Manip by Khyla. Used with permission of the artist.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
He's leaping buildings in a single bound
I'm reading Shakespeare at my place downtown...
I'm Jimmy Olsen, not a titan, you see
- Spin Doctors, "Jimmy Olsen's Blues"
Jimmy Olsen's Blues, Part 4
"This isn't a real news story," I grumbled.
Chloe Sullivan looked over at me as we walked along the sidewalks of Metropolis, heading for the densely packed crowd that filled the street a block or so ahead of us. "Quit whining, Jimmy," she said, smiling. "It beats doing obits. And besides, you should have been with me last month, when I had to cover the Smallville Corn Festival. Now that was so totally not news."
I grinned back at her, because Chloe has an infectious smile, and because I kind of like her. She's a great girl, and we have a lot in common. But I'd finally resigned myself to the fact that she was in love with a guy named Clark Kent, who lived in rural Smallville. He and Chloe had gone to high school together, and they'd apparently always been close. They were on the outs right now, but it was obvious to me they were seriously in love, even if neither one of them wanted to admit it.
Ordinarily I might try to move in on Chloe anyway, but CK had saved my life last week, which made it kind of hard for me to resent the guy. Besides, it was obvious to me that Chloe wasn't over him, and probably never would be. I didn't see the point in pursuing her if it was just going to get my heart broken and my ego crushed. I prefer my ego to remain intact, thank you very much.
"That sounds really boring," I answered. "What's Smallville like, anyway?"
Her eyes twinkled. "Small."
We were approaching the outer fringes of the crowd. A lot of people seemed to have turned out for the Celtic Heritage Festival. I could hear harps playing over the noise of the crowd, and I could smell a lot of food. Closest to me was a hot dog cart. I'm pretty sure hot dogs aren't Celtic, but they smelled awfully good.
Chloe moved through the crowd easily. It's weird-- she's small and slender, but people just seem to move aside for her. She was dressed in a green, short-sleeved dress that kind of clung to her curves, and I saw more than one man check out her butt as she passed.
I had to struggle to keep up with her. I'm a lot bigger than she is, but I'm not the kind of guy people step aside for. In fact, most of the time people barely seem to notice me. Geeks have a sort of cloaking device that stops anyone from seeing them. And although it pains me to admit it, I'm definitely a geek.
It was hot, and I could feel the afternoon sun beating down on the back of my neck. Sweat was beginning to bead on my forehead. Even though it was September, it was too damn hot to be wearing a suit and tie.
All of a sudden there was a commotion ahead of us, and I saw a sudden burst of flame.
"Jimmy!" Chloe yelled back over her shoulder. "Get moving!"
Now, if you didn't know Chloe Sullivan, you might assume that by get moving, she meant, "Run away from the flames." But I knew better. She was already heading toward the flames, hustling as fast as a person can hustle in high heels-- and I don't know how women even walk in those things, let alone jog like Chloe was doing.
I would have preferred to get moving in the opposite direction, personally, but I wasn't going to leave Chloe alone to deal with whatever was going on. Besides, I'm supposed to be a photographer, and you don't get pictures of the news if you run away from it. I fought my way through the panicking crowd and stood, panting and sweaty, next to Chloe.
The hot dog cart I'd glimpsed earlier was on fire. I yanked out my camera and started clicking away, trying to capture the panic of the people around it on film.
And then another food stand caught on fire.
I lowered the camera and stared. Whoa. What the hell was going on here? My best guess was terrorism-- someone trying to kill people in one of the biggest cities in the world and create a panic. If so, it was working, because everyone was definitely panicking.
People stampeded again, and I reached out, grabbed Chloe, and pulled her flat against a wall so she wouldn't get trampled.
Something red came sailing out of an alley, slamming hard onto the asphalt. Considering everything I'd seen lately, I wasn't really surprised to see it was Chloe's friend, Clark Kent, wearing jeans and a red t-shirt. The man was supposed to live in Smallville, but he seemed to hang out in Metropolis an awful lot. And he definitely got around. Wherever there was trouble, you could expect to find CK.
