Lightningman Strikes!
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Diet Another Day!

a.k.a. "Genocide as a Method of Insider Trading"

A 13-chapter Superhero Saga!
(Basically.)

By
"Royal" Richard K. Lyon

About the author
"Diet Another Day" is the third Lightningman story.  The first two,  "The Secret Identity Diet" and "The Chocolate Chip Cookie Conspiracy”, are available on request from the author at Lyonheart@cableone.net





Episode One:

Playing Cassandra at FBI Headquarters


"In dieting, as in life, honesty is the best policy, even though the results can be quite unpleasant."
Dr. K K Chang, THE USE OF ZEN PHILOSOPHY IN WEIGHT LOSS

AS I ENTERED THE OFFICE OF THE FBI DIRECTOR, I knew I was in trouble. It was a large oak-paneled room empty of furniture except for a mahogany desk and the chair behind it. Anyone meeting with FBI Director J. Gordon Edgar had to stand on the wide carpet that surrounded his desk like a sea. Even congressmen had to stand, like schoolchildren summoned to the principal's office, waiting for him to notice them. The walls of his office were covered with framed copies of newspaper clippings of J. Gordon Edgar's career. On my left were accounts of the thirty occasions when he'd killed someone in the line of duty during his ten years as a New York City cop.

The right-hand wall showed his equally ruthless war on white collar crime and corruption. Only four months after the Mayor of Los Angeles appointed him Chief of the LAPD, Edgar obtained indictments against him and half of the city counsel. In the years that followed, Edgar had bagged twenty state senators, three U.S. congressmen, one U.S. senator, and the Governor of California. When the President nominated Edgar to head the FBI, some people said he did it to get Edgar out of California. Others said it was because he was mad at everyone in D.C. Whichever the case, the Senate confirmed the nomination by an anonymous voice vote. There were very few people in the Senate who'd lived lives of faultless righteousness. For all the rest it was prudent not to do anything that might attract J. Gordon Edgar's attention. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't follow the Senate's wise example.

Glancing up, at last, from the papers on his desk, Director Edgar gave me a cold stare. "Mr. Kent," he said harshly, "you requested to see me on a 'personal matter'. Last week I issued a directive that all Bureau personnel, whatever their assignments, were to be fired immediately if they were more than twenty pounds overweight. Since then I've had twenty people ask for interviews on 'personal matters' and, of course, I saw all of them. When you're firing someone, he or she has a right to face you, but that doesn't change anything. I told them that there were no exceptions and that's what I'm telling you. You're at least a hundred pounds overweight and that means that you're fired."

"But, Mr. Edgar," I protested, "you can't fire me."

That had been the wrong thing to say. The Director's face promptly reddened and he thundered: "OH YES I CAN! IF THERE'S ONE THING I CAN'T STAND IT'S FAT PEOPLE! THEY'RE ALMOST AS BAD AS FORNICATORS AND I WILL NOT HAVE EITHER IN MY FBI!"

"Ahh, sir," I explained cautiously, "what I meant was that it would be difficult for you to fire me because I don't work for the FBI. I'm in the Bureau of Export Control."

"Then why," he demanded, "are you here? The only other group of people who want to see me for 'personal reasons' are amateur detectives trying to explain their half‑baked theories. If that's it, forget it! The door's behind you."

Since it wouldn't do to tell Director Edgar that he was now right about me, I said, "I'm a friend of your step‑daughter Marge."

"That," he snapped, "doesn't make you any friend of mine. When a black man like myself marries a white woman with two grown daughters, he can't hope to control their social lives, not completely anyway. Just don't think that buys you anything with me."

The tone of his voice when he said black made it very clear he didn't want to be called an African-American. There was just a bit of sweat on his dark chocolate forehead and I couldn't help remembering the dynamite my uncle Milo had once shown me. It was overage and had sweated tiny drops of nitroglycerine.

"Sir," I said respectfully, "I'm more than just a friend of Marge's. I'm her ‑‑ ahh ‑‑ roommate."

"Are you," he asked in a tone of dangerous patience, "telling me that you've been having sex with my little Marge; that you've been putting your fat hands on my white princess?"

