Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pitbull, Chapter 8

Perry and full cast, from "Perry"
Season 3
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the story from the beginning here.
Read Chapter 7 here.
Chloe's article is from the "Smallville" comics. Thanks to Carbon Copy for having it available!

"Coming inside was a wise decision. The weather service expects a light shower of threshing machines, followed by a drizzle of combines."

Perry grinned ruefully. Chloe Sullivan was typing away, looking totally engrossed in whatever she was writing, but she still made the time to utter snarky comments.

Miss Sullivan, he thought, was a reporter after his own heart.

"Guess I deserve that." He'd sobered up quite a bit on the walk over here, and consequently his gait was only slightly unsteady as he headed for the wall covered in articles. He stood there, studying them carefully, and behind him, the clicking stopped. He heard Chloe get to her feet and walk over to him, her canvas shoes thwapping lightly against the industrial tile floor.

"If you let me know what you're looking for, I'm sure I could help you find it," she offered.

He turned his head and frowned at her, surprised by her offer. She'd seemed pretty pissed with him after their last meeting, but her tone was remarkably civil now. "And why would you want to do that?"

"Because," she said simply, "you were once the kind of reporter that I would like to be. Though I must admit, I'm curious how one goes from multiple Pulitzer nominations to walking the Bigfoot beat."

Perry gestured toward the wall. "Doesn't look like you have a problem with the Bigfoot beat."

"It's a little different, Mr. White. Those stories are all true."

"Suuuure," he answered, nodding as he pointed toward a headline that read, MAN GROWS EXTRA EYE ON FOREHEAD.

"They're all true," she repeated stubbornly, and he got the distinct impression that she really meant it. He looked over the wall, filled with outlandish, absurd, and outright impossible articles, and shook his head slowly. Either Chloe Sullivan was crazy as a loon, or a hell of a reporter.

Considering everything he'd seen since he'd come to Littleville, he was betting on the latter.

"But you," she went on. "You're just making this stuff up. You said as much earlier. Why would a reporter as good as you are leave the Planet and start making up crap for a bad cable show?"

He winced at her blunt words. The girl didn't pull her punches, that was for sure. He hesitated a moment, then responded honestly.

"You know the only thing that's worse than never landing that story of a lifetime?"

"What?"

"Having it," he said, "and being afraid to write it."

She studied him carefully, and he got the uncomfortable feeling she was looking right through him. "Perry 'The Pitbull' White backing off a story? That's hard to believe."

He lowered his head at the old nickname, a nickname nobody had called him in years, because he no longer deserved it. He didn't dig his teeth into stories any more and refuse to let go.

He wasn't a pitbull nowadays. More like a geriatric, toothless chihuahua.

"Well," he said gruffly, "Lionel Luthor can be remarkably persuasive."

Her eyes went wide. "Are you saying Lionel had something to do with your career slide?"

Something in her voice caught his attention, and he turned his head and studied her. "You know Lionel?"

"Oh, well..." She shrugged, trying to look indifferent, but he could see anxiety in her eyes. "Just by reputation. He has a house in Smallville, you know."

He nodded, very slowly, watching her reactions. "Make sure you continue to only know him by reputation, Miss Sullivan. Lionel Luthor can be extremely bad for a reporter's career. Trust me. I know."

She looked at him, and her eyes were huge. "What did he do to you?"

The emphasis on the last syllable told him that she knew Lionel by more than just reputation. Lionel had done something to her, too. Poor kid. If she'd gotten mixed up with Lionel somehow, then she was in way over her head. He didn't care how smart she was, or how good a reporter-- a sixteen-year-old girl was no match for that bastard.

"Let's just say that not everyone respects good investigative journalism, especially when it treads on the toes of the rich and vengeful." He looked back at the wall of clippings, and deliberately changed the subject, pointing to an article that showed a strange symbol burned into the side of a red barn. "Isn't that the Kent Farm?"

She nodded. "Good eye. The police chalked it up to hyperactive frat boys drawing crop circles on the barn." She looked back at him, and her eyes narrowed slightly as she studied him. "Why?"

Perry smiled. "Call it professional interest. Your friend Clark... intrigues me."

He saw her expression turn cautious, almost wary, and he concluded that Chloe Sullivan was aware there was something weird about Clark, too. He turned his head, studying the picture more carefully. It showed a strange symbol, burned into what looked like an ordinary rural barn.

Just one more piece in the puzzle that was Clark Kent.

*****

After Perry left, Chloe sat back down at the computer to finish the article she'd been working on. But she'd lost her train of thought. Perry's words kept running through her mind.

Lionel Luthor can be remarkably persuasive.

God knew that was true. She closed her eyes, remembering her last conversation with Lionel. In the spring, she'd made a stupid, stupid bargain with him. Angry because Clark had chosen Lana over her, she'd agreed to find Lionel information on Clark, and in exchange Lionel had offered her a column at the Daily Planet.

At first, she'd been so dazzled by the sight of her name and photograph in the Planet on a weekly basis that she hadn't allowed herself to feel bad about what she'd done. She hadn't really wanted to betray Clark, of course, so she'd tried to play Lionel, to only tell him things he already knew, the basic stuff about Clark that anyone could find out.

