Previously: "I've been killing my way across America for about twenty years, you think I'm going to stop because you ask my name?"
"Not really," said Cat, backing against an old section of disused piping that jutted up from the floor. "I just like to know people's names before we fight."
"Well, if it really makes you think better," said the stranger, stalking towards her. "I'm David Grady, out of Pittsburgh."
"Cassandra," said Cat, pushing a thin metal rod into a hole in the pipe, "out of Troy." There was a soft click.
"New Troy?" asked Grady. "Guess you haven't travelled far." He laughed at his own joke. Metropolis was the New Troy state capitol.
"No, the original." Suddenly there was a sword in her hand, and she smiled grimly as she added "There can be only one."
By Marcus L. Rowland
"Thanks for calling us," said Clark, pretending to shiver a little in the early morning chill.
"You've played ball with us so far," said Henderson, "least I can do, especially since we've solved most of the case." He nodded past the crime scene tape towards the chalked ourline of a headless body on the concrete floor, and the circle that marked the final resting-place of the head a few feet away. Technicians in white overalls were still searching the scene. There was surprisingly little blood. "He died fast - heart stopped pumping before he bled out, and the ME says it looks like the wounds were cauterized by something, maybe the electrical damage we saw with the other victims."
"You know who killed him?" asked Lois
"No... but it looks like he's the guy that killed Weber, Davis, and Shaw. He's got Weber's katana, and there was a hotel key in his pocket. When we checked the room we found seven swords including the others that were stolen, and his fingerprints match the unknowns we found at Davis's place."
"Any idea if any of the other swords had been used in anger?" asked Clark.
"Forensics are still checking."
"So he met someone here," said Lois, "maybe set up a meeting, maybe followed someone, and the other guy was ready for him."
"Feels that way."
"Some sort of underground society of duellists?" asked Clark.
"Don't quote me," said Henderson, "but I'm beginning to think it's a possibility. We were thinking a lone killer, it's sounding more like some sort of cult. Martial artists."
"Any connection to the New York murders in eighty-five?" asked Lois.
Henderson took a deep breath, then said "Maybe. Lots of similarities, including - and don't print this - the same sort of electrical damage after the killings. But the guy they were after for that just dropped off the map."
"Got a name for us?"
"Kurgan, no first name or middle initial, no records apart from a signature in a motel register. Five or six witnesses saw him at the crime scenes, huge guy that looked like something from a horror movie. NYPD have sketches, but I think they're hoping they never see him again. They traced his movements, found his motel room and talked to a couple of prostitutes who were able to confirm that it wasn't a mask. But he just left the motel and never came back - accounts are pretty confused, but they think he snatched a girl a couple of hours later. She was seen in the car, screaming, when he ran a kid on a motorbike off the road, but she was never found or identified. After that the killings stopped. My guess, for what it's worth, is that one of the New York mobs offered him money to snatch her, and had him whacked when he showed up with her."
"Out of the goodness of their hearts?" asked Lois.
"Out of getting rid of someone who was really bad for business," said Henderson. "NYPD had a lot of extra manpower on the streets and looked under a lot of rocks for that one, made some major arrests in unrelated cases. Organised crime took a hammering."
"But nobody like that's been seen here," protested Clark. "I've seen the sketches, if a monster like that was running around town people would remember."
"That's true," said Henderson. "It can't be Kurgan, but maybe Kurgan had some sort of gizmo that gave him the electrical powers, and it fell into this guy's hands."
"But why the swords?" asked Lois. "If you had a weapon like that why would you need a sword?"
"Maybe the electrical attack doesn't kill," said Clark. "It zaps the victim, maybe paralyzes him or slows him down, but the killer has to finish the job."
"We thought of that but no," said Henderson, "so far as we can determine, the electrical damage has been post-mortem. Not much doubt about it. There's broken glass and charred paper on top of the bodies but none underneath them, blood spatter is already in place when the ashes settle, that sort of thing."
"That makes no sense at all," said Lois. "Unless it's something like that magnetic guy, what was his name?"
"Deathstroke," said Clark. "You mean a power that he could control until his victim was dead, then had to release?"
"That could make sense, maybe," said Henderson. "There are a lot of weird things about this one. You know that the earlier victims had forged identification?"
"We knew about one," said Lois, "Jimmy's still working on the others."
"Well, it's either two or all three of them - but don't quote me on that. Two of them used classic faked ID methods, find a kid that died young, get a copy of the birth certificate, and use that to apply for a Social Security number. Once you've got that you can open bank accounts, pay taxes, get a driving license, that sort of thing. It's not quite as easy as it used to be, there are too many computerised records, but it can still be done. Back in the sixties and seventies it was simple."
"They go that far back?" asked Clark.
"Forrest Weber moved to Metropolis in seventy-eight, using the identity of a kid who died in LA in forty-eight. George Davis set up his business in sixty-nine, his ID goes back to a kid who died in Denver in thirty-five. Roger Shaw is still a little uncertain, he's supposed to come from Washington, we think he took the identity of a kid killed in a house fire in forty-four, but the kid's death certificate is missing from the archives there. My guess is that Shaw was just a little more careful than the others. He's been in Metropolis since sixty-five."
"Isn't it odd to find three faked identities like this?"
"In a single case?" asked Henderson. "I've never known anything like it. But it isn't that uncommon, there must be thousands of people using faked ID nationwide."
"Inspector!" said one of the technicians, "we've got something. Blood stain on this pipe, looks like it's cut in half."
