“A Fast Ride to the Graveyard”

Rated PG-13



Clara Kent ran into the house and found Jonathan and Martha finishing dinner.  She said, “Mom, Daddy!  I won, I won, I WON!!!  I can’t believe I WON!”

Martha said, “All I can see is that you LOST the chance for a warm dinner with us.  We waited as long as we could.  Where were you?”

Clara said, “I went to the Sheriff’s sale and no one was bidding so I did and I WON!”

Jon said, “So what did you get?”

Clara said, “A FARM!  AND a HOUSE!  AND a lot of stuff to keep me busy this winter!”

Martha said, “Are you planning to move out?”

Clara said, “No.  … You don’t want me to, do you?”

Martha said, “Of course not!”

Jon said, “Whoa, whoa, WHOA!  How much did this cost you?”

Clara said, “Five thousand dollars!  Can you believe it?!”

Jon answered, “No, I can’t.  Usually there is a reason for land to go for cheap.  At worst someone could sell it to a developer to be sub-divided.  What condition is the property in?”

Clara said, “Absolutely GHASTLY!  But I can fix it up.”

Martha asked, “So, your winter project is remodeling a house?”

Clara said, “Not really … that’s just a side job.  My project is to restore as many of the cars as I can and get the fields empty and ready for farming or grazing by spring.  But the agreement requires that the house is brought up to code or demolished.”

Jon said, “Cars?  Agreement?  I think there’s a lot you haven’t told us yet.”

Clara said, “I’m telling you, Daddy!  Be patient!  Oh!  The only accepted my bid conditionally and I have to finalize the deal in the next 3 days.  I’m going to need a co-signer since I’m a minor.”

Jon said, “Nothing gets signed until I know everything.  Where is this place?”

Clara said, “Just a mile and a half down the road!  It’s Junkie Byron’s place!”

Jon and Martha said in unison, “OH … MY … GOD!”

Clara said, “The agreement is that the health department gives me four months to clean up the place or they do it at my expense.”

Jon and Martha repeated in unison, “OH … MY … GOD!!!”

Martha said, “With all the garbage he collected, I bet the place is infested with rats!”

Clara said, “No, Mom.  Junkie had something like 200 cats.  Mice aren’t a problem.”

Martha said, “What about the cats?”

Clara said, “Somebody poisoned most of them after Junkie was found dead.  Some of them still hang out in the house, barn and fields.  The ones that are alive are feral – wild and mean and deformed from injuries and inbreeding.”

Jon said, “Sounds like that cat you used to have – Streaky!”

Clara said, “HEY!  You’re never supposed to mention him!  This is a happy day for me.  Are you trying to spoil my mood?”

Jon said, “Sorry” then quietly muttered, “I hated that damned, mangy thing.”

Clara said, “Stop it Dad!  With my hearing, you might as well shout your nasty comments.”

Jon said, “Sorry.”

Martha said, “About the Byron farm … do you have any idea how much work you are talking about?  Four months will disappear in no time at all to deal with that garbage heap!”

Clara said, “Mom, four months is FOREVER to me!”

Jon said, “Clara, it’s 42 acres of garbage retrieved from dumpsters … and cars … scrap, ruined cars.  There must be a thousand cars out there!”

Clara said, “I wish!  There are only about 700.  And it’s 42 acres of land that hasn’t been planted in decades!”

Martha asked, “Why didn’t some scrap dealer buy the place?”

Jon said, “Those cars are scattered back in the field as far as you can see.  Most of them are sunk into the ground and overgrown with thistles, bushes and small trees.  No one would want to get back in there with a tow truck and try to get them out … especially with a four month deadline over the winter months.”

Martha said, “Clara, how are you going to get the cars out of there?”

Clara said, “Mom.”

Martha said, “Oh.  Stupid question.  I guess a girl who can pull stumps out of the ground with her bare hands shouldn’t have much difficulty getting those cars out.”

Clara said, “Will one of you please co-sign for me? Or do you want me to stick around home this winter and expand my underground bunker and tunnel system?”

Jon said, “It’s a parent’s job to curb their child’s enthusiasm long enough for reason to set in.  If we allow you to do this now, you’ll only resent us later for allowing you to take on so big of a responsibility.  The work you want to commit to doing would be overwhelming for even someone with your abilities.”

Clara said, “Daddy, you KNOW I’m not like that!  It would be my decision and my fault if it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to.  If you … WHEN you co-sign for me, I will see it for exactly what it is – a loving parent supporting and encouraging his daughter in her efforts to become all she can be!”

Jon said, “What are you going to do with all those cars?”

Clara said, “I’ll restore as many as I can.”

Jon said, “Why?”

Martha laughed and said, “I never thought you’d be the one asking that question!  I this "project" sounds like fun to Clara because she watched you tinker with all those junk automobiles over the years.”

Jon said, “But I never tackled more that two … three … um … maybe four at a time.”

Martha said, “But you’re not as fast as Clara is either.”

Clara said, “I need something to do and this will be a challenge.  I can practice reshaping metal with my hands and welding with my heat vision.  I should really be able to refine my skills.  I am going to get some nanites from my spaceship and they’ll regenerate the broken plastic parts for me.”

Jon said, “Let’s say you get even half of them running.  How would you get rid of 350 cars?”

Clara said, “There are a lot of people with un-safe cars or no car at all.  These people need a car to get to and from work … and a lot of them can’t afford one.”

Jon asked, “And you think you can fix them for less money than you can sell them for?”

Clara said, “I won’t sell them …at least not all of them.  I’ll sell a few of the best cars to have money for parts and materials.  And I’ll remove and refurbish parts off the cars I don’t restore and trade them with a junk dealer in town for parts that I do need.  I did a quick inventory of the cars on the Byron farm and I’ve got it all figured out.  I think I can restore one in three of the cars for an average of one hundred dollars per car.  I’ll crush the scrap metal I don’t need and take it to my scrap yard on the moon for my moon base project.”

Jon said, “So, the cars you don’t sell … what happens to them?”

Clara said, “I’ll give them to charity.  I need a tax write-off for my quilt business anyway.”

Jon asked, “Why don’t you just stick to making quilts?”

