“Jesus fucking Christ! I swear to fuck, Dickie, when we get outta here, I’m gonna kill ya.” Jason emphasizes his point by firing into the dark corn field again, the hushed laughter of the yet to be determined creatures rising into a shriek as one of them collapses.
Dick isn’t normally one for killing but whatever these things are, they’re hell on the livestock and are creepier than anything he’s seen in a while, so he’s more willing to make an exception. Small wonder Clark asked if he would come out to visit his parents and poke around while he was off-world. At this point though, he thinks Zatanna would been a better choice. “Why blame me? You came of your own free will.”
He cracks another glow stick and holds it high. The creatures don’t like the light at all, even lurid green that it is, and scramble back a couple of rows. There’s barely a moon at all tonight, and if it weren’t for the starlight lenses in their masks, they’d be completely blind.
“Come to Kansas, he says. There’ll be pie, he says,” Jason snorts mockingly. “Fuck this shit and fuck your mother.”
“Language,” Dick tries but Jason laughs at him and releases a stream of profanity that would make even a sailor sit down and take notes.
Okay, so maybe he was a little too eager for some one on one time with Jason. They rarely see each other except for patrol and the last time they did meet up, it was after their adventure with that minivan where Dick made his brother watch the movie he’d borrowed some moves from. Needless to say, Jason loved it.
And so did Dick. Time with Jason is a treat, so when he randomly tossed out the invite to join him in Smallville, it surprised him that the other man said yes.
Clearly, he’s regretting this now.
The vitriol slows down and Dick takes a chance. “These things have to hide somewhere during the day. They completely avoid the light.”
It works. “Gotta be somewhere other than a barn. A tunnel? One of those grain stacks?”
“You mean a silo?”
Dick wishes he’d thought to ask Uncle Jon about possible places to scope out before he and Jason wandered out into the cornfield earlier. This is so much more than he signed up for.
“You know what this means, right?”
“We’re pulling an all-nighter that would make the Pretender proud?”
“No. We need to capture one of these things and stick a tracker on it.”
Jason laughs again. It’s a good villain laugh, really. “If they’re in one of those grain thingies, I’m gonna light that sucker up and send it to the motherfuckin’ moon.”
Dick can’t help but notice the more stressed his brother gets, the more his original lower Gotham accent makes a reappearance. “You know what this kind of reminds me of?” he asks instead.
“What?” Jason asks warily.
“Children of the Corn.”
“I already died once, I doubt He Who Walks Behind the Rows will want me.”
The chittering laughter around them quiets completely. Not a sound can be heard in the cornfield aside from their ragged breathing. Instinctively, Dick and Jason press closer.
“That can’t be good,” Jason murmurs.
“No shame in a strategic retreat.”
“That’s what you’re calling it?” Jason is already moving, shouting and shooting as he charges back down the row.
Dick is hot on his heels, still holding up the glow stick.
The laughter starts up again, louder than before. In the rows beside them, small dark shapes keep pace. It’s now or never. Dick slips a tracking device out of a compartment in his gloves and throws it hard to his left. This one is designed to catch hold on any surface and he utters a quiet prayer that it does what it’s supposed to.
“I see the lanterns!” Jason shouts.
The Kent’s have taken to leaving torches and camp lanterns around the barn, the chicken coop, and their house since these things appeared. If Clark hadn’t been on his way to mediate a peace treaty between two planets when his parents called him about the strange happenings, Dick doubts this would have escalated the way it has. As it is, he needs to call Raven.
Something catches hold of Dick’s foot, yanking hard. He stumbles and twists, trying to spin and regain his momentum, but the weight on his leg grows heavier. The ground is hard beneath him as he slams into it with a loud grunt. Dick spits the dirt out of his mouth and doesn’t stop moving, rolling and kicking hard at the dark little... he raises the glow stick he still grips tightly and blinks.
It’s a little clown the size of a garden gnome. One with sharp pointy teeth and a dark stain around its mouth.
Dick does not want those teeth on him. Nope. Not happening.
He doesn’t have to worry. The creature’s head disappears in a spray of blood, bone, and brain matter from Jason’s well-placed shot.
“Get up,” he snarls, and Dick is back on his feet in a flash, scooping up the little body to analyze from the safety of the patio.
“Did you see that?”
“Yeah and I can never unsee it. Now move your fat ass!” Jason shouts and shoves Dick in front of him, snatching the glow stick.
“My ass is not fat!” Dick puts on a final burst of speed and launches himself out of the cornfield and onto the mowed lawn of the Kent farm. In his arms, he can feel the body of the little whatever it is disintegrate as the light from Jonathan Kent’s lantern hits it. So much for his evidence.
