The brown tressed woman hit the brakes hard as she brought her car to a sudden stop at the corner of Bessolo Boulevard and Reeves Lane, sending her short shoulder length hair in every direction. After hearing the first reports of the jewelry store robbery on her police scanner, the Daily Planet reporter had raced across town at a speed far exceeding the posted limits. A fact that didn’t interest any of the almost fifty officers spread out in front of her along Bessolo Boulevard.
Their attention was centered instead on the front of Larson’s Jewelry, where, according to the police radio, two gunmen now held a half dozen hostages following a robbery gone wrong. Flashing her press pass to the uniformed officer manning the wooden barricade that kept the curious back, the brunette scanned the crowd of blue in front of her, looking for someone in command.
Dressed in the same blue blouse and slacks as the officers around her, the Police Captain was the smallest person in the group. Despite that, even to a casual onlooker, there was no doubt that she was the one in charge
“Captain Sawyer,” she said in a strong tone as she approached, hoping to catch the attention of the commander of the Special Crimes Unit before one of the other officers directed her back to where the other reporters had been placed.
“Oh hello, Lane,” Maggie Sawyer said as she finished her conversation with her second in command. “I should’ve known you’d be showing up before this was all over.”
Ten years older than the reporter, Margaret Sawyer had originally started her law enforcement career in Star City. She had moved to Metropolis and the MPD following a messy divorce five years before. It was a testament to her ability that in that short time she had risen through the ranks to Captain and the command of the newly created SCU.
Lois took in the tone of Sawyer’s voice as she looked at the Police Captain. Her use of the reporter’s last name ignored the friendship between the two women that had grown out of their professional relationship. Then again, Lois took the fact that her first order hadn’t been for someone to escort her back to the press area as a good sign.
“What’s the situation, Captain?” Lois asked, keeping her tone on the same professional level.
“One dead security guard and seven hostages, including four children,” the Captain said as she ran a hand through her close cropped hair. “We’ve tried to establish a dialogue with them, but they say they don’t trust anyone in blue. Now they say they’ll to talk to a reporter, but only one that they recognize. I guess they’re worried we’ll try to slip in a ringer. Even offered to let the kids go if we went for it, but so far, I haven’t had any eager volunteers from the esteemed members of the press over there.” she finished with a motion over her shoulder to where the media was assembled.
“Well say no more,” Lois replied, “I may have only been with the Planet a few years now, but my face has gotten pretty well known. Enough that they’ll know I’m not wearing blue under brown.”
“Lois,” Maggie Sawyer said, the tone of her voice changing to reflect that she was now talking to the woman in front of her and not the reporter. “These men have already killed one person. I hope you don’t think I expected you to...”
“We’re wasting time, Mags,” Lois said, interrupting her friend. “Let’s get those kids out of there.”
Captain Sawyer looked into her friend’s rich blue eyes and saw the determination there. For a moment, she was tempted to turn down her offer, but then she let her professionalism take over.
“You will be careful, won’t you?” Maggie said as she reluctantly agreed.
“Don’t you know me by now?” Lois asked in response.
“I do,” the Police Commander said, “that’s what I’m afraid of.”
Stepping in front of the long line of police cars that divided the Boulevard, Lois started walking toward the jewelry store carrying only her portable tape recorder.
“I’m Lois Lane of the Daily Planet,” she called out as she got to the closed door of the fashionable shop. “You said you wanted to talk to a reporter.”
The door opened in response and a gruff, female voice called out for her to enter.
For a brief moment, Lois asked herself if she knew what she was doing. Less than a week from now, she was scheduled to make the trip of a lifetime as a civilian-observer aboard NASA’s new experimental spaceplane, Constitution, when it landed at Metropolis Airport as part of the city’s Tri-Centennial. Was she risking the story of her career on a dangerous stunt now?
Lois banished that thought as she remembered the hostages still inside. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, but she kept reminding herself that she hadn’t gotten to where she was in the newspaper game without taking some risks. Lois took a last glance over her shoulder at the protective line of blue uniforms behind her. Then with a deep breath, she left their relative safety and stepped over the doorstep.
Her reporter’s eyes quickly swept the room, taking in as many details as she could. The hostages were in a single group behind the counter at the far end of the store. Standing in front of them was one of the two robbers, a tall, slim man in his early twenties. In his hand he was waving an old fashion .38 revolver.
“Inside,” the same female voice that had called to her outside said from behind the door.
Lois tilted her head just enough to get a good look at the speaker. She was a few inches taller than her own five foot six and had long dirty blond hair. Heavy set with large, unrestrained breasts, the woman whose age Lois placed at about thirty, completed her ensemble of dungarees and a blue T-shirt with a quite lethal Uzi machine pistol. Instinctively, the brunette knew that she was the leader of the duo and the most dangerous.