As he spoke, I noticed that the paperweight on one stack of reports was a 45 automatic. While that was more than a little disturbing, the newspaper clippings on the wall behind him were, in a subtle way, even worse. Reading the headlines I saw ANOTHER DRUG DEALER SLAIN BY VIGILANTE IMPALER, IMPALER KILLS 47th VICTIM, and STREET CRIME DROPS AS IMPALER'S BODY COUNT RISES. There were a lot of headlines and a lot of clippings of editorials, all critical of Jim Edgar's failure to catch the L.A. Impaler. What many thought but no one dared say, was that Chief Edgar could not catch the LA Impaler because he was the L.A. Impaler.

"Sir," I said gently, "I thought your wife had told you about the agreement Marge and I have."

After a doubletake, Director Edgar relaxed visibly. Smiling he said, "Yes, I remember now. My wife complains that I don't pay any attention when she tells me things; that I just keep on working while saying 'Yes Dear, that's nice'. She's wrong. It all goes into the old data bank and it's there when I need it."

After moving the gun from one pile of papers to another he continued: "Now, as I understand it, you and my darling Marge are in love and plan to marry, but she remembers how her poor dear father died from being overweight. Consequently when she moved in with you, the arrangement was no sex with her until your weight is down to two hundred fifty pounds. After that you and she will continue having intercourse only if you maintain a schedule for weight loss and you'll marry on reaching one hundred eighty pounds."

From the look he was giving me and the closeness of his hand to that very large gun, I thought it best to say nothing and just nod.

"Well, boy," he told me, "obviously that arrangement needs to be renegotiated. I'll be glad to welcome you into my family and spring for a big wedding once you reach one hundred eighty, but of course, til then you don't touch Marge."

Clearly there was only one acceptable answer. Unfortunately it was too late for me to use that answer. "Thank you, sir," I replied in my most grateful tone. "I deeply appreciate your willingness to accept me into your family and, yes, of course, I promise that until we're married I won't have sex with Marge again."

"WHAT," he demanded, "DO YOU MEAN BY AGAIN?"

"Please, sir," I begged. "I was a thirty six year old virgin and deeply in love. We were facing a horrendous crisis ‑‑ she said we needed encouragement and that, if we survived, we'd give ourselves one night together. You couldn't expect‑‑"

"IS MARGE PREGNANT?" he demanded furiously.

"Yes, sir," I told him in a very small voice.

Taking a deep breath, he looked at the ceiling while absently tapping the desk with his gun. After a moment he looked back at me. "In that case, son, you leave me with no option. You and Marge will marry immediately and I'll gladly pay for whatever wedding Marge and her mother want. Of course, you can forget about the honeymoon until you lose all that weight ‑‑ but don't worry. Probably you think that losing weight is extremely difficult. No such thing. I was once nearly as fat as you and I took it right off. It's just a matter of will power and you're going to have the full benefit of my will power."

"Thank you, sir," I said; "that will be fine. The only thing is, ahh ... well ... Marge had been having these painful menstruations and she'd been taking the pill and ahh‑‑"

"Cut to the punch line." he snapped. "I don't want to spend all day listening to female plumbing problems."

"The bottom line, sir," I replied, "is that when you take the pill you have to stop periodically."

The anger in Director Edgar's face changed to a mixture of anger and concern. "Just," he asked, "how pregnant is my daughter Marge?"

"Heptuplets," I said in a very small voice.

"But," he objected, concern now filling his face, "this is Marge's first pregnancy and she's nearly thirty. She can't carry seven babies."

"No, sir," I replied quickly; "our doctor tells us that two is about the limit."

"THEN WHAT," he demanded thunderously, "ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? IF YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT DESTROYING ANY OF MY GRANDBABIES ..."

"No, sir," I assured him; "Marge and I want these babies, all seven of them."

"That's good," he said in a calmer tone, "but how are you going to manage?"

"Nowadays," I explained, "embryo transplants are a perfectly safe procedure and Marge's sister Ethyl has been having fertility problems. When Marge told her about the situation, she was eager to help."

The Director's face relaxed and he said, "Alright, good, That's‑‑" Suddenly he frowned. "But Ethyl's only a year younger than Marge. She can't take more than twins, can she?"

"No, sir, but, ahh, as it happens, your daughter Barbara has also had fertility problems and she‑‑"

"NO!" he screamed. "DON'T TELL ME THAT YOU'RE PLANNING TO PUT YOUR FAT WHITE BABIES INTO MY PRECIOUS BARBARA! NOT MY BEAUTIFUL BLACK PRINCESS!"

"Sir," I replied politely, "please don't misunderstand me. There's no question of my wanting to do anything. This whole arrangement is something the ladies decided among themselves. I'm just their messenger."

