It was a dark and gloomy night. Angelus, Darla, Drusilla and Spike walked the down the dusty road that lead to the tiny frontier settlement of Boca del Infierno, California.
Darla waved the dust away from her face with one hand. "Well, Angelus, we made it. Finally. Please tell me that the thing that you're looking for is here."
"It's here," Angelus replied resolutely, walking on.
Spike and Drusilla lagged behind Darla and Angelus. Spike just wanted to find a bar, have a bite, a drink and a brawl. As they passed through the outskirts of the town, the road lined with dark and silent ramshackle shacks, Drusilla gazed up at the endless vastness of the stars, singing to them in a tiny voice. Spike had to hold her up and keep her walking, otherwise she'd slow to a stop and start spinning wildly and he'd never get his drink.
"Oh, for pity's sake, Angelus! I want a damn drink! Hold up there!"
Angelus turned his head and eyed Spike dispassionately. "We need to find a hotel. After four days sitting with you in a small carriage, I need a drink. And I mean whisky!"
As the older man turned away and carried on walking, Spike grimaced at his back. Then he saw, to the right of him, a welcome sign. "SALOON".
"That'll do," he thought, and tugged his unresisting companion through the swing doors. As they entered the smoke-filled bar, heads turned, and voices died, one by one as people noticed the newcomers.
Spike pulled Drusilla over to the bar, where the bartender, without a word, placed a bottle directly in front of him, along with two shot glasses.
Spike nodded his thanks, flung some coins on the counter and tugged Dru away from the bar, before someone noticed that, though they stood in front of the mirror which hung on the wall above the bar, they couldn't be seen in it. As he did so, he saw Angelus and Darla entering. Darla looked disgruntled.
"There you are! You couldn't wait until we'd found a room and bathed, before you satisfied your thirst?"
"Oh, be quiet, Darla. Moan, moan, moan, all the way on the bloody train. Moan a man's ears off!"
Angelus glanced towards the bar, noting the stares coming their way. "I suggest you both rest your tongues, and that we sit. Maybe we can make some enquiries while we're here."
The four headed for a vacant table towards the back of the crowded saloon, well away from the bar that ran along the left side of the room and far from its wall-length mirror. There were about ten round tables, each seating four to six people, lit by four or five wagon wheel gas lamp fixtures hanging from the low ceiling.
Skirting around the occupied tables, a commotion drew their eyes to the stop of the stairs leading down from a balcony that ran around three sides of the large room. Sashaying down the stairs, followed by a little covey of "soiled doves" in various stages of undress, was a blonde woman in a bright red dress. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, but she had an air of command more befitting a woman ten years older. Her hair was curled and carefully arranged on top of her head with one long ringlet coaxed down to rest on her shoulder.
She was not above middle height and her figure, although fine, was the figure of a young woman. It was her self-confidence and the deference with which the other women followed her that indicated that this was her place -- she was the boss. She paused halfway down the stairs to survey the room. When her eyes swept across the four newcomers, they stopped, locked with Angelus' eyes. Darla noticed the connection and drew a sharp breath.
She poked him with a closed fan she'd pulled from her beaded reticule, distinctly aware of her dusty and creased ensemble. "Quit staring, we don't want to draw any attention to ourselves," she hissed.
Angelus leered at the scarlet-decked blonde as he replied to Darla. "Too late for that, darling. You're not jealous now are you, Darla?"
"Nothing of the sort. Who could be jealous of something so... common," she sniffed. Bringing her hand to the side Angelus' face she drew his ear to her and whispered with a wicked grin, "You'll always be my dear boy."
He drew out the chair for Darla as she moved to seat herself. He remained standing beside Darla, when the other blonde woman approached.
"Well, what brings such a fine looking group to these parts?" she inquired.
Darla was about to dismiss the woman when Angelus spoke up. "My friends and I were just passing through. I had heard from some 'acquaintances' in Los Angeles what fine views there were to be seen from the hills here."
"Ahh, well these 'acquaintances' can't be very fond of you to send you out so far from Los Angeles. I'm afraid our little town is not as attractive as it may have been made out to be. Some say that we are a strange town, even perhaps a bit of a dangerous place to be in."
"Nothin' wrong with a bit o' danger, pet. Fact is, we could use a spot of action," interjected Spike, after finishing off a few glasses of whiskey.
Angelus shot a glare at Spike for speaking out of turn. The blonde woman arched a brow at Spike. "Forgive my errant friend here and let me introduce ourselves. This is Darla," Darla smiled faintly at the woman and continued fanning herself.
"Drusilla," continued Angelus. Drusilla looked up momentarily from toying with the handle of her parasol. She grinned and said "Oooooh, grandmum does not like you at all. No, not at all. There will be no tea party for you."
"Ah, yes, that's enough Dru. Spike." Spike lifted his glass to the woman and continued to drink.
"And I am Angelus," he said with a slight bow.
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Angelus. My name is Anna and I am the proprietress of this establishment."
"And a fine looking place it is," said Angelus. "You seem to have quite the selection."
"I pride myself on meeting all needs; at least all those for which the price is met."
Darla chuckled. "A work ethic. Always admirable in a whore."
Angelus leaned forward. "My needs are not so carnal. My companions and I have heard tell of the fabled riches of this town."
"And why should I help you? What's in it for me?"
Angelus's grin was like a knife slash. "Your life."
"Which might be eternal," Spike added before draining the last drop of his whiskey.
Drusilla drew her head back and looked to the ceiling. "I can see it here. A great box of merchants. They will call this the mart of wall."
Darla reached out to lay a reassuring hand on Anna's forearm. "You'll have to excuse our Drusilla. She's . . . actually, there really is no excuse for Drusilla. Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes. The threatening. I don't care much for the threatening. I prefer the torture." She tightened her grip and sweat beaded on Anna's forehead.
"We have many artifacts here," she said through gritted teeth. "There's the Cross of Du Lac and twenty, maybe twenty-five amulets. Some talk of a gem, but that's just hearsay."
Angel shook his head. "We're looking for something in the cutlery department. We don't care for these baubles and trifles."
"Bloody 'ell," said Spike. "This is getting us nowhere. The Glaive of Rhadyxmantril. Tell us where it is or we'll kill you. Might kill you anyway, but that's life. Full of chances."
Distant delighted squealing reached the table. The whores were greeting a new customer. "Now, Julep, you know I'm a family man." The customer dismissed his admirers and joined the table, pulling a chair between Darla and Drusilla.
"Why, Anna, we have new visitors and no one tells me? How can this town have a welcome wagon if no one spreads the word?"
Angelus turned to the interloper. "This affair is a private one."
Drusilla's eyes burned heatedly. "Ooh, the king of serpents has come to the ball. So much fire. Your little girl is waiting for you. But she cannot hear you call."
