Superman: Civil Rites

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#6 - “Enemies Born”

By David Marshall

“I appreciate your help Clark,” said Mr. Tyler. “I’ve never seen someone read so fast!”

“Thank you, Mr. Tyler. It’s… a gift.” Clark Kent replied. In truth he had to remember not to read too quickly in front of Mr. Tyler. Rex Tyler was a world-famous biochemist and industrialist from Appleton City and one of the wealthiest men in the country. Tyler Chemical had facilities all over the world and was interested in building a plant on the land claimed by both Lionel Luthor and the Jacobs family. The Jacobs family lived on the land for generations until their home was consumed by a “mysterious” fire, if one believed the local newspaper. Mr. Jacobs and his son were killed in the blaze. Clark knew the truth. There was no mystery surrounding the fire’s origin. Luthor razed the home to run off the Jacobs family and make room for Tyler’s new facility.

“It certainly is,” said Mr. Tyler. “And believe me, I’ve known my share of gifted individuals!”

Mr. Tyler seemed like a nice man. It said much about his character that he would travel to Mississippi himself to survey the situation in Smallville before making a decision about building his factory on the disputed land. Most men in his position would disperse a team of lawyers, if they cared enough to bother at all with the misfortunes of a poor, black family in rural Mississippi. He seemed more concerned with doing the right thing than his company’s bottom line. Clark would never have been able to view the land records without his help. Locating a deed or a bill of sale was important in verifying the true owners of the land in question. Clark just hoped his part in the search didn’t cause additional trouble for his people or his family.

“I’m just glad you happened along,” Clark replied. “Mr. Waring wasn’t going to let me see these records on my own.”

“This place dumbfounds me,” said Mr. Tyler, reaching for another book of land deed records.

“What do you mean?” Clark asked.

Mr. Tyler smiled. “I suppose you wouldn’t know much about the world outside Mississippi, would you son?”

Clark shook his head and blushed. “No sir. I’ve been as far east as Alabama and as far west as Louisiana. I’m not well-traveled at all. Why do you ask?”

“It’s another world down here,” Mr. Tyler explained. “Men are still judged by the color of their skin. I’m not saying we have all the answers up north, but I never dreamed such inequality could still exist in this country since the War. It’s like something out of a history book.”

Clark shrugged his shoulders and returned to his reading. “It’s life in the south, Mr. Tyler.”

“It shouldn’t be,” Mr. Tyler replied.

“I found it!” Clark exclaimed. “It’s a bit later than Mr. Jacobs always claimed, but the land was definitely sold to his family! The deed was recorded in 1883.” He reached the book to Mr. Tyler, holding his finger beneath the prized information.

The famed biochemist and industrialist closed the book he was reading and took Clark’s from him. “Fine job, Mr. Kent! It appears Luthor was trying to sell my company land he doesn’t own. I’m sure the national media will be interested in what I have to say.”

“At least Mrs. Jacobs can prove her husband was right,” said Clark.

Mr. Tyler closed the deed book. “You look troubled, son. Isn’t this what you hoped to find?”

Clark nodded. “It is, but it won’t really help Mrs. Jacobs now.”

A sad, uncomfortable silence hung over the table.

“My company will build the Jacobs family a home,” Mr. Tyler vowed, breaking the strange quiet between the two. “You have my word.”

“But it shouldn’t be you who has to do it,” said Clark. “We both know who burned their house and why.”

“Which is precisely the reason I have to do it,” Mr. Tyler answered. “I can’t just walk away from this and leave that poor family homeless. Building them a new home is the right thing to do.”

“May I be so bold as to ask a favor?” Clark asked.

Mr. Tyler smiled. “Sure, son. You name it.”

“About the media, would you allow my friend to break the story?” Clark asked.

“Perry White?” Mr. Tyler asked.

Clark nodded. “You know him?”

“He was the one who told me was happening down here,” Mr. Tyler replied. “Rest assured that Mr. White will pen one of the year’s top headlines.”

The Luthor Mansion

Lex Luthor found the man he was looking for. “Marcus?”

