWEETHEART LEX
LUTHOR ARE MARRIED AND LIVING IN METROPOLIS!
LEX IS A DOCTOR AT THE CITY'S TOP HOSPITAL
AND LANA KEEPS BUSY AS A FREE-LANCE ARTIST --
WHEN SHE'S NOT CALLED INTO ACTION AS …
THE SUPERWOMAN OF METROPOLIS!
* * * * * * * *
LATER THAT NIGHT …
The steel shutter was drawn over the window of Kellerman's Jewelry Store, the security door was locked and double-bolted, and the showroom, shadowy and silent, was lit only by a dim night-light. Suddenly a figure stepped furtively out of a dark corner -- a slim female figure in a close-fitting jumpsuit -- and moved softly toward the display cases in the center of the room.
Pulling a short length of steel pipe from her belt, she smashed the glass top of one of the cases. The room was silent, but she was sure an alarm was ringing in a security office somewhere. No matter. She'd be long gone and far away by the time anyone arrived.
Swiftly, guided by a flashlight strapped to her left wrist, she plucked rings and necklaces from the display case and dropped them into a pouch hanging from her belt. She hesitated, wondering if she should break into another case. She glanced at the timer on her wrist. Better not risk it. She cast a quick look around the dark room …
The next moment, the room was empty.
* * * * * * * *
THE NEXT MORNING …
Lex was pouring his second cup of coffee when Lana stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a terry-cloth robe and toweling her wet hair.
"Coffee?" he asked.
Lana nodded. Taking the cup Lex handed her, she added a spoonful of sugar and took a sip.
"Sorry I didn't wait up," said Lex. "We ordinary folks need our beauty sleep. Busy night?"
Lana shrugged. "Not really. A liquor-store robbery, a hold-up at a gas station, and a couple of domestic disturbances. And a jewelry store was robbed just as I was about to call it a night. The police were there when I arrived. The windows and doors were still locked, which was odd."
"A locked-room mystery, eh?"
"Probably an inside job. Or maybe the owner is trying to pull off an insurance scam."
"Maybe … but you'd think the thief would have tried to make it look like someone broke in."
"Doggone it, Lex," said Lana, grinning. "You're a doctor, not a detective."
"Thank you, Dr. McCoy, but I think I would have made a good detective."
"Right. A regular Sherlock Holmes. Just don't start smoking a pipe. It took me two years to get Daddy to quit. I don't want to go through that again with you."
"Don't worry." Lex glanced at his watch and stood up. "Well, I mustn't keep the interns waiting." He leaned down and gave Lana a kiss. "Love you."
"Love you, too."
* * * * * * * *
THIRTY MINUTES LATER …
The coffee in her mug had gotten cold. Lana warmed it up with a quick burst of her heat vision and placed a sheet of Bristol board on the drawing table.
When she and Lex moved to Metropolis, she'd gotten a job as an artist for an advertising agency. But she kept having to make excuses for slipping out of the office whenever she had to go into action as Superwoman, so she left the agency and began free-lancing. It had taken her a while to build up a clientele, but now she could work in the privacy of her apartment and change into her Superwoman identity without having to make up some story about a headache or a dentist's appointment.
She was excited about her latest job -- drawing a fill-in issue of The New Adventures of Mary Marvel. After all, it was reading old Mary Marvel comic books that had given her the idea for her Supergirl identity back when she was a teenager in Smallville. And she'd heard that the book's regular artist might be moving on to another title, so if she did a good job with this issue she might be asked to take his place.
She had just begun marking off panel borders with her T-square when her super-hearing picked up a commotion on the south side of the city -- a loud crash, screams, the clang of an alarm, the wail of sirens. An urgent voice was speaking from the police scanner Lex had bought for her shortly after they'd moved to Metropolis.
"All units stand by … all units stand by … all available units report to 8th and Woodley … we have a report of a gas main explosion … "
Lana was already taking the hairbrush from her purse. A few quick strokes restored her hair's red color, and moments later she'd changed out of her jeans and sweatshirt and into her Superwoman costume. She hurried from her studio to the bedroom -- into the walk-in closet -- and past the clothes hanging from the bar. A sliding panel opened onto an old elevator shaft. Next moment, she was rocketing up the shaft and out through a trapdoor in the roof.
This was a job for Superwoman.