Clara said, “It’s getting boring. AND I’m flooding the marketplace.  AND it’s getting boring.  AND if I don’t clean up the Byron farm, who will?  That’s my kind of mess.  AND, did I mention, making quilts is getting BORING!  Plus it’s snowing and I can’t sit outside and talk in the cold.  There’s a really big barn.  It’s full of tires and rims now, but I can use it as a workshop that I can keep nice and warm.  And there is an indoor horse arena where I can paint and store 30 cars at a time … until they can be picked up.”

Jon said, “I get the part about the quilt business getting boring … but what was that part about being inside and talking?”

Clara said, “Well, … um … you know I like to be outside or in someplace spacious.  Those barns are big so it would like being outside without sitting in the snow.”

Jon said, “Sitting in snow doesn’t bother you.”

Clara said, “Um … but Mom doesn’t like me to be outside all day when it’s cold because it looks bad … and if someone likes my company and wants to spend time with me … the cold would bother that person … and they would have to go inside before we could spend much time together.”

Jon said, “And precisely who is this someone that you want to spend all this time with?”

Clara said, “Ummmm … you?  YOU!  It’s YOU!  You say that I’m growing up quickly and that we have to enjoy what time we have together.  You can come and sit with me while I work.  You can give me advice and tell me which cars I should restore and if the cars sound right when I get them running … and test drive them for me when they’re done.  I’ll build you a test track on my new farm if you want me to.  And you can tell me what colors to paint the cars to make them look sporty.  I wouldn’t have a clue about that and you know all about how to customize a car!”

Martha said, “Watch out Jon!  I think she found your Achilles’ heel!”

Jon said, “Byron was nuts … but he did find some real gems.  I had to learn not to look out in his fields as I drove past his place because I couldn’t stand seeing some of those cars being left out there like that.  At least he stored the tires in the barn.  Maybe they can be salvaged.  But just the cost of batteries alone for all those cars …!”

Clara said, “Please, Daddy … PLEASE!!!”

Martha said, “I believe you had him at ‘test track,’ Clara.  You had him at ‘test track.’  My Husband, the push over!  But be advised right now Clara, I will NOT be going into that house and helping you clean it!  I have my limits!”


Lex Luthor stuck his head inside of Clara’s new auto repair shop in a barn on the Bryon farm.  He said, “Knock, knock.”

Clara came running over to Lex and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  She said, “Didn’t I tell you?!  This place will be a lot nicer than meeting outside all winter.”

Lex said, “It’s certainly warmer in here than I thought it would be.  I think of barns as drafty.  What are you using for heat?”

Clara said, “It’s me.  I just radiate warmth.  Can’t you tell?”

Lex smiled and said, “This entire thing seems a little crazy to me.  Why didn’t you just take a job at the Talon and we could see each other there.”

Clara said, “Me?  Sell coffee?  I couldn’t be a waitress.  Who would tip me?”

Lex said, “I would.  Plus I could make you the boss so you wouldn’t have to wait on anyone … except me.”

Clara said, “But we couldn’t meet in public like that.”

Lex said, “There’s an apartment upstairs.”

Clara said, “I couldn’t … people would talk.”

Lex said, “If you were running the business for me, we would have a legitimate reason for meeting in private.”

Clara said, “People would talk anyway.”

Lex said, “Let them….  I’m sorry.  Your reputation is important.”

Clara said, “So is yours.”

Lex said, “So, we’re alone now.  Let’s make the most of it.  ….  How about letting me get a look at your equipment?”

Clara said, “What?”

Lex said, “You know?  Your power tools … your set up.”

Clara said, “We’re very low tech.  I have wrenches.  I brought the air compressor over from home for spray-painting the cars and for inflating tires.  I have pans for catching oil and barrels to store the oil in until I can recycle it.  Nothing really that fancy.  I have all of Junkie Byron’s tools too.  I think he really intended to fix all these cars someday.  He was more organized in some ways than anybody would have imagined.  He had a file cabinet with professional repair manuals for every car out there.”

Lex said, “I have a lot of equipment in my garage at the mansion.  Why don’t you let me loan you some of my tools.  I know you are under a deadline.”

Clara said, “Absolutely not.  Knowing you, you’ll go buy all kinds of tools just to loan them to me.  I’m doing this on my own.  Except I can’t drive them … I spend as little time inside them as I can!  Dad has been helping me but you can test drive some of them too if you really want to help.”

Lex said, “When will the first one be ready for a drive?”

Clara said, “I have twelve of them done so far.  I work on them in groups of 4.  I was working on rebuilding 4 transmissions when you came in.”

Lex said, “Rebuilding transmissions?”

Clara said, “Oh, it’s easy.  It just takes time and I have plenty of that.  They’re easier that rebuilding the motors.  I’m not letting any of the cars go out of here unless I am sure they are working as good as possible.”

Lex walked over to where 4 cars were up on barrels.  The barrels had been welded together to serve as support legs so Clara didn’t have to crawl under the cars.  Lex asked, “How did those cars get up there?”

Clara said, “Ummmm.  A hoist.”

Lex looked up towards the rafters and asked, “Where is it?”

Clara said, “Daddy needed it.  He took it home.”

Lex asked, “Did he take home whatever you lowered the transmissions with?”

Clara said, “… Yes.”

Lex said, “I’d reinforce those rafters before I’d attach the hoist to them again.  They look like they are rotten.  It’s hard to believe they didn’t turn to splinters when you hoisted these cars off the floor.  ….  Come on Clara.  You can’t possibly do this work with the resources you have available to you.”

Clara suddenly looked very sad.  She said, “I had plenty of time … then Dad decided that the cars would be worth more if I got special parts and fancied them up more and that put me over budget.  Plus, I was going to scrap maybe two thirds of them for parts to fix up the other third … but he said it would be better to buy parts and fix up more cars than I had planned to.  He said I could make up the difference by selling some of the cars to dealers … but that wasn’t why I wanted to repair them!  So what I wanted to do has turned into some kind of fantasy for my Dad  … AND now you tell me that you don’t believe in me.  I guess … I guess … I just should have kept making quilts … and … and stopped seeing you … until it got warm outside again.”

Lex said, “Or taken a job at the Talon.”

Clara said, “Yuck!  That’s NOT ever going to happen!  If you don’t like it here … you can just go.”

Lex said, “Don’t be that way.”

Clara said, “Then stop judging me … what I can and can not do.  When I decide to do something, it gets done -- even when people change the rules on me!  But when people I care about doubt what I can do, it kind of takes the wind out of my sails.”

