Before going into the plan with anymore detail, Jacob entreated InÚz to one of the sitting room's chairs. "Sit, sit." She sat stiffly in the chair facing Jacob and Auburn. InÚz stared openly at Jacob. He caught the look.
"I clean up nicely, don't I?" grinned Jacob. Gone was his 'cave' attire. In its place was a suit with waistcoat and tie. "Auburn lent it to me."
"I couldn't very well have you running about my home in those rags and smelling of bears, could I?" said Auburn wryly.
"Pish-posh, Auburn. A little dirt never hurt anybody."
"Tell that to Mayor Wilkins, Jacob."
"You must be thirsty," Auburn casually commented. At that statement, he rang for his manservant. A slight but stately demon dressed in a natty butler's uniform appeared with a tray of silver tea things. He set the tray down on a sideboard on the other side of the room. InÚz observed the demon servant with fascination while he was preparing the cups of tea; with his third eye he cast a small glance at InÚz.
Aside from his third eye, the demon was not a bad looking creature. He had an overall serpentlike look to him right down to the tail that curled absently around the leg of the sideboard. He had what could work as an opposable thumb and two fingers on each hand. It's skin reminded InÚz of snake skin, mottled in the same pattern as a diamond back.
"Auburn, since when did you have a Cythrea demon in your employ?" asked Jacob, turning to Auburn who was seated to his right.
With this question Auburn became most animated. "Since it's host died. I was in Los Angeles on business--that city is going to boom, Jacob. I was inspecting some land and I happened upon it and its host in some sort of battle with other demons. One thing led to another and he died. Apparently when the host dies the demon imprints itself onto the nearest living thing, like a hatchling."
"And that was you?" guffawed Jacob.
"Yes. You don't know how I tried to shake him off. He was like a stray dog, followed me everywhere! I was at my wit's end until I finally accepted the situation and turned it around. If he was going to follow me around everywhere then I might as well make him useful. It's worked beautifully. Turns out so long as he's given a purpose or a task, he doesn't follow me as he used to. It was great relief to find that out. I call him Rupert."
"You named him after Emily's poodle!!!" laughed Jacob, slapping his knee for emphasis.
While the two older men were still conversing, Rupert crossed the room and handed InÚz her cup of tea. InÚz looked at the proffered cup for a moment before accepting it. She discreetly gave it a little sniff when Rupert's back was turned, forgetting that he had an eye on the back of his head, then took a tiny sip. He had prepared it with milk and a little sugar. It was just the way she liked it. She relaxed her posture a little, waiting for the two men to cease their chattering. When it looked like it would not abate, she spoke up.
"Excuse me, Se˝or Abrahams, Se˝or Cole but I think that we have to rescue Grace and her madre, no?"
"Yes, yes." Said Jacob apologetically. "Now getting on with the task at hand. InÚz, our best bet lies with Mayor Wilkins."
"You want me to help the Mayor?" InÚz said, a little uncomprehendingly.
"No. I want you to continue on, as if you hadn't come here," explained Jacob. "Wilkins is the only one who we can predict, with the help of brother Auburn here. The vampires are the unknown factor. They're too hard to second guess. You just have to play along with Wilkins. He knows that you're after the vampires and he'll use you to his benefit--another lackey, if you will."
"I am no one's lackey," InÚz said automatically.
"Don't get your feathers in a ruffle, child. I'm not sayin' you are."
"Just let Wilkins believe that you think that he's one of the good guys. That you suspect nothing. That all you want is the San Isidro Stone. Don't you believe for one moment, that he will not have you killed if you get in his way. He's human but that'll change if he has his way," cautioned Auburn.
"He can't kill me."
"If you really believe that then you're underestimating him and sealing your own fate."
"My fate is not up to me. I'm the Slayer, that is my fate," InÚz countered a little too fervently. Taking a breath, she tried to change the direction of the questions. "Why are you in his, this... inner group?"
Auburn set his cup down and stood. He began to pace the room. "It all started simply enough, as such things usually do. A group of business and community leaders. In the beginning the intentions were good. Well, as good as politicians and businessmen can be. Then Wilkins began striking some deals with the local demons. That made life a little easier for a lot of us. It made sense really. Then the greed really took a hold of some. I can't say that that my hands are all that clean but I never was the cause of anyone's death. Emily would've never stood for that." He paused, looking out the window into the dark of night. "I'm not under any grand imaginings of heroism or redemption. Wilkins can't be removed right now without disastrous results. He is too entrenched in this town and with the local demons. I'm doing this for Jacob."
"Thank you, Auburn," replied Jacob. Looking at InÚz, he continued. "I wish I could tell you that there is some great plan, but there isn't. We'll have to distract the vampires some how and get in and release Rose and Grace. Wilkins is planning to attack the boardinghouse at dawn. I suggest that you be there too, InÚz. They'll be too busy fending off the others to pay you much attention." Jacob stopped for a moment to read the girl in front of him. He could sense her apprehension in facing the four vampires alone again. "I wouldn't worry too much about facing all four of the vampires. The blonde one called Darla shouldn't give you much trouble, so long as you don't attempt to stake any of the other three. But don't let your guard down."
Jacob answered InÚz's questioning look. "Darla sought a meeting with Wilkins earlier today, in broad daylight no less. She's got gumption, that one does. Anywho, she's grown weary of this town. She was hoping to try and bring their stay to a quick end by working out a deal with Wilkins. She knows about the attack at dawn."
"She is betraying them?" exclaimed InÚz.
"Interesting group, aren't they?" quipped Auburn, looking up from his pocket watch. "Well, you've still got a few hours till dawn. Would you like to rest a little until then?"
"Why should I not go now to rescue Se˝ora Emerson and Grace?" asked InÚz. She didn't understand why they had kept her here for the past half-hour, when she could've been on her way to the boardinghouse.
"InÚz, don't misunderstand me. I care for Rosie and Grace. I know that I said earlier that the vampires are the wild cards here and hard to predict. But one thing that I am most sure of is that they will not kill either of them. They're using Rosie to control Grace. What good is she to them dead? If that were to happen, Grace would rather die than tell them how to use Rhad's contraption. And, like I said, you would have a better chance of success if you wait until the planned attack. You should rest, child. I know that you haven't had much sleep. You should have your wits about you when you go into that house," implored Jacob.
Jacob was right. InÚz had not gotten very much sleep in her time here in Boca del Infierno. She slowly nodded in agreement. "I will comply with your wish." InÚz stood up to leave the room.
"Rupert, show InÚz to one of the guest rooms. Be sure to wake her in two hours," instructed Auburn.
As soon as they stepped out of the sitting room door, InÚz heard Auburn say to Jacob, "Don't worry brother. All will turn out you will see."
"I know, I know but I can't help but be worried. It's not right to rely solely on InÚz to bring Rosie and Grace back," said Jacob.
InÚz suddenly realized that Rupert was patiently waiting for her. She ducked her head a little sheepishly when she caught the slightly amused look in the many eyes of the demon. They proceeded down the hallway and up a staircase. Rupert showed her into one of the many well-appointed rooms on the second floor. InÚz gratefully sank into the soft, clean smelling bed and went to sleep within a matter of minutes.
Angelus cast an eye over the assembled group. Darla was feeling a little better after feeding off the two children, but she was still too weak to move around very much. She took residence in a chair with her feet propped up on an ottoman. Drusilla was busy tittering into Spike's ear. Anna busied herself with checking the ropes and gags on Rose and Grace.
