are some who make their living from the sea. And some who die providing it.
"Will you hear of Cruel Coppinger
He came from a foreign land;
He was brought to us by the salt water,
He was carried away by the wind!"
Hawker of Morwenstow.
Water laced with salt beat upon
expectant faces turned to the sea. Lightning crackled overhead, illuminating
the drama unfolding in the bay. Drenched to the bone, chilled and numbed by the
ice in the wind, the villagers, whose figures dotted the shore and the rise of
the hills above, watched with keen interest the strange vessel foundering in
the boiling seas. They were wreckers and they welcomed the storm. It was their livelihood, their salvation
from the meagre living they scratched from the land, and the sea promised more
bounty than that of fish. The tempest howled, ripping the foreign sails to
shreds, churning the waters white, bringing death to all who had the misfortune
to venture there. The current was too
strong and they knew the ship would never make Harty Pool. The strange vessel
was rolling. Deeply laden, was the hope of the innkeeper, water-logged more
like, were the thoughts of the scowling pig farmer. It neared the shore and the
folk could see the stricken faces of the men who crewed her. They stood like
dead men, pale and lifeless, lashed to the rigging. One caught their attention.
He was a massive fellow, tall and powerfully built. He was bare to the waist
when he plunged into the boiling waters, and all thought he was lost until they
sighted his sturdy figure, arms flashing as he swam through to the shore. The
onlookers watched him as he staggered onto the beach half-drowned and dripping.
The stranger spied a horse upon which sat a maiden and, snatching up a cloak
from a bystander, mounted the horse and, capturing Miss Dinah Hamlyn within his
arms, rode away letting the horse have its rein. The villagers heard later, on
arriving at the door of the woman's family home, the man greeted her father in
a strange tongue. Some thought he was a Viking, a Dane come to pillage,
instead, he was now flotsam washed to the pebbled shore. Others wondered if he
were Irish. They say the Irish were large and fierce. Wherever he hailed from,
he made himself at home. He announced
himself as Coppinger and was a grateful and gracious guest... at first.
Those on the beach never profited from
the wreck, for there was none in the end. The ship and its crew vanished into
the storm: it was as if it had never existed. They left off their vigil and,
disappointed, retreated to the relative warmth of their homes. From that moment
on their lives were never the same.
Packet rustled as its pages were folded, and put aside. The small article, once found, had produced
an even smaller-sized piece of information. The body that had been retrieved
from the sea two days previous hadn't been identified. All the authorities
knew; it was male, of African origin, and was a young man in his twenties. The
body, as bodies are that have been afloat in the chill waters of the sea, was
decomposing, bloodless, and the many wounds could have been inflicted by fish,
and rocks that lined the bay and cliffs around.
and finished his tea. The cup rattled in its saucer when he pushed them aside.
Buffy was upstairs putting on lipstick and such that women do when venturing
out. The day hadn't warmed much since they set off from Westbury earlier in the
day. The March wind still carried winter's bite even though this part of Britain
was warmer than most this time of year. Giles got up from the kitchen table and
proceeded to wash up the dishes from their late lunch. Mac was due shortly, and
they had work to do.
Looking in the
mirror, Buffy fiddled with the scarf around her neck until she was happy with
it. It was a waste of time, she knew. The wind would make a mockery of her
efforts, and she knew in her line of work she usually ended up dishevelled. It
didn't stop a girl from trying though.
She looked in the mirror at the spot she knew Angel occupied. She could
feel him watching her from behind the covers of his book. He had had no choice
but to huddle in sleep under the blanket in the back seat of Giles' Discovery
during the trip down. Buffy mused, not
for the first time, what it must be like to be restricted so.
fine," he said, confirming her earlier thought.
She smiled at
him through the glass.
You're just saying that, but I'll take anything I can."
