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


PREVIOUSLY: Lightningman, supposed visitor from another planet, is in reality Charles Kent, a fat middle-aged low level federal bureaucrat. Deducing that a dire conspiracy is underway, Kent goes to see FBI Director James Gordon Edgar. Instead of listening to him, Edgar throws Kent from his office. That night FBI agents awaken Kent with the news that Director Edgar has been kidnapped!



Episode Two:

A Job For Lightningman!



WHILE A 3AM VISIT FROM THE FBI is hardly pleasant, Agents Moore and Miller had no real reason to suspect me of anything. They were here out of a forlorn hope that I might be able to give them some small scrap of useful information. While I couldn't do that, I still had to tell them enough to show them that they were barking up the wrong tree. Unfortunately the FBI is one of those organizations that equates professionalism with not having a sense of humor. When I explained about the embryo transplants, they didn't dare allow themselves a smile. When I got to the incident with the dog, it was too much for them. Hastily muttering, "Thank you for your time, Mr. Kent," they fled.

Tiptoeing forward I peeked out the door. Five meters down the hallway, Miller was lying on his stomach, pounding the floor with his fists and his feet, while tears streamed from his eyes and convulsions of laughter threatened to stop his breathing. Moore was sitting on the floor, his back to the wall, banging a hole in the wall with his head. After a while, Miller recovered enough to actually form words: "Can you believe it? The first shot that fat bastard fires he nails all the Director's women!"

"You don't know the half of it," Moore replied while continuing to bang his head. "That time he took care of the Director's animals, the dog, the fixed tom cat and the hundred year old parrot. The cat's really female! That damned fatso got everyone and everything except the hundred year old parrot!"

While their amusement at my expense was more than annoying, that was scarcely the worse part of this situation. If I could judge by these guys, the FBI didn't have a clue as to who had kidnapped Jim Edgar or why they'd done it. Actually … the motive for Edgar's kidnapping was a very interesting mystery. While Edgar had a great many political enemies, they'd have found it to murder him. Kidnapping for ransom was also unlikely in the extreme. Despite the two clowns who'd just left, the FBI is an extremely powerful and efficient organization. While it wouldn't pay to get its director back, it would be more than glad to kill.

There seemed to be only one possible reason for kidnapping. As head of the FBI, J. Gordon Edgar would know some very large secrets. Had he been snatched by someone who wanted to force one of those secrets from him?

Maybe, but wouldn't it have been easier to take some lower-level FBI official who also knew the secret? What would no one except J. Gordon Edgar know? Other than that absurd rumor that Edgar was Lightningman's confidant, what--

Oh, Dear God, could that be it? Maybe, and for sure a lot of very mysterious bad things were happening. I absolutely had to get somebody to listen to me. Maybe if I used an indirect approach I'd have better luck, but who could I call? Who'd even be awake at this hour?

Picking up the phone, I tapped in the number of Police Captain Ian Foster, NYPD. If he wasn't still on night duty, I'd be out of luck. To my relief his leathery face appeared in the viewscreen, a stub of a thick cigar in the corner of his mouth. "What," he snapped, "do you want, Kent?"

"I'm writing a detective story," I explained, "and I need two questions answered. It'll only take a couple of minutes."

Foster's expression softened slightly. "Okay," he said, "ask."

"Thanks! Remember how those Brazilian financiers tried to destroy all the world's banking records with electromagnetic pulse weapons? Brazil's a third world nation. The only way they could get advanced weapons like that would be to buy them, but who would be in a position to sell things like that? It's the same mystery with John Lucchesi. He couldn't have made the 3-ethyl fentanyl he was putting into those cookies, so who sold it to him?"

Captain Foster's craggy face showed only the faintest glimmer of interest and, lest I lose him completely, I hurried on. "In my novel there are two main characters, one sort of like me and one kind of like you. I -- that is the Kent character -- figures out that two extremely antisocial inventions in entirely different fields of science can't be the work of a single mad scientist. There has to be a research organization, a place that does R and D for high tech criminals. With all the corporations downsizing research labs these days, the institute wouldn't have much trouble hiring a lot of brilliant people who are thoroughly mad about the way they've been treated. The Kent character doesn't know anything about this research institute except that it exists which means there'll be another ghastly crime soon."

Foster nodded and I continued: "Here's where I have a problem. To make the next part of the plot work, Kent has to go to the police detective, and the detective has to refuse to listen to him. Now, I know that could happen. Law enforcement professionals are often unwilling to take help from amateur detectives, but I'm not clear on why."

"Two reasons," Foster replied while blowing out a cloud of poisonous black smoke; "First, did you ever count how many idiotic movies and TV programs show cops as incompetent nerds who have to have some brilliant amateur detective solve the case for them? That's a stereotype and cops don't like it any better than African-Americans or Jews like racist or anti-Semitic stereotypes. For somebody like me to listen to someone like you about how to solve a crime, well, he's going to have to swallow a large chunk of professional pride."

