“The Second Mile” Part One of Two

Private Eye Roger Carter had pinned his hopes on Lex Luthor. He figured that having one rich client would signal the end of all his troubles. What he forgot was that rich people get rich and stay rich by hanging on to their money. He had spent 3 months day and night working exclusively for Lex Luthor while investigating a company called “NuStart” for him. Now his work was finished and Lex refused to pay. Why? He gave a reason but Roger didn’t buy it. He felt that Lex refused to pay because he knew that he could get away with it. Roger had had many dinner meetings with Lex and they had swapped horror stories about their fathers so Roger had felt a real bond with Lex. But now, Roger felt only anger.

Roger racked his powerful mind for ways to get even with Lex. He needed to get what was owed him soon, but he had no way to threaten a man who had everything – a man with round the clock security that Roger had no chance to get through. Roger had people he loved depending on him and was so deep in debt now that he was desperate. He wondered if he could use any information from his research of NuStart to use against Lex. He recalled the last thing that Lex had told him before having him escorted out of Lex Corp. He had said, “You moron, “Ryanna Lynn Kent” is none other than my adopted sister Alexis Luthor. That information was both significant and vital yet you failed to discover it in 3 months. A single trip to the Kent farm would have revealed the truth. Information is power and you sent me into a critical situation without it. It was like being unarmed and it could have cost me my life. So take your invoice and ….” Roger rubbed his backside remembering Lex’s suggestion. He was glad that Lex was in a mood for ranting rather than taking action when he made that threat.

Roger’s thoughts flowed as follows: “So Ryanna and Alexis are the same person. From all I’ve learned of Alexis, she would make a terrorist look like Mother Theresa. But Alexis is Lex’s sister so he probably is very protective of her or she wouldn’t have survived all the dangerous pranks she has pulled. Lex is very rich but well guarded. Alexis is just as rich but unprotected and currently lives on a somewhat isolated farm. Lex would probably pay a huge ransom for her and Alexis would probably pay handsomely to save that fabulous backside of hers. So, if Alexis were to disappear for good, only Lex would care. Not that I intend to hurt anyone. Maybe this will scare Alexis into being a better person so some good might come out of it. Brains work better than brawn in these cases anyway, but I’d better get some help to intimidate her.” Having justified his plans to himself, Roger called a shady character he hired from time to time for strong arm work – a man he knew only as “Pez Head.”

Roger and Pez returned to stake out the Kent farm after a brief lunch in town. They got lost on the return trip because the entire field had been harvested since they were ther less than an hour before. They were convinced that this couldn’t be the farm, but then they saw Ryanna out in the field doing somersaults. Here she was half a mile from home and all alone. They couldn’t believe how easy this was all going to be. Pez stared lustfully at Ryanna as she did a hand stand and said, “Tasty time. Yum!” Roger was disgusted with this guy. Roger had wanted to clock him for comments he made to the waitress at lunch, but he needed him. Pez had no control of what he said but at least he was physically intimidating.

Roger and Pez got out of the car, walked down into the field and approached Ryanna who greeted them warmly. Roger had seen a few photos of Alexis and a motel room video that had been circulated widely on the internet, but he had never seen her close up. He was disturbed by her incredible good looks and radiance. He was a little weak in the knees but he recovered his senses when he looked at Pez and saw him fingering something in his pocket. When he realized that Pez had his gun in the other pocket he slapped Pez on his head and told him to stop it. He turned to Ryanna and tried his best to talk without getting tongue tied. “Miss Kent?” he asked.

Ryanna answered, “Yes, that’s me all right! You got a package for me or something?”

Pez Head said, “I have a package for you and it’s really something.”

Roger said, “Please ignore him Miss Kent. I have some terrible, terrible news for you. Your mother is really sick and she was taken to Metropolis Hospital. Your father sent us to get you and bring you to her. There’s not much time.”

Ryanna’s jaw dropped, then she looked towards the farm house and sighed in relief. “Nope,” she said, “Mom is in the sewing room working on a quilt.”

Roger said, “I wish that were true but you are mistaken, she was working on the quilt until she took suddenly sick.”

Ryanna said, “Try again. She’s OK. What do you want?”

Pez Head said, “I’ll take one farm girl over easy.”

Roger pushed Pez back and said, “Ummm, what did I tell you?”

Ryanna answered, “You said that my Mom is sick, but she isn’t.”

Roger said, “Oh! My mistake. I was so upset. It’s your DAD that’s sick. Your mother sent us.”

Ryanna looked around, “No he’s in the barn reading a motorcycle magazine.”

Roger asked, “Are you sure?”

Ryanna answered, “Yes.”

