Spike couldn't help it. He felt bloody marvelous. As the four vampires made their way back to the boarding house, the atmosphere was tense, mainly due to the bad temper Angelus was in, but Spike felt great. He loved a good fight. Suddenly, he could stay quiet no longer, and with a burst of uncontrollable laughter, he made a quick grab for Drusilla, spinning her around, much to her delight, in an impromptu waltz.
"The damn Slayer, Dru! The one from Spain! You recognized her, didn't you? You knew she was coming, my beauty, didn't you?" Pulling her to him, he kissed her, hard.
"Ah, Spike!" She pulled his head back to hers, and growled playfully in his ear. "My William is happy now... he wants to kill the Spanish Slayer... she has come to dance with us again. The dance of death..."
A sudden movement, a breath of air, and Dru gave a squeal of pain as she was pulled roughly away from her lover. Angelus backhanded Spike, a vicious blow that knocked the younger vampire to the ground some thirty feet away. Before he could regain his feet, Angelus was on him, pummeling, pounding his fists into Spike, anywhere he could reach.
Darla stood and watched them, smiling. Then she looked up at the lightening skies and frowned. They had no time for this, now. "Oh, boys...." she called, softly. Then, more loudly, "Angelus! Stop now. It's almost dawn."
Angelus stopped and, grasping the lapels of Spike's coat, pulled him close. "Listen to me, you mewling, pus-faced, pea-brained, mental midget! That Slayer now has my Glaive!"
"Be quiet, you! Haven't you had enough punishment of late? Want more, do you? Well carry on, Spike, me lad, you're going the right way about getting some, let me tell you!" He thrust the younger man contemptuously from him and leapt agilely to his feet, to stalk away, leaving Dru to help Spike to his feet.
As Darla tucked an arm companionably through his, Angelus growled. "Damn that idiot. One of these days..." As he spoke, they reached the road which lead to the boarding house. At the same time, two men appeared around the corner, obviously on their way to work. As they passed, Angelus caught the scent of baking bread. He reached out an arm and dragged the nearest one to him, snapping his neck casually. As the other started to back away in horror, Angelus smiled at Darla. "Breakfast?"
Grace waited until her mother started snoring softly behind her, then reached out to gather the Glaive closer. Fatigue and injury worked their magic and Grace's eyelids flickered then fell shut.
She was back in the moment. The moment where she thought she might be getting through to him. He sat across from her in an attitude of defeat, forehead cradled in his hands, pale fingers tugging on the dark blond waves that normally fell into his deep, cold blue eyes. She felt a brief moment of hope before she heard his words. When he raised his face, his blue eyes were yellow, his brow distorted and ridged, "There's something you forgot, though. I don't have a better nature." Blow by blow, she relived the brutal beating, his words again reminding her of what a fool she'd been to try to come between him and his "family."
InÚz watched Grace sleep. Grace's face was faintly illuminated by the soft glow of the Glaive clutched in her sleeping fingers. She twitched and moaned; her face screwed up in pain.
As happens in the landscape of dreams, Grace found herself again under the stands in the Spanish arena, watching as Spike and InÚz battled. Then the scene shifted to a large room full of unfamiliar golden idols, lit only by a few torches and the explosions and fires outside. This time Spike was fighting with a girl who, as Grace knew from watching the laborers building the railroad spur into Boca del Infierno, was Chinese. Unable to move, unable to cry out, she watched in horror as Spike broke the girl's neck and sank his teeth deep into her throat before letting the body fall bonelessly to the ground. He stood over the fallen Slayer like a victorious warrior, brow bleeding as the light grew brighter and whiter and the noise of the cannon became a steady rolling racket.
Then a changed Spike was stalking a Negro woman who was dressed in men's clothing and a long black leather coat. His hair was blonder, nearly white, and his black undershirt left his pale arms bare and bulging with muscle. The strange bright light glittered on his silver jewelry and flashed off the metal pole he twirled as he walked. One particularly bright flash blinded her and all she saw was light which, while still bright and white, became peculiarly comforting and serene, like the light she saw when communing with the Glaive.
A kind face coalesced out of the light, a face she had only seen before in a faded daguerreotype her mother kept hidden in a drawer in her bedroom. It was the face of her father, the Neral demon Rhadyxmantril. Because of the ancient intermixing between Nerals and humans, Rhad's face was that of a handsome man. The only things betraying his demon heritage were the sharply pointed ears and refined row of small knots above and echoing the line of his eyebrows. The face smiled at her gently and a wave of warmth swept over her, easing the pain of her injuries. A deep soothing voice spoke of his love for her and her mother and how much he missed them, how much he'd hated to leave them.
InÚz waited, watching, until Grace slid into a deeper, more peaceful sleep. The hand clutching the Glaive relaxed and opened. She crept closer and reached out to take the Glaive from Grace's nerveless fingers.
The face of Grace's father changed abruptly, his eyes widening in shock, his gentle voice raised in alarm. "The Glaive!" he shouted, "Save the Glaive." Grace woke with a start just as InÚz was inching the Glaive from her hand.
Grace clutched the Glaive, her panic causing it to glow with angry orange fire. InÚz tried to wrestle it from her, but even through the layers of cloth the Glaive burned her hands and she jerked them away with a sharp cry that rudely awakened Jacob and Mrs. Emerson. "Wha-what's going on?" Rose stammered, blinking in the strange light of the Glaive.
"Our 'protector' here was trying to steal my Glaive," hissed Grace.
"Not your Glaive," InÚz retorted, "it belongs to the Church. To the people of Seville."
"And just how do you figure that? My father made it and gave it to me. He was no pope follower."
"Your father made it with something he stole from my people. Without the stone, it would be just another pole-arm."
"The stone? What stone? It's metal and wood."
"If you would allow me touch it, I can prove what I say is true."
"Even if I wanted to, you can't touch it. It burns everyone but me."
"Then let me show you how to open it."
"Open it? It's piece of wood." Grace was still angry, but growing curious. She decided to go along with InÚz in order to prove how wrong she was. "Show me."
Under the fascinated eyes of Rose and Jacob, InÚz reached out for the Glaive that Grace was extending towards her, not quite touching it. She pointed to a metal ring around the base of the blade where it joined the carved wood of the pole. "Twist that ring halfway around to the right until this mark lines up with a similar mark on the blade." Grace turned the ring until she heard a faint click. She frowned.
"Now, turn this ring a quarter turn to the left," InÚz said. Grace rotated the ring halfway down the length of the staff as InÚz had instructed. Again there was a soft click. The staff fell apart into two pieces and from of a recess hollowed out of the wood fell a great shining diamond the size of a walnut.
Gasps in unison echoed through the cave, bouncing off the stone walls as the great gem glowed on the rough dirt floor. InÚz closed her eyes, whispering Latin prayers of thanksgiving. Grace reached out to pick up the stone, cradling it in her palms as its warm light lit up the cave like a hundred pure beeswax candles.
InÚz opened her eyes, "The Stone of San Isidro," she breathed. "We despaired of ever finding it."
Rose, Jacob and Grace began jabbering questions, each talking louder than the other in a struggle to be heard. InÚz raised a hand to silence them. "I will explain," she said, and proceeded to do so.
"Nearly a year ago my Watcher, Diego Guttierez, went to England for an emergency meeting of the Watchers Council. The Council had been approached by representatives of the Holy Catholic Church seeking their aid in locating the missing Stone of San Isidro.