* * * * * * * *
Moments later, she was flying over 8th and Woodley, a few blocks from the waterfront. A cement truck had crashed into an old brick warehouse and broken a gas main. A hot roaring geyser of flame rose up along the side of the building, sending a cloud of thick black smoke into the air. Men and women, burned and bleeding and moaning in pain, lay amid broken glass and chunks of masonry. Ambulances and police cars were already on the scene; medics and police officers were busily tending to the injured.
Alighting by the cab of the cement truck, Superwoman reached underneath the fender and lifted the front end of the truck off the sidewalk, then swung it away from the building and set it down again. She strode fearlessly toward the roaring flame, her cape billowing in the hot blast, her hair streaming about her face. Grasping the end of the broken gas line, she began to squeeze, crimping the pipe shut and putting out the flame.
She was about to step into the burning warehouse when she spotted a man lying on the sidewalk, buried up to his waist in rubble and pinned beneath a slab of masonry. Several policemen were trying to lift the slab, but without success.
Superwoman stepped forward. "Excuse me," she said. "I can get that." The policemen stood back, watching in awe as the mighty super-heroine lifted the two-ton slab of brick and mortar and set it down by the curb.
Turning, she stepped through the jagged hole in the side of the warehouse. The building's old beams had caught fire, along with the wooden crates that filled the room. The air was thick with acrid white smoke and loud with the crackle of flames. Peering through the haze with her X-ray vision, she saw a group of people huddled together on the far side of the room, trapped by a ring of fire that drew closer by the second …
Superwoman rushed across the room at super-speed, smashing a hole in the far wall large enough for the people to pass through. Gasping, coughing, eyes streaming, they stumbled out of the building and into the bright morning sunlight.
After making sure no one else was trapped on the ground floor, Superwoman sprang upward, fist raised, smashing through the ceiling and onto the second floor. A quick scan with her super-vision revealed that the floor was empty. A window in one of the side walls was open; it looked as if everyone had gotten out by the fire escape.
Bursting through another ceiling, Superwoman found herself on the top floor, in what seemed to be an office, with file cabinets and desks covered with orders and invoices. A man and a woman were trapped in a corner, a wall of flame separating them from the door to the stairwell.
Rushing forward, Superwoman wrapped an arm around each of them. "Put your arms around my neck!" she told them. "Now close your eyes and hold your breath!" She flew toward the door, clutching her passengers firmly, using her super-breath to part the flames as she passed through. Turning, she kicked the door down and flew up the stairs. Another door stood at the top of the stairs; another kick sent it clattering across the rooftop.
Moments later, Superwoman was descending slowly toward the sidewalk below, her passengers clinging to her for dear life. Touching down, she gently disengaged herself and turned the two of them over to the care of a medic. Fire trucks had arrived; firemen were busily attaching hoses to a hydrant on the other side of the street. But Superwoman could see that the fire was about to spread to the buildings on either side of the warehouse. There was no time to lose …
Leaping upward, she began to fly in rising circles above the warehouse, spiraling higher and higher, faster and faster, drawing the smoke upward in a towering black column -- and the air along with it. Deprived of oxygen, the flames flickered out, leaving the warehouse a smoldering, burnt-out shell.
Superwoman flew back down to where the man who'd been buried under a pile of ruubble was still lying. A medic was kneeling by his side while another stood nearby, writing on a clipboard.
"How is he?" Superwoman asked.
The medic shook his head. "Not good, I'm afraid. He's got a shattered pelvis and multiple leg fractures. And he's hypotensive, so if we move him, his blood pressure is liable to drop even further and then we'd lose him for sure. We've got his name and phone number. One of our dispatchers is trying to get in touch with his wife -- to see if she can get down here before --"
"Do you have a MAST suit?" Superwoman asked.
"I wish. Some our trucks carry them, but none of the ones here."
"Can you find out which trucks have them, and which one is closest?"
"Hold on." The medic stepped into one of the EMT trucks and began speaking over the radio.
He hung up a few moments later. "Truck 22 has a MAST suit," he said. "They just returned from a call. I told them to wait for you."
"Thanks." The next moment, Superwoman was streaking north along Woodley Avenue.
She was back in less than a minute, carrying something wrapped in her cape. She pulled out a pair of rubber trousers and handed them to the medic. Working swiftly but carefully, the medic wrapped the trousers around the injured man's legs and inflated the air chambers along the sides. Moments later, the man was strapped to a gurney, his shattered limbs cushioned by the pneumatic trousers.
The medic was about to roll the gurney into one of the EMT trucks when Superwoman laid a hand on his arm.
"Wait," she said. "Let me take him to the hospital." Lex had told her about the "golden hour" -- the precious interval when a doctor had the best chance of saving the life of a critically injured patient. "What's his name?"
