Alexander “Lex” Luthor, son of billionaire
industrialist Lionel Luthor, was fatally injured yesterday when his car went off
the Loeb Bridge in Smallville, Kansas.
The accident happened at 3:32 p.m. on Tuesday, October
12, 2001. Sheriff Ethan Miller
reports that Luthor, 21, hit a baling wire that had been in the road, lost
control of his vehicle, and plunged into the Elbow River.
“He had to be traveling at excessive speeds to break
through the rails,” Miller said.
The coroner’s report states that Luthor suffered a head injury upon impact and subsequently drowned. There were no alcohol or legend drugs in his system. Luthor, who had recently moved to Smallville to helm LuthorCorp Plant No. 3, was the sole heir to the LuthorCorp Empire (story continued on A3).
The summer fog curled and coalesced into an outline of a body standing near the castle doors, pale eyes watching the boys near the gate, before the nighttime breeze swept the misty form away.
“Why are we here again?” Clark Kent glanced around nervously. He wasn’t afraid of the dark or the Kansas wildlife; the Sheriff was a different story. His parents would kill him if he were arrested again.
“Because we’re the only ones who haven’t been here yet,” Pete Ross replied. Clark’s best friend pressed his face between the iron bars of the gate, peering up at their late night destination – Luthor Manor.
The full moon bathed the out-of-place monstrosity in a pale glow. Dark tendrils of ivy crept up the gray stone walls. Gargoyles perched on turrets and gables, fearsome protectors outlined against the night. Tall grass, flowers, and plants grew wild on the untended grounds. Fog rolled around the base of the castle, making it appear to float.
The castle had been shipped into Smallville, Kansas, when Clark was twelve and, over the past six years, it had been inhabited for only a few days total – unless you counted the ghost.
It was a Smallville rite of passage for teen males to spend a night in the haunted castle. Clark and Pete were going to be seniors in high school in the fall and Pete had decided they’d wimped out long enough. After all, it was more emasculating not to take the challenge than to be scared off by the ghost.
So, here they were, outside the gates of Luthor Manor, gathering their courage to go in. They would be trespassing the moment they set foot on the property, so the ghost wasn’t their only fear. Pete would get it even worse than Clark if they were caught, since his mom was the local Judge.
There was a hidden passage into the castle through the garden, the only non-alarmed entryway. Chet McCullough and his buddies had found the entrance one night, on a bet to get in and out of the castle without being caught by the Sheriff. The Sheriff hadn’t caught them, but the ghost had, and an ongoing dare had been born.
“Let’s go,” Pete said, dropping to the ground to crawl under the gate.
Clark followed, though he could’ve easily cleared the top in a jump. But Pete didn’t know his secrets and he wanted to keep it that way. Very few people still alive knew of Clark’s abilities and the dead didn’t gossip, at least not in Clark’s experience. The ghosts in Smallville rarely spoke to the living.
“Come on,” Pete urged, jogging across the open grounds. They rounded the castle, entering the overgrown garden. Pete cursed as thorns and bushes scratched him. They stumbled onto the worn path to the secret door. Clark used his alien hearing to determine if anyone was around before pushing open the ivy-hidden entrance to the castle.
Pete clicked on his flashlight and they found themselves in an otherwise pitch black stone corridor that led into the kitchen. Moonlight spilled through the stained glass windows, casting red and purple shadows in the dim halls. Sheets and a thick coating of dust covered the furnishings and wall hangings. Footprints and stray wrappers, soda and beer cans marked the paths of others who’d been in the castle.
“Can you imagine living here?” Pete’s flashlight played over the antique swords, maces, and other weaponry hanging on the wall in one of the many rooms. “It’s like a museum.”
“It’s a castle, Pete,” Clark said. He crouched beside a miniature diorama he’d found under a sheet. The Battle of Troy, if he wasn’t mistaking the wooden horse being pushed through the gate.
“Yeah. A castle in the corn,” Pete said. “Historical accuracy was high on Luthor’s list.”
“Maybe that Lex guy would’ve made the place more normal.”
“There’s nothing about the Luthors that’s normal, Clark, even the dead ones,” Pete said. He gestured with the flashlight, encompassing the room. “Lex Luthor would’ve been some stuck up jerk, too, into all this pretentious crap.”