"Quit your fidgeting, Anna. It's perfectly distracting," roused Darla.
Stopping, Anna threw a derisive look over to Darla.
"That'll do, Anna," said Angelus.
Anna obediently nodded and took a seat in a corner of the room.
"So where are we going to now?" asked Spike.
"Well, I was planning on having a bit more time to coax Gracie here to be more cooperative, but thanks to Darla--" Angelus glared over to Darla, who smirked in return. "...We have to move along. I was thinking that Anna's former abode would suffice for now."
"What's wrong with standing our ground? Instead of running off at the first sign of trouble. If you ask me it's..."
"That's the thing Spike, I'm not asking you," interrupted Angelus. "There is nothing wrong with relocating ourselves. It's called strategy, William. You might want to try it someday."
"No," said Anna quietly.
Angelus and Spike both turned to look at Anna.
"I meant we shouldn't go to my, uh, the Saloon. That's the next place they would look," replied Anna nervously.
"Oh so, I'm sure that you have some other location in mind, hmm," Darla said sarcastically, without looking at Anna.
"Yes," she said with a little more strength in her voice. "It's a house across town, near the saw mill. It's been empty since a nest of Zagorrah demons were removed from it a year ago. It's been fixed back up but for some reason no one's moved into it. If we start now we'll be able to make it before dawn."
Angelus contemplated this a little before answering. "Good. I like this. That's where we'll go. Spike, you'll carry Mrs. Emerson. Anna grab a hold of Gracie--watch her she's a slippery one. Dru you'll have to take the Glaive. I've got my hands full with Darla."
"Now she's telling us what to do?" Darla moaned.
"Hush. We wouldn't be in this situation were it not for your treachery, darling," Angelus said while gathering Darla into his arms. "But then that's what makes this interesting," he whispered into her ear.
"Wicked boy. I don't know why I haven't staked you by now," she said with a hint of a smile.
"I think we both know why you don't stake me. And I haven't forgotten, I still owe you punishment for this. I just want you when you're stronger. I like a little fight in my women."
InÚz briskly made her way across the town. She found that she was not able to sleep for very long, just about an hour. But it would be enough for now. She was sure she could leave the house without garnering any attention, but Rupert had been waiting for her. He surprised InÚz by standing just at the end of the hallway, motioning for her to follow him.
Rupert led her to the game room where Auburn had a decent collection of weapons mounted. She recognized one in particular. It was a Wushu Snake Spear. In all her training, she found it to be the most useful of weapon that she had ever encountered, second only to a wooden stake. The spear itself was six feet tall, a good half a foot taller than her, but it was not cumbersome. In certain situations she used it's height to vault her from one spot to another. On one end it was tipped with a 10 inch steel, the other end had an iron cap on the kiln dried hardwood staff. When it came down to it, she would remove the cap and fashion it into a large stake. She selected it off the wall and expertly twirled and jabbed with it. The craftsmanship was excellent. Auburn would probably miss it very much.
She could see the boarding house coming up in the distance when she noticed what had to be the Mayor's lackeys positioning themselves outside the house. She decided to do a little reconnaissance and disappeared into the surrounding shadows. She soon found herself behind a pair of vampires who were discussing the plan of action.
"The Mayor says that all we have to do is get the Glaive."
"Not the girl or her mother?"
"Naw, he said something about them being unnecessary."
They stopped when they heard a noise. "Did you hear that? Who's there?" Both vampires faced in InÚz's direction.
InÚz stepped out from the shadows. "My name is InÚz Maria Concepcion Diaz Montoya, the Vampire Slayer and I am here to kill you."
The vampires looked at each other. "Such a big name for such a little girl," said the lankier one. "She's kinda cute, Lyle. Can we keep her?"
The stockier vampire--Lyle--massaged his crotch. "Hola, chica. ┐Quieres comer mi burrito grande?"
"Yeah, chica, uh, comment allez-vous?"
"It's '┐Que pasa?' bonehead. How many times I got to be telling you not to speak French to the Meskins? You'll have to excuse my brother, miss. We went to this fancy bordello in El Paso, and ever since he's had confusions of grandeur."
InÚz waggled the spearhead in Lyle's face. "I have been chosen by God to kill your kind, and by the Virgin I will do so."
Lyle pushed his hat back on his head, showing his yellow eyes. "Now, lookee here, Se˝orita. The Mayor didn't say nothing about killing no slayer. We're just here to get the Glaive--" InÚz whacked him in the face with the butt of the spear. "--and we'll be on our way. I don't want to bruise that purty face of--" Again whacked in the face. "Well, then, giddy-up."
His duster billowed behind him and his hat flew off as he threw himself at the Slayer. InÚz ducked his roundhouse, but could not evade the jab to her stomach. With both hands she pounded the shaft of the spear against his Adam's apple. She wheeled to face the brother, who was pulling a Bowie knife from the top of his boot. He weaved it underhand through the air as he advanced on her. The long reach of the spear kept him at bay but his quick movements threatened to find an opening as one hand snatched at the horsehide tassel below the blade of the spear--used to soak up blood before it reached the hands and oiled the grip and entirely superfluous when fighting vampires; InÚz rued its existence as the vampire grabbed for it, trying to wrench the spear away from her--and the other slashed the knife towards her abdomen. He feinted to her left and slipped under the spear, driving the knife towards her chest, but InÚz quickly vaulted with the spear, running up the wall and out of his reach. She landed with her back to the boarding house and her eyes on the two vampires.
Lyle crouched, a mad look in his eyes, before charging headfirst at her like the bulls she had watched in the arena back home. She pirouetted to the right as the wall of the boarding house spat splinters from the impact; pirouetting right into the arms of the brother. He squeezed her arms against her body, squeezing out her breath. Lyle dusted himself off and broke her spear in two and then socked her in the belly. He reared back and punched her again. And once again before InÚz drove the heel of her boot into the brother's instep, causing him to loosen his grip. She kicked Lyle hard in the groin and hammered her elbow into the brother's abdomen and then somersaulted away, grabbing the spearhead and coming to her feet before the vampires could recover.
The brother flew at her, his long arms windmilling. She kicked the knife from his hand and dropped to her knees. "She's a feisty little filly, ain't she, Tector?" Lyle called out. Tector ran into and over InÚz and she swept his feet from under him. As he sprawled to the ground, she threw an arm around his neck and locked his head back against her chest. She held the spearhead against his neck, ten inches of sharp curved steel poised against his skin.
Lyle started forward, but InÚz glared at him and said, "Stay where you are or I'll cut his head off."
Lyle sighed. "Well, that's about as fun as a fart in church. Being that you're a Meskin, you must know all about the Meskin standoff." Each hand went to one of his hips, drawing from beneath his long canvas duster two long-barreled revolvers. "┐Habla Colt Peacemaker, chica?"
"Shoot her, Lyle. Shoot the bitch between the eyes."
As Lyle walked towards her, barrels trained on her forehead, InÚz pressed her blade into Tector's neck. "I hope you come from a large family, Se˝or, for you are about to lose a brother."
"I 'spect you'd have brains all over California before you got near to cutting through the gristle, missy. Why don't you put the blade down real slow and let go of my brother. These here got hair-triggers on 'em and us vampires, you know, we don't think too good." He cocked the hammers back on both pistols. "I might blow your head clean off without even noticin'."
InÚz studied his serious eyes, which never veered from his target. She exhaled and loosened her hold on the vampire. Tector stood and kicked the spearhead out of her reach and walked over to join his brother. "You want to turn her, Lyle? She might be fun, cold nights on the trail."
