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TSOS - The Supergirl of Smallville - Chapter 10 - 12

Written by Team Acenaut :: [Wednesday, 30 July 2008 06:18] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 08 April 2014 11:57]

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CHAPTER 10

 

 

Lana paused in the doorway, surveying the crowded interior of the Diamond Bar.

 

A huddle of men at a nearby table turned to stare at her, squinting through a haze of cigarette smoke at the two figures silhouetted against the light from Tony's office -- the shapely girl in the short skirt and boots, and the stocky, disheveled man she was holding up by the back of his collar.  Other customers began looking up from the pool table or from their glasses of beer, and within a few moments the bar was silent except for the strains of a Hank Williams song pouring from the jukebox.  Lana was conscious of the scrutiny of several dozen pairs of eyes -- some puzzled, some amused, some leering.

 "Jeez, I didn't know Tony was into that kinky stuff," snickered a customer at the far end of the bar.

 Lana took a step forward.  She just wanted to get out of the Diamond Bar as quickly as possible, to get away from its noise and reek and unpleasant atmosphere.  She wanted to deliver M. D'Amato to the Shelbyville police and then put this depressing town behind her.

 But before she could take another step, Tony squirmed in her grip.  "Listen, you mugs!" he bellowed.  "This ain't no joke!  This chick is some kind of circus freak! She broke my desk in two and she ripped open my safe like it was cardboard!  I don't know what kind of dope she's taking or what her story is, but I'm telling you, she ain't human!"

He took a deep breath.  "A thousand bucks to the guy who takes her down!"

The snickers died down and the grins faded.  A dozen men were already standing shoulder to shoulder, blocking the way to the front door.  Brawny arms folded across their chests, they gazed down at Lana through hard, narrowed eyes, clearly intent on – what was it Mr. D'Amato had said?  -- "taking her down" ...

Uh-oh, she thought, careful not to avert her eyes.  So much for getting out of herequietly.  She lifted her chin defiantly.  Just walk toward the door, she told herself. They're just a bunch of overgrown bullies.  Show them you're not afraid of them, and they'll back down ... I hope ...  Looking straight ahead, ignoring the men closing in from all sides, she stepped forward ...

Suddenly a pool cue was pressing against her throat, bending as a pair of beefy hands pulled on it from behind her.  Lana felt a knee digging into the small of her back; she heard its owner grunting with effort, and smelled the cheap whiskey on his breath.  The cue bent back, cracking under the strain, until it snapped in two and her attacker stumbled backward, knocking down several of his comrades who were eagerly pressing toward Lana from behind.

Men were closing in, grabbing her arms, clutching her waist, tugging at her hair and cape.  A massive fist landed squarely on her jaw, and a howl of pain rose above the angry roar that filled the room.  Lana's free arm swung back, bowling over half a dozen of her assailants; she swung her other arm in a wide arc, using Tony as a flail to knock down half a dozen more.

This is getting out of hand, Lana thought desperately.  I'd better put a stop to thisbefore somebody gets seriously hurt.  "Listen to me!" she shouted, in a voice that pierced the roar of the mob and rattled the bottles and glasses on the bar.  Stunned, the mob fell silent.

Lana raised her arm, dangling Tony like a fisherman displaying a prize catch.  "Listen to me," she repeated.  "I suppose you're wondering why I'm taking Mr. D'Amato out of here.  Well, I'm afraid I have some shocking news for you.  Mr. D'Amato isn't what you think he is.  He pretends to be an honest businessman -- but he's not!  He's a crook!"

Tony's jowls flapped as Lana gave him a vigorous shake.

"That's right!  You may not believe me, but it's true!  And I have proof!  Mr. D'Amato is nothing more than a -- a common criminal!"

Lana saw that her words were having an effect.  Jaws dropped, eyes widened, glances were exchanged ... and then the bar erupted into loud, raucous laughter.

"No!" wailed a customer in mock consternation.

"Say it ain't so, Tony!" shouted another.

 "I am shocked -- shocked!" cried a third.

Lana looked around the bar in astonishment.  Men were doubled over with laughter, wiping tears of mirth from their eyes, clutching their sides and slapping their knees.

Over the roar of merriment she heard a mocking voice:  "What planet are you from, doll-face?"

Lana narrowed her eyes.  "Hmpf!" she snapped.  "I guess this isn't news to any of you, after all.  Well, good -- because it'll come as no surprise that I'm taking Mr. D'Amato to the police!"

"What are you mugs laughing for?" Tony shouted hoarsely.  "I don't care how you do it, but take her down!  Two thou -- no, five thousand bucks to anyone who puts this chick on ice!"

A manrose to his feet.  He was a powerfully built man with a crooked nose and a scar running raggedly across his left cheek, and when he held up a hand for silence, the laughter stopped abruptly. 