"It's absence was discovered several years ago by accident when the reliquary that contained it was knocked out of the hands of the statue of the Saint by a clumsy cleaning woman. No one could tell how long the casket had been empty of its treasure. In order to avoid causing a panic, the theft of the jewel was kept a secret by the Church and it was hoped that the power of the people's faith would be enough to ensure the Saint's continued protection.
"You see, for hundreds of years, while the Stone was safe in the Cathedral, Seville and all of Spain were under the protection of the Saint. Since it's loss, our empire has been crumbling; trouble arising in our colonies in Cuba and the Philippines, strife brewing between Spain and the other countries in Europe, even hostilities with the United States kept barely in check. The people of Spain were feeling abandoned by the Saint they loved. The Church decided that the Stone must be found and restored before the people lost their faith.
"The Council pondered long and hard before agreeing to help the Church find the Stone. They felt that their duty was to help the Chosen Slayer fight the demons and vampires threatening humanity as a whole, not to hunt for a relic sacred to a church most of the watchers didn't even belong to. However, when they began to research the Stone, they discovered its demon connections and felt that it was also important to their mission that the Stone be found. My watcher and I, unbeknownst to the non-Catholic members of the Council, would return the Stone, once found, to Seville where it had been safe for a millennium.
"What the Council's researchers uncovered in the oldest records was that San Isidro himself had been from the Neral dimension. He used the gem that he'd brought to enable him to use his Neralese powers in this dimension. He was in exile from his home for having too many human traits; they didn't want him to breed those traits into any offspring there.
"Isidro used the stone to look into the minds and hearts of the people of his new home and he was saddened by their suffering and fear. He vowed to help them. His impact was so great that he was beatified by the pope of the Holy Catholic Church and his relic, the Stone of San Isidro, has continued to bring his blessings to the people of Spain. But the fact remains that he was a demon and the Stone is a demonic talisman that can be used for evil as easily as for good. The Council felt it behooved them to make sure that it did not fall into the wrong hands. Wrong hands such as those of your Mayor or those four vampires. Some also felt that the 'wrong hands' included those of the Holy Mother Church, but, although I am the Slayer and the Council controls my training and sets my assignments, my heart and my soul belong to God and to him must my highest allegiance be pledged."
"How does the Council know about the Glaive and the Stone?" asked Jacob.
InÚz gave Rose and Grace a long careful look before replying. "When Rhadyxmantril first came to this dimension he worked for the Mayor who commissioned him to make the Glaive. Nearly twenty years ago, the Council discovered, he stole the Stone from the Cathedral to power the Glaive."
"Mama, is this true?" Grace asked, shocked. "My father worked for the Mayor?"
"I'm afraid so, honey," she said. "When I met your father he was rather, well, rather wild. Full of high spirits and mischief. Being a demon, considerations of good and evil were not naturally important to him. But sweetheart, by the time you were born, he was a changed man. Love brought out the good in him and he never gave the Glaive to Wilkins. He knew the destruction and pain it could cause in the hands of an evil man. He also knew that in a town so heavily populated with demons and vampires, you and I would need the protection it would provide."
"I can vouch for your mama's words," Jacob said. "Rhad was my best friend in all the world and the changes Rose's love caused in him were just plain miraculous to see."
"You see," Grace said triumphantly to InÚz, "the Glaive and the stone should be mine because they're from Neral and so was my father!"
'I must have the Stone to save the people of Spain. The needs of the many outweigh the childish insecurity of the one."
Grace frowned, sure she'd been insulted, but unable to pinpoint exactly how. The more she was around InÚz, the more resentful she became of the other girls superior strength, education and beauty. Even if InÚz hadn't been trying to steal her most treasured possession, Grace just plain didn't like her.
While Grace was stewing, Jacob asked InÚz, "How does the Council know about Rhad's theft of the Stone and that it was used to make the Glaive? How did they know to send you here?"
"Over the centuries the Council has made it its business to investigate all artifacts with reputed demonic power. They investigated San Isidro and the Stone quite early on and decided the Saint's motives were pure and that he was only using the Stone for good. When he died and the Stone was housed in the Cathedral, they considered taking it for safekeeping, but there were more Catholics amongst the Watchers then who felt that for the good of the faithful the Stone should remain where it was. And for a long, long time it was kept safe and venerated as holy. A special place was made for it directly under the bell tower of the Cathedral, held in the hands of a statue of the Saint himself."
"Fat lot of good that did," Grace muttered under her breath. Her mother looked at her reproachfully and InÚz just glared.
To break the tension Jacob asked another question. "How did the vampires find out about it? What do they want with it?"
"We don't know how they originally got wind of it. We presume the vampire Drusilla had a vision, but we don't know for certain. The Council has no records of a human with the sight having been made a vampire before, so they have no way of predicting what this one will see or do. The first we knew of their interest in it was when they turned up in Seville, broke into the Cathedral and killed the priest holding a vigil there, praying for the Stone's return. Before killing the priest, we inferred, that he told them of the Stone's theft, the Church's efforts to find it and of the involvement of the Watchers Council.
"I was in Morocco cleaning out a nest of Xenot demons and following a rumor of the Stone when they kidnapped my Watcher and tortured him until he told them everything the Council knew about the Stone, the Glaive, Neral demons and the Glaive's location here in Boca del Infierno." Her voice was steady and determined, her face solemn and still, but the emotion she was holding back was evident by its very lack of demonstration.
"You never did say how y'all knew it was here," Jacob interrupted.
With a visible effort, InÚz laughed bitterly, "Just what do you think your friend Giles does with all the information you give him? The amusing anecdotes you put in your letters? He recognized the effects of a Neralese stone's power nearly as soon as Rhadyxmantril returned with it. But because no one was using it for evil, the Council allowed its attentions to be drawn to more immediately catastrophic contingencies. When the theft of the San Isidro Stone was discovered in Seville, the connection to the powers reported by Se˝or Jacob in Boca del Infierno was quickly made."
Jacob swallowed and looked embarrassed. "I'm always letting my mouth do the talking before my brain does the thinking." He turned to Mrs. Emerson and took her hand in his. "I swear to you, Rose, if anything I've said caused this trouble to be brought down on you, I will do my utmost and beyond to rectify it. I will protect you and Grace with my life." He brought the woman's hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it softly. Rose blushed and gave him a tender look. She didn't say anything but she allowed him to continue to hold her hand. An awkward silence followed.
It was broken by Grace, "What I don't understand is that if these vampires killed your Watcher fellow, why are they still alive? I mean you're the Slayer. Why haven't you slain them yet?"
In the warm steady light of the Stone, Rose and Jacob could see the blood draining from InÚz' olive complexion, leaving it an odd gray color. Rose could feel herself flushing, humiliated by her daughter's spitefulness but before she had a chance to take her to task, InÚz spoke.
"When I returned from Morocco I tracked them to the Plaza de los Toros, the arena where the bullfights are held. They surrounded and cornered me. I barely escaped with my life. Although I have magical healing powers, before I recovered they had left Seville to follow the Stone to America. Their trail was easy to follow. The big, dark one, Angelus, has a style recognized across Europe. He's been trapped many times over the decades but always manages to get away. But have no fear, his reign of terror is quickly coming to an end. This, I vow."
Grace would not be cowed. She was too angry, too tired, too hurt to have any sympathy for anyone else. "Still, if you'd done your job in the first place, none of this would be happening now. I was safer by myself with only the Glaive to protect me. I think this whole Slayer-business is a bunch of hogwash."
