Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: Full Circle
A/N: Post-Aqua, so forget everything else you know. J/K. Important stuff to know is that Lois still lives with the Kents, and Jonathan is still alive. This idea was birthed back then, so the story really doesn't follow the current Smallville continuity.
As an FYI, one of the main plot ideas in this story was influenced by a story I read on lcfanfic-com a while ago. I can't remember the title of author at this time, but I will keep looking and let you know when I find it. In the meantime, that is a wonderful place to find some great reading fodder.
Edited: Found the fanfic in question. It is In a Better Place, by CC Aiken. Wonderful fic, and great inspiration (thanks to Nan from Zoom's board for the help identifying it). This fic can be found at the LnC boards located at www,Lcficmbs,com.
Chloe stopped her car in front of the Kent farm and jumped out. Rolling her eyes at the sight of Lois's SUV parked next to the barn, she jogged up the porch stairs. She and Lois were supposed to meet for a movie, but Lois hadn't shown up, and she wasn't answering her phone.
She jumped slightly as the inner door flung open right as she was about to knock. Clark's mom peered at her through the screen and sighed. Chloe frowned as she reached to pull open the door.
"Mrs. Kent? Is everything okay?" Chloe could tell from the worried look on the older woman's face that it wasn't.
"Hi, Chloe," Martha replied distractedly. "I thought you might have been Clark."
"Clark?" Chloe glanced around the kitchen warily. "I haven't seen him… is Lois here?"
As Clark's mother turned to answer her, Jonathan Kent entered the kitchen from the den and slammed the portable phone down on its headset.
"Damn it!" he exclaimed, with muscles tensing in his jaw.
Chloe's eyes widened. Something was definitely up.
"Um… hi Mr. Kent," Chloe greeted uneasily.
He must not have noticed her before because he spun around in surprise at her voice.
"Chloe," Jonathan said, his voice rising slightly as if he was both surprised and relieved to see her. "Did Clark say anything to you about taking a trip?"
Chloe's eyebrows rose. "No," she answered thoughtfully. "I… uh, he didn't say anything to me. Did he tell Lois…?"
Martha shook her head. "She's gone too."
Chloe's head tilted to the side as she looked between Clark's parents. "Gone? But her car…" she protested, using her thumb to point behind her, outside.
"Maybe they took a walk or something…" Chloe's voice faltered. From the looks on their faces, the Kents weren't buying the took-a-walk theory. "How long have they been gone?"
"A day and a half," Martha replied softly.
"A day and a half?" Now Chloe was catching on to the worried tension. She had thought it was strange that Lois hadn't called her after work yesterday. It was very odd for Lois to have gone somewhere without her car…
Chloe pulled out her phone and began dialing.
"Chl…" Martha began, raising a hand.
Chloe heard the echoing ring and turned her attention to the cell phone that was on the counter near the coffee pot. It was Lois's phone.
"Oh." Chloe stated, flipping her phone shut to end the call. Lois didn't have her car or her phone. That was even stranger.
Chloe tried to put everything in perspective. There had been other times when Clark had disappeared from his home without telling his parents. Having since learned what had spurned that strange behavior, she knew Clark's parents were justified in their worry.
"Have you called the police?"
Jonathan nodded. He gestured toward the phone. "At least, we've tried calling them. They said to call back when it's been a total of 48 hours."
"I thought it was 24…" Chloe stuttered, confused.
Jonathan looked at her with sympathy. He knew she must be worried about her cousin. He sighed. "Turns out, its 24 hours from when the usual routine changes."
As Chloe sat speechless, Martha continued with the explanation. As she talked, she kept herself busy wiping off the spotless counter. "We figured that something was up when neither of them showed up for breakfast yesterday. Clark wasn't out doing his chores and Lois wasn't in her room…"
Chloe internally released a small smile, hoping that this whole thing was being blown out of proportion. This was her cousin after all. Lois Lane not coming home one night was not a strange occurrence… at least it hadn't been before she moved to Smallville.
"The sheriff feels that Clark's history of taking off belies the need for an APB… and with Lois and he both being over 18…" Jonathan added.
Chloe nodded awkwardly. She had been guilty of thinking the same about Clark's disappearances earlier. She wondered how to justify Lois being gone for a few days without taking her cell phone or her car… She couldn't.
"When was the last time you saw Lois?" Chloe asked, starting to feel worry creep in.