"Carl. Carl Brody."
The man's eyes were closed, his breathing was shallow. His heartbeat was barely audible, even to Superwoman's ears. "Listen Carl." she said. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm taking you to Metropolis General Hospital. And I promise you'll have the best doctor in the city looking after you. So hang in there, okay?"
Slipping her arms under the gurney, she lifted it carefully off the ground and flew off toward the hospital.
Five minutes later, she burst into the emergency room, followed by a nurse pushing the gurney. She looked around the room. Other victims were already being treated. Every station was occupied; every doctor was busy. She spotted Lex at a table toward the back, stitching a woman's scalp. But he appeared to be almost finished.
"Dr. Luthor!" Superwoman shouted.
Heads turned. Lex looked up from his patient.
"I've got a man here, hypotensive, with a shattered pelvis and leg fractures. If you're free --"
Lex nodded. He turned to one of the nurses. "Wheel him into trauma room two and page the trauma team. Dr. McEvoy, do you think you could give me a hand?"
Superwoman turned and strode out of the room. I kept my promise, she thought. I told Carl he'd have the best doctor in the city taking care of him.
Dr. McEvoy fell into step beside Lex as he followed the gurney into the trauma bay.
"You know Superwoman?" he asked.
Lex shrugged. "We've met a few times. I grew up in Smallville."
"Oh, man. How'd you like to go home to her every night?"
Lex shook his head. "I can't imagine."
* * * * * * * *
THE NEXT MORNING …
Lex was on the phone when Lana came out of the shower.
"That was Dr. Singh," he said, hanging up. "It looks as if the man you brought in yesterday is going to pull through. He's got a long recovery ahead of him, but the prognosis is good."
Lana sat down and poured herself a bowl of cereal. "I'm glad."
"That was a good move, fetching the MAST suit. It probably saved his life. I just wish the hospital could find some money in the budget to buy one for every ambulance."
"Well, I've heard you talk about how they saved soldiers' lives in Vietnam."
"I guess things were quiet last night," Lex remarked, opening the newspaper. "You got in a lot sooner than usual."
"Yes, I wanted to get home before you turned in."
Lex reached across the table and gave her hand a squeeze. "Well, I'm glad you did."
"Me, too. But we should think about nailing the bed to the floor or something before the people downstairs start complaining."
Lex was reading an article in the city section. "It looks like you missed a robbery at the Museum of Art."
"A gold statuette of the goddess Nike was stolen from the Metropolis Museum of Art," Lex read. "And listen to this. A guard was making his rounds shortly after midnight when he heard a noise coming from the next room. He ran to investigate and saw a woman taking the statuette from its case. She'd broken the glass."
"So he caught the thief red-handed?"
"No. He says the woman looked at him and disappeared."
"Ran off, you mean?"
"No. He says she just disappeared like -- quote -- like Jeannie in the TV show. And she took the statuette with her."
Lana shrugged. "Maybe he's trying to cover up for sleeping on the job."
"You'd think he could have made up a more plausible story."
"Come on, Sherlock. A woman who can just blink her eyes and disappear? You have to admit, it sounds pretty far-fetched."
Lex chuckled as he poured himself a cup of coffee. "Says the woman who can fly -- and stop a subway train in its tracks!"
* * * * * * * *
THAT EVENING …
Jimmy Caprese stepped out of the elevator and strode across the hallway toward the door of his penthouse apartment. A broad-shouldered man was sitting in a chair by the door, chewing a toothpick and reading the sports section of the Daily Planet. He put down the newspaper and stood up as Jimmy approached.
"Good evening, Mr. Caprese."
Jimmy nodded as he unlocked the door. "Hello, Tony. No visitors, capeesh?"
He went into the apartment and locked and bolted the door behind him. Stepping into the living room, he poured himself a large Scotch from the mahogany sideboard and stood by the window, gazing morosely at the Metropolis skyline. He used to enjoy the view -- back when this was his city, back when his mob was running all the rackets. And then that meddling super-dame had blown into town. Within a year, half of his associates were doing time upstate, the other half had gotten out of the city.
And now he'd learned that two of his partners had cut a deal with the Feds, offering to testify against him in exchange for immunity. It was only a matter of time -- a week, two at the outside -- before the Feds would have all the evidence they needed to put him away for a long time. Thanks to his informants in the police department, he knew where the two snitches were being kept in custody, right here in Metropolis, but they might as well be on the moon for all the good the information did him.