But Lionel wasn't stupid, and now he was tightening the screws, trying to force her to investigate Clark and tell him more.

She wasn't sure exactly what he was looking for. She only knew that she wanted to protect Clark. He'd been her best friend for a long time, and she didn't want him hurt.

She pulled out the latest copy of her column and stared at it, seeing her name and photo, right there in Metropolis' Greatest Newspaper.

She'd always wanted to write for the Daily Planet.

But not like this, damn it.

She heard her own voice, saying, I'd like to be this sort of reporter someday. Devoted to exposing the truth, to protecting the public, but going about it the right way. The ethical way.

She sighed, remembering her last conversation with Lionel. On her way to the Planet, she'd stopped by LuthorCorp. When she'd entered Lionel's office, he'd lifted his head and smiled.

"Miss Sullivan. What a nice surprise." His gaze had fallen on the file she held, and his smile had grown wider. "Have you brought me an addendum to your report on Clark Kent?"

"No." Her stomach churned nervously, but she held out the file. "It's my final column for the Daily Planet. I'm turning in my resignation today."

Lionel took the file, his fae unreadable. "Oh," he said. "Then our agreement is terminated."

"I'm sorry," Chloe said, even though she wasn't sorry at all. "But Clark's friendship just means too much to me."

Lionel shook his head, looking sorrowful. "I can't say it's unexpected, but it will be disappointing."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Luthor. I guess some people are just better at leading double lives than others."

She turned and headed for the door. Lionel spoke, and something in his voice froze her in place.

"You misunderstand me, Miss Sullivan."

Slowly, she turned around. Lionel rose from his seat behind the desk, and suddenly she realized how tall he was. All of a sudden she felt very small and insignificant, like a mouse facing a lion.

"I'm not the one who's going to be disappointed," Lionel said. "That'll be your father."

My father. Chloe felt a throb of fear, but she choked it back. "What does he have to do with any of this?" she demanded.

"Well..." Lionel smiled affably. "I suppose he wanted to surprise you. Your father just made a sizable down payment on a new house overlooking the golf course."

Chloe made a scoffing noise. "My dad still hasn't paid off the new water heater. I seriously doubt he's moving us to Brat Flats."

Lionel shrugged. "I suppose it must be his way of celebrating his new promotion. When I rewarded him for his hard work and his dedication to LuthorCorp, he was just brimming with pride. He... Oh, he'd be devastated if he suddenly found himself unemployed."

Chloe stared at him, feeling the noose tightening around her neck. He'd given Gabe a promotion, and now, if she didn't cooperate...

"You can't do this to him."

Lionel's smile grew decidedly less affable. "Actually, I can. But I don't think I'll need to. You and I are going to enjoy a long and fruitful partnership, Miss Sullivan."

Now, sitting in the Torch, Chloe remembered stumbling out of Lionel's office, frightened and close to tears. She knew Lionel well enough to take his threats very seriously. She didn't doubt he'd ruin her father's life, and hers, if she didn't cooperate.

She didn't really want to betray her oldest and best friend. But she couldn't let her father's life be destroyed because of her, either. With a single flick of his fingers, Lionel had manipulated her like a chess piece, effortlessly trapping her. She couldn't put a foot out of line without being captured... and destroyed.

She wondered what he'd done to Perry White, who'd apparently had the "story of a lifetime" on Lionel.

Lionel Luthor was ruthless and vicious, and if Perry had uncovered some damning information on him, then Perry was lucky to be alive.

And maybe she was lucky that Lionel hadn't summarily fired her dad and wrecked her life.

But right now, she didn't feel lucky.

She looked down at her column, reading the cynical, angry words she'd written after her confrontation with Lionel.

Burned in relationships, you turn to work for solace. Surely in the workforce, where only your abilities matter, you won't face the same games. Finally, you'll be rewarded for hard work and dedication, qualities of real substance. But if those "just rewards" come rolling in, stop. Consider the giver. And watch out for people who want to do you favors. There's always a hook.

Words of wisdom, she thought grimly.

Wisdom she'd learned a little too late.

Read Chapter 9 here.

4 comments:

BkWurm1 said...

Interesting parallel to Perry. I'd forgotten she was in the midst of her Lionel problems when White showed up.

blackheart_me said...

AHH beautiful old lines from the show. they became epic right? "He didn't care how smart she was, or how good a reporter-- a sixteen-year-old girl was no match for that bastard." How relieving it is to know that's not true :P Aww Poor Chloe caught in the deal. The angsty times back then. I'm really enjoying it Elly and I'll love to read more when you get around to updating :)

Anonymous said...

I'd really love to see this updated! It is a very good peice that I'd love to see finished!

Elly said...

Oh, anonymous, there's a broken link here. I'm sorry; I didn't realize. There are several more chapters after this one, though. I'll go ahead and add that link now. It isn't finished, as it happens, but it IS in the queue-- I'm trying to finish all my old stories in the first three months of the years. So hopefully it'll be done by the end of March. In the meantime, I'll fix that link so you can read more. Thanks for your interest!