She ran her
fingers through her hair, deciding not to wear a hat after all, and turned
around. The room was small as these old cottages tended to be. There was barely
enough room for the small double bed, a dresser in the corner, and a robe that
looked like it could topple over any moment, and not much else. Even the mirror
was small. Enough to see her head and shoulders only. Angel was lying propped
up against the pillows on the bed, a book on his lap but his dark eyes were on
her. The worn bindings betrayed the age of the book, the yellowed pages too,
and the fact it wasn't one of those books with a glossy cover like so many on
sale in the book stores. She bit back the remark poised on the tip of her
tongue. Angel may be older than the volume he was holding, but he wore his age
a whole lot better than it did and it wasn't fair to tease him about it. Another thought surfaced. Her forehead
creased in a frown. She didn't know why she hadn't wondered about this before.
"How come the
book doesn't reflect in the mirror?" She asked him. "The book isn't vamp."
his shoulders. "Metaphysics, perhaps? I guess it's the same thing with the
clothes we wear. They don't reflect either."
"Otherwise you'd have to be naked to sneak up on a body...I'd like to see that."
Laughter bubbled from her lips.
laughing enough to add, "Vamps' clothes do turn to dust when they get staked, I
"I took a pair
of sunglasses off a vampire I staked once. It didn't turn to ash when the rest
of him did." His mind began to wander
along that train of thought. There were infinite questions to be asked, and
interrupted his musings. "What are you reading?"
"A history of Cornwall
and its legends."
couldn't resist. Her smile widened. "Haven't
you lived through all that?"
thinned. "Very funny."
She grinned at
him. "What history, exactly?"
turned down to the book on his lap.
presume they didn't name him that because of his sunny disposition?"
"He was a
smuggler. A cruel and vicious man."
Buffy had to
wonder how cruel and vicious this Coppinger was to Angel's way of thinking. She
almost missed his next sentence.
ashore at Welcombe Mouth up in the north of Cornwall,
"And this was
He had to
Buffy made a
face. She adored the sheepish look on his face. He loved her back for making
him feel that way.
heard the crunch of tyres on the gravel and the purr of a car outside.
your ride is here."
on her warm coat and looked again at her image in the mirror. You'll do, she
decided, planted a warm kiss on Angel lips and scooted out the bedroom door
with a "see you later."
her descend the narrow stairs and meet Giles at the door.
see the look of frustration on Angel's face when he heard the doors slam and
the car pull away.
Mac was in
Helston helping his wife Tamsin sort out a couple of cottages she let this side
of the Lizard. One was vacant, needing a few repairs and Mac was the man doing
them. The other the Paranormal team were using. Buffy and her side-kicks - a
thought she was never going to share with said side-kicks - had already had the pleasure of staying in
one of Tamsin's holiday lets when they had a Kran demon to take care of down
Cadgwith way. Buffy has already learned from her own experience, village folk
did not talk to city folk or strangers, be they in an official capacity or
otherwise. Cornish people were even more closed-mouthed. They were an
independent lot. Cornwall seemed, to Buffy,
almost independent from the rest of Britain.
That didn't stop them knowing every detail of your life though. Tamsin was Cornish, a local as far as they were
concerned, and she had heard talk of strange goings-on.
had a lovely lilt to it and Buffy loved his accent, although it was hard for
her to understand at times.
vessels," he said, "seen, and then not. Boats running in and out, no one knows
what is coming ashore, and the lot vanishing in some rum fashion."
appropriate for Prussia Cove, don't you think?"
Buffy tapped her watcher on the shoulder. "Giles? Share!"
"Prussia Cove used
to be where the Carter brothers ran their smuggling operation."
"And this was
like back in the bad old days?"
