Chapter 5 – Unexpected Visits
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, 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…
-== Chapter Five – Unexpected Visits ==-
“What is it that you want with my nephew, Mr. McDonald?” Jonathan asked in a hard and untrusting tone.
Lindsey quirked an eyebrow at the man’s reaction, the barest mention of Wolfram and Hart had turned him hostile. Clearly, he knew the firm’s reputation. “I’m afraid that my client gave me very strict instructions, Mr. Kent,” the attorney replied with a smug smile that bordered on a smirk. “I’m here to speak with him on behalf of the family of the young woman he rescued in Metropolis, and I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you.”
“Well, I’m afraid that’s not good enough, Mr. McDonald,” the farmer replied with an angry frown. “As Xander’s legal guardian, I’m telling you to leave him alone. No one in this family wants anything to do with you or the kind of people you represent.”
‘So far, the firm’s profile on Jonathan Kent is dead on, Lindsey thought, his self-assured smile never wavering. ‘If some self-righteous Kansas dirt-farmer wants to try and play hard ball with Wolfram and Hart, I have no problems teaching him the rules of the game.’
“You’re well within your rights to choose not to deal with Wolfram and Hart, Mr. Kent. Alexander Harris, however, became a client of my firm while he was a temporary ward of the state of California. As such, you cannot legally deny us access to him without proving in court that we are acting contrary to his best interests. Or you could try to prove that he was mentally incompetent at the time he entered into this arrangement.” The angry frown on Jonathan’s face warmed Lindsey’s cold heart. “Of course, you’re welcome to contact your attorney and confirm what I’ve told you. Given your obvious distaste for the people I represent, I’d expect nothing less.”
“I think you need to get off my property, Mr. McDonald,” Jonathan replied angrily.
“If that’s what you want, Mr. Kent,” Lindsey’s smile remained firmly in place. “However, if you intend to keep me from seeing my client, I’ll have no choice but to seek a court order granting me access to Mr. Harris. That sort of thing typically raises a number of red flags with Child Protective Services…the kind of flags that result in serious investigations. It would be a shame if they looked too closely at Metropolis United Charities and ended up taking both boys away from you.”
“Are you threatening me, Mr. McDonald?” Jonathan demanded, taking an intimidating step toward the lawyer, his hands clenched into tight fists.
“Not at all,” the attorney replied smoothly, “merely making sure you’re aware of the possible consequences of acting rashly. After all, knowingly filing false documents is a serious felony that carries significant jail-time.” Lindsey got into his car and closed the door. He started the engine before lowering the window to speak to the farmer one last time. “I can be reached through the Wolfram and Hart office in Metropolis to arrange a convenient time and place to meet with Mr. Harris. I wouldn’t wait too long to call if I were you.”
As the lawyer put his vehicle in gear and pulled away from the farm, Clark stepped closer to his father. “What was that all about, Dad?” the teen asked in a concerned tone. “What’s Metropolis United Charities?”
“It’s nothing you need to worry about, Clark,” the elder Kent replied with a somewhat forced smile. He patted his son on the shoulder reassuringly before heading into the house.
Once inside, he immediately called Jim Taylor to confirm what he had been told. Jonathan repeated everything Lindsey had told him, except for the specific threats regarding Metropolis United Charities and false documents. When he finished, an uneasy silence answered him. “What is it Jim?” he asked a few moments later.
“This is serious business, Jonathan,” Jim answered a moment later. “If even a fraction of the stories about Wolfram and Hart are true…” The lawyer trailed into another long pause. “Legally, you could challenge them on this. Xander’s a minor and as his guardian you’ve got some say in who he deals with, but it’s a slippery situation. If you’ve got any skeletons in your closet, any at all, these guys won’t hesitate to drag them out for the whole world to see.”
Jonathan swallowed hard. Between Clark’s abilities, the spaceship in the storm cellar, and the irregularities in the adoption, he had a whole graveyard’s worth of skeletons in his closet and any one of them could destroy his family. It should have been an easy choice: let Wolfram and Hart talk to Xander or risk losing everything he held dear. The problem was that he’d dealt with the devil before and there was always a price.
“Jonathan?” Jim’s voice broke through his dark musings. “Are you still there?”
“Sorry, Jim,” he said with a forced chuckle. “Yeah, I’m still here.”
“Do you want my advice?” the lawyer asked.
“Of course,” he replied automatically.
“Give them what they want,” his friend answered. “Let them talk to Xander. I know that’s not the advice you wanted to hear, but if we take these guys on, they’ll bury us both.”
“Over talking with Xander?” Jonathan asked incredulously.
“Over anything. Wolfram and Hart are the kind of lawyers who don’t hesitate to destroy anyone who gets in their way. The Luthors are harmless compared to these people,” Jim took a deep breath before continuing. “Jonathan, we’ve known each other since high school. I’m telling you this as your friend. You can’t win this fight.”