The intruder smiled broadly and patted Drusilla's shoulder. The skin around his eyes crinkled warmly. "Someone's not drinking her sarsaparilla. Now, son, you'll find here that 'private' is just a word where I'm concerned. You see, I'm the mayor of this city -- well, not a city yet, we won't be able to incorporate for a few years, but those are just dates carved into a cornerstone, really -- and I have a vested interest in knowing what goes on here. And that includes knowing why four strangers choose to threaten the proprietress of Miss Anna's Home for Wayward Christian Orphan Girls."
Spike rose to his feet. "Finally. I've been looking for a chance to show off my knobblies."
The Mayor held up a placating hand. "Now lad, don't be hasty. I already know what you are. What I am, I'm not completely aware, but trust me, you don't want to help me find that out." He turned with a smile for Angelus. "You'll find that this is a quiet, peaceful town. Our citizens don't want a lot of bother. Good people, really, open and welcoming in their way. Yes, siree, you won't find a more welcoming town than the fair burg of Boca del Infierno. Now get out."
"Well, now that's not very nice, Mayor...?
"May I say, it's a nice little town ya got here," mocked Angelus, "not all it seems though."
"Let me guess, stranger, you're in town looking for a magical amulet. Sorry, we're simple folk, nothing special about us."
"I can see it!" rasped Drusilla, holding her head. "Hidden away."
The Mayor grew uneasy as he stared an Angelus. "This is going to be a big year for my little town. I don't want any uninvited guests, disrupting things."
"We'll be good, sir."
Several vampires surrounded the table and pulled the four out of the Saloon.
"Hey, hands off the cloth!" shouted Spike as they tried to fight through the attackers.
They found makeshift stakes from the side of the dusty street. Drusilla sat against a wall, rocking back and forth. "We're not welcome, we're not welcome."
"We could use a little help here Dru."
Drusilla lunged at the Mayor who was watching the battle from the Saloon door. One of the vampires dived in the way to block Dru and the attackers backed off to protect the Mayor.
"Well sir, not that I don't enjoy a good fight, but that didn't strike me as very welcoming. All the same, I think we'll stay around for a while yet," grinned Angelus staring through Wilkins. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get something to eat."
Spike sprawled out on the large double bed, and pulled Drusilla down beside him. She giggled, and held up a doll for his inspection. "I'm going to call her Miss Edith. If you are naughty, I shall have to cover her eyes. Will the little girl miss her, Spike?"
"Shouldn't think so, love. Not now she's dead, anyway."
Angelus turned from contemplating the street below and grinned. "She'd a sweet taste, now, hadn't she?"
Darla, sitting in front of the vanity table, primping her hair and gazing at her non-existent reflection, scowled. "Her father, on the other hand, tasted of old leather. You were greedy, you three, keeping the young one for yourselves."
"So" said Spike, "this Glaive. What's it do, then, that we had to come to this dump to get it?"
"Well, Spike, that you'll discover soon enough. In the meantime, I'd like to get a feel of this place. And it's mayor."
Darla looked over at him. "He has... power, that man. I didn't like him."
"Darlin', don't be worrying your pretty head about the Mayor. I have something special in mind for him. But not just yet."
Darla stood and crossed to stand in front of him. "In that case, shall we leave the children to their own devices and... retire?"
Angelus raised a brow, and smiled. "Let's."
As they left the room together, Drusilla turned to Spike. "Can you see them, the ants? Scurrying, hurrying?" Her expression mournful, she added "They don't have any legs."
Spike laughed as he pulled her to him. "Nearly dawn, love. When the sun goes down, I'll find you someone who does, and you can play with them."
"Tell me we're leaving here as soon as you find the Glaive," Darla said when Spike and Dru were gone.
Angelus smiled. This "Boca del Infierno" had no hotels. The only thing they'd been able to find was a small boarding house with three rooms and no view, and they'd had to kill a few of the residents just to make sure two of those rooms would be theirs. Well, it'd been dinner, anyway.
"This town interests me," Angelus replied.
Darla gave him a slinky cat-eyed look and placed one hand on his chest. "Before we left New York, I read in the paper that 'Don Giovanni' would be playing at the Metropolitan this season. If we caught the train in San Francisco, we could be there in a matter of weeks."
Darla, always seeking the civilized comforts, Angelus mused affectionately. He clasped her hand and brought it to his lips. Her skin was soft and hot to the touch. "I have no intention of taking up residence here, if that's what you're worried about," he said.
"Just so we're clear," Darla replied firmly. She turned and wandered over to the bed.
Angelus went over to the window to close the shutters and curtains. He could see the faint glow of sunrise on the horizon. He stared at it unblinkingly. He could still taste the sweet blood of that child on his tongue. She'd been something, wriggling in his grip like a trapped animal.
Still, he'd have preferred one of the whores from "Miss Anna's Home for Wayward Christian Orphan Girls". Or actually, all of them. He, Darla, Spike and Dru could feed on the lot of them, and when they'd had their fill, he'd dress the whores' bodies up in nuns' habits and place them in the sanctuary of the Catholic church up the road, propped up in positions of prayer. But of course, he'd leave that pretty madam alive. What good was a slaughter without someone intimate left behind to mourn?
The thought of it left a glow of arousal in him. Darla would love the statement of religious hypocrisy.
And it would show that so-called "mayor" a thing or two about who had the upper hand in this town. Yes, he would love to wipe that inane grin off Wilkins' face. But they had to stay as far out of the man's way as they could. At least until they had the Glaive of Rhadyxmantril. The Glaive was rumored to have mystical power. Enough power to wipe more than a grin off a powerful man like Wilkins. Angelus had to have it. He made a mental note to ask Dru where she thought it was once evening came.
Suddenly, anger filled his chest. Damn Spike for mentioning the Glaive outloud! That insipid buffoon had been with them for over a decade now, and he still hadn't learned how to keep a low profile. He probably never would. Spike was too tied to this ridiculous persona he'd built. All fist and fangs, indeed. To admit the necessity of a low profile would be to admit that "Spike" was really a cover for that simpering little waistcoat, William.
A cool female voice broke Angelus out of his reverie. "Are you planning to incinerate, or are you coming to bed?"
Angelus closed the shutters and then the curtains. The curtains were heavy and thick. He pulled them tight to prevent any slivers of sunlight beaming through. Then he turned around. Darla sat on the bed with her legs curled beneath her. Her boots were on the floor. But otherwise, she was still dressed. Her skirt and petticoats were splayed across the gingham bed cover. He made love to her sometimes like that, with her clothes on. But this morning, he wanted to feel the hot blood under her skin.
While Angelus busied himself with slowly uncovering the body of his lover, layer by careful layer, a young girl crept up a narrow staircase silently. A mere wall separated them. Despite her concentration in remaining unnoticed by any of the boarding house's inhabitants, her skin prickled, and she stopped dead. A hand on the wall, to steady herself, she shrank into the shadows. At that moment, Angelus stilled. His hands fell away, still clutching the stays of Darla's corset, his face impassive. Then the girl shook herself and resumed her silent climb, and Angelus was once more claimed by Darla's intoxicating and heady perfume.