Lex said, “I’m sorry.  I’ll help any way I can.  I’ll test drive a car if you want me to.”

Clara said, “Dad picked out the cars that he thought would sell for the most money for me to repair first.  I have the finished ones in the old horse arena.  You can pick out the one you want to test drive for me.”

Lex asked, “Horse arena?”

Clara said, “Yes, this was mainly a horse farm.  The Bryon family were famous horse breeders and trainers.  Junkie’s Dad died while Junkie was overseas during World War Two.  I think Junkie was an army mechanic.  When Junkie came home, he ran the horse farm.  He got married and had a daughter.  His mom died and then his wife died a few months later after falling from one of the horses.  Junkie was left to raise his 2-year-old daughter by himself.  He sold all the horses.  The family had money so he lived off of that.  He was already buying cars before his wife died, but he really went overboard about it when she died … then became even more compulsive when his daughter died when she was 17.  People think he went through all his money buying cars because he always ate at Saint Christopher’s soup kitchen and raided dumpsters all over Smallville for whatever trash he thought was worth something.  Despite looking and acting like the poorest citizen of Smallville, he always paid his property taxes … and he always had money to have cars towed here … until he was found beaten to death early this year.”

Lex said, “You sure know a lot about him.”

Clara said, “I thought I should know whatever I could since I bought everything he owned in this world.  I’m digging through his life every time I make a move around here.”

Lex said, “So, show me to the horse arena so I can see some of these cars.”

Clara took Lex’s hand and walked him through a door leading to the horse arena.  She flipped on a light switch.  She said, “I’m using some horse stalls for paint booths.  You can drive any car you want … but if you take one of the ones near the door, you won’t have to move them all.” 

Lex said, “I see you’ve got them covered.”

Clara said, “Yeah.  Dad has a dealer coming and he wants to reveal them for dramatic effect.  All that meant to me was that I had to sew a bunch of sheets together.”  Clara went over to one of the cars and said, “Look at this one.  Can you believe Daddy had me paint it orange?”  Clara pulled off the cover.

Lex said, “Wow!  That is one fine paint job!  Why the “01” on the door?”

Clara said, “I think cause it’s the first one I did.  Dad just told me what he wanted and I did it.  I’m more confused about the Confederate Flag he had me paint on the roof.  I thought these cars should be as generic as possible so that they would sell easier.  Who would want one like this?”

Lex said, “It’s nice.  Late sixties Dodge Charger if I’m not mistaken.”

Clara said, “Sixty-nine smarty pants.  You’ll never guess this next one.  It is so strange looking.  I had never heard of this make before.  It’s got a rear window that is almost horizontal.  I think that would be hard to see through.  Okay.  Ready?  You have ten seconds!  GO!”  Clara pulled the cover off.

Lex said, “A Ford Panterra!  That is sharp!  They didn’t make that many of these.  I’ve only seen pictures of them.”

Clara said, “Either they were more common than you think or Junkie liked them a lot.”  Clara pulled the covers off the two cars behind it and they were Ford Panterras as well.

Lex said, “Beautiful! But red, yellow and blue?  Why those colors?”

Clara said, “I like primary colors.  Dad said I should have stuck with basic black instead of blue.  Maybe the next one.”

Lex said, “The next one?”

Clara said, “Junkie had four.  I stole parts off the 4th one to get the other three running.  If the dealer wants them bad enough, I’ll try to get parts and get the 4th one restored.  Hey, this next one was fun.  The only thing I haven’t gotten for it is a pair of fuzzy dice to hang from the rear view mirror.”  Clara pulled back the cover.

Lex said, “Oh wow!  A 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible Coupe with a classic red and white paint job.  This one must have cost you a lot of time.”

Clara said, “Not really.  I found this one inside one of the horse stalls.  It was in great shape.  I think Junkie must have really liked this one in particular.  It was the only one that had tires on it.  Dad even remembers seeing Junkie drive it.”

Lex said, “I can understand why he liked it so much.  This kind of car is a joy to drive.”

Clara said, “Okay then why don’t you test drive this it for me while I get back to work on my transmissions.  The keys are in it.”

Lex said, “Hop in next to me.”

Clara said, “You are forgetting something.  I wouldn’t get in that thing for long … even with its top down!”

Lex said, “Oh … sorry.  I can drive it later.”

Clara said, “No.  Go on and drive it now.  I’ve got work to do.  There’s a test track around the perimeter of the property.”

Lex said, “I don’t want to get it dirty.”

Clara said, “Do you want to help me or not?  I can wash them.  I just can’t drive them. Give it a good test … just don’t drive off a bridge with it.”

Lex smirked at the comment then carefully got into the car as Clara rolled back the barn door in front of the Chevy.  Lex smiled and waved as he pulled out the door and drove off into the night.


Twenty minutes passed before Lex sounded the horn for Clara to open the barn door.  When she did, Lex carefully backed the car into its spot with the other finished cars.  He hopped out and said, “That was a great ride!  I am so impressed!”

Clara said, “Thanks.  I try.”

Lex said, “No, you don’t try … you succeed.  Is there any way that I can bid on these cars?”

Clara said, “Oh no.  How would I know if you really want them or if you are just trying to be nice to me?  Everything simple always gets so complicated!”

Lex said, “Get a price from the dealer but don’t sell before talking to me about it.  If the price offered is bogus and I don’t want the car, I’ll get someone down here who will give you a fair price.  If it’s bogus and I do want the car, I’ll get you a fair appraisal and let you decide what to sell it to me for.  If the price is fair and I want the car, I’ll buy it for one dollar more.  If it’s a fair price and I don’t want it, you can let the other guy have it.  How is that for a good deal?  Can we do business?”

Clara said,  “I don’t know.”

Lex said, “What’s wrong?  Not anxious to jump in bed with a Luthor?”

Clara said, “No, I’d love to, it’s just that if Daddy ever found out we were in bed together ….”  Clara covered her mouth and turned beet red.

Lex laughed and said, “I know what I meant and I know what you meant.  We can discuss business some other time.  That ride just got my adrenaline flowing.”

Clara said, “I don’t want to give you the wrong idea either.  Dad cherry picked these out of the 700.  I doubt you want any of the Dodge Neons or AMC Pacers or Gremlins.  The cars aren’t all collectible – just objects Junkie decided he wanted.”