He'd told me last week that he'd been out of the country, and now he was being pursued by mobsters. Bizarre though that story sounded -- because how many Kansas farm kids get mixed up with the mob?-- it seemed to be borne out by everything I'd seen. There was no doubt in my mind that CK was in some sort of really serious trouble.
He stirred, struggling to get up, and something came walking out of the alley toward him. People screamed and fled, and I didn't blame them, because this thing was really scary. I don't know how to describe it. It was bipedal and huge, and it was covered with dingy, grayish fur. I swear, it looked like Bigfoot.
I lifted the camera and started clicking. Even if the Daily Planet wouldn't print them, maybe the local tabloid, the Inquisitor, would. I could see the headline now: Bigfoot Invades Metropolis!
It sounded like the kind of crazy stuff the Inquisitor printed.
The only problem was, it was real.
Has to be a costume of some kind, I thought. It just has to be.
And then the thing opened its mouth, and fire shot out.
Chloe let out a piercing scream as flames shot toward CK. He rolled, barely getting out of the way in time, and struggled to his feet, lurching toward the thing. He slammed into it in a tackle, and they both went to the ground in a tangle.
CK had told me he'd played football in high school, and I could easily believe it. Because while he was a big guy, Bigfoot's doppelganger was a lot bigger. And yet he managed to knock it right off its feet. Flames shot into the air again, and I thought I saw CK's head in the path of the flames, but when the flames fizzled out, CK's hair wasn't on fire, so obviously I was seeing things.
CK fought hard, managing to land some pretty good punches on the thing, but it roared and flung him off, and he went sailing into the asphalt again.
Chloe had been standing at my side, staring with huge eyes, but all of a sudden she moved, grabbing something out of her purse, then kicking off her heels and sprinting forward. She held out the object she'd recovered from her purse, and I had just enough time to see that it was a Taser kind of weapon before she zapped the big furry monster with it.
I seriously doubted the Taser would have any effect through the costume... if it was a costume. Either way, I doubted the thing could feel it through all that fur. But it roared, sounding pissed off, and batted at her with a big paw.
She went flying.
I heard a yell of fury, and looked back to see CK on his feet, charging the thing. His face was contorted with rage, and he slammed into the monster with the force of a freight train, then started to beat the living hell out of it. The two of them rolled into the alley and disappeared from sight.
CK seemed to have matters under control, momentarily, at least. I shook off my shock and ran over to Chloe. "Chloe," I said, putting my fingers on her throat. I could feel her pulse, and some of the fear left me. I'd been afraid the thing had snapped her neck. I shook her shoulder, very gently. "Chloe. Wake up."
Her eyes flickered open. She looked at me for a minute, then her eyes went wide. "Clark."
"Chloe. Wait. You're going to get yourself killed."
She shook off my restraining hand, ran over to where her Taser had fallen, and retrieved it, then disappeared into the alley, where the sound of roaring still could be heard.
Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it. If the Taser hadn't worked the first time, what made the girl think it was going to work any better now? Then again, I didn't have any better weapon on me, either.
I looked around frantically, trying to figure out what the hell I should do. I didn't see any cops-- I guessed they were all trying to control the crowd. And calling 911 was useless at this point. I figured it was up to me and Chloe to save CK's ass.
Last time I'd helped CK out, I'd managed to save him from a guy who'd attacked him. I'd hit the guy with a rock, and that had scared him off. But I didn't see any rocks, or two by fours, or anything along those lines. Just a few stands of food and various Celtic objects, like musical instruments.
Panpipes were not going to help me in this situation.
My eyes moved past the panpipes, to the next cart, and I recognized a display of shillelaghs.
No, I don't know a thing about Celtic history. I recognized the clubs because Finlay carries one on "Smackdown." And no, I don't actually watch "Smackdown." I just kind of leave the TV turned on while I'm reading Shakespeare, okay?
