by Starsky Hutch 76
Morgan Edge wasn’t one of those bosses who liked to get into the office before everybody else. He liked to sleep late, and he figured he’d earned the right. So by the time he got to work, he expected everybody to be there. He was the boss; he could be late. But everyone else had damn well better be there on time.
When he did arrive, he expected a copy of every paper in town to be sitting on his desk — local and national — and a fresh pot of coffee to drink as he read. It was part of his morning routine to see who he had to chew out that day.
He sat down in his plush leather office chair, poured himself a cup of coffee, and lifted the first paper off the stack. It was a tabloid. His secretary knew he liked to see them first. Most of them were full of hogwash, but they were an amusing way to start the day before he had to get into the serious journalism. When he saw the front page, he nearly did a spit take across his desk.
He pressed the button of his intercom and said, “Gladys, get Lombard in here, pronto!“
“Yes, sir,” she said nervously. Obviously, she’d already seen the headline.
Fifteen minutes later, Steve Lombard arrived in his office with his big, goofy grin, oblivious to the nature of the meeting. “You wanted to see me, boss-man?”
“Yeah, Steve,” Morgan Edge said with a forced smile as he gestured to the chair across the desk. “Come on in. Have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Steve said, sliding into the plush chair. He looked at the humidor on Morgan’s desk. Usually, his boss offered him one of his Cuban cigars. This time he hadn’t.
“Something up, boss?” Steve asked.
“You tell me,” Morgan said, staring at him.
“You mean to tell me you don’t know anything about this story?” Morgan snapped. He slid the tabloid across the table. Steve picked it up, and his jaw dropped when he saw the headline. It read, GBS Sportscaster Steve Lombard Caught in Gay Tryst. Beneath it was a picture of him on a beach in the French Riviera in an embrace with another man.
“You care to explain this?” Morgan said.
“I… can’t,” Steve said.
“Please tell me this isn’t what it looks like, Steve! Tell me the photo was doctored. I have a lawyer on retainer who makes Lobo look like Dove!“
“I can’t,” Steve sighed, “because it’s not a fake, boss. I’m gay.”
“You?” Morgan gasped, his cigarette holder falling from his mouth. “But you were in the NFL!”
A few hours later, Steve sat at an outdoor café with Jimmy Olsen and his friend Ron Troupe, a photojournalist. As they ate, he cast sideways glances at passersby, wondering if they’d seen the article. “Well, this explains a lot of your behavior over the years,” Jimmy said. “You were overcompensating. I didn’t think anyone could really be like that.”
“It’s not funny, Jimbo,” Steve said. “This is my career we’re talking about here.”
“Has Edge actually said you’re fired?” Ron asked.
“No,” Steve said mournfully. “But I figure it’s only a matter of time. Gay sportscasters aren’t exactly big with your typical armchair quarterback.”
“Well, maybe I can ask Perry and see if we can get you on at the Planet,” Jimmy said. “You know, for the Sports section. You’re still a big name.”
“C’mon, Jimmy,” Steve said. “I’m no reporter. I’m just a TV star. “
“Maybe you could help me out, though,” Ron said.
“How so?” Jimmy asked.
“I think I might finally have something that would be worth Perry’s time to look at,” the young black man said excitedly. “Something to get me away from that rag I’ve been working at.”
“Really?” Jimmy said with interest. “Well, let’s see it!“
Ron pulled out an envelope from his jacket pocket and set a few pictures on the table. “I took these when I was on another assignment in Oregon. (*) As you can see, this was too big to waste on the same publication whose last big exclusive was an interview with the Abominable Snowman.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 2, Chapter 4: Lost.]
The pictures showed a youth who looked a lot like Superman flying through the air. “These are real?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, they’re real!” Ron said. “My paper may not have any morals, but I do.”
“I didn’t mean anything by that,” Steve said.
“So what’s the story?” Jimmy Olsen asked. “Red kryptonite? A time-traveling Superboy?”
“Hardly,” Ron Troupe said. “This was during this past invasion. Superman was pretty high-profile — an adult Superman. And if Superboy were in this time, he would’ve been helping out, not hiding out. I’m thinking this is a secret kid of Superman’s — one he doesn’t want anyone to know about, whether it be from a secret marriage or some sort of fling that he’s trying to keep under wraps.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Steve said. “That’s a pretty big accusation to be making there, kid.”
“The evidence speaks for itself,” Ron said, gesturing to the pictures.
“You could be jumping to some pretty big conclusions, there, Ron,” Jimmy said.
“The kid looks just like him!” Ron exclaimed.
“So does Gregory Reed,” Steve Lombard said, speaking of the actor famous for playing Superman in several movies, “and that Prince what’s-his-face guy over in Europe.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Prince Mark, Clark Kent’s double, first appeared in “The Man Who Hunted Superboy,” Adventure Comics #303 (December, 1962).]
“I think he’s King what’s-his-face now,” Jimmy said. “Anyway, if you really want to work for a paper like the Planet, you’d better make sure you have all the facts before you try to run with a story like this.”
“Are you sure you’re not letting your history with Superman influence this?” Ron said.
“And are you sure you’re not letting your own history with the tabloid you work for cause you to rush into calling Superman a deadbeat dad?!” Jimmy exclaimed.