Lex said, “I’d appreciate a chance to look them over just the same.  On another topic, what’s going on with the house?”

Clara said, “Nothing!  I wanted to start work on that too, but every time I go in there I get nauseous.  Someone put food out for Junkie’s cats … and it was poisoned.  A lot of them went back inside to die.  Some of them survived.  They are like savage mutants – probably from inbreeding and being allowed to run wild.  And they are very territorial about the place.  The entire house has a strange effect on me. Up on the third floor is this huge doll house that belonged to Junkie’s daughter.  When I’m up there, I think about restoring the house and making a beautiful child’s bedroom up there.  But when I go in the kitchen, for some reason I get really, really angry about the mess and don’t want to deal with it.  When I start feeling like burning the place down, I get out of there.  Then, when I’m outside, I don’t know why I felt that way at all.”

Lex said, “It’s very natural to get sick and angry about a big mess that you have to clean up.”

Clara said, “Not for me!  I enjoy a good challenge -- the bigger the mess, the better.  Its even better if it’s someone else’s mess!  I don’t like dealing with my own messes as much.  But I rarely get physically ill over anything and I don’t get angry like that over a little work to be done.”

Lex said, “Is that why you like me?  Because I’m a big challenge?”

Clara smiled and said, “Maybe … a little … but I don’t ever recall saying that I like you.”

Lex said, “You don’t have to ... say it, that is.  Liking me is mandatory.  ….  About the house, I didn’t mean what you were doing with it, I meant what was going on in there tonight.”

Clara said, “Nothing.”

Lex said, “Would your Mom and Dad be wandering around inside with flashlights?”

Clara said, “No.”

Lex said, “Well someone is … or was … when I drove past.”

Clara said, “Oh nuts!  Some kids are probably messing around.  They could get hurt!  I’d better go chase them out of there.”

Lex said, “Hey, … those cars on the barrels.  They aren’t the ones that were up there when I left.”

Clara said, “Don’t be silly!  Of course they're the same ones!  Here’s a flashlight for you.”


Lex and Clara went into the front door of the farm house.  Clara went a little weak in the knees and Lex grabbed her around the waist to steady her.  He said, “You’re trembling.  You don’t have to be frightened.”

Clara said, “I’m not.  I think it’s the smell in here that sets me off.  I didn’t see any lights in here as we came up from the barn.  Are you sure it wasn’t car headlights being reflected in the windows?”

Lex said, “It looked like lights inside the place.”

Clara said, “Watch your step in here.  There are dead cats all over the place.  If you see any live cats and they come up to you, don’t try to touch them.  They are wild and they’ll attack you!  If we get up to the third floor, I’ll show you the doll house that I told you about.”

Lex said, “The floor is crunchy.”

Clara said, “Bones … cat carcasses and the bones of the field mice the cats dragged in here to eat.  I think I’m going to throw up.”

Lex said, “It’s kind of eerie in here.  There’s kind of a greenish glow … and the room over there is glowing red.”

Clara said, “That’s the kitchen.  It’s just the moon reflecting off the floor.  The kitchen has red and white checkerboard floor tiles … under all the cat poo!”

Lex said, “There’s no moon out tonight.”

Clara said, “Watch out … there’s a cat over there who looks like he’s going to pounce on you.  Let me push him away.  He won’t hurt me.”  Clara pushed the cat away from Lex and it sunk its teeth into her hand.  Clara yelped, “OWW!  Something’s seriously wrong.  I want to get out of here!”

Lex said, “All right.  Let’s go.  Maybe I did imagine the lights.”

Clara said, “No, I don’t think so.  Things have been moved around in here.  OHH!  DANG!  He scares me every time!”

Lex said, “Who?”

Clara said, “Look over the fireplace … Junkie’s portrait.  He was one weird looking guy!  And the eyes of that portrait seem to follow you!  Creepy!”

Lex said, “You really are scared, aren’t you?  Your shaking is getting worse.”

Clara said, “No, I was just startled.  But I am feeling more nauseous than ever!”

Lex said, “If you say so, but I thought you might be scared of Junkie’s ghost.”

Clara said, “Don’t!  There aren’t any ghosts!”  Lex pointed his flashlight up towards his face and laughed diabolically.  Clara shouted, “Stop that now!”

Lex said, “Sorry.  I couldn’t help it.  Let’s go out through the kitchen.  It’s closer.”

Lex and Clara headed for the kitchen.  When they got near the back door, Clara stepped in front of Lex and put both arms around him.  She began kissing him on the neck.  She softly whispered in his ear, “I’m so scared, Lex.  Comfort me.”

Lex said, “We were almost outside.  What do you want me to do?  Reassure you that we can make it another three feet to the door?”

Clara said, “Comfort me physically.  Hold me.  Touch me.  Make love to me … on the kitchen floor.”

Lex said, “On top of dead cats and feces?  That’s your idea of a good first time?”

Clara said, “I’ll be the one lying in it so you shouldn’t care if I don’t … and I don’t.  Just shut up and give me what I want.”

Lex said, “You’re burning up!”

Clara said, “That’s right.  I’m hot!  I’m hot for you, Lex!”

Lex said, “You have a fever and you’re trembling.  I need to get you outside.”  Lex threw open the back door then scooped Clara up and carried her outside.

Clara said, “Oh … that was embarrassing.  I’m sorry Lex.  That wasn’t me in there.  I don’t know what happened.”

Lex said, “Do you think you were possessed? … by Junkie’s daughter?”

Clara said, “That’s ridiculous!”

Lex said, “Then give me a better explanation?  Have you been working too hard?  Have you been inhaling too many paint fumes?”

Clara said, “I … I don’t know … what happened.  … But you can put me down now … or whenever you want to.”


Clara and Lex went back to the barn.  Cars that had been up on barrels were now toppled onto the floor.  Cans of paint were spilled all over the place.  The cars that Clara had completed had paint spattered on them – all of them except for the Chevy Bel Air.  On the wall, the words “GET OUT” were painted in large red letters.  Clara said, “Who would do something like this?  I only want to help people!  WHY?”

Lex said, “Vandals don’t always have a reason.”

Clara said, “I’d better get the covers off the other cars before the paint soaks through.  I hope the Corvette wasn’t damaged.  Dad said that one is worth the most.”  Lex followed as Clara pulled the cover back on the Corvette.