Darla's languorous gaze narrowed into disquiet. "You looked... so strange
there for a second."
"A chill. It signifies nothing." Angelus bent once more toward Darla's neck, where her vampire blood pulsed, under that translucent skin he remained fascinated by even after a century and more.
Momentarily dismissed, that sense of foreboding would stay on the edges of Angelus' thoughts over the coming days. Composed of fear and excitement, he had felt nothing like it for decades; and it awakened senses jaded by a century of undifferentiated deaths. Perhaps it was a fresh challenge -- the Glaive even. When Darla caught him at those moments, she would look at him quizzically, and he would recompose himself. Spike of course wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary and Drusilla... ... well she was a strange case. So aware, and so unaware all at the same time.
Meanwhile, the four were unaware that they had an observer, who kept a careful eye on them while she served them their drinks, and made their beds. Grace had not dismissed that chilling moment on the stairs, understanding that it was a warning. Being the maid of all work and the daughter of the boarding house landlady Mrs Emerson besides, she was afforded many opportunities to consider what might have caused it. Who might have caused it. And the four new guests just stood out, startlingly larger than life in the small confined rooms of the house.
Grace was aided by the uncanny ability to simply step out of the shadows and then melt back into them. The new guests seemed to be able to do the same, when it suited them. Well, it only seemed to suit the dark man. The others were careless, defiant almost. The blonde woman. Darla, her name was. Darla swept about the house as if she owned it, if it wasn't beneath her dignity to lay claim to such a humble place.
Grace was not surprised by their strange habits, which were many. Boca del Infierno wasn't like most other towns and the boarding house had seen even more unusual guests in years past. Grace's back straightened unconsciously when she saw the four visitors. If their showy clothing and pallor hadn't given them away, their hasty retreat to their rooms once daylight started to break was ample warning. Not that she was scared.
Angelus lay awake. Darla slept peaceably next to him. Neither lay touching the other as lovers normally did. They had an understanding. They did not crave the gentle 'human' intimacy that Spike and Drusilla shared. Darla and Angelus' regard for one another lay in the mutual admiration of the others capacity for cruelty. She thought him an absolute artist in his dramatic schemes of torment, especially his penchant for setting up tableaus with his ill-fated victims. He thought her to be a marvel, how could one so beautiful and delicate looking be so cold and shrewd. He had never known anything like her.
He was restless. Not a usual occurrence after having sex with Darla. There was something that he had to do. He let his mind wander a bit at what it was that he was forgetting. 'Of course! Spike.' With that thought he left the bed, pausing briefly to pull on a pair of pants, he didn't bother with a shirt.
Dru stirred from her slumber. She sensed him approaching.
"Daddy?" she whispered.
"Shush, Drusilla. Don't wake Spike. Be a good one and join Darla in the other room," he commanded quietly.
She slipped out of the bed from Spike's side, carefully moving the arm that was draped over her waist. She pouted at Angelus. "Why can I not stay? I want to have some fun, too."
"There will be other times," he replied while placing some items he carried into the room down on a small side table.
Drusilla heard the firm edge in Angelus' voice and obeyed, leaving the room, to join Darla. Angelus shut the door after her. He turned and faced the sleeping form of Spike. Even after 16 years of being a vampire, Spike still slept very deeply, like a human. Not heeding a word that Angelus had said about keeping his senses about him, even while in sleep. Angelus took a chair from a corner of the room and sat facing the side of the bed, his bare feet propped up. He considered Drusilla's boy. 'Whatever did she see in him? And whatever shall I do with him? If only he would be a good fledgling and just follow the rules, they all would have a much easier time of it. Traipsing through Europe without all the angry mobs.' Coming out of his thoughts he continued with his work.
"Spiiiiiike, oh Spiiike" he said in a sing-song voice, while shoving his foot into Spike's prone form. When Spike didn't stir, Angelus shoved him harder, knocking Spike's head against the headboard. Spike woke.
"Dru?" he said groggily.
Angelus smirked. "What kind of vampire are you, if you can't even tell when Drusilla has left your side and that I'm in the room? Have I taught you so poorly? Or is it just that you are a terribly sad excuse for a vampire?" he taunted.
Spike leapt out of bed at the sound of Angelus' voice. He watched Angelus with slightly wild eyes and backed himself up to the closest wall. "What do you want?" he asked.
Angelus chuckled again. "Well, William, since when have you ever considered what I want?"
Spike regained his bearings and launched himself at Angelus, knocking him over with the chair. As the two struggled, Spike got in a few punches and thought that he might actually have the upper hand until Angelus got his bearings and began to use his weight advantage. He flipped them over and pinned Spike beneath him.
"Ah, William, my boy, is this how you treat your elders? Tsk-tsk. Such a lack of respect. You would think that after Seville you would be a little more grateful," he teased while lightly slapping Spike in the face. "But then, I've never expected much from you."
Spike cringed inwardly at the mention of Seville. He tried to maintain a passive countenance but Angelus saw a flicker of humiliation fall across Spike. 'Ahh, there's what I'm looking for.' He thought.
Spike didn't try to squirm his way out from underneath Angelus. But he was hardly relaxed. Every muscle in his body was tensed, waiting for the slightest opportunity to show itself. Except when it came to Angelus meting out punishment, he hardly allowed any mistakes. Anything that happened in these sessions always happened because Angelus allowed it to.
He didn't like the look in Spike's eye. The younger vampire's eyes were filled with measured determination. 'Too arrogant, too soon.' mused Angelus. He bent forward down so that his lips were just a fraction away from the outer edge of Spike's ear.
"William, William. Whatever am I to do with you? Do you know what you've done wrong this time? Angelus murmured, his tone inducing Spike into a state of semi-submission.
"No," he replied gruffly.
"No? Now, how is that possible? You can't expect me to always be there to catch you in your mistakes," he continued to whisper.
"Isn't that what you want? For me to fail? Isn't that how you have your fun? See Spike try. See Spike fail. See Spike get punished," he hissed in defiance.
"You flatter yourself, boy," smirked Angelus. "But I will give you this, as I'm feeling a mite generous tonight. I enjoy these 'moments'. They amuse me in a way that Dru and Darla can't. And, if I'm not deceived, they agree with you, too." Angelus pulled himself up slightly away from Spike, flashing him a carnal smile.
Noticing that Spike had acquired a cut above his eyebrow in their tussle, Angelus remarked, "Oh look. You've got a cut. How reckless of me. Let me clean that up." He leaned down and licked at the trickle of blood. Spike's eyes closed and he shivered involuntarily, while Angelus purred a bit.
"There." Angelus smacked his lips dramatically. "You look just like new. And taste like it, too."