1700s. John Carter was born in 1770, he and his brothers were wreckers and
smugglers; they used to ply the French coast during the French wars."
chuckled. "First Angel, and now you."
reading about Cruel Coppinger when we left."
eyebrows rose. "He was?"
obviously know who the guy was. What is it with you old people and tales of
harrumphed at her dig, all the while wondering why Angel was looking up
Coppinger. His stamping grounds had been on the northern side of Cornwall,
Mac drove, not
knowing what she was talking about. Old people? Did she think Giles and
are wonderin' what's what," he said instead. "There's no money about, no sign
of goods being shifted, and now a body has turned up. Nobody's thinking it a coincidence."
Giles was sure
that nothing went unnoticed by the local community. The people here were
descended from smugglers, and wreckers too. They would know the score. It was
almost impossible to smuggle goods by sea in these days. The coastguard made
sure of that, and with the rise of vile acts of terrorism, Giles knew the
authorities were extra vigilant on land, and on sea. Today the English
Channel could be crossed beneath the waves with contraband hidden
inside containers, the boot of a car, and the back of a lorry, if one was
daring. Modern smuggling didn't need a ship to risk the waves, or the lives of
men. And yet, some still did, stirring
the blood of the locals.
Knowing he was
asking a lot, Giles said, "Is it possible to speak to any of these witnesses? The fisherman who dragged the
body in? And what about the houses that
overlook the cove? Surely, someone has noticed the comings and goings?"
may be persuaded to talk to you. The newspapers mentioned him, and apparently
he doesn't take kindly to it. His local is in Helston. I'll take you there, if
he's about. As for the people at Prussia Cove, they'll not be a help."
forward. "Why? Won't they talk to us?"
Mac glanced at
her out of the corner of his eye. "Lot's been
cleared out. The few houses that aren't derelict have been leased."
whom?" Giles wanted to know.
around and came up with a name."
said he had never heard of it. Neither had she. Buffy knew that Giles would be
getting his laptop out and looking into it the first chance he got.
stopped sightseers and folk visiting the cove, though I doubt that anything
happens much during the day," said Mac, slowing the car and pulling up to a
stop. Another vehicle stood before them, a blue sedan, slightly battered and
the window, Buffy saw that they had arrived at the end of the road. Besides the
other car, all she could see were grassy fields, but when she stepped out she
could smell the sea. The walk to the cove was about half a mile and Buffy was
glad of the exercise. The cold wind whipped at her scarf, which in turn tugged
at her throat. Buffy didn't mind. There was even a glimmer of sun. When she
looked up, she saw patches of blue, the clouds being blown across the sky with
the rising wind. The men were quiet behind her, and she could hear their
breathing quicken when she set a brisker pace. A large house stood to attention
on the rise of a hill. It had a grand view of the sea. Buffy frowned, looking
at it, it didn't look abandoned. It was too well cared for, set within its
hedges and fields. It must be one of the leased properties Mac was talking
about. Their path led them onwards
keeping a distance between them and the brooding house.
At the end of
their walk they found several small stone dwellings clinging precariously to
the cliff tops, roots of bushes long neglected finding purchase beside the old
foundations. The houses stared silently with netted eyes at the sea. Anyone
gazing out those windows were likely to see all manner of things the waves
brought in to shore.
Over her right
shoulder, Buffy could see a huddle of low buildings. They seemed abandoned and
run-down. The roofs didn't appear as if they could hold back a drop of rain,
they were that ramshackle. Beneath the buildings, rocks climbed up from the
inlet forming the edge of the cliff. She wondered why timber and stone hadn't
succumbed to gravity a long time ago. Buffy looked back to the bay and took the
time to look out at the famous Prussia Cove.
It had a stark
beauty, Buffy had to give it that. Californian beaches were long stretches of
golden sand and curling waves. At least where she had come from. The cove was
rocky, the patch of sand barely large enough to hold a picnic blanket - two people were doing just that, and in this
weather, Buffy thought them mad - and
the narrow inlet was a sliver of water that rushed between the rocks and
cliffs. There was power in the sea. Buffy could see how dangerous beaching a
boat could be here.
