Clark stepped in through the front door and sighed contentedly.
He was home.
It had been a busy day of Super Hero duties, ranging from a car accident to a gang shoot-out and, lastly, to a raging fire that had destroyed nearly two-thirds of a strip mall before he had managed to contain the inferno. Working with the fire crew, Superman had been able to help them determine the cause of the fire: a faulty electrical outlet inside Mike’s Carpets and Rugs, which was the second shop among a total of six in the strip mall. Superman had responded fairly quickly to the scene; however, the carpets had given the fire healthy fuel that sent it spitting into raging flames almost immediately. It had taken longer to contain it than he would have liked.
The aroma of baked chicken wafted toward Clark’s nostrils, dispelling the rest of his busy thoughts. Coming home to Lois was one thing, but coming home to the smell of dinner that hadn’t been burned was a surprising ray of sunshine; although Lois was a star investigative reporter with keen intellect and shrewd instinct, her knowledge had never served her well when entering a kitchen and preparing a meal. Even frozen dinners had a tendency to suffer her wrath.
“Lois?” Clark called out, following the wafting smells of parmesan and garlic that led him into the kitchen. Pushing the door open, a welcome sight greeted his eyes. On the table sat the food that had been teasing Clark’s senses; they rested on dinner plates and wine glasses were out. The most ravishing sight, however, set more than just his mouth watering. With affection swelling, Clark crept very slowly, watching the backside of his wife as she lit two red candlesticks. What he had done to deserve this woman in his life, God only knew, but he took every opportunity he could to admire his luck.
“What have we here?” he said softly against his wife’s ear, placing his hands on her hips and giving her neck a gentle kiss. He breathed in her scent deeply. She smelled divinely of apple blossoms.
“We have a perfectly timed dinner from yours truly,” Lois replied. Clark could hear the smile in her voice.
“Mmm, I see,” Clark mumbled against her neck, planting more kisses. “How did you know I’d be home around this time?”
“The news mentioned you had gotten the fire under control, so I made an educated guess that you’d be home soon. I love it when I’m right.” Lois turned around, snaking her arms under Clark’s and wrapping herself close to him. She leaned up and kissed him, then wrinkled her nose. “You smell like smoke.”
Clark chuckled. “I had the intention of taking a shower, but you surprised me with a fully prepared dinner that, I might add, looks ravishing,” he said the last word with a low, seductive growl.
Lois smiled. “How fast can you take a shower?”
Clark grinned crookedly. “Fast,” he emphasized.
Lois gave him another small kiss. “Three minutes. Any less, and you don’t get dessert.” The look in her eyes told Clark dessert was nothing of the food variety.
“I’ll make it two,” Clark promised, and in a blur of motion he left Lois and zipped upstairs to the master bathroom.
With the speed and dexterity that only Superman possessed, Clark had shed his clothes, thrown them in the hamper and started the water, all within passing few seconds. In less than a minute the spout turned off and he climbed out of the shower. Taking a quick glance in the mirror to fix his hair, Clark stopped short, his super speed halted.
The mirror was fogged.
Mirrors didn’t fog up with less than a minute of showering. Clark had even showered in cold water so that he didn’t have to wait for the water to heat.
More shocking than that though, he saw two words traced into the fog on the mirror, as if a finger had recently written them.
A cold shiver snaked up Clark’s spine. His dream from the previous night immediately flashed in his mind’s eye; those were the words the red-headed girl had spoken to him. He looked around, but of course no one was in the bathroom except him. He stared back at the words in the fogged mirror, but already the image was beginning to fade, the mirror returning back to normal.
He was slower in getting down to the kitchen, unsettled by the recent events that he didn’t quite hear that Lois was speaking to him.
Clark blinked, his mind drawn back to Lois who was sitting at the table. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
One finely shaped eyebrow quirked. “I said it’s been over three minutes. Are you okay?”
Clark opened his mouth, about ready to tell his wife the strange event he just witnessed up in the bathroom and about his dream from the previous night. Suddenly, though, he found he didn’t want to. The last time a ghost had crept into their lives, that ghost had possessed Lois and had the intention of possessing his wife indefinitely. If Lois found out there might be another ghost in the house . . .
He stared at the candlesticks glowing warmly, illuminating the wonderful dinner awaiting him. He didn’t want to ruin what promised to be a much needed night of romance for the two of them.
Within a second, all of those thoughts passed before Clark’s mind and he gave a quick shake of his head. He could do a little bit research first before worrying his wife about another ghostly encounter.
“I’m fine. Just a little tired I guess,” Clark said, giving his wife a reassuring smile.