Mortified at being caught in this predicament and in Angelus being right about his observation that Spike enjoyed a small part of these punishments, Spike threw his weight up to try and toss him aside. All it did was make Angelus hold tighter. Spike growled in frustration. He continued to struggle mightily. Angelus finally decided that before their skirmish got out of hand he would end it. He drew back his fist, "Good night, William," and knocked Spike out.
"And it was all going so well, Spike. Did you have to ruin it by resisting?" he asked the unconscious vampire. Releasing his grip on Spike, he got up and stood. 'Hmmm, on with the evening's festivities.'
Spike came around a short while later. He began to realize that he was no longer lying on the floor. He was now strapped into the same chair that Angelus had been in earlier. His hands were bound tightly behind him. A rope came several times around his chest, binding him to the chair back. Each leg was also tied in a similar fashion to the chair legs, so that Spike could not get up without the chair coming along, putting him in awkward stance. Escape would be a slow, if at all plausible, thing to achieve.
"There's my boy. I was beginning to think that I would have to continue without you," said Angelus, with his hands behind his back.
Spike eyed him warily. Angelus moved so that he was now just behind Spike.
"What's wrong, William? Nothing left to say, hmmm?" Angelus extended one hand out and ran his fingers along the nape of Spike's neck. His fingers hovered over Drusilla's mark, raising a growl out of Spike.
"Do you want to please me, Spike? Be a good little vampire for me?" asked Angelus, placing the palm of his hand flat on the back of Spike's neck. When no answer came, he leaned over, his face mere inches from Drusilla's marks. Spike growled again, he was fighting the urge to knock Angelus with his head and give in to him and the same time.
"I didn't hear you," he crooned. This time Angelus licked him. Spike couldn't suppress the moan. The temptation was staggering, he was hanging on as best he could. Then, suddenly he smelled it. Blood. Not just any blood. It was Angelus' blood. Angelus had made a small cut on his wrist and held it up in front of Spike, letting it hover just inches from his mouth, the blood beading quickly on the surface. To Spike, it smelled of desire and hope, salvation and release. It smelled sweet. He closed his eyes again, as if to hide from the blood.
"Did you say something William?" with that Angelus placed the cut on his wrist to Spike's lips, blotting the blood onto them. His blood created a stain that reminded Angelus of one of Drusilla's painted porcelain dolls.
Spike caved. His tongue snaked out and tasted the blood. It was not often that Spike was allowed to taste Angelus' blood. But the few times he did, it was seared into all of his being. Just as Spike was beginning to think of all of the approximates to heaven that a vampire could experience, a burning jolted him out of his trance.
His skin sizzled from the drops that were sprinkled down on him. He reined in his instinct to cry out. Spike's jaw clenched and unclenched from his efforts.
"You can drop the brave front, William. You now how much I like screamers. You owe me that much," scolded Angelus.
Angelus paused. The same sensation that he experienced earlier with Darla came over him again. He felt something draw near and then still for a few seconds. His nerves tingled. Then he felt it pull away, as if it were leaving, it's curiosity momentarily sated. He cast his uneasiness aside and returned to Spike.
In his stupor, he had decanted more of the holy water from the flask than he would have liked in such a short period of time. Spike was quivering and howling from the pain. Angelus was only mildly unsettled by the burns, he usually took more time to achieve this sort of damage, but the boy would heal. He was more disturbed by the howling. Though they had the largest suite to themselves, there were other boarders in the building. Angelus didn't want any additional attention drawn to them. He quickly covered Spike's mouth up with his hand. "Shhh. That'll do for now, Spike. You've done well." Angelus brought himself face to face with Spike, who was desperately trying to regain his composure. "Try to handle yourself better next time and maybe, just maybe, I might reward you." He straightened up and retreated from the room.
Spike gasped and blinked back the tears floating in his eyes. He slumped into the chair, head down, back hunched, wincing just a little as some of his burns came into contact with the wood.
He heard Drusilla approach towards him. Her light touch soothed some of his nerves. "Shhhh, my dark prince. Your Princess is here, now that bad Daddy has gone away. I'll make it better for you, my Spike." She murmured to him while cradling his head to her neck and shoulder.
The next two nights passed without too much incident while Angelus dragged them around Boca del Infierno hunting information on the Glaive. The best they could discern from Dru's mad ramblings was the Glaive was either hidden in or hanging on a bell tower. But there was no bell tower in Boca del Infierno. Not that Drusilla's ramblings ever made much sense to Darla. Spike seemed to understand them, though -- perhaps having been a poet in his past life helped.
The Master once told her that what they once were affected what they became. Darla sighed, wondering how much of that was really true. Angelus had not appeared to be this obsessed with ancient relics when he was alive.
So here they were cooling their heels in a demon saloon at the edge of some flea-bitten one-horse town, keeping a low profile, while Angelus attempted to elicit information from the local demons with a game of cards.
The card game had actually been Spike's idea. Part of this new persona he was creating. Unfortunately he had yet to pick up Angelus' talent at cards. Darla grimaced; after the other night's little fiasco, none of them were in the best of moods. Spike was still smarting from Angelus' little punishment. The young scamp's referral to the Glaive the other night had alerted one too many people to their private plans, causing that ill-fated fight with the Mayor.
Her dear boy may be right, she thought, Spike might be the death of them yet. Angelus would have staked the unruly scamp in London, if she hadn't convinced him to take the fatherly approach and take him under his wing.
"Well lads, it's been fun, but I think my new friend and I will fold for the night. Have a bit of business to conduct. Isn't that right, Malcom?" Angelus folded his cards and rose from the table.
An ugly green horned demon with red eyes followed him grasping a thin leather bag to his chest as he did so.
"Now don't go losing too much of my winnings, Spike, me lad. Or making any trouble. Remember our little chat," Angelus said, patting Spike affectionately on the shoulder, which caused the young vamp to wince slightly in pain, before he followed the green demon to a nearby table.
It was a particularly ugly species, Darla thought, snake-like with tiny red horns all over its head, deep sunken red eyes, and a slit for a mouth.
"Angelus ... " she said, touching his arm as he passed her.
"Soon Darla, we'll be out of here soon, I promise. Ugly here says he has some information, something from the Pergamum Codex, could be useful." He grinned, stroking her arm affectionately. "Now keep an eye on the kiddies -- won't you, darlin'?"
She nodded, her mouth creasing into a tolerant smile as she drifted across the room to join Spike and Dru at the card table. Spike had just started a new round of cards with Malcom's comrades, who looked exactly like Malcom, green, with little red horns, sunken eyes, and snake mouths.
Nasty looking creatures that let off a putrid smell that reminded Darla faintly of snake oil mixed with cow manure.
"Mummy isn't cross is she? Waiting... waiting for the ooooh... pretty knife to fall from the bell tower?"
"What bell tower would that be, Dru?"
