"Same Content, Different Package"
Linda picked up the phone and called Roger Carter. When he asked who it was, she told him some private, embarrassing details about their first meeting, he knew exactly who she was. She informed Roger that she would be now using the name Linda Lee Kent. She warned him that a dead body would be identified as Ryanna Lynn Kent AKA Alexis Luthor and not to worry about it. Roger thanked her for the inside information and her trust in him. She told him to send her his reports by e-mail and they would get together in a couple years after things settled down a bit. Then Linda asked if Roger had put his name on the list yet. He answered, "Not yet -- and I probably never will." That made Linda happy. She knew Roger would be easy. The hard work was ahead of her.
Gabe Sullivan was looking over that month's production volume reports when there was a knock at on the door jamb. Gabe had had the door removed because he wanted everyone know that he had nothing to hide and that he was accessible. He looked up to see a young girl standing there smiling at him. Gabe said, "Hello young lady, did you get lost from your tour group?"
Linda said, "No Gabe. I have to see you before it's too late."
Gabe said, "Well, I'm glad it's not too late! Pull up a chair and let's get down to business."
Linda walked over to Gabe and said, "Could I sit right there instead?" She pointed to an empty spot on his side of the desk. Gabe looked around to see if he had someone who vouch that he wasn't misbehaving with a minor in his office, but no one seemed to be around. He didn't really want a girl he didn't know sitting that close. Linda sensed his discomfort and said, "It's OK. I can sit in the chair, but I wanted to have a close personal talk between friends and that's my favorite spot."
Gabe said, "Not that I don't like you, but normally people know each other before they call each other friends."
Linda said, "Not necessarily. I'm people's friend until they force me not to be. But we're old friends. You just don't know it yet."
Gabe said, "Oh no! You're not one of my ex-wife's kids are you?"
Linda's mouth dropped. She said, "Gabe, you never told me! Chloe has sisters or brothers. Does she know?"
Gabe said, "Whoever you are, don't tell her. It would break her heart to know that her mother raised other children after running out on her."
Linda said, "I'm sorry, Gabe. I won't tell. Chloe's my friend, but you're my main man."
Gabe stared at her silently. Linda took Gabe's hand and turned it palm up. She put her knuckles on his palm and made a few rapid movements. Gabe was startled. Linda repeated the movements. Gabe asked, "Did Ryanna send you?"
Linda said, "Kind of."
Gabe asked, "Did Ryanna teach you that?"
Linda said, "No. You taught it to me. That's our secret handshake -- just between us."
Gabe said, "We don't have a secret handshake. Ryanna and I do. That was close, but that wasn't it."
Linda said, "I got it right. I just added to it. You taught me the whole alphabet, just like your Mother taught you." Gabe didn't say anything so Linda continued, "Chloe used to collect and report really strange stories. She put them on a wall in the high school newspaper office. Did you believe what she did? I know you think she is smarter than most people. Do you think her reports were true and correct?"
Gabe answered, "They were hard to swallow, but I saw evidence that forced me to believe. You can't live in Smallville without seeing really bizarre things. I like a simple life full of meaningful work. I bury myself in here and hope the weirdness stays outside my door."
Linda said, "Gabe you don't have a door. And, I'm sorry, but I just brought the weirdness in. You're not deaf like your Mother was Gabe. I can tell you out loud and you can hear what I said in my secret handshake ... I Love You. And here's what I added ... Trust Me! Gabe, I am Ryanna. I'm in a different package but the content is the same. The love is the same. I just look different and call myself Linda Lee now."
Gabe asked, "How is that possible?"
Linda asked, "Does it matter? Can you live with my new face? I still want you to be my main man. We have a lot of work to do and you're the one I trust most to get things done."
Gabe said, "This is hard to accept. It's not like you had plastic surgery. You're almost two feet shorter."
Linda said, "I'm a freak. What can I say? But know me by my works. Recognize me by what I do and from the fruit of the seeds we plant here. I had to come tell you today. I didn't want you to be sad."
Gabe said, "Sad about what?"
Linda answered, "My old body died yesterday. Somebody shot it in the head. Alexis Luthor is dead. Ryanna Lynn Kent is legally dead. But I am here like I have been since the day we started this company together. Can I sit on the spot you keep clean for me?" Gabe nodded and Linda hopped up onto the desk. She said, "That's different. I used to lean and now I have to jump to get up there. Let's talk business for a while but then I need to see some other people before they hear that I'm dead."