Obviously thinking hard, he stared at me intently. Reaching a conclusion, J. Gordon Edgar moved his hands away from the gun, placing them palms down, fingers wide apart, on the desk. After taking ten rapid deep breaths, he said, "Knowing Marge, I'm sure she wouldn't let you come here until all this was an accomplished fact."

I nodded. "This morning, sir. The mothers and babies are all doing fine but we can't visit them until tomorrow morning."

"Well," he said philosophically, "I guess I brought it on myself. My first wife, God rest her soul, had an unhappy life because she was weak-willed and let me neglect her. I resolved not to make that mistake again and married the strongest-willed woman I could find. I should have realized that in the bargain I was getting a pair of stepdaughters, one of whom was more than any man could --"

Abruptly his eyes narrowed. "Barbara's the same age as Marge! She can't take more than twins, so what happens to the seventh baby?"

"Sir," I replied gently, "I'm sure you know that, despite her age, your wife wanted to have another baby."

"IMPOSSIBLE!" he screamed. "Helen would never do anything like that without consulting me!"

"Sir, your wife told me that she did tell you. You continued doing paperwork and said 'Yes, dear, that will be fine.'"

It's impossible for a black man's face to actually turn white. The most that shock and horror can do is change a rich dark chocolate into a dark ashen hue. For a long moment that's what happened to Director Edgar. When he started breathing again, his color returned. He glared at me and said, "Congratulations, young man, you've made a clean sweep. If I hadn't had my dog spayed I'm sure she'd be pregnant too."

"Ahh, sir," I said tentatively, "I'm afraid that when your wife took the dog to the vet, she was told that spaying would have to be delayed."

"WHY?"

"Well, it wasn't my fault," I protested. "I mean, when Marge and your wife left the dog with me they never said anything about its being in heat, and besides, that's not the bad news I came here to tell you."

His eyes bulging, he demanded, "And what is this bad news?"

"Well, ahh, I was trying to work my way up to it gently."

"BUT," he exploded, "WHAT'S LEFT? YOU'VE ALREADY TOLD ME THAT, THANKS TO YOU, BOTH MY STEPDAUGHTERS, MY DAUGHTER, MY WIFE, AND MY DOG ARE PREGNANT! THE ONLY THING YOU HAVEN'T SCREWED IS THE FBI!"

"I'm ... afraid, sir, that would be, ahh, one way you could describe it."

"ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT YOU'RE HERE BECAUSE YOU'VE DONE SOMETHING THAT SEVERELY DAMAGES THE BUREAU?"

"Ahh, well, I'm kind of afraid that I have sort of caused a bit of an embarrassment for the FBI, sir. I, ahh, well, I ..." Too late I realized that I'd made a horrible mistake by coming here.

Director Edgar began to smile. "Son," he said, "let me explain something. The FBI has recently taken two major screwings from that extraterrestrial bastard Lightningman. First, there were those blasted Brazilian financiers who Lightningman clobbered before the Bureau had the foggiest that anything was going down. That was a first class public relations disaster, but when he wiped out John Lucchesi and his whole gang, that was worse. A lot of people in Congress had had three, even four, cookie-a-day habits which they had to quit cold turkey. They're so mad they can't think straight. They insisted that the Army Corps of Engineers search under the ice in Antarctica for the 'Fortress of Solitude' and the Engineers had to do it. They want the U. S. Geological Service to find some Kryptonite and the Service is in it deep because they can't.

"Worst of all, they're demanding that the FBI arrest Lightningman. I mean, think about that. They want us to catch a bastard from another planet who can fly, become so damned invisible that you can't even see him on radar, and who's invulnerable, with superhuman strength, x‑ray vision, and telepathic powers! Anyone with any sense would see that's an impossible task, but I can't say that to Congress. There's this insane rumor that, since the comic book character Police Commissioner Gordon is Batman's confidant, I must be Lightningman's friend and ally. If I say anything that sounds less than eager to catch Lightningman, people will take it as proof that the rumor is true."

Director Edgar paused, and his smile widened. "What I'm leading up to, son, is, please, relax. This thing you're having trouble telling me about can't be all that much. Not compared to what that damned Lightningman did, so just tell me about it."