"Not a bad idea, Tector. Not a bad idea at all. But do you want to be the one to get close enough to bite? I reckon this little heifer's got some fight left in her yet."
"Oh, no, Se˝or," said InÚz, flexing her wrist, ready to release the stake tucked into her sleeve, "how could I resist your demonic machismo?"
As Tector, fangs bared, stalked towards her, three figures rounded the corner of the boarding house. The two figures on the flanks were like men, but larger, greenish. InÚz had seen only drawings of trolls, but she recognized them easily. Between them, with a casual gait, strolled Mayor Wilkins. "That's enough of that, boys. Why don't you go into town and let me talk to our little friend here."
"That's all right by me," said Tector. "She'd probably taste of beans anyway--all them Meskins do. Y'all got any whores in this town? I'm feeling my oats tonight."
"Well, I like to think that this town is a nice place to raise a family," Wilkins said, "but I'm afraid some of the more unsavory element finds a nice home here too. And who can begrudge them that? Even a lowly prostitute can appreciate our clean streets and excellent schools--actually, right now, school. In fact, to be scrupulously honest, it's just a one room schoolhouse, but we have room to grow into, and, yes sirree Bob!, this is a town that's going to grow."
Lyle holstered his pistols. "So, um, is that a 'yes'?"
"Indeed. Sunnydale boasts the finest selection of ladies of the evening between Los Angeles and Monterey. Though I must admit there has been a bit of a shortage lately. And we all know who's responsible for that now, don't we?"
"That there Angelus fellow."
"That's right. So if you don't find anything to your liking, why don't you take it up with him? Show your dissatisfaction by, I don't know, killing him. That is what I'm paying you for, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir," said Tector, as he and his brother walked away.
The Mayor turned to InÚz. "Sven, Thorwald, help our friend to her feet." The two trolls each grabbed an arm of InÚz's and hoisted her upward. Their grip was tight and InÚz knew that struggling against them would be futile.
The Mayor extended a hand towards her. "I don't think we've been properly introduced--"
"I know who you are."
"Really? I wish the electorate of Sunnydale was as well informed as you. Voter apathy these days is outrageous. I swear, were mine not the only name on the ballot, I might have trouble getting reelected."
"What is it that you want with me?"
"Well, really, just for you to be yourself, do what you do best. Slay vampires. You do that occasionally, right? I was watching you from upstairs, and while you put on quite a humdinger of a show, there's a noticeable lack of dust."
"I did not expect them to be armed. The vampires in my country, they prefer to go without such things."
"Well, that's America for you. The frontier spirit just will not die out. Even when the frontiersman is, technically, dead."
"I would have killed them otherwise."
"I hope that you will not encounter such difficulties when it comes to Angelus and his brood. Of course, I'm willing to extend any assistance you may require. I have a lot of resources at my disposal. All the men you should need--giant hairy spiders too, a few magic tricks should you want to go that route." The Mayor kicked the broken shaft of the Wushu snake spear. "And better weaponry than Auburn Cole."
"Jacob stole that for me. He said that Se˝or Cole would not note its absence."
"Jacob's a crafty little devil, isn't he? Tell me, what has Jacob said about me?"
InÚz cocked her head. "He says that you cannot be trusted. But that you can be dealt with."
"That about sums me up right there. He didn't say anything about my effortless steersmanship of the ship of state, did he? No, Jacob wouldn't. Oh, well. Jacob is correct. I can be dealt with. These are my terms. You get to do what you're supposed to and slay some vampires--Angelus and the rest. Oh, heck, I'll even let you take out a few of my men if it will give you a jolly."
"And for this I get?"
"That stone you've come for. La piedra de San Isidro. Such a musical language you've got there. It's a lot of fun to speak. Buenas noches, Se˝orita. Mejor que hagas lo que se te manda o te mueres. Really has a lilt to it. You get your stone, I get my Glaive, and you get out of town. And if the stone's return to Spain upsets the balance of world power, so be it. I didn't have my heart set on Guam becoming American anyway."
"But won't your Glaive be useless without the stone?"
"Oh, the stone has some nifty properties, yes it does. But the real power is in the blade. Neral steel, you see. You just can't find it in this dimension; it cuts right through the fabric of space into nothingness. Even welds reality shut behind it. Rhad must have used some nifty enchantments to hold it in this dimension. But now that it's here, you can use it for all sorts of things. You can rebuild the entire world with it. Or destroy it, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, do we have a deal?"
InÚz nodded. "You are El Jefe."
"That's my girl. I think you'll enjoy working with me. There's never a dull moment."
The trolls released InÚz's arms. As she shrugged feeling back into her shoulders, a vampire approached the Mayor. "Sir, we've gone over the entire house. Angelus and his band have left, and they've taken the Glaive. They left this behind." He handed the Mayor a porcelain doll. "Do you think it's a clue?"
"I guess you wouldn't be the type to carry around a mirror, so you'll have to tell me if there's a deerstalker on my head. I rather doubt it; not really my sort of millinery. How am I supposed to know if it's a clue? It looks like a child's toy. Well, isn't Angelus the crafty one? He makes off with my Glaive and leaves me a toy. You just wait; I'll show him who's to be toyed with." He turned to InÚz. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get slaying!"
Drusilla bounced along through the joyous breezes, elated to at last be in a parade. The other marchers each carried a blonde rag doll. But she had none. Where had Miss Edith gotten to? Naughty girl. There would be no cake for her tonight. Instead, she had a much taller burden. She felt its long, hard surface through its swaddling clothes. Could she hear muffled murmurs coming from it? She couldn't tell over the soft music of the wind and the rising voices of the court.
"This is your grand scheme, Angelus?" said the Knight. "To send your enemies into other dimensions? What kind of pillock holds the key to reshaping the entire world and can only think of something like that? You ask me, we should use the Glaive to cut apart the world, refashion it into a staircase to Heaven. Take the fight up to the big man himself. I bet St. Peter would piss his robes when he sees the likes of us at the Pearly Gates." The Knight was all crooked moves and quicksilver leaps. His alabaster features stood out against the night.
Contrariwise, the dark King was slower, more considered, more plodding, vulnerable without his Queen. But without him there was no Game. "I don't think the Glaive works that way, William. And I know Heaven doesn't work that way. I've heard reliable reports. Think of it; how feared would we be if we could make someone disappear in the blink of an eye? Europe would be our abattoir, the Americas our buffet. Besides, it's a scary enough plan that it turned Darla's thoughts to betrayal."
"Is my name Carnelian or Chameleon? I've forgotten," said a reddishly opalescent star low on the horizon.
The Queen's long reach made the field hers; she was all over the place, unpredictable. "Oh, Angelus, you know that's just to keep you on your toes. My thoughts are never that far from betrayal."
"Still," said the Knight, "we might be a little more feared if we gave the stray thought to ending the world. It's what we do, right? We are evil here, prowling the night, not just out for a Sunday stroll." He'd jump all over the board, but he'd never be enough of a threat to get the King in check.
The new one was so young, so eager. She was only a pawn, but a pawn can become a queen someday, should she stay in the game long enough. "Let's not end the world just yet. After all, I just got here. So much to do. So many to eat."
Suddenly, the ground swayed and the night air was alive with fox fire. More players were coming, and they might just tip the board. She could see them, that awful man, that Mayor and... and her. Could it be? Miss Edith consorting with that nasty, nasty man? Naughty, naughty. There would be a spanking. "They've come together, plotting against us. She does not turn away from him as he runs his fingers through her raven hair."