Chloe Sullivan got a call from her father telling her to expect a young woman by the name of Linda to come for a visit in the next few minutes. He wouldn’t explain what it was about. He just told her to listen to what Linda had to say. She had no sooner hung up the phone when the doorbell rang. Sure enough, there was a young girl at the door. Chloe asked, “Linda, right?”
Linda answered, “Yep, that’s what they call me these days.”
Chloe said, “Come on in. Dad told me that you wanted to talk to me.” Six year old Alex ran to Linda to give her a quick look over then ran to hide behind his mother. “Don’t mind Alex here, he doesn’t bite – at least not until he knows you better and we’re working to getting him to quit that. Aren’t we Alex?” Alex grunted in disgust that his mother was telling tales about him and stormed off to his bed room.
Linda said, “He’s a real cutie pie. He’s even better looking than in the photos Gabe has in his office. He’s six years old, right?”
Chloe answered, “Since March.”
Linda said, “He looks just like you.”
Chloe said, “Yeah, thank God he doesn’t look like his father.”
Linda asked, “Why? Was his father ugly?”
Chloe said, “No he isn’t … wasn’t.”
Linda asked, “So why wouldn’t you want him to look like his father?”
Chloe sidestepped, “… Dad said you wanted to talk to me?”
Linda answered, “Oh yeah, I have a weird wall story to tell you.”
Chloe said, “Oh. OK. Well I still collect them but I don’t publish them anymore.”
Linda said, “That’s good, because this one is private, but I want you to know it. Oh, by the way, I read all your books since the last time. Maybe you’ll sign them for me if I come back some other time?”
Chloe asked, “We’ve met before?”
Linda said, “Oops. I got ahead of myself. Can I tell you my story?”
Chloe said, “Sure, take a seat anywhere you can find an empty space.”
Linda took a seat and started, “Once upon a time there was a bad little girl named Alexis. She was raised by a man who was the best at being the worst. He was pure evil and he taught the little girl to be as bad as he was until he died and was buried – at least part of him was buried – but that’s a different story. Anyway the little girl got a chance to have a new life. She started over with no memories and got to be raised the second time by her real Mommy and Daddy who love her and say she is doing OK at being good. Her new name which was her original name was Ryanna Lynn Kent.”
Chloe said, “I think I know this story.”
Linda said, “But you don’t know how it ends, which is the important part. The bad girl decided to come back. She was very strong so the mostly good girl had to find another place. The good one moved into a new body. The other one went off to resume her life as Alexis. The new one now had a new body to go with her new life. But because it is a secret and because people couldn’t possibly believe what really, truly happened, Ryanna had to get a new name. So Ryanna Lynn became Linda Lee. There’s more, but I’ll stop now to take questions.”
Chloe asked, “What kind of joke is this? Why would you tell me something this bizarre? Those stories I used to report actually happened. Is this someone’s idea of a way to make fun of me?”
Linda said, “I would never make fun of you. You were a good friend when I was very sad. I just wanted to let you know the truth before you heard something that would hurt you.”
Chloe said, “How would I get hurt?”
Linda said, “You liked Ryanna right?”
Chloe said, “Yes, I like Ryanna very much.”
Linda said, “Thanks, I like you too.”
Chloe asked, “Am I supposed to believe this?”
Linda answered, “Yes, I hope so. Gabe did.”
Chloe asked, "My father believed you?”
Linda answered, “We did our secret handshake. Like I told you before, he’s my main man. He knows me well enough to recognize me even in a smaller package. And no, I’m still not his girl friend. I’m just a girl that is his friend – and his boss. Well maybe not. I gave NuStart to Dad, so maybe Dad is his boss. But I’m still waiting for Cla… someone else so I won’t be dating your Dad.”
Chloe said, “This is nuts.”
Linda said, “No, it’s just weird. Hey, you told me that Alexis broke you and Lex up. Wasn’t that was 7 years ago? You broke up just before Alex was made!”
Chloe said, “I was on the rebound from Lex. You’re too young to know abut that kind of thing. I met a man. We got engaged. He was in the military. He died before we got married. I found out that I was pregnant after I got word that Joe had died.”