Sam Marcus was in the parlor cleaning his gun. He had been with Lionel Luthor for many years. Lionel kept him around because his ears were always on the ground. If something went on in Smallville, Sam knew the details. If you needed a job taken care of, Sam could arrange it. He wasn’t to be trusted but he was handy to have around and kept his mouth shut.

“Master Lex?” Sam asked.

“I need a favor,” said Lex.

Sam raised his eyebrows. “Oh? What kind of favor, sir?”

“I need some muscle,” said Lex.

Sam laughed. “Who are you, Al Capone? Who talks like that these days?”

“Don’t belittle me, Sam! You know damned well what I mean!” said Lex.

Sam ran a bronze brush soaked in gun solvent down the barrel of his rifle and out the muzzle end. “Easy, son. I meant no offense. The muscle for protection?”

Lex shook his head. “Of course not! I need to scare someone.”

“What do you mean by scare someone?” Sam asked as he continued to swab the bore.

“Just maybe add a little excitement to an occasion,” Lex answered.

“And what kind of men are you talking about?” Sam asked.

“The kind who don’t mind to take a fall,” Lex replied.

Sam smiled. “The kind willing to make someone look good for a special young lady?”

“Something like that,” Lex smiled.

“A certain young son of a billionaire industrialist?” Sam goaded.

Lex rolled his eyes. “Can you hook me up or not?”

“Of course I can,” Sam replied.

“Just one thing,” Lex added. “These men can’t have loose lips or ties to my old man.”

Sam nodded. “The first one’s easy. The last may cost you.”

Lex smirked. “I’ll get a summer job mowing lawns.”

“Tell me where you want them and when,” Marcus replied.

“Here’s my plan…” said Lex.

The Kent Farm

“A hundred dollars?” Clark’s mother screamed. “You’re kidding?”

Clark Kent pulled the five twenty dollar bills from his pocket that Mr. Tyler had given him and showed them to his parents. “See?”

Clark’s father shook his head. “I don’t like it.”

“Why not?” Clark asked. “He paid me for helping him, Pop!”

“It’s not the money son,” Clark’s father replied. “You can bet Waring has already sent a few smoke signals around the county about Tyler and your name will be attached. It’s borrowing trouble.”

“And it wouldn’t have been trouble if I had found the deed on my own?” Clark asked.

Clark’s mother took a seat at the kitchen table. “He has a point, Jonathan. Perhaps Tyler’s involvement will shield Clark from retaliation.”

Jonathan Kent shook his head. “Doubtful but we can always hope.”

“The important thing is that we located the deed. The land belongs to the Jacobs family, not the Luthors,” said Clark.

Clark’s father sighed and slapped his son on the back. “Then all I can do is say ‘well done, son’. I gave you permission to go digging around in the courthouse records. It would by hypocritical to fault you for unearthing the smoking gun.”

Clark’s mother winced. “Do you have to use those exact words? Smoking gun?”

“A figure of speech, dear,” Jonathan Kent replied.

“One I don’t particularly care for in this situation,” Clarks mother replied.

“Any idea what comes next?” Clark’s father asked.

Clark smiled. “Mr. Tyler has a surprise planned for Lionel Luthor.”

The Luthor Mansion, Lionel Luthor’s Office

“What do you mean Tyler’s backing out?” Lionel Luthor shouted. He slammed his fist down upon his mahogany desk so hard his nameplate fell over the edge and splintered in the floor. “He can’t do this! I’ll sue!”

“They’re making the announcement now, sir,” a faceless law worm replied.

Lionel pursed his lips and looked to the heavens. “What are our options?”

The lawyer shook his head. “If you don’t own the land in question the contract is void. I’m sorry, Mr. Luthor it’s the best we can do.”

“I’ll fight it!” Lionel shouted.

The lawyer closed his briefcase. “That is your right but the fight will be a long, ugly one. Tyler’s pockets are as deep as your own.”

Lionel rubbed the bridge of his nose. “This can’t be happening!”

“There’s more,” the lawyer advised tentatively. “That reporter…”

“White?” Luthor asked.

The lawyer nodded. “Yeah, that’s him. The land deal is front page news on this morning’s Daily Planet.”

“What?” Lionel shouted and jerked to his feet. “White was supposed to be handled!”

“It gets worse,” said the lawyer.

