Chapter 22 – Scarecrow I
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
Author's Note: Once again we're getting into events that are adapted directly from the Smallville season one premiere. I certainly take no credit for any of them, just for the way that I've manipulated events to let my changes to the world fit. I'd like to offer special thanks to everyone who's reviewed the story and helped me get this far into as well as to my beta reader misagoddess who consistently helps me keep my typing errors to a minimum.
-== Chapter Twenty-Two – Scarecrow I ==-
Chloe got to the Torch early the next morning. She couldn’t actually explain it, but she had woken up with the distinct feeling that if she didn’t get there early, she would miss something important. Since she hadn’t been able to shake the feeling, she gave up and came in a full hour and a half before classes were due to start. Frighteningly, she had only just unlocked the door and turned on the light when the phone rang, sending an eerie jolt down her spine.
Ignoring the frantic crawling of her skin, she scooped up the handset and answered in the most cheerful tone she could manage, “Smallville High School Torch, Chloe speaking.”
“Chloe, this is Paul…over at the Lowell county coroner’s office,” said a familiar voice, “Boy, am I ever glad you’re in early...”
A faint smile lit the reporters face at the words. Paul was only a year ahead of Chloe at Smallville High and worked nights at the coroner’s office. He was also one of about two Goths in the whole town. She had lent him some black nail polish one afternoon and they’d been friends ever since. He knew about her fascination with the weird things that went on in Smallville and tended to keep her abreast of whatever weirdness crossed his desk at work.
“Hey Paul, what’s up?” she asked curiously.
“Something seriously tripped out is going on, Chlo,” he said quickly in a hushed voice. “I’m talking twilight zone bizarre. I’m gonna fax you a couple of autopsy reports on these two stiffs they brought in tonight, but whatever you do, you did not get these from me…”
“Alright,” she said even more curiously. “I’ll take a look and you know I’d never give up a source.”
“I know, but if someone finds out about this it could cost me more than my job. We’re talking jail-time for interfering in a police investigation…” he said, lowering his voice further. “I can’t really explain it, but something tells me you really need to see these.”
The reporter frowned. There seemed to be a whole lot of weird hunches and intuition in the air today… and that could only mean something very Sunnydale was going on.
“If anybody finds out I have them, I won’t even admit knowing you,” she assured him.
“And if this turns out to be as big a deal as I think it is, you so owe me one,” he said jokingly before hanging up. A few moments later the fax machine whirred to life and spat out a pair of almost identical autopsy reports. Two twenty-nine year old men had died by electrocution within the past 12 hours, both with a severe electrical burn on their chests. Both deaths had been ruled misadventure, despite the fact that scene investigators had failed to produce a source for the electrocution.
By itself, the two deaths were enough to send her weird-dar into overdrive. Combined with the strange hunches and coincidences that had put the two autopsy reports into her hands, she was seriously verging on freak-out territory. It was the names on the reports that cinched it though: Daniel Thomas and Luke Winfrey, two of the boys featured in the picture that had been stolen from the vandalized trophy case. The very same boys Xander saw tie Jeremy Creek to a wooden cross in a cornfield the day of the meteor shower in his dream. Suddenly misadventure seemed a lot less likely than murder. Someone or something was deep-frying jocks for the sins of their youth and whatever was responsible was one corpse away from having a complete set.
Chloe only hesitated for a moment before pulling out her phone and dialing Xander. She only hoped he could help her stop this before anyone else got hurt.
* * * * *
The shrill ring of a cellular phone jolted Xander from a dreamless sleep. He glanced at his clock as he scooped up the offending telephone and flipped it open. Who on Earth would be calling him at a quarter past six a.m.?
“Hello?” he said quietly.
“Xander!” an excited or possibly freaked out, female voice answered. “It’s Chloe. Someone’s killing the people in the picture that was stolen!”
The Aesir was instantly wide-awake. He threw back the blankets and got out of bed as he spoke. “Where are you?” he asked, concern clear in his voice.
“At the Torch office,” she answered.
Xander frowned, wondering why she was there so early before dismissing it as unimportant. “Stay put, I’ll be right there,” he said quickly before abruptly hanging up the phone. He exploded into super-speed, dressing quicker than an eye could blink and racing off to the school.