“You never even met him. How do you know what he was like?” Clark said, moving some of the miniature soldiers into a conga line.
“All Luthors are bad news,” Pete said. “Lionel Luthor swindled my family out of the creamed corn factory.”
“I thought your uncles sold it to Mr. Luthor.”
“Well, yeah.” Pete puffed up defensively. “But the town would’ve been better off without LuthorCorp.”
A large portion of the town would’ve been unemployed if it weren’t for LuthorCorp, but Clark refrained from pointing that out. Pete obviously wasn’t impartial when it came to the Luthors.
“This place isn’t so scary,” Pete commented a couple hours later, after they had finished exploring. They had found a library, with comfortable leather couches hidden beneath dustsheets. Pete sprawled on one of the sofas, eating a candy bar and playing his flashlight over the decorative trim along the ceiling.
Clear skylights let in the bright moonlight overhead. Clark paged gently through the books on the shelves. Most were first edition copies of the classics, historical and philosophical texts. The book Clark held – Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman – had worn edges and a few dog-eared corners, obviously a well-loved book.
“Could you imagine having a party here?” Pete went on. “That ballroom we were in could fit the entire senior class, easy.”
Clark made an absentminded sound of agreement, his fingertips tracing over the handwritten words on the inside cover of the book. To my beautiful Alexander: Though your mind may say otherwise, listen to your heart. It will never lead you astray.
“Dude, I’m bored.” Pete sat up and grinned eagerly. “Let’s tell horror stories.”
Clark looked over at Pete with raised brows. “What are you, twelve?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I am. So shut up and sit down. I’ve got a good one.”
Clark set the book on a sheet-covered bar to peruse later. He joined Pete on the couch. Folding his long legs, he scrunched into the corner, stretching his arms along the back of the couch, getting comfortable. “I’m all ears.”
Pete shifted, leaning forward and lowering his voice confidentially. “Okay, check this out. It’s a true story. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine named Jenny.
“See, Jenny’s parents had gone away for the weekend, leaving her at home to take care of the dog. Jenny was fifteen and decided to have a sleepover – you know the kind girls have – with several of her friends.
“Three friends came over and spread out in the living room in their sleeping bags. They stayed up late, doing each other’s hair and nails, gossiping, and watching TV—”
“Boy, Pete, you sure know a lot about what goes on at a girls’ sleepover party. Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Shut it, Kent. Where was I?” Pete scratched his chin. “Oh, yeah. It was really late when the girls finally went to sleep. Jenny had decided to sleep in her own bedroom. The dog licked her hand before settling down, too, on the floor next to her bed.”
Pete’s voice lowered and Clark sat forward as the story continued. “Now, Jenny was a pretty sound sleeper and when her dog barked, it took her a few moments to actually wake up. By then, the dog was quiet. She heard a thump against her bedroom door.
“‘Billy?’ she said groggily, prying open her eyes. She couldn’t see anything in the dark bedroom, but then the dog licked the back of her hand, dangling over the side of the bed.
“Jenny settled and went back to sleep.
“Another noise woke her a little while later. She thought she’d heard someone yell. The dog hadn’t barked, though, and it wasn’t long before she heard the bedroom door squeak on its hinges and then Billy licked her hand.
“‘Bad dog,’ Jenny said, sleep pulling at her once more. ‘Don’t bother my friends.’
“Billy licked her hand again and Jenny fell back to sleep.
“Morning came, and Jenny was slow in getting up. She stopped in the bathroom and then headed down the hall to wake her friends. But when she reached the living room…
“‘AAAHHHHHH!’” Pete screamed with blood-curdling fervor and Clark jumped in his seat. His heart hammered as Pete finished the story.
“Jenny's scream echoed in the house, but no one heard her because all her friends were dead. Their hacked up bodies were spread around the living room, blood staining the carpet and furniture.
“Jenny stumbled from the living room into the kitchen and froze again in horror. Her dog, Billy, was lying on the table, decapitated. Written in streaked blood across the wall was a message for her:
“‘Dogs aren’t the only ones who lick.’”
The words hovered in the air a moment before Pete grinned in unholy glee. “You should see your face! Ha! Do I rock, or what?”
“Not bad,” Clark said, shaking the willies from himself. “You scream like a girl very convincingly.”
“Hey, you’re the one who jumped like a sissy,” Pete said. He leaned back, smug. “Let’s see you top that.”