Jonathan was utterly shocked by what Jim had told him. Jim Taylor had never backed down from fighting for what he thought was right before. No matter what was at stake they always faced it head on and, win or lose, their integrity was unquestioned. For him to tell Jonathan, unequivocally, to back down and give in to Wolfram and Hart was the last thing he expected.
“Alright, Jim,” the farmer replied with an almost pained sigh. “I’ll let them talk to Xander. Thanks.”
“I know how you feel about this,” his friend offered comfortingly. “But it’s the best thing for everyone involved.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Jonathan said with a sad smile. “Take care, Jim.”
“You too, Jonathan,” Jim Taylor said before hanging up the phone. He stared down at the plain brown envelope he’d found on his desk this morning. Inside it, he’d found several photographs of himself and a pretty, young office assistant that had worked for him a few years ago. The photographs could easily ruin his reputation and destroy his marriage. It also contained a plain sheet of white paper that read “Everyone has skeletons in their closets. Cooperation is best for everyone involved.”
At least now he knew who had sent it and why. He could only wonder what skeletons Jonathan must have had to make him agree to this.
* * * * *
Chloe’s fingers danced over the keyboard as she expertly slipped past the security of the computer systems for the Sunnydale coroner’s office. She’d spent the past week investigating the fire that had killed Jessica and Anthony Harris. It was a week that had turned up a string of weird events to rival Smallville in the supposedly sleepy coastal town. The only difference was that in Sunnydale, the weird events went back as far as the records did.
So far she’d uncovered a headless biology teacher found on the school grounds, a series of students murdered and missing parts of their bodies, another student found drained of blood on school grounds, and a principal eaten by wild dogs in his office during school.
And those were just the events related to Sunnydale High for the past year. When she extended the search to the rest of the town, the results looked like a bad horror movie.
It seemed that the top causes of death in Sunnydale were accidental exsanguinations by barbecue fork and wild animal attacks. The town newspaper had also reported more PCP related gang incidents in the past year than every major U.S. city combined. Furthermore, most of the news reports from Sunnydale had more holes in them than actual facts. All of this led Chloe to one, inescapable conclusion: something big was being covered up in Sunnydale and both the city government and the local media were involved.
An unexpected email from a Sunnydale-based hacker calling himself Red_Tree had taken her even deeper into the twilight zone. The email had pointed her to backdoors into the coroner’s office records and the Sunnydale police records. When she’d emailed the hacker back asking who he was and why he was helping, the only response she’d received was an old X-Files tag-line: “The truth is out there.”
What she found there made no sense at all. Not a single barbecue fork had ever been recovered where it was cited as a cause of death. There wasn’t a single PCP or gang-related arrest on record in the town and there hadn’t been more than a couple wild animal sightings over the past couple of years. Stranger yet, there wasn’t nearly enough blood at any of the scenes for someone to have actually bled-out. Equally troubling was finding several mentions of Alexander Harris as a material witness. Whatever strangeness was going on in that little California town, Clark’s cousin had been involved in it repeatedly over the past year. In fact, only one other name came up more often, that of one Buffy Summers.
Chloe frowned as she examined the autopsy photos of one of the many victims of barbecuing gone horribly wrong. She was no crime scene investigator, but those wounds clearly weren’t made by any cooking utensil she’d ever seen. The young reporter quickly copied the photo to her hard drive and backed out of the server. No sooner had she severed the connection to the coroner’s office when an invitation to a private chat popped up on screen. Red_Tree wanted to talk.
‘Maybe this guy has the answers,’ she thought as she clicked the accept button. A moment later the chat room window appeared.
#IntrepidReporter has connected to the server.
#Red_Tree has connected to the server.
Red_Tree: Did you find what you were looking for? Or just more questions?
IntrepidReporter: Mostly more questions.
Red_Tree: He didn’t do it.
IntrepidReporter: Who didn’t do what?
Red_Tree: Xander didn’t kill his parents…or anyone else for that matter. That is what you were looking for right?
IntrepidReporter: How did you know that?
Red_Tree: It’s what I would have thought if I didn’t know Xander. We aren’t that different, Chloe. Trust me when I say he’s one of the good guys.
IntrepidReporter: You know who I am?
Red_Tree: Of course I do. I wouldn’t help just anyone. Xander said you were his cousin’s friend. He was impressed after he met you, told me all about it.
IntrepidReporter: Can you tell me what’s really going on in Sunnydale?
Red_Tree: I can, but I won’t. Tell Xander you were checking him out and what you found. Tell him Willow and Giles said it was his call. He’ll tell you or not, his choice.
Red_Tree: He has to live there so it’s his secret to keep or share. And Chloe, if you hurt him I’ll beat you to death with a shovel. No offense, but a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend.
#Chat channel closed.
#Red_Tree has left the server.
Chloe stared at the baleful threat for a long while, considering the implications. Whoever this Willow/Red_Tree person was, he definitely knew how to get a girl’s attention. Apparently though, there was only one person who was going to be able to give her the answers she was looking for.
“Guess a trip to the Kent Farm is in order,” she muttered aloud, gathering her things and preparing to leave.