Giles and Mac
stood beside her admiring the view. Both men thought it magnificent, the earth
meeting the sea. The wildness of the land and the majesty of oceans with its
endless horizon falling off the face of the earth affected a man, causing his
chest to tighten. An Englishman was tied to the sea, it was in his blood,
Giles‘ too. It didn't matter that one didn't venture forth to ride the
blue-green waves. Britain
was an island, herself surrounded by sea. It had been settled by people who
came in ships, displacing those that had come before, or simply adjusting and
learning to live side by side.
like much of a place to land a boat."
were used to ferry goods ashore, the larger boats stood off, guns at the
Smugglers did battle with the revenue cutters on many occasions. Some of the boats
had guns on board. The Carters had a cutter that had 19 guns, and a lugger that
carried 20. The boats were rather large. It was their business, and they took
it very seriously."
never cease to amaze me with your knowledge of the oddest things," Buffy said,
images of Russell Crowe in Master and Commander blossoming in her head.
"I don't think
it odd," he replied, defensive.
Mac put in,
"John Carter had a battery of guns on top of the cliffs here. They fired on the
revenuers who were intent on following one of Carter's ships into the cove."
her head. "The good old days were really the bad old days, then."
wasn't a crime as far as most folk were concerned. Taxes were high, and no one
was fond of the tax man. That's still true today. Men, women and children were
involved in hiding and moving the cargo," Mac explained, not wanting the
American lass to think badly of the Cornish people.
meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid", and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!
Five and twenty ponies ... " Giles recited.
"A Smuggler's Song, by Rudyard Kipling.
The message is clear, don't you think? Thousands of people were involved in
smuggling, and no help was given to the King's men."
her eyebrows. "King George? That was then, this is now, Giles. Times have
"Has it? And
yet, not a few weeks ago in Branscombe, people descended in their droves to
scavenge the cargo from the Napoli when it ran
"Yeah - yeah.
Come on, let's see if they left us a clue, whoever they may be." Buffy turned
and hurried down the path, the men taking it more cautiously behind her.
there wasn't a footprint, claw mark, slime, or a sign saying, ‘smugglers were
here' to help us, and the caves I found were empty. Still, they gave me the
wiggins, " Buffy finished, after filling in the details of her afternoon to
together on the sofa in the sitting room. She had found him there on her
return, reading. Buffy had drawn the drapes earlier so that Angel could move
about if he had wanted. The room was cosy with its whitewashed walls. The
floral curtains and cushions, and artfully placed bric-a-brac, made it homey,
the fire in the grate adding to its warmth.
smuggler or contraband in sight, whatever that may be. You'd think they could
have dropped a gum wrapper or something."
wanted a look at those caves.
"The house on
the hill sounds promising," he said quickly, not wanting to cast aspersions on
her abilities. Buffy was very capable but she may have missed something only he
could detect in the caves.
"I wanted to
knock on the door, but Giles didn't want to risk putting Mac in harm's way if
there was something weird going on. We
couldn't break in either with possible witnesses about. Who on earth picnics in
the winter?" Buffy made a face. "Anyway, Giles wanted to speak to some witness
that the newspaper mentioned. That's where they've gone now." Buffy slid
sideways, all talked out, laying her head on his chest.
Angel ran his
fingers through her hair. Her skin smelled of the sea, her hair, particularly.
"Did Giles leave his laptop here? We could look up Osprey Enterprises."
"We can, but
they'll be hours. We could do something else?" she said, looking up at him from
beneath her dark lashes.
like a plan," he murmured, and leaned down to kiss her upturned lips.
Giles and Mac
found themselves in a bar of the Blue Anchor. They had passed the Angel
Hotel just up the road,
and Giles' eyeballs had felt the urge to roll when he had noticed the name.