As the door closed behind her, a sudden flush of bile filled her throat as Lois looked to her left and saw the blood covered body of the store’s security guard. A white haired man in his late fifties, half his head had been blown off. Deep in her mind, the twenty-five year old heard her father’s voice reminding her how important it was to remain cool during a crisis.
“Okay, you have your reporter to negotiate,” Lois said as she tried to block out the image of the dead man. “Now lets let the kids go like you promised.”
“Not so fast,” the woman whose name Lois later learned was Phyllis Brown said. “First we make sure that you didn’t bring any surprises.”
With that, the larger woman ran her hands up and down Lois’s body, checking for a hidden weapon. Captain Sawyer had offered Lois a gun to take with her, but she had wisely declined.
After taking a long feel of Lois’s breasts through her yellow blouse, Phyllis abruptly slid her hand up under the brown skirt and pressed it between the reporter’s legs. The sudden pressure of her fingers against her mound caused the younger woman to loudly object.
“Tough shit, bitch,” Phyllis said as she withdrew her hand, but not before taking a second feel. “College girl like you probably had plenty of your sorority sisters put their hands down there. You could’ve had a gun down there.”
“All right, you had your fun,” Lois said, not believing her claim about the gun for a second. “Now you let the kids go and we’ll talk.”
“Don’t act like you’re in charge here, bitch,” the older woman said as she waved her machine pistol menacingly in Lois’s direction. “It wouldn’t take much for you to wind up like that old man over there.”
“Come on, Phyllis,” the younger of the two thieves said. “We said we’d let the kids go if they got us someone to talk to.”
“I’d listen to your friend,” Lois said, trying to hide the slight tremor in her voice. “The only chance you have of getting out of here is to show the Police out there some goodwill.”
“What if maybe I don’t care about getting out of here,” Phyllis said as she moved closer to Lois. “What if I’d rather blow all these miserable assholes away, starting with you?”
“Then I think you’d be right behind me,” Lois said defiantly. “These people are the only thing that’s keeping the SCU from turning you and your friend over there into dog food.”
Phyllis laughed, lowering her weapon for the first time. “You got guts, I’ll give you that much,” she said to Lois. “I like women who are fighters.”
She stepped away from Lois, leaving her to ponder that last remark. Phyllis motioned to her companion to let the kids come out from behind the counter.
“Okay, Jimmy,” she said, “Get those brats out of here before I change my mind.”
Her younger partner wasted no time in shepherding the four children out the front door. Lois watched and wondered what kind of hold Phyllis had over Jimmy. They didn’t look related, so she had a good guess. He didn’t seem as hard a case as she was either, and the reporter wondered if there was a way she could use that to her advantage.
“All right, now down to business,” Phyllis said as the last of the kids reached the Police lines. “You got your little notebook?” she said to Lois.
In response, Lois held up her small micro-recorder. It had been years since she had used pen and paper. Having a photographic memory, the recorder was only a back up that made the legal department down at the paper happy.
Phyllis began to ramble on into the small machine, outlining a set of outrageous demands that Lois knew the MPD would never agree to. Especially not since this escalated from a simple robbery to cold-blooded murder - something which seemed to have escaped both Phyllis and Jimmy.
“These demands might take some time,” Lois said, hoping to buy Maggie and the SCU a chance to work out a plan of action that would defuse the situation.
“Well then maybe you can stay here with us,” Phyllis said as she brushed her hand against Lois’s cheek, “and you and I can find a more pleasant way to pass the time.”
It took all of Lois’s self control not to push her hand away. Even with the Uzi in her hand, it would be a cold day in hell before she let scum like Phyllis touch her in such a way. Remember the hostages, she told herself.
“In fact,” Phyllis went on, “since you tape recorded what I want to say to the Police, I think I’ll just let one of these other people take it out to them. Call it another show of good faith.” A murmur of excitement erupted among the other three people behind the countertop. Lois knew that she couldn’t pass up the chance to get another one of them out of here. She reached out and handed her recorder to Phyllis.
“Jimmy, pick one,” Phyllis called over her shoulder as she gave Lois a look that reminded her of a hungry dog being presented with a bone. Jimmy turned and looked at the three remaining people. There was old man Larson, his sales clerk and the woman who had come in with the children. To him there was no choice, he picked the woman. “Now you just walk slow and steady across the street,” Phyllis said as she handed the tape recorder to the woman. “You understand me?” Unable to find her voice, she nodded her understanding. Phyllis told Jimmy to open the door and let her out. Lois took a few steps closer to Jimmy and the door. Not enough to make anyone think she was going to make a run for it, a futile effort with an Uzi at her back anyway. Just enough so that she could see what was going on outside. “You know, Jimmy,” Phyllis said as she also watched the woman through the large plate glass display window. “I got the impression that the little missy here don’t think that the Police are going to be too impressed with our demands. That they might not be willing to give us what we want. Isn’t that right, little missy.”