* * * * *
Xander sat on the front steps of Smallville High, watching for his Aunt to pull up after his counseling session. The school counselor seemed decent enough, but it was fairly obvious she wasn’t going to let him out of this as easily as he’d hoped. In fact, she was already talking about bi-weekly follow-ups once classes started to check on his progress in adjusting. After only two sessions, she’d decided he needed more positive outlets for his emotions. She told him to get involved in at least two extracurricular activities by the time school started.
At least he wouldn’t need to explain away nightly patrols here. He’d had Willow monitoring the county morgues for him since he arrived in Smallville and she hadn’t flagged a single vampire victim yet. Apparently Lowell county Kansas had nothing to attract the overly pale, sun-hating crowd. The nearest demon activity they’d turned up was some fairly low-key stuff over in Metropolis and Edge City, both of which were well outside of patrolling distance. Of course, the downside was that he finally had the power to make a difference but no one to help.
“Xander?” a surprised, yet familiar, female voice suddenly called from behind him. “What are you doing here?”
A quick glance over his shoulder revealed none other than Chloe Sullivan standing behind him, a shocked look on her face. “Waiting on my Aunt Martha to come pick me up actually,” he answered with a goofy grin.
“Uh, okay,” she said a moment later, “but why are you at school? You haven’t even started classes yet?”
“Well,” he said without a bit of hesitation. “Apparently my records from Sunnydale were a bit too…colorful for Principal Kwan’s liking. So he made my enrollment contingent on seeing the school shrink a few times.”
“Colorful?” she asked with a sly smile.
“Yep,” the boy replied. “His word, not mine. You know black ink, white paper, manila folder… not a lot of color there if you ask me.” His grin widened as Chloe chuckled. “So what brought you to this fine institution of higher learning on such a fine, non-school day?”
“A story,” she replied with a cheerful grin. “Uh, this is gonna sound really bad… but I was looking into Sunnydale and the fire.”
“Hah!” Xander barked with a wide smile, his face lighting up like a Christmas tree. “I so told Willow it was you and not the Principal! Kwan just doesn’t have the imagination to question the official story.”
“You knew?” Chloe asked, the shock in her voice obvious.
“Knew? Nope,” the Aesir responded with a grin. “Willow noticed someone from outside of Sunnydale poking around and tracked it back to Smallville. I suspected it was you since you mentioned being a reporter at heart. I figured you’d at least pull up the newspaper article about the fire and check out my story.”
“And you’re not mad about it?”
The teen shrugged. “Back in Sunnydale, if someone had a relative none of us ever heard of appear out of nowhere, we would’ve started digging into their background too. Wouldn’t make much sense to get mad over something I’d have done in your place.”
“Clark would probably have yelled at me and then stormed off angrily if he found out,” she said with a half smile. “He takes things way too seriously sometimes.”
“Yeah,” Xander replied after a moment’s consideration. “I can see that. My cousin can be a little up-tight sometimes. You want to have a seat and keep me company while I wait?”
“Sure,” she said, hesitating for a split-second before sitting down beside him on the steps. An almost uncomfortable silence fell between them.
“So, are you going to tell me what you found?” he asked. “Or should I just take a guess?”
“I found that Sunnydale could compete with Smallville for the weirdest town in America award,” she answered. “Your friend, Red_Tree said he…”
“She,” the Aesir said, interrupting. “Red_Tree is my friend Willow; I’ve known her since kindergarten.”
“Oh,” Chloe said a moment later. “I just assumed since most hackers are guys…” she shook her head and got her thoughts back on track. “Anyway, she told me to tell you that she and Giles said you could tell me the truth if you wanted, since you have to live here.”
“Really?” he asked, clearly surprised by that revelation. “I figured Giles would throw a fit if I let someone in on the truth about Sunnydale.” He lapsed into a moment of thoughtful silence. “Are you sure you really want to know? There’s no going back and it isn’t exactly going to make the world feel like a safer, happier place. There are days when I still wish I didn’t know the truth…”
“I can’t let it go until I know, Xander,” she replied, her voice sounding far more certain than she actually felt.
Xander nodded, watching as a bright red Dodge Ram pick-up pulled up, driven by his Aunt. “I’ll tell you what, Chloe. Look up the original name the first Spanish settlers gave Sunnydale. Then look through the town’s histories, paying special attention to the mayors.”
Chloe looked up at him as he stood up, clearly intrigued by his instructions, “Okay, then what?”
“Come up with a theory of your own and we’ll talk,” he grinned widely at her. “You’ll have to think way outside of the box to get even remotely close though. After that, we’ll see if you’re ready for the truth.”
She narrowed her eyes at him for a long moment. The smug grin and cheerful twinkle in his eye let her know he was definitely enjoying this. “Let it never be said that I backed down from a journalistic challenge,” she declared with a smile of her own. “I’ll do it.”
The teen grinned at her. “I better run. Good luck with the search, Chloe.”
Without another word, he jogged down the stairs and got into the waiting truck.