by Martin Maenza
Clark Kent adjusted his tie as he stepped from the stairwell. I had to swing back to the apartment to catch a quick shower, he thought to himself. Didn’t want anyone wondering why they smelled smoke on my clothes. I can’t very well say I was stopping a volcanic eruption in the Pacific, can I?
The news room of the Daily Planet was its usual buzz, with everyone moving here and there working on the last minute changes before five P.M. Perry White was a stickler for the deadline. Clark noticed a particular person approaching his way, a dark-haired woman dressed in a crisp mint blouse and olive green skirt. He gave her a smile. “Hi, Lois,” he said, adjusting his glasses.
“No time to chat, Clark!” Lois Lane said as she rushed past him. “Got a story to chase down!” She hurried to the elevator before the doors closed and slipped inside.
“Oh, well,” Clark said as he turned around to walk to his desk. He bumped smack into a red-haired man with freckles. “Jimmy, I’m sorry.”
“No problem, Clark,” the reporter said. “Did you see where Lois went off to?”
“Just caught the elevator,” the reporter in glasses replied. “Must be a fire or something.”
“Not a fire,” Jimmy said. “Try a massacre!”
“What are you talking about, Jimmy?” Clark said, very seriously.
“You must’ve been in the bathroom or something,” Jimmy explained. “Some psycho with high-powered weapons was just seen shooting up Hembeck’s, that eatery on Fifth and Byrne! According to the police scanner reports, it’s pretty bad!”
Clark Kent was shocked to hear this news. He was familiar with the place and wondered why anyone would do something like that. Still, there was time to figure out the why later. For now, he needed to see if he could catch the who. And to do that, he’d need to get moving.
Clutching his stomach, Clark made a face and said, “You know, Jimmy, you’re right about the bathroom. Something I ate for lunch mustn’t have agreed with me.” The reporter then proceeded to work his way across the newsroom urgently, as if he needed to get to the bathroom before he got sick.
“Hope you feel…” Jimmy started to say, until he realized he was standing alone. “Oh, well.” He then proceeded to the elevator in the hope that he could catch up to Lois Lane.
With a quick change of clothes in a convenient, out-of-the-way place, Clark Kent slipped into his famous blue and red costume and flew across town. He would easily beat both Jimmy and Lois to the small restaurant.
As he dropped out of the sky, Superman noticed the crowd of people being held back by the police barricades that were set up. Patrol cars with flashing lights were there already, and a couple of ambulances pulled up loudly as he arrived. The Man of Steel recognized one of the officers in charge and landed near her.
“Captain Sawyer,” Superman called to her. “Can you tell me what’s going on here?”
The officer with the very short brown hair looked at him with her eyes. Her expression was tense and professional, but her face lacked its usual color. “Better take a look for yourself,” Maggie Sawyer said.
As Superman walked across the way toward Hembeck’s, the crowds murmured. He didn’t need his super-hearing to pick up their whispers and conversational snippets. There was always someone in the city, be it tourist or resident, who were excited to catch their first glimpse of the super-hero. The police mulling around the perimeter stepped aside as he approached the crime scene; they were all more than happy to let the living legend have access to it.
The plate glass windows were shattered. Bullet shells mixed with the broken shards upon the sidewalk out front. Superman stepped through the open door of the eatery, and his heart sank. In all his years wearing a costume and cape, he still had never became totally hardened when seeing a situation such as this.
The entire restaurant was torn up by gunfire. The weapons had to be a serious, automatic caliber to do such destruction. The walls were torn up, and beams hung from the ceiling. Interspersed between the shot-up booths were the bloody limbs of the victims. There was the odor of death and charred flesh in the air. After a quick count of the bodies, he closed his eyes briefly and muttered a small prayer to Rao. Superman then returned to Captain Sawyer outside.
“We estimate about twenty-five dead,” the policewoman said as she lit a cigarette.
“It’s twenty-seven,” Superman said somberly.
“I’ll take your word for it until we can get them loaded into body-bags,” Maggie said.
“What happened?” Superman asked.
“According to the eyewitnesses, some guy calling himself Bloodsport came in and opened fire,” Maggie explained. “No warning. No announcement. No angry letter. Apparently, the only talking he did was some raving about Vietnam and people wasting the freedoms they fought so hard to protect.”
Superman nodded. “I’ll do what I can to find him.” And with that, the Man of Steel took to the skies once more.
It didn’t take Superman long to find the maniac called Bloodsport. The man had taken up in a bowling alley, of all places. Once more, he was shooting up the place.
“Yea-eahhh!” Bloodsport yelled. In one hand a large weapon shot round after round into the tiled ceiling. His other hand held a female hostage in a chokehold. The people there were down on the floor, their hands covering their heads to block out the ringing from the shots and to protect themselves.
Bloodsport leveled the gun at the men on the floor. “You creeps!” he yelled. “You stupid, crawling creeps! Look at you! Soft and wet and useless!” He spun the weapon around. “All of you! Me an’ Mickey bought your liberty with our lives! Now–”
“That’s enough!” Superman said.
Bloodsport spun around and saw the Man of Steel standing in the middle of one of the alleys. In his hand he tossed up and down an eighteen-pound bowling ball as if it were hollow plastic.