As Henderson went to examine it Clark casually lowered his glasses to take a look. The stain was the top half of a circle, bisected by a hair-thin join in the pipe, about six inches below a strong metal cap. Beyond that... he could see nothing. Now why would a steel pipe be lined with lead..? He followed it down into the floor with his x-ray vision. To his surprise it was just a stub, ending a foot down, and wasn't connected to any of the other pipes around it.
"Could there have been something in front of it?" asked Henderson.
"It dried like this," said the technician, "if there was something there it must have mopped up the blood, without leaving any traces I can see."
"Get photos," said Henderson, "check for tape. Maybe something was fixed to the pipe."
"Anything else for us?" asked Lois.
"It's enough, isn't it?" said Henderson. "If you see Superman let him know, he wanted to be kept informed, otherwise I think we're done."
"Let's get back to the office," said Clark, "we need to file on this in time for the late edition."
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later Clark flew to the crime scene as Superman, leaving Lois working on the story in the newsroom. He was supposed to be contacting an informant, he supposed that Henderson just about fitted that description.
"Inspector, Lois said you wanted to see me."
"Glad you could make it," said Henderson, and began to explain what they'd found. It took several minutes for him to mention the stain on the pipe, once he did Clark examined it openly and said "There's a hairline crack circling the pipe at the level of the blood stain. And the pipe doesn't connect to any of the other plumbing around it, and it's lined with lead. I think that the top part lifts out, maybe it wasn't there when the blood hit it."
"Can you get the whole thing out of the floor?"
"No problem," said Clark, getting a pair of gloves from one of the technicians, to avoid leaving fingerprints. He pulled it out, leaving a jagged hole in the concrete, and turned it over curiously. The other end was a blank steel plate. Experimentally he tried to twist the top of the pipe, using ordinary human strength, but got nowhere. He used his x-ray vision again, and realised that the cap was actually welded to the top of the pipe. Beyond that the lead hid everything. He told Henderson what he'd seen.
"You'd better not try to open it," said Henderson. "If it's lined with lead there's no telling what's inside. Could be radioactive, could even be Kryptonite."
"I hadn't thought of that," said Clark.
"Leave it with us, we'll get the bomb squad to open it."
"You might want your scientists to check when the concrete around the pipe was mixed," said Clark. "I think it's a different mix to the rest of the floor, if it's later than my arrival in 1993 my guess would be that it was built to hide something from me."
"Can we do that?" asked Henderson.
"Sure," said one of the technicians. "But it'll take a couple of days."
* * * * *
Cat Grant dropped a bag containing several old pairs of shoes into the Goodwill collection box a couple of blocks from the Planet building and went on in to work. The rest of the clothes she'd worn the previous evening were in the washing machine in her apartment, having a nice cool biological wash that would remove any bloodstains. She'd been careful to wipe down the shoes too, of course, but she didn't want to risk anyone matching them to a footprint. There wasn't much that she could do about her own blood - Grady had cut her twice before she finished him off, and there were bound to be traces in the warehouse - but her blood type wasn't on record, and anyone checking her for wounds would find nothing. If it came to that point she'd probably have worse things to worry about. Again she wondered why she was so determined to stay in Metropolis and maintain her identity as Cat - she had a dozen others ready around the world, and in most other places the Watchers would discreetly clear up after a fight. They'd pulled out of Metropolis once the full extent of Superman's powers became clear, it was just too risky to operate there.
Almost the first person she saw in the newsroom was Lois, busily typing. She got herself a coffee then went over to make a nuisance of herself.
"Hi Cat," said Lois, typing furiously. "There's been another one."
"Killing," Lois said impatiently. "Same method, but the police think he's the one that killed the others. They found Weber's katana near the body, and the other stolen swords in his hotel room."
"Sounds... convenient," said Cat, putting as much doubt into her voice as she could.
"Convenient?" said Lois.
"Now the cops will be concentrating on the guy they've found, and trying to find out who killed him. Nothing wrong with that, but for all we know he's just some stranger the real killer found on the street and framed for the other murders."
"It's possible," said Lois, her typing slowing, "but the police seem pretty sure that he's their guy... and they found his fingerprints at Davis's place."
"Okay, that makes it pretty definite," said Cat, cursing inwardly. She'd hoped to spread a little uncertainty and confusion. "Where's Clark?"
"He went out to meet one of our sources," said Lois. "He hopes he'll get some extra details Henderson hasn't given us." It was close enough to the truth to satisfy her conscience.
"So the question I've got to ask," said Cat, "do I dress for a swanky auction or a murder tonight?"
Lois thought about it for a moment, then said "wear black. It'll look smart either way, it won't show bloodstains too badly, and if the worse comes to the worse you're already in mourning."
"Good thinking," said Cat. "But I think I'll take my chances and go with something a little brighter."
* * * * *
Two hours later Clark took a call from Henderson, who wanted him to pass on a message to Superman.
"Okay," said Clark, "let me just write this down... oh, okay, I'll tell him that. Any fingerprints...? I see. Yes, I realise it isn't for publication. What..? Okay, yes... I see... If I see him before you do I'll certainly pass it on."
"What did he say?" asked Lois.
"They found a hidden catch in that pipe, when they opened it a sword came out. It looks like the pipe was built to conceal it."
"The murder weapon?"
"They think so, there's blood. It might have been there for years, just waiting until someone wanted to use it."
"Nothing. Henderson thinks that there was something covering the hilt, after the fight the murderer must have removed it."
"And that's it?" asked Lois.
"Not quite," said Clark. "They've tested the blood stains. Most of it is the victim's, but they've found a woman's blood on the floor and on his sword."
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