But Drusilla's attention had shifted back to the card game, which unfortunately had begun to get a little heated.
"Right then -- take advantage of the vamp -- I'll have you know mates, I have a pair a deuces right here in me hand and where I come from that beats ... " He moved to flip over the other demon's cards.
"William," Darla interrupted, grasping his sore shoulder. Spike let out a barely audible hiss of pain. It was the same spot Angelus had gripped earlier. "Remember what Angelus said last night? We can't afford another scene."
Spike glared at Darla, but she increased the pressure until he yelped. She smiled graciously at the snake demons. "You mustn't mind him, he's young, doesn't know his place."
"Ooooh look Mummy, little girl, all dressed in white, our death our life in her eyes, she's the key... to it all."
Darla gritted her teeth and forced herself to continue to smile. Catching her look, Spike tenderly stroked Dru's arm. "What is it pet? That serving wench pestering you again? Giving my princess nightmares?"
"That's right, I'm your princess... "
"That you are."
"Come with princess, Spike? Play now? Find us a ripe little treat? No more boring cards."
Spike lifted Drusilla's hand to his lips. "We can do that."
Darla lifted her hand from Spike's shoulder as he rose from the table, no longer interested in the cards.
"Sorry, mates -- seems this game is yours after all. I've got be-."
"The Glaive is in the bell tower ready to fall, pretty girl, pretty little girl, Miss Edith says she key to it all," Dru said, pointing at the slight figure that drifted through the shadows and out of the saloon. Darla could barely make her out, but she looked a great deal like the serving wench that Angelus had prevented her from killing a few nights before. Grace something... she thought her name was. Slight, barely fifteen from the looks of her.
"Blonde girl... different. See her. So clear now. Pretty blonde girl -- Spike. I see it. Death to us. To all of us... here. But not now... Can we leave here Spike? Can we? Ohhh."
Darla winced, her eyes still on the entrance to the bar. She had but caught a glimpse of the girl's skirt before she got lost in the crowd. The primary thought drifting through her head, "What would Grace be doing here? A human child in this place?"
She glanced back at Angelus who had just artistically persuaded the snake demon across from him into handing over the Pergamum Codex. He appeared to be completely focused on it and had not noticed the girl's appearance.
"Spike, be a dear and take Dru outside to look at the stars and if you should see a girl-"
"Right. We'll eat her. Be a nice treat. Been feeling slightly peckish," he turned to Dru. "What you say, princess? Come with Spike and get a treat?"
"Oh can we?" Dru said, clapping her hands in delight. "Can we eat the little girl?"
"Anything for you, pet," Spike said, pulling her to him and kissing her earlobe as they began to drift out of the saloon.
Darla grabbed Spike's arm halting him. "Wait -- Spike, don't eat the girl -- just follow her. See where she goes and report back to me."
Spike raised an eyebrow in confusion and glanced back at Dru who was already halfway out the door. "Right ... we'll find another treat then. Hold up, Dru... wait up for ol' Spike." Dru whirled around and crooked her little finger at him invitingly, a seductive smile curling her red lips.
Darla watched Spike approach Dru, twirl her in his arms while she giggled, then lift her through door. "Come on now love, let's go find someone for you to play with."
"Someone with legs?"
"And arms and feet and a rosy little neck just for you to nibble on," Spike said, nibbling her neck in demonstration as the door swung shut behind him, muffling the rest of the exchange.
Anna wandered through the saloon, watching the goings-on with a careful but discreet eye. Gracie had run off, presumably to find her mother. She'd come running into the saloon before the four vampires had arrived, out of breath and in a panic.
Anna had grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back into the storeroom. "You know you aren't supposed to come in here, Gracie!"
Grace's face fell down-cast. Her mother had told her over and over not to enter the saloon. It wasn't proper for a girl her age to be there, and it would never be proper, no matter what age she was.
But Anna was family, and Grace's mother Rose had grudgingly admitted that they needed that, no matter how much she looked down on what Anna did. Humans--women alone, especially--had to stick together in this town. Discreetly, of course.
"My mother is gone!" Grace whispered hoarsely. "And Jacob!"
Anna brushed a finger through Grace's golden hair. "Don't worry. Jacob came by earlier and told me he was going to take your mother to safety. To a cave in the hills. He said you'd know where it was."
Grace nodded, smiling weakly. "Thank you," she murmured. She kissed Anna on the cheek briefly. With that, she was gone.
Anna had gone back into the main room of the saloon then and found the strange vampires there. They took over the entire establishment when they were here, those four, she'd thought. They were arrogant, servants to no one but themselves.
Now she watched the two of them that remained. They were talking to one of the Green Demons. Anna felt cold trepidation rise inside her. The Mayor had better kill the four of them and kill them fast, she thought. Because a time would come when they'd want information about Grace or Rose, and she wasn't sure she could keep it from them.
There were wisps of clouds scudding across the surface of the full moon hanging bright and low. The shadows of the clouds chased each other around the quiet, dead-seeming town as Spike and Drusilla followed Grace down the main road heading out of town.
The tall false fašades of the rough frontier buildings and the narrow alleys joining the dusty road from between the buildings gave the scene the feel of a maze and afforded Spike and Dru plenty of places to slink into whenever Grace turned to glance behind her. What wasn't in deepest blackest shadow was painted silver by the moon. Spike's rough dark clothes and Drusilla's deep burgundy velvet blended easily into the shadows, but their white skin reflected palely in the eerie light. Grace's flimsy white gown and pale blond hair, in contrast, made her shine like a beacon, drawing the vampire lovers all the way out of town.
Concentrating on silently shadowing the girl, neither Dru nor Spike noticed the slithering, rustling sound beside and behind them. As they went deeper into the countryside the sound was easy to dismiss as the sound of the wind soughing in the trees. The terrain rose at a steady angle until they saw Grace pause, then, seemingly disappear.
Drusilla may have been fey and strange, but when the hunt was on she was all speed and ferocity. Spike marveled at her speed as she ran gracefully beside him to the place they'd seen Grace vanish. They skidded to a frantic halt as the ground fell away at the edge of a high, sheer bluff. Peering carefully over the edge they searched for a sign of the girl on the rough ground far below but could see nothing of her white dress or her shimmering pale hair. Spike turned to look for a path down to the bottom of the bluff but stopped short and reached out to pull Dru around to him.
Surrounding them on three sides was a small gang of demons straight from a medieval woodcut. They each looked like the devil himself with goat horns, cloven feet and leather wings. A gentle hissing that grew louder came from the five-foot long snakes attached to each demon as a tail, writhing wildly. The circle closed around Spike and a whimpering Drusilla, forcing them to back carefully toward the edge of the cliff. Holding Dru in his arms, Spike heels were crumbling the last of the ground they had left to stand on. He was steeling himself to take that last step into nothing, hoping they wouldn't be too badly injured in the fall to escape, when the demon circle widened directly in front of them. From the sky, one more winged demon flew down and settled gently to earth, Grace cradled in his arms.
