Fighting his urge to stay and talk Lana into seeing someone who could help her deal with the grief and the depression she's clearly going through, he listens to Chloe's entreats and decides to give his former wife some space, curve his over-protective and obsessive nature to avoid making the same mistakes that drove her away from him in the first place.
The call that he's just received will help him keep focused and, God willingly, provide him with answers to the questions Lois' words planted in his mind when he walked on her as she was trying to hack into his computer at LuthorCorp Plaza.
"It's not a secret that you purchased land by the dam where you were conducting illegal experiments. "
"I never authorized the purchase of any land by the dam. "
"Well, not to be callous, but with your dad M.I.A., there aren't a whole lot of Luthors around these days with authorization privileges. "
Although Lois isn't the accomplished investigative reporter Chloe is, she's proven to be a thorn in his side on more than one occasion, and she's got good instincts. Lex would have been a fool to disregard her suspicions, which were well-founded based on both what his surveillance team discovered during their stakeout and what his P.I. managed to dig up. Louis Leclerc. Lex hadn't heard that name in years, not since one summer holiday when a teenager around his age stormed into Lionel's office at LuthorCorp accusing Luthor Sr of killing his father, Florian Leclerc.
Lex has never believed in coincidences. Louis has a cousin in Shanghai, a nun serving at an orphanage just a few blocks away from where Lana used to live.
Lex parks his car at a safe distance from his destination, making sure it´s well camouflaged by the dense vegetation. The old hunting cottage which his team's been surveilling's well-hidden amidst the trees and, if it weren't for the fact Lex has intel that tells him otherwise, he'd have taken it for an abandoned building. There's not even a chopping stump or a pile of wood outside; the new owners must have modernised the heating system, maybe bought some oil radiator heaters to avoid the telltale smoke coming out of the chimney.
There's no love lost between Lex and his father, and the urge to let things run their natural course is strong. Just as Louis Leclerc, the young scion knows what it's like to be driven by the thirst for revenge, especially when the target is called Lionel Luthor. However, staying away would mean wasting a chance to find out what role his father played in Lana's disappearance, for Lex can't shake off the suspicion of Lionel's involvement now.
Unholstering his automatic, he advances stealthily towards the wooden back door, which is surprisingly unlocked. Even though he doesn't know what he's going to find on crossing the threshold, he welcomes the idea of putting an end to the disquieting feeling provoked by his people's inability to provide him with proof of his father's status and whereabouts.
The room he steps into is crammed with plants at various stages of growth; lit lamps hang from the rafters to hasten their development. And the first thing that assaults him is the strong smell of natural fertiliser coming from the barrel in the corner, where worms are diligently oxygenating the black soil for later use. As he walks further into the cabin his nostrils pick up something else- sweat and the acrid smell of blood.
"Dad?" he gasps, rushing to the wooden bed, which has seen better days. "You're alive. I never gave up on you," he adds, starting to undo the binds with which his father's been secured to the bedpost.
"Lex, why did you do this? " seethes a sweaty Lionel Luthor in a bloodied vest.
"But I see you've given up on me," replies the young billionaire, hating the disappointment which taints his own voice.
Some things never change. He wonders why he bothers; Lionel Luthor's never going to give him the only thing Lex's ever wanted from him. And now, the only thing that should matter is getting the answers he's come here for.
"Don't you make me pull the trigger," says a female voice at Lex's back, cocking the shotgun she's holding with slightly shaky hands.
"Easy," Lex tells her in a soothing tone, relinquishing his gun and raising up his arms as she has him move away from the bed.
"We can't all be heroes, Lex. Besides, I read about you Luthors. Lionel would rather stick around and have his other wrist broken than be saved by you," she chuckles, aiming her shotgun at the younger man's chest.
"Dad. Dad! Dad! " he shouts wide-eyed when he sees his father attack the woman from behind and slam a blunt object on her head repeatedly.
The savagery and viciousness with which Lionel crushes his captor's skull stuns Lex and makes him question his progenitor's sanity; that is before a memory from two years ago comes back to haunt him.
He was about to kill you, Lex.
Or divulge something you didn't want me to know.
Is this death a desperate man's attempt to stop the truth from coming to the surface? Lex is determined not to allow this bloodshed to be another Jason in his father's record.