"Look, miss," he said gruffly.  "Let the boss go and you can leave without nobody getting hurt.  But if you don't -- well, we will do what he just said." 

A grim silence had fallen upon the Diamond Bar.  With her x-ray vision, Lana could see hands reaching into pockets for knives and blackjacks.  Men were slipping on brass knuckles and grasping the necks of whiskey bottles, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the bartender take a shotgun from behind the counter.

Lana glanced toward the ceiling, wondering if she should leap up and smash through it, dragging Tony behind her ... when a wooden chair came crashing down against her shoulders and splintered into fragments. 

Lana spun round.  Men were rushing at her from all sides, brandishing weapons, shouting wildly like a crowd at a boxing match.  Lana's heat vision made the blade of a knife glow red-hot as it fell from its owner's hand; a slash of her fingernail tore open the leather casing of a blackjack and emptied its contents on the floor.  A beer bottle came flying from the direction of the bar and shattered against her forehead. Shards of glass flew in all directions as the amber liquid splashed down the front of her costume.  Lana grimaced.  Ewwww!  She looked around angrily.

"All right," she demanded.  "Who threw that?"

But before anyone could reply, Lana heard a plangent clang right behind her, accompanied by a yelp of surprise and pain.  She turned around.  A pudgy, unshaven man in a New York Yankees cap was staring incredulously at the bent and twisted length of metal -- once a crowbar -- that he was clutching in both hands like a baseball bat.

"Holy Toledo," he stammered.  "What's this chickmade of -- steel?" 

That does it! thought Lana.  Time to go on the offensive.  Turning toward the front door, she pursed her lips and blew a jet of super-breath across the bar.

The men facing her tumbled over like so many bowling pins.  Eddies of sawdust and peanut shells and cigarette butts rose from the floor as the powerful wind rushed toward the front wall, then rebounded and swept along the sides of the room, knocking the liquor bottles from the shelf behind the bar and tearing caps off heads.  Men dove for cover or lay flat on their faces as the blast howled over them.  Chairs and tables rose eerily from the floor, smashing against the walls, crashing into the lights. Lana stood unflinching in the whirlwind as it  tousled her hair and tugged at her cape and stirred the hem of her skirt.

"There's a tear in my beer -- " A barstool flew across the bar and impaled the jukebox, silencing Hank Williams's lugubrious croon.

The blast died down as suddenly as it had burst from Lana's lips.  Lana smoothed her hair and surveyed the wreckage.  Her attackers lay everywhere, too frightened to move, amid broken glass and shattered furniture. Fat Tony had collapsed whimpering at Lana's feet.  Lana picked him up by the back of his collar and began dragging him, limp and unresisting, toward the front door.

Broken glass crunched beneath her boots as she strode to the door, and a few men groaned softly as they began to sit up, nursing their bruises, but otherwise the room was silent.  So Lana hardly needed her super-hearing to register the sharp metallic click that suddenly rang out behind her.

She turned -- and found herself staring down the twin barrels of a shotgun.

She looked up.  The bartender was eyeing her narrowly from behind the counter, with the shotgun raised to his shoulder and his finger resting on the trigger.

"Stop right -- "  The words came out in a high-pitched squeak.  He cleared his throat and started over.  "Stop right there."  His voice was back in the baritone range, but he couldn't quite suppress a nervous quaver.  "Who's going to pay for this damage?"

Lana's eyebrows rose.  "Not me!" she said indignantly.  "Why don't you ask your customers?  They started it."  She began to turn back toward the front door.

"Hold it right there!"  His voice cracked again.  "I'm warning you.  Put Mr. D'Amato down or I'll -- "

"You'll what?  Shoot?"  Lana rolled her eyes.  "You haven't figured it out, have you? I'm invulnerable.  Do you know what that means?  It means I can't be hurt -- not by anything ... and certainly not by that pop-gun!"

She reached out with her free hand and grabbed the shotgun by its barrels.  "Whoa!" sputtered the bartender.  "I'm warning you -- "

Lana yanked the shotgun toward herself, pulling the trigger against the bartender's finger ...

A loud bang shattered the silence of the room and echoed from its walls.  The bartender let go of the shotgun and jumped back, his face ashen.  He couldn't see the slugs bounce off Lana's chest, but he heard one of them whiz past his ear. Another one ricocheted into the mirror behind the bar, splintering it into a dozen jagged shards that fell to the littered floor in a loud, prolonged crash.

Lana let go of Tony and stood grasping the barrels of the shotgun in both hands.

"Now I 'm warning you," she said.  She began bending and twisting the shotgun as she spoke.  "My name is Supergirl, and I suggest that you remember it.  It's my duty to protect law-abiding citizens from crooks like Mr. D'Amato -- and from those who associate with them.  So in the future, don't interfere when I'm trying to do my job." She laid the shotgun on the counter.  Its barrels had been tied in a neat overhand knot.  "And here's a little souvenir to remind you of that!"