Clark tipped his head at the challenge and started his story. “You remember Mike Palmer? He graduated a few years ago. Played basketball?”
“Yeah. I remember him,” Pete said. “I heard he’s a cop now.”
”He is, in Wichita,” Clark said. “Mike was on duty the night this happened. He told me the story when I saw him last Christmas.
“This girl named Kara was home by herself one night. Her mom was working late. Around ten o’clock, Kara was sitting in the living room, watching TV, when she saw someone outside.
“Kara’s house is a ranch house and the living room has one of those huge picture windows. The couch she was on was pushed under the window and she was sitting sideways on it, so she could see outside. There was a guy standing not too far away, looking at her.
“Kara was immediately uncomfortable. The guy raised his hand and waved, and then walked away. A big pine tree was right next to the window and its branches blocked her sight. She didn’t see where he’d gone.
“Kara got up to check the locks, just in case. The front door was locked. The kitchen door had been unlocked, but she fixed that. Turning off the kitchen light again, she went back into the living room and got comfortable on the couch.
“Not a minute later, Kara saw the guy again. He looked right at her, waved, and then walked away. Spooked, she called the police. She was safely locked in the house, but she was alone, and her mother told her never to take chances.
“‘Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?’
“‘It’s not really an emergency,’ Kara downplayed, feeling embarrassed, ‘but there’s this guy walking around outside my house. He keeps waving at me through the window.’
“‘Are the doors locked?’ the operator asked.
“‘Yeah,’ Kara said. She glanced out the window and tensed. ‘He’s there right now, waving at me.’
“‘Just stay put. A squad car should be there shortly. Do not open the door until I tell you.’
“‘I see the police car lights coming up the street and the guy just ran off.’”
Clark had Pete’s full attention. “Kara watched out the window as the police car stopped in front of her house. Two officers emerged and they separated. The operator told her to open the front door and Officer Palmer – Mike – came inside. Kara explained about the guy.
“‘Where did you see him standing?’ Mike asked her.
“They went into the living room, over to the couch, and Kara pointed. ‘Right there. He kept waving and walking away, but then he’d come back and stand where the other officer is standing.’
“Mike’s partner was outside, having walked into view, previously blocked by the tree. Mike clicked on his radio. ‘Archer—’
“The radio echoed loudly behind them, and Mike and Kara turned. Archer was inside, standing in the darkened kitchen doorway.
“Kara and Mike looked back at the window, where they could still see Archer, standing ‘outside,’” Clark said.
“The back door had been unlocked. The guy had been in the house. Kara was seeing his reflection in the window.”
“Ah!” Pete shrieked and Clark made an equally girly noise. Their heads whipped around. Pete stared wide-eyed at the previously open door.
Clark stared, too; only he stared at the ghost.
Smoky textured and almost translucent, the ghost looked to be in his twenties. He had a slim build and was completely bald. The roll of his hips made him seem to glide across the room as he walked over to the bar. There was a confident swagger in his steps, and Clark bet he had glided like that in life, too.
“Damn, that got me,” Pete chuckled weakly.
“Me, too,” Clark said. He watched surreptitiously as the ghost brushed his fingertips over the poetry book on the bar. Sadness flickered across his features.
“Stupid drafts,” Pete said, shifting uncomfortably.
The ghost glanced over at them and Clark averted his eyes, but not before he saw a smirk. The bar began shaking, glasses clinking under the dustsheet, giving Clark the excuse to look that way. The ghost was rocking the bar; his hands appearing more solid while the rest of his arms had somewhat dissipated.
Pete swallowed thickly, eyes bugging again. “Earthquake?” he said hopefully.
The ghost stopped shaking the bar. He fixed the poetry book so it wouldn’t fall. He caressed the cover again, briefly.
Clark forced himself not to move his head as the ghost walked over to the shelves lining the wall. Pete grabbed Clark’s arm, gripping hard, as the ghost chose a book and paged through it.
“Do you see that?” Pete hissed through his teeth. “The book’s frickin’ floating in mid-air.”
Clark nodded. While he could see the ghost, Pete could not, and he could imagine how freaky it looked.
The ghost smirked again, put the book back, and chose another.
“What do we do?” Pete whispered.