The King turned to her. "The Slayer? I knew that little Spanish bitch would come together with the Mayor sooner or later. Oh, well, this can be to our advantage. If they're going to take tea together, it just means I can kill them both in one trip."
"Miss Edith. She cannot take care of herself. She's hopeless without her mummy. And she's hungry."
"Dru, I'll buy you a thousand dolls," spat the Knight. "Gobble up a million little girls until you find a dolly you like."
What was that song? The trees sang out to her, leaves rustling, but she couldn't make out the words. Was it even the trees that sang, or was the music coming from what she carried?
"My dear chap," said the haughty sapphire sparkler directly above. "You're Carnelian. I'm Contumely. Or am I Contumacy? I can never remember."
Was the King attempting a desperate maneuver? Seeking refuge in a castle? "Anna, tell me. This place you're taking us--it's defensible?"
The rag doll carried by the Pawn--the littlest of the blonde dolls--reached out with her mind, the thoughts caressing over Drusilla like waves. "InÚz has been nothing but a thorn in my side all this time, and now that I need her, where is she?"
"The Zagorrah hollowed out a tunnel to the caves in the hills. It took the Mayor and his men six months to flush them out."
"I think you're Customary. I'm Contemplation. Or Constipation. No matter."
That song! What was it? Whence did it come? Drusilla began to unwhorl the linen.
"Dru, dear, what did I tell you about not touching the burning things?"
The leaves turned shiny-side up as jeering faces filled Drusilla's view. The white marble sculpture of the Knight. The soft dark carved soapstone of the King. The patched-together remnants of the rag dolls. The burning contempt of the very stars.
"Drusilla, I just asked you to carry the damn Glaive. Don't do anything with it."
"You had to give that overgrown child the powerful artifact. What, you couldn't find an infant's crib to leave a loaded pistol in?"
"I think I'm Corundum, but I may be Corvine."
"So let me get this straight. She's a few aces short of a full deck, and you made me the maid?"
"Don't let her touch the Glaive! She'll know immediately how to use it. I don't even know how to use it, really. Just one touch, though, and she will. Jacob, I wish you were here. If she touches the Glaive, we're all doomed."
"You had to waste ten months on her. 'Just vamp her and get it over with,' I said. But no. You had to make her insane first. She was your project. You and your damn projects."
"Dru, love, it's all right. Spike is here for you. What's the matter, pet?"
"No, no. I'm Contemptuous. She's contemptible."
Drusilla stifled a sniffle. "The music, I can't make out the words! There's too much confusion! The stars! They know not their names!"
"Damn it, Drusilla! The stars already have names! That blue one straight overhead? That's Vega. And to its left is Deneb. Way over there on the right, that big orangish one? That's called Arcturus. And straight ahead, down by the moon? The red one that really twinkles? That's named Antares. God damn it! Crack open a book sometime, will you? Now give me back my Glaive."
She unfurled the last wrapping. The lyrics resolved themselves into words. "Pocketful of posies." Suddenly all was clear, and bright, and the heckling mob just melted away. She felt warm and loved and at peace and the voices died out and she was alone.
She immediately knew where she was. The air stank of lovemaking and spilt blood. The faint whiff of scorched unholy flesh lingered. The very walls called out to here with reminiscences of happy days spent in the arms of her Knight or under the heavy hips of her King. They had left there, what, an hour before? Two? But the house had not been vacant during that time. She inhaled the frustration. She breathed the violent fury left in the air. That girl had caused such a fuss. Such impertinence. Dru smiled at the thought of punishing her.
And there she was, bold as brass, just lying there as if she had done nothing wrong. Drusilla strode right to her, ready to mete out punishment. She grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her fiercely. "You've been a very naughty girl, conspiring with our enemy. Give me one good reason why I should not deal with you harshly."
Miss Edith had no answer.
"One loose word from you could destroy all we've worked for. Bad girl. How could you betray those who care for you so deeply?"
Miss Edith's head slumped forward shamefully.
"We feed you, clothe you, give you a roof over your head, and this is how you repay us?"
Miss Edith was silent in her contrition.
"Still, what else could you have done? Oh, Miss Edith. You had us so worried."
Miss Edith stared ahead in unblinking accusation.
"I'm so sorry, Miss Edith. You must have been so scared left alone here with that nasty man. I'll never abandon you again."
Drusilla hugged the doll tightly, warming her against her body. She was so cold--those brutes must have left her outside after they'd had their way with her. So helpless, so alone, so afraid. Drusilla would protect her.
Drusilla felt icy cold run down her back as she heard the words come from behind her. "Ave Maria, gratia plena." She wheeled to see the black eyed avenger upon her, gripping rosary beads in her left hand and a stake in her right. It was time for the spanking.
"Miss Edith! Get her!" Drusilla yelled, flinging the doll towards the Slayer. But Miss Edith was no match for the powers of a Slayer and was easily batted aside, poor thing. Drusilla felt charring on her cheek where the rosary-enwrapped fist crossed it. She just avoided the stake by spinning to her left and kicking the Slayer away. The Glaive sang eagerly, lusting to be used, so Drusilla ignored the burning heat against her hands and swung the heavy implement, cold-cocking the Slayer with the flat of the blade. The Slayer crumpled to the ground at Drusilla's feet and Drusilla felt satisfaction come over her. But the Glaive's song turned from a jaunty foxtrot to a disappointed sonata. That was not the way it had wanted to be used.
"Teach me," said Drusilla.
And suddenly she could sense it: the warp and weft of reality. She could see the lines where it could be cut, where it would unravel, the stitches she could undo, the way to fold it over on itself. She knew how to rip reality open and sew it back up again.
The Slayer at Drusilla's feet started to shake herself into consciousness. She climbed to her hands and knees, holding tightly to her stake. Drusilla kicked her in the stomach, dropping her again, and then carefully aimed the blade and swung. Suddenly twenty feet separated them. The new ground between them seemed as natural as the old beyond. The Glaive sang a joyous hymn as the Slayer stood and spun around in confusion. Then Drusilla used the point of the blade to purl up the distance and was upon the Slayer. She slashed a fingernail across the Slayer's cheek. The Slayer pounded her stake towards Drusilla's heart, but Drusilla let out the stitches and was again out of reach.
The Slayer, stake extended, charged her. Drusilla spun the Glaive, twisting the features of the earth beneath her so that suddenly she was behind the Slayer. She wrapped her arm around the Slayer's neck, cutting off her air, weakening her. When the Slayer began to slump, Drusilla spun her around and looked into her eyes. She began to weave her fingers before those eyes, concentrating. "Look into my eyes," Drusilla said. "Fall into my eyes. Fall into me." But the Glaive began caterwauling, throwing off Drusilla's focus. This was not the dance the Glaive wanted to attend.
Drusilla let the Slayer drop to the ground. She felt the warm, loving feeling come over her again, watched as the brightness burned away the Slayer and the boarding house. Soon, the light dimmed and she could see that she was in a glade of trees on a hill near the center of the town. The hill commanded a view of the main street on one side and the farmland on the other. The breezes here were calm and soporific, as they mixed with the smoke coming off Drusilla's palms. It was perfection, but there was something missing.
Drusilla remembered the hills in Normandy where the Norsemen had built their castles. This too was a commanding location. It needed a castle. Could she do it? Could she put a castle here? The Glaive sang its assent. With its help, it was a matter of seconds to fold over two continents. She concentrated on the castle she was looking for, and she felt one overlooking the Seine. The Glaive eagerly cut it out of its location in France and patched it into the California soil. There it was! A turreted keep overlooking Boca del Infierno.