She turned and strode confidently out the front door, dragging Tony behind her.

Stan came out from his hiding place behind the counter, brushing sawdust from his corduroy jacket.  He had taken cover as soon as the fighting had begun, peering cautiously over the countertop to gaze in wonder at the most amazing female he had ever seen.  Eyes bulging, he watched her walk away from the counter and toward the front door, mesmerized by her firm calves, her shapely thighs, the rhythm of her hips and the swish of her short skirt.

"What a knockout!" he said with a grin.  "Ain't she something?  I think I'm in love!"

"Careful, Stan," said the bartender.

"I know, I know -- sixteen will get me twenty."

"Are you kidding?  With that little fireball, sixteen will get you killed!"

 

----------

 

Lana breathed a sigh of relief as the door swung shut behind her.  The late-afternoon sunlight was a wholesome change from the smoky atmosphere of the Diamond Bar. Tightening her grip on Tony's collar, she was about to spring upward and fly off toward the police station when she heard the wail of a siren.  A patrol car drew up in front of the tavern and two policemen scrambled out, staring at the redheaded teenager and her disheveled captive.

"Good evening, officers," said Lana.  "I'm sure you recognize Mr. D'Amato.  Well, you can arrest him on charges of extortion, racketeering, and bribery.  All the proof you need is right here in this ledger -- and there's plenty more where that came from!" 

There was an awkward silence as the policemen exchanged uneasy glances.  "Er -- no need to thank me, officers," said Lana, hauling Tony up onto his feet and pushing him forward.  "Just doing my duty!" 

"You heard the lady," Tony muttered, scowling at the policemen.  He raised an eyebrow meaningfully.  "Better do as she says."  He put his wrists together and held out his arms. 

"Uh ... right," said the older of the two policemen.  He took out a pair of handcuffs and slipped them around Tony's wrists, while Lana handed the ledger to his partner.

"Uh ... thanks, miss," said the older policemen.  "We can take it from here."

"All right, then!" chirped Lana, smiling brightly.  "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to be going."  She rose several feet into the air, then placed her hands on her hips and looked down at the astonished policemen.  "And if you ever need my help, just call Chief Parker in Smallville and ask for ... Supergirl!"

Turning, she raised her arms and flew off.

"I don't believe it," said the older policeman, staring after the blue-and-red-garbed figure.  "Some of the guys at the station were talking about her, but we figured it was just one of those crazy stories -- like that spaceship that crashed on some farmer's property about fifteen years back."

"Yeah," said his partner.  "Or that monster in Strawberry Lake.  Uh -- you okay, Mr. D'Amato?"

"I'll live," growled Tony.  "But you two had better take me back to the station with you.  I want to know what the boys have heard about this so-called Supergirl."

 

----------

 

High in the air, halfway between Shelbyville and Smallville, Lana put on a burst of super-speed.  Faster and faster she flew, zig-zagging back and forth, until air friction created an incandescent orange glow around her body, burning off the beer and liquor that clung to her hair and costume, removing all trace of the cigarette smell that she carried with her.

But she still felt as if the atmosphere of the Diamond Bar was clinging to her. What she wanted was a bath.  She toyed with the idea of a quick dip in an active volcano, or a plunge into an erupting geyser ... or maybe a nice long bubble-bath in the tub at home, using her heat-vision to keep the water at a rolling boil?

Glancing down, she saw Strawberry Lake directly below her, reflecting blue sky and white clouds on its placid surface.  No one was fishing or boating at the moment; it looked like a perfect spot for a nice refreshing swim.  Lana extended her arms straight before her and dove down at a steep angle.  The tips of her outstretched fingers broke the smooth surface of the lake, and the next moment she plunged through, so deftly that she left only the faintest of ripples behind her.

It was dim below the surface -- not the unpleasant smoky dimness of the bar, but a lovely blue iridescent dimness.  Delighted, she looked around her -- at a cluster of silvery minnows, at water-plants undulating in the subtle currents, at shafts of late-afternoon sunlight slanting down into the lake's depths.  Her red hair drifted about her face as she rolled over and gazed up at the clouds, turned violet by the layers of water.

She allowed her body to rise slowly and gently break the surface.  She spread her arms and lay drifting, enjoying the water's delicious cool embrace.  Swallows were dipping and soaring on the afternoon thermals; a heron rose from a thicket of reeds with a loud flapping of its wings; and turning her head, Lana saw a doe and fawn emerge from the woods and step delicately to the lake's edge to drink.

The Diamond Bar seemed like a distant memory now.  Lana rose above the lake and spun around, flinging drops of water in every direction until she was dry.  Pleased with her day's work, she flew off to Smallville, working out a suitably edited version of her activities for her mother's benefit.  And I'll seeChief Parker first thing tomorrow morning, she thought.  Wait till he hearshow I saved his brother-in-law AND got the goods on Fat Tony! 