Clara said, “It looks okay.”

Lex said, “Okay???  It’s FANTASTIC!”

Clara asked, “Why is it so cold in here all of a sudden? … Lex???  The barn door is open.  Was that door open a minute ago?  Lex?  Lex!!”  Lex finally stopped looking at the Corvette when he heard the sound of the Chevy Bel Air revving up.  Clara ran to the front of the barn and got to the driver’s side door of the Chevy and looked in.  The man in the driver’s seat smiled at Clara and lifted his hand to give her a wave of acknowledgment.  Clara was stunned for a second.  A cold shiver ran down her spine.  She screamed and sank to her knees as the car shot out of the barn.

Lex ran up to Clara and helped her to her feet.  He said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll call the Sheriff.  She’ll get the car back.  Did you see the person who took it?  Do you know who it was?”

Clara said, “It … was … Junkie.   Junkie Byron was driving the car!”


Clara wiped her hands with a shop rag and walked up to greet her visitor.  Clara said, “Good afternoon, Sheriff Adams.  Did you find out who vandalized my shop?”

Sheriff Adams said, “No, Miss Kent … Clara … we don’t have any idea.”

Clara said, “Are you sure it wasn’t Junkie Byron?  I know what I saw last night.”

Sheriff Adams said, “And I know what I saw when I hauled Mr. Byron’s body out of this barn six months ago.  It wasn’t a pretty sight and I’m not likely to forget it soon.  The cats didn’t leave much of him but there is no doubt who it was.”

Clara said, “If he’s still alive … this place isn’t mine … and I’ll leave right now.”

Sheriff Adams said, “He’s dead.  I’m sure of that … just like I’m sure someone played an elaborate hoax on you.  I just don’t know why anyone would do that.  Do you?”

Clara said, “No.”

Sheriff Adams said, “We never did catch whoever killed him … or figure out why he was killed.  A lot of people hated him.  When that national TV show featured him as a lovable lunatic, people here got angry.  I guess they prefer Smallville being known for its creamed corn and meteors than for the crazies that live here.  As nice as people are in this town, they turn on you in an instant if they think you are the slightest bit out of the ordinary.  Maybe there’s still a clue to Mr. Byron’s death here somewhere.  That could be why someone wants you gone.  Have you seen anything suspicious?”

Clara said, “This farm isn’t exactly normal.  But I haven’t seen any evidence of murder – except cat dishes used by someone to poison the cats.”

Sheriff Adams said,  “Those cats are hated worse than Junkie ever was.  There would be no end to the list of suspects for killing them.  Even the humane society couldn’t come up with a humane solution.”  After a long pause in which the Sheriff stared at Clara uncomfortably, she continued, “Now to the part of this business that I won’t enjoy at all.  There IS something very suspicious going on here.    And is has to do with these cars.  If it was anyone but you involved, I would think that this is a front for a chop shop.  It’s quite a set-up.  Dispose of one car in the field and pass off a stolen car as one of Mr. Byron’s treasures.  I tend to turn a blind eye to anything you are involved in because I feel we have a special unspoken bond between us.  On the other hand, the presence of Lex Luthor here last night made me very suspicious.”

Clara said, “Lex is helping me out by test driving cars for me.  And he’s interested in buying some of the cars.  But I’m doing this for charity.  I’ll have documents for all the expenses and profits when this is all over so that you can see for yourself where the money is going.  As to Lex Luthor, even if he were the villain some people make him out to be, what I am doing here would be too insignificant for him to bother with.  He can make more money in an afternoon on the phone than I could make if I restored every single car in that field.  Heck, he could make that much money from interest on his money while he takes a nap.  But he’s NOT a villain.  Lex is a great man and he’ll be even greater someday.  Someday you’ll look back and laugh that you were ever suspicious about him.”

Sheriff Adams said, “Maybe so, but I’m not laughing now.  I’ve always kept an eye on you since … since I first came to town.  I’m worried seeing you get involved with an older man like Lex Luthor … especially with his reputation.”

Clara said, “Reputations are the products of jealous gossip by envious, small-minded people!    AND Lex isn’t THAT much older than me … and we’re NOT involved.  We’re friends.  Maybe not even that.  He considers me a naive child and only tolerates me because I was around to pull him out of the river when his car went into it by accident.  Or do you think he drove off that bridge on purpose just to get my attention for some hidden purpose?”

Sheriff Adams said, “Lex is an experienced man of the world and he’s used to getting what he wants.  Charismatic men like the young Mr. Luthor can get a naive young woman … and maybe even a not so naive, not so young woman to do things she would never consider doing.   I’ve seen how he looks at you.  And I’ve seen the way you look at him.”

Clara said, “It’s not that way.”

Sheriff Adams said, “I just don’t want to find out that he is influencing you in any way to do something you will regret later.”

Clara said, “I told you.  You can look at my books now and when I all done with my work.  Lex isn’t making me do anything.”

Sheriff Adams said, “Books can be doctored.  I would have to be blind to look around this shop and to think for one moment that you could be restoring those cars here and all by yourself.”

Clara said, “I’m not.  My Father helps me.”

Sheriff Adams said, “I saw the damage that was done last night.  Today, there’s no sign that anything happened.  Even with your Father’s help, how is that possible?”

Clara said, “Is working hard a crime?”

Sheriff Adams smiled, “No.  No it isn’t.  Maybe it should be.  Clara, if you are even doing one percent of the work that’s going on here, you need to take a break.  I’ve often wondered how your Father manages that place of his on his own and still manages to help  his neighbors with their farm work.  Now I can see that you are a large part of it.  I checked on you and you are still doing fairly well in school and still volunteering at the hospital … and now taking on all of this.  I know you grew up fast and you look like a woman, but you’re still very young.  You need to have some fun … with people your own age.”

Clara said, “This is fun … and I don’t judge people based on their age.”

The Sheriff said, “Maybe you should.  Boys fool around.  Men are serious.  I know it’s a cliché, but don’t play with fire … you’ll get burned.”

Clara said, “That doesn’t apply to me.  Fire is my friend.  I won’t get burned.”

The Sheriff said, “We all think that when we’re young.”

Clara said, “You think Lex is influencing me?  What if I’m the one influencing him?  What if he is the one at the cross roads deciding which way to turn and I’m the one that can encourage him to be the great man I know he can be?”