Buffy would be amused, he thought, and wished that she had come along just to
see it. It was a pretty whitewashed building, belying the fact the Angel
Hotel was one of the
oldest buildings in Helston. It shared Coinagehall
Street with the oldest brewery - some claimed - in
the country, the Blue Anchor, as it was now called. The blue of the trim stood out against the stonework, breaking
its grey monotony. The planter boxes beneath the windows sills were bereft of
blooms. Giles thought the pub would be quite the sight when spring finally
arrived. Giles looked about as he and
Mac approached the landlord behind the bar. There were quite a few patrons
enjoying a welcome sip of ale. At Mac's enquiry, he nodded at a door down the
back, and both men carried their drinks away with them. They had a bottle each
and one extra of the local brew Spingo. Mac had recommended Giles try a drop.
"This'll put hair on your chest," Mac said.
"It's brewed on the premises."
Giles eyed the
blue label on the bottle before lifting his glass to his lips. He spluttered on
the first sip.
The back door
led to a beer garden. It was under cover, a tent affair with several tables
beneath. Inside sat a dog, a collie by the looks, and attached to its rope was
a man. The two sat alone, the other patrons finding the March evening too cold.
The man and dog didn't seem to be bothered. Giles and Mac approached the man's
table, and grey-blue eyes peered up from under sun-bleached brows. The creases
of his face did not move as Mac set down a bottle in front of him. The collie
lifted its head though, curious.
"The barman said you liked a drop. Can we sit?"
The eyes moved
to consider Giles. Giles put his drink
down and offered his hand.
orbs lowered to the offered hand and moved up again to Giles' gaze.
"I suppose I
can't stop ye."
a sigh, withdrew his hand, and both men sat. The dog sniffed at their shoes
beneath the table. Giles felt the weight of its nose on his feet.
another sip and choked when he took more than he had intended. The brew could be a proscribed drug it was
The lips in
the weather-beaten face twitched.
interested in the body you fetched aboard," Mac said, getting right to the
froze. Looking at the man, Giles realised he wasn't that much older than
himself. Decades of wind and sea had added years to the body, but not to the
mind, he was sure.
it was time he said something.
"We're not the
police, or from the newspapers. There are mysteries and oddities beyond what
people would call normal, and some of them very dangerous. We'd like to help."
He produced his card and set it beside the man's glass. That even stare left
off, and the fisherman glanced down at the legend that said, Project
Gordon," said the man finally, and Giles relaxed.
"Tell us what
hand reached down to stroke the collie's head.
"We was on our
way back to Porthleven, Bess and me. We were later than we usually was, the
engine had stalled, you see. Took me a time to fix it. We was coming past the
cove when Bess started makin' a fuss."
Bess sat up
and put her head on her master's leg at the mention of her name. Gordon blessed
her with another pat before picking up his glass and taking a swallow. Giles
envied the man his cast-iron stomach when he didn't flinch.
something floating in the water. A body. Almost unrecognisable. Bess went all
quiet when I hauled it in. We had drifted close to the shore, when the dog
began to whimper. She was all scared, she was. I shone the light towards the
beach..." Gordon's eyes were wide, staring through them into memory.
Giles and Mac
waited quietly not wanting to distract him.
"It was hard
to see, exactly. The cliffs were full of shadows and some of them were moving.
I heard growling...animal-like, only it wasn't like anything I'd heard before.
Made the hairs stand up on the back of me head, it did. That, and some of the
shapes looked like men. Then there was
nothing. No sounds, no movement, nothing. Even Bess shut up. I found her hiding
in a corner of the boat later."
comforting hand, he patted Bess' head.
"We ran down
the coast and didn't look back."
Mac licked his
lips, shook himself and helped himself to another swallow. Giles himself needed
the burn of ale to shake off the feeling of dread that had insinuated itself
with the fisherman's tale. He had seen some pretty horrible things in his time
as Watcher. This wasn't anywhere near the worst of them, but the man's words
were chilling all the same. Gordon had been frightened, and Giles didn't
believe Gordon scared very easily.