InÚz, her emotions up to now so carefully held in check, exploded. "You ignorant little puta! How dare you judge me and my life! What do you know about anything? Have you ever read a book? Have you ever stepped foot outside of this pathetic village? I can't believe that a little nothing like you, brought up no better than un indio salvaje, thinks she can even begin to comprehend the power of El Piedra del San Isidro! You know nothing of power. With power comes responsibility. The only thing you've ever been responsible for is giving the Mayor and Angelus a chance to get a hold of both you and the Glaive! If I hadn't arrived when I did, you'd be dead, the Glaive would be in the worst possible hands and your mother would be alone here in this cave. Usted vaca peque˝a est˙pida!"
Grace was hurt by InÚz's comments. She saw a little truth in her observations, but was too proud admit any of it and refused to let InÚz have the last word.
"Just because you're the Slayer and because your god chose you, that makes you better than me?!" she yelled.
"No. It makes me different. I have a duty to perform and a long lineage of slayers to live up to. I also have to set an example for the ones to follow me. What are you?" InÚz countered.
"ENOUGH! Stop this right now!" cried out Rose. She wearily massaged her temple; her head ached with this new knowledge of the stone. She also wanted to hear no more of the disagreement between the girls, their voices were beginning to ring on the cave walls.
Both girls guiltily turned their faces to look at Rose.
Dropping her hand, Rose continued. "You," she said, looking directly at InÚz, "I will not stand idly by and allow you to call my daughter stupid. Whether you find her to be rude, headstrong or anything of that sort, you should not say such things. You accuse her of not being properly brought up -- I should wonder at your nerve of saying such a thing to Grace, especially when I, her mother, am present in your company! People who find themselves in the position of being able to point out such bad manners or upbringing are dangerously close to perpetrating such said crimes."
InÚz looked shame-faced down at the dirt floor. "I am sorry, Se˝ora. I meant no offense. I spoke without thinking," she mumbled.
"Of course, you didn't child." Rose softened her tone, her maternal nature over taking her. "You have an obligation and are focused on accomplishing it. But it is no excuse for such impudent behavior. I am sure that you have been taught better but your life and situation causes you to forget your station."
InÚz caught the compassion in Rose's voice and looked up from the floor. Rose gave her a motherly smile and InÚz smiled back.
Rose looked towards her daughter. "Grace."
'Oh no. My turn now.' Grace cringed inwardly. "Yes, ma'am," she answered grimly.
"I understand your attachment to the Glaive, but it is a material thing. It is not precious, yet you treat it so. Are you afraid that you will no longer have your father, if you give up the Glaive? I have taught you better than that. He will always be with you, just as I will always be with you no matter what may come. You are our daughter and nothing can change that."
"But Mama, Papa left it for me to have. He wanted me to have it," Grace replied petulantly.
"Yes, he wanted you to have it, but I don't believe for one moment that he wanted you to value it above all else in your life. Even above your own life. Do you think that he would ask this price of you?"
"No," she replied in a sorrowful voice.
"Grace, I don't know what has come over you in the past several days, but whatever it is it's not a good thing. We need to concentrate and think about what needs to be done to get us safely out of this situation. Right now all that we can do is rest while we can. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Grace said with a nod.
"Good." Rose moved to settle herself back onto the fur skins. "InÚz I don't know what you plan to do next, but what ever it is, keep in mind that there are now people after my daughter and I."
InÚz understood the meaning behind the statement and considered her next move. She stood still for a few moments before she sat back down.
Jacob had watched the whole exchange from his place in the cave. He had not ventured forth a word during the scene. He had had many conversations with Grace and Rose, mostly separately, and he knew that both had a streak of stubbornness in them that was impossible to change. He could only think that InÚz might also be the same. "Lord, help me," he muttered under his breath.
Refusing to look at either InÚz or her mother, Grace carefully returned the Stone of San Isidro to its hiding place in the shaft of the Glaive. She lay back down on the skins next to her mother, making sure the Glaive was secured between them. She was still furious and imagining all the things she would say to the Slayer the next time they were alone when exhaustion overtook her and she slept. As she slid into dreams she saw a girl with her face and the Slayer's strength kissing a blond vampire in a long black leather coat.
Spike and Drusilla had gone to their room. Darla stared at the dressing table. The water tureens that normally sat fresh and full were bone dry. And there were no clean towels laid out beside them. Darla sniffed at their absence while Angelus took a seat on the bed.
He reached for his leather case. They hadn't been able to bring much luggage. Most of their things were in storage back in Spain, including Darla's formidable wardrobe. They'd brought nothing that would weigh them down. But there was one "inessential" thing that Angelus had insisted on, because he knew he'd find little of it this far West: his sheaf of paper and collection of thick graphite pencils.
He pulled out the drawing he'd had to leave untouched now for days. It was a portrait of Grace, her blonde hair tumbling down her shoulders and her elfin face set in a soft, emotionless gaze.
He'd originally intended to draw the madam, Anna. The long trail of her hair. The throbbing nape of her neck. The curve of her lips. But he hadn't drawn Anna. He'd drawn the girl instead. She had what every woman he drew had: beauty and power. He'd thought her a child at first, a wretched little nothing. But she wasn't. She was the foe who interested him. Much more than the Slayer. The Slayer's power was obvious. Something that would attract a simpleton like Spike. But Grace... Grace was complex.
Angelus heard Darla's boots scrape the hardwood floor. "Are you really going to do as you say, and not go after Spike again for losing the Glaive?" He could hear the ennui in her voice. She was bored of their fighting.
Angelus nodded. He looked up from his drawing.
Darla saw, to her surprise, an expression of frustration on his face. "I'm tired of punishing him every time he acts like a brainless idiot," Angelus explained. "It doesn't work. He doesn't learn." His eyes locked with hers. "And I dare say he likes it too much."
Darla smirked. She strolled towards him, her skirts shifting back and forth. "So what now? You finally kill him?"
"No." Angelus' fingertips slid across the image of Grace. "He keeps Drusilla amused. He understands her. That's something I can't even claim, and I made her."
Yes, Darla thought without an ounce of irritation. She found Drusilla exasperating most of the time, but over the years she'd developed an appreciation for the girl. The sweet, chaste Drusilla had proved to be the most cunning predator she'd ever seen. And in the hunt, Drusilla lost all that tiresome obliviousness to the world around her.
Angelus looked up at Darla. He narrowed his eyes in that sinister way that always made her imagine that her still, silent heart had skipped a beat. "And Spike could be something, if he wanted to. He has it in him to be a real slayer of Slayers, if he'd focus for once on the goal."
Angelus tightened the fist that rested on his knee and took a shallow breath. An excited breath. It was a pointless reflex, breathing, Darla mused, but they all did it from time to time.
"Fighting is his goal," she felt compelled to remind him.
"Well, it'll only get him killed." Angelus set the drawing aside and stood up. "No, it's time we made a vampire of him once and for all."
"Without Holy Water and bruises," Darla said. She stared at her lover-child, at the intent look in his eye. She knew her Angelus, and she knew when he got something in his head, it didn't go away until he'd seen it through.
"No, no Holy Water and bruises." Angelus strolled past her, his fingertips pressed against each other. He stared at the far wall as if Spike were standing there. Darla turned, watching him. "What he needs is a little encouragement. A pat on the back. A helpful finger pointed right at a goal."
"You want him to go after this Slayer!"
Angelus shook his head. Darla's excitement dipped. Angelus pointed one thick finger at the invisible Spike. "That's what he wants. But she's too obvious. She might as well have a striped target mounted to her breasts."
