For earlier stories in the series and previous outtakes see the master list
At Twisting The Hellmouth
Marcus L. Rowland
On a Sunday in April Alan looked out of his bedroom window and noticed someone clearing the back yard of the house on the next lot. “About time”, he thought. The house had been on the market for months. It wasn’t a craftsman design like his home, just a bungalow from the late forties; reasonably well designed and built, but nothing special, and for the last few years it had been poorly maintained. In the months the house had been empty the garden had become a little overgrown, and the fence between the lots had been flattened in places by a recent storm. Alan was still waiting to hear back from the realtor about repairing it.
After breakfast he went over to take a closer look. The girl doing the gardening was a beautiful blonde in her twenties, wore jeans and a black Aquarium of the Pacific T-shirt, and was clearing the overgrown grass around the trees with a weed whacker. A white puppy dozed nearby, under the shade of a bush, its lead tied to one of the porch rails. She looked up as he approached the largest gap in the fence, switched off the motor, and said “Good morning, I hope we aren’t disturbing you?”
“No, I was just wondering what was happening.”
“I’ve just moved in.”
“I didn’t realise it had been sold. Oh, I’m forgetting my manners – I’m Alan Eppes.”
“Linda Lee. I didn’t buy it, I’m renting while I’m in college.”
“UCLA; I’m studying engineering.”
“My younger son lectures there sometimes. Charles Eppes.”
“Um…” She thought for a second then said “Amita’s boyfriend?”
“That’s him. You know Amita?”
“She’s a friend of a friend.”
A tall dark-haired man wearing jeans, a faded Metropolis U sweat shirt, work boots and glasses came out of the house with a wrench in his hand. “I’ve got the water on and the water heater seems to be working, but it’s not running very well; you’ll need a real plumber for that.” He had a mid-western accent. He noticed Alan, and added “Good morning.”
“Clark,” said Linda, “this is Mister Eppes, my neighbour. Mister Eppes, this is my cousin Clark, Clark Kent. He’s helping me move in.”
“Call me Alan. It’s nice to meet you. Do you need a hand with anything? My sons ought to be around later if you need any heavy lifting.”
“It’s mostly done now,” said Clark, “but there is one thing. Is there an animal shelter around here?”
“Why would I need an animal shelter?” asked Linda.
“Let me put it this way… you’re going to want a cat.”
“Why would I want a cat when I’ve got Shelby? Won’t they fight?”
“You’ll need a cat to get rid of the mice.”
Linda muttered something and added “No wonder the rent was so low!”
“The place hasn’t been looked after very well the last few years,” said Alan. “The Humane Society is on South Raymond Avenue; I can look up the exact address and phone number if you like.”
“That’d be great,” said Linda, “they haven’t connected the phone and cable yet, but I’ve got my cell.”
“I’ll go look it up. While I’m inside, can I get you anything? Coffee, or maybe a cold drink?”
“I don’t want to impose, but coffee would be really nice. I’m not sure I’m going to trust the faucet until it’s been run for a while, and I haven’t organized bottled water yet.”
“No problem. How about you, can I get you anything?” He nodded to Clark.
“Coffee would be great, if it isn’t too much trouble. Linda’s probably right about the water.”
“I’ll be back soon.”
A few minutes later Alan came back with tray loaded with a Thermos pot of coffee, cream, sugar, and a bowl of cookies. Clark was setting up a table and some folding chairs.
“Can I give you a hand with that?” asked Linda.
“I think there’s just room to put the tray through.”
“Won’t you join us?” asked Linda, taking the tray.
“Well, if you don’t mind…”
“Please, come in. It’s really nice of you to be so helpful.”
Alan edged through the gap. “That reminds me,” said Alan, digging into his pocket for a paper, “here are the Humane Society details. And numbers for the bottled water supplier we use, they’re pretty reliable, and a couple of good plumbers.”
Linda put the tray on the table and took the paper. “That’s great. I’ll get over to the shelter as soon as I can.”
“How long have you been in LA?” asked Alan, taking a seat.
“A few months,” said Linda, “I needed to work when I left school, but last year I came into a little money and decided to put myself through college.”
“That’s an expensive business.”
“I used the money I inherited to develop some designs for science toys, and sold the idea to BalliToy. I just got the first royalties, that’s paying the bills.”
“Brains as well as beauty.”
“Thank you.” Linda blushed slightly as she picked up the pot and poured three cups.
“How about you, Clark? Been in LA long?”
“I’m just in town for a few days,” said Clark. “Fortunately there’s a press convention at the Staples Center this week, I got in a couple of days early to help Linda move.”
“I thought I knew your name,” said Alan. “Daily Planet, right?”
“You must know that Lois Lane then, now she’s a great reporter! All those Superman stories... But I guess they have to have people for the other stuff. Do you see much of her?”