Roger asked, “Is your Dad named Clark?”

Ryanna said, “Nope.”

Roger said, “Well it’s Clark that’s sick, I just got it wrong about him being your dad.”

Ryanna began looking all around. Finally, she fixed her gaze in the direction of Metropolis, but she was looking upward to what would be the sky over the city. Suddenly she smiled and waved her hand to no one. Then she turned back to the visitors and said, “No, he’s fit and in flying colors today. But I’m sure that if you keep trying, there is someone sick somewhere. Hey. While your thinking about it, do you want to see me do a somersault?”

Pez Head said, “Yes! And do you have a trampoline?”

Roger gave Pez a swift punch in the gut then tried to look upset and sniffled a bit as he said, “Well, I’m sorry I told you those things but I REALLY do need your help and I do need you to come with us right now. If we have to, we are authorized to take you take you by force. But I don’t WANT to force you.”

Pez Head said, “Oh I do! I want to force her!”

Roger turned to Pez Head and said, “Will you SHUT UP!”

Ryanna said, “Well, I don’t think you can force me but if you need my help, I can go with you. Dad said I can make these kind of choices since I’m a breadwinner and since I’m 14 years old now.”

Roger looked her up and down and wondered why she had said that. He knew she was known for playing elaborate and vicious games on people, but this was such an obvious lie. Maybe she planned to seduce him and make him think he had committed statutory rape. Part of him hoped that this was the case, but he tried to keep an image of his beloved wife in his mind’s eye. He swallowed hard. He said to Ryanna, “Good, then let’s go.”

Ryanna answered, “Well I have to tell Ma and Pa that I’m going and I have to change clothes.”

Pez Head said, “Low cut tight blouse, short skirt, black underwear.”

Roger said, “There’s no time for that!”

Pez Head said, “OK. No underwear.”

Ryanna said, “It won’t take a minute. Don’t worry. I’m very fast.”

Pez Head said, “Counting on it.”

Roger grabbed Ryanna’s arm and turned to Pez Head and shouted, “Grab her other arm!” Both men tried to pull her towards the car but she didn’t budge at all. Finally, each lost their grip on her and fell into the field. When they got up, she was gone. Roger looked around and shouted, “We had better get going. She’ll probably call the police!”

Then they heard Ryanna call, “Over Here!” She was standing by the car in fresh clothing. She shouted, “We are going in this car aren’t we?”

The two men rushed back to the car. Roger was huffing and puffing by the time he got there. Roger shouted, “No more moves like that, honey. I’ve got a gun in my pocket and I know how to use it.”

Ryanna said, “Oh, I just thought you were happy to see me!” Ryanna began to laugh hard. When she was able to get control of herself, she said, “Don’t you just love Mae West? I watch her on AMC all the time! I don’t know what she means when she says that stuff but she’s so funny!”

Pez Head leaned over and whispered in her ear exactly what it meant. The color drained out of Ryanna’s face. Then Pez Head added, “Want to see my gun. It’s ready and loaded, Baby.”

Ryanna moved closer to Roger and said in a quiet voice, “I apologize for what I said. I shouldn’t repeat what I don’t understand. I don’t want to be mean, but your friend here is a little creepy.”

Roger said, “Don’t worry about him. You are riding up front with me. I apologize for being a little loud and pushy before. I was in a big hurry and didn’t think you could change clothes so quickly. Very nice outfit by the way. And I must also apologize for my friend. His mouth and brain aren’t connected properly. He has very little control over what he says, but he has a big heart on him.”

Pez Head said, “Yeah, want to see my big heart on?”

Ryanna said, “I think the medical condition your friend has is called a “potty mouth.” So, we better go because I want to get home in time to watch “Angel.” I forgot to ask Pa to record it for me. How far are we going?”

Pez Head said, “All the way, Baby. All the way and around the world.”

Ryanna pouted her lip a bit and looked up and said, “Lord, Help me. This is not easy! I don’t really want to go with these people.” She looked at Roger and said, “You probably know that I’m Ryanna. What’s your name?”

Roger said, “Bob.”

Ryanna pointed over her shoulder and said, “What’s his name?”

Pez Head said, “I could tell you but then I’d have to kiss you.”

Ryanna said, “Then I’d rather not know.”

Pez Head said, “Ooo, she’s listening. Just call me Johnny on the spot.”

Ryanna said, “Well, Bob, I’m talking to you and not Johnny.”

Pez Head said, “That’s OK. Talking ain’t what I got in mind, Babe.”

Ryanna asked, “Bob, how far are we going?”

Roger answered, “Not to far, why?”