He wished he'd gotten out of town when he could, flown off with whatever assets he could scrape together, gone somewhere warm and sunny where the Feds couldn't touch him. But it was too late for that now. They'd nab him the minute he stepped on a plane, hold him on some charge or other until their case against him was complete, and then …
Startled, Jimmy spun around, dropping his glass on the carpet and reaching for the gun beneath his jacket. What the hell -- ?
A woman was standing in the middle of the room -- a slender brunette in a close-fitting black jumpsuit. How the hell had she gotten in? Jimmy raised his gun …
And the woman disappeared. One moment she'd been standing by the sofa, the next moment she was gone.
"Here I am." Jimmy turned, just in time to catch a glimpse of the woman before she disappeared again.
Jimmy staggered backwards toward a corner of the room, waving his gun from side to side as his visitor popped back and forth, never staying in one spot long enough for Jimmy to get the drop on her.
"Please, Mr. Caprese," she was saying. "I just want to talk. Can you put the gun away -- please? I have a proposition for you."
Jimmy stared at her for a moment. Then he put his gun back under his jacket and motioned for the woman to sit down.
"Have a seat, Miss -- ah?"
The woman smiled as she sat down on the sofa. "You can call me Blink."
Jimmy sat down in an armchair facing her. The woman was in her thirties, he guessed. Not a bad-looking dame.
"How do you do that -- that -- ?"
The woman shook her head. "Sorry. That's my secret." She was removing a small leather pouch from the waistband of her jumpsuit. Jimmy watched as she poured a dozen glittering gems onto the coffee table. He picked one up and held it to the light.
"Maybe you heard about the robbery at Kellerman's Jewelry Store the other night? That was me."
Jimmy nodded as he put the gem back on the table. "Quality goods. But where do I come into it?"
Blink scooped up the diamonds and put them back in the pouch. "They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I'd rather have money in the bank. I was wondering if you could fence these for me in exchange for a percent of the, ah, proceeds."
Jimmy shook his head. "Sorry, Miss Blink. Fencing is way below my pay grade. However --" He wrote a few lines in a small notebook he took from his breast pocket, then tore out the page and handed it to his visitor.
"Here's the address of an acquaintance of mine who should be able to help. Just mention my name if he gives you the runaround."
"Thanks." Blink folded the page and put it in the pouch with the diamonds. "I've also got a gold statuette from the Metropolis Museum of Art. It's worth six million dollars. At least that's what the museum paid for it."
Jimmy frowned. Amateurs, he thought. "No fence is gonna touch that," he said. "Too easy to identify. For an item like that, you want to line up a buyer beforehand." He was scribbling in his notebook again. "But here's someone who might be able to find you a buyer -- cash up front and no questions asked."
Blink took the page. "Uh, okay. Thanks. You've been a big help."
Jimmy flashed a smile. "My pleasure."
"So, uh, what do I owe you?"
Jimmy waved a hand. "Call it a professional courtesy." He sat back in his armchair and placed his fingertips together. "But before you go -- how would you like to make some real money?"
* * * * * * * *
THE NEXT AFTERNOON …
The address Inspector Henderson had given her turned out to be a nondescript apartment building on the west side of the city. A policeman on duty outside the building waved her in, and she hurried up the stairs to the second floor.
Yellow crime-scene tape crisscrossed the door of apartment 2B, and tall, broad-shouldered policeman was standing in the hallway, his thumbs hooked in his belt. He held up a hand as Superwoman approached.
"Sorry, ma'am. This is a crime scene. You can't go in."
"Inspector Henderson asked me to come over," Superwoman explained. "Didn't he tell you to expect me?"
Superwoman rolled her eyes. "Seriously?" She crossed her arms and rose into the air until her face was level with his, then kept rising until he had to crane his neck to look up at her.
The door opened and Inspector Henderson stuck his head into the hallway. "It's all right, McGinty. She can come in."
The policeman nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Sorry about that," Inspector Henderson said as Superwoman ducked under the yellow tape and stepped into the apartment. "McGinty's a good cop, but sometimes he takes himself a little too seriously. Anyway, thanks for coming."
Superwoman nodded, looking around the small apartment. It was plainly furnished, but tidy, except for the sandwich wrappers and paper coffee cups that littered the table -- and the body lying on the threadbare carpet. The man's shirt was soaked with blood from what appeared to be two bullet holes to the chest, and his lifeless eyes were staring up at the ceiling. Two men from the crime lab were busy taking pictures and collecting evidence, and a stocky, bald-headed man in a rumpled suit stood scowling in a corner.