As the demon set Grace carefully on her feet, another of the devil-demons, this one a foot or more taller and broader than his brothers, stepped forward through the throng. He was carrying a long staff topped with a gleaming curved blade. The moonlight struck it with red and orange sparks. The moment Drusilla saw it she seemed drawn by it. She stopped whimpering and stepped out of Spike's arms into the center of the demon circle. Spike followed her, drawing her hand through his arm as he stood at her side within reach of Grace and her guard.
Grace had been aware of the pair of vampires following her soon after she left the saloon. Rather than lead them to Jacob's cave and her mother, she ran directly to this high cliff inhabited by a very special kind of demon -- a very malleable kind of demon. Belthorph demons looked fierce, but were actually very gentle creatures, more spirit than body, and tied to their geographic location by the forces of air, land and water. Because they couldn't leave their isolated hill, they were mostly left alone, but Grace had cultivated a relationship with them, using them to practice her growing otherworldly skills and to guard her most highly prized possession.
"Hey! Isn't that the Glaive?" Spike whispered to Drusilla. Grace just turned and took it from the demon -- it towered over her frail form. As she held it the blade began to glow silver then bright, bright white. She reached out and laid her hand on Drusilla's where it lay on Spike's arm. All three, the two vampires and the girl, glowed brighter and whiter.
The brighter the light got, the more intense the pain in Spike's head became. His last thought was that the power of the Glaive must be the power of the sun -- a portable sun, fatal to any vampire at any darkest midnight. Drusilla's last thought was that all the stars, angry at being given the same name, had gotten together to form a mob, but she wasn't afraid, the white light sang to her of white-hot branding irons and evenings with her sire.
Grace was carefully controlling the power of the Glaive, using it to send the vampires harmlessly far away from her so that she could go to join her mother. She had never tried to transport others while remaining in place herself. As she concentrated, the endeavor at first seemed to go smoothly, but suddenly the glowing white force of the Glaive's magic was surrounded and consumed by an angry red magic, breaking her concentration and, rather than the two vampires being transported far away, Grace herself was caught up in the whirlwind of dark magic spinning the three of them through the ether with no control of their destination.
It was blessedly cool and dark when Spike awoke. Carefully squinting his eyes open, he looked around. Drusilla was lying next to him, her head resting on his shoulder. They were inside; in a large structure with a ceiling so high he couldn't see it through the gloom. The only light was the dim glow of candles at the far end of the room. The light flickered as robed figures moved from side to side between him and the candles. He could hear a faint low chanting, 'Latin', he thought. He struggled to sit up a little and to clear his head. As he moved, Dru began to stir and open her eyes. "Hush, luv, it's all right," he soothed, stroking her black hair. She sank back into his arms, raising a trembling arm to her head.
"Where are we, Spike? Where are all the pretty stars, the branding irons?" she whispered. "Why did they leave me here in the dark?"
"Give me a minute, I'll get this sussed out, we'll grab our Glaive and head back to town. Can you just see the look on Angelus' face when we come in with his fabled relic? Serve him right for getting splashy with the holy water if I didn't give it to him." Drusilla's head resting on his burnt shoulder reminded Spike of the punishment Angelus had inflicted simply for mentioning the Glaive.
Carefully disentangling himself, he stood, motioning for Dru to stay back. Silently he crept up the broad aisle towards the candlelight. The robed figures, deep into their ceremony, didn't hear or see him as he came up behind them. Looking over their shoulders and between their swaying bodies, Spike saw Mayor Wilkins, holding the Glaive in his heavily gauntleted hands. Gesturing with the Glaive as a priest would with a communion chalice, the Mayor, in liturgical sounding Latin, addressed an ugly female idol. Chained to the base of the idol, unconscious and still in her white dress, was Grace.
Quietly throttling one of the congregants at the back of the pack, Spike divested him of his robe then slipped in among the chanters. His university Latin came back to him as he mumbled, his voice mixing in with the others. As well as he could translate, they were chanting a supplication to a demon called "Proserpexa" who would destroy the world when the signs were right and when called by a powerful witch. He wasn't quite clear on whether this gang wanted the world to be destroyed or if they were pleading with her to spare them. Finally, the ceremony came to an end and the Mayor, still carrying the Glaive, led a procession out of the temple into the night outside.
Slipping back to where he'd left Dru, he helped her stand, whispering for her to follow him quietly. As they passed the idol, Spike saw that Grace's eyes were open and she was watching them. She wasn't gagged and she whispered urgently, "Unchain me! We have to stop him!"
Spike halted and considered the girl. "Now why would I do that?" he asked menacingly, while still keeping an eye on the slow procession.
"Because the Glaive isn't meant for him!" she whispered fiercely.
Drusilla began to hum and weave from side to side, as she drew nearer to
Grace. "Ooh Spike, she is me. The little one sees. Tell me, do you see the
butterflies, too?" Dru cooed to Grace, her fingers hovering just over the girl's
There was something to the girl's steady glare that made Spike hold his tongue and unchain her. "Dru, undo her other hand. Quickly, pet. The party is moving and we can't lose them."
Drusilla and Spike made short work of the chains. Their experience in bondage showed, Angelus would've been proud.
"Darling, this reminds me of Verona. Do you remember Verona? You were a very naughty boy and left me quite tied up. It was delicious," mused Drusilla, recalling that fond memory.
"How could I ever forget? You kept insisting on finding Romeo and Juliet. But not now, luv. We'll play later."
"Promise?" pouted Dru.
Spike turned to the girl and warned her. "Be quiet and don't try anything or Dru and I will eat you up in one bite. Understood?"
Grace nodded as she rubbed her wrists. Spike strode out into the night, followed by Dru and Grace. He caught sight of some of the last hooded figures of the group and trailed after them at a discreet distance. "Where are they going with it?" Spike muttered to himself. He didn't expect an answer.
"Colina del Rey," replied a little voice.
He glanced back at Grace, not changing his pace. Grace saw the questioning look on Spike's face.
"It's a hill that overlooks the town. Just east of here. Not very far. Mysterious things happen there. He will summon forth the darkness and begin his destiny. We have to stop him."
"I believe you already went through that part, pet. Why do 'we' have to stop him?"
Grace didn't answer right away. Drusilla was right in her observation of Grace's "abilities". But Grace had grown used to never talking about her "dreams". Her parents always rebuffed her observations and many times were on the cusp of declaring her mad. She learned to stay quiet about it all.
"I don't really know. I only know what I see and I see that he must be stopped."