The Sheriff said, “I was scared of this.  Let me share a little hard earned wisdom with you young lady.  I pray to God that you can learn from someone else’s experience.  A man will change for you … be like putty in your hands.  He’ll say that he has seen the error of his ways.  He’ll renounce his past behavior for your sake and promise never to return to the life he had before you.  A man will become exactly what you want him to be … up to that point when he has gotten everything that he wants from you.  After that point, he will snap back onto the path you found him on.  Then any suggestion you make to him will only be considered an annoyance and an intrusion upon his personal freedom.  Persist in your attempts and he will leave you behind and find what he wants with other women.  It’s the way they are.  It’s all a big game that men and women have played since time began … and it’s a game in which women ultimately lose.”

Clara said, “I … I don’t want to believe that … at least, not about Lex.  He never asks me to do anything that I don’t want to do.  He is always looking out for my best interests to the point that he has hurt himself financially and estranged himself from his Father.”

The Sheriff said, “Look at me in the eye and say that again – that he NEVER pushes you to do anything that you don’t want to.”

Clara said, “Well … no more than my parents do … and no more than you just did.  He wants me to care less about other people’s problems and enjoy my life more.  He’s scared that life will overwhelm and defeat me.”

The Sheriff said, “He is a very clever young man.  He must want you pretty badly to be so patient with you.  Has he given you specific details on how you might enjoy life more?  Has he arranged to spend time alone with you on a regular basis?    He wants something from you – don’t doubt that for a minute!  A man like that wouldn’t hang around if he didn’t want something.  And he wouldn’t invest his valuable time unless he had a feeling that he would get what he was after.”

Clara’s face was getting redder as the Sheriff spoke.  Clara’s voice was louder and more confident as she asked, “Tell me … when a baby wants his Mother to hold him … is that a bad thing?  Is there some evil intent there?  There is a need there, and I am no stranger to that kind of need.  Lex could have sex anytime he wants it.  Anytime!”

The Sheriff asked, “From you?”

Clara said, “NO!  But he has women trying to ambush him and play him and own him.  He has women that would gladly do whatever he wanted for a little money.  You can’t buy love.”

The Sheriff said, “With his kind of money, he can buy it, lease it or rent it by the half hour.”

Clara said, “My God someone must have hurt you!  Lex couldn’t buy the kind of love that he needs.  He’s practically starved to death from lack of true affection and no skim milk, conditional, light weight, less filling love substitute will be enough to save Lex.  But God help me, maybe someday I’ll be enough of a woman to give him enough of the right kind of love to make him whole … and make me whole again too!”

The Sheriff said, “He’s got you.  That’s for sure.  If I doubted it before, I don’t now.  I’ll pray for you, Darling.  I’ll pray that he’s all you think he is.  And I’ll be watching.  Your under my special protection whether you want it or not.  I’m sorry I upset you.  It wasn’t my intention.”

Clara stared at the Sheriff for a moment.  Clara’s posture relaxed and her eyes brimmed with tears.  Clara’s words were brave but her fears were very real and the Sheriff had said everything that was unspeakable.  Clara had her palms open and made a slight gesture towards the Sheriff.  It only took a second before the last shred of professional detachment left the Sheriff and the women embraced in a hug.  The Sheriff patted Clara on the back and she said gently, “You sure have become a giant since the last time I hugged you.  I really didn’t mean to upset you.  You just have to be careful about who you trust.”

Clara said, “I know … I know.  Don’t worry about me.  I’m a good girl and someday you’ll know for sure that everything is the way it is supposed to be.”

Sheriff Adams ran a hand through Clara’s long hair and then gave it a tug.  She said, “Maybe this is what Lex is after.  This mane of yours would make one fine looking wig!”  Clara chucked.  The Sheriff pulled away and tried to re-establish a portion of her cold professionalism.  She said, “I’ll be watching, Clara.  And I’d advise you to keep watch as well.  If whoever vandalized your shop is striking at the Luthors through you, chances are they aren’t finished.  So, be careful … and be good.”

Clara said, “Goodbye.”

The Sheriff began to leave and then she turned back and said, “Oh, there were a couple more things.  Don’t worry your pretty little head about the Health Department and their deadline.  They don’t want to come in here and do this job.  As long as they see you making progress, they aren’t going to step in and do anything.  So, take it easy on yourself.  Also, someone from my office will be returning your Chevy Bel Air to you soon.”

Clara said, “You got it back?”

The Sheriff said, “Yes, the grounds keeper at the Smallville Memorial Park found it abandoned and reported it.  We found the keys on the top of Gerald “Junkie” Byron’s grave marker.”


Clara was getting frustrated.  She set up alarms to scare off the vandals.  They didn’t seem to stay long enough to do much damage but the set backs and having to clean up the mess was emotionally draining to her.  The fact that the alarms were somewhat effective told her that the culprit probably wasn’t a ghost.  When she continually secured the farmhouse only to find its doors pried open again and again, she decided that a ghost wouldn’t need a crowbar.  But she couldn’t help being nervous.  Every time that she closed her eyes, she could still see Junkie Byron behind the wheel of that Chevy Bel Air.  The idea of being up against something she couldn’t fight scared her too much to think about.  She was spared nightmares because she stopped sleeping.  She made excuses for her Father to stay at the Byron farm with her as much as possible – but he was only human and needed his sleep.

What bothered her as much as anything was the lying.  Lex wanted to see all the cars before she sold them or turned them over to a charitable organization.  She couldn’t explain completing as many as 12 cars on a school night and up to 20 a day on weekends or school holidays.  She told him that a lot of her Father’s friends were helping her … which made Lex upset that he was the only one not allowed to help.  She started making excuses not to see him.  After the first 108 cars were completed, Lex agreed that the rest of the cars in the field were of no real interest to him and told her that he didn’t have to see any of the other cars that she restored.  He promised not to question how she was getting all the work done and be content if he could just pass a few minutes with her every evening.  That eased her growing tension, but she still had the house to deal with.  Going inside still made her ill.

Finally the day came when the cars and scrap had been dealt with.  There was nothing else to do but to re-contour the fields; repair the fences, barn and outbuildings; … and remodel the house.  Clara gave herself a break by getting the fields ready so that horses or livestock could graze and crops could to be planted.  She enjoyed being outside again after being inside most of the winter.  When everything else was done, she had the building supplies delivered.  She was prepared to gut the place down to the studs, let it air out a couple weeks and then rebuild it.  She had decided to sell the farm when the work was finished.  She no longer wanted anything to do with it.