Superwoman winced as she looked down at the body. Scenes like this had become a familiar sight since she'd moved to Metropolis, but she'd never gotten used to them -- and she hoped she never would.
"The victim's name is Richard Genero," Inspector Henderson explained. "He's one of the two men testifying against their boss Jimmy Caprese. Oh -- I'm sorry. This is Agent Lafferty of the FBI." He gestured toward the man in the corner. "He's working with the department on the Caprese case."
"Pleased to meet you," said Superwoman.
Agent Lafferty ignored her. "My people aren't gonna be happy about this, Henderson," he growled. "Bad enough we lose one of our key witnesses on your watch. Now you bring in a w-- -- a civilian to do your job for you."
Superwoman was sure he was about to say "woman." Her eyes flashed in annoyance, but she let Inspector Henderson reply.
"Superwoman is a valued consultant who's helped us out many times. I thought it would be a good idea to bring her in, considering the … unusual circumstances."
"Unusual how?" asked Superwoman.
"We've been keeping Genero under wraps in this apartment while we take his depositions. He hasn't stepped foot outside it since Monday. Two officers are posted out in the hallway, round the clock. About an hour ago, one of the men on duty sticks his head in the apartment to ask Genero what he wants for lunch. Genero tells him -- the guy shuts the door -- he's just about to step out to the deli across the street to pick up some sandwiches and coffee when -- bang! bang! They hear two shots from inside the apartment. They let themselves in -- and they find this."
He threw up his hands in bafflement.
"Genero was lying right where he is now. Two bullets, in the chest, at point-blank range. No sign of the killer. No sign of the weapon. Door locked, windows latched on the inside. It's like the killer just popped in and out like that genie on the TV show --"
Like that genie on the TV show. Superwoman suddenly remembered the newspaper story Lex had read to her the day before, at breakfast …
"Wait," she said urgently. "What about the other informant?"
"Carella? We've doubled the security detail --"
"That won't do any good. Move him. Move him now. Wherever he is, get him away from there."
"Hey!" sputtered Agent Lafferty as Inspector Henderson picked up the telephone on the table. "Are you taking orders from a -- from a -- ?"
Superwoman ignored him. "Where is he?" she asked Inspector Henderson.
"555 East Garrett. One of those old brownstones. What are you -- ?"
But Superwoman was gone.
* * * * * * * *
"Hey!" the policeman standing by the door protested. "You can't --"
Superwoman ignored him. She turned the knob and pushed. The door was locked. She stepped back and slammed her shoulder against the stile. The wood splintered, the door flew open, and she rushed into the room
It was a plainly furnished apartment, much like the one she'd left a few moments ago. A dark-haired man in khaki slacks and a T-shirt was lying on a sofa, reading a magazine. He sat up in surprise as Superwoman strode toward him.
"Mr. Carella?" She grabbed his arm and pulled him off the sofa. "Get up. We've got to get you out of here." She began pushing him toward the door.
The policeman had followed her into the room. "Take this man somewhere else," Superwoman told him. "Another safe house, or the nearest police station --"
The policeman scowled. "We've got our orders, lady. You can't just barge in here and --"
"It's okay, Frank." Another policeman was standing in the doorway. "I just got a call from Henderson. He wants us to take Carella to the 86th Precinct and keep him there until --"
Suddenly there was another person in the room -- a slender brunette in a black jumpsuit. She was raising a gun at Carella. Superwoman saw her finger begin to squeeze the trigger …
Moving at super-speed, Superwoman stepped in front of the bullet just as it was leaving the muzzle. By the time it flattened against her chest and dropped to the floor, she was springing toward the would-be killer …
… who vanished as suddenly as she'd appeared.
The next moment, she reappeared behind Carella, raising her gun for another shot. Superwoman pushed Carella to the floor. The policeman stepped forward and knocked the intruder's arm aside. She lost her balance and fell, dropping her gun. The policeman stooped and grabbed her by the arm …
… but she vanished again, leaving him empty-handed.
Now she was in the far corner of the room, scrambling to her feet. Superwoman rushed toward her …
The policemen stared, open-mouthed, as Superwoman zig-zagged across the room in a blur of super-swift motion, chasing the intruder as she popped back and forth, from the window to the door to the sofa, round and round the room. A smirk spread across the woman's face as she realized that Superwoman was unable to lay a finger on her; her mocking laughter filed the room …
A soft beep-beep-beep suddenly sounded from a timer on the woman's wrist. She gave it a worried glance. "Uh-oh." And with that, she vanished for the last time.