Spike believed the girl. After spending almost two decades with Dru, he occasionally recognized the 'sight' in others. But he had his own reasons for stopping the Mayor, namely Angelus. Despite outward appearances, Spike did try to please Angelus. But even the best laid plans never really turned out for Spike. True, things had a way of working out, he was always lucky that way. But to actually succeed when he wanted to and not accidentally, that was something else. He wanted to retrieve the Glaive to prove that he could do some things right. He knew that Angelus did not approve of Spike's ways, felt that he was not subtle or stealthy or smart enough to be one of 'them'. Even though she had never let on to this, Spike also knew that Darla had, on more than one occasion, convinced Angelus not to do away with him. That and the fact that Spike kept Drusilla occupied also helped in his favor.
"What do you want with it?"
"What?" Spike said, breaking out of his thoughts.
"What will you do with the Glaive? Why do you look for it?" Grace asked.
"My...'friend' is the one who wants it." He faltered a bit. "Don't know what it's for. He hasn't gotten around to explaining that part. What does it do?"
The girl shrugged. "It is a catalyst. It's not evil, it's not good. It just exists."
The strange trio was now at the foot of the hill. Since their pace was not a reverential march, they were ahead of the Mayor's group.
The climb up the hill was easy, though Spike had to constantly tug on
Drusilla to keep her on the path. Grace's stride was surprisingly long for one
so small, and each step she took had a careful lightness, as though not to
offend the blades of grass on which she trod. The salt in the air was heavy, and
Spike could hear the surf pounding the shore.
"How will you get the Glaive then," Grace asked.
"I've found that the best way to get something is to take it."
"You won't be able to wrest it away from Mr. Wilkins by force. You're going to need subtlety."
Spike stopped in admiration as the moonlit ocean came into view. "Well, then, I'm your man. I'm subtle to the bone. Angelus is the one for the grandiose statements. All nuns' habits and rose petals. I'm the subtle one. How subtle does ripping Wilkins's spine out through his mouth sound?"
Grace turned and set her feet defiantly. "You have no idea how powerful the Mayor is. You can't just walk right up to him and take something of his."
Spike pushed Grace out of his way. "Then I'll just have to figure something out. I've bluffed my way through worse than this."
Drusilla blurted out something about trees weeping in the morning sun.
"Someone will be crying come morning, pet, and it won't be the bloody trees."
Strange music drifted on the mist. "I expect that's them. Let's take some cover then. See how this turns out. I may get a fight yet."
The three hid themselves in a small glade on the slope of the bluff. Spike pressed himself against a rock, holding Drusilla tight against him. The child crouched beside him, peering out towards the top of the hill.
Drusilla grew suddenly excited. "Oh, Spikey, can I watch the parade?" She strained against his hold, trying to stand and cheer.
"What are you on about, Dru? It's night. There are no parades at this hour."
But there was. The procession they had seen leave the temple had grown as it passed through the town. It seemed at least a thousand strong. The Mayor was leading the way, raising the Glaive above his head rhythmically, like a demented drum major. He was followed by the strangest marching band Spike had ever seen. A group of vampires were blowing on trombones, while some Kardesh demons were blaring out notes on their elongated noses. A Fyarl demon beat his hands savagely against a bass drum. And the thing playing the sousaphone was too disturbing for Spike to look at.
"Strange," said Grace.
"Damn right it's strange. Must be some ritual we hadn't heard of."
"No, I mean if vampires have no breath, how can they play brass instruments?"
Spike waved a hand distractedly. "It's complicated."
The demons kept coming, and men too. Spike saw some human faces in the crowd. A few of the whores from Anna's were there, as well as some more respectable-looking citizens. The vampires were fully fanged and apparent. Spike recognized some of the demon species: the demons from the card game; the Polgara, pumping their extended skewers into the air; the Sha'i, great wide insects wearing chain mail and brandishing axes; four trolls keeping time with their hammers. And there were creatures Spike had never seen before: scabby things with no mouths; strange ethereal creatures over seven feet tall with no faces, gliding along with no apparent effort; scraggly-haired women with a bestial look.
As the band neared the top of the hill, Spike could better hear the music. It seemed familiar. It wasn't supposed to be so reedy, or played as a dirge, but Spike remembered the brass bands that disturbed his sleep in New York.
"'The Stars and Stripes Forever'? Bloody colonials and their Sousa."
Horses, black as night and over 18 hands tall, pulled a succession of decorated wagons. Skulls and pentagrams were recurring motifs, as was American flag-styled bunting. Vampires even manned the town's steam fire engine, pulled by a giant hairy spider and a three-headed dragon.
Spike seized Drusilla's hands before she could clap more. She let out ecstatic giggles as the Mayor reached the top of the hill and the congregation formed a wide circle around him. The fire engine was driven to the center of the ring and the Mayor stepped onto it.
"Speech! Speech!" some in the crowd chanted.
The Mayor modestly waved a hand to the crowd. "Aww, I didn't prepare anything," he began. "But some words do seem to be in order. Ladies, gentlemen, distinguished members of unsexed species, tonight is a momentous time for us. For too long, Boca del Infierno has existed at the margins of society. Do you know that our only train arrives hours before dawn? The rest of California would prefer to not know of our existence. All that is about to change. Oh, we can't incorporate as a city just yet -- the state legislature's requirement is based on human population only --"
Loud booing rang across the bluff.
"I know we have some suffragers here, and fellows, I support you. I think all sentient males should have the franchise, just as you want. I just hope that you'll use your vote wisely. Remember, a vote for Wilkins is a vote worth having!
"But that must come in the future. Tonight we take a great step towards that future with the dedication of this town to Proserpexa. With a commitment to chaos, evil and strong families, we can put the benighted history of Boca del Infierno behind us and step into a new day as the proud city of Sunnydale."
Several demons started cackling.
"Oh, come on guys. I rather like the name. It will look good in the atlas, trust me. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank some of the people who made this possible. Rutherford Gleaves? Give us a wave."
A prosperous looking man doffed his bowler.
"And Dr. Harmon J. Kendall, of course." A snivelly blond waved his hand listlessly.
"I can't forget Bougarek K'resh Djantik! Where are you, Boo?"
A tentacled creature with six mouths smiled widely for the crowd.
"And Auburn Cole! Auburn? Are you here, Auburn?"
"I ate him!" called out a heckler, to appreciative laughter.
In the glade, Grace nudged Spike. "You have to do something! You can't let the dedication continue!"
"And what do you suggest I do? I don't feature taking on that bunch all at once."
"You said you were a bluffer. Well, bluff!"
"All right then. Dru, stay here," said Spike as he grabbed the girl's blonde hair and roughly pulled her into the open. He bulled his way to the center of the crowd. The Mayor, in the middle of his introduction of one of the town's more prominent trolls, took notice of them.
"And one of the town's newest visitors is here with us as well. Everyone, let's have a warm welcome for the imbecile vampire. Three cheers for the imbecile vampire! Hip! Hip!"
The crowd closed menacingly on Spike. Spike shifted to his more feral appearance and pushed through towards the Mayor, who stepped off the fire engine and laid the Glaive against its side.