The ghost put the book on the shelf and walked towards them. Clark held still, not acknowledging the ghost, as the ghost circled the couch, leaned over the back, and tweaked Pete’s ear.
“Ah!” Pete shouted, his dark skin turning the color of dirty chalk. He leapt up from the couch, spinning on his heel and searching the library wildly. “Something touched me!”
The ghost appeared maliciously amused. Clark was growing annoyed. “I think we should go,” he said, because then he could return alone and have a few words with the ghost.
The ghost passed through the couch, a cool hand tickling the back of Clark’s neck.
Clark narrowed his eyes as the ghost approached Pete. A smoky hand lightly smacked Pete’s cheek.
Pete yelped, stumbled backwards, and half-fell over a low, sheet-covered table. “Holy shit! Something touched me again!”
“Come on, Pete.” Clark stood, not hiding the glare he shot at the ghost lounging against the bar.
The ghost looked startled, then intrigued. Clark urged Pete out the door.
From all his research, ghosts, Clark knew, were echoes of people who once lived, like snapshots of their personality lingering in the living world. Those who returned as ghosts typically had unfinished business in life, whether it was as simple as wanting to see a child graduate or as complicated as wanting to solve their own murder.
Ghosts were not common, either, Clark had learned. Personalities that lingered had an overwhelming connection to the matter that remained undone. Those that became ghosts weren’t limited as to where they could go, though Clark found that most stayed where the unfinished business would best be resolved.
As he slipped through the hidden garden door, Clark wondered what unfinished business was holding the ghost at Luthor Manor. He was blinded briefly, going from the sunny day into the unlit passage. It was the day following his haunted adventure with Pete. Clark had come alone, wanting to find out what the ghost needed done so he could fade.
Clark was becoming pretty good at assisting ghosts. He’d been doing it for years now, ever since he’d developed the power to see ghosts. It was just one of the many strange abilities in his alien repertoire. He remembered the first ghost he’d spoken with, old Mr. Forester who lived down the lane. Clark had been walking home from Pete’s when he saw Mr. Forester standing by the fence bordering his property, looking unhappily at his cornfield.
“Hey, Mr. Forester,” Clark greeted politely from the road. A trick of the brightness of the sun overhead made Mr. Forester appear hazy around the edges.
“Hello, Clark,” Mr. Forester said.
“Been off playing with your friends?”
“Yes, sir,” Clark said, even though he was too old
“Good day to be outside,” Mr. Forester commented.
He surveyed his field again with an unhappy expression.
“Good day to harvest the corn.”
“Dad and I did our field this morning,” Clark said.
He hesitated before asking, “Are you having problems with your
“Yes, you could say that.” Mr. Forester sighed. “I’d
hate to let this crop go to waste.”
“I’ll go talk to my dad.
I’m sure he’ll harvest your field.”
“If he’s willing, just tell him to go ahead and find
me afterward,” Mr. Forester said. “I’ll
rest easy once it’s done.”
Clark left Mr. Forester standing by his fence and
continued on home. His dad had no
qualms about helping Mr. Forester and they went out with the harvester right
away, since rain was predicted for the next day. They harvested the field, stored the corn in the silo, and
then went to the house to tell Mr. Forester, but found the house closed up and
no one there.
Jonathan and Clark went home, deciding to contact Mr. Forester the next day – only to learn Mr. Forester had died three days prior at his daughter’s home in Oklahoma.
Mr. Forester was the first ghost Clark had seen, but wouldn’t be the last. Clark didn’t realize that he was really seeing ghosts until he ran into four classmates who had died in a drunk driving accident. After that, he’d read everything he could find about ghosts and figured out that there was a way he could help them, too, just like he helped everyone else.
So here he was, back in Luthor Manor, to find out who the ghost was and why he was hanging around. Clark clicked off the flashlight as he exited the passageway. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows in the kitchen, coloring the dusty floors in vibrant reds and purples.
The castle looked different in the daytime. Clark could imagine the opulence, once cleaned. It would be like one of those ancestral estates Clark had read about. He half-expected to meet people in Regency clothing as he walked to the library. Or maybe see a sword fight, the dashing prince (though he wouldn’t know he was the heir apparent) storming the castle, fighting the guards to rescue his beloved from the wicked duke.
Clark grinned, amused by his thoughts. He’d been reading too many of Chloe’s romance novels, which she kept “hidden” in the desk at the Torch office. Her recent selections were all paranormal romances – fitting given his current setting.