“What on God’s green earth was that?” the old farmer asks, holding the lantern high against the dark and angry laughter that emanates from his cornfield. A few steps back and to his left is Martha Kent, shotgun in hand and covering him.
“Fucking demon clowns,” Jason swears as he lurches out of the field. Dick spots a bloody gash on the outside of his brother’s leg that hadn’t been there before.
Well, this is a rather ignoble ending to their adventure tonight. Sighing, Dick flops down by Uncle Jon’s feet. “Your cornfield is infested with little demonic clowns.”
“That’s new,” Aunt Martha comments blandly. “How do we get rid of them?”
Jason turns and takes another shot into the darkness. The laughter crescendos before disappearing with an angry hiss. “I don’t know what Dickie has planned, but I’m headin’ to church in the morning to stock up on holy water.”
After a long night of keeping watch, the sun finally rises and Dick is able to grab a few hours of some well-earned sleep. When he comes stumbling down the stairs just before noon, he spots Jason on the sofa in a pair of shorts that probably belong to Clark or Kon with his leg carefully propped up on the coffee table with the help of a few throw pillows. The white bandage runs almost the length of his thigh, ending just above his knee.
“Are you supposed to be sitting like that?” Dick asks around a yawn.
Jason lowers his book and glares. “It gave Aunt Martha something to do.”
There is no way either of them can refuse a request from the old woman and they both know it. She fussed mightily over the wound last night even as she calmly stripped Jason out of his pants last night to get a better look at it. Dick is pretty sure he’s never seen his brother’s ears get that red before and wishes he’d dared to take a picture and send it to Alfred for posterity.
Rather than pick a fight that Jason is clearly itching for, Dick tries a different tact. “The tracker move at all since dawn?”
The little bug he’d tossed into the darkness last night stuck. Just before sunrise, the creatures surrounding the farm retreated, leaving to protect their own hides from the sun.
Jason picks up the tablet sitting beside him and swipes at the screen. “Nope. Same spot. You hear from Raven yet?”
“Yeah. Got a text saying she’ll be here in a few hours.” Dick sits down next to Jason. “Where are Aunt Martha and Uncle Jon?”
“Town. I gave them Bruce’s black card from your wallet and said to have fun with it.”
Dick rolls his eyes. “You do know they’ll use their own, right?”
“They better not be considering how much ammo I asked them to get for me.” It’s plain to see the thought of Bruce’s card being used for this amuses Jason immensely.
This is an argument to save for later. “How much sleep you get?”
“About the same as you.”
“Still need to go to church?”
“Just waitin’ on you.”
There are a number of small churches in the community, but Dick drives their rented SUV to a very specific one. He’s never been all that religious, so it comes as a surprise that Jason kind of is. Vaguely, he remembers reading in Jason’s file that Willis Todd was raised Irish Catholic, so he supposes this is where it comes from.
Considering what Jason lugs into the small church with him, Dick can’t blame him. Holy water versus demon. He’s seen the effects that the power of belief holds over creatures of hell, at least in the hands of the right person. Whether Jason’s belief is firm enough, Dick isn’t certain, but he can tell right away as Jason makes his way out of the church about half an hour later that his brother is at least happy with what he’s got on him now.
The gym bag with the six gallons of holy water is carefully placed in the backseat and Jason gingerly takes his seat next to Dick up front. From the pocket of his dark gray hoodie, a strand of beads peeks out.
“You know the rosary?” Dick asks out of reflex and instantly wishes he hadn’t.
But Jason doesn’t lash out like he expects. “Yeah. Misspent youth.” He’s quiet for a time as Dick drives back toward the Kent farm, idly fingering the wooden beads. “I know it’s kinda stupid, the fact that I believe this shit will work. Especially since that also means I’ve got a one way ticket to Hell when I kick it a second time, but some things just stick with you, whether you want them to or not.”
This is something Dick knows all too well. “For what it’s worth, I believe the holy water will work. Better than your bullets.”
Jason grins sharply. “Well, then that means you get to help me stockpile a bunch of little holy hand grenades.”
“Only if they’re from Antioch.”
From the way Jason laughs, Dick knows this is one movie reference he gets.
The tracker leads them to an old, decrepit barn a few miles away from the Kent farm. Crumbling foundations of a demolished farmhouse are nestled in the tall grass, leading Dick to suspect the home may have been abandoned after a tornado and the land sold off to the surrounding landowners. Well, it just means there is no one here to witness what’s about to go down or to get caught in the crossfire.
In the late afternoon light, the red from Jason’s helmet shines darker than what Dick is used to. Then again, it’s not often either of them are dressed in full gear during daylight hours.