I didn't really have any choice. "Well, it began when my cardiologist told me I had to begin a massive exercise program or plan on an early grave. I didn't want to buy a cemetery plot so I went jogging in Central Park at night. That meant I had to buy a kevlar jogging suit and the only one I could find in my size looked like an idiotic superhero costume. At first I just wore the stupid thing at night when I went jogging, but then Marge got kidnapped. I deduced that she'd been taken to the Brazilian Embassy, but I couldn't get anyone in the NYPD or FBI to listen to me because they thought I was an amateur detective. That meant I had to rescue Marge myself, and since the jogging suit gave me some protection, naturally I wore it."

"Then," James Edgar guessed, "you'd have been there looking fat and foolish when the real Lightningman rescued Marge. I can see why you'd find that humiliating, but I can't see how you did any real harm."

"Actually, sir," I said softly, finally annoyed enough to say what I had to, "I got lucky. I succeeded. I did rescue Marge."

"No, you didn't." he contradicted immediately. "Lightningman did that AND DON'T TELL ME THAT YOU'RE REALLY LIGHTNINGMAN!"

"As a matter of fact, sir, I am."

"I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT!" he exploded.

"I'm sorry, sir, but it's true. Lightningman's supposed powers are really one-percent fakery and ninety nine percent gullibility."

"NO!" he shouted. "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! CAN'T YOU SEE WHY IT HAS TO BE IMPOSSIBLE? IF LIGHTNINGMAN IS A SUPERBEING FROM ANOTHER PLANET, THEN THE FBI HAS SOME EXCUSE FOR FAILING WHERE HE SUCCEEDED.  BUT IF IT'S JUST YOU, A FAT MAN WHO COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE ANY KIND OF HERO, THAT'S A DISGRACE! THAT'S SOMETHING WE COULD NEVER LIVE DOWN!"

"Yes, sir, that's why you have to help maintain my secret identity."

Controlling his temper, the Director spoke to me the way a sensible adult would to a bright but unreasonable child. "Now see here, young man; what you're saying can't be true because it violates common sense. Just tell me, which is more reasonable: believing that Lightningman really is a superpowered visitor from another planet, or that the news media are dishonest and the Congress of the United States is packed with easily deluded fools who ..."

He looked at me with an expression on his face like that of the Emperor when he lost the argument with the little boy about his new clothes. "Dear God," he whispered. "You're telling me the truth. You really are Lightningman. Why, why, son, did you have to tell me? Didn't you realize what a horribly awkward position you were putting me into?"

"I didn't have any choice. I had to tell you about my being Lightningman so you'd take me seriously. I discovered that there's another crisis coming, something horribly dangerous!. Once I explain my deductive reasoning, you'll--"

"Before you explain your theory," Director Edgar interrupted in an emotionless voice, "I need to know if you have any supporting evidence."

"No," I admitted, "but once you hear my reasoning, you'll see that I have to be right."

"That's all I need to know," the FBI Director said as he got up and moved swiftly around his desk. Grabbing my right arm in an expert police hold, he started toward the door. "God, you see," he continued, "has His Policies and I have Mine." With an abrupt shove, James Gordon Edgar sent me flying through the door. The last thing I heard before it slammed shut behind me was, "I can't shoot you, but THAT DOESN'T MEAN I HAVE TO LISTEN TO HALF‑BAKED THEORIES FROM FAT AMATEUR DETECTIVES!"

I returned to my hotel room in very low spirits. Since I couldn't see Marge at the hospital until tomorrow morning, I had dinner -- a pot of black coffee with no sugar, no cream, four ounces of boiled chicken without the skin, two raw carrots, ten prunes and six cashew nuts -- and went to bed early.

At 3am someone started knocking on the door of my hotel room with what sounded like the butt of a gun, shouting, "CHARLES KENT, THIS IS FBI." With some trepidation I opened the door to find myself facing two lean, hard faced men in dark blue suits. They were, I realized with a sinking feeling, FBI Special Agents Moore and Miller. Both of them flashed badges and pushed past me into my room, Miller pointing his drawn gun downward but not putting it back in his holster. "Mr. Kent," Moore declared accusingly, "this afternoon you had an appointment with FBI Director J. Gordon Edgar, his last appointment of the day. What did you and he discuss?"

"Jim," I replied, casually using the Director's first name, "will tell you that if he wants you to know."

"But he won't!" Moore protested, fear suddenly showing through his veneer of hardness.  "He can't because HE'S BEEN KIDNAPPED!"


On to Episode 2....A Job For Lightningman!


Back to Pulp and Dagger

Back to Diet Another Day!


"Diet Another Day!" and the character of "Lightningman" are copyright by Richard K. Lyon. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)