Literally seconds later, the Thunder God seemed to materialize in the Torch office with a whoosh of displaced air. Without preamble, he asked, “Okay Chloe, what’s going on?”
Chloe’s mouth dropped open in obvious shock at his abrupt appearance. Rather than answer she looked back and forth from her cell-phone to Xander repeatedly. “What? How?” she stammered out as she tried to fathom how it was possible for him to arrive so quickly.
“OH! That’s right, I didn’t get a chance to tell you yesterday… I learned that I can move really, really fast when I want to,” he said with an embarrassed grin. “I got dressed and ran here from the farm as fast as I could…”
“Wow!” she exclaimed. “That’s almost ten miles!”
Xander shrugged it off with another grin, before his expression turned serious, “Now what’s this about dead people?”
Forcing herself to focus on the more important issue at hand, the reporter handed the Aesir the autopsy reports she’d been faxed. “Daniel Thomas and Luke Winfrey were both found dead last night. They were electrocuted and they have almost identical burn marks on their chests from whatever caused it,” she paused as Xander’s eyes darted over the reports. “Coroner ruled it an accident, but both boys were pictured in the stolen photo.”
“Are we sure they’re the same guys?” he asked before suddenly shaking his head. “Never mind, that was a dumb question. Even if they just happen to have the same names, there’s no way that’s just a coincidence.”
“Somebody is getting even with the people that picked Jeremy as the scarecrow,” Chloe asserted simply. “The only question is who…and why now? I mean, eleven years is a long time to wait before taking revenge.”
“Could it be Jeremy?” the Thunder God asked.
“I don’t know,” the reporter confessed. “So far all I’ve been able to turn up is that Jeremy was admitted to the hospital in the aftermath of the meteor shower. Then he falls off the grid completely. There’s nothing else on the public record: no discharge, no death certificate, nothing.”
“Can you hack the hospital’s patient records? See if maybe he’s still in the hospital?” the Aesir asked with a glance at the reporter.
“I can try… but my hacking skills are no where near Red Tree’s. I’m not sure I’m good enough to get in,” she said with a frown.
“I don’t want you to risk getting in trouble, but we need to find Jeremy and figure out what’s killing these jocks before anyone else dies,” he frowned considering the situation. “Think you could poke around and see how secure the records are without getting in trouble? A little digital recon before you try to get in?”
“That much I'm pretty confident I can handle,” Chloe said with a reassuring smile.
“Alright, if the security seems lax and you can get in without a problem, go for it,” he said with a smile as he scooped up a piece of paper and jotted down a phone number. “If it’s too tight, call Willow. She’ll still be in bed, but her folks are out on the east coast so she’ll be the one to answer the phone. Tell her what’s going on and she’ll help.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked, sitting down at her computer even as Xander tapped something out on the other machine’s keyboard.
“I’m going to find jock number three,” he replied, “Hopefully before he gets a bad round of electro-shock therapy.” His eyes flicked over the screen quickly. “Bingo! Frank Martin runs an auto repair shop here in Smallville.” He glanced at the clock to find that it was exactly 6:20. “I’m going to check this out. I’ll be back before first bell…hopefully.”
Before Chloe could even call out a warning to be careful, the teenaged God vanished in a blur of motion.
* * * * *
Clark woke to the sound of his cell-phone ringing and interrupting a very good dream. A dream involving himself, Aphrodite and a cute Asian girl he’d never seen before with green-streaked hair. The three of them were in a large bed together with very little clothing and things were just beginning to get interesting when the phone rang. Shoving his overly hormonal subconscious aside, he scooped up the phone and flipped it open. “This had better be important,” he said groggily, “because you just interrupted the best dream I’ve had in weeks.”
“Clark, it’s Xander,” he heard his brother’s voice respond. Instantly, the Kryptonian was fully awake and sitting up. Why on Earth would Xander be calling him this early…and from where? “Chloe called me a few minutes ago and something freaky is going on…maybe even something hellmouthy. I’m going to investigate. Can you make some excuse to Mom and Dad for me?”
“Where are you?” the young alien demanded.
“I’m at a garage here in town, Frank’s Auto Repair,” the Aesir said quickly. “I don’t think it’s anything serious, I just don’t want Mom and Dad to freak when I’m not there for breakfast this morning.”