Ryanna said, “I read in the Bible that if someone tells you to do something for them that you don’t want to do – like when a Roman soldier would tell an Israelite to carry his gear for a mile, you should go willingly with them, go twice the distance they ask, do twice the work they ask of you and use the time to show them how a good person behaves. That way you can get to know them and they can get to know you. It’s not nice to trick people or to force them to do whatyou want them to do, but maybe when you get to know me better, you’ll feel different about what you are doing. So if you want me to go a mile with you, I will go a second mile. If you want to take me halfway to Metropolis, I will go all the way to Metropolis with you – even if I miss “Angel.” But I hope Pa records it. Is there a TV where we’re going?” Roger nodded “yes.”

Pez Head was getting too excited to make any more comments. He had so many images in his mind as Ryanna spoke that he began twitching as if he was having a small seizure. He had his own, definite, private plans for Ryanna no matter what Roger had in mind. Now Roger was regretting bringing Pez Head along. Pez Head bothering Alexis was one thing, but bothering Ryanna was a different matter. Alexis’s “Ryanna act” was so convincing that he felt like he needed a bath for even thinking about causing her a moment’s distress. He wanted to crawl out of his skin and run away, but his family was depending on him. He tried to think of his Mother and the expensive medications she needed. He thought of Lex Luthor with all his millions in one hand and Roger’s unpaid invoice in the other. He thought of the video on the internet with a barely clothed Alexis shaming a married US Senator that she had tied up on a hotel bed. He needed these thoughts in order to commit to what he was about to do. He knew that as soon as Ryanna gets into his car, the deed would be as good as done.

Roger said, “Honey, please don’t worry about us hurting you.” Ryanna burst into laughter. Roger thought, “poor, naïve kid” and said, “Get in the car and slide over into the passenger seat.”

Roger was having a rough time driving. Ryanna talked non-stop and Pez kept trying to get an arm between the seats to grab a handful of Ryanna. He kept swatting at Pez’s arm while keeping an eye on the road and trying not to be distracted by Ryanna. She was telling him about how blessed she had been to have good and loving parents, a warm and cozy bed to sleep in and Fforde to share her bed. She spoke of sunrises and sweet air and the joys of making discoveries and of sharing with the world the things that she had found. She was thankful to own her 21 fertilizer companies and grateful for the hundred dollars of profit she earned each week by having them. She was even more thrilled at the thought of traveling the world some day and seeing how green the world would be. She told her companions stories from the Bible and recited testimonials from magazines she had read. Roger tried to tune her out. If this wasn’t an “Alexis game” and if this girl was legit, then she must be brain dead. Of course if she really did develop that fertilizer and the equipment to manufacture it, she couldn’t be stupid. Then again, she knew he was lying to her and still got into the car. Unless she had a way of contacting Superman, that was a pretty stupid thing to do. That thought sent a chill down his spine. Maybe he should have done a body search for hidden transmitters. He forced that thought out of his head. Maybe later, when Ryanna was out cold, he could send Pez out for food and pat Ryanna down. There was no way Pez Head would stop with a simple search. He decided that Ryanna must be some kind of idiot-savant because she seemed to show no knowledge of the horrors of the world. If he didn’t keep swatting Pez’s arm, she would be getting the feel of the real world soon enough. Finally, it all got to be too much for him. He shouted to Pez Head, “Give it to her now!”

As Pez grabbed a gallon jug from near his feet and got out a rag, Ryanna said, “You have something for me?” Pez Head soaked the cloth with chloroform, put it over Ryanna’s nose and mouth and held it there firmly. When Pez removed the rag, Ryanna’s face was all scrunched up and she said, “No offense Bob and thanks for the thought, but that perfume you had Johnny put on me was YUCKY! What was that stuff? Channel number poo-poo?”

Distracted, Roger drove over a deep pothole. Pez dropped the large, economy size bottle of chloroform and the contents poured under the driver’s seat. Roger tried to open the car window but he got dizzy and lost consciousness. The car went off the road striking a large rock. The car flipped upside down and went airborne as the ground in the path of the car's flight dropped away to a small river 300 feet below. Both men tumbled in the car unconscious but Ryanna righted herself and lifted the car by its chassis while still inside. Guided by her x-ray vision, she gently landed the car on its roof a short distance from the river bank and got out. Moments later, she had both men out and lying on make-shift beds made of soft underbrush. She was grateful that she had chosen a mid-length skirt to wear but really wished it was a longer skirt -- and one that she didn’t like as much. By the time she had bandaged both men, she had only a short skirt left and no blouse. It seemed to her that Pez Head’s wish may have come true. She could have torn up the men’s shirts but they were both out cold and it wouldn’t have been polite to tear up their shirts without asking their permission. Pez Head had a fractured femur so she made him a splint. She thought about bandaging his mouth shut too but she didn’t have enough skirt left, it wouldn’t have been polite and he might have enjoyed it too much. Ryanna built a bon fire and moved a large rock near the fire so she could sit and watch the flames while the men slept. Her worst nightmare had come true. She knew now that she would never make it home in time to see “Angel.”