The cart had been abandoned-- its owner had probably figured it was about to go up in flames, and I didn't blame him for running-- so I helped myself to a shillelagh. It felt nice and solid in my hands, and I took off down the alley with it clutched tightly in my fists.
The furry monster was roaring angrily. Chloe was still zapping it, her features set with determination as she dodged its blows, and I couldn't see what CK was doing, because he was pretty much hidden behind its furry bulk. But if it was still roaring, I figured they were both in trouble. In fact, we were all in trouble, because the thing didn't have a problem with randomly setting fires. It was only a matter of time before it torched an innocent bystander.
I charged up behind it. The creature reeked, like a dog that hadn't been bathed in years, but I held my breath and tried to ignore the stink. I lifted my shillelagh, channeled Finlay as best I could, and clobbered the thing across the skull with all my strength.
The thing staggered and went to its knees. I saw CK stumble backward, away from it.
Maybe finding itself under attack from three different people was too much for it, or maybe it had just had enough. But either way, it made a whimpering sound, sounding a lot like a wounded dog, and ran away on all fours.
I put down the shillelagh and noticed there was a big crack in it. Damn it. I was going to have to pay for the thing, and on what the Planet was paying me I could barely afford to buy food. "You guys okay?"
Chloe nodded shakily. CK got to his feet and went toward her, and then he picked her up in his arms and held her, burying his face in her hair. And then they were kissing, their mouths locked together, their arms wrapped around each other.
I guess it was all very romantic, but I'm a guy, and not all that into romance. Besides, there was still some jealousy lurking inside me. I mean, I like Chloe. A lot. But she was sobbing and clinging to CK and kissing the hell out of him, and it was obvious I'd lost her, if I'd ever had her to begin with. Which I doubted. I was pretty sure she'd belonged to CK for years now.
Even so, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. "So what happened to keeping her safe, CK?"
Clark lifted his head away from Chloe's and blinked like he was coming out of a dream. He looked at me, then swallowed and pushed Chloe away.
"Hold it," she said, grabbing his arms and refusing to let him back off. "What is this about keeping me safe?"
"It's a long story," he answered.
"It's not all that long," I said helpfully, earning a glare from Clark. "CK told me he was out of the country a few weeks ago, and when he came back the mob was after him. He doesn't want you to get mixed up in it, so he's trying to stay away from you."
"The mob?" Chloe looked perplexed for a split second, then some sort of understanding dawned, and she turned back to CK, her eyes glittering with fury. "You dumbass, you've been avoiding me because you've been trying to keep me safe?"
CK looked abashed. "Look, Chloe, my life is kind of a mess right now..."
"Your life is always a mess!" She shoved both hands into his chest, hard. He backed away from the rage in her voice, and she stalked him across the narrow alley, until he backed up against a brick wall and stood there, looking cornered. "Quit trying to protect me, and quit cutting me out of your life, damn it!"
His eyes looked very serious. "Things are more dangerous now than ever, Chlo."
That was a weird statement, since he lived in Smallville, and tiny farming communities in Kansas are not usually on the top ten list of The Most Dangerous Places to Live in America. Yeah, obviously he'd gotten into hot water recently, but it sounded like he'd been in trouble before. I wasn't sure what he meant, exactly, but she seemed to understand him.
"We've been through a lot together, Clark," she said, smacking him on the chest again. "We've always been there for each other. I'm not going to leave you to face this-- whatever it is-- alone."
"But you could get hurt," he said, very softly.
She glared into his eyes. "For you," she snapped, "I'm willing to take that chance."
"I'm not, damn it."
"Tough. You can't get rid of me that easily, Kent. You're stuck with me, whether you like it or not."
He looked at her for a long moment, and then his arms went around her, and the two of them were kissing again, looking like they'd never stop.
I sighed, turned away, and went to take some more pictures.