"But if she comes after us--"
"Oh, I don't mind if he kills her, as long as he does it without seeing the four of us dead." He placed one hand on his hip. "But I have something different in mind for our little Spike." Darla watched the curve of his back as he stood in stiff contemplation. "Grace."
Darla scoffed. "Grace? She's just a child."
"Not just a child. There's something more to her. I can't put my finger on it, but there is. I want Spike to find out what it is. Before I have to deal with her."
Darla smiled. "Well, that's a plan, if he can manage it." She stepped towards him. "You see? Encouragement, not punishment. As I've always told you."
Angelus pivoted around suddenly. Darla's chest tightened with delicious fear. "Yes. But what can I say." He walked toward her, one step, then another. "You know me... and pain."
Darla exhaled pointlessly and passionately. "I do." If her heart was alive, it would have been beating madly. "And don't worry. If you need someone to punish, there's always me."
"You. And that annoying little girl with the Glaive."
Darla sniffed. "She'll last but a few paltry moments," she breathed. "But I--"
Angelus smiled. "You--"
He pulled her roughly against him, wondering in the back of his heat-filled mind when the Mayor and the Slayer might come beating down their door. It was probably wise to stay vigilant. He bent his head down and nicked Darla's pale throat with his teeth. Blood dribbled out and he lashed his tongue out at it.
Then he drew away from her. "Later," he said.
Darla frowned at the delight Angelus took in saying that one word: "Later". It was the only way a sadist could truly torment a masochist. But Angelus would come around. As soon as the obstacles in their way were removed.
Angelus registered the flicker of disappointment on Darla's face. But he knew she understood the complexities of the present situation, just as she understood the complexities of their whole life together. He was hers; his devotion to her went without saying. She was mother, lover, goddess, sister, companion. He owed her everything, and he owed her nothing. When he chose to go his own way, he did, just as she went her own way from time to time. They always ended up back together, drawn in not by some meaningless emotion like love, but because they were yin and yang, made for each other in hell.
"Now Dru, pet, don't pick -- it will never heal if you pick at it," Spike said, pulling Drusilla's fingers away from the cross burns that still marked her pale face. He kissed her fingertips.
"But it itches, Spike--the naughty girl, all her fault."
"I know, pet, let Daddy rub a little cool oil on it." Spike rubbed the fine Egyptian oil into her skin. He had nicked a bottle off a shop-keep owner in Seville.
She tilted her head and looked at him curiously, pursing her lips like a little girl. "But you aren't my Daddy."
Spike winced. "Right. Your dear, sweet boy then."
"Yesss." Drusilla drew out her words as if they were pieces of chocolate or drops of rich blood. "My fine, dark, beautiful little boy." She bit his finger and sucked on it. "Rfff." Her eyes stroked his face, taking in the bruises and the almost completely healed welts left over by the holy water. Her mouth formed a sympathetic little "o" as her finger lightly stroked the healing welts. "Naughty, naughty girl, went inside my William's head -- tried to mix everything up. Convince him to turn against the people who love him, his family -- but you wouldn't let her, would you, my William? My brave, glorious knight?" Dru licked the welts causing Spike to moan with pleasure as he leaned into her caress.
From the connecting doorway, Angelus watched them, silently. Darla had decided to hunt down some water for her bath and perhaps a maid, giving him a few moments alone with the kiddies. His creations. He smiled. And two more beautiful and deadly creations he'd never seen. These two were better than James and Elizabeth. One crazy, yet as deadly as a black widow spider when she decided to hunt something. Even Darla appreciated her skill. And her visions had brought them all the occasional rare treat. The other was wild and boisterous now, but Angelus had seen how women glanced at him -- he too was deadly and with a few tweaks here and there, William could become that rare thing, a vampire who could kill slayers. Now there was a goal worth going for. But not yet, Angelus thought, the scamp needed to learn a few things first, like finesse and the fine art of manipulation.
"She made me say things, Dru personal things, things about the Slayer -- she seemed to think I was like her, weak, ready to betray my family -- but I'm not," Spike said.
"No, you're not, you're a bad dog, grrr-rfff, like me. Naughty, naughty girl. But you showed her -- just like her Daddy did."
"Yeah, I did. Made her hurt a little. Too bad her Dad is dead, he might have made her hurt a little more."
"But her Mummy's still alive, like your Mummy, Spike. The girl has a deep love for her Mummy." Dru stopped, for a moment, puzzling over something.
Spike's eyes scanned hers. "You see something, pet? Another vision?"
"Her Mummy and someone else. Hmmm. Her love for them makes her weak." She laughed. "That's our way to the girl, my sweet prince, her Mummy--she's the most important thing in the world to the girl."
"That so Dru? You sure about that?" Angelus asked, interrupting their conversation. "Sure it's not the Glaive?"
Dru and Spike's heads turned towards Angelus in unison, their cheeks pressed comfortably together.
Angelus drew a finger against the edge of the oak dresser and examined the dust with disgust. Darla was right, the place was a sty. "Because I've been thinking our little Grace is more keen on that Glaive than anything else. Wouldn't you agree William?"
"Eh?" Angelus raised a brow and smiled softly. "Ah yes, Spike. But you haven't exactly earned that name yet, have you William? Spending all this time fighting? A true Spike, a real Spike, would cut to the source. Sort of like nailing down a railroad track or driving its way through a man's skull, metaphorically speaking."
Spike looked at Angelus in confusion.
"Ooohh," Dru said, closing her eyes and shivering. Spike turned back to her with sudden concern. "It calls to her the Glaive, speaks to her, tells her it's hers, that it is the most important thing... yes, it makes her strong and," Dru paused, her eyes flashing open with a wicked gleam, "weak."
Angelus smiled back at Dru. His darling girl had read him. "You want to kill the Slayer, right, William?"
"Bloody right, I do. Show that bitch a bloody thing or two -- could a done it too, if it hadn't been for-"
Angelus clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shook his head. "Patience, William." He moved closer and Dru's hand paused in its stroking of Spike's hair. Her eyes were still connected to her sire's.
Dru placed a finger to his lips. "Shush," she whispered, "listen to Daddy, Spike, I think he has a new game." She and Spike turned back to Angelus in unison. "Am I right, Daddy? Do you have a game?"
"Ah. Dru -- you always did understand me." Angelus turned his attention back to Spike, his wicked smile intact. "If you want the Slayer, William -- you need the Glaive, it's what makes her tick, why else do you think she followed us here? Because we're vampires?" Angelus laughed. "Think, William, she wants the Glaive as much as we do and to get the Glaive we need-"
"The little girl. The Glaive needs the little girl. Oh, Spike, I think Daddy has a wonderful game just for you," she said taking his chin into her hands and dipping his face to look into her own, she smiled at him, "to play. You alone."
"You and Grace, actually." Angelus crossed the room and leapt onto the bed they were sprawled in, kissing the top of Dru's head. He peered down at Spike's somewhat bewildered expression below it. His eyes inches from Spike's, he said, "You remember her William -- the girl who got the better of you?" He saw the rage flicker across the younger vamp's face. "How would you like the opportunity to even the score?"
"Thought I already did, kicking in her ribs and such."
"But it wasn't enough, now was it? Still feel violated by her, don't you, William?"
Spike's eyes narrowed, and his fingers, which up until now had been absently twirling Dru's hair, paused.
"She tried to manipulate you, lad -- got into your mind, thoughts, actually thought she could make you care about her, a lowly human." Angelus pressed his finger against Spike's forehead. "And as if that wasn't enough, she found a way to transport poor Dru and our Glaive to the enemy, the Mayor, causing Dru to get this nasty burn." Angelus lifted his finger from Spike's forehead and tenderly touched the edge of the cross burn on Dru's, noticing how Spike's eyes followed the movement.