Drusilla frowned. The effect wasn't at all what she imagined. Too garish. Too out of place. It seemed more a folly from the gardens of the nouveau riche than something with the sublimity she'd intended. She caressed the Glaive, expressing her dislike to it, and together they folded reality over the hill and sewed it shut. Drusilla could sense the castle there beneath the stitches, but to all appearances, it wasn't there. Well, were it ever needed again, the stitches could be let out.
She was in the town, walking the deserted streets, when she heard the singing. "A little maiden climbed an old man's knee, begged for a story, 'Do Uncle Please. Why are you single, why live alone? Have you no babies, have you no home?'" It complemented the woodwind airs the Glaive resonated with. She followed the song. "I had a sweetheart, years, years ago. Where she is now, pet, you soon will know. Listen to the story, I'll tell it all. I believed her faithless, after the ball."
She could see the singer, a goateed man in a tweed suit, wearing a pince-nez. He reminded her of the doctor Angelus had kidnapped in Vienna and made her talk to. The one who had wanted to know all about her Daddy. But which Daddy? It was just too frustrating and confusing and there had been tears and shrieking and finally Darla had made them let Herr Doktor go. This man had a much kindlier aspect, and Drusilla was drawn to him. And as she approached, she noticed that he was singing in close four-part harmony. "After the ball is over, after the break of morn; after the dancers leaving, after the stars are gone; many a heart is aching, if you could read them all; many the hopes that have vanished, after the ball."
The man sat on a bench outside the shuttered general store. He pulled a brown paper sack from his pocket, taking a small yellow sphere from it and popping it into his mouth. Drusilla, pulled by the music, sat next to him. "Hello there," he said, though still while singing. "Lemon drop?" He offered the sack to Drusilla, who eagerly took a candy from it and put it to her lips. "I suspect that you're one of those visitors I've been hearing so much about. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I'm Bougarek K'resh Djantik, but my friends call me Boo. Actually, Bougarek is only an approximation of my real name." He made a sound like a tea cart rolling down a flight of stairs. "You really need six mouths to say it properly. No matter. So, you've got the Glaive Richard is hell-bent on having."
"It sings to me, and I listen. But sometimes the tune is out of joint."
"I know how that is. I've got a taste for barbershop myself. Wait a minute--this is my favorite part." The other voices harmonized on "When I returned, there was a man, kissing my sweetheart, as lovers can. Down fell the glass, pet, broken that's all, just as my heart was after the ball." Boo wiped a tear from his eye as he continued speaking with his only apparent mouth. "I really wish one of my mouths were a soprano. There are some songs from The Mikado I really can't do justice. But I guess it's my lot in life. Tenor, tenor, baritone and bass. And two voices that couldn't carry a tune in a bucket."
He reached a reassuring hand to Drusilla's. "Your hands are all charred. Let me take a look." He licked his fingers and rubbed them soothingly on Drusilla's palm. The balm was somehow more soothing than mere saliva should have been. He smelled of the morning dew on newly turned earth and certain back alleys in London where she and Spike had shared wonderful meals. Also, there was the faintest hint of lavender. "I suppose it's the stone which makes the Glaive burn you so. Relic of a saint and all that. Even if the saint was, really, a Neral demon. Oh, I'd be a hypocrite to begrudge a Neral for passing. The K'reshians have had their own successes here. One of us became Pope Julius II. He liked to sneak into the Sistine Chapel and when no one was looking, lash out a tentacle and smack Michelangelo right on the buttocks. Then when Michelangelo would look down from the scaffolding, he'd have transformed into a bucket of gesso. I think that's why Jeremiah ended up looking so surprised. He was supposed to be filled with Old Testament gravitas, but whack! Right in the caboose!"
His body melted suddenly, giving Drusilla a momentary glimpse of his true, writhing form, before recoalescing into another, fleshier, human body. "Of course, I'll have my own chance to take part in human history. I'm going to be governor of this fair state. If I can throw California's support behind McKinley, perhaps Marc Hanna will reward me with the Vice Presidency. It's not much, really. Vice President is really small potatoes for a K'reshian, but we all have to start somewhere. And, of course, one can always find a K'reshian to pretend to be a crazed anarchist assassin."
Drusilla ran her fingers over the dusky steel of the Glaive's blade. Its singing was more subdued. It no longer drowned out the cacophony of the stars arguing over their names.
"Why the long face, my dear?"
"I can no longer hear the pretty music. It was so soothing, and now it's gone. And the stars are angry with me. I've made such a muddle of things."
"Well, I have a theory about that Glaive. When that Emerson child had control over it, it kept delivering itself into Richard's hands. That he couldn't hold onto it, well, cookies crumble just as we all will someday. I think the Glaive knows exactly how it wants to be used. And if it wants you to hear these stars, it has its reasons. Now as to your problem with the stars, well, I always like to say that there's no problem which can't be solved with the application of a little elbow grease. Of course, we K'reshians literally have the grease if not the elbows, but the metaphor applies to humans as well. And vampires."
"The stars call out for a conference. They wish to resolve the matter of their naming for once and for all."
"Sounds like a tall order, but I have confidence in you. But the question is, do you have confidence in yourself?"
Drusilla listened to the Glaive. It sang out resoundingly. It would take some time; the distances were great and the piecework would be difficult, but the fabric of reality could be pleated. And once the stars and she were finally together, it would be an easy task to assign names that everyone could be happy with.
"Yes," she said.
"Well, I wish you my best with that then. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a state to run. If you're ever in Sacramento, look me up."
Boo rose and walked off down the street. Drusilla considered her task. It was daunting to begin, but once commenced, the work would largely take care of itself. And there was no time to begin like the present.
The Glaive happily trumpeted its agreement.
Cole sat sipping at a rather small, delicate looking piece of china that seemed ridiculous in comparison to his huge fingers. He watched Jacob pace anxiously across the room, constantly checking his watch. Cole knew how much Jacob cared for the Emerson women. He had warned Rose away from Linc, but Jacob would never be able to settle down and marry her. He was happier when he could travel freely with nobody to answer to. Anyway, the Mayor watched her closely enough as it was, without putting her in the middle of Jacob's spat with Wilkins.
Cole had pushed Jacob into staying. It was torturing him, not being able to help Grace and Rose. He should be out there, rescuing them. But Cole's constant need to use logic as a precedent had appealed to Jacob's common sense.
InÚz finally stumbled in with Rupert slinking behind. She was massaging her throat and had an annoyed look on her face.
"It didn't go well then?" Cole observed calmly.
"It did. But I ran into the insane vampire. She had the Glaive."
"Drusilla," commented Jacob.
"She knows how to use it."
"Well, that's it. We have to make our move now. They can use the Glaive. They don't need Rose or Grace anymore."
Jacob was beginning to panic a bit. InÚz had always seen him as an unflappable character and was surprised to see him so flustered.
"So the Mayor believed you?" asked Cole.
InÚz looked at him pensively. "Yes... I am not sure. He keeps his thoughts well hidden," she answered, struggling with her words. "There are two more powerful vampires in the town now. They are working with the Mayor."
"So what now?"
The two looked at Cole, begging for a task.
Angelus strode down the path with a triumphant grin stretched across his face. "So our Dru knows how to use the Glaive. Too bad she's gone off with it. Spike, I want you to go find her. We'll bring our guests the rest of the way."