 

----------

 

Chief Parker was rummaging around in the top drawer of his desk.

"I'm sorry, Supergirl," he said.  "I can't seem to find the bottle opener -- "

"That's okay, Chief." Lana slid her thumbnail under the cap of the Coca-Cola bottle and pushed upward.  The cap went spinning toward the ceiling.  She caught it in her free hand and dropped it into the wastebasket by Chief Parker's desk.

Chief Parker smiled.  "That must come in handy at picnics."  He filled a chipped coffee cup from the pot on the burner and stirred in a spoonful of sugar.  He sat down and waved his hand at one of the chairs facing his desk.

"Well," he began, as Supergirl sat down.  "First of all, I want to thank you again for looking after Jimmy.  If you hadn't shown up ... well, goodness knows what those two goons might have done to him."

"Happy to help." Lana lowered her eyes modestly, but inwardly she was beaming with pride.  "I hope he's okay now."

"I hope so, too.  He called me last night.  He's on his way to Kansas City, to join his wife and kids."

"But he'll be back, right?  To testify against those two men?" 

Chief Parker shook his head.  "I doubt it.  I'm guessing he just wants to put this whole thing behind him."

"But those men are still going to jail, right?"

Chief Parker gazed thoughtfully at Supergirl for a few moments.  "I'm afraid not," he said.

Supergirl's eyes widened.  "Why not?  They were going to beat Mr. Whelan."

"That's right.  They were going to.  You stopped them -- thank goodness.  But they can't be charged with an assault they didn't commit."

"But Mr. Stroud confessed!"

"While you were dangling him by his shirt five hundred feet above the ground.  Under those circumstances, I would have confessed to kidnapping the Lindberg baby."

Lana 's heart sank.  This conversation was not going the way she had imagined.

"But we've got their boss, right?  Mr. D'Amato?  We've got plenty of evidence to send him to jail, don't we?"

Chief Parker continued to gaze steadily into Supergirl's eyes.  "No," he said gently, almost apologetically.  "I'm afraid not."

"What do you mean?"  Supergirl had risen from her chair, her eyes flashing with indignation.  "What about those ledgers I took from his safe?"

Chief Parker was careful not to avert his gaze.  "Please, Supergirl -- sit down."

Pouting, Lana sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest.

Chief Parker cleared his throat.  "Law enforcement isn't like what you see on Dragnet and The Untouchables," he explained.  "There are rules the police have to abide by, and laws that protect everyone's rights -- even criminals'.  What you did in Tony's office -- I know your intentions were good, but ... well, you were the one breaking the law."

"Huh?" Lana was too surprised to be angry.  "Me?  What you mean?"

"Trespassing, destruction of property, assault ... "

"But Mr. D'Amato is the criminal -- not me!  He's a crook -- a racketeer!"

"I know.  But like I said -- our laws protect everyone's rights.  You didn't catch him actually committing a crime, you had no legal standing -- no badge, no warrant -- "

"Those ledgers -- "

"Were they in plain view?"

"To me they were.  I've got x-ray vision."

Chief Parker's eyebrows rose.  A corner of his mustache turned up as he chuckled softly. "I bet the lawyers would have fun batting that one around."

But Lana was not amused.  "Mary Marvel -- "  She blushed.  "You know -- from the comic books?"

Chief Parker nodded.  "My son used to read those.  Captain Marvel's sister, right?"

"Right.  She never worried about stuff like that.  She just beat up the bad guys and dragged them off to jail."

"So she did.  But we're not in a comic book."

Supergirl grinned ruefully.  "I guess I messed up, didn't I?"

"Let's say you made a few rookie mistakes -- just like I did when I started walking a beat.” 

"So am I in trouble?"

Well, I doubt that Tony will be bringing charges against you.  Admitting that a teenage girl was too much for his hired muscle to handle -- that wouldn't do his reputation any good, to put it mildly."

"I'm really sorry.  I just wanted to help -- "

"I know.  And you did help.  If it weren't for you, Jimmy might be lying in a hospital bed right now."  Chief Parker leaned forward earnestly.  "Listen.  Your powers -- the things you can do -- they're pretty amazing.  But you know what's even more amazing?"

Supergirl shook her head.

"The fact that you want to use them to help people -- to do some good in the world."

He rose to refill his coffee cup.  "People in my line of work can get disillusioned and cynical," he said.  "I started out walking a beat in Chicago.  I was an honest cop, but not a day went by that I didn't have to look the other way, to make some kind of ... compromise with my conscience.  It finally got to the point where I took a job as police chief in my wife's home town -- where the biggest problem I have to deal with is teenagers drinking beer out by the lake."