Lionel raised his eyebrows. “Go on. Humor me.”

“Tyler turned over his findings to the FBI. We received a call this morning. You’re only a suspect right now…”

Lionel slung his paper weight across the room. The smooth glass sword broke into shards against the wall and fell to the floor. “Damn it all to hell! I try to conduct business with Tyler and he throws me under the bus for a group of nappy-haired…”

Before Lionel could finish his sentence he was interrupted by a knock on his door. “Enter!”

The door opened and Lionel recognized the man who entered the room but couldn’t remember his name. Was it Lewis? Did it matter? He was holding a manila envelope. Lionel tapped his pen against the top of his mahogany desk. “This had better be good.”

Lewis nodded. “Yes sir, Mr. Luthor. I apologize for interrupting you but I have some pictures you need to see.”

Lionel vaguely recalled assigning Lewis to shadow Lex. What was his son up to now? “Don’t just stand there, fool! Show me and it had better be worth my time!”

Lewis opened the envelope and removed a handful of pictures. He reached the first across the desk to Lionel.

Lionel studied the photo carefully. It showed Lex talking to a black girl in downtown Smallville. “For all I know he could have been talking to her about the weather.”

Lewis shook his head. “No sir, the pictures get worse.”

Another photo was reached across the desk. In this one the girl had her hand on Lex’s chest. “Why is this thing touching my son?”

“I think they were flirting with one another sir. She gave him a playful nudge,” Lewis replied.

“Any idea what they were talking about?” Lionel asked.

“No sir,” Lewis replied. “He yelled something to her about meeting her later but I don’t know where.”

Lionel held the photograph up for Lewis to see. He made a show of poking the girl in the picture with his index finger of the other hand. “Any idea who this girl is?”

Lewis shook his head. “No sir, but I will find out!”

“You do that,” said Lionel. “I want to know everything about her – her name, where she lives, and who her parents are! I may not know what to do with the FBI right this minute but this I can handle easily!”

Clark and Lana’s Field

Lana looked beautiful in her yellow dress. It was a simple piece, probably made at home but it framed her curves well. A small, white bow pulled her hair back on each side. She reclined on the picnic blanket and propped herself up on her elbows. “I can’t believe you prepared a picnic lunch for me.”

“Well, I had a little help,” Lex answered. “Geraldine is an excellent chef.”

Lana smiled. “Yes, she is indeed!”

Lex shifted toward the object of his affection. “Now what should we do?”

“Don’t you get any funny ideas, Lex Luthor!” Lana warned.

“Me?” Lex exclaimed, deadpanning innocence. “I’m an angel.”

“Mmm hmm,” Lana replied. “I’m surprised your nose isn’t growing!”

“I guess that only works with wooden boys,” said Lex. “Look, Lana. I like you a lot.”

The words hung in the air before Lana answered. “It may be the death of me, but I like you too. I just don’t see how it can work, Lex. I don’t want to sneak around all the time. It’s not right.”

“What if I talk to your father?” Lex offered. He reached for a biscuit.

Lana lunged forward and placed her hand on his. It wasn’t a romantic gesture but one born of sheer fright. “Don’t you dare! He would kill us both!”

“I don’t get that,” said Lex. “What’s wrong with me?”

Lana relaxed her grip on Lex’s hand. “There’s nothing wrong with you but you’re white and I’m black.”

“We’re both people,” Lex argued. “God, I hate Mississippi!”

“No reason to hate a whole state,” Lana replied. “There are plenty of good people who live here, both black and white.”

Lex enjoyed Lana’s hand resting on his own but pulled away and sprawled on the blanket. He rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow to face the object of his affection. “And how many of those good people would see us both hang if they knew we were here together?”

Lana shook her head. “I don’t know, a lot probably.”

“You know what I’m going to do?” Lex asked. He rose to his knees.

“Tell me,” Lana answered.

“I’m going to kiss you,” said Lex. “What do you think about that?”

Lana smiled sheepishly. “I don’t see anyone around to stop you.”

“Including you?” Lex asked.

Lana surprised Lex by leaning in toward him. “Are you going to kiss me, Lex Luthor or talk me to death?”