“A little,” said Clark, smiling.
“Don’t let him fool you,” said Linda. “He’s married to her.”
“That’s right, spoil my fun.”
“He loves it when people have heard of her but not him.”
“I’m not keen on the spotlight,” said Clark, “and it’s sometimes useful if people don’t know who I am. She’s the superstar, the Pulitzer winner; I try to fly under the radar while she’s attracting all the attention.”
“Then I won’t apologies for getting things wrong,” said Alan. “Do you have any children?”
Clark pulled out his wallet and showed Alan a picture of a brunette woman and a small boy, about eight years old. “That’s Jason. They’re not out here this trip, but I’m hoping we’ll all be able to make it in a few weeks. How about you?”
“I’ve got two sons – Don’s with the FBI, Charlie’s a mathematician. So… have you met Superman?”
“I’ve interviewed him a couple of times, and he’s saved Lois’s life a whole bunch of times.”
“Closest I’ve been was Gotham City Stadium. I was there for my cousin’s kid’s Bat Mitzvah, stayed on to catch the Dodgers - Gotham Cubs game, which turned out to be the day Superman came back. They were only a couple of innings into it when he landed that plane in the stadium. Ten out of ten for saving lives, of course, but he ruined a pretty good game. The Dodgers blew it in the rematch.”
Clark grinned. “Superman gave a press conference a few days after Luthor tried to destroy Metropolis. Everyone else was asking what he was going to do about the earthquake damage, someone from Sports Illustrated asked why he interrupted the game – it turns out he was actually aiming for the car park outside the stadium, but there were too many people around, he couldn’t see a clear space to put it down.”
“Someone should write a book,” said Alan. “One of those alternate histories, where the plane ended up somewhere else and the Dodgers won the series.”
“It’s an interesting idea. Do you mind if I make a note of that? I’ve been working on some fiction; it might be useful some day.”
“Be my guest. Reminds me to ask, is the puppy named after John Shelby? The ball player?”
“Yes and no,” said Linda. “He’s actually Shelby junior, his dad lives on the Kent farm in Kansas.”
“But I named his dad for John,” said Clark.
“Good name,” said Alan. “Now, I’d better let you get on with moving in. Are you sure I can’t do anything to help?”
“I can’t really think of anything right now,” said Linda. “But I probably will sooner or later. Better get away now while you can.”
Alan laughed, and said “There’s still some coffee left in the pot, you might as well finish it. If you could bring everything back when you’re done that would be good.”
“I will,” said Linda, “and thanks again.”
“That’s what neighbours are for.”
“We have a new neighbour," Alan said a few hours later. “Beautiful girl, about twenty-two or so; says she knows Amita.”
“Really?” said Charlie Eppes. “What’s her name?”
“Linda Lee. She’s a student, older than most, just starting at UCLA.”
“Linda… oh, I remember. We went to a party when she was house-sitting in Long Beach. Seemed like a nice girl, I didn’t really talk to her much.”
“Who was she house-sitting for?” asked Don Eppes.
“Some British rock star, can’t recall the name.”
“I hope there won’t be too many noisy parties,” said Alan.
“It wasn’t that bad,” said Charlie. “I could talk without shouting.”
“That’s something, I guess. Her cousin was helping her move in, a reporter called Clark Kent. He’s married to Lois Lane, the reporter who got the first Superman interview.”
“About six-four, wears glasses?” asked Don
“I’ve met him. Nice guy. You remember I spent a month in Metropolis after Luthor’s earthquake? When they drafted in a lot of extra personnel to shut down his rackets? Kent gave us a lot of leads, things he and Lane had found while they were working on the story. He must have saved us a couple of weeks, and he didn’t even ask for any credit, just a heads-up when we were ready to start making arrests.”
Charlie looked out of the window. “That must be him now.” He watched as Clark manoeuvred a plank into position at the edge of one of the gaps in the fence, and began to fix it in place. “Yes, I remember now, I met him at Linda’s party.”
Don joined him at the window. “Yes, that’s him.” Linda was briefly visible in the gap, handing Clark a hammer, and Don added “Very nice.”
“I thought you were back with Robin.”
“I am. I’m not blind though.”
“She’s a looker,” said Alan. “Brains, and beauty, and she’s studying engineering. If I were about thirty years younger…”
“Well, maybe thirty-five.”
And there it ends - there was going to be a plot in there, but it reads like an info-dump, and I eventually decided that the basic premise was wrong. It's actually a fairly expensive neighbourhood, judging by the homes we've seen in NUMB3RS, and not the sort of place a student could easily rent a house; also, Batman would undoubtedly check out all the neighbours before Linda even looked at a house, and would point out the problems that might arise from living next door to a detective.
Comments please before I post to archives.