Disclaimers: Characters belong to DC Comics. I took them for a spin just for fun, not for profit.
Cliche as it is, this story starts with a silhouette against the frosted glass of my office door. A woman's silhouette, a trim hourglass that I allowed myself to appreciate in the space between the time it appeared and the time the door opened.
That wasn't very long, of course. She was reaching for the knob (without knocking, of course), and then the door was opening and then she was standing there, leaning her hip against the doorframe and crossing her arms under her breasts. "Hello, Jones."
"Lane," I greeted, my hand already going to the handle of the drawer where I kept the whiskey.
Her alert eyes noticed my move, even through the relative murk of my darkened office, but she didn't comment. Instead she said, "You don't sound happy to see me."
"Should I be?" I asked, thumping down the whiskey bottle and running the cuff of my sleeve along the rim of a chipped coffee cup.
Her eyes were roving around my office, taking in the stained walls and the rumpled blanket on the broken down couch by the windows. I blew dust out of a glass and set it down next to the coffee cup. "Looks to me like you should be happy for any bit of business that walks through this door."
I looked up at her, not bothering to hide the calculation in my gaze. "Business, huh? Well, I don't do business with people who hover in doorways. In or out, Lane."
One corner of her mouth quirked up, revealing a dimple in her cheek that managed to be as ironic as the rest of her. "Two fingers," she ordered, stepping in and closing the door. She crossed to the client chair in front of my desk and sat as I poured her whiskey into the glass and handed it over. I sloshed more than two fingers into the coffee cup, not caring that she noticed.
And she did notice. "You look like shit, Jones," she remarked before tossing down the booze I'd handed her.
"And here it is a good day," I shot back, swallowing a hard slug of whiskey and feeling it burn its way down to my gut. I didn't have to feel the drink, but there was a value to the numbness it could impart. "Cut to the chase, Lane. What do you want?"
"I told you. Your services."
"My services might not be for sale," I countered, setting down my cup and reaching again for the bottle.
Her hand appeared over the top of the cup, blocking my intent to pour. Her nails were painted red. "Don't do this, Jones."
I set down the whiskey bottle and gave her a steadier look than I think she expected. She at least withdrew her hand. "You think this is how this works? The great Lois Lane snaps her fingers and the private dick comes running? You've already burned me once, and I don't like matches." I refilled my cup and sipped this time, keeping my eyes on her past the rim.
Something flared in her eyes, and her lips tightened for a moment, but then she was back to her smile. She uncrosssed and recrossed her legs, leaning on the arm of the client chair and watching me. She had good legs, but that wasn't what made her a good reporter. She was a good reporter because she knew all the buttons and when to push them. She pushed them now. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't need you, Jones. And it's not about me. There's bigger things afoot."
"Bigger," I repeated, waiting for elaboration.
She continued to study me as I continued to nurse my whiskey. She waited until I was taking another sip. "It's about Superman."
I think she expected me to choke. She liked the dramatic, had a flair for it. I think she was disappointed when I didn't react. Instead I set down my cup. "What, he still can't find room for you on his dance card?"
Her lips tightened again, and her nostrils flared. "You're a son of a bitch, Jones."
"So I've been told. By better dames than you."
But she was already calming herself by the time I'd unleashed my dig. She tossed her hair. "For the record, no. But he's only half the equation anyway. It's about the crimes he stops. Or appears to stop."
She paused, letting the implication of her comment sink in. I let it roll over me. "You think the man in the cape is setting up these heists? That's rich."
"I think he's got a connection at the Planet."
"Yeah, you. Aren't you the one who always gets the scoop?"
She paused, and I saw her upper teeth for a split second, starting to worry her lip and then stopping. Lois Lane didn't have much by way of nervous tics. It made me pay more attention. "I think I'm being used."
I snorted. "Right. So you want me to tail Superman to prove it? How'm I supposed to do that? Rocket pack?"
Her eyes snapped with irritation. "I said there's someone on the inside. I think he's in league with Kent."
Now I laughed, a bitter sound to my own ears. "Clark Kent? The same Clark Kent you think wants you for a beard? What, you think he and Superman are having tete-a-tetes down at the baths or something?"
"Don't mess with me, Jones," Lane growled. "Don't forget what I know."
I gestured around my office, the sum total of what was left of my life. "You're going to make this worse?" But she had me, and she knew it, and I knew it.
"I can pay you the usual rate."
"To tail Superman? Better make it triple."
"Double - and you're not tailing Superman. I want you on Kent."
"You should be on him. He's always with you anyway."
She pursed her lips and shook her head. "That's just it. He's not. Everytime there's something newsworthy, when Superman shows up, Kent has already left the scene. Not just once or twice. Every. Time." She punctunated the final two words with her finger tip hitting the surface of my desk.
"Every time?" That was odd, I had to admit.
"Did I stutter?"
I leaned back in my chair and thought. "So you think he's ... calling Superman. Or setting stuff up with him or-"
"I don't know what to think. But it's damned odd, and it's not something I can get to the bottom of by myself."
"I want payment up front."
She reached into her tailored suit jacket and pulled out an envelope. Trust her to have a man's style pocket in that ladies' suit. "Fifty bucks," she told me, tossing the envelope onto my desk. "You can count it if you want. Thirty bucks daily until the job is done or I fire you, whichever comes first."
I opened the flap of the envelope and peered in at the dead presidents. I didn't count them; Lane wouldn't short me. Not on money, anyway. "For what it's worth, I think your caped man is honest. But I'll take your money."
"If he's honest, it's money well spent. If he's not..." she shrugged, and I realized she was still Lois Lane, still interested in the truth above all. She was a reporter, yes, and had a lot of the negative traits that that profession implied. She was brassy, she was impolitic, but her integrity meant something to her. And to me.
"All right, Lane. I'll start in the morning."
She stood up. "Good. Make sure you dry out before then. And put on a fresh shirt."
I looked down at my shirt with a frown, only looking back up when I heard the latch of the door snapping back into place after her exit. I thought about getting up to lock the door, but no one else was coming by anyway. I stared for a moment at the envelope on my desk, then poured another drink. I held my cup up toward the backward lettering arching across the door, "John Jones, Private Investigator." "Pleasure to see you again, Lois," I murmured, and then began to get quietly drunk.