At last Lex was going to taste Lana’s lips. He leaned in and touched her face. It was impossibly soft like the skin of a newborn. The very touch was electric and Lex could have lived in the moment forever and died a happy man. But he wanted more. His lips touched Lana’s as he placed his arms around her waist. She pushed him to the blanket and surprised him again by climbing on top of him. Lex’s hands roamed Lana’s back. She was well-toned and muscular there. He could only imagine what her naked skin felt like.

The two finally melted into a deep, passionate kiss. Lex tried to push Lana onto her back but she wouldn’t allow it. Despite her reluctance to completely surrender to him the kiss was everything Lex hoped it would be.

Then out of the corner of his eye he saw them. Two men in hooded robes entered the clearing from the woods. Their timing couldn’t have been worse. Lex tried to shoo them away but they either didn’t see him or worse – they did!

Lex broke the kiss. “Run, Lana!”

Lana leaned in and managed to only graze his lips with her own. “Shut up and kiss me, Lex.”

Lex grabbed Lana by the shoulders and forced her body to pivot a half turn so she could see the impending danger. “Run!”

“Oh my god, no!” Lana shouted. “They’ll kill us, Lex!”

Lex stood to his feet. Lana tried to gather up the picnic supplies and her shoes.

“Don’t bother with that stuff!” Lex shouted. “Just get out of here! I’ll hold them off!”

Lana grabbed him by the hand and pulled him toward the woods. “Come on, my house is this way!”

Lex shook his head and pulled away from her tugging. “You go and I’ll make sure they don’t get by me. Besides, your dad may kill us both if he sees you running through your yard with a white boy and being chased by the Klan!”

“But I…” Lana protested.

Lex turned to the Klansmen and back to Lana. He pushed her away. “I said go! Don’t stop running until you get home!”

Lana broke free and ran toward the woods.

It didn’t take long for the two Klansmen to catch up to Lex.

“Alright gentlemen that’s enough!” said Lex. “How much do I owe you?”

The Klansmen continued their charge. Lex tried to jump out of the way but one of the men tackled him.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lex asked. “You can stop now!”

The Klansman still standing stomped on Lex’s chest. His large cowboy boots felt like twin jackhammers slamming into him. Lex cried out. “Stop!”

“You don’t give the orders around here, Jungle Fever!” said the man who tackled him. A hard right hand to Lex’s jaw emphasized his point. “You say you need muscle, we’re happy to oblige but we’ll not play along so you can impress your colored girlfriend!”

“What the hell is wrong with you people?” Lex shrieked. “Do you know who I am?”

“Of course we know who you are!” answered the man who tackled him. “That’s why your crimes against nature are even more revolting!”

The stomper joined the struggle on the ground. The three wrestled and Lex even got in a few shots of his own but they did little more than enrage the Klansmen more. The man who tackled Lex was more inclined to wrestle and tried to pin Lex’s arms but the stomper’s fists were hard as his boot heel. He landed so many blows to Lex’s head that it made him dizzy. Only his tremendous willpower kept him from blacking out completely. He refused to give the Klansmen the satisfaction.

The thrashing continued unabated. Lex struggled but was simply overpowered.

The tackler kicked Lex in the right kidney.

“You’ll pay for this,” a bewildered and badly beaten Lex Luthor stammered as he soiled himself. “The whole damned bunch of you gutless sheets! My father will…”

At the mention of his father the beating came to a merciful and abrupt halt. The Luthor card was a luxury few possessed.

“The Imperial Dragon is sworn to uphold the laws of nature and protect the purity of our race and heritage,” said the tackler. “He will do nothing.”

Did the hooded fool just call Lex’s father the Imperial Dragon? “A Luthor has no need of the Klan!”

The men laughed.

“You ignorant son of a bitch, your old man is the Klan in Mississippi!” shouted the stomper.

The accusation was shocking but so much made sense in light of it – the secretiveness, the well-funded defense teams whenever a case involving the Klan went to trial, the Klan burning the Jacobs land when his father wanted it, even Sarah’s murder covered up so easily.

The beating resumed. Fists and boots did most of the damage. Lex had no fight left in him. He curled up in the fetal position to shield his head from further blows.