"I think there's five of them," Clark was saying. He was half sitting on Chloe's desk at the Daily Planet, and they were talking in intense whispers, but I could still hear what they were saying. Because, yeah, I was shamelessly eavesdropping. "At least there were. I'm pretty sure I've gotten rid of two, but there are at least three left, and they keep coming after me. And they're scary as hell. I'm sorry I pushed you away, but things really aren't safe right now, Chlo."
"We'll deal with them somehow, Clark." She looked up at him, frowning. "Why are they after you, anyway?"
"Because of..." He looked up and apparently noticed I was eavesdropping, because he frowned. "My father."
In response to his frown, I looked down at my work, a little embarrassed he'd caught me listening. So this wasn't about CK after all, but about something his dad had done. Interesting. I thought Chloe had said his dad was just a farmer, but obviously he'd done something to tick off the mob.
And apparently the mob had fur and fangs.
I scowled at my desk. I wasn't sure I'd ever know exactly what had happened today, or what that monster was. It had to be a costume. I mean, it had to be. A furry costume, some sort of trick apparatus that made it appear to breathe fire... probably not all that hard to rig up, really.
But I'd seen it close up and personal, and it had sure looked real to me. It had smelled real, too. A costume couldn't possibly smell that rank.
I sighed, baffled by everything that I'd seen. I didn't know what had happened, and I probably never would.
All I knew was that I was giving up on women permanently. The romance thing just wasn't for me. Every time I found a great woman, she went for another guy. Every single frigging time. Women just weren't worth the effort.
At that moment a loud voice cut across the low buzz of the room. "Hey there, cuz. I was wondering if you wanted to do a late lunch."
I looked up and saw a gorgeous woman making her way across the room toward Chloe's desk. She had long brown hair and a nice smile and a really nice pair of... uh, shoes. In response to her approach, Chloe smiled widely, and CK looked pained.
She was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I stood up and went toward Chloe's desk like the woman was a magnet.
"Sure," Chloe said. "I could use some lunch. How about you, Clark? Want to do lunch?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty hungry." He reached out and took Chloe's hand in a casual gesture of affection, and the newcomer wrinkled her nose, looking as disgusted as if they'd suddenly started having sex on top of the desk.
"Great," she drawled. "I see you two finally worked out your issues. Oh joy."
Chloe laughed softly. "Don't be rude, Lois."
"She can't help it," CK said. "It's just who she is."
I was pretty sure Lois was about to grab a stapler and start whacking CK with it, so I approached, hoping to avert bloodshed. "Hey," I said. "I'm starving, too. Mind if I join you?"
The woman looked me over like I was from another planet, then turned her head and spoke to Chloe. "Who's the geek?"
Chloe was obviously trying very hard to contain her amusement, but she didn't quite succeed. The corner of her mouth quirked up. "Lois Lane, this is Jimmy Olsen. Lois is my cousin."
"Which means we can't get rid of her, no matter how hard we try," CK put in.
I stuck out my hand, but Lois was too busy glaring at CK to notice, so I withdrew it. Chloe apparently noticed my embarrassment, because she tried to cover the awkward moment. "Lois just started working for the Inquisitor," she informed me.
"No kidding," I said. "You're a journalist, too?"
The take-no-prisoners facade cracked, and Lois actually looked slightly embarrassed. "I wouldn't say that. I just started. And I have a really bad habit of job-hopping."
Still. Another woman who was gorgeous and interested in journalism. Even if she thought I was a geek, she was something.
"Maybe we can talk about the Inquisitor over lunch," I said. "I have some pictures I'm thinking about trying to sell the editor over there."
She didn't look terribly interested, but she shrugged, which I took as a yes, because, well, I'm an incurable optimist. Chloe and CK stood up and headed for the door, Lois with them, and I followed. The view from behind was just as good from the view in front.
And again, I'm talking about her shoes. I swear. Nice shoes, really.
Lois seemed like a nice girl, even if she had a tongue that could shred steel. I'd thought I might give up on romance, but I decided then and there to give it one more try.
It was worth a shot. Because you never know how things are going to work out.
Anything can happen.