Flash By Northwest (2/14)
a Justice League story
by dotfic and mtgat
Disclaimer: DC Comics and Warner Brothers own the characters and situations. No infringement on their property is intended or should be inferred.
Continuity/Spoilers: Takes place after JLU "Destroyer" and the events of the flashback in "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker"
Thanks to amilyn for her beta on this work. Special thanks also to xffan_2000 and billa1 for editing above and beyond the call of duty on the final draft. All mistakes that may still be found herein are ours alone.
Pairings: Lots. If it was canon, if it was implied in canon --- heck, if we just thought it was amusing at the time --- it's in there.
Summary: The Big Seven (plus one) are trapped inside a world created by a magical artifact. As the body count rises, familiar faces hide deadly secrets and it's up to Flash to save them.
Clark tried to strike up a conversation with his driver, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Bibbo Bibbowski. Bibbo just shrugged him off, leaving Clark to sit uncomfortably in the back of the car watching the dark, rainy road go by.
This wasn't the first time Clark had been without his powers. Red suns, kryptonite, occasional freak magical encounters, these had always taken from him, and then given back. Still he was more worried than he let on to the others. He relied on his powers in both lives. To be stranded somewhere without them made him feel human, but also just a little bit terrified.
When the car pulled up to a bulky, tall building in the middle of the city, Clark stared. "This is where I live?"
"Mr. Wayne said to bring you here," said Bibbo, grouchily. He didn't get out of the car to open Clark's door.
"Thanks," Clark said, and left him sitting there. Bruce would have already paid him.
The front door was locked, but one of the keys on Clark's ring eventually opened it. Chilly and wet, Clark walked into the darkened lobby. He read the signs on the wall until he spied The Daily Devil, the same name as was on his press ID. Second floor.
He took the stairs.
No one was there. As it was gone past midnight, Clark wasn't surprised. He found a cot in the back room that looked well-used. He needed to prowl around the office and try to discover any clues he could. But suddenly he was very tired. Maybe just a quick break. I can rest my eyes.
Clark's head shot up at Perry's shout. "Yes, Chief?" he asked on autopilot, scrambling to his feet. How long had he been out?
"Where's my exclusive? Did you get pictures? Lane, get your butt over here!" Perry White emerged from his office like a short, plump volcano god, clouded over with his own personal climate of cigar smoke and belligerence.
Pictures? "Sorry, Perry."
Perry cursed a blue streak, and again the godlike air was magnified as his intonation brought forth Jimmy from the elevator.
"I got copies of the police photos, Chief!" Jimmy grinned. "Paid the guy twenty bucks for 'em."
"Good job, Olsen," said Perry, before rounding on Clark again. "That's the kind of initiative I want around here! Lane!"
"Right here, Chief," said Lois. Clark gaped. Aside from their clothes, the other familiar faces he'd seen still looked more or less the same, but Lois had undergone a striking shift. Gone was her long hair, replaced with a short flip, and gone too was something on her face, though Clark couldn't place it. She looked tired, and too made-up. He thought it could have been from the early hour --- dawn hadn't yet come --- but he'd seen her on too many all-night stakeouts to really believe that.
"Lane, help Kent write up the story."
"What story?" asked Clark, before he remembered. "Oh."
Perry glared at him. "Listen, you want to booze and schmooze with the hoity-toity scum, that's your business. But when my, ha, 'star reporter' is right there when the most famous actress in Los Diablos gets shot, I damn well want my exclusive on page one! So tell Lane what you remember, and go into the back and sleep it off."
Perry stomped back to his office and slammed the door. Moments later, Clark heard him yelling on the phone to get warm bodies to the presses so they could get the morning edition out early.
Lois sighed and sat down at her typewriter. Without even speaking to Clark, she started typing. Just over her shoulder, he could read: "The Vixen Murdered! One Reporter's Harrowing Experience! Last night, at a gala ball hosted by wealthy producer Bruce Wayne, Mari 'The Vixen' Macabe was brutally gunned down ... "
Jimmy grinned at Clark in a predatory way. "Right there with the body, and you didn't get a photo? You're slipping, Kent." As he walked by, Jimmy placed a possessive hand on Lois' neck. Clark watched her cringe as she kept typing.
As soon as he was gone, she said, "You can chime in any time you want, Kent."
"The story? Which you were there for? What was she wearing? Did you see anything? Did her husband do it?"