"We have no way of knowing that, mate. Dru could have-"
"Could she now?" Angelus glanced at Dru, who looked thoughtful, then vigorously shook her head in denial.
"Daddy's right, Spike. That naughty girl did it -- she used the Glaive to transport me and play with my poor William's mind," Dru cooed, petting the side of Spike's head with sympathy.
"Turned you into a fool, William. Make you less than you are -- the Glaive doesn't work on vampires. So why did it work on you? Eh?" Angelus saw Spike's jaw tighten and Dru winced as Spike's fingers tightened in her hair. Angelus' grin broadened. Grace's attempt to manipulate Spike's mind had been mostly guesswork on his part. Theories pieced together from Dru's mad ramblings. Apparently he was right, the little chit had tried to manipulate a vampire, and not just any vampire, one of his vampires, a vampire he'd ensured would be more than just a minion or lackey. Angelus took it as a personal affront. Spike might be a pain, but he was his pain. Time to make the little chit know who was boss and just what a vampire truly was. "Now, me lad, wouldn't you like the opportunity to set things right, give the little thing a taste of her own medicine? Something a bit more lasting than just a few bruises?" Angelus lightly touched one of Spike's for emphasis.
Angelus watched Spike's eyes. The vampire had taken the information in and the wheels were turning. The boy was actually cleverer than most gave him credit for. Just young, Angelus thought, still too close to his old human persona, which always took some time to shrug off. Spike's fingers continued to entangle themselves in his lover's hair as the wheels turned behind his eyes. Finally, after several seconds of silent contemplation, a slow grin spread across his features and he turned to smile at his grandsire.
"Yeah that would be--" Spike paused hunting the right word, "delicious. Show that chit just who she's dealing with."
Angelus noted that Spike's grin now matched his own.
"So what you have in mind? Said you didn't want her damaged last time we had her-"
"William, William, how many times must I tell you, there are better, finer, more lasting ways than 'fists and fangs'? Sooner you learn that, sooner you'll get the slayer."
Spike cocked his head slightly, confused but curious. Angelus had finally gotten his attention. Darla had been right; all he really had to do was appeal to the lad's dark nature.
"Ways, William, far more conducive to our purpose. You can hurt this girl without marring her pretty skin. You can bruise her far more effectively. Ain't that right, Dru?"
"Listen to Daddy, Spike," Dru said, stroking Spike's cheek again. "He knows the best ways to torture a girl's heart."
Spike studied Dru's face for a moment, stroked her cheek with his finger, then laughed, slightly. Drusilla echoed his laughter, until it grew from a slight giggle to a peal, as if they were sharing a private joke. "Right then, we'll play it your way. How do you want me to punish this girl? And please tell me it'll be particularly nasty. I owe her a world of pain."
"Oh Spike, me lad. I promise when you're through, Grace will wish we'd killed her instead."
Mayor Wilkins leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling.
"This is a thorny problem, as you can see, Governor. This little oasis is as fine a spot as you could hope to find in the world-dry climate, cool breezes, fresh water from underground springs, lots of bedrock to build on, acres of potential farmland in the foothills, no more than a day's ride from the city, and a working waterfront that picks up the slack from Los Angeles in the busy season along with its own business. All it needs is development, encouragement. Given half a chance to look around, I believe people would find what they were looking for right here."
"Are you trying to market your town as some kind of vacation land to the people of Los Angeles, Richard?"
The governor sounded a little amused as he freshened his brandy at the Mayor's sideboard. Wilkins was a bachelor, but he was a lively conversationalist, kept a fine table, and a cabinet of liquors hard to equal even in his own office. Making the trip out here was thus a genuine pleasure which appeared to be a conscientiously attended duty - an exercise of irony which the governor enjoined as often as possible.
Richard Wilkins got up restlessly. "No, sir, the people of the city may well come here for their own pleasure, but I have no illusions of turning it into a seaside resort for the rich. But by golly, I know that many of the people who move out here for the wide open spaces end up deliberately settling in heavily populated areas in order to keep their families safe from the rough riders and bandits that can surprise a lone family.
"But I know that there is a contingent among them who still dream of the charms of a more countrified existence, far away from the noise and the smell of the city, and I want them to know they have a choice here in our little community. We're a strong group of people here, you'll agree, governor--this is a safely guarded population, I see to it that we keep our peace and quiet. Bandits and interlopers steer clear of this town, and I think you know that since I've taken office here there have been no problems with brigands -- none, certainly, that we couldn't handle right here in town."
"Yes, I can certainly agree to that." Governor Brady Jasper drained his glass to hide his thoughtful expression. The dramatic--drastic, part of him said--decline in the area's once-heavy outlaw activity had been one of his reasons for upgrading Boca Del from a settlement to a town. He had come ostensibly to congratulate, and partially to investigate this achievement, as they both knew. But like many prosperous men, Wilkins was hard to draw out about the secret of his success. The governor didn't push the issue, but he was no fool. He assumed a certain amount of underhanded activity behind the curtain--well-concealed deals had been struck, tribute paid, ruthless enforcement discreetly outsourced.
The governor was concerned with none of these possibilities, nor with their brothers in reality, only that the desirable was promoted, the unseemly suppressed. What mattered, ultimately, was management, and in that area Richard had proven to be a natural. With such a talent in his own demesne, the governor thought, he might have to look to his own job after a while, but somehow he doubted it. Since his appearance in politics years ago, Wilkins had shown himself to be a small-town boy. And if he wanted to campaign the surrounding areas to promote Boca Del as a nice place to live, why he was going to make sure it happened.
Hell, when the time came, he might retire here himself one day. He set down his glass.
"You've made your point, Richard. I'll have my people take a look at your ideas, and send some ads, posters, to the more populated settlements near Los Angeles, investigate maybe promoting it to prospective settlers in the East. We'll see what happens."
"That's all I can ask, governor." Richard's handshake was warm and earnest, and confirmed the end of their interview. "Dolly will show you your room, Brady. Thanks for coming down."
"A pleasure as always, Richard." The governor smiled as he made his way, pleasantly tipsy, to the stairs. "In a few months every realtor in Los Angeles will be lining up to show people Boca Del."
"Not Boca Del, sir." Wilkins said grandly, waving him good night, "Sunnydale."
The sun was coming up behind them as InÚz looked out over the Hellmouth. She had forgone her usual four hours of sleep, and the rest of the night had passed without incident. Grace and her mother lay in each others arms on the bed of skins, Jacob stretched out protectively in front of them for much of the night. Now he stirred and stretched quietly, and moved to poke up the fire, rumbling in his throat the way the older monks did at the abbey. She smiled, not homesick just yet, enjoying, if she knew to call it that, this new adventure. At the moment she only knew she felt comfortable in the safety of the dawn, liking the older man and his early morning sounds, how he was familiar and new at the same time. He filled a pot at a nearby falling stream, placed it on the coals, and hobbled off behind a tree.
"How do they not find you?" she asked when he returned. He glanced at her, brow furrowed.
Jacob gestured sleepily around at the cave. "Bears," he said cryptically, and returned to the fire. He mumbled further as he started a pot of oats and put up the coffee pot. "Arthur--that your new Watcher--he taught me a few things I wanted to know during our friendship, and they've come in pretty handy here. Not the kind of magic the Council likes--all nice clean geometric patterns on the floor and refined powder of this and elixir of some-other-thing. This is a little more like--well, like just working with what's already here."