“Can’t I just set off a few pounds of C4 in there?” Jason is saying as they pile out of the SUV. Raven had met them at the Kent’s a short time before. “That’ll solve most of our problems. Let in some light and whoosh. No more clown gremlins.”
“If only it were that easy,” Rave replies, her attention already on the creepy barn.
The disgruntled noise from Jason is answer enough. “If the Pretender were here, he’d let me. Timmy likes a big boom.”
There’s the faintest hint of a smile on Raven’s face. “He does,” she agrees. “But I think your explosion would just be a waste if we set it off too soon. A portal has been opened here.”
“To where?” Dick asks. The thought of some underworld gateway so close to the Kent’s makes his skin crawl.
“I’m not sure yet.” Raven starts walking through the high grass.
Jason pops open the trunk and hands Dick one of the buckets full of their holy hand grenades. His wounded leg seems to be giving him some trouble, but he refused to stay behind. Wordlessly, they follow after Raven.
The barn door doesn’t close properly anymore, the painted wood splintered and cracked from the elements and neglect. At a signal from Raven, Dick sets down his bucket and grabs hold of the door, sliding it open on rusted tracks that resist less than they should considering the state of disrepair. A foul scent of rotting meat drifts out.
Dick has unfortunately smelled worse. “I hope that’s the missing cow.”
Raven is already shaking her head, even if she hasn’t set foot into the barn yet. “Look,” she says, pointing inside.
Jason peers over her shoulder and shakes his head. “This is right out of a bad horror movie.”
Peering in, Dick has to agree. Blood and gore and bone are everywhere, too much for just the cow. It could be a trick of the light that gives the floor an illusion of moving, but he knows better. The warmth and the rot is a breeding ground for maggots and flies.
“Those symbols on the wall…,” Raven says, trailing off as she levitates into the air and enters the hellish space to get a better look. “I’d hazard a guess and say that not all is well here in Smallville.”
“A cult?” Dick asks, standing in the doorway, but not yet willing to walk inside. There is plenty of daylight, so he’s not worried about the creatures sneaking up on them, but the wariness of a trained detective has been instilled in him since he was a child. Out of the corner of his eye, he catches Jason hefting a couple of his water balloons to cover them.
Raven shrugs, floating toward a darker smudge on the floor. “Or just a bunch of kids who got their hands on the wrong kind of book.” She points at an object that is surprisingly clean of blood. “Like that.”
Dick has a feeling that as soon as this particular case is over, he’s going to burn this particular uniform entirely. Blood magic. It never ceases to amaze him how powerful it is and the kind of evil that can be wrought when used by the wrong person. He removes a large evidence bag from a compartment in his boot and enters the barn, stepping carefully. The air is thick with the metallic tang of old blood with an undercurrent of old hay that’s been left to rot.
“Where are the garden gnomes hiding?” Jason calls out as Dick carefully picks up the book and bags it for Raven. She makes it disappear in the folds of her dark blue cloak.
“They’re in the storm cellar,” Raven replies. “Waiting for us.”
“Geez, like that’s not creepy at all.”
“They’re creatures of utter darkness,” the young sorceress answers. “Light of any kind is an anathema to them.”
“Is the portal down there too?” Jason asks.
Dick sighs and gags silently as he gets hit with a fresh wave of decaying flesh. “Let’s get to work then.”
They all have their parts to play. Raven prepares herself for the magics she’ll need to unleash while Dick takes copious amounts of pictures of the interior of the barn and tries to preserve any evidence that could provide a clue as to the identities of the people who died in here. He finds five skulls and bags each one, hoping dental records will reveal their names. Jason makes his way around the perimeter of the barn, carefully avoiding the entrance to the storm cellar, and sets his bombs. This place is going up in smoke as soon as that gate is gone.
It's almost sundown by the time they’re done and gather at the wooden slats covering the stairs leading into the storm cellar.
“This is gonna be great,” Jason chortles as he hefts his water balloons again. “A little light, a little holy water, some magic, and then it all goes boom.”
“You were singing a different tune last night,” Dick says, standing as he finishes lighting the camping lantern Uncle Jon purchased for them earlier in the day.
“We didn’t have holy hand grenades last night.”
Raven chuckles in that quiet way of hers. “I like that movie.”
“It’s a classic.”
“Are we ready?” Raven asks, holding her hands up.
“Let’s kill some clowns.”
The wood covering is torn away with a sweep of Raven’s hand and Dick holds the lantern high even as mage lights race down the stone steps to light the way. Familiar laughter and hisses echo up and around them as they make their way down into the storm cellar. In the center of the floor is a swirling pit of darkness that seems to swallow anything that touches it.