As Spike left, Angelus, Darla and Anna arrived at the opening of a huge cave. It seemed endless, as it stretched into the darkness.
"I'm not staying in this filth hole, Angelus. It may be adequate for other women," Darla rasped, tossing a spiteful glance in Anna's direction. "But I expect a little better."
Angelus was getting increasingly angry at Darla's constant complaining, but he knew that she was right.
"Darla, I know it's a filth hole. But we've got the girl, and we've got the Glaive. As soon as Spike and Dru get back, we're leaving. We'll go wherever you want."
Angelus had promised to leave many times on this trip, but for the very first time, Darla believed him.
As they moved deeper into the cave, Angelus and Darla stopped and listened carefully. Anna continued to lead them but Angelus called her back. She couldn't hear anything until a loud grunted breathing came closer to them. A creature much larger than them appeared, stalking out of the shadows.
Angelus tossed Rose to the ground and the three backed away. Anna tried to do the same with Grace, but Angelus corrected her sternly. They hastily left the cave leaving Rose far from the entrance.
The Gorch brothers stormed into the Mayor's office, expecting to force their way in. Instead they found Timothy sleeping on a chair outside. They opened the door to find the Mayor chanting in Latin from a large dusty book. He stopped after seeing the brothers and peered out the door past them.
"Excuse me for a moment gentlemen." He called Timothy into the office, then slammed the door over his lackey's head. "Now what can I do for you?"
Lyle stepped ahead of Tector. "Well, I don't know what lies you been tellin' us your honour. But their ain't no fun to be had down that their drinkin' house."
"What? Did Miss Anna not make your stay pleasurable?"
"There weren't no people there," Tector interrupted.
The Mayor quickly forgot about the Saloon and pulled up a chair for his guests.
"Gentlemen, I have a business proposition for you. Those vampires I told you about--I'll pay you to kill them. Now I already have someone working on it, but as I always say, three assassins are better than one. I was about to summon some shroud demons to do the job, but hey, this saves me the sacrifice. I didn't fancy having to clean up Timothy's dust."
"What's an assassins?"
"Quiet Tector. We got a job to do."
Jacob removed his axe from the sheet that covered it. He put some dust into a little bag that hung from his belt. Suddenly, Rupert came running into the room and muttered something to Cole. One of his ogres entered the room, carrying Rose.
They sat around as Jacob tended to a sick Rose. "He said some vampires left her in the caves the ogres stay in."
"What about Grace?"
"They took her."
"Grace..." Rose muttered in her hazy state.
"We'll find her," Jacob reassured her.
"íBastantes!" Leaping to her feet, InÚz crossed over to the wall holding the weapons. She picked out a plain wooden staff along with a simple bow and turned to face the men and Rose. Gesturing at the bow, she raised an eyebrow at Auburn. "You have arrows, Se˝or?"
"InÚz, you can't go alone! I know you're the Slayer 'n' all, but there're four of them. And they have the Glaive."
Rose was struggling to raise herself, shrugging off Jacob's restraining hand. "The Glaive? Let them keep the thing -- I just want my girl back, alive!"
InÚz glanced at Jacob, her face expressionless, then shrugged. "You know that they will keep her alive only as long as she is of use to them. Once they are sure that the mad one can control the Glaive..."
As she finished the Spanish girl's sentence in her mind, Rose gave a keening wail and collapsed back against the couch, sobbing.
"I think we have time, yet." As he spoke, Jacob gave Rose's shoulder an awkward pat. "After all, we don't know that they can control their mad friend, let alone control her controlling the Glaive... er... if you see what I mean..."
"I don't want that we wait, now" InÚz replied. "We wait long enough, already. They must die, these monstruos -- I will kill them, and take the Stone back to Spain, where it belong. Se˝ora, I will bring the daughter back to you, I promise. And," she looked at Jacob and Cole "you must destroy the Glaive. ┐Usted entiende? You understand? It is too big a thing for bad creatures to find again."
When they said nothing, she gave a decisive nod. "Bueno. So. Arrows?"
Anna, realizing they'd never make it to the house she'd had in mind before daybreak, had led the group to an abandoned store on the edge of town. A sign, bearing the name 'Marston's Mercantile', hung drunkenly over the door. Several windowpanes were broken, and thick dust covered most surfaces, but Angelus was pleased. Setting Darla to her feet, he pulled her close for a smacking kiss.
"Damn it, Angelus!" Straightening her bonnet, Darla scowled at him. "I don't know why you're so delighted with yourself. Your grand plan isn't exactly working, is it? That imbecile has your precious Glaive, and who knows what she'll do with it before Spike catches up with her -- if he catches up with her!" Pausing in her tirade to glare at Anna, she added, "And you -- put that girl down, find some cloths and dust this dump you've brought us to. Caves and mercantiles!" Turning her attention back to Angelus, she continued, "You'd better make up your mind, Angelus. I won't stay here much longer. The next stop we make had better be Paris, or I'll want to know the reason why!"
Grinning, Angelus started to reach out a hand to pat her cheek, then thought better of it. "Aww, darlin', c'mon now," he wheedled, "we'll go to Paris, and I'll get you all the pretty dresses and gewgaws you want, you know that. And then Don Giovanni, remember? Just have a little patience, and I'll fetch you the world, just you wait and see. As for Dru, well, Spike'll find her, and bring her and the Glaive back home to us. Then," giving the unconscious girl at his feet a contemptuous kick, "we'll find out how to use the thing, one way or another."
With a little 'Pfff', Darla gave him a disgusted look and crossed to one of the unbroken windows, where she stood staring out at the dark street, tapping a foot impatiently on the plank floor. Over the rooftops she could see a lightening of the sky. They'd be stuck in this dump for the rest of the day, she could see that. Still, she thought, turning to look at Angelus as he crouched over Grace, there are compensations, I suppose. She felt a sudden rush of adrenaline.
He looked over at her.
"If I didn't know better, I'd be thinking you'd developed a fondness for little blonde girls... why don't you come here and prove me wrong?"
Eyes narrowing, Angelus rose to his feet. Without taking his eyes from Darla's, he said "Anna. Take our guest into the storeroom. And stay there."
As the storeroom door closed softly behind him, he crossed over to where Darla leant against the window frame. "You know," he reached out to lift her up to him, "I do have a certain fondness for a blonde..."
She closed her eyes as he bent to her, her head tilting back, her arms lifting to curl around his neck. As their lips met, she shivered delicately. As one kiss led to another, he started to lower them both to the floor, and she placed her hands on his chest to push him slightly away from her.
"Not so fast, darling child! This floor is filthy, and I like this dress..."
Darling child. The words made him shudder, reminding him forcibly, as they always did, of their first days together. Days -- nights -- filled with killing. Blood and sex. The smell of both in his nostrils. With a soft growl, as his face morphed, he lifted her up to the counter and spread her knees apart. As he ran a hand over the soft velvet covering her breasts, she gasped softly. Threading her hands through his hair, she pulled him closer, leaning forward to run her tongue delicately along the rim of his ear. Running his hand down the length of her right leg, he gripped the hem of her skirts to lift them up and out of his way. At the same time, anchoring her to him with his other arm around her waist, he pulled her tight against him.
Giving a soft chuckle of appreciation, Darla lifted slightly to rub herself against his erection. With an impatient grunt, he freed himself, and, thanking his stars for crotchless pantaloons, bent her back over his arm. Finding her wet and ready for him, he thrust hard into her. As he did so, Darla sank her teeth into the firm neck above her, and drank. And sent them both whirling into the abyss.