“Be careful anyway, Xan,” he replied. “I’ll talk to Mom and Dad, don’t worry about it.”
“Thanks, Clark. I’ll see you at school later,” the Thunder God replied before hanging up the phone. An instant later, Clark was dressed, ready and stepping into the kitchen.
“Clark!” his mother exclaimed in shock. “You’re up early. Is everything okay?”
For a brief moment, the Kryptonian considered telling his mother the truth. Unfortunately, he didn’t think that would go over so well, all things considered so he opted for the alternative. “Yeah, everything’s fine,” he lied with a smile. “Xander and I were supposed to meet Chloe at the school before classes this morning. He’s already there and called to remind me.”
Martha frowned slightly, immediately wondering why her son was lying to her. She was one of the few people that Clark never had to lie to and she could almost always tell when he did. She was tempted to call him on it, but some part of her knew that he wouldn’t lie to her unless he thought he had a very good reason. Deciding to trust her sons, since both of them were clearly involved in this, she simply said, “Be careful, Clark.”
Clark nodded sharply and stepped outside before racing off to find his brother. If there was something hellmouthy going on, then Xander had no business going off to deal with it alone.
* * * * *
Chloe stared at the patient records as she searched through them for Jeremy Creek’s files. To her surprise, it had been almost ridiculously easy to hack into the hospital’s systems and cover her trail as she did it. Admittedly, this wasn’t her first foray into digital breaking and entering, but the last time she had been exploiting back doors that someone else had set up and pointed out to her. After Willow had helped her hack the Sunnydale Coroner and Police systems, Chloe had spent some time working on learning the basics of hacking but this should have been way beyond her skill. Somehow though, it wasn’t. She just seemed to know, almost instinctually, exactly what she needed to do.
Rather than question her good luck or the hospital’s lax security, she focused on finding what she was looking for. Smiling brightly, she opened Jeremy’s records and stared in shock. Jeremy Creek had been in a coma from the day of the meteor shower up until just a few days ago. He’d disappeared mysteriously in the aftermath of a severe electrical storm in Metropolis. Somehow, it didn’t seem like much of a coincidence to Chloe. Digging deeper, she began researching what she could about his diagnosis. They needed answers. Fast.
* * * * *
Xander was frowning at the mass of people gathered around the front of the auto repair shop when he felt the rush of air that signaled Clark’s arrival. He wasn’t really surprised by Clark’s appearance at the scene, mostly because it was exactly what he would’ve done had the shoe been on the other foot. It was why he hadn’t wasted his breath telling the Kryptonian to stay away.
“What’s going on, Xan?” the younger boy asked softly.
“Someone, or something, is electrocuting the football players responsible for picking the scarecrow the year of the meteor shower,” he answered flatly. “And judging by the throng of people and the presence of both the coroner and the sheriff, we’re too late to stop them from getting the last one.”
“So whatever’s doing this is still out there somewhere?” Clark asked as he looked over the crowd.
“Yeah, and now we’ve got no idea who it might go after next,” the Aesir said with a sigh. “Let’s get closer and see if there’s anyone suspicious in the crowd. Then we should go check what Chloe’s turned up.”
The two teens walked up casually and worked their way into the crowd. Xander scanned the faces of the crowd, looking for anyone that might be an older Jeremy Creek or possibly related to him. Meanwhile, Clark got close enough to the reporters and police to try and hear what had happened. To the Thunder God’s immense surprise, he saw a face that he had never expected at the opposite edge of the crowd.
There stood a perfect duplicate of a fifteen year old Jeremy Creek. If it didn’t seem impossible, he’d have sworn that it was Jeremy… except that Jeremy would be in his mid-to-late twenties at this point. Still the resemblance went far beyond eerie, leaving Xander to wonder if it might have been some sort of vengeance demon or spirit that had assumed Jeremy’s shape.
The Aesir moved casually, trying not to draw undue attention to himself as he edged closer to whatever was standing there wearing the one-time scarecrow’s face. As he slipped through the mass of people, he lost sight of his target for just a moment. A moment during which the creature, whatever it was, vanished.
Frowning angrily, Xander met Clark a few moments later. “I think I saw the thing responsible,” he said quietly as they walked away from the scene, “but it vanished before I could get close.”
“What is it?” Clark asked as they turned down a less crowded street.