Superwoman stood smoothing her tousled hair and collecting her thoughts as the policemen looked around in bafflement.
"What the hell just happened?"
"Who was that woman?"
"That's the woman who just killed Richard Genero," Superwoman said. "I don't know who she is -- but I mean to find out!:"
* * * * * * * *
THAT EVENING …
Lex nearly tumbled over the armrest of the sofa. He pushed himself onto his feet and stooped to pick up the medical journal he'd dropped. "Sheesh, Lana," he said. "Give me a heads-up next time, okay?"
"Sorry." Lana was holding up one end of the sofa and running a vacuum cleaner underneath it. She lowered the sofa and turned off the vacuum cleaner.
"Are you okay?" asked Lex. He knew that whenever Lana threw herself into house-cleaning like this, something was on her mind.
Lana sighed. "It's that woman I was telling you about -- the one who can pop in and out like Jeannie. I spent the whole afternoon with Inspector Henderson and that FBI agent, and we still have no idea who she is or how she does it. It's crazy. I'm fast enough to stop a bullet, but I couldn't lay a finger on her -- and she was laughing at me! Lex, this woman could be the most dangerous person on Earth! She can go anywhere -- do what she pleases -- and no one can touch her!"
She tried to calm herself.."Oh, well. I'll be meeting with Inspector Henderson first thing tomorrow morning. Maybe by then he'll have an ID. Meanwhile, I should get to work on that Mary Marvel story." She went into her studio and sat down at her drawing table.
Lex went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of milk. When he looked in on Lana a minute later, he saw that she was staring off into space, tapping her chin with the eraser end of a pencil.
"Want to talk about it?" he asked.
Lana shrugged. "What more can I tell you? What do you think, Lex? Is she using -- magic?"
Lex came in and sat down. "There's a science-fiction writer named Arthur C. Clarke," he said. "He wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic to someone who'd never encountered it. So let's not start talking about pixies and fairies just yet. Did this woman look unusual in any way?"
Lana shook her head. "No. She was an ordinary-looking woman. Early thirties maybe, brunette, about five foot eight -- here, I'll show you --"
She began moving her pencil at super-speed across a sheet of drawing paper. Lex watched, intrigued, as a woman's face materialized on the page.
"There," said Lana. "I drew a sketch just like this for Inspector Henderson this afternoon, but so far nobody has been able to ID her. She was wearing a shiny black jumpsuit with some kind of metallic piping --"
Lex was staring at the drawing -- at the thin nose, the sharp chin, the high forehead. Where had he seen that face before?
Suddenly he rushed out of the studio and into the cluttered room next door that he used as a study. "Remember that time we went to Boston?" he said. "For that conference on applications of electromagnetic technology? I spoke about my work in magnetic imaging. When was that? Two years ago?"
"Yes," said Lana. She'd followed Lex into the study and stood watching in puzzlement as he began searching through the folders stuffed into his file cabinet.
"Here it is!" He pulled out a conference brochure and began flipping through the pages. "Is that her?" he asked, holding up the brochure and pointing to a photograph in the margin of a page.
Lana stared. "If that's not her, it's her twin," she said. "Who -- ?"
"Her name's Naomi Bleeker. She's got degrees in engineering from Caltech and MIT, and she'd been working on railgun technology. I went to her talk. It was pretty interesting."
"Nailgun?" asked Lana, puzzled.
"Railgun," Lex corrected her. "It's a technology that uses magnetic impulses to send objects from one place to another. You can imagine the applications --"
"Wait," said Lana. "Do you suppose she's using this -- this railgun to send herself from place to place?"
"Wow. That would be quite a leap. I mean, now we're talking teleportation. But it seems to be the likeliest explanation.”
He picked up a handful of darts from the cluttered deskotp and began tossing them at the dartboard on the opposite wall as he began thinking out loud.
“I’m guessing that she needs that suit in order to teleport. That metallic piping you described is probably some ferromagnetic alloy. And didn’t you say that she disappeared from the apartment just after a timer on her watch started beeping?”
“So the suit probably holds a charge for a limited time. That’s good news. Remove the suit, or keep her incapacitated until its charge wears off, and she won’t be able to get away.” He walked over to the dartboard and pulled out the darts, then walked back to his desk.