One of the men retrieved a hunting knife from a sheath beneath his robes. For the first time in his life Lex was truly afraid he was going to die. “We should string you up from the tallest tree boy but I’ve got a better idea!”

The stomper grabbed Lex beneath his armpits and hoisted him to his knees. A moment later he slipped his hands behind Lex’s head and locked them against his neck. The man with the knife wrapped his hand in Lex’s fiery locks and shaved the handful of hair close to the scalp. Again and again he took the knife to Lex’s hair. When the haircut was over they slung Lex to the ground once more and the assault continued anew.

“Dirty, rotten, negro-loving, son of a Luthor!” the men shouted as they stomped in rage.

Lex was about to pass out when he saw him – the flying colored boy they talked about in the papers. He hovered over the treetops for a brief moment and then shot toward the fray, a blue and red blur.

The flying boy lifted one of the men into the air by his shirt collar.

“My gawd Eugene, I’m flying!” shrieked the man in the flying boy’s grasp.

“Actually, I’m flying,” laughed the flying boy. “You’re kind of flapping in the wind like a bed sheet on a clothesline.”

“What do you want me to do, Marty?” Eugene asked his dangling partner as the flying boy inched ever higher with him. “Should I shoot him?”

“No, don’t shoot!” Marty shot back. “God no! You may hit me!”

A laser-like burst of heat exploded from the flying boy’s eyes and circled the one called Eugene. The brushy meadow grass ignited, pinning him within a fiery ring.

“What the hell is he?” Eugene yelled.

Lex spoke for the first time. “Not human.”

The flying boy seemed put off by Lex’s comment but didn’t reply. Instead he simply said, “I guess it’s time to take out the trash.”

With those words he swooped down and plucked Eugene from the fire and threw him over his shoulder. Before he rose into the air with both men, he extinguished the flames by sucking them into his lungs like the world’s most powerful vacuum. And then he rose into the Mississippi sky with the men draped over his shoulders until they all became specks against the white wisps of clouds.

There were whispers around the mansion about the flying boy but the staff chalked it up to liquor or hysteria. Some joked about the Smallville’s flying boy in the same way others mocked Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. But Lex saw him! He was no fairy tale but Lex wasn’t sure he was flesh and blood either.

Alone with his wounds, Lex ran his fingers through his mangled red locks. Entire splotches of hair were missing, leaving his bloodied scalp exposed in several places where the knife slipped.

“That was amazing!” said a voice Lex recognized as Lana’s. He turned to see her running toward him from the tree line in the woods.

“I thought I told you to run home!” said Lex with more anger in his voice than he intended. He was embarrassed by both his appearance and his accounting of himself.

Lana looked shocked. “Halfway there I thought about you out here alone fighting with those awful men! I couldn’t run to safety knowing you were out here facing them. Are you hurt badly?” She reached for Lex. “Oh Lex, your hair…”

He hurt like hell but Lex didn’t want to admit it to Lana. It hurt to stand but he rose to his feet. “It will grow back.”

“Did you see him?” Lana asked, switching gears rapidly. “It’s true! There is a flying boy with amazing powers! He swooped down from the sky and saved you, Lex! Maybe he is an angel!”

Lex resented the giddiness in Lana’s voice. He turned away and walked toward the road where his truck was parked. “I didn’t see a damned thing!”

Lana swished through the meadow grass after him. “How could you not see him, Lex? You were looking right at him!”

“I was too busy taking a beating,” Lex snapped. He kept walking and refused to look back. “A beating I took on your behalf I might add!”

“Are you mad at me?” Lana asked. “What did I do?”

Lex had enough. He whirled around, grabbed Lana’s shoulders, and shook her. “Look at me! I nearly died saving you and all you can do is babble on about some flying lawn jockey?”

Lana covered her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. “Is that how you see me, Lex? I was a fool to think…”

“That’s not what I meant,” Lex pleaded, but he knew it was too late. The lawn jockey comment was too much.

Lana shook her head in disbelief. “Go to hell, Lex Luthor!”

She took off running across the meadow toward the tree line. Lex thought about going after her but knew they both needed time to cool off. At least he hoped that was all Lana needed. She disappeared into the woods and left him alone to nurse his wounds. He limped toward his truck and wondered if the flying boy had stolen more than his thunder.

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