The library was empty of persons and ghosts. Clark saw immediately that the Whitman book was missing from the bar. He checked the shelf. The spot where the book had been before was empty.
Clark scanned the shelves, but didn’t see it reshelved elsewhere. He hoped no one had come in after Clark and Pete and stolen it. The book seemed dear to its former owner and Clark would hate for it to be lost.
Clark checked around the bar and under the dustsheet, in case it had fallen to the floor. No book. He dropped the sheet, straightened, and found himself face-to-face with the ghost.
He only jumped a little.
The ghost appeared as startled as Clark, the bar having hidden Clark from view. The sunlight streaming through the library windows made the ghost appear more solid. The stained glass colored the ghost’s v-neck shirt in lavender and his hands, as well. His trousers, shoes, neck and head were white tinged with gold from the sun.
As ghosts were like photographs of a personality, their clothing reflected their favorite outfit in life, not what they died wearing or were buried in. This ghost looked affluent and comfortable.
“Um, hey.” Clark felt slightly awkward, like he’d been caught snooping, even though he was there specifically to talk with the ghost.
The ghost’s eyes widened. “So you can see me.”
It was a variation on the first words ghosts always said to Clark. “Yeah,” he nodded. “Before you ask how, I don’t know. I just can.”
Intelligent eyes assessed Clark. Clark wondered what color they’d been in life. “All right,” the ghost said. Clark felt he didn’t believe it.
“I’m, uh, Clark, by the way,” Clark said, shifting somewhat uncomfortably. “Clark Kent.”
“Lex Luthor. Call me Lex.”
So, this was Lex Luthor, the one who was supposed to run Plant No. 3, Clark thought. “Okay, Lex,” he said. Another thought hit Clark. “Is that short for Alexander?”
Lex inclined his head. “It is.”
“Then, the Whitman book must be yours,” Clark said. He glanced at the spot where it had been, remembering the way Lex had caressed the cover the previous night.
“Yes.” Lex caught the direction of Clark’s gaze. “I moved the book upstairs.”
“Oh, good,” Clark said, relieved. “I should’ve put it away. I’m glad it wasn’t stolen.”
“That’s why I moved it.” Lex tucked his hands in his pockets. “Is that the reason you returned?”
“Actually, I came to see you,” Clark said.
Suspicion flickered over Lex’s lightly rounded face. “About?”
Clark shrugged boyishly. “Who you are, why you’re still here. To see if there’s anything I can do to help you.”
“What makes you think I need help with something?”
“All ghosts have unfinished business.”
“Where did you learn that? Ghostbusters Quarterly?” Lex said, bemused.
“No. ‘Ghost Psychology for Dummies,’” Clark retorted with a quirk of his lips.
Lex chuckled, relaxing visibly. He pulled his hands from his pockets and ambled over to the leather sofa. It was still uncovered from the previous night. Hiking his trousers, he sat, crossed his legs, and rested his arms comfortably along the back of the couch.
The sunlight coming through the window didn’t stretch to the couch. Lex faded some, becoming more translucent and smoky colored. He was filmier in his upper half than his legs, because he was sitting. “I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t need any assistance.”
“Do you know why you’re still here? As a ghost, I mean,” Clark said, coming out from behind the bar. He joined Lex on the couch.
“I’m waiting for my half-brother,” Lex replied. His brows drew together. “What year is it?”
“Two thousand four,” Clark said. “It’s August tenth.”
“Lucas just turned twenty-one, then.” Lex appeared satisfied by the answer. “It shouldn’t be much longer.”
“What do you mean?” Clark asked curiously.
“My father sent me out here when I was twenty-one, to test my business acumen at his least profitable plant. Only, I died before I could prove myself, or fail.” Lex smirked self-deprecatingly. “I’m relatively certain that’s what he’ll do with Lucas, though he’s far from prepared for the responsibility.”
“Why wouldn’t he be ready?” Clark said.
“Lucas is a gambler and an unwise risk-taker,” Lex said. “He grew up with little structure or supervision in foster care. But because I died, Dad needs an heir, and that’s why I know he would have claimed Lucas legitimately.”
“Your brother didn’t live with you?”