“One thing puzzles me, though,” he said, tossing a dart across the room. “She’d need to set up a series of magnetic relays in order to move from place to place. That would take a lot of equipment. Unless -- “
He slapped his forehead. “Of course! The Earth is a planet-sized magnet. She must be travelling along the lines of the Earth’s magnetic field -- “
Lana spoke up. “This is all very interesting,” she said. “But how will it help us stop her?”
Lex grinned. “Elementary. If we can trap her inside a strong magnetic field, we can hold her long enough to remove her suit, or wait until its charge wears off.”
“And how can we do that?”
“I'm glad you asked. You know how I’m trying to develop a way of diagnosing tumors with magnetic imaging? Well, my lab has all the equipment we need to create an oscillating electromagnetic field that would prevent her from teleporting. Of course, it'll involve some heavy lifting … “
Lana grinned. "Just leave that to me."
“Just give me a minute to work out the details.” He sat down at the desk and began sketching diagrams in a notebook.
“Take your time, sweetie.” Lana stooped to plant a kiss on his forehead. “I’m going to call Inspector Henderson and ask him to check on this Naomi Bleeker. And then it’s back to the drawing board. It looks like we’ll both be up late tonight.”
* * * * * * * *
THE NEXT MORNING …
"Okay," said Lex. "Now slide that oscillator into the corner over by the window. Careful, now."
He watched nervously as Superwoman pushed the heavy machine across the floor. It was an expensive piece of equipment, and he didn't want her to damage it accidentally with her super-strength.
He needn't have worried. Superwoman slid the machine smoothly into place. "Perfect," he said. "Now plug in that cable and we're all set."
The two of them had been at work since five o'clock in the morning, converting Lex's laboratory into a trap for Naomi Bleeker. The workbench had been moved to one side. Oscillators, coils, and flux field generators had been installed in the corners, and a hospital bed had been set up in the middle of the room. A mannequin lay under the sheets.
Lex was checking the readings on a console. "We're all set," he announced. "I've got to turn it off now -- otherwise she won't be able to teleport into the room -- but the moment she shows up, I'll throw this switch and she'll be trapped like a fly in a bottle."
Superwoman nodded. "All right, then. I'll change into the nurse's uniform, and you stay behind that screen while we wait for her to show up."
* * * * * * * *
Jimmy Caprese was not pleased.
"Sure, you got Genero, but that doesn't do me any good if Carella's still able to talk."
Blink frowned. "So I'm not going to get paid for the Genero job?"
"Our deal was that you eliminate them both for half a million dollars."
"But it's not my fault Carella got away! Superwoman showed up --"
Jimmy shook his head. "That's par for the course in this town. You gotta be prepared."
He took out his notebook. "Fortunately, one of my informants in the police department has told me where they've taken Carella. He's in a room at Metropolis General Hospital. Room 1214." He tore out the page with the room number and handed it to Blink.
"He's in the hospital?"
"Yeah. He came down with appendicitis yesterday evening."
"Okay," said Blink. "I'll take care of it. Don't worry." She hesitated. "But -- um --"
"I'll, uh, need another gun."
Jimmy sighed and unlocked a drawer in his desk. He took out a pistol, checked to make sure it was loaded, and handed it to Blink. "Try not to lose this one, okay?"
* * * * * * * *
Superwoman had put on a crisp white nurse's uniform over her costume. Lex sat at the controls of the generator, watching as she drew the bedsheet higher over the mannequin's chest.
"It doesn't look very realistic," he commented.
"It doesn't have to," Superwoman replied. "I'm guessing she'll do what she did when she killed Genero -- pop into the room and fire a couple of shots at her victim right away. Besides, I'll lower the shades and turn down the lights. You just be ready to throw the switch the moment she --"
She didn't get to finish the sentence. The woman in the black jumpsuit was standing at the foot of the bed, pointing a gun at the mannequin. Two shots rang out as Lex threw the switch. The generator hummed, the lights flickered … and the woman looked puzzled, then alarmed, as she realized that she couldn't teleport away.
Superwoman stepped forward and grabbed the gun from the woman's hand. Pulling a pair of handcuffs from the pocket of her smock, she snapped one end around the woman's wrist and the other to a bedrail, then pushed her into a chair.
The woman was looking around the room, her eyes taking in the various pieces of equipment Lex had cobbled together. "An oscillating electromagnetic field generator," she murmured. "Very clever."
She looked at Superwoman. "You know, Mr. Caprese told me to be prepared," she said. With her free hand, she pressed a button on a device strapped to her other wrist --- a metal cylinder about the size of a cigarette lighter.