InÚz overcame her accustomed silence to an elder to ask, "How do you do?"
Jacob's early morning scowl softened in amusement. "Uh? Oh-- Well, here's how I do. Western magic is mostly concerned with what the magician wants to happen, and producing that effect whatever the cost. It takes willpower, it takes finesse, and it takes practice."
"And you have done this here?"
"Aw, shoot, missy, that'd be too much like havin' a job." Jacob grinned now, looking to see if she would smile or not. She did, waiting for him to continue.
"So this is different. It's the same kinda power, really, but I can't make things happen like they do, ordering them around and such. The land out here is big, wild--you gotta talk to it, see what it wants, then ask it to do something it mighta been about to do anyway, just a little different. Take these marks you made and put them over there, say, or take this place that smells like bears, and make it real strong, keep away the other predators." To InÚz' impressed look, he shrugged to the fire. "Just party tricks, really. Nothin' like what your stone can do there, or the Glaive."
"I don't know how they came to be here." InÚz' said darkly. "I have thought of it all night, but I do not see why they came here to this place. The stone, the Glaive and the demon-man who made it."
"It was Wilkins, of course." Jacob stirred the oatmeal and added a paste of herbs and animal fat. "He started a town on this here Hellmouth, maybe the first time that's ever been done. Demons always lived in this world somehow, but here they live right up next to people, and it affects 'em both--they get ideas they wouldn't get in other places, dream things they wouldn't dream. And now-" Jacob rubbed his eyes, waiting for the coffee, searching trying to explain this new development, " -- Wilkins knows the Glaive is also powered by the stone, and havin' those two things together has something to do with this town dedication he wants. Demon and Divine. Sacred and Profane. Got somethin' to do with their opposite origins, but damned if I can figure exactly what. That's more of Arthur's kind of work. He'd know what it meant."
"Could it have to do with demons and humans-here together?" InÚz struggled to put her studies into English words. Her lack of fluency frustrated her--there were intricacies she only knew in Spanish.
But the hermit shook his head. "It's demon and divine, miss, there ain't no mortal about it. I'll keep turnin' it over, see what come up. But in the meantime, I expect you need to decide what you wanna do."
"I do," InÚz admitted, watching the coffee start to boil over as Jacob adjusted it on the coals. Now that Grace knew the stone was an element apart from the Glaive, she and Grace might go their separate ways, whatever they may believe. But too much of this situation remained unanswered, with the kinds of questions her Watcher had taught her to pursue. The monks would tell her to come away now, she knew, and she longed to return home with her prize. But her charge was not only to her church, but to the world her God had made. Ways of the enemy must be studied, and here they were laid bare in ways she had never encountered in the savage vampire cults of her home city. There was intelligence here, and direction, and an evil purpose, so far out on the frontier of mankind that secrecy was only present in very specific ways.
As she watched breakfast begin to form and felt the growls in her stomach, the Slayer came to a decision. The jewel was hers now, but it must be protected. The thief of the jewel must be studied--he would not be easy to stop if he came after her again, and she had already the length of a foreign country to travel before she was on Spanish soil again. And this foursome of demons -- they were an abomination she must confront. The attack in Triana had terrified and challenged her with its novelty, and though she disdained to admit it, whetted her appetite to try them again. Nobility of the vampire world, she knew they saw themselves that way. Did they fancy themselves artists? Thespians? Performers? The vampire mind was an endless mad dance between the living demon and the dead soul, and here she found an exaggerated study of the vampiric mind in the person of these four bon vivants. No, she could not go yet.
The play had only just started.
"I will stay," she said, staring through the trees at the sunrise. "But the stone must be hidden."
"Nah, you'll need it to fight off the Mayor," Jacob said. "Remember, InÚz, it's a weapon as well as a sacred thing. If you and Grace keep fighting over it, you'll both be dead before next week, and these people here need your protection. Especially Grace and Mrs.-- and Rose. They're goin' to need you plenty in the days to come."
The Slayer's eyes narrowed as his words sunk in. "You are leaving."
Jacob nodded. "I've been on the hill up yonder, lookin' at things. Seen some bad signs where I didn't expect them to be, and there are some folks that need to be warned about it." He looked out at the town, and suddenly looked tired. "I been here all my life, and all this-- you're seein' it like it is now, but when you live here, the change is slow, and after awhile you don't even look back to see how bad you let things get. Wilkins has gotton more of a grip on this town than I should have let happen, and if I don't come back you have to make sure-- InÚz, you make sure-- nothing happens to them, you understand? All else fails you hop the morning train down the coast, and telegraph to Arthur there, you hear me?
"Si, I hear you, sir."
"All right. I'm goin' in early so I can be back before dark. If I'm not back before then-- you know to be careful."
"Yes, sir." Jacob's face had made her fall back into a soldier-like attention, but her eyes showed respect tinged with sorrow. The older man shouldered a light pack, and he took a last look at the sleeping women. "I've left you some provisions and things in the back of the cave," he said, then, "Breakfast is nearly ready." He walked off.
The sun was near its zenith by the time Jacob came in sight of the mill, where his brother-in-law Auburn Cole made his business and his home. The trip had been easy; his steady, even stride had eaten up the miles all that morning, the walk almost pleasant in the silence of the trees. But he had not reached his comparatively mature age in this town by being stupid. He'd get to Cole, and if there was something in the way, he'd get by it.
It had been too long since he'd visited his brother-in-law. Cole was a strong, intelligent soul, but neither one of them were much at conversation. It had been Emily that bridged the gap between them, made then talk, and when she died, they had found a brotherly silence in their grief. He and Cole had gotten along all right. It would be good to see him again.
As he approached the edge of the trees around the mill, the sounds of the working saw blades covered his approach. Instead of cutting straight for the house, Jacob let his path hug the noise around the sawmill as long as possible, just far enough inside the trees to be invisible. He knew the men at the sawmill well, but there was no need for them to see him. As he approached the house, he moved away from the mill. Seeing no one in sight, he strode casually across the open space to the porch, his heart knocking against his chest until he reached the door. Without breaking stride, he slipped in and shut it behind him.
No one greeted his eyes at first--Cole was probably in the mill house, overseeing with one of his foremen. Jacob slipped around to the kitchen--no one, nor a soul on the ground floor. Respecting a distance from the windows, Jacob went upstairs. The master bedroom overlooked the mill. He carefully approached the window, and looked out on the busy mill yard.
He didn't recognize any of the men he saw out there. His eyes were confused for a moment, before their size registered right, and then he saw what they were.
"Trolls," a voice behind him said. Jacob jumped about three feet and spun to the speaker. His brother-in-law stood in the doorway of the bedroom, looking fine and well, and pleased as punch. "Hello, Jacob," he said.
As Jacob and the Slayer contemplated trolls and vampires, the four vampires being contemplated settled down to spend the daylight hours with their respective mates. Darla proved to Angelus once again that she could withstand, and enjoy, any amount of pain he wished to inflict, while Spike and Drusilla rested entwined in each other, their younger, weaker bodies needing the time to recover from the trials of the previous night.
Angelus stood once again at the window, watching the shadows lengthen as the sun set on the opposite side of the house. Darla slept deeply, still shackled to the bed, the marks he'd left on her creamy skin having already faded. He smiled appreciatively as he glanced over at her, remembering how she'd cried for him to hurt her just a little bit more. He wondered at the fact that only when she was helpless and unable to move was she able to relax from being the strong one, the sensible one, the one always in control, he laughed to himself, 'the grown-up of the family.'