Ron looked as if he had been slapped. “That’s not fair.”
“Just give Superman a chance to defend himself, here,” Jimmy said. “If anything, you would end up with a more complete story. And the last thing you want to do is go to Perry White with half-baked rumors and innuendo. You’d be doing yourself a favor.”
“I wish someone had given me that chance,” Steve Lombard said glumly.
Later that day, Jimmy Olsen and Ron Troupe stood waiting on the roof of the Daily Planet. Superman landed and shook hands with the two young men.
“Hi Jimmy, Ron,” Superman said, nodding. “Clark explained the details to me. Ron, I appreciate you coming to me with this. A lot of reporters would have been screaming stop the presses upon stumbling on something like this.”
“Yeah,” Ron said suspiciously. “Well, I gave it some thought and decided to hear your side of things.”
“Well, I can assure you, like the song says, the kid is not my son,” Superman said.
“It never crossed my mind for a second,” Jimmy said. “I mean, as long as we’ve been pals, if you had a kid, I’d know about it.”
“Um… yeah, Jimmy,” Superman said, sounding as if he’d been caught off-guard.
Jimmy did a double-take at Superman’s reaction and then asked, “You don’t think it could be one of Van-Zee’s kids, do you?”
“No, I checked. The twins are both on Rokyn,” Superman replied.
“Who’s Van-Zee?” Ron asked.
“A relative,” Superman said. “He looks just like me. Consequently, so does his son.”
“So who’s is it, then?” Ron asked.
“That’s what I want to find out,” Superman said. “Ron, I’d like for you to take me to the place where you snapped those photos.”
John Shakespeare was penciling the latest edition of his syndicated strip, Doone County. The pencil broke, and the white-haired dog next to him snatched it out of his hand and ran off. He heard the hum of an electric pencil sharpener, and the dog returned. “Good boy,” he said.
“Last panel,” he muttered with a sigh of relief. He looked down at his watch and said, “Oh, man. I’d promised I’d take Kent to see the new Super-Squirrel movie. I’ll never finish inking all these pages and get them in to FedEx in time to make it.”
He heard an excited yip and turned back in the direction of the dog. It panted happily at him, the pages arranged in front of it, each one looking professionally inked.
“Good boy!” John said, wide-eyed. He reached over and gave the dog a scratch behind the ear.
There was a knock at the door. “Looks like we’ve got company, Krypto,” John said, rising to his feet.
Before he finished rising out of his chair, Krypto began yipping excitedly and ran toward the doorway. He grabbed the doorknob in his jaws and opened the door. John Shakespeare’s stomach seemed to twist into a knot. The moment he had feared had finally arrived.
In the doorway stood Superman. Behind him were two young men, one white and one black. Krypto barked excitedly at seeing his former owner, even as a feeling of dread enveloped his new one.
Steve Lombard was cooking dinner when he received the phone call he had been dreading. “Hello? Oh, hi, Mom.”
“Your father and I saw the news. We had to hear it like this?”
“I thought you said you didn’t read those things, mom!”
“I don’t,” she said, not quite convincingly. “The story is everywhere now. And don’t make light of this. How are you holding up? Do you still have your job? Do you need money?”
“Money’s not a problem. Even if Edge did fire me — which he hasn’t, because he’s probably afraid of a lawsuit — I’ve still got most of my NFL money. Plus all my investments like the car dealerships and my STAR Labs stock is doing good. You know, I didn’t have to work after I retired. I just wanted to.”
“Well, at least that’s good to hear,” his mother said.
“You know me. I never liked getting benched. When they told me I couldn’t play anymore because of my injury, it was like the ultimate benching. I had to stay busy.”
“You always were an active boy.”
“I’m afraid I’m gonna get benched for good this time,” Steve sighed. “If enough people call in and complain, Edge will take me off the air and tell me to go ahead and sue ’cause he’s got ratings to think of.”
“How’s Dad holding up?” he asked.
“Well, it did come as quite a shock,” she answered; it was what she didn’t say that told Steve everything. “He just needs time.”
“Yeah…” Steve sighed. His whole relationship with his father had been based around football. He’d taken Steve’s injury even harder than he had. What would they have now?
Superman gave a hearty laugh as he found himself mobbed by flying puppies who pounced on him from all angles. “No wonder you were away for so long this time, boy,” he said, winking over at Krypto.
“I guess those puppies have never met a stranger,” Ron Troupe laughed.
“Actually, they’re usually pretty protective,” John Shakespeare said. “It’s funny; it seems sometimes like Krypto and his pups have a way of communicating with one another. It’s like he let them know Superman is a friend.”
“That’s right,” Superman said as he gave one of the pups a playful scratch behind the ears. “I am.”
“You sure gave me a scare, though,” John said, resting his hands on young Kent Shakespeare’s shoulders. The child in the Superman T-shirt shirt stared at the hero in wide-eyed amazement. “Mary and I have become pretty attached to the boy the last couple of years. It’d tear both our hearts out to lose him.”
“I’m not here to take Kent away,” Superman said. “I’m not the father. You have my word on that. I would like to help you clear this mystery up, though.”
“I suppose it would be good to know where he came from,” John said. “Where do we go from here?”
“Well, first thing we should do,” Superman said, “is move this investigation to my place.”