"What? No." His mind raced back. "Her dress was cream-colored. Sequins. Shoes to match." He picked up the picture Jimmy had left on the desk. It wasn't good quality, and what he could see didn't do Vixen justice. She had sparkled, he remembered now, even in death.
Someone had killed her, right in front of him, in front of all of them, and he had no idea who or why. She wasn't what he'd call a friend, but he'd liked her. John was his friend, and John loved her, or did a good enough impression to dispel the doubts Clark had first entertained. "Her husband didn't kill her."
"Fine," Lois said, still typing. "Did his mistress do it?"
The driver, who looked a little too much like the photos she'd seen of Cyrus Gold to make her at all happy, deposited her in front of a bungalow atop a palm-dotted ridge overlooking the ocean. "Thank you," she said, but he only grunted and drove off.
Shayera wasn't going to think about her wings. She'd nearly twisted her head off to check; the skin on her back was smooth, if just as muscular as she'd always been. Despite the complete shift in her center of gravity and the tight heels, she found she could walk easily. Magic, and she wasn't anywhere near her usual tool for dealing with it.
So she wouldn't think about her wings, not for now.
She found a key in the frilly purse Alfred had claimed was hers, and let herself inside.
The electric lights flickered unsteadily, but provided enough light to see. The house was small; she'd use the word 'cozy' but already she felt her breath quicken a little at the closeness. Small kitchen with --- yes! --- an icebox filled with decent beer and what looked to her hopeful eye like good cuts of raw fish. She opened a bottle and had a look around 'her' place.
This did not take long. The kitchen opened onto a sitting room with a small couch, a radio, and a fireplace too clean to have been used even once. Off the sitting room was a bedroom and bathroom. Tub, no shower. She growled. The bedroom was a win, with large windows and a high ceiling. Also an unmade bed, but that wasn't unusual for anyone who was her.
There were clothes piled on the floor, and as she poked through them, she noticed that many of them were male. She brought a shirt to her nose and breathed in, but although she could typically identify anyone she'd ever known by scent alone at fifty paces, she barely even smelled laundry soap.
During her five year mission, her research had turned up all manner of things about Earth and its culture. A child's story came back to her now, with a little blonde girl and bears, as she stood and stared at her own disheveled bed.
The back seat of the car was roomier than the cars Wally was used to, and there was more leg room, which was also a novelty. The driver was a nervous-looking little fellow who wore glasses.
As they turned a corner, through the raindrop-spattered window, Wally saw a movie marquee, its lights dimmed now that the hour was so late. The theater was playing a film he'd never heard of yet sounded vaguely familiar all the same: KISS ME TWICE BEFORE LEAVING.
On the lobby card under glass on the wall of the movie theater a beautiful face stared back at him as the car rolled passed, the gracefully pointed chin, full mouth, large eyes. She stared wistfully off into the distance, a scarf about her neck. The chiseled features of the film's leather-jacket clad hero was smaller than her image. COMING SOON was emblazoned across the bottom of the poster; the film apparently had something to do with airplanes, palm trees, and a bottle of gin. He read the title and the names of the leads, although he already knew what one of them would be. ON THE WINGS OF FALLEN ANGELS, starring Mari Macabe and Matt Hagen.
Wally sat back into the deep seat. Here, she was dead, and she'd stay dead unless he could solve this. You're the one who has to save her.
This was why he'd gone into forensics, long before the accident changed his body and gave him super-speed. To save people. He'd picked forensics and not patrol work because guns weren't for him. He doubted he could shoot someone. But he could analyze a hair under a microscope or examine a millimeter-sized piece of fingernail and save an innocent person from going to jail or stop a killer from taking another life.
"H-hey, mister," the driver stuttered, and Wally realized the car had come to a stop. "Y-your stop."
"Thanks, buddy." Wally opened the door, which was heavy and creaked a bit, and stepped out into the misting rain.
The car drove away, its tires making a soft shushing sound as they rolled through a puddle. Wally darted out of the way of the drops. He stood in front of a small stucco apartment building with a scalloped roof. Reaching into his coat, Wally pulled out the keys. One he guessed was for his office and one for his apartment.
He made his way inside. The entry foyer was tiled, and his footsteps sounded loudly in the quiet. According to the mailboxes, W. West lived in apartment 22B. There was no elevator but it was an easy walk up for him, even without his super speed.
When he unlocked the door and tried to open it, it caught on something. Wally shoved his way in and fumbled for the light-switch, which turned out to be a push-button thing.
The place was a mess. The door had caught on a half-empty takeout food wrapper. There were newspapers, files, and empty bottles of booze on the coffee table, couch, end table, and on the floor.