“I don’t know,” the Thunder God admitted, “but I think I know who’s responsible. I just hope Chloe found something.”
* * * * *
By the time the boys got back to the school, they were running late for class, an issue made far worse by the presence of Principal Kwan at the entrance to the school they’d chosen to try and sneak through. The Kent brothers calmly endured the man’s lecture on the evils of tardiness and went to their respective classes, but not before being given detention for their lunch period. Whatever Chloe had managed to find, would unfortunately have to wait until after school.
The day dragged on interminably as Xander endured the perpetual boredom of his classes. Before he’d become one of the Aesir, he’d believed that his teachers repeated themselves a lot. Now he knew it for an absolute truth. It was only the second day of classes and already he felt like he’d heard these lectures before. The only difference was that when his teachers attempted to humiliate him for clearly not paying attention, he actually had all the correct answers to their questions. It was a rather refreshing change of pace.
When Clark and Xander finally walked into the Torch office after school, they found Chloe and Pete working at both of the paper’s computers. “Please tell me you found something on Jeremy Creek, Chloe?” Xander practically pleaded as they walked in.
“Oh, she found something alright,” Pete chimed in with a grin. “She’s done nothing but talk about it since I got here this afternoon, but you’re never going to believe it.”
“Well, since I saw a guy who looked exactly, and I mean exactly, like our mysterious missing scarecrow at Frank’s Auto Repair this morning, you might be surprised what I’m willing to believe,” Xander countered before flopping down into a chair.
“Jeremy Creek was left in a coma by the meteor shower,” Chloe said with a grim look. “He was suffering from a massive electrolyte imbalance caused by exposure to an unknown form of energy.”
The Aesir frowned and Clark looked concerned. “So we’ve got nothing to go on then?” Xander asked with a frown.
“I think it’s Jeremy,” Chloe said with a smile. “The condition put him into a weird state of suspended animation that the doctor’s couldn’t explain or reverse. He hasn’t aged a day since the accident,” she explained after a moment’s pause. “He vanished without a trace during a thunderstorm a few days ago. Power went out in the hospital and when the emergency generators kicked in, he was just gone.”
“We think the storm charged him up like a human battery,” Pete put in with a grin. “He’s using the electricity to get some payback.”
“So how do we find him and keep him from hurting anyone else?” Clark asked a moment later.
“There’s not much we can really do, Clark,” Chloe said pointedly, shooting a surreptitious glance at Pete. “The cops would never believe us and the coroner’s office already ruled at least two of the deaths accidental. Jeremy got his revenge…maybe he’ll just stop.”
Clark at least had the decency to look embarrassed when he abruptly remembered that Pete was the only one in the room who didn’t know Xander’s secret. A fact that he’d been about to give away by accident. Xander merely looked amused by it.
Oblivious to the by-play between the other three teens, Pete just grinned. “Yeah,” he said with a glance at Chloe, “All we can do is pin this one up on the Wall of Weird. One more freak meteor related incident.”
“More?” Clark asked abruptly, looking from Chloe to Pete and back. “There were just the two, right? Jeremy and Eric?”
“Not exactly,” Chloe admitted with an apologetic smile.
“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?” the Kryptonian demanded, seeming to take the statement very personally.
“You’ve seen the Wall of Weird, Clark,” she said, taken aback by the sudden vehemence in his voice. “I think everything on it happened because of the meteors. It’s all linked together by that one event. The day the meteors fell, the town became part of the twilight zone.” She waved her hand toward the wall of the Torch office that was covered by the bulletin boards displaying the current incarnation of the Wall of Weird.
Xander casually looked it over from his seat, having never really paid any attention to it before now. He almost grinned when he noticed the article about Eric being committed to the Belle Reve mental hospital. Clark, too, stared at it for a long moment, as though really seeing it for the first time. Without a word, the boy stormed out of the Torch office, leaving a trio of puzzled teens to stare after him.
* * * * *
The God of Thunder caught up to his brother at the end of the farm’s driveway. “Clark, what is it?” he demanded on seeing the angry look on the other boy’s face.
“It’s my fault Xander! Don’t you get it?” Clark shot back. “Everything on that wall is my fault. What happened to Jeremy and Eric, the people they killed, Lana’s parents dying…all of it comes back to the meteor shower, to me.”