"I'd think twice before stepping any closer. I might just trip and break the girl's neck."
The Mayor rubbed his forehead. "And this concerns me how?"
"Um, because she was your hostage, and now she's mine. You had a regiment of vampires at your side, all looking a bit on the lean side, and none of them had even a nibble. You want her alive for some reason." A notion dawned on Spike. "You need her alive. You can't work the Glaive without her. Sure, you can wave it around like a ponce, but only she can make that glowy thing. Well, that's all right then. You give me the Glaive, and Grace here keeps her heartbeat."
The mob backed away from Spike. Still, Spike did notice one figure who slipped against the direction of the crowd towards the fire engine. Towards the Glaive.
The Mayor looked at Spike. "But if I give you the Glaive, I no longer need the girl. And without the girl, the Glaive may not have all its powers, but it's still somewhat useful. Good for beheading, for example. And I hear beheading would put a damper on any plans you might have for, well, eternity."
The figure reached out and seized the Glaive. The crowd's attention turned to the sound of his agonized scream. He dropped the Glaive and was himself seized by several of the Sha'i, who shoved him towards Spike.
Spike nodded to him. "Good planning, Angelus."
"Yours was working so well, William."
The Mayor paced before them. "Angelus. You are a persistent lad, aren't you? Admirable quality. As Mr. Edison says, success is ninety-nine percent perspiration. You seem to be lacking in inspiration, though. You just won't accept the fact that we don't want your kind here."
Angelus looked about him. "This town is full of vampires."
"But, thankfully, no Irish. In fact, we chased most of the Catholics out of here a few years ago. There's still the parish priest, though. Every day -- twice on Thursdays -- he says Mass to an empty church. It's quite touching, really. He performs another service as well, this one for me." He nodded to the vampires on the fire engine. "Boys, turn the hoses on."
The torrent of water knocked Spike to the ground, causing him to lose his grip on Grace. As he struggled to regain his feet he felt the burning begin. He could smell Angelus smoking near him. Curiously satisfying. The two vampires scrambled down the hill, past the range of the hoses and towards a small bog. As they rolled in the cooling mud, they could hear raucous peals of laughter carrying on the wind.
Spike felt the blistering pustules on his face.
"You'll heal," said Angelus. "You always do."
"And you're a sight. Nothing but mud and welts. If Dru could see you now, it'd scare her sane."
"What was that supposed to be up there, Spike? It lacked a certain, let's say, subtlety."
"Least I wasn't up there like a common sneak thief. I showed some stones, not just sneaking around. How'd you find us, anyway?"
"When every demon in a town joins a parade, you follow along. Darla's still up there. She'll be able to get the Glaive."
"And Dru's still there too. She might be able to avoid getting staked." Spike took another look at Angelus and broke into uncontrollable laughter.
"Think of it this way, William. This was my first encounter with Holy Water tonight. It's certain to not be your last. We'll get the Glaive, and then we'll get this Mayor. Teach him a thing or two about whom to cross."
Spike kicked a root. "I'll make that blighter wish we'd never come to this town."
At the train station hung a decrepit but neatly-lettered sign: "Boca del Infierno." Some wag had painted "Sunnydale -- a nice place to live" over it in blood-red paint. The steam from the arriving local obscured the sign, though, so the conductor knocked on the door to the sleeper compartment containing the only passenger scheduled to disembark.
Jacob Abrahams walked along the platform of the Boca del Infierno train station. He'd received a letter from his wizard friend Arthur in England, telling him to meet a young woman, InÚz, at tonight's train. He wasn't told why.
He stopped to light his long brown cigar with his small mother-of-pearl lighter. A movement in the shadows made him pause. He stared hard across the dimly-lit expanse of the station, his heart thumping. He'd lived in Boca del Infierno his entire thirty-seven years. He knew when he was in danger.
His mind raced to remember the protection spell he used when he ventured out alone at night, but the first words eluded him maddeningly.
A sudden blow to his Adam's apple cut off his thoughts and he choked. An arm had wrapped itself around his throat. Jacob's feet scrambled for footing as he was dragged backwards. The cigar tumbled to the ground, lost. The air filled with the stench of fetid breath.
"Jacob," hissed the vampire. "How nice to run into you."
One of the Mayor's boys, Jacob realized. He didn't know whom. Jacob squirmed in the vampire's overpowering grip. C'mon, c'mon! he thought, what are the words? Then the first few came to him:
"White Tara, mother of all Buddhas," Jacob gasped. "I--I pledge...." Damn! What came next? His mind was blank.
A low growl came from the vampire. Jacob felt the wiry brush of the minion's hair as he brought his face close to Jacob's neck. Jacob went numb. His lips whispered his next words, barely moving. "White Tara, mother of all Buddhas, protector, goddess, I pledge my devotion..."
And then suddenly, Jacob saw the ground swing up hard against him. He landed hands and hip first. Pain lacerated through his pelvis. He looked up, bewildered and wincing. The vampire was on the ground as well. Over him loomed a creature much too small to have the upper hand--a girl with raven hair and dirt-stained britches. She kicked the vampire in the face and sent him sprawling on his back.
Jacob watched, stunned. The vampire pulled himself back up to sitting and crawled backwards, crab-like, away from the girl. The girl stepped forward and grabbed the vampire's head in her hands. Without a second's hesitation, she bent her knees and twisted his head to the side with an audible crunch. The force of her thrust severed the vampire's head clean from his body. He exploded in a cloud of dust.
The girl stood upright, breathing heavily. Jacob scrutinized her. "InÚz Montoya?" he said.
The girl turned around. Her eyes were fierce and predatory. Jacob gulped. But her voice was melodious and polite. "You know me, sir?"
"My name's Jacob Abrahams. Arthur Giles sent me to meet you. A young woman, he said, that I was supposed to make comfortable in our little town. But he didn't mention that you were the Slayer."
InÚz reached out a hand to help Jacob up. She was strong, and now that he had a close look at her, well-toned and muscled. "Si, I am," she said.
"My good luck. Thanks for that." Jacob gestured at the spot where the vampire's remains had blended in with the gravel.
The girl smiled. "De nada."
Arthur must have taken him seriously, Jacob decided, when he wrote to him about the Hellmouth and its "Mayor". Arthur had sent the Slayer! He brushed the dust from his britches and took a quick glance around them. "I should take you to where I'm stayin'. Well, where I'm hidin', actually. We should go."
"One moment," InÚz replied. She turned and walked over to a dark bundle on the ground. Her bags, Jacob thought. But what she picked up was a dark brown skirt. Jacob watched her step into it and pull it over her pants. Then she picked up a small canvas bag and pulled it over her shoulder. "Now I am ready to go," she said.
An amazing girl, Jacob thought. He started to walk and she fell into step beside him. "C'mon," he said to her, "let me fill you in on the trouble we've been havin'."