"The Second Mile" Part Two [Though I am stuck in a valley with Pez and Roger I will fear no evil.]

Roger Carter woke up wondering where he was. He started to sit up and felt a sharp pain in his side from where he had collided with the steer-ing wheel. He looked over at the fire and then saw Ryanna sitting on the large stone near him. She said, “Hello Sleepy Head. Are you ready to talk some more?”

Roger replied, “I don’t recall having an opportunity to do much talking. What happened?”

Ryanna answered, “You fell asleep behind the wheel and went off the road. It was a pretty wild ride.”

Roger asked, “Where’s my car?” Ryanna pointed and Roger looked over to see his car on its roof. He patted himself and said, “Where’s my gun?”

Ryanna answered, “In the car. You won’t need it. What we really need is some marshmallows or some hot dogs. I’m hungry.”

Roger commented, “Hmmmm.  Pez must be out cold or he would have commented about you wanting a hot dog. Is he OK?

Ryanna said, “Fractured femur.”

Roger asked, “Am I OK?”

Ryanna said, “No, you’re not.”

Roger asked, “Why? What’s wrong?”

Ryanna responded, “You tell me. You say you need my help. You’re in trouble. Tell me about it so I can help you and then we can both go home.”

Roger said, “Unless you are going to hand me a lot of money, then there’s nothing you can do for me. Pez would want you to do something for him, but you have nothing to offer me.

Ryanna asked, “Is “Pez” Johnny?”

Roger said, “Yes.”

Ryanna asked, “Are you Bob?”

Roger said, “No, I’m Roger.”

Ryanna said, “Well Roger. I know you’re not in a good mood but telling me that I can’t help you is a very insulting thing to say to me. I’m a very resourceful person. Look at yourself and Pez. You’re all bandaged up. You have a bed. I made a fire. I found a lot of coal but the railroad tracks over there and that’s keeping the fire nice and hot. And I’m told that I’m very smart. I had a teacher who gave me a world of knowledge that I can draw from.”

Roger interrupted, “AND you have a ton of money.”

Ryanna answered, “Yes, I do. I have about $2000.00 in my own personal savings account.”

Roger said, “You have hundreds of thousands of thousands of dollars.”

Ryanna said, “No, that’s Alexis’s money. I use that to do good things. She did bad things and her money mostly came from someone else that did bad things to get it. So I don’t use it unless it’s for the good of the world.”

Roger commented, “Well that money would do me a world of good.”

Ryanna said, “I feel sorry for you if money is that important to you.”

Roger replied, “Spoken like someone who has plenty of it.”

Ryanna said, “Oh, I’m rich. I know I’m rich – and in ways you couldn’t even imagine. I have almost everything I want and if I’m patient and if God decides to make it so, I’ll have the rest – and VERY little of what I want has to do with money.”

Roger asked, “What could you possibly want?”

Ryanna answered, “Well, I want a man who loves me and children.”

Roger said, “That should be easy.”

Ryanna answered, “Not the man I want, it won’t be. But there’s time. I also want to know why you need me to be here tonight when Buffy is supposed to be on “Angel.””

Roger said, “Your brother owes me money and has refused to pay. So I took you to make him give me lots of money to give you back to him.”

Ryanna said, “Clark doesn’t have lots of money … and it wouldn’t be very smart to call him and threaten me.”

Roger said, “I was talking about your brother Lex Luthor.”

Ryanna answered, “Oh! Alexis’s brother. I knew there was something wrong with what you said. If Clark owed you money he’d pay you. But Lex wouldn’t pay you to return Alexis. He might pay you to keep her. He hates her. I don’t know what she did to him, but, when I met him the other day, he gave me a hateful look that gave me the willies. Don’t tell my Dad, but he hates her so much that he hit ME!”

Roger said, “Honey, cut the –crap. You ARE Alexis.”

Ryanna said, “Well BOB, I hope you don’t kiss your Mom with that mouth. That’s what you get for hanging out with that Pez guy. I’m not Alexis. I was Alexis, but she got beaten out of me. I think I died and then there was this light so bright you wouldn’t believe it.”

Roger interrupted, “A tunnel, right?”