He dressed himself carefully in the best of the few clothes they'd brought with them -- a fine black broadcloth suit with a black and silver figured silk waistcoat and a flowing red tie over the snow white shirt. 'My last clean shirt,' he thought. 'Darla's right about finding a maid.'
Pulling a small key from his satchel, he quietly and gently unlocked the iron shackles at Darla's wrists and ankles and silently slipped from the room into the hallway. As he was softly shutting the door, he heard the door to Spike and Drusilla's room open. Turning to look, he saw Spike inch out as quietly as he had done. "Ah, Angelus," Spike whispered, "Good, you're up."
"Is Dru still asleep?" asked Angelus.
"Yes, that pillock of a Mayor and his sodding little lackeys hurt her worse than she realized. I'm off to find her something to eat to build her strength back up -- not to mention my own."
"Darla will take care of her when she wakes up. I need for you to come with me -- I have a little project for you."
"Can't it wait until I get something to eat?" Spike asked, grumpy and put off and not a little uneasy. Was Angelus setting him up for another fall? "I promise not to eat anyone important."
"Don't worry, my boy, getting plenty to eat will be the least of your worries." Angelus took Spike's arm and led him down the stairs to the front sitting room of the hostelry. Indicating one of the shabby velvet -covered armchairs, Angelus gestured for Spike to sit and took the matching chair opposite.
"I've been thinking, Spike," he began. "This town has been kicking our sorry arses and it's about time we got some of our own back. Show the Mayor of this hellhole that the Scourge of Europe and his family won't be pushed around by a bunch of peasants. I want to give this town an object lesson in what demons from the line of Aurelius will do when pushed too far."
Spike grinned slowly, visions of mayhem and massacre dancing in his head. "What say we find that ponce Wilkins and rip him a few new orifices?"
"I had something a little more subtle--" Angelus began, then paused, noticing Spike's grimace, "but no less bloody, in mind. A way to hit the Mayor where it hurts and still get valuable information about the Glaive and that girl, Grace."
"Little bitch," Spike muttered, "they won't be able to count all the pieces I'm going to tear her into next time I see her." He scowled, remembering how easily she had manipulated him, invading his mind, making him talk about things he had never wanted to discuss ever again.
"Let me tell you a little story," Angelus said. "You may not believe this, but I didn't get along well with my father." Spike snorted, imagining that if Angelus' father had been anything like his son, 'not getting along well' was probably a masterpiece of understatement.
Angelus threw him a stern look and continued. "The first thing I did when I crawled out of my grave was to massacre my entire village, leaving my father until last. But I was young and impatient -- his suffering did not last nearly long enough. I thought I would feel triumphant and fulfilled after I tore his throat out. Instead I felt empty, unsatisfied. Darla explained to me that although my victory had lasted only a moment, his victory over me would last an eternity. I've learned over the decades that the suffering of the survivors makes the blood of our victims so much sweeter. There's no spice like tears to add flavor."
Spike was listening intently, bemused that Angelus' was sharing so much of his story with him, so much of his heart and mind. He thought back to his first few nights of unlife. He'd been so enraptured with his new strength and confidence and with his black goddess, that the nights had gone by in a blur of blood and sex as he'd buried his former self deep, drowned it in floods of thick redness. Every person who had the misfortune to cross his path became the image of his erstwhile tormenters. He had torn through the city as if the city itself had been one throat bent back for his teeth. His rage was not particular -- it was general, it encompassed everything and everyone he had ever known or been.
Angelus could see that Spike was deep in thought so he waited until he looked up, silently urging Angelus to continue. "You may think that my insistence on subtlety, on finesse, is silly and effete, but when your days are unnumbered, gorging and feasting on the human cattle does begin to pall. Something more is required. A goal, something to work towards, something to be proud of. I don't expect you to become exactly like me, each of us has our own style, our own way of making our marks. Indeed, as the years wear on, variety becomes all the more important. I'm just asking you to try new things, new ways of creating suffering and pain. Fists and fangs are all very well, and in fact can be exhilarating, but fists and fangs guided by a brain and a purpose -- just imagine the new tortures we can devise together.
"And with the power of the Glaive -- we can challenge Satan himself," Angelus went on. "If we don't become stronger as the years go by, if we don't set ourselves new challenges, there's nothing in our future but dust. There's no standing still, only getting stronger or getting weaker and getting staked."
Spike was nodding along with Angelus' words. It made sense to him. If he were honest with himself, he would have to admit that the night-in, night-out mindless violence was beginning to get old. He could still lose himself in the red rage, but it was becoming harder and harder to sustain. Hence the baiting of Angelus; courting punishment as a relief to the monotony. As a new thrill.
"I want to know what you think, Spike," Angelus said. "What should our next step be? How do we get the Glaive and how do we destroy the girl who invaded your mind? How do we show this pompous little Mayor that we aren't to be mocked?"
Of course, Spike's first impulse was to suggest a frontal attack on the small party hiding in the hills, but Angelus had truly inspired him to think. "Killing Grace isn't going to do us any good, she's the only one who can tell us how to use the Glaive. And if we just eat the Mayor, he won't be able to appreciate the death of this little backwater town that he seems to be so proud of. Kind of pointless if, when the lesson is given, the student is already dead."
Angelus nodded encouragingly. "Go on, how do we get to Grace and the Mayor? Where have we seen them both?"
Spike thought back for a moment, "The saloon!" he exclaimed. "They've both been there, and neither have any apparent reason to be. But," he frowned, "haven't we already gotten everything out of that madam that she knows?"
"Perhaps," Angelus smiled, "perhaps not. Maybe she hasn't been properly motivated. One thing you've got to remember about humans, about the souled, is that there are things they care about more than themselves, more than physical pain. Whom does she appear to care about?"
"She seems pretty protective of her whores, calls them her 'girls', gets all big-sisterly about 'em."
"There you go, boy. So what should we do about it?"
Spike grinned broadly, "I'd say we need to visit us a whorehouse!"
The bartender looked up as the two men came through the saloon's swinging doors. 'Trouble,' he thought, discreetly reaching under the bar for the cord that would ring a bell in Madam Anna's private suite. Turning to the newcomers, he asked, "What'll it be, gents?"
Angelus and Spike pulled up a couple of bar stools and sat down. No point worrying about the mirror behind the bar anymore, a couple of nights of poker with demons and there was no one there who didn't already know they were vampires. "Whiskey," Spike said shortly, "and leave the bottle." The bartender set a couple of shot glasses in front of them, filled them and left the bottle. He glanced nervously up the stairs, hoping that Anna would be coming down soon.
Each taking a glass, Angelus and Spike turned on their stools to face the barroom, leaning back on their elbows. There were several games going on and a half dozen or so of the girls were paired off with men in various stages of activity best not done in public. They sipped their whiskey, biding their time.
A rustling of silk drew their eyes up the stairs. Anna stood at the top landing in a red silk dress; different from the one they'd seen her in their first night in town. This one was a deeper red, sleeked, yet more sumptuous. It was snug on her corseted, hourglass figure, breasts pushed high and threatening to overspill the low neckline. It was pulled tight over her hips into a small bustle in back, cascading into a train that spread out across the stairs as she slowly descended. Her hair was a mass of highly piled curls and around her neck was black velvet ribbon with a large ruby suspended into the hollow at the base of her throat. All eyes, female as well as male, watched her dramatic entrance.
As she got closer, Angelus could see the skillful cosmetics covering the marks they'd left the last time they had "visited." He could also smell her rising fear, but she was hiding it well. Casting a gracious smile over the barroom, she turned to face Angelus and Spike. "Come to enjoy our hospitality again so soon?"