He sat down.  "I guess what I'm saying is -- you have a -- a destiny.  Smallville is lucky to have you.  But the whole country needs you.  The whole world needs you.  So -- never lose faith in what you do.  Okay?" 

"Gosh.  That's kind of ... scary."

"Oh, I can imagine.  But listen.  Every cop starts out by being assigned an easy beat. Just think of Smallville as your first beat, all right?"

Supergirl beamed gratefully at Chief Parker.  "I like that.  And don't policemen have partners?  Would you be my partner?"

"It would be an honor."  Chief Parker turned to a shelf and took down a heavy volume with a dark blue cover. 

 

                              

REVISED STATUTES

STATE OF KANSAS

 

was stamped in gold letters on its spine.  He set the book down on his desk and began thumbing its pages. "All right, partner, let's go over the rules for a citizen's arrest ... " 

 

CHAPTER 11

 

 

"Don't you see what this means?" said Clark.  He pointed his fork at the newspaper lying on the kitchen table.

"WHAT A GAL!" proclaimed the banner headline of the Crawford County Courier, above a photograph of Supergirl standing beside the sodden embers of the old livery stable.  Below the photograph, in smaller letters, ran the words "SUPERGIRL SAVES CHILDREN, PUTS OUT BLAZE."

"Don't talk with your mouth full, dear," said Ma.

Clark swallowed a mouthful of scrambled eggs and toast.  "First I lose my powers, then this -- this girl shows up.  Don't you get it?  Whoever she is, those are my powers.  Somehow they must have gotten transferred to her."

Ma Kent gazed at her son.  She knew that Clark had never stopped fretting over the loss of his powers, but she had hoped that he was beginning to put that behind him.  Now the sudden appearance of this Supergirl was re-opening his wounds.

"We don't know that, Clark," she pointed out.  "After all, you lost your powers over a year ago, and this girl showed up for the first time yesterday."

Pa Kent set down his coffee cup.  "Your mother's got a point, Clark.  Your notion seems pretty far-fetched to me.  More than likely, this girl came from outer space, same as you."

"Yes," said Ma.  "Maybe she landed somewhere hereabouts in a rocket when she was a baby, and some other family took her in."  Her eyes widened.  "Why, Clark, do you suppose she could be your sister?"

"It doesn't matter," said Clark, scowling.  "Why should she have those powers and not me?  It isn't fair!  She's just a girl!"  He blinked away the tears that were beginning to well up in his eyes.

"Now, Clark -- "

"I mean, think about it!  Every time some big emergency comes up, she'll probably stop to fix her hair and put on some lipstick!"

Pa pointed at the newspaper.  "Well, Chief Parker says she did a swell job saving those young 'uns and putting out that fire."

Clark sneered at the photograph on the front page.  "Huh!" he snorted.  "Look at her -- wearing that flashy outfit ... calling herself 'Supergirl ' ... "

He tossed his napkin on the table and stood up abruptly.  "I'll tell you one thing -- if I still had my powers, you wouldn't see me showing off like that!"

 

------------  

 

A Cadillac Fleetwood, long, black, and gleaming in the morning sunlight, pulled up in front of the Diamond Bar.  The rear door opened and Tony D'Amato stepped out, freshly shaved and dressed in a neat pinstripe suit.  Taking a handkerchief from his breast pocket, he brushed a speck of dust from the right fin, then nodded curtly at the driver. 

As the car drove off, Tony lit a cigar and surveyed the front of the tavern.  The plate-glass window had been replaced with a sheet of plywood, and a notice -- "CLOSED FOR RENOVATION" -- had been pasted across it.  Tony dropped the spent match to the sidewalk and ground it beneath the heel of his polished Oxford shoe.  He glared at a couple of gawkers on the other side of the street, then turned and entered the bar.

Stepping inside, he paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim light.  A pair of workmen in overalls were sweeping shattered glass and broken furniture into a big pile in the center of the room, and thirty or so sullen veterans of yesterday's brawl were standing by the bar in moody silence or low, muttered conversation.  They all looked expectantly at Tony as he strode into the room.

"Thank you, boys," Tony said to the workmen.  He jerked his thumb toward the front door.  "Why don't you take five."

"Okay, boss."

Tony waited until they had gone outside.  Expressionless, he surveyed the men standing by the bar.  One of them had a bandaged forehead; another wore his arm in a sling; otherwise, nobody seemed to be injured.  But Tony could see from their downcast eyes and hangdog expressions that their bruises were nothing compared to the battering their egos had suffered.

"Thank you all for coming," Tony said.  "I have just a couple of things to say.  First of all, remember what we agreed yesterday.  Nobody says nothing about what really happened here."  Heads nodded in somber agreement.  "Make sure everyone else remembers that -- especially that loudmouth Stan."

"Don't worry about Stan, Mr. D'Amato," said one of the men.  "Me and Johnny had a talk with him.  He'll keep his mouth shut if he knows what's good for him."