"Second," Foster continued after puffing on his cigar, "there's Procedure. Every time the Supreme Court extends the damned rights of the accused, we develop new procedures so those precious rights don't really do the bad guys any good. As a result, police procedures have become a maze an outsider couldn't possibly understand. Now, in your novel, is the Kent character a federal paper shuffler? Does he try to get proof that this Bad Guys Research Institute exists by digging through the computer data banks to see which scientists are missing?"

"Well, yes," I admitted.

"OH!" Foster exclaimed; "That's beautiful! For a good novel, you've got to put your heroes behind a really nasty eight ball and that's a great one! This Kent character goes sneaking into the data banks without a court order, commits a ton of privacy act violations, any one of which would sink the case when it came to court, and then he comes to a cop like me! If I don't listen to him, this horrendous disaster will occur and, if I do, the bad guys walk! I LOVE IT! Kent, do you know how often I have nightmares about exactly that kind of stuff happening? Your novel will sell!"

"Sir!" I said, trying not to sound unhappy. "Do you see any possible way the characters could get out of the mess I've put them in?"

"No!" he exclaimed cheerfully, "That's what's so great about it! There isn't any way out!"

"Well, thank you, then," I said and hung up.

What Captain Foster had said meant that my situation was absolutely hopeless as far as getting any help from any other law enforcement agency. That meant I had to take a less than satisfactory alternative: informing the news media.

Since I didn't have enough legally acquired facts for "ethical" journalists, I'd have to use the others. The obvious choice was Joan Rivera, TV's Queen of Sleaze. As Charles Kent, I was a stranger to her but, as Lightningman, I'd once saved her from torture and death at the hands of John Lucchesi's thugs. At the time I'd had a glowstick in a shoulder pocket. It broke, letting glowing green liquid out to drip down my arm. Seeing it, Ms. Rivera screamed, You're bleeding! I replied that she should say nothing of this because knowing I could be hurt would encourage my enemies.

While Ms. Rivera later did a host of outrageous things -- even named Lightningman as the father of her unborn child -- she had kept silent about my "bleeding". While I thought that made her trustworthy in her fashion, I'd still have to be very careful how I dealt with her.

Maybe. For sure I had to do something.

Quickly I put on my black kevlar jogging suit, boots, gloves and motorcycle helmet. At night, anyone shooting at me would naturally aim at the only part of my outfit that was clearly visible: the lightning stroke reflector on my chest. Since I wore a 2-cm-thick titanium plate under the reflector, I could take a pretty hard hit there.

I also attached a miniwheel skate board to my back with velcro. I probably wouldn't need it, but better safe than sorry. After putting on a black topcoat, I checked myself in the mirror. Good. With the coat on and my helmet visor up, I'd look like an ordinary citizen out for a ride at night on his bicycle.

Getting my rental bicycle, I peddled away from my hotel through the darkened streets of our nation's capital. There'd been a piece on the Channel 2 News yesterday about Ms. Joan Rivera being called today before a Senate committee to testify about her relationship with Lightningman. They'd shown her checking into the Hilton.

Just outside the Hilton there was a Palmer machine. When I reached it, I inserted a credit card and selected a video. Thus equipped, I parked my bicycle in the rack at the Hilton's service entrance. As I turned to go in, a large black limo pulled up behind me. While that was a little odd -- VIPs usually liking to go in the front door -- I didn't see any need to worry about it.

At the desk I held up the video, saying: "Urgent package for Ms. Rivera."

The unshaven nightman looked at me briefly with one eye, grunted, "1237," and went back to work on a racing form. I went back outside. The black limo was still there, looking like something out of a gangster movie set in the '30s. Since no one had passed me, no one had gotten out. While that seemed a little ominous, all it probably meant was that the limo's passenger was a little ashamed to be coming here in the middle of the night. Maybe he was waiting so I wouldn't see him.

Dogtrotting back to the Palmer machine, I returned the video and stepped around to the payphone on it's back. I fed it some coins, put my helmet over the camera, and tapped in first the hotel number, then 1237. Lightningman was an illusion that I could pull off only under very special circumstances. If I simply knocked on Joan Rivera's door and said, "Hi, I'm Lightningman," she'd laugh in my face and tell me that I was a ridiculous fat man. A mysterious phone call, however, just might work.

A thin faced, hard eyed man answered the phone. "Yeah," he growled, "what do ya want?"

"I need," I replied in my most expressionless voice, "to speak to Ms. Rivera. Tell her that she must not say my name."

"Look, Buddy," he snapped, "we're having an important meeting. Either tell me who you are and what you want or get lost."

"Tell Ms Rivera that she saw me bleeding and promised not to speak of it."

From somewhere behind the thin faced man, a woman exclaimed, "Good God! I know who that is! Give me the phone!"

I'd done it! In another instant, Joan Rivera would be on the phone. I'd tell her what I'd deduced, she'd broadcast it, and that would be that. The proper authorities would have to deal with the problem and I'd be off the hook.

Instead, I heard the sound of wood being smashed, the woman screaming, and a pop like a champagne bottle being opened. The thin faced man turned back toward me, eyes unfocused, a small round hole in the middle of his forehead. He'd been murdered! They were kidnapping Joan Rivera!


Back to Episode 1....Playing Cassandra at FBI Headquarters

On to Episode 3....Lightningman Strikes Back!


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!)