Ryanna continued, “No silly. Tunnels are dark. This was the sun. Anyhow, I don’t remember Alexis at all except for what I’ve been told and I’m a little frightened to find out. It’s hard knowing that I used to hurt people -- and that someone I see on the street that I don’t know might hate me. But sometimes I get angry over something silly and look in the mirror and see Alexis staring back at me. That scares me so bad that I have to keep the lights on all night. I stay up and pray to God that she stays away forever and ever. So please don’t make me mad, because I don’t want her coming back again. So, Roger, please tell me what you need and I’ll pray for you too.”

Roger said, “I need money. Your brother – Alexis’s brother didn’t pay me because I didn’t find out that you were calling yourself Ryanna Kent. He owed me 3 months pay.

Ryanna said, “So you blame me?”

Roger said, “No.”

Ryanna asked, “But you want me to fix it?”

Roger said, “Well ….”

Ryanna said, “I can’t pay back everybody Lex hurts and I won’t be held responsible for what he does – and I won’t pay you not to hurt me. You’ve already hurt me as much as I’m going to allow you to. You hurt my feelings. You tried to force me to come with you. You tried to trick me. You lied to me. I don’t want enemies, Roger. If I can’t be a friend to you or at least live in peace with you, then what hope can I have for a world full of people that don’t even WANT to be friends – that live to hate each other. There is so much for me to do in this world and I can’t do it alone.”

Roger said, “What are you doing? Running for re-election? If you don’t think that I can hurt you, you are wrong. All I would have to do is stand aside and let Pez Head do what he wants with you! I wouldn’t need to lift a finger!

Ryanna asked, “You would do that? You know I am not responsible for Lex not paying you, but you would hurt me for money? So what is it that you think Pez would do to me if you let him?”

Roger answered, “Probably the same kind of thing as you did with that senator in that videotape.

Ryanna said, “What?”

Roger answered, “You filmed him having kinky sex with you then you humiliated him and destroyed his career by distributing the film on the internet. You sure are wicked with a whip.”

The tears started to flow from Ryanna’s eyes and she said, “I guess you were right Roger. You could hurt me more … without lifting a finger. I hope my Daddy doesn’t know about that.” After quietly crying for a while, Ryanna continued, “What do you want the money for, Roger? A new car? Well, I guess you need one now. Would letting Pez rape me be worth some bucket seats or a cruise control to you? How about a four wheel drive? And if driving me over an embankment had killed me, then Lex might have paid you the money he owed you. Would that have made you happy, Roger? Would it? I am just so happy that my pain can serve you, Roger.”

Roger said, “You wouldn’t have to be hurt. I don’t want anybody hurt. But I don’t want the people that I love hurt either.”

Ryanna asked, “So, you love people now? So would these people be better off if you were in jail? Would they be better off if you had died in the car accident? Would they be better off if your friend with the big heart over there decided to shoot you in the back so he could have me to himself?” Roger remained silent. “So, Roger, what do you want to buy for the people you love with the money?”

Roger mumbles, “Drugs.”


Ryanna asked, "They are hooked on drugs? So don't ask for money, ask for help getting them into a drug treatment plan. I have people that could help you with that."

Roger said, "PERSCRIPTION drugs. Her medications cost about $2000.00 a month and medicare won't cover it. Her pension program went bankrupt so the benefits she was promised where she worked all her life aren't there anymore.

Ryanna asked, "Is that your only problem?"

Roger replied, "Isn't that enough? Well, I'm not a spring chicken either and I have medical problems and my wife has medical problems and her parents are sick too. I lost most of my benefits at work, sold my house to pay medical benefits, started my own business to try to survive and then Luthor stiffed me."

Ryanna asked, "Why did your employers take away your benefits? Were they in financial trouble?"

Roger answered, "They were earning money hand over fist. They took away the benefits for the same reasons that Luthor didn't pay me -- greed and the knowledge that they could get away with it. You work years and years for a company and they sell the product of your blood, sweat and mind, but when they don't make a 150% return on their investment each year, they look at their employees as an expense -- not an ****et -- not as the source of their income -- not as the founders of the feast. They split open the golden goose looking for the eggs and then blame the goose that there are no more eggs and throw out the carcus. They are morons! They don't know what they are doing!"

Ryanna asked, "So why do they run the company?"

Roger answered, "Because the ones at the very top keep non-threatening people around them -- people who say yes to any dumb idea. These people who have no technical no-how -- just highly honed -suck-up skills hire smart, hard working people to do the work and their friends to go on luncheon meetings and golf outings. The workers are keep needy enough so that they can't just leave. If they do leave, they will soon see they are in a new place but the same situation again. The people who go out on their own have to get people as clients. These clients are the same type of people they quit their job to get away from. You have to lie to people and promise things you can't deliver to get the work. Then if you do deliver, the standard is raised and you can't do any less the next time -- and if they don't need you for another job, they'll make an excuse not to pay for what you've already done. And they have the lawyers to keep you from doing anything about it. But after a while, by trying to go off on your own, you've become the same kind of slimy liar that you used to work for."