He found a note attached to the refrigerator with a magnet: Dear Mr. West: You have until Friday to come up with the rest of the rent or you're out of here. And clean up this mess! Mrs. Sawyer Wally crumpled up the note and tossed it into the metal trash can.
Then he wandered into the equally messy bedroom, tossed his damp raincoat over a chair and, with great relief, got out of the awful tuxedo. The toothpaste he found in the bathroom tasted weird, too chalky and not sweet enough, and the bristles of the toothbrush were harsh.
Wearing only his boxers, Wally flopped back onto the bed, which was a tumble of covers and shirts and dirty socks. He kicked a few of the clothes onto the floor, then lay on his back staring at the shadow of the window panes the streetlights cast onto the ceiling.
Apparently, this P.I. character was a slob. Wally was pretty messy himself, but he wasn't this bad. He put his hands over his face, suddenly tireder than he could remember being in a long time. Better get to sleep.
In the morning he'd get to his office. Then, he'd find a way to save Mari.
No, they all would.
With the last guests shushed out the door, Bruce did a final walk around what appeared to be his home. The layout was different from Wayne Manor, but not from what he was used to in other ostentatious mansions. Alfred watched him curiously as he walked from room to room; Bruce made mental notes and tried to think back clearly to the moment they'd arrived.
It had been dark. The lights had been off, though briefly. A visit to the basement showed Bruce an antique electrical system expensively if inexpertly wired. It was a wonder the house didn't simply burn down.
There would be no Batcave. He didn't try searching.
So. Dark. And Bruce had been standing here, and Mari's body had been there, on the other side of the police cordon, still guarded by a bored man who looked like the alternate Green Lantern Bruce had met in the future.
Bruce paced the barrier. Mari was there, and the gun was found here, about ten feet away, dropped or thrown. In his perfect memory, the pistol slowly spun and stopped.
From the wound she'd suffered, she'd been shot from the front. He hadn't been able to tell if it had been from an upward angle.
Bruce closed his eyes.
Blood, too much blood. Dead center of her heart, a perfect shot. The low cut of her dress meant the bullet had straight access. Call it from above. He opened his eyes, and saw a large mezzanine overlooking the floor. Fifty people at least could have been standing there. If he was wrong, and it was a straight shot, another fifty could have been standing below.
His memory wouldn't cooperate, told him Joker and Harley had been on the other side of the room. The angle was completely wrong. But he wanted to believe it anyway.
"Can I help you?" Jordan asked him finally.
"No," said Bruce. "I'm just thinking."
I was standing over here. She was facing away from me. I couldn't have killed her.
He hadn't suspected himself, not really, but it was comforting to know that he was looking for a murderer who wasn't sharing a body with him.
"Thank you, officer," he said, and went up to find his bedroom.
Barbara beat him there.
"I was wonderin' when you were comin' up," she said. Her bare shoulders peeked out from under the spill of her hair, and only the fine red satin of the sheets covered the rest of her.
Bruce tried not to stammer, and tried not to look without looking like he was trying not to look. This was akin to giving himself whiplash while standing still.
"Is there a reason you haven't called me 'Babs' all night, Bruce? 'Cause it's gettin' on my nerves."
"No. Babs. It's been a stressful night." He waved his hand. "Maybe you should ... "
She raised a cool eyebrow at him. "I should what?" Her voice was different, just for a moment, and Bruce had a sudden firm conviction that the bubble-head act was exactly that, though for whose benefit she maintained it was anyone's guess.
"I need to be alone right now," he said, watching her face.
"Do you?" Flat. Completely flat.
"The shock," said Bruce. "There was ... so much blood." He didn't want to let out his inner trauma patient, the one that screamed inside his head whenever he heard a gunshot. Too easy for him to see every gun-related death as an echo, to end up a sobbing child after every car backfire. But he could mimic the pain, almost without feeling it.
"Did you kill her?"
"What?" This time the shock was real. He'd eliminated himself as a suspect simply as a matter of course.
Barbara shrugged. "I didn't. I thought maybe you did."
"Why would I?"
"Maybe because that big announcement of hers wasn't such a good thing for you. Maybe because she was calling it quits between the two of you. Don't ask me."
"I didn't kill her," said Bruce with conviction.
"Then that's settled." She leaned in for a kiss, and before Bruce had processed this, he'd kissed her back.