Angelus chuckled to himself, enjoying her boldness. He had a sneaking admiration for this woman; too bad Darla had taken such a dislike to her. 'They're too much alike,' he thought. Spike wasn't thinking anything; he couldn't pull his eyes away from the vast expanse of smooth white skin set off by the dark red of her dress.
"Just here for a drink, maybe a little companionship," Angelus drawled. "Not too many other places for entertainment in this town."
"We treat well those who treat us well," Anna replied pointedly. Not wanting a scene in the public barroom, she added, "We have some fine companions for you upstairs."
"Lead the way," laughed Spike, pulling his eyes away from her cleavage long enough to raise an eyebrow at Angelus. Angelus nodded and the three climbed the stairs.
Anna led them into her private parlor. Unseen, Angelus locked the door behind them and pocketed the key. Although she herself had good taste, this room was where she entertained her special customers and it was decorated accordingly. The room was so red that it was like swimming in a goblet of blood. Spike felt his stomach growl. He was still hungry. Angelus noticed a door partly hidden behind a drapery of red brocade. Although the door was thick enough to prevent sounds within from being heard by human ears, he could hear high-pitched giggles and lower rumbles of pleasure. Someone important, someone she won't want us to disturb, he thought.
Still playing along, Spike and Angelus sprawled on the red velvet chaise longues, waiting for Anna to speak. Alone with them, some of her boldness left her, but she also felt some relief -- she had gotten them away from her girls in the barroom and her customers. She felt sure that they wouldn't be able to hear the other girls and their special guest through the soundproofed door. Anna opened and closed her mouth a few times, obviously at a loss for words. Finally she cleared her throat and said, "I've told you everything I know."
Quicker than she could blink, Angelus was behind her, a hand over her mouth, her wrists caught in his other hand. He looked at Spike and cocked his head towards the hidden door. Although the door was heavy and locked, Spike tore it open as if it were made of paper and dived inside.
Squeals and giggles turned to screams. One particularly shrill scream was abruptly choked off. Anna had no difficulty imagining what had happened. Five mostly undressed women and one portly gentleman, collar undone and hair mussed, spilled into the parlor. Demon face on, Angelus growled at them to sit down and be quiet. Anna nodded frantically at them to obey.
Whimpering, the girls sank to the floor, but the man, after trying unsuccessfully to get the door open, began to bluster, "This is an outrage! I'm the Governor of this state and I will see you hanged for this!" Angelus growled again and bluster gave way to meekness. The Governor sank weakly into a chair. In the quiet they could hear the obscene sucking and smacking noises as Spike drained his victim in the other room.
After an interminable amount of time, Spike came to the doorway and lounged against the doorjamb. His face and shirt were smeared with red. "Spike, tear one of those tapestries into strips and tie them all up," Angelus directed.
"No need," said Spike, and he ducked back into the other room. He emerged, dangling several sets of leather restraints over his arm. "Seems this place caters to all tastes." He made quick work of restraining the captives. Holding a bound and gagged Anna on his lap, Angelus sat down again on the chaise. Reaching around, he ran his hand roughly over her neck and chest, reaching into her bodice to maul her breasts.
"You know," he whispered into her ear, "I don't let Spike eat too often. I bet that first one wasn't even an appetizer for him." Anna squealed behind the gag and wriggled frantically in his lap. Angelus laughed and nodded to Spike who leaned over to pick up one of the bound girls on the floor. Bending his face into her neck, Angelus said to Anna, "Are you sure there's nothing more you can tell us?" She moaned and closed her eyes, one tear leaking out to trickle down her cheek. The girl in Spike's arms screamed as he sank his fangs deep into her throat. He jerked away, pulling a large bite-sized chunk of her flesh away and spitting it out into Anna's lap. Her eyes flew open when she felt it land and stayed open, horrified, unable to look away as Spike held his mouth open beneath the gaping hole to catch the spurting blood after the initial blast of it from the artery had sprayed the red room redder. When the blood slowed to a trickle, Spike tossed the body aside and bent for the next girl.
"Two down, three to go, and of course, the esteemed Governor, although I don't imagine even Spike would want to eat him. Won't stop him from killing him, though. You know, all you have to do is nod to stop this." Angelus was whispering like a lover into Anna's ear, licking along the edge of it, nibbling on the lobe. His hand on her breasts stopped mauling and began to caress.
Anna was in an agony of indecision. Her new-found family was precious to her, she cared about them deeply, but they were far away and had Jacob and his magic to protect them. The poor girls, on the other hand, only had her. Some she'd grown up with, some she'd helped raise -- they all looked to her to take care of them. Unable to stand it another second, Anna nodded.
"That's my girl," Angelus said heartily, chucking Anna under the chin and giving her a loud, smacking kiss on the cheek. He ungagged her and waited for her to speak. Spike continued to hover menacingly over the remaining captives.
"Grace's mother, Rose, is my half-sister," Anna began, choking on her sobs. "We had the same father, but since I was illegitimate and unacknowledged, Rose and Grace and I have had to pretend to be nothing more than casual acquaintances."
"That explains why Grace comes around here, but it doesn't explain why or how Grace controls the Glaive," prodded Angelus.
"Grace's father, her real father -- not Mr. Emerson -- was a demon from the Neral dimension called Rhadyxmantril. She called him Rhad. He made the Glaive and left it for Grace when he had to return to Neral. It's his blood that allows her to control it, although mostly I think it controls her."
"Thought something smelled off about that girl. New topic. The Mayor -- why does he come here? I get the idea it's not for, er, companionship."
"He's the real owner of this place, he says that as regrettable as it may seem, every town must have some place for the rowdier elements to blow off steam, lest they run rampant through the respectable part of town." She said this as though quoting the Mayor and with a great deal less hesitation than when answering the questions about Grace and the Glaive. "He also needs some place to entertain visiting mucky-mucks like the Governor."
Angelus held a gentle hand over Anna's eyes, pulling her head back over his shoulder. With his other hand he ripped off the black velvet choker around her neck and slipped into his coat pocket. "Thank you very much," he said, "You've done well," and he sank his teeth gently into her throat. Spike watched, fascinated, as Angelus sensuously and slowly drained Anna nearly to the point of death. As she began to lose consciousness, he released his bite and brought his own wrist to his mouth, tearing a gash that immediately began to drip blood. He held this to Anna's mouth. As soon as she tasted it, she regained some animation, sucking fiercely at the offered blood.
He only let her drink for a short time. As he pulled his wrist away, she fell back, seemingly dead, but Spike knew that it was only temporary. Angelus pushed her off his lap and let her slide to the floor. With a snarl, he grabbed up one of the remaining girls and snapped her neck. Spike made quick work of the Governor, twisting his head nearly off. They arranged the bodies of the Governor and the dead girls in an obscene parody of prayer, leaving one girl alive, but still bound, to tell the tale. Then they snatched up Anna and the one girl remaining and left the red room of death.
The barroom was dark and deserted. Dawn was beginning to creep over the horizon and, as they hurried through the silent streets, they heard church bells pealing from over the hills. "What do you know -- it's Sunday!" Angelus exclaimed, giving Anna's posterior a cheerful smack as he carried her over his shoulder.
Running up the stairs of the boardinghouse, they burst into Darla's room where she and Drusilla were awaiting their return. "Look," Spike said, dropping his burden to the floor next to Drusilla, "Breakfast!"
"And a maid for you, Darla," Angelus said.