Ryanna asked, "WOW! But isn't that better than being a kidnapper?"

Roger said, "I guess it would be -- if I was a good enough liar and slimy enough to keep in up year after year, but I'm not."

Ryanna asked, "So why didn't you ask for help with the medical bills?"

Roger said, "I asked until I was blue in the face. I filled out forms. I jumped through hoops. But it's more work to get help than getting a job -- and if you're sick, GOD help you!"

Ryanna said, "Yes! God help you! And I'll help you too if you help me."

Roger said, "Help you? I don't need to help you. I've already got you. I'm already committed. If your family wants you back. They'll pay."

Ryanna asked, "And if they don't pay?" Roger looked down and didn't answer. Ryanna continued, "Look. You didn't take me, remember. When you tried, you failed. When you asked, I came but under my terms. You are not committed to this course of action. And you don't HAVE me and you won't have me. Here is your choice: Allow me to help you my way and work for me or pretend you have no choice and do something that is illegal and immoral. It's your choice."

Roger said, "You are wrong. I DON'T have a choice. There is no time. My family is sick. Soon we will have to do without medicine and soon after that we will be out on the street."

Ryanna said, "I'm offering you a job."

Roger said, "Don't give me that "hand up verses a handout" non-sense. I am in serious trouble. There no way a job in your fertilizer plant would pay me the kind of cash I need right now. Or do you want me to use my skills as a private detective and spy on people for you. Do you want me to follow this man you want to marry and take pictures of people he sleeps with? Do you want me to dig up dirt on Lex Luthor? What would you have me do?"

Ryanna said, "Kind of like what you said but not nasty."

Roger asked, "Spy on Lex?"

Ryanna said, "No, I want you to find people for me and find out about them. I want you to learn about how things work for me and come back and talk with me like you just did about health care and working for companies."

Roger asked, "What would you do with this information?"

Ryanna answered, "I don't know a lot about the way things work in this world. I don't remember being out there. It's not like I was born yesterday, but it is like I was born 9 months ago. People say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well I believe that if it can work better, why not? I also believe that if things are going well for a person, they think things aren't broken. But if they don't work for everybody, something is wrong -- something IS broken. I want to make this world a better place, but I don't have a clue to what is broken so I can't fix it. You have already given me ideas about forming companies with structures where better workers can benefit from their work. There can be defined goals so that workers can be evaluated on how they reach those goals -- not how good a friend they are to their boss. The slimy lying element can be eliminated by selling direct at lower costs because the management -- ME, doesn't care about making money. If we operate on this basis, the workers who work will get more income and benefits and other companies will have to follow our example to compete or they will go out of business -- and I'll but them up. This may be too simplistic, but I can use my mind and Alexis's money to make it happen -- just like I did with the fertilizer plant. And if drug costs are too much, I have the skill and knowledge to make better drugs and sell them for less. You don't have to believe I can do it. Just bring me the information and watch me do it. If I can't, then we can take another ride together."

Roger said, "You are crazy."

Ryanna said, "No, Alexis is crazy. I'm the sane one. Aren't I, Alexis? Oh, Alexis, I knew you'd say that!" Ryanna laughs and says, "Did I scare you Roger?"

Roger answers, "A little."

Ryanna said, "Here is your first job for NuStart. You think you are bad off. I want you to check around and find out if you are worse off than anybody else. OK? You can start anywhere you like. Go looking for people worse off than you. Find out why they are in trouble and what is keeping them from getting out of trouble. When we see a pattern, we can attack the root of it, but first we help those that are the worst off. Bring me a list of people who are bad off that despirately need help. If it turns out that you are indeed the worst off person in the world, we will work on your problems. Be creative. Handle the job in a way that works best for you. I only ask one thing. Don't put Pez's name on the list because I'm not ready to fix what's broken with him yet."

Roger said, "Both of you are crazy! I can't do anything like that. I had to borrow gas money to drive here. I'm broke. My family needs help and my car is wrecked."

Ryanna said, "So you may get on the list. I could give you a retainer. Not one of those thing that you put in your teeth -- unless you want one of those too."

Roger asked, "How much?"

Ryanna said, "Well, I don't have any money right now. I don't want to use up my savings."