He broke away. "Barbara. I can't. Not tonight." Or ever. He was aware of the real Barbara's crush on him, had dealt with it as best he could and still maintain cohesion in their team. She was Jim Gordon's little girl, and Dick's old girlfriend, and also ...
And also completely naked under the sheet just as he'd thought. The warmth from her body, escaping from the covers, enveloped him. His hands roamed enough to grab the sheet and pull it back over her demurely before his brain stopped working and got him into worse trouble.
"What's gotten into you? You're always ready for a little tumble after a party."
"A woman died at this one."
"And you'll notice I ain't askin' if you were sleepin' with her!" Her voice had gone shrill. That helped, even if her words didn't. "I get you at night. Those other floozies, they can have you whenever. But you're mine at night! Macabe's dead. If you were stepping out with her, that's your business and I ain't askin'. But now it's nighttime, and you're with me, not some little starlet, and not the memory of one, either."
"I'm not. I wasn't." I hope.
"Fine. Whatever. Good." She looked away, the color high in her cheeks making her blotchy. He wasn't sure if she believed him.
He tried a new tactic. "You said you didn't kill her. I know I didn't. Who do you think did?"
Barbara rubbed her face. "Like I'd know."
"Who had a reason for wanting her dead?"
"You're puttin' me on, right?"
"Pretend I'm stupid."
"I ain't pretendin', Brucie."
He hid his sigh. "All right, you know I'm stupid. Tell me everybody you know who might want Mari Macabe dead."
"Do I have to?"
"No. But that's what I'm going to be doing tonight, and I'd like your ... help."
She eyed him suspiciously. "Why?"
He smiled charmingly. "Because you're a beautiful, intelligent woman."
She rolled her eyes at him. "You're drunk." But she told him anyway.
The car took nearly half an hour to arrive at its destination. J'onn tried again and again to make contact with anyone, reach out his mind past the prison of his own form. Nothing.
He remembered this.
Trapped inside his mind, trapped inside one shape, locked in a room, strapped to a machine.
J'onn rolled down the window and attempted to breathe. The driver, who could have been the twin brother to J. Allen Carter, glanced at him in the rearview mirror but said nothing as J'onn fought himself not to claw his way out of the car.
At last, the vehicle stopped and he could open the door like a sane person. The driver didn't speak to him, merely drove off into the night.
The house loomed in the darkness. A light glowed in a downstairs window. He found a key in his pocket and unlocked the door.
His home was sumptuously decorated, if he was any judge. Lush furnishings, deep hangings over the windows, heavy wooden tables and sideboards. The art on the walls was ...
He turned, hearing her footsteps on the stairs.
"I was wondering when you were coming home," Ming said. She wore a thick red robe, and her eyes were lined with sleep.
"The party ran late," he said. Can you hear me? Please. Hear me.
She tilted her head up to him, but there was no answering response from her mind. He took her hand, surprising her, and asked, "Have you noticed anything strange tonight?"
She pulled her hand back. "No. Why?"
Another simulation. He'd known, but he'd hoped anyway.
"No reason." Then he remembered. "Mari Macabe was murdered tonight."
"Was she?" Ming shivered, looking around the house as if someone might hear her. "Did you kill her?"
He recoiled. "No!" But Batman had insisted they discover their innocence, hadn't he? "Why would you think I did?"
Ming shrugged. "Maybe she found you out. Did she make her big announcement?"
He shook his head. Perhaps she had; he would have to ask someone who'd been there.
"Then don't worry about her. Tomorrow, burn the books. Tonight, come to bed."
He pulled back. She stared at him. "What is it?"
"Then do your 'nothing' later."
"I ... I'm going to stay up for a while. You go to bed."
Ming let out a little sigh. "Fine." Without another word, she went back upstairs.
He watched her go. True, she looked and sounded exactly like his wife. But she was no more real than a soap bubble reflection, and the thought of crawling into a bed next to her unnerved him.
Books. And Barbara Gordon had mentioned that he "skimmed" from Vixen's accounts. With a little searching, he found an office and quietly began to examine the documents there. Numbers in rows and columns, ticked up neatly but annotated in a code he didn't understand. Some entries were random strings of letters that might be directions, abbreviations, or initials.
He eventually fell asleep at the desk, a page filled with numbers still clutched in one hand.
This was Mari's house. John had no doubts, not from the moment the car pulled up the long, curved driveway. The mansion was enormous, overlooking a broad expanse of the city below on one side, the sea crashing unseen but still loud in the back.
The driver, the chauffeur, John's chauffeur, opened the door for him. John tried not to gape at what should have been his own home.