“You can let the woman go now, and drop that gun,” Superman said. “Then I’ll give you about three seconds to surrender to me.” The Man of Steel was using every bit of restraint that he could muster. Part of him wanted to take the bowling ball in his hands and bowl a few frames with the gun-toting villain.
“Superman!” Bloodsport exclaimed. “Yeah! Yeah! You’re the one I’ve been waiting for!” He spun the barrel of the weapon back against his hostage’s head. “Don’t come any closer, freak-o, or I’ll give this broad a fast lobotomy!”
For a moment, there was practically silence in the air. Only the sound of the automated pin setters could be heard down the alley.
Superman stared at the man with the weapon.
Bloodsport gritted his teeth, not taking his eyes off the Man of Steel.
Superman lifted his foot slightly to take a step.
Bloodsport’s finger squeezed the trigger.
The hammer of the gun was about to strike the firing pin.
In that brief second, Superman was across the alley. With one hand he moved the curly haired woman aside, and with the other pushed up the weapon’s barrel. The high-tech rifle shot off a loud round into the ceiling.
“Enough!” Superman said. He pushed Bloodsport back, knocking him to the ground. He then took the weapon in his two hands and smashed the metal device over his left knee. “And that takes care of your toy!” He turned to Bloodsport, who glared at the hero intently from the floor.
“Now, then, mister,” Superman continued. “Let’s get you downtown to a nice, cozy holding cell. And then, with any kind of luck, into a psychiatric maximum security ward for the rest of your murderous life.”
“No way,” Bloodsport said. “The Man ain’t putting me back in some ward! I’ve been in them. They don’t do a damn thing for you but keep you so drugged up you barely know your name! Is that any way to treat a war hero? I risked my life for this damn country, and this is what I get?”
“You’ll get help,” Superman said.
“Like hell I will!” Bloodsport spat. “You think needles are so good–” He gestured with his right hand. “–then you take ’em!” Suddenly, a small gun appeared in his hand.
The gun discharged, firing a shot into Superman’s shoulder. Out of conditioning, he didn’t bother to dodge the shot. Bullets bounced off his invulnerable body. But when the shot hit, Superman felt it. “Ahgh!” he cried out in pain.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” Bloodsport laughed as Superman fell to the floor, clutching his shoulder. “See, Superman? Needles can kill you if they have the right stuff in them! And those babies were pure kryptonite! A couple slivers will kill you!”
Bloodsport kicked the Man of Steel hard with his combat boots, knocking him back into the pit area at the foot of the alley. “Yep! That’ll just about do it!” He turned his back and started to walk away. “So long, super-stoop! I’ve got other fish to fry.”
Superman couldn’t lift himself off the ground, the pain from the kryptonite being so strong. He managed to move his hand from his shoulder to his belt buckle and opened a concealed compartment. With his last strength, he pushed a special button.
Superman awoke a short time later in a bright room filled with various devices made of shiny metal. He lay upon a shiny metal table with his shirt off. The Man of Steel knew the place well, for it was the recovery area of the sick bay in the Justice League’s satellite headquarters.
“You are awake,” a familiar voice said. “That is good.” A green figure of a man, tall and powerful, approached the table.
“J’onn,” Superman said as he sat up. He still felt a little uneasy, but his strength was returning. He moved his hand to his shoulder where a sterile cloth had been taped on. “I’m lucky you were on duty.”
“Indeed,” the Martian Manhunter said. “When I got your emergency signal but no verbal response, I beamed you up to the satellite. Just in time, too, given the kryptonite fragments I found embedded in your shoulder.”
“Ugh,” Superman said as he put his feet on the ground to stand. He eyed his shirt and cape folded neatly over a nearby chair and went to put them on. “I take it you were able to remove them.”
“Of course,” J’onn J’onzz said. “My Martian vision was able to locate the fragments, and a little laser surgery was able to remove them cleanly. Your body shows no lasting poisoning from the kryptonite.”
“Good to know,” Superman said. “Whoever this Bloodsport is, his arsenal is impressive. You just can’t get kryptonite on the streets anymore.” He started for the door.
“Are you certain you are up for this?” the Martian Manhunter inquired. “I could get you some assistance.”
“No thanks, J’onn,” Superman said. “I think I can take this one alone.”
The Martian nodded. “Of course, my friend.” While Superman had been out, J’onn had used his telepathic abilities to read the hero’s surface memories. He knew all about what Bloodsport had done and how it bothered Superman that someone would kill so callously. J’onn knew that the Man of Steel wanted to see this one through.
Superman checked with the Metropolis Police to see if they had any further leads on Bloodsport. “Well,” said Maggie Sawyer, “we did recover the damaged weapon from the bowling alley and ran the prints through with the FBI systems. Turns out they belong to a man named Robert DuBois, a thirty-two-year-old Vietnam veteran.”
“Hmm,” Superman said as he stroked his chin. “That seems to match up with what the guy was saying as we fought. All those references. Any known address?”
“That’s the interesting part,” the police captain said. “Turns out the last known address for him is a home just outside of Metropolis.” She showed him the address she had jotted down.
The Man of Steel nodded and flew off.