“You’d know that better than I would,” Lois responded, thinking that a bad situation was about to take an even greater turn for the worse.
“It seems to me,” Phyllis went on, “that they’d be more inclined to give us what we wanted if they took us a little more seriously.”
“I think they take you quite seriously,” Lois said, motioning to the prone body of the dead guard.
“Oh that was an accident,” Phyllis laughed. “Damn fool wouldn’t drop his gun when I told him to. This time, they’ll know we meant it.”
“This time?” a confused Lois asked.
“Jimmy,” Phyllis said in a cold, calm voice. “I want you to shoot that woman walking across the street. Put one right in the back of her pretty head. We don’t need her to talk to the Police, all we have to say is on that little recorder in her hand.”
Twin cold waves flashed through Lois’s body. The first caused by the notion that she could’ve been the woman out there in the street, unaware that she had just been selected to die to make a point. The second from the knowledge that there was no way she was just going to stand there and let it happen.
“Jimmy, no, you can’t,” she called out to the weak link among the two. “You can’t just kill her.”
“Jimmy, I told you to do something,” Phyllis said angrily. “Now do it!”
Jimmy raised his pistol and aimed it at the back of the woman’s head. He was a crack shot if nothing else. There was no way he could miss. A long three seconds passed as he hesitated. Then he dropped his arm, his weapon unfired.
“Goddamn you, Jimmy Nelson!” Phyllis shouted as she began to raise her own gun and take aim out the window.
Lois saw her opportunity and didn’t waste a second of it. An Army brat, she had been trained in the use of firearms by her father since before she was even a teenager. In one fluid motion, she jabbed an elbow into Jimmy’s stomach, knocking the breath out of him. Continuing her move, she grabbed the revolver out of his hand and turned it in the direction of Phyllis.
On television or in the movies, this was the point where the hero, or heroine in this case, called out for the villain to drop their weapon and give up. But this was real life and Lois knew all too well that things didn’t really happen quite the way Hollywood said so.
Without hesitation, her finger closed on the trigger, sending a lead slug across the room to find a resting place in the center of Phyllis chest. In reaction, the air exploded out of the larger woman’s lungs and her grip on her machine pistol came loose. By the time the bang of the shot reached her ears, she was already dead and didn’t hear it.
“Don’t you move,” Lois said to Jimmy as she turned the gun in his direction.
The sound of running feet filled the air and within seconds the SCU filled the store. Two of them relieved Lois of both the firearm and the remaining live suspect.
“My God, Lois,” Maggie Sawyer said as she followed her assault troops into the store, “what the hell did you think you were doing?”
It took Lois a few breaths to regain her composure. Then she told Maggie what had happened and how the young mother was about to be killed just short of the Police line.
“You still took a hell of a risk,” Maggie said, glancing down at Phyllis’s body and feeling an admiration for the accuracy of the killing shot. “and officially, that’s what I’m going to have to say in my report.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Lois replied, knowing that the powers that be would come down on her friend if she said anything less.
“Unofficially,” the Captain added, “the SCU is about to undergo a major expansion. If you ever want to trade in your word processor for a badge, I’ll be glad to recommend you.”
“Thanks, but no thanks, Mag,” Lois said as the rush of it all finally began to wear off. “but what I could use is a drink right now, or at least after I file my story.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Maggie said. “You call in and file your story and then we’ll go down to headquarters and write my report. Even though you’re not on the Force, we’re going to need an official statement from you on the shooting. After that, I’ll take you out to dinner. Hell, after what you did today, I’ll even cook you dinner.”
“You can cook?” Lois asked in surprise.
“Some of us do manage to acquire non-professional skills along the way,” the older woman laughed.
“This I have to see,” Lois laughed as well.
“That was a truly awful dinner,” Lois said as she stretched out on the left end of the small couch in Maggie’s three room apartment.
“Really?” Maggie, who was on the right side of the couch, asked. “I guess that helps explain the second and third helpings you had.”
“Well I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” Lois countered as she raised the small glass filled with amber liquid to her lips. “At least until I had a chance to raid your liquor cabinet.”
Despite the fact that she really didn’t drink all that often, Lois drained the glass in a single gulp. If any day called for a drink, this one certainly had.
“Insult my cooking and drink my booze, huh,” Maggie laughed as she drained her own glass. The day had been no less hard on her. “If I had wanted treatment like that I’d have invited Inspector Turpin to dinner.”
Lois laughed as well, picturing the bull moose of a police officer laying here on Maggie’s couch.
“You know, the Department wants me to do a few interviews with the press,” Maggie said, changing the subject. “Get some positive publicity for the SCU and the expansion.”
“Sounds like a good idea. I’d be the first to say you do great work.” Lois replied. “ Do you want me to try and arrange something with the Planet?”
“No, the department already set something up with The Star,” Maggie answered as she refilled both their glasses. “Some reporter named Toby Raines.”