In the storeroom, Anna and Grace stared at each other. They could hear the sounds coming from the other room, and Grace, awake now, was blushing furiously behind her gag.
Anna laughed. "Why, Gracie! You heard worse when you came acallin' on me, you know you did!"
Grace stared at her aunt, her eyes huge.
"Now, I could take the gag away from you, couldn't I? And if I do, you won't try somethin' silly, like screamin', now would you, Gracie?" As the girl shook her head, the vampire smiled, her eyes cold. "No. 'cos that'd be a fool thing to do, wouldn't it? And you're no fool, are you, Gracie?" Grace shook her head again, and Anna rolled the girl over on her side to undo the cloth which bound her mouth. "Remember now," she said, as she rolled the girl back again to prop her up against the storeroom wall, "one peep outta you, and --" she showed Grace her demon face, and the girl dropped her head to her raised knees, tiredly.
Some hours had passed. Opening his eyes, Angelus stared towards the window. He wasn't sure how long they'd slept, and the day was cloudy, so he couldn't judge the time by the sun's position. He had found an old tarpaulin in a corner of the store and had spread it on the floor behind the counter. He'd thought it safe enough to lie there for a while and sleep. No one knew where they were. He lay behind Darla, who was curled into him, spoon fashion, and he'd pulled half the tarpaulin over them. As he lay there, with her bottom rubbing up against him, he could feel himself hardening, and eased an arm around her to find a breast. Tugging at her nipple, he lowered his head to her shoulders and licked his way up towards her neck. As she gave a sleepy sigh, he pulled one of her legs up over his thigh and pressed urgently against her. When she lifted obligingly, he pushed into her, thrusting slowly at first, then faster, until at last she gave a low scream, and as he emptied himself into her, he, in his turn, sank his teeth into her neck and drank.
Padding over to the window, Darla looked out at the gloomy, deserted street. Glancing back over her shoulder at Angelus, who lay unmoving under the dusty tarpaulin, she thought quickly. She didn't know where Drusilla might be, but wherever she was, she had the Glaive, and Darla was determined that whoever ended up with the accursed thing, it wasn't going to be Angelus.
Moving quickly, she crossed to the counter, picking up her scattered clothes. Seeing her torn undergarments, she hesitated. With a sidelong glance to make sure he was still asleep, she reached down and picked up Angelus's long underpants and slipped them on, pulling the drawstrings tight around her slender waist. Surveying the voluminous red cloak, she gave a slight frown. Angelus had taken it from a fat woman he'd eaten in England, and told Darla she looked like Red Riding Hood in it. Though it was a dark, gloomy day, it was better safe than sorry, and the cloak had kept her from harm in the past. Anyway, she was hungry. And while she was looking for something to eat, she'd search for Drusilla herself.
InÚz had searched all the likely places. She'd been up to the saloon. Empty. Bloody. The boarding house, also empty. She hadn't seen much of anyone, really. It was almost as if the God-fearing citizens of Sunnydale could sense the miasma permeating the air, and were staying safely behind their locked and bolted doors.
She almost missed it. Almost. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flash of color as it disappeared around the side of an old abandoned store. As she ran towards it, she reached behind her to pull an arrow from her quiver. Pausing to ready her bow, she edged her way around the wooden building. Ahead of her, walking quickly down the shadowed alley which ran between the buildings, was Darla.
Darla whirled. InÚz smiled and let fly the arrow. As it thudded into the wall at her side, Darla's eyes widened in shock. Then, quick as thought, she flung off her cloak and tore at the buttons of her skirts, dropping them to the floor, so that she faced the Slayer in stockinged legs and pantaloons. As InÚz ran towards her, holding aloft the staff she had taken from Auburn Cole's, Darla spun around and kicked out, landing a blow that knocked the Spanish girl off her feet. She was up in a flash, lashing at the vampire with the staff. Using the momentum of one of the blows, Darla sprinted half way up the wall and somersaulted backwards over the other girl's head, her demon face surfacing.
"So, Slayer." Circling around as she spoke, Darla smiled, her yellow eyes glowing. "We meet again. Are you so eager to die, then?"
"Are you so sure it will be me, puta?"
"Oh, I think so, Slayer, I think so..." With a sudden rush, she slammed into the Slayer, knocking her through the storeroom door. As Anna reared to her feet, Grace screamed and shuffled backwards, out of the way of the two antagonists. Taken aback at the sight of the other two women, InÚz stopped in her tracks and Darla took quick advantage, backhanding the other girl viciously into the front of the store just as Angelus appeared, half-dressed. No one noticed as Grace scrambled awkwardly to her feet and edged furtively through the door to the street.
Before Angelus could utter a word, Darla reached forward, grabbed the staff from the Slayer's hands and jabbed one end hard into the girl's stomach. As InÚz started to fold, the blonde vampire caught her by the head and pulled her close. Brown eyes stared into blue. Darla smiled. "Say 'Hola!' to Saint Peter, Slayer!" And with one flashing move, she twisted, snapping the girl's neck with a vicious crunch. The Spanish girl's body dropped soundlessly to the floor.
Mayor Wilkins stepped through the door brushing fastidiously at a lapel, followed by several of his minions including three tall, almost human-looking M'Fashnik demons and the Gorch brothers, well-wrapped against the sun in gaudy ponchos and vast sombreros. Surveying the scene in front of him, the Mayor added apologetically, "I do hope this isn't an inconvenient moment, ladies and, er, gentleman?"
Angelus glared at Darla. "Damn it, Darla, did you bring him here!?" he exclaimed. His legs trembled beneath him. He dug his feet into the floor so no one would notice. He wished Darla hadn't drained so much blood from him. She did that a lot, just to remind him who'd sucked who first in their relationship.
Darla looked annoyed. "Not this time, darling."
The Mayor stared down at the Slayer. "You know they'll just make more of them," he said. "Whoever 'they' are." He shrugged. "Guess we'll be keeping the Stone here in Sunnydale." He looked up at the vampires. "But that's neither here nor there at the moment." A big smile from His Honor. "What I've come for is the Glaive."
"It's not here," Darla replied. "It's been... misplaced."
Angelus could tell that Darla was sizing up the Mayor's minions to see if they could fight them. Three against five. With the size of those demons, the odds were against them.
"Well, that's no good," the Mayor sighed. He scratched his jaw. "That's no good at all. You wouldn't happen to know who... misplaced it?"
Angelus shot a look at Darla. But Darla had no intention of putting the Glaive in the Mayor's hands, either. "Sorry, but we don't," she replied.
The Mayor scanned the room. "Where's that eccentric friend of yours?" he asked. "And her rough-and-ready other half?"
Darla paused just a beat too long. "Uh--on their way. But they don't have the Glaive, either."
Just then, a fourth M'Fashnik demon arrived, his big meaty hand wrapped around Grace's scrawny upper arm. Grace winced. "I found her trying to run away," the demon announced. "She doesn't run too good."
"Ah, the other thing I needed!" the Mayor cheered. "Our little shopping trip is almost completed, boys."
That half-breed girl was bloody useless, Angelus thought, staring hard at Grace. He wanted to get her away from the Mayor just so he could kill her. But that couldn't be a priority now. He couldn't let the Mayor find Dru and his prize. They had to do something. He glanced meaningfully at Darla. His sires' eyes drifted away from him in silent acknowledgement.
The Mayor saw their passing look. "Oh, now, now," he interjected, "I wouldn't try anything if I were you. See, my boys here have this nasty habit of tearing things to pieces." The Mayor glanced at the ceiling. "Like this egg-shell of a building, for example."