Lois narrowed her eyes suspiciously, but before she could open her mouth to question, Clark grabbed the bottle of wine sitting on the kitchen island, opened it, and poured drink into their glasses that were sitting on the table. He began launching into the story about the fire he’d been fighting, and as that story quieted, the two of them started into other details of their day. Though Clark’s appearance in the newsroom had been sparse, Lois had covered for him. The gang shoot-out that Superman had intercepted had also turned into a drug bust, so ‘Clark’ had gone to cover the details for the Daily Planet. Lois wrote the article, and though it wasn’t the most exciting story to have handed in, it was a day’s work.
By this point the food, which Lois admitted had come from a local restaurant nearby, was settling into their bellies. Together they cleared the table, bringing dishes to the sink and rinsing them off to load into the dishwasher. Clark took a sip from his wine glass and set it on the counter, closing up the dishwasher. Circling his arms around Lois, he leaned in and kissed her, his blood stirring.
Lois grinned against his mouth and mumbled, “Mmm, not sure if I should allow dessert. You took more than three minutes to shower.”
Clark recaptured her lips. “I promise,” he murmured in-between kisses, “to make dessert last much, much longer.”
Lois chuckled, her voice low and throaty. “Well—”
Her words were cut short by a sudden crashing of glass. Lois jumped and Clark whipped around. His wine glass was on the kitchen floor, shattered, with wine splattered on the white tile.
“Oh!” said Lois in surprise.
“What the—?” said Clark, staring from the counter top to the broken glass. “How did that—?”
Lois was the first to throw paper towels down to begin soaking up the flow while she walked to the far end of the kitchen to grab the dust pan and broom.
“It’s okay, honey. Now I can say I’m not the only klutz to have set a wine glass too close to the counter’s edge.” Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “Even Superman can be klutzy too.”
Lois was chuckling. Clark gave a weak laugh, but it was forced. “Yeah, that’s a first,” he said in a flat, empty voice.
Privately, though, he was entirely sure that he had set the wine glass nowhere near the counter’s edge.
* * *
Clark was sitting at his desk at the Daily Planet, giving his article a last read-through before handing it in to Perry. He found he was having trouble focusing on the words. They kept shifting before him, blurring and then sharpening. He thought he caught a typo, but in doubling back to find it, the sentence he swore he’d been reading had been omitted entirely. Where had that typo gone?
Feeling quite suddenly that he wasn’t alone, Clark glanced away from the screen. Sitting in a chair in front of his desk was the red-headed girl. She was just as transparent as before, and her vivid green eyes, full of sadness and despair, were gazing desolately at him. Her mouth was pulled down into a deep frown.
Clark felt adrenaline spike. Surprised though he was to see her for the second time, he was eager to know why she was coming to him. “Why are you here?”
Those eyes stared at him, fixed and unblinking. “Please find me,” she said; her voice was small and quavering.
That part seemed obvious. He needed to find out something new. “What’s your name?”
“How can I find you, Rose? I need you to help me with that.”
Rose sat still and quiet for a moment, her hands placed demurely in her lap. Then, slowly, she raised her right arm and placed something on the desk. When her hand moved away, Clark saw the red band sitting there. He reached out and found that it was solid to the touch. He picked it up, examining it.
“What do you want from me?” he asked cautiously.
Rose stared at the ring in his hands, her downcast expression never changing. “Find me,” she repeated simply. She turned her head to the left, staring at something unseen, and Clark followed her gaze.
Like before, he found himself outside staring up at the great enormous Victorian mansion. Royalty or someone insanely rich must surely have lived here, he thought, because who else would have the audacity to build something so massive and imposing. As he stared up at the building, taking in the multi-levels and peaks and turrets, he glanced through one of the windows and saw the flaming red hair of Rose. She was peering down one of the turret’s windows at him, her deep frown and sad eyes burning into his mind’s eye. She mouthed the silent words, “find me.”
* * *
Clark opened his eyes. He was back in his bed, it was the middle of the night, and he was staring at his bedroom ceiling, not into some dead girl’s eyes asking her to find him. He looked over at the clock: it was two twenty-eight in the morning.
He rubbed at his face and heaved a frustrated breath. What did this mean? He had the impulse to wake Lois, but he didn’t want to interrupt her sleep. In the morning, he would tell her about the dreams. For now, he needed to do a little bit of thinking on his own. Sleep was far from him, so what better time to start than now? Getting up carefully out of bed, Clark threw on his robe and tiptoed to the door, watching the doorknob closely, wandering if—
The door quietly clicked open.
Clark wasn’t surprised this time. Instead, it made him determined to get to the bottom of these strange occurrences and find out why Rose wanted him to find her.