Roger said, "Great! Kid, just go home before Pez gets up. Just follow the road back the way we came and don't get into any more cars. I have pity on anyone who might pick you up! Just walk home and leave me here to face Pez when he gets up. Maybe he will finish me off when he gets up. Just hide if you see him following you."

Ryanna looked a little hurt and said, "Don't you want to work for me? I'll get you on the NuStart payroll soon enough, but I'll give you a retainer now."

Roger said, "A retainer IS money."

Ryanna said, "I'll give you something better than money. And this will be fun too. You'll have to use your head to sell what I give you for a good price. You might even make as much as Lex owed you. Maybe more.”

Roger looked Ryanna up and down. She didn’t bring anything with her when she showed up by the car -- not even a handbag. She wasn’t wearing enough clothes at this point to conceal much of anything. “You can’t have anything on you that’s worth that kind of money.”

Ryanna smiled and said, “It’s magic! Do you want to see me do a trick, Roger?”

Roger said, “Uh-oh. Here comes Alexis and her games. You had me fooled there for a while. Go home before I decide to go back to the original plan.”

Ryanna said sternly, “Look here, Roger Bob! If we are going to work together, you have to remember to learn to have fun. It lightens the load and makes you glad to be alive. Come over and see me do a trick. You’ll like it. I had to work hard and get real dirty before I learned to do it right.”

Roger said, “I’m married.”

Ryanna said, “Yeah, you told me ...HEY! Is that a Pez remark? OH! I watch “COPS!” This isn’t that kind of trick. You have to trust me and stop having dirty thoughts. Can you do that?”

Roger said, “Well, maybe and no.”

Ryanna said, “Come over here. This is close up magic. If you see it from far away, you won’t believe it. If you see it close up, you REALLY won’t believe it. I trusted you enough to come with you. It’s only fair you trust me. I hate begging people to do things that I know they’ll enjoy.”

Roger got up despite the pain and limped over to the rock and leaned on it. Ryanna said, “This is the hard part I haven’t figured out yet -- how to do this without getting dirty. I need some coal from the fire.” Ryanna went over to the fire and picked out a couple pieces of coal.

Roger yelled, “Hey, be careful!”

Ryanna said, “Oh! You care! How sweet. But this is magic so don’t worry. OK. Here’s how it goes. One piece of coal in each hand. It’s supposed to be black and dull colored, not red and glowing like this. Can you pretend that it’s black? OK?”

Roger cringes seeing the burning coal in Ryanna’s bare palms. He thought that this must be a variation on the “walk on hot coals” trick. He said, “I’ll pretend.”

Ryanna said, “I could get more coal from the tracks, but pretend hard. Let’s see if I remember how it goes. If you take a heart that is black and dull as coal and take hold of that heart with a firm and steady hand ... and apply pressure for that heart to change into something better ... and have faith that it can happen, then that dark and dull heart can become something bright and shiney and pure.” Ryanna closed her hands and squeezed, then she opened her hands and blew cold breath on them until they cooled and the remaining coal dust flew away from what was left. In the palm of each hand was an uncut diamond. She lifted Roger’s hand and put both diamonds in his hand. “Sorry about the coal dust. I hate that part. But it’s a cool trick, isn’t it? What to see it again?”

A dazed Roger simply looked at the diamonds.  He simply shook his head that he would like to see the trick again. Ryanna ran to the fire and said, “These are too small now and it’s better if they are not hot. I’ll get more from the tracks.”

Roger looked up and she was gone. He wandered over to his car and said, “I’m a fool, this is just broken glass from the car.” He took the diamond and ran it across the windshield. It made a deep **** in the glass proving that it was genuine. He looked over and Ryanna was waiting with a pile of coal. He went back and sat on Ryanna’s rock he watched her repeat the trick again and again until the coal was gone and all his pockets were buldging with diamonds. He couldn’t figure out where she was getting them from. If she was getting them from her bra, she would have been an A-cup by that point and she was a big as ever.

Ryanna said, “Is that enough of a retainer?” Roger nodded “yes.” Ryanna asked, “Then will you work for me?” Roger nodded “yes” again. Ryanna said, “Let’s make it legal!” She grabbed Roger’s hand and shook it firmly and painfully. Then she pulled him close and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. Ryanna said, “Just give me a call when you’re ready to start work, OK? God bless you! I’m going to call someone to take you and Pez home OK?”

Roger asked, “I didn’t see a phone. Is there a phone near here?”

Ryanna said, “No, I’ll whistle and my friend will come get you!” Ryanna put two fingers in her mouth and blew, but Roger didn’t hear anything. She said, “YUCK! Coal dust! Did I leave a mark on my face?”