Without even a signal, the M'Fashnik demons gave a resounding group yell, throwing their fists into the air. Then each ran for a wall and started beating on it. The building shook as if it were in the grip of a real California earthquake. Grace screamed and threw her arms over her head. Lyle Gorch yanked Grace tight against him. Grace struggled in his arms.
"Well, yee-hah!" the vampire cheered. "Go, little filly!"
As debris from the ceiling rained down around them, Angelus took a quick survey of the scene. The vampire brothers were safe in their ponchos, he realized, but he, Darla, and Anna only had their street clothes. Darla dove under the counter, followed by a quickly scrambling Anna. Angelus hated the cowardliness of the move, but common sense got the best of him and he started across the room towards the counter, too.
Then he heard a crack. He looked up. A large wooden plank lunged at him from above. It hit his head with a whip-lashing thud.
The sun was already up, and there was one place Spike had left to look in the whole bloody town of Boca Bloody del Infierno. He ran into the General Store, yanking the scratchy wool blanket that he'd taken from his early breakfast host off his head.
The elbow of his left arm was on fire.
"Sodding... blimey... bloody... bollocks!" he spat angrily, slapping at it with his bare hand. Then he thought to use the blanket.
"Spike?" cooed a familiar sweet voice. Spike looked up, the blanket clutched around his arm. It was a sight for sore elbows: Drusilla, standing in the center of the room, with two pale male corpses and the Glaive lying in the dusty floor at her feet.
"There you are. What's that thing doing on the ground?"
Drusilla held up her hands to greet him. Her palms were red and blistered. "Oh, Spike! The naming of the stars! I had it all arranged! And then those wicked flickers disappeared!" She pouted. "I don't think I shall be naming them after all."
Spike threw the blanket to the ground. "It's just daylight Dru. The stars'll be back." He examined his scorched elbow. "In the meantime, it looks like we're stuck here in this bloody..." A quick look around the store. A flash of a vermin tail in the corner. "Rat-hole."
Drusilla smiled and shook her head. "The Glaive can take us where we want to go."
"Can it, then? You can control it?"
Drusilla danced on the balls of her toes around the Glaive and the left-overs of her own morning meal. The shop keepers, Spike concluded. They must have shown up for work and found themselves turned into bowls of porridge instead. "The Glaive sings to me what it desires," Drusilla crooned.
"Does it desire that we head back to a dark cave where that bint Anna took the others?"
Drusilla stopped dead in her tracks and tip-toed over to her vampire child. "Oh, my little Spike. You like her. Her birth has raised you in the King's esteem."
"If you mean I'm not the last sodding head on the bottom of the sodding totem pole, you're right," Spike replied. He pointed down at the Glaive. "But let's go join the others now. Right."
Drusilla gave him a lingering look of amusement. Then she knelt down to pick up the Glaive.
Spike felt a rush of panic. "Bloody hell, woman! Don't pick that thing up with your bare hands!" He looked around for the blanket and scooped it off the floor. Then he picked up the Glaive with the fabric protecting his hand and thrust it at Dru. Once she had it, he put his hand on her shoulder.
Dru closed her eyes and hummed as if in a trance. She was communing with the Glaive.
"Take us to Mommy and Daddy!" she whispered.
The Glaive glowed its assent.
The Mayor pulled the last curtain closed, darkening the large basement room of Rutherford Gleaves' stately mansion. He turned around and surveyed his minion's handy-work.
The annoying dark-haired male vampire glared at him from across the room. He was quite well-bound in the odd contraption Gleaves normally used to "motivate" certain lazy workers.
In front of the motivation device was a small wooden chair. Grace's front row seat. She sat with a Gorch brother on either side, staring down her pretty neck. The Mayor hoped she would enjoy the little show he was about to put on. He wasn't doing it just for her, but she deserved a reward for falling into his hands again.
On the left side of the bound vampire, two of the four M'Fashnik demons stood over a round metal brazier, slowly turning irons with white-hot tips in their gloved hands.
The Mayor stepped around them and grinned big at Angelus. "Well, I had some questions for you, but I see you're rather tied up at the moment."
Angelus tugged at his chains. "And you're a horse's ass," he hissed. "Don't you know you can't torture a torturer?" His eyes were heavy-lidded, their glint as mean as a snake's. "The vicious streak we vampires have? Well, it usually comes with a bit of its opposite as well. And I've stood worse than this from better men than you."
One of the M'Fashnik demons turned on his heel and strode towards Angelus with a glowing poker. "Well, then, vampire, you won't mind if I do this!" He stabbed it hard into Angelus' bare ribs. Angelus winced, then grinned and licked his lips. "You can do better than that," he murmured.
"No he can't," a voice behind Angelus growled. Angelus tried to turn, but the chains held him in position. A hot poker seared his spine. He moaned. The other demon! he realized, his head cloudy. When the hell had he'd gotten back there--
Another poker to the chest, barely grazing his nipple. Angelus wailed.
"That's the sound I like to hear!" the Mayor cheered. "You boys go on with it." He walked towards Angelus. "Unless of course our 'Master' vampire here would like to tell us where his nutty little minion and her boy are hiding."
"I don't know," Angelus gasped. Grace was staring at him with dark cow's eyes. A hot poker hit Angelus in the front again. He wailed. Grace's eyes flickered with some unnamable emotion.
"Of course you know," the Mayor went on. "You're their sire, aren't you? I believe that's what your charming blonde companion said. Can't sires sense their offspring?"
"I can feel her..." Angelus gasped reflexively, "in town.... Doesn't mean I know where she is."
Another hot poker, this time rebounding off his shoulder blade and hitting his shoulder. Angelus wailed again.
"Very well," the Mayor said. "Carry on, boys."
Another stab in the chest. Angelus wailed. Another stab in the back. Angelus wailed again. And then another, and another, front-back, front-back. Angelus wailed in rhythmic timing.
Finally the demon in front of him paused and leered, his free hand on his hip. "Has anyone told you--" He thrust his poker deep into Angelus' stomach. Angelus wailed. "That you give good scream?"
Spike opened his eyes. He was in the corner of a dilapidated building, barely inches from a streak of sunlight beaming through a hole in the roof. He pushed himself up against the wall behind him.
Then he saw Darla and Anna crouched under a counter top. He looked around. But no Dru. No Glaive. Bollocks! The Glaive had somehow separated them!
"Spike!" Darla exclaimed, "where the hell is Dru?!"
Spike shrugged with frustration. "She and the Glaive must have gone to Angelus," he concluded.
"The Mayor has Angelus!" Darla screeched. "And now, thanks to you two fools, he has the Glaive as well!" She yanked herself out from under the counter-top, stumbling to avoid the streaking sunlight. Then she stood tall and brushed the dust from her shoulders, breasts, and skirt.
She glared at Spike. "Another fine mess you've gotten us into this time!"
Drusilla opened her eyes to find herself and the Glaive in a dark room lit only by flickering oil lamps. There were curtains over tiny windows at the tops of the walls.
The room was full of people. Not nice people, by the looks of them. The Master of the Kingdom and his court.
And in the corner, hands bound above him by irons, was her daddy, his glorious bare chest looking quite bruised and pitted with harsh black-pink scars.
But Spike seemed to be missing, as was Grand-Mummy and Dru's new little sister.
"Well," said the Mayor, strolling towards Drusilla with a big, friendly
smile, "How nice to see you, my dear. And thank you so much. My little problem
seems to have been solved."