"I just wanted to extend my condolences, sir," the driver had said when John had gotten into the unfamiliar car. Now slippered and berobed figures emerged from the house, and while his eye wasn't as used to this as Bruce's probably was, he realized they were the staff. His staff.
A few of the women were crying.
He hadn't cried. He wasn't going to cry. Bruce had said this wasn't real. Zatanna had confirmed it. Mari wasn't dead, not permanently dead at least, and that was the one thought he clung to during their hasty meeting and the long ride home. They'd figure out this puzzle, and get out of this stupid book, and Mari would be fine. They'd laugh about this one of these days, maybe even tell the story to their kids.
Another thought struck him, aside from the usual twinge when he remembered his other child. Please God, don't let us have kids in this storybook. Clark's eyes still grew shadowed when Mongul's name came up in conversation, and John already had enough to digest on that particular plate.
As his eyes adjusted to the odd, cloudy moonlight, John recognized the faces of his staff. Rex Mason had "butler" written all over his somber face, and Sapphire was either a maid or a cook. He recognized old girlfriends, a distant cousin, and now that he got a good look at the chauffeur's face, he felt like an idiot for not recognizing Guy right off.
"Please say it's not true, sir," said his cousin Sue through puffy eyes.
John cleared his throat. "I think we'll all be better for a good night's sleep," he managed to say, and that was enough for Susie to burst into tears on Katma's shoulder. Kat patted her hair as she glared daggers at John.
"You could at least pretend to care," she snapped. No "sir," he noticed.
"I'm not ready to talk about this," he told her, which was true. And if Kat was as much of an illusion as the rest of them, it wasn't as though she'd believe him anyway. "Go inside, all of you. Go back to bed. We'll figure out everything in the morning."
There were mutters as the staff migrated back in through the doors, although John caught a distinct: " ... surprised he even came home tonight ... " in Kat's voice, the rest lost in the low mumbling and sniffling. Guy got back into the car and drove it off towards a garage which John later found out was behind the house and to the side.
Despite his instruction, Mace stayed behind to get John's jacket. "Your nightclothes are laid out in your room, sir," he said. John stared in his friend's face for any trace of real recognition, any line of fine irony at the odd situation. Nothing.
"Would you like me to fix you a drink?"
"No. Just go." He placed a hand to his own forehead, feigning a headache. "I'll go upstairs in a few minutes."
"Sir, on behalf of the staff, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am."
"Me too," John said, and waited for Mace to leave.
Then he let out his breath. Were the other six not right there with him in the study back at Bruce's, he'd have thought he was cracking up. Stay focused, he told himself. He wasn't doing Mari any favors by letting this place get to him. First, do a little recon, check out the lay of the land. Then, find out whatever he could. Look through paperwork. Ask as many questions as he could without sounding like a fool. Find out why Katma was so angry with him, because his gut told him that was going to be important.
Don't let Mari down, Stewart. She's only got Hotshot, and if you rely on him, she's dead and you know it.
"Sir?" came the voice from the top of the stairs, and John knew he'd spoken aloud. Fantastic. He wondered if he would get extra Crazy Points for talking to himself.
"Never mind," he said loudly.
Then he removed his shoes to poke around his own home as quietly as he could.
The place was huge. If he'd had even a lingering doubt that this was Mari's house, those were set to rest as soon as he got a good look at the décor. Everything was very much to her tastes, from the lace curtains edging the tall windows in the dining room, to the crystal goblets on display, and from the false columns at the stairway to the fine tile on the floor. Art pieces which he knew weren't prints lined the parlor, and while he wasn't going to be able to pick out a Picasso from a Matisse, he was certain the paintings would be seriously expensive.
Another room, God only knew what it was called, and John saw Mari everywhere. Her face smiled at him, or looked away dramatically, from dozens of movie posters and still photos on the walls or in frames on low tables. The surfaces that weren't covered in pictures were mirrored, including the ceiling. Had Mari stood in this room, she would have seen herself everywhere she looked.
It was unnerving, and as soon as John had taken enough of a glance to see what he needed, he hurried out.
Enormous kitchen, and here at least he could see what was probably his own influence in the icebox: chilled beer and what looked like a quick-frozen array of things he liked to eat.
Still another room appeared to be his den, filled with worn but comfortable leather chairs, books in shelves up to the ceiling, antique guns, and a faint aroma of tobacco. Either his counterpart smoked, or he had friends over often who did.
She kept him well.