“Half-brother,” Lex corrected. “I didn’t know he existed until I was eighteen. He wouldn’t have learned about me until dear old dad contacted him. My father doesn’t know that I know about Lucas, either, and that’s why I’m still here.” He frowned slightly, measuring Clark with his intense gaze. “That Ghost Psychology for Dummies book is very effective. I’m telling you all this and I don’t even know you.”
“Don’t worry, you can trust me,” Clark said. He crooked a grin. “Besides, who would believe me if I told them I had a conversation with Lex Luthor’s ghost?”
“Does anyone know about your ability?” Lex asked.
“My ‘spectral vision’, you mean?” Clark shook his head, answering honestly. “Just my folks.”
“And they don’t think you’re hallucinating or doing drugs?”
“No. They know I don’t touch drugs,” Clark said. “They were skeptical at first, but believed me soon enough.”
“That’s good.” Lex got a far off look in his eye. “Most parents lock their children in an institution if they start seeing ghosts.”
Clark heard something disturbing in Lex’s tone, but Lex changed the subject before Clark could question him.
“So, when you’re not helping lay the dead to rest, what do you do?” Lex said.
“I don’t know. Not much, I guess. Go to school. Do chores on the farm. Hang out,” Clark said, leaving off the part about fighting kryptonite mutants and rescuing his danger-prone friends.
“Sounds like it’s an exciting life you lead,” Lex said with a hint of a mocking smile.
“Oh, like your death is any better,” Clark taunted back. “What do you do all day in this mausoleum, besides scare school kids for kicks?”
Lex shrugged elegantly. “I read, play billiards, or play chess against myself, which is much more difficult than you would think. Occasionally, I go for walks or listen to the schoolchildren gossip and tell stories… before scaring them for kicks.”
“I’m a pretty good chess player.”
Lex brightened at the implied challenge. “Care for a game? My last opponent was a rather pitiful player.”
Clark’s brows lifted. “I thought you said you played against yourself?”
“I did.” Lex grinned and stood. “Follow me.”
Lex led the way to the second floor of the library. Beneath dustsheets were two leather chairs, a small round, glass-topped table, and a frosted glass chess set in mid-play. Clark used the corner of the sheet to wipe the dust off the chair and the edges of the table while Lex set up the board. The board itself was dust-free, indicative of Lex’s fondness of the game.
Daylight shone down through the skylight windows on the upper balcony. Lex sat opposite Clark. His hands became more solid in appearance as he positioned the chess pieces. Ghosts directed their composite energy in order to touch, sit, or lie down, channeling it from one part of the body to another. Lex’s movements were deft, no hesitation or pass-throughs.
“White moves first,” Lex said once the board was set. His pale, translucent eyes seemed to glitter in anticipation.
Clark smiled sharkily, confident in his chess team playing ability, and opened the game.
“Sorry I’m late.” The kitchen door banged shut behind Clark and he made a beeline for the sink to wash his hands. “I wasn’t paying attention to the time.”
“Where have you been all afternoon?” Martha Kent asked, passing a basket of rolls to Jonathan, who was seated beside her at the table.
“What were you doing out there?” Jonathan said, frowning at Clark as he joined them at the dinner table.
“Visiting the resident ghost.” Clark dished himself a plate of food. “His name’s Lex Luthor. He’s pretty cool. Kicked my butt at chess.”
“Lionel Luthor’s son?” Jonathan’s frown deepened and he exchanged a look with Martha.
“Yeah. Lex is the one that’s been haunting the castle.” Clark grinned widely. “He gave Pete quite a scare last night.”
“You were at the castle last night, too?” Martha said.
“Mm-hmm.” Clark stuck a forkful of food into his mouth.
“Well, I don’t want you to go there again,” Jonathan stated.
Clark swallowed. “What? Why not?”
“First of all, you’re trespassing,” Jonathan said. “Secondly, you don’t need to be hanging around with any Luthors. They’re all bad news.”
“Even the dead ones?” Clark sniped.
“Don’t talk to your father in that tone,” Martha scolded.
“Sorry,” Clark said, lowering his eyes.
“Good.” Jonathan stabbed his food with a fork. “Then it’s settled. You won’t go to the castle again.”
Clark’s gaze shot up. “I didn’t agree to that. Besides, you know I always help the ghosts I find. Why should Lex be any different?”
“We don’t need the Luthors knowing your secret,” Jonathan said.