Linda said, “G.I. Joe! You told me your secret was that you played with G.I. Joe.”
Chloe asked, “Who told you that?”
Linda answered, “You did -- in the park the day that Sam died.”
Chloe said, “OK. So, this is getting TOO personal now. Explain this “getting a new body” business.”
Linda said, “I have secrets that I have to keep too. I’m sorry. I can’t explain everything. Just like you can’t let Lex find out that you had his baby. You shouldn’t have named him Alex.”
Chloe said, “Oh no! OH, NO! Is that what this is about? Are you trying to blackmail me? Well you can’t because Alex’s father is G.I. … is Joe! The baby is mine – not Lex’s.”
Linda said, “I’m sorry I upset you. I didn’t want you to be upset. That is the whole reason I came – so you wouldn’t be upset when you hear the news. I wanted to let you know that I’m not really dead. It was Alexis that died – not me.”
Chloe stood up and walked in circles around the room. Then she picked up the phone and hit speed dial to call her father. She said, “Dad, what kind of sick joke is this? Why did you send her here? No. That’s NOT possible. Don’t throw that up to me. Those stories were factual. A secret handshake is not factual. No, I’m not the one that’s gullible. Sorry, Dad. Forget it. We’ll talk later.”
Linda said, “Call Petey.”
Chloe said, “Pardon me?”
Linda said, “Call Pete Ross. He knows me and he knows that Ryanna lives in me and that Alexis is dead. Just like he knows what you know about Clark.”
Chloe said, “You don’t think I will call, do you?”
Linda said, “I hope you do.”
Chloe hit the speed dial number for Pete. When he answered the phone she started, “Pete. There’s a girl here named Linda. She says … You believe her? That’s not rational!”
Linda tapped Chloe on the shoulder and said, “I have to go tell Grandpa Clark before he hears the news. I’ll bring the books for you to sign next time. I won’t tell anyone about G.I. Joe or his son. I swear. But I have to go now.”
Chloe said, “By Pete, we’ll talk later.” Then she turned to Linda and said, “Yu may have convinced my fiend and my father but you haven’t proven anything to me yet.”
Linda said, “Daddy told me that Clark should never have told anyone about himself because it’s not good for people to know about us. It’s not safe for you. But he also said that, if Clark had to choose anyone, he couldn’t have chosen wiser than by choosing you and Petey. I’m not supposed to tell anybody about me either, but I will tell you now. Clark’s father from Krypton fixed Mom so she could have me and fixed me so that I could be a companion to Clark. I am just like Clark. I wasn’t kidding when I told you in the park that we are the same species. I’m trusting you now in hopes that you will trust me to and believe what I told you. I have to go see Grandpa now. I’ll visit you another time. OK?” Linda walked to the balcony door, slid it open, closed it behind her and climbed the rail. Chloe ran to the door just in time to see her jump. She saw Linda wave to her as she flew off.
Chloe went back to the couch and sat down. She said to herself, “If I wrote things like this in my novels, people would have me locked up!”
William Clark heard the knock at the door and looked out the peep hole to see a Lamb Cop puppet staring back at him. The mouth of the puppet moved while a deep voice said, “Let me in Grandpaaaaaa. I know you’re in there. I want some BEANS!” William tried to count from ten to zero before he opened the door. He didn’t want to let on how excited he was to have Ryanna come visit. She had too much power over him as it was. He didn’t want to be any more tightly wound around her finger than he already was. He opened the door sooner than he planned to and in marched a young blond girl with the lamb chop puppet on her hand. She said, “Only managed to count to five this time, huh?” Then she plopped down on the couch and say, “We need to talk and this isn’t going to be easy.”
William Clark asked the girl, “Who are you and what are you doing with the puppet I gave my grand daughter?” Then he looked her over a little closer and asked, “How did this happen? You are obviously Martha and John’s kid but their babies aren’t due for another four months. You have to be at least 10 years old.”
Linda said, “Hey, I was shooting for 14. I was born the first time 14 and a half years ago. I only remember a little less than 2 of it, but I don’t even want to tell you how old this body is.”
William said, “Just for grins and giggles, tell me anyway.”
Linda answered, “Less than 2 weeks.”
William said, “I told Martha not to stay in Smallville. There’s something in the water there.”