"Good," said Tony.  "The inspectors from the insurance company will be here in an hour.  If they ask any of you how this happened, just tell them it was a fight that got out of hand."

"Jeez, Tony," someone piped up.  "That's practically the truth.  Can't you do any better than that?"  There was a ripple of laughter.

Tony frowned.  "You're very comical, Lenny.  A regular Ernie Kovacs.  You should be on television."  He waited for the snickers to die down.

"A fight that got out of hand," he repeated.  "You don't know who started it, you don't know what it was about.  Got that?"  Everyone nodded.

"Good.  One last thing -- about this little Miss Fancy Pants -- this so-called 'Supergirl.'"  Tony's face reddened as he pounded a fist against the palm of his hand.  "Goddammit," he rasped.  "I pay good money for my hired muscle.  What kind of a world is this where a teenage girl can just waltz in here and start tossing my boys around like -- like -- "  He stopped and took a deep breath, trying to regain his self-control.

"All right," he said.  "I want to know everything about Little Red Riding Hood.  Who is she?  Where does she live?  Does she have parents?  A boyfriend?  What does it take to bring her down?  If any of you find out anything about her -- anything at all -- come see me.  I'll pay top dollar for any useful information you turn up."

He paused to let his words sink in, then nodded curtly.  "That's all.  Thank you again for coming.  And remember -- not a word about what really happened here yesterday."

The men began to shuffle out of the tavern.

 

                                                          -------------

 

Coach Stevens's whistle shrilled across the football field.

"Move it, Kent!" he barked.  "My grandmother can run faster than that!  Maybe I should get Supergirl to try out for quarterback, huh?"

Clark gritted his teeth.  "Sorry, Coach."

"Sorry don't get it done.  Now let's run that play again.  Ross, take five."

Pete Ross trotted over to the sidelines and sat down beside Freddy Muldoon.

"Man, Coach is really laying into Clark."

"Yeah," said Freddy.  "But wow -- can you imagine having Supergirl on our team?  I wouldn't mind tackling her!"

"Ha!  You'd have better luck tackling a locomotive."

"Yeah, but a lot less fun!  Hey, you saw her put out that fire at the orphanage, didn't you?  Is she really as hot as they say?"

"Oh, man, you better believe it!  She is stacked -- and those legs!"

"For heaven's sake," muttered Tami Dodge.  She and the other cheerleaders were sitting in the bleachers, not far from Pete and Freddy.  "Can't the boys talk about something besides Supergirl?"

"I know what you mean," said Suzy Prentiss.  "But you have to admit -- she is pretty amazing."

"So what does your boyfriend think of her?" asked Jenny Rollins.

"Clark?  Actually, he hasn't said anything about her -- and when I mentioned her, he just shrugged and changed the subject."

"He's probably got the hots for her and doesn't want you to know it."

"Or else he's jealous," said Tami.  "His male ego probably can't stand the idea that a girl could be so much stronger than he is."

"Yeah!" said Jenny.  "Guys think they're so great -- just because they're stronger than we are.  Wouldn't it be neat if we had powers like Supergirl's?  Let boys be the weaker sex for a change.  What's the saying -- 'Turnabout is fair play'?"      

"Jeez," said Pete, turning around to squint at the cheerleaders, "I wonder what they're laughing about?"

"Aw, you know what girls are like," grinned Freddy.  "Always giggling over the stupidest things!"

 

----------  

 

Lex Luthor walked up to the counter of the Smallville General Store and put down a copy of Popular Electronics and a bottle of Coca-Cola.

"Let's see," said Mr. Henkle, squinting at the price on the cover of the magazine.  "That'll be forty-five cents."  Lex handed him two dimes and a quarter and ambled toward the back of the store with the magazine in one hand and the Coke in the other.

Looking around for a table where he could sit and read, he spotted Lana sitting in the corner booth.  Her elbows were on the table, her chin was resting in the palms of her hands, and she was gazing at the wall with a vacant expression on her face.

Lex went up to her.  "Hi, Lana.  Can I join you?"

Startled, Lana looked up.  She smiled as she pushed her glasses back.  "Sure!"

Lex slid into the seat facing hers.  "You sure had a faraway look in your eyes," he said.  "What were you thinking about?" 

Lana grinned sheepishly.  "Just daydreaming."

Actually, she'd been using her super-vision to scan far and wide for any emergencies that might call for Supergirl's assistance.  "Faraway look" -- if Lex only knew!

"So where you Thursday morning?  I thought I'd see you in the library."

"Oh -- well, when I heard the alarm, I went to see where the fire was."

"That's what I figured.  But I didn't see you in the crowd."

"Well, there were a lot of people there ... "

"I guess."  Lex still seemed puzzled.  Lana decided she'd better change the subject.  Besides, there was something she'd been wanting to ask him about.