"She closed for me at the Talon the other night. I left a little before closing…" Martha reminisced. "I assumed she came in late because she was in the room when I got up to check the doors late that night."
Jonathan stepped closer to his wife and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"It's a habit… I, uh, used to wake up late at night to check on Clark and make sure the doors were locked. I guess I still do," the worried mother explained. "Clark was on the couch as usual, and everything seemed fine."
Chloe nibbled on her lower lip. What could possibly have happened to her cousin and best friend to make them disappear overnight?
"Mrs. Kent, I remember Lois mentioning that you had security camera's installed at the Talon…"
Martha nodded in confirmation. "Yes. After the ordeal with Lucy, and that boy who robbed Lois, we thought it best."
Jonathan squeezed Martha's shoulder and addressed Chloe. "Do you think something happened at the coffee shop…?"
Chloe shrugged. "I don't know, but it wouldn't hurt to take a look… Do you mind?"
"Of course not. I'll call Angela and let her know that you're coming by," Martha said, walking toward the phone.
"Chloe, I've run into some trouble trying to get in contact with General Lane," Jonathan started. "Do you think you could give it a try?"
Chloe grimaced. She didn't want to be the messenger on this type of delivery. "Sure. I'll see what I can do."
Martha hung up the phone. "Angela is expecting you… just please don't take the originals in case the police decide to actually get off their…"
Jonathan cleared his throat to stymie his wife's tirade.
Chloe fidgeted. She hated to see Clark's mother so worried and wanted to offer some support. "I'm sure they're both okay. Knowing Lois, she probably got some hair-brained idea and Clark followed her to keep her out of trouble. You know with his abilities, he always finds a way to be the hero."
The sharp looks from the two adults revealed to Chloe that she had misspoken. "Oh. I guess Clark hasn't told you about me knowing… yeah. I think I'll go see those tapes, now."
Chloe backed toward the door, hoping to escape the mounting tension in the room. She feared that like Pandora, she had just opened a box of stuff she had no desire to deal with. Clark was almost lucky to not be around for his parent's immediate reaction to the news that his secret was out.
Martha broke the stare she had been sharing with her husband long enough to see the young woman dart out of the door. She rushed to the screen door and called out to her. "Chloe!"
With one hand on the driver's door, Chloe turned to face the house.
Martha stepped out on the porch and placed a hand on the railing. "If you learn anything…"
"You'll be the first to know," Chloe assured her. Then, with a wave, she jumped into her car and backed down the drive.
Chloe sighed and tapped a few keys to go back a few minutes on the copy of the security video she had gotten from the Talon. The camera revealed a broad view of the coffee shop from above and behind the cash register.
Chloe noted that nothing seemed out of the ordinary as wait staff moved back and forth behind the counter. Watching as her cousin took money, made change, and completed orders, Chloe wondered exactly what her cousin was going to amount to. She shook her head unbelievingly at the thought that Lois would resort to peddling muffins and brew for the rest of her life.
Lois came across as a very aloof and carefree young adult to everyone who had met her since she moved to Smallville, but Chloe knew that Lois was a force to be reckoned with when she set her mind to something. Right now, the only thing Lois seemed to be determined to be was… well… undetermined.
The video continued to show the shop clearing as the time neared closing hour. Chloe watched as Lois waved goodbye to Mrs. Kent and locked the door, before heading back to the register. Watching the uneventful routine, Chloe yawned, and stopped the feed after Lois's image turned out most of the lights and left the shop through the front door.
According to Mrs. Kent, Lois had returned to the farm and had gone to bed after that. Nothing on the tapes warranted any alarm.
Glancing at her watch, Chloe realized that she had been in the Audio/Visual room at the Met U library for three hours straight, and still had nothing to show for her efforts. Whenever Lois kept her company during her late nights at the Planet, and Chloe had reached an impasse, Lois would look up from her latest quest of slaying online foes and tell her that all she needed was to change her perspective. She was right. Looking at the problem a different way usually led her to an answer.
Chloe grabbed her mouse and used it to drag the timeline backwards, showing the video feed in reverse. She watched as Lois backed into the store and returned to the register. Seeing something she hadn't noticed before, Chloe stopped the mouse.
Leaning closer to the monitor, she squinted at a reflection in the front door… one that she had not noticed before because her attention had been focused on Lois and not the empty shop around her. There was a reflection of a person on the door… a reflection that couldn't be that of her cousin, because she was on the other side of the room… Which meant that someone else had been watching her from outside.