Linda said, “Well usually, it’s the kryptonite that makes weird things happen, but this was different. Grandpa, I’m calling myself Linda Lee now, but I had to have a whole body transplant. I used to be Ryanna. I’m just a better size now to fit on your lap. I don’t know how to make you believe me and I’m tired of trying to convince people. I’ve been working at it all day. Maybe you could help me by telling you how I can prove it to you.”
William said, “Well, if you gave me a whole body transplant and I woke up looking like a young Clark Gable, I would see that what you are talking about is possible.”
Linda said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. I’m a little different than anybody else so it was possible with me – and even then I didn’t get the job done entirely right.”
William said, “What did you get wrong? Do you have ten toes?”
Linda said, “Yep. Seven on the right foot, three on the left. Only kidding. I got the hair color wrong and I don’t look as much like Mom as I used to.”
William said, “Well why would anyone so young need a new body? You were good looking, just a little big for your age. And you weren’t sick, were you?”
Linda answered, “Someone else had a prior claim on my old body – her name was Alexis Luthor. She re-possessed it.”
William said, “Sounds like a TV show.”
Linda said excitedly, “Really?! Which one? I might want to watch it.”
William said, “Well It’s probably on the BS channel tonight at 9:00pm.”
Linda said, “SHOOT! I don’t get that one. Oooo. Grandpa, I’m hungry. Proving who you are is hard work. Can you spare a can of beans? Did you lay in the Bush beans like I asked or are you still buying Del Monte?”
William answered, “I got some Bush beans but they’re for Ryanna.”
Linda said, “But I am Ryanna!”
William said, “Well prove it and they are as good as cooked.”
Linda said, “SHOOT!”
William said, “Does Jon teach you to talk like that?”
Linda said, “No, it’s probably your influence. This would be a whole lot easier if you knew about Clark. If you knew that, you’d believe anything and I’d be eating beans by now.”
William said, “What, did he get a new body too?”
Linda said, “No, Lionel Luthor got a new body. It just looks like Clark.”
William continued, “Or are you talking about Clark being Superman.”
Linda said, “Who told you that?”
William said, “Nobody told me. What kind of fool do you think I am? I bet Jon thought up that glasses thing, didn’t he? He should wear a cowl like Batman.”
Linda said, “A cowl is bad for peripheral vision, but Superman could see through a mask even if it didn’t have eye holes. That’s a good idea. I’d suggest it to him but I’m sure he won’t listen. Like you say, neither of us is in the age range where anybody will listen to us.”
William said, “You can say that again, Ryanna!”
Linda kissed William and said, “You called me Ryanna, so I get my beans!” Linda held up the hand with the puppet and made Lamb Chop say in a deep voice, “A plate for me too, Grandpa.”
William said, “Hey, I may be a monkey’s uncle but I’m no grand father to a little lamb! And I’ll have to get you a Sherry Lewis video. That’s not Lamb Chop’s voice at all.”
Linda said, “It is when he’s hungry. Grandpa, do you REALLY believe me?”
William answered, “Well, who else would visit me?”
Linda said, “You have to believe me. It’s really important. More important than beans.”
William asked, “Why?”
Linda said, “The one that got my body got killed. They’ll say on the news that Ryanna Kent is dead, but I’m not.”
William was quiet for a while. When he at last spoke he said, “Having a second person visit and claim to be Ryanna is one thing, but now you’re talking about someone who might be my grand daughter being dead. This is SERIOUS! Tell me that my grand daughter isn’t dead and that this wasn’t some fool idea to spare my feelings.”
Linda said, “The body was the daughter of Jon and Martha Kent, but I am the girl you knew. You never knew Alexis. I shouldn’t have told you until I knew you believed me. I’m sorry I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” Linda began to tear up a bit.
William said, “Well, only Ryanna seemed to care about my feelings, so you just scored another point towards convincing me.”
Linda said, “Hey! I let the insults against Dad go by earlier, but don’t accuse the family of not caring. Superman passes over every day on patrol and checks on you. I know Mom misses you. And Dad looks for your name in the obituaries every day just to make sure you’re not in it.”
William was silent for a second then he chuckled. Then he laughed. Then he said, “Two plates of Bush’s baked beans coming up. Make that three! I’m hungry too.”