Clara was always expected to report home for supper after school before going to the Bryon farm.  She got home to find a note addressed to her on the front door of the Kent farmhouse.  The note read, “We have your parents.  Meet us at the Byron Farm.  Come alone or we’ll kill them.”  Clara dropped her school bag on the porch and ran to the Byron farm.  There was a large truck parked by the house and two men were sitting in it.  Clara went up to the driver’s side door.  When the man in the driver’s seat rolled down the window, she asked him, “Did you leave a note for me at my house?”

The driver smiled at her and said, “Yes.”

Clara scowled at him and said, “If you hurt my Mom or Dad I’ll ….”

The driver said, “You’ll do nothing or they’ll die!  You only have yourself to blame.  You should have taken our warnings and left!”

Clara said, “You left those threats?”

The driver said, “Yes?  Why so surprised?  Who do you think wanted you out of there?  Junkie Byron?”  The man read the expression on Clara’s face and said, “YOU DID!  Silly, superstitious girl!  I knew the old coot pretty well and he would have loved to see all those cars fixed up.  In his fogged brain, he always thought that he was going to fix them himself.  Maybe he thought that God wouldn’t let him die until he finished restoring them.  Turns out, God had nothing to do with it.  Nothing at all.”

Clara said, “You men were at the Sheriff’s sale when I bought this farm.  If you wanted it, why didn’t you bid on it?”

The driver said, “And be responsible for cleaning the place up?  No way!  Plus we didn’t want our names on the deed.  People might put two and two together.”

Clara said, “You killed him, didn’t you?”

The driver said, “You’re pretty smart for a girl that believes in ghosts.  He died rather than tell us what we wanted to know.”

Clara said, “If you didn’t want me to believe in ghosts, why did you dress up like Junkie Byron.”

The driver said, “What are you talking about?  All we did was mess up your shop a few times and paint warnings on the walls.”

The other man said, “That wasn’t too smart you letting on what we did with Junkie.”

The driver said, “I think it’s a good idea for young Clara Kent here to know what we are capable of so that she has no doubt what we will do with her parents if she doesn’t cooperate.” 

The other man said, “You’ve got a point.”

Clara said, “What do you want?”

The driver said, “Call me Mike.  And he’s Ike.  You are going to tell Ike about the vault door you saw and where you saw it.”

Clara said, “What are you talking about?

Mike said, “You’d better know or help us find it or your parents are dead.”

Clara said, “The only vault doors I know about are in the banks in town.  But tell me where to look and I’ll help you find it.”

Mike said, “It’s here on this property somewhere.  I sold it to Junkie nine years ago.  The man was a miser.  He wouldn’t spend a dime on a vault door unless he had something valuable to protect.  There’s a treasure here somewhere.  We couldn’t risk trying to find it on our own any longer.  We knew you were going to remodel the house eventually.  We didn’t want you to find it before we did.”

Clara said, “Junkie’s values were distorted.  What he valued could be a lot different than what we value.”

Mike said, “What do you value Clara?”

Clara said, “My parents.”

Mike said, “Good for you … and good for us.  That means you’re going to work really hard to find that treasure for us.  Ike, get out and follow her as she searches.  Just yell if she tries anything and I’ll make sure our friends take care of her parents for us.  Miss Kent, get looking … or your parents will be buried next to Junkie Byron.”

Clara walked around the house and looked through the walls.  There was nothing suspicious.  Then she tried looking through the foundation.  She couldn’t see beyond the cinder blocks.  Had there been dirt or a crawl space, she would have been able to see through it.  She knew that the walls must be lined with lead.  She realized that the house had a basement that she hadn’t known about.  She looked closer and discovered that the thin lead plates were butted against each other leaving small gaps.  The hardware attaching the shielding also created holes in the plating that allowed Clara little glimpses into the basement but not a clear picture of what was down there.  Clara walked around some large bushes at one corner of the house.  Clara shook the snow off the bushes and waded through them.  The bushes in front hid the fact that some of the bushes were planted in pots.  Clara pulled the potted plants aside to reveal a door covering a stairway to the basement.  The stairs led to a vault door.  Ike yelled, “Bill!  Come here, she found it!”

Bill got out of the truck and said, “You idiot, you’re supposed to call me MIKE!”

Ike said, “Oops.  Sorry Mike.”

Clara lied saying, “There is no way I can get a door like that opened!”

Bill said, “I sold Junkie that door … I know the combination.  Get down there.  I’ll read the combination and you dial it.  Ike, get some lights from the truck.  Junkie must have blocked up all the windows to the basement so it’s gonna be dark in there.”

Ike went back to the truck while Clara went down the steps.  She dialed the numbers as Bill read them to her.  Clara pushed down on the vault door handle then pulled the door outwards.  She immediately fell backwards onto the steps and passed out.  Ike got back just in time to see Clara fall.  He quickly carried the lights down the stairs, stepping over Clara and went through the vault door.  In less than a minute, he stuck his head back outside and shouted, “Mike!  Emeralds!  Shelves filled with boxes full of emeralds!  There must be a ton of them.  And there’s a room full of nothing but rubies!  The biggest rubies you ever did see!”

Bill said, “I’ll get a couple two wheel dollies from the truck while you set up the lights.  Wake up that girl so she can help us load the truck!”  In a couple minutes, Bill was back with the dollies.  He went down the stairs and into the basement.  He saw Clara lying against the wall at one side of the door.  He said, “I told you to wake her up!”

Ike said, “I tried, but she couldn’t rouse her.  She looks sick.  She’s turning a pale green.  At least I got her out of the way.”

Bill said, “Damn!  I guess it’s up to us to get everything … and I mean everything.  Don’t leave a single jewel behind.  I’ve waited way too long for this day!”

The men worked furiously hauling the green and red rocks up the stairs and into their truck.  When all the shelves were emptied, Bill closed the vault door leaving Clara inside.  He spun the dial on the door to lock it.  When he got up the stairs, he shut the outside door and Ike and him threw the potted plants on top of it.  Bill and Ike when back to the truck and climbed inside.  In less than a minute, they were headed down the road … but they weren’t alone.