“Did you blow up Krypton?” the Aesir demanded. “Did you choose to be sent to Earth? Did you have any control over those meteors falling into your ship’s wormhole?”
The young Kryptonian met his gaze with an angry glare, but said nothing.
“It’s not your fault Clark. You can only take responsibility for the decisions you make,” Xander said calmly after a few moments. “You couldn’t prevent what happened.”
“Then why do still blame yourself for Uncle Tony and Aunt Jessica,” the younger teen countered bitterly. “Or for what happened to your friend Jesse? That’s a nice double standard you’re espousing there, Xan.”
The teenaged God stopped dead, clenching his jaw angrily as a rumble of thunder rolled across the clear blue sky. “Because if I had made different choices, they might still be alive,” he said coldly before turning to walk down the drive.
Before he could take even a single step, Clark grabbed his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Xander,” he said sincerely when the Aesir looked back at him. “I was out of line. I shouldn’t have said that…”
“It’s alright, Clark,” he said in response, hoping the other boy would just let it drop. He had enough on his mind at the moment with Jeremy still being on the loose without having to deal with his brother’s dramatic tendencies. “It’s not a big deal.”
The two boys turned again to walk down the drive and immediately noticed a pair of brand new pickup trucks parked near the barn, one red and one blue, both with large bows on the hood. They exchanged a questioning glance before walking toward the unfamiliar vehicles. Noticing Martha standing near the trucks, Clark called out, “Hey mom, whose trucks?”
“They’re for you and Xander,” she said with a resigned tone handing the boys a single card that had arrived with the vehicles. The cover of the card bore a large double-L monogram. “A gift from Lex Luthor,” she explained, watching them speculatively.
Clark opened up the card and read aloud, “Dear Alexander and Clark, Drive safely. Always in your debt. A maniac in a Porsche.” The two boys exchanged surprised looks before looking at the vehicles again. “I don’t believe it,” Clark said excitedly before turning back to his mother. “Where are the keys?”
“Your father has them,” she answered in a tone that clearly told them both not to get their hopes up.
“I’m guessing Dad doesn’t approve,” Xander said with a raised eyebrow.
“I know how much you want them,” Jonathan said as he saw the boys and came out of the barn with a frown, “but you can’t keep them.”
Seeing the determined expression on the farmer’s face and the equally stubborn set of Clark’s jaw, Xander promptly decided to stay out of this particular argument. After all, it wasn’t like he actually had a driver’s license yet anyway, a problem they hadn’t gotten around to correcting just yet.
“Why not? We saved his life,” Clark asked sharply.
“And you think you deserve a prize?” Jonathan asked archly.
“That’s not what I meant,” the Kryptonian countered, “but it’s not like the Luthor’s can’t afford it…”
“Do you know why that is? Do you remember Mr. Bell? We used to go fishing on his property? How about Mr. Guy? He used to send us pumpkins every Halloween,” Jonathan explained with a grim look. “When Lionel Luthor came to Smallville, he promised to cut them in on a deal. He sent them flashy gifts and made big promises, only once they sold him their property, he went back on his word. He had them evicted.”
“And what has that got to do with Lex?” the younger teen demanded angrily, “He’s not asking us for anything.”
“The Luthor’s lie, cheat and steal from anyone they can,” the farmer said coldly. “That’s why they’re wealthy. Do you really want something bought with that kind of money?” He tossed the keys at the boys’ feet and stormed off.
“He makes a valid point, Clark,” Xander said after moment, before bending over and scooping up one of the keys. “If the Luthor’s got rich by cheating people, then no matter how good Lex’s intentions might be, I don’t want a truck bought with their money.” He clapped the younger boy on the shoulder. “Besides, it’s not like we actually need them to get around.”
“That’s not the point, Xan,” Clark said simply as he stooped and picked up the remaining key. “It just would have been nice to have something normal for once.”
“I’m not sure that a pair of free, brand-new pickup trucks exactly qualifies as normal,” the Aesir said with a raised eyebrow. “Not that I’m exactly a big proponent of being normal anyway.”
“You know what I meant,” the Kryptonian countered with a roll of his eyes. “They would have made it easier to explain how we get around town if nothing else.”
“I know, but it’s a moot point now,” he agreed with a grin. “Come on. Let’s take them back to Lex before we get too attached to them.”