"There," she said. "I've just activated the timer on a bomb I've hidden somewhere in the city. It's set to go off in --" She checked her watch. "Four minutes and forty seconds. Let me go and I'll tell you where it is. Otherwise --"
But Superwoman wasn't listening. Tugging the lapels of the nurse's uniform, she ripped it open down the front and flung it to the floor. The next moment, she'd streaked out of the room, shutting the door behind her.
"Oh, man," said Lex, picking up the tattered smock. "Now I'll have to buy Nurse Donnelly a new uniform!"
* * * * * * * *
A sudden gust of wind blew down Ainsley Avenue. A news vendor grabbed his cap and looked up, just in time to see a streak of red and blue passing overhead.
Superwoman flew along the avenue, her super-hearing tuned to the radio signal that the bomb was sending to the timer on Blink's wrist. She slowed down as she approached 22nd Street. The bomb was somewhere below. Anxiously, she began scanning the sidewalks with her super-vision, checking the mailbox, the trash can, the phone booth …
Time was running out.
Then she looked down, peering through the asphalt and into the sewer below. The bomb was sitting on a recess in the sewer wall. She had less than a minute to retrieve it …
Descending to the street, she dropped to one knee beside a manhole cover. Traffic had stopped for a red light up ahead; the street was empty for the moment. She plunged her fingers through the manhole cover and tossed it aside, then flew down into the sewer.
Gently removing the bomb from its hiding place, she wrapped it in her cape and rocketed up through the manhole. Higher and higher she flew, counting off the seconds …
She unwrapped the bomb and flung it southward in a long, high arc. The bomb exploded in an orange glare and a cloud of black smoke thousands of feet above Metropolis Bay.
* * * * * * * *
"All right," Lex was saying. "If you don't want to talk about this invention of yours, fine."
Blink had been sitting in silence ever since Superwoman had rushed out of the room.
"But here's what I don't understand," Lex went on. "This is a potentially world-changing discovery. I mean, the applications are mind-boggling. If you'd taken out patents, you could have been a millionaire many times over. So why use your invention to rob jewelry stores and hire yourself out as a killer for a low-life like Jimmy Caprese? What would make a brilliant scientific mind turn to crime? I just don't --"
Blink jumped up, smirking triumphantly. Apparently she'd been able to summon up just enough charge to teleport out of her handcuff. Now she was making a rush for the door. If she got out into the hallway …
Oh, man, thought Lex, running after her. If I let her get away, Lana's gonna kill me.
They reached the door at the same moment. Lex grabbed her wrist just as she was reaching for the doorknob, then grabbed her other arm as she tried to claw his face. The two of them swayed back and forth for a few moments, then lost their balance and fell. They began rolling around on the floor, grunting and puffing, Blink struggling to break free, Lex determined not to let her go …
Lex looked up. "S-Superwoman!" He scrambled to his feet, blushing. "This -- this isn't what it looks like …"
Superwoman grabbed Blink by the arm and hauled her roughly to her feet. She glared at her for a moment, then tossed her onto the bed.
She picked up a grey coverall that Lex had borrowed from a janitor's closet. "Would you mind stepping outside for a minute, Dr. Luthor," she asked, "while our guest changes into something more comfortable?"
* * * * * * * *
Naomi Bleeker sat in sullen silence in the interrogation room, her cuffed hands resting on the scarred wooden table. Inspector Henderson and Agent Lafferty were arguing in loud, angry voices.
"I can charge her with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and two burglaries -- all in my jurisdiction!"
"Big deal. She was interfering with a federal investigation -- which means I get to take her in."
Superwoman rolled her eyes. She never understood these "turf wars" between law enforcement agencies. Weren't they all on the same side?
The door opened and a tall blonde woman in a black suit stepped into the room.
"Sorry to break up your pissing contest, boys," she said. She flashed an identification card. "Andrea Gardner, CIA -- and the Agency is calling dibs on your prisoner." She laid some documents on the table. "I believe you'll find our paperwork is in order."
Fifteen minutes -- and several phone calls -- later, Naomi Bleeker was being escorted out of the precinct house by two men in black suits and dark glasses, followed by Agent Gardner. Standing on the front steps, Superwoman watched as the four of them got into a sleek black limousine and drove off.
I hope they keep a close eye on her, she thought. Sometimes she missed Smallville, where the biggest crime she'd ever had to deal with was Joe Peterson's stolen car racket.
Oh, well, she thought as she sprang into the air and flew off. As Lex keeps reminding me -- we're not in Kansas anymore.
* * * * * * * *