"So what do you think of this Supergirl?" she asked.  "Did you see her at the fire?"

Lex shook his head.  "No, I got there too late.  I just caught a glimpse of her flying away."

"You're a science whiz," said Lana.  "How do you explain her powers?  I mean, she can do some pretty amazing things.  She's super strong, she can fly -- "

"I know.  It's like something out of a science-fiction story."

"So how is that possible?"

Lex took a sip from his Coke.  "Well," he said thoughtfully, "my guess is that she's using some kind of highly advanced technology.  An anti-gravity device, maybe -- that would explain the flying, and the strength.  And maybe she was using a force field to protect her from the flames."

"But she doesn't -- I mean, it didn't look as if she was using any kind of gadget ... "

"Probably because the devices are small enough to fit into a bracelet or something.  Just like a transistor radio can fit in your pocket."

"Well ... maybe you're right.  But don't you think it's possible that she can do all those things naturally -- without gadgets?"

Lex frowned, considering.  "I don't see how.  Think how much energy she'd need.  Unless ... hmmm ... unless her body can somehow draw power from electricity or cosmic rays -- or the sun!" 

"The sun?"

"Sure."  Lex held up the copy of Popular Electronics.  "There's an article in here that says by the year 2000, we'll be using solar power to run cars and factories and everything."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Lana.  I wonder if Lex is right?

Lex glanced out the front window.  A white Chevrolet was pulling into the parking area.  "There's my mom.  I gotta go."  He gulped down the rest of his Coke and grabbed his magazine.

"Oh, by the way, Lana," he said, lowering his voice.  "Don't worry -- your secret is safe with me."

"My -- my secret?"  Lana blinked.  Goodness! she thought.  Does he suspect -- ?

"When I saw you sitting here, with that faraway look on your face -- I know what you were doing."

"You do?"

"Sure," he grinned.  "You were daydreaming about having powers like Supergirl's -- weren't you?"

Lana giggled with relief.  "Oh, Lex," she laughed.  "That's silly!  I'm scared to death of heights.  And that costume -- why, I'd die of embarrassment!" 

 

 

CHAPTER 12

 

OCTOBER ...

 

A crisp autumn breeze blew down Main Street. The branches of the poplar trees swayed in the moonlight, and the few remaining leaves, dry and brown, rustled in the wind. Ghosts and goblins, pirates and princesses, boys in Davy Crockett hats and girls in fairy wings, had gathered on the town square, dragging sacks of Hallowe'en candy and looking expectantly into the night sky.

A finger suddenly pointed upward. "There she is!" a child's voice cried out. A murmur of excitement ran through the crowd of trick-or-treaters as a dark figure began flying slowly across the luminous disk of the moon -- a figure clad in streaming tatters, with a tall pointed hat, sitting astride a broom. The figure paused, then turned, then swooped down toward the town square, faster and faster ...

Mingled screams of fear and delight rose into the night air as the figure flew round the square -- once, twice, three times -- just a few feet above the children's heads, its tatters flapping in the breeze. Hovering above a stack of logs and kindling in the middle of the square, the figure gestured dramatically with one cloaked arm -- and instantly the sticks burst into flame, crackling and popping and sending red sparks up into the darkness.

Slowly the figure descended. The bonfire cast an orange glow on its ragged cloak and pointed hat. It flung out its arms and cackled with eldritch glee. Then it spun round -- and the next moment the cloak and hat had vanished ... and where the witch had stood, now stood ...

"Supergirl!" the trick-or-treaters cheered.

"Happy Hallowe'en, everybody!" Supergirl shouted. She reached into a barrel full of apples and began tossing them into the crowd, laughing as the children ran to catch them. "Good night!" she cried, rising into the night sky. "Happy Hallowe'en!" And off she flew, astride her broom.

 

SLwitch

 

"Mommy, Mommy!" A little girl in a Red Riding Hood costume tugged at her mother's sleeve. "Is Supergirl a witch?"

Her mother smiled down at her. "Don't worry, sweetie -- she's a good witch."

Invisible in the darkness, Supergirl flew behind the town hall and changed into a checkered calico dress and an old pair of shoes that she'd covered with red glitter-paint. She put on her glasses, adjusted her brown wig -- now done up in pigtails -- and hurried off to join her mother at the other end of the square.

Mrs. Lang was standing behind the refreshment table, handing out donuts and cups of cider to the local teenagers. A song was drifting from a record-player, and several of Lana's classmates were slow-dancing in the moonlight. Clark Kent, in his football uniform, and Suzy Prentiss, in a Cinderella gown, glided past the table, moving gracefully in time to the music.

 

"When the night has come

And the land is dark

And the moon is the only light we'll see,

Oh, I won't be afraid,

No, I won't be afraid,

Just as long as you stand, stand by me ... "

 

"Hi, Clark! Hi, Suzy!" said Lana; but they danced past without hearing her.