From this room, he could see the ocean just through a sparse covering of palm trees lining a private beach. The moon was out from behind her cloud again, and bathed the world in an eerie glow. In the distance, as the seaside curved out and away farther north, he could just make out a light in another house. He wasn't the only one up this late. Someone else out there was up at who knew what past midnight, for his or her own reasons that had nothing to do with the pain John wasn't letting himself think about in his own heart, and that's what finally brought it home to him.
This was real. Maybe not permanent, but in the terms of his existence, right now, this was as close to real as he could get.
In this reality, Mari was quite definitely dead.
And now, he let himself feel it.
When she arrived at the apartment, Diana noticed three things right off the bat. The third thing she noticed was the smell. It wasn’t musty, not quite. More like the odor of things forgotten and left to moulder quietly with no one to care, of cheap wood and cheaper wallpaper, and clothes too old and stained to ever launder properly.
The second thing she noticed was how very small it was. The kitchen was a sink, a hotplate, and a table barely big enough to hold the pile of letters abandoned on the top and the glass of water with the handful of flowers stuck hopefully in it. Two chairs crammed under the table, as if shoving the thing further in the corner. An overflowing wardrobe took up part of one wall. The rest of the room was filled by the two small beds.
Audrey was asleep on one of them.
Diana suspected that coming in from the night at two a.m. to waken someone in order to ask if she was her lover or just her roommate was probably too much, even for this skewed reality. In the harsh light coming in from the streetlamps outside through the thin paper blinds, Diana dug through the wardrobe until she found a nightgown that looked like it might fit, and dressed for bed.
As she pulled the covers over herself, Audrey stirred. "How was the party, darling?"
"Not as good as it could have been."
"Did your friend tell her secret?"
Secret? "I don't think so."
"Mmm." Audrey sounded like she was drifting off again.
"Did you know Mari Macabe?"
"She's your friend, not mine." The voice was tired, but Diana heard some of the familiar haughtiness in it. Some things remained true.
"Oh." From the sounds, Audrey was now wide awake in the small bed across from her. In what wasn't remotely a casual voice, she asked, "Was it you?"
Honesty bade her admit that she didn't know. Sanity reminded her this wasn't really Audrey and that the truth wasn't at all clear no matter where she looked. "No. I don't know who did it."
"But it wasn't you," Audrey said again, continuing to explore the option. "I wouldn't tell the police, even if you did. Silly men, full of themselves. It'd be all right if you told me."
"I didn't." But now I know you think I did.
"That's fine," said Audrey, and she rolled over and went to sleep.
Diana had no such option, not tonight, and still she found her eyes slipping shut. She'd ask Audrey more in the morning.
Clark woke suddenly. He'd lain back down on the cot in the back room of the press office for a few minutes, but his internal clock told him he'd been out for at least an hour. He grabbed his glasses and jammed them back on his face, realizing belatedly that in this magical world, he wasn't Superman and didn't have to worry about protecting his secret identity. Not that one, anyway.
Out in the office, Lois was reading the article. Clark peered over her shoulder. It was a bit fanciful and speculative, but otherwise a solid piece of writing. He reread the title and noticed his own name in the byline. "Lois, you forgot to put your name on it."
"Funny, Kent." She didn't bother looking at him. "I'll run this down to typesetting if you don't have any corrections."
"No. It's fine," he said, as she got up suddenly and walked away.
He stifled the urge to ask her what her problem was. This wasn't the time. Instead, as soon as Lois was gone, he took the opportunity to poke around the office. Old papers were preserved behind glass, and Clark read headline after headline with his name attached: Senator Sex Scandal Exposed; Mayor Hill Money Laundering; Actor Found Slain in Home, Manager Chief Suspect. He skimmed each article, noting flourishes and turns of phrase that he recognized as Lois' style rather than his, but her name wasn't attached to any of them. He gave a little start when he saw that all the papers were from the mid to late forties, but then, given what everyone was wearing, maybe he shouldn't have been surprised.
More investigation turned up little, until he found the locked cabinet in the back. Clark checked his keyring, trying keys until he found one that turned the tumblers.
The files inside were in plain brown folders, each marked with a name. All of the names were familiar, which wasn't surprising. This place, this office, would be built from Clark's own mind and memories.
He located a file with Vixen's real name and opened it.
His eyes went wide, and then he closed the folder as quickly as he could, his face burning bright red. Then, because he wanted to confirm what he'd seen, he looked again. He put the folder on his desk under his jacket before Lois returned.
To be Continued...