Things just got a little more interesting.
Chloe reached for her phone and pressed a few buttons. When the line was picked up, she spoke quickly. "Jack, I need you to take a look at something for me. What time will you be at work?"
After a pause, she nodded. "Great. I'll meet you there."
Jack, copy-boy extraordinaire for the Daily Planet, frowned at the screen. From her spot leaning over his shoulder, Chloe mirrored the expression.
"Do you think you can enhance that so we can see the face better?"
Jack tapped his mouse thoughtfully. "I think so, but it might take a while. I wrote this computer program that goes through and maps every pixel and enlarges it. Next, I'm going to add a feature that remaps a picture into a 3D model."
"How long do you think it will take?" Chloe asked stepping back.
"For the 3D model?"
"No," Chloe laughed. "I just want to be able to make out the person's features."
"Oh," Jack replied, a little disappointed that she wasn't asking about his special program. "Let's see… the image is a bit distorted because it's on the other side of the glass… and we've got a few hot spots from the reflection of those fluorescent lights inside the store… I'd say, two hours, give or take."
Chloe beamed. "That's great! You call that a long time?"
Jack gave a little smile at her enthusiasm, some of his ego regained. "Well, yeah. In computer time that's an eternity. I want to get the time delay down to a few minutes at the most. That way, when it's time to add the 3D module, the lag won't be as…"
"Thanks, Jack," Chloe interrupted.
"…noticeable," Jack finished softly. He was going to have to come up with some better fodder for conversation if he wanted to impress her.
Chloe patted him on the shoulder affectionately. "I'll be back in two hours to see what you've got."
Jack nodded. "Sure thing. You know where to find me."
Chloe restlessly swung her chair from side to side and checked the time again. The hardest part of any investigation was waiting for answers. Her two-hour wait wasn't up yet, but she wasn't being very productive at her job… but then again, answering the InfoLine really wasn't all that productive anyway.
Grabbing her coffee container, she headed towards the elevator.
"Hey, I was about to call you," Jack remarked as Chloe sided up next to his desk. He handed her a printout. "What do you think?"
Chloe scanned the photo. "Wow." Jack had been able to bring out the image as clearly as if the person in it had posed for the shot.
She studied the face for a moment, branding the spiky black hair and light eyes into her memory. The only prominent feature on the young man's face was a black mole on his right temple, near the ear. She had never seen him before. It was too bad the security camera only took black and white video.
"You did a great job, Jack. Thanks a ton," Chloe said with a smile. It wasn't much to go on, but at least the picture gave her something to show around Smallville while she hunted for a lead.
Jack grinned with pride, happy that he was able to help. "I did a little something extra for you… I think you'll like it."
He pulled a CD out of a sleeve and slid it into his computer drive. "I was able to get that done quicker than I thought," he said pointing to the picture Chloe held. "So I ran your video through this program I've been working on."
He clicked a few buttons and pulled up a screen. Chloe noticed that it was an edited copy of the surveillance tape.
"Every object in a video has a unique build up," Jack explained as he got the video ready to play. "I can focus on a set object and ask the program to cycle through an unlimited number of images and search for similar elements. In this case, the number of images are the frames of your video… and there you go," Jack announced as he pressed a combination of keys.
Chloe watched as the computer screen filled with screen caps of various shots from the Talon tape.
"It's not perfect, so a couple of these don't fit, but for the most part, that's your guy," Jack said, pointing to one of the first shots.
The face of the young man placing an order at the Talon counter was the same as the face of the man in the photo Chloe held in her hand. The timestamp showed that he had been inside the Talon the day before Lois had gone missing.
Chloe reached for the mouse and cycled through some of the other photos. From what she could tell, it looked like the mystery man had been watching both Lois and Clark. One image showed him sitting in a corner booth, using a stylus to enter something into a PDA. At that particular time, Lois hadn't been there, but Clark was sitting at a table nearby.
"Jack, this is awesome. You are a genius."
Jack chuckled modestly and shrugged. "Just wanted to help."
He clicked the program closed, ejected the CD, and handed it to her.
As she took it from him, Chloe realized that she hadn't called Lois's father yet. She debated putting it off until after the Kents called the police for the 48-hour check in. She hoped to somehow have some answers by then.