Bill looked in his rear view mirror and saw that a car was chasing them and gaining fast.  As it got closer, Bill said, “What kind of idiot drives a convertible with the top down when it’s this cold?”  Soon the red and white Chevy Bel Air pulled along side of the truck.  A quick glance told Bill that the driver was a very old man.  He turned his head for a better look.  The old man looked at him, grinned and waved.  Recognition hit Bill like the baseball bat with which he had beaten Junkie Byron to death.  Bill yelled, “JUNKIE BYRON!”  The Chevy passed them in a burst of speed, cut directly across the truck’s path and pulled into the Smallville Memorial Park.  Bill swerved to avoid the car and lost control.  The truck rolled over a few times spilling red and green rocks everywhere.


Martha and Jonathan stood by the Byron farmhouse calling for Clara.  There was a sound of bending metal.  The potted bushes were flung aside as Clara threw open the door to the hidden staircase.  Clara yelled, “MOM!  DAD!  How did you escape?”

Jon said, “We didn’t have to escape.  We got a message to meet you in town for dinner.  We gave up waiting for you, went home and found the note on our door telling you to come here.”

Clara ran over to her parents and hugged them.  Martha asked, “What’s going on?”

Clara said, “Two men were looking for treasure hidden in Junkie Byron’s house.  They found that Junkie was collecting meteor rocks and thought that they were jewels.  That’s why I was getting sick every time I went into the house.  I was getting hit by red and green kryptonite radiation at the same time.”

Jon said, “Red kryptonite?  Does it affect you the same way that green kryptonite does.”

Clara said, “Um.  No.  You don’t want to know what it does.”

Jon said, “I’ll take your word for it.”

Clara said, “Those men did me a favor by taking the kryptonite away.  But one of them admitted that he killed Junkie Byron.  I’d go after them, but they have all that kryptonite.  I can give the Sheriff the truck’s license plate number and a description of the men.”

Jon said, “She won’t need it.  We passed an accident on the way home from town.  A truck had flipped over and there was kryptonite all over the place.  Sheriff Adams was there.  She said that two men who had been in the truck were dead.”

Clara said, “That’s too bad.    You know they admitted to trying to scare me away from here, but they wouldn’t admit to dressing up like Junkie Byron.  They had to have the ones that did it.  That’s the only thing that makes sense.  But why would they confess to murder but lie about dressing up like a dead man?”

Jon said, “Before I forget, the Sheriff mentioned that the Bel Air Convertible you restored is back at the cemetery again just like before.  She said to call her and she would drive it back to our house.”

Clara said, “It’s not mine.  I heard that Mr. And Mrs. Lang bought it from that dealer we sold it to.  They gave it to Lana.  Good thing the cemetery is close to her house.  Umm.  Could you guys come down to the basement with me for a minute.  I want to show you something.”

Martha said, “I don’t think so.”

Clara said, “Please.  It stinks down there but there’s nothing gross.”

Clara and her parents walked down the stairs and through the ruined vault door.  Bill and Ike had left their lights behind so there was no trouble seeing.  Martha pinched her nose closed and cautiously entered the large room.  Clara reached up and pulled on the corner of a ceiling tile.  Plastic grocery bags fell to the floor.  Jon picked one up and looked inside.  He said, “Clara, there’s a lot of money in here.”

Clara said, “And the ceiling is full of bags just like that.  That old coal furnace over there isn’t functional.  There was baseboard heat upstairs.  That old furnace is full of a lot of coins -- mostly silver but some are gold.  Most of them look like they have been there for a long time.  I think I made a big mistake buying this place for a tax write-off.  What am I going to do with all of this?”

Martha said, “That certainly isn’t the kind of problem that I’m used to dealing with.”

Jon asked, “Any idea how much is up there?”

Clara said, “At least a couple hundred thousand dollars -- maybe half a million.  And I wouldn’t know how much the coins are worth without knowing if they are collectible or not. This is a disaster!”

Martha said, “You netted well over two million dollars for charity for all that work you did restoring those stupid cars … so how’s this for a radical idea?  Why don’t you KEEP all of this money?  At least lay it all out in your loft and roll in it?”

Clara said, “Mom, be serious!”

Martha said, “I am!”

Clara said, “What if Junkie doesn’t WANT me to keep it?  I don’t want him coming back for it!”

Jon said, “They always say ‘you can’t take it with you.’”

Clara said, “Considering what happened with the car, I think “they” may not know what “they” are talking about.  I have to give this money away just like everything else.  Junkie loved cats so maybe I’d better give it to the humane society.”

Martha asked, “Could we roll around in it for a little while first?”

Clara said, “Mom!”

Martha said, “You worked hard all winter.  You didn’t even save a car for yourself … for when you decide to start driving.  Aren’t you going to get anything for yourself out of it all?”

Clara said, “I’ll sell the farm if I can find a buyer that will buy the entire thing and promise to make it a working farm again – not subdivide it.  I’ll keep the money that I get from selling it.”

Martha asked, “I thought you wanted a farm near us for when you grow up.”

Clara said, “Yes … but not this one.  I’m pretty sick of this place by now.  If I can’t sell it, maybe I’ll donate it to Boy’s Town.”

Jon said, “Oh, no!  I won’t have 500 troubled boys living so close to my daughter.”

Clara smiled and said, “I never thought of it that way!”

Jon said, “Well don’t start thinking about it either.  … I know that you’re not done yet, but I just have to say that I think this all worked out splendidly!  Even though you didn't keep a car for yourself, you let me have 5 really nice ones ... which I'll be nice enough to let you borrow anytime you like ... once you start driving.  Best of all was the time I got to spend with you this winter doing something we both love.  Beyond what I got out of it, an eyesore and embarrassment to the community will soon be a working farm again, all those great cars got restored, a lot of people will be helped by the work you did, and we all had a productive, interesting winter!”

Clara said, “Interesting for you maybe.  Now that it’s almost over, I REALLY wish that you had refused to co-sign for me.  I wish that the Health Department had handled this mess!  I would have been happier if I had avoided all this and just stayed home and read books all winter – or had fun making quilts.  This was nothing but a major pain in the butt!”

Jon said, “WHAT?!!!”

Clara said, “You’re an adult and a parent!  You should have known better!!!  After all, it IS a parent’s job to curb their child’s enthusiasm long enough for reason to set in!”

Jon said, "Those words sound strangely familiar to me."