Lana glanced over at the table where the record-player and a pair of speakers had been set up. Lex Luthor, wearing a tweed cape and deerstalker cap, was busy adjusting a connection.

"Excuse me, Mom," she said. "I want to say hi to Lex."

Lex looked up and smiled as Lana approached. "Dorothy Gale, I presume?" he asked.

Lana grinned. "Amazing, Holmes! How did you know?"

Lex shrugged modestly. "Elementary. So are you enjoying the party?"

"Oh, I'm having a great time. Thanks for setting this up. We never had dancing at Hallowe'en before."

"Well, it's nothing fancy. Say, Lana, I was wondering -- I mean, if you're not busy helping your mom -- " He nodded vaguely toward the dancing couples.

But Lana's super-keen eyes had spotted something over Lex's shoulder, off in the darkness. "Uh -- I'm sorry Lex. I have to get something. I'll be right back!" And she turned and hurried off across the square, back toward the town hall.

Lex gazed after her for a moment; then he sighed and began flipping through a box of record albums on the table.

"That Lana." Lex looked up. Mrs. Lang shook her head as she handed him a cup of cider. "For such a bright girl, she can be awfully scatter-brained."

Lex took a sip of cider. "Thanks, Mrs. Lang."

Mrs. Lang laid a hand on Lex's arm. "I'm glad the two of you are friends. Why don't you come over for dinner some night? We'd love to have you. Give me a call and we'll set up a date. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my table."

"I'll do that, Mrs. Lang. Thanks!"

 

MEANWHILE ...

 

Behind the town hall, Lana had already changed back into her Supergirl costume. She pulled on her gloves, adjusted her cape, and was just about to spring into the air when a mischievous smile spread across her face. She paused, considering. Why not? she decided. After all, it's Hallowe'en.

The next moment, she was putting on her witch's costume. Muffling the lower half of her face in the cloak, pulling the brim of the hat down over her forehead, she straddled the broom and flew off toward the Smallville water tower, a black outline against the moonlit sky.

Darkness and distance were no impediment to Lana's super-vision. As clearly as if it were broad daylight, she could see the figure clambering up the ladder to the walkway surrounding the water tank. It was a teenage boy wearing a blue Shelbyville High School sweatshirt and carrying something in a knapsack -- something heavy, judging from the way it tugged at the straps. A quick glance with her x-ray vision confirmed Lana's suspicion: It was a can of blue paint.

The boy had almost reached the top of the ladder; he was just about to grasp the topmost rung, when Lana swooped in behind him. Grabbing the collar of his sweatshirt, she yanked him off the ladder and flew round the water tank, dangling him over the treetops at the end of her outstretched arm. Looking down, she could see his upturned face, white with terror, his eyes wide and pale in the moonlight. Lana sent a long, high-pitched cackle into the night air and deposited the boy on the roof of the water tank.

He scrambled to his knees, but as he began sliding down the smooth sloping surface he threw himself face down on the roof, moaning softly, afraid to look up. His insides were watery with fear, his mind was a confused jumble. What just happened?

"This is a funny place to go trick-or-treating, don't you think?"

It was a girl's voice. Slowly, the boy raised his eyes. Standing before him, a tattered black cloak draped over her outstretched arm, her cape fluttering behind her in the chilly breeze, was ...

"Supergirl!" he gasped.

"What's the matter?" she asked, arching an eyebrow. "You were going to an awful lot of trouble to get up here, so I thought I'd give you a lift. But you weren't going to ask for candy, were you?"

"I -- I -- "

"You were going to deface the water tank -- isn't that right? You were going to splash paint all over the mural -- the mural that the students at Smallville High worked so hard on."

"It -- it was Curt -- and Woody! They dared me -- they double-dared me!"

Lana shook her head. "And if they'd dared you to jump off afterward?"

"I'm sorry -- honest! Just get me down from here, okay?"

"Don't worry about that. I'm just trying to decide whether to take you back to your parents or to Chief Parker."

"Aw, c'mon ... "

"Well ... I suppose we can keep this to ourselves -- on one condition."

"What's that?"

"They're putting up a new recreation building at the Smallville Orphanage -- to replace the one that burned down last summer. They need volunteers to help paint it, and since you seem to be handy with a paintbrush ... "

"Okay, I get it."

"Good. Be there at nine o'clock Saturday morning. Oh -- and make sure Curt and Woody are with you."

Stooping, Lana took the boy's wrist and pulled him up on his feet; then she rose several feet into the air. The boy looked down nervously at the moonlit landscape two hundred feet below him.

"Let's get you back down," said Lana. Her tone was gentler now, and she smiled at the would-be vandal. "There's a Hallowe'en party on the town square. Why don't you join it? There's dancing, and a nice lady serving cider and donuts."

 

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