Just as it was last night, the creatures are difficult to make out as they dart from shadow to shadow, hiding from the light. Jason takes careful aim and throws one of his water balloons into a dark corner. A piercing wail meets their ears, even louder than the ones they’ve heard previously.
All hell breaks loose as the pit emits a pulse and more of the miniature clowns appear. Most disintegrate immediately under the powerful camp lantern and Raven’s mage lights, but a few manage to sneak away into the shadows. Dick’s one job is to keep the light steady and that’s what he does, covering Raven as she works her magic and Jason as he lobs colorful water balloons into all corners of the cellar.
“They just keep coming!” Jason shouts over the loud laughter that circles around them, shrieks and cries from over a dozen different little mouths, each one wanting nothing more than to tear them apart. One bucket is empty and the other is getting dangerously low. “What’s Raven doing?”
Dick knows better than to distract her unless she’s directly under attack. “Working, just like you.”
“While you just get to stand there all nice and pretty.” Jason tosses a water balloon directly at the inky portal and Dick swears it hiccups.
“Anytime you want to switch…” Dick knows his brother won’t. Jason has better aim and loves to lord it over him.
“Hard pass.” Another water balloon is thrown into the portal and Raven’s eyes blaze.
“One more, Jason. And then we need to get out of here.”
Jason picks up his bucket and throws the rest of his holy hand grenades into the gaping maw.
“Shit,” Dick swears as the portal erupts, strands of searing cold wind lashing out and whipping against anything that moved. It reverses in a heartbeat and the suction is strong, causing the three of them to stagger under the force. Even the remaining little clown demons aren’t exempt, and their chittering laughter turns into wails of despair as they’re dragged back into the darkness.
Raven grabs hold of Dick and envelopes him in the folds of her cloak, using her soul-self to protect him. The cold is numbing, worse than anything Mr. Freeze could ever come up with, and tears at his very soul. When Dick falls into the grass outside, he can’t help but be grateful once again that Raven is on his side.
Next to him, Jason is curled up in a little ball and mewling. This must have been the first time he’s ever felt the full force of Raven’s magic before. There isn’t time to comfort him though, and Dick scrambles for his brother’s belt where he’d tucked the detonator before. Destroying a crime scene goes against every instinct he has, but Dick refuses for the good folks of Smallville to see this.
A heavy glove lands on his and Jason sits up, detonator in hand. “I fucking hate clowns,” is all he says before the barn goes up in a flash, wood and hay igniting from the explosives and raining down around them.
Raven’s shield drops once the worst has passed. “Well, that was fun,” she says dryly. “Thanks for the invite.”
Dick laughs weakly. He’s pretty sure that was a piece of scorched bone that just landed next to him. “Anytime. Want to come back to the Kent’s for some pie?”
“I’m good. I have a paper to finish tonight.” With that, Raven disappears.
“Well, fuck.” Jason sighs heavily as he leans back in the grass and watches the fire. “Why didn’t you ask her if the gate was closed?”
“Because I trust her. If it wasn’t, she wouldn’t have left.”
They watch the fire for another minute or so before Dick hauls himself up. His whole body hurts and all he wants is to soak in a tub full of hot water until he passes out. “We need to get gone too.”
He offers a hand to Jason, who accepts it without a word. His leg is bleeding again, Dick notices as the younger man limps back to the SUV.
As they drive away, Jason removes his helmet and gloves and tosses them into the backseat, rubbing blearily at his eyes a moment later. “I’ve decided something,” he announces.
“What’s that?” Dick asks neutrally. This could be anything considering Jason’s penchant for the dramatics.
“I hate the country. Gimme the city any day of the fucking week.”
“What about all the fresh air and sunshine? And the pie?”
“Fuck the air. Fuck the sun… And I can make my own damn pie.”
Dick laughs loudly. “Yeah, sure you can.”
“I’m serious. You’re never getting my ass out here ever again.”
His retort is on the tip of his tongue when the deer jumps out of nowhere and Dick swerves hard to avoid hitting it. “Son of a bitch!” he swears as the SUV spins wildly. His ears start ringing as both the deer and Jason scream at the same time. It’s hard to say which is louder.
The deer disappears into the field on the other side of the road and Dick gets the vehicle back under control, heart pounding loudly in his chest. He’s had enough adrenaline today, thank you very much.
Jason is clearly just as done with everything as he flops back against the passenger seat, breathing heavily. “Jesus fuck, get us outta here, Dickie. My city boy ass wants back where it belongs. Where there’s no cornfields anywhere.”
“Does that mean you don’t want to watch Children of the Corn with me tonight?”
“I fucking hate you.”