THE KENTS' BARN- THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON
Lana finished her household chores half an hour ago; dinner's ready in the oven and the vegetables for the salad are clean in the fridge awaiting Clark's arrival. She still has almost an hour and a half to herself, an hour and a half which she might have spent on a walk or a drive to the town. However, venturing out is just too risky; she might ruin her fragile cover either by bumping into Lex again or being late just like it happened yesterday. Hanging out on the farm isn't the perfect plan for a hideout and it won't prevent Lex from seeking her out, but it's the closest thing to a safe haven she knows while the two cousins are away.
Standing at the barn window, she closes her eyes and tries to empty her mind. She's missed the skies of Kansas and its sunsets and wishes she could recapture the innocence of her teenage years when she would come to this very barn and watch the sun set in silence next to the young farm boy she once thought would grow old with her.
"Lex told me you're living here now. Well, you haven't wasted much time getting back to your roots, have you? " asks the man whose voice has haunted both her sleeping and her waking hours for months on end.
"Lionel, I heard what happened. Are you okay? " she asks with feigned concern, wiping off the smile she had ready on her face when she turned around believing him to be Clark.
"It's hardly reassuring to read your own obituary, but you should know that, I suppose, shouldn't you?"
"They said that you were being held captive by a crazy woman."
"Indeed I was," he chuckles before glaring at her. "You."
"I would never be involved in something like that. " she frowns, mentally adding Unlike You...
"How is she?" asked Mack, the youngest guard Lex had left in charge of Lana's security while he was away on business.
"Just a little shaken," she heard Dr. Langston say as she lay in the hospital bed drowsy from the sedative the physician had injected her.
"I want her transferred to a secure room."
"Uh, there might be a place we can use in the old wing. Your team could completely secure that area," suggested the doctor.
"Do it," replied Mack before picking his walkie-talkie and informing his real employer that everything was ready for take-off.
"Oh, please. Whoever would believe that after faking your own death? Lex gave me the details, which leaves only one question unanswered. How much does Clark know? "
Lana starts wondering if the old man has finally taken complete leave of his senses to the point that he's starting to believe his own lies. She trembles now as much for Lex as for the well-being of the clueless farm boy and her only confidante, Chloe. She loathes having brought this looming threat to their doorstep but she can't give up now when the truth's so close to be revealed.
"I'm sure that he's thrilled that you are alive and well. " she smiles, feeling the taste of bile in her mouth.
"Are we talking about Clark or my own flesh and blood- Lex? I'm sure that you have managed to convince yourself that your love could protect him half a world away. You may have lost the Luthor name in the eyes of the world, but it's the Luthor instincts that keep those claws of yours sharp."
"You shouldn't wound what you can't kill, Mr Luthor."
"Be careful, Lana. We had a deal. Don't forget. Judas hung himself with his own rope."
"I've never been one of your apostles. Get out," she spits at him.
Eating dinner and pretending in front of Clark that everything's fine is an ordeal she's finding hard to handle. She goes through the motions like an automaton, praying her conscience won't betray her for she hasn't got the strength left to confess twice within twenty-four hours- sharing her pain with Chloe was trying enough.
"I've finished the dishes," she tells Clark, who's sitting in the sofa, watching the Sharks' game on TV. "Would you mind turning off the lights before going upstairs?"
"Is everything OK?" he asks her concerned, turning down the volume.
"Yes," she smiles. "It's just a mild headache. Nothing that a good night's sleep won't cure."
"All right. I won't be long; the game should be over in about twenty minutes."
"Stay up as long as you want. Once I lay my head on the pillow, I won't hear a thing... Goodnight," she starts to climb up to the guest room.
"See you in the morning," smiles Clark with a forlorn look in his eyes, which makes her feel like a worm.
Locked up in the bathroom, she finishes her evening ritual, buttons up her long nightdress and wipes off a few stray tears as she pushes down the flush handle and the liquid she's just poured into the toilet bowl disappears into the sewage system.
She can't wait for the nightmare to be finally over and hopes that both the boy she once loved and the man whose love has kept her alive will find it in their hearts to forgive her.
A/N 2:Several of the flashback dialogues in italics have been taken verbatim from "Action" (7x5), "Forever (4x21)" and "Trespass" (6x14). I've also drawn to some extent material from the original source to write the scenes featuring Lionel.