“It’s not like Lex can tell anyone.”
“It doesn’t matter. I want you to steer clear of the Luthors.”
Jonathan’s jaw tightened. “It’s not a suggestion, Clark.”
“Jonathan—” Martha laid her hand on Jonathan’s arm.
“I’m not going to just not help someone because you don’t like them, Dad,” Clark said, his chin set at a stubborn angle.
“Just be careful, Clark,” Martha said before Jonathan could speak again. “A ghost can’t keep you from being arrested for trespassing.”
“I will be, Mom, don’t worry,” Clark said.
“It’s my job to worry,” Martha responded with a small smile. “Now, enough about the Luthors. Let’s eat.”
Clark returned to Luthor Manor under the pretense of wanting to learn how he could assist Lex with Lucas, when Lucas arrived. Clark stayed day after day because Lex was probably the most interesting ghost he’d ever met, one who was a vault of useless information that he obviously loved to share with an attentive audience.
“The President of the Confederacy?”
“That’s the one. He was the youngest of nine children. His father gave him the middle name of ‘Finis,’ declaring that Jefferson would be their last child, the ‘end.’”
“Isn’t it? The things parents do to their children. I once knew a girl whose parents named her Harley, because they got stuck with her instead of the bike they wanted. On one of their anniversaries, Harley bought a 1600 Speedster, lit it on fire, and gave it to them as a gift. I really liked that girl.”
“Kurosawa’s personal favorite is said to be Hakuchi, or The Idiot. He was apparently furious when the producers tried to edit down the film. He wrote a scathing letter, telling them to cut the film vertically instead.”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s a romantic drama based on Dostoyevsky.”
“Not that sword. That’s a stage prop from my favorite Kurosawa movie, Yojimbo. I got it at a Japanese Film Festival.”
“That’s pretty geeky.”
“Wait until I show you my Warrior Angel collection.”
“Historians are still unsure what Alexander the Great was doing when he feigned an attack on the fortified Persian left-flank as the opening move of the Battle of Granicus with his advanced forces. Most ancient literary sources support the idea that Alexander made the move for deceptive purposes, drawing the Persians’ attention and causing them to reinforce the left-flank, thereby leaving the left-center, the true target of the Macedonian’s attack, weakened. Strategically, it’s genius, I think, and Alexander went on to win his first major victory in his campaign to conquer Asia Minor.”
“And if he had lost? If the move had failed?”
“Then, he would’ve been known as ‘Alexander the Not-So-Great’ in the annals of history.”
“William Tell never existed.”
“William Tell. You’d recognize him as the guy who shot an apple with an arrow of his son’s head. He also supposedly helped the Swiss establish their independence from Austria. But he didn’t really exist. The Swiss made him up.”
“Because they wanted to. It’s like the Americans and Plymouth Rock. No Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The story is apocryphal. The Pilgrims didn’t hold Thanksgiving either, and they only thing they traded with the Native Americans were disease and death.”
“I bet they made those hand-tracing turkeys, though.”
“Issues eighty-eight through ninety-two make up a painful post-rift arc. See, Sean invents Tempus Inhibiters to go back in time to try and mend his and Cal’s friendship. The trouble is, Sean believes he is in the right, so even if he fixes the ‘last’ fight they had that ended their friendship, there will still be one sometime in the future. He’s only postponing the inevitable.”
“It’s a Shakespearian tragedy drenched in purples and neon greens.”
“You’re making fun of me.”
“‘O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue—
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds;
And Caesar’s sprit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.’”
“You know that whole thing by heart.”
“Yes, I do. Julius Caesar is a great play.”
“I was wrong, you’re not a geek. You’re a nerd.”
“I prefer the term ‘genius,’ thank you.”
“All right, Stephen Hawking, quote me some more.”
“Disregarding throws and sides, when the cue ball strikes the object ball, the object ball moves along the line between the centers of the two balls. Where the cue ball strikes determines the angle and path the object ball will travel.”
“What if there’s another ball in the way of the one I want to hit?”
“Same principal, only you’re utilizing two ‘cue’ balls. The angle you hit the first ball will determine its course, and where that one strikes on the object ball is the path it’ll travel. You could make a right-angled shot that way, or even a reverse-angled shot, with practice.”
“How often can I come over and practice?”
“As often as you want.”