Roger answered, “A little .. on your chin. You didn’t whistle, you know. There wasn’t any sound.”

Ryanna said, “Oh, he’ll come. He promised and my friend keeps his promises.”

Roger was thinking that Ryanna was a little crazy again -- maybe eccentric was a better word from now on -- until a deep voice behind him said, “Can I help you?” Roger Jumped but then calmed himself. He turned around and almost passed out when he saw Superman standing there.

Ryanna said, “Superman, these men had a car accident and need a way home. Could you fly them home please?”

Superman said, “No problem.”

Ryanna said, “Hey, if that one sleeping over there wakes up, be careful. He may grab your butt. He got a handful of mine a couple times.”

Superman chuckled a bit and pulled Ryanna aside. He asked, “Aren’t you out a little late ... with strange men ... by a campfire ... wearing only a bra and short, short skirt?”

Ryanna waved a finger in Superman’s face and said, “Look, Buddy! I needed bandages and they don’t grow on trees, you know! And I’m almost grown up. I’m 14 years old so Dad said I could make decisions for myself. I told him I was going out and he said OK.”

Superman said, “You are so cute when you get an attitude while you have coal dust on your face!”

Ryanna melted a bit and said, “Really?! Hey! Oh!” Ryanna pouted a bit and then grapped Superman’s cape and wiped her face with it.”

Superman said, “You’re lucky Pa honed his parenting skills on me. I never was allowed out this late. I’m really surprised though, that you chose to stay out on the night when there was a new “Angel” on TV.

“Ohhhh!” whined Ryanna.

Superman continued, “As it was good too. Buffy made an appearance! You know they talked about having that guy star in a movie about me.” Then, laughing, he added, “... and he’s almost good looking enough to pull it off.”

Ryanna asked hopefully, “Did you record it?”

Superman said, “Why would I? With my memory, I can just replay it in my head. Hey, I’d better get going if I want to get these guys home before some emergency comes up that I have to take care of. You had better get home yourself. Fforde will be worried!”

Ryanna shouted, “Don’t treat me like a child! I could beat you in a fair fight, you know!”

Superman said, “I’m sorry. I’m just kidding around like good friends do. And you know we’re more than just friends.”

Ryanna said, “We aaaare?”

Superman said, “Yes, we’re family.”

Ryanna said, “Oh, yeah.”

Superman continued, “And I know you could beat me in a fight. That’s why I’m so glad you’re one of the good guys.”

Ryanna protested, “You KNOW I’m NOT a guy either!”

Superman said, “I know.” Superman leaned over towards Ryanna and her knees began to tremble. She closed her eyes, tilted her head and puckered her lips. Superman planted a very brotherly kiss on her cheek. Then he went over and roused Pez Head from his sleep. He grabbed both men by their wastes and took to the air. As he flew away, Ryanna could here Superman shout, “Sir, Let go of my butt!” She also heard Pez say, “Wow, buns of steel!”

Ryanna said, “I told him, but would he listen to me? Nooooo! Roger had better put my name on his list because right now my life -sucks. No “Angel,” I’m tired, I’m hungry and I’m all dirty -- and I taste coal in my mouth. Well, maybe a run in the moonlight will make me feel a little better.” Ryanna raced home over hills and fields. She stopped at her front door and took off her shoes. She grabbed a quick snack from the refrigerator then walked past the TV and looked at it mournfully. She crept upstairs, washed off a bit and pulled on a night shirt and checked in on her parents. Her Dad was asleep and snoring, but Martha motioned Ryanna over to her side of the bed. Martha gave her a gentle kiss and then said, “Did you have fun with your friends tonight?”

Ryanna answered, “It was interesting, but it wasn’t really fun. I held a job interview and hired an ****istant. Clark came by and said “Hi” for a few minutes.

“Oh, that was nice!” said Martha, “But try to not stay out so late next time. OK, Honey?”

Ryanna said, “OK, Mom.”

Martha said, “We still worry about you. Your Dad wanted to wait up for you but he was exhausted and kept falling asleep in his chair. He went into your room for a minute when we came up. I think he left something for you on your bed.”

Ryanna said, “Good night Mom. I love you.”

Martha answered, “I love you too, Baby. Glad you’re home.”

Ryanna gave her mom a kiss then kissed her father as he slept. She walked into her room. Under Fforde’s arm was a videotape with a post-it note on it. The note said, “Here is tonight’s “Angel” for my Angel. Dad.” Ryanna smiled and kissed the videotape. She said, “Well, Fforde, now Roger can’t put me on his list.” She silently said her prayers, crawled under the covers, pulled Fforde into her embrace, closed her eyes and dreamt the dreams of an innocent child.