Giles sought for the appropriate word, "alright?"
Gordon gave a
mirthless laugh. "Seen plenty strange things in me lifetime. I expect to see
Out of the corner of his eye, Giles noticed Mac doing the same. This was the
second time Mac had been involved with Giles and his friends, and any closer association would bring Mac
in contact with things he would rather not know existed. Giles suspected that
Mac already knew too much.
You've been a tremendous help."
continued to stare at Giles. "What are you going to do about it?"
"What we have
to." Giles got to his feet. Mac followed suit.
think anyone would believe me," Gordon said, as they turned away.
back. "We're not just anyone."
They were at
the door of the pub when Gordon spoke one last time.
something else out there."
turned round, Giles' hand on the door.
big, something moving away from the beach. Something afloat, something
this, how?" Giles asked, his heart racing.
"I could feel
dinner waiting for Giles when the Watcher re-appeared at the cottage. Giles ate
his meal: grilled lamb chops that had a subtle piquant flavour, and sautéed
potatoes along with winter vegetables. Giles wondered what spices Angel had
used on the meat. It was delicious. And instead of wine, he drank coffee.
"To clear the
head," he told Buffy at her look.
He decided to
ignore Angel's smirk when the vampire caught the whiff of ale on his breath.
Instead, he retold the fisherman's tale.
shapes sound like vamps to me. Especially with the growly," Buffy said when he
had finished. She glanced at Angel with apology. "Or not. There's plenty of
man-shaped demons about."
what sort of creature passed him by in the night," Giles said around a swallow
of coffee. "It was big enough to leave a noticeable wake."
"I say it's
time to find out." Buffy got to her feet. She had had her dinner earlier not
knowing what time Giles would be getting home. "I'll get the weapons."
moment, Buffy. We need a plan. What about Osprey Enterprises? There could be
something useful on the web."
to his computer. It was on the sideboard behind him.
line, and no wireless hot spot. I don't suppose you have a mobile phone thingy,
do you?" Buffy's look went mischievous. "You could go back to town and try
while we go kick some demon butt."
marvellous!" Giles' cup went down with a clang.
while Giles glared.
restless. It had been a long day for him stuck indoors, and under a blanket
unable to move in the car. The vampire wanted out, wanted to feel the sky above
his head, to move his limbs, to feel his heart pumping - which would never
happen - he just wanted to do... something.
Angel was at
the back door, his decision made.
"I'll meet you
said, turning her head.
on his feet, ready to be somewhere else. She could see he wanted to be out,
doing something physical and away from these confining walls. He had energy to
burn. She knew. He had been very energetic that afternoon.
your sword," she said, and he was out the door and away into the night without
another word. "See," she said looking back at Giles, "a plan."
legs barely touched the ground as he loped across the Cornish countryside. It was good to feel the wind in
his hair, the cold caress of it across his face. He was airborne, leaping over
the odd obstacle that loomed in his path. It was enough to make a vampire think
he could fly. It was approximately six miles to Prussia Cove, and Angel knew
that he could get there before Buffy and Giles. That wasn't the purpose of his
escape though. It was this. Freedom. He chafed at the smallness of English
cottages, the low ceilings and lower doorways. He missed the vastness of the
mansion in Sunnydale, the hotel in L.A.,
to name a few. Still, he had lived in worse, and he wasn't complaining. He had
Buffy in his life now and he would suffer the small inconveniences gladly for
her. He sped through the night, a
vampire in flight.
coasted to a stop, Giles having turned its lights and motor off well before the
carpark. A dark shape separated itself from the pool of darker shadows and
moved towards them. It was Angel. He opened the door for Buffy and offered his
hand. She liked that about him. So gentlemanly, and yet he didn't make her feel
as if she was a helpless maiden. She handed him his sword and a few stakes,
which he promptly hid about his person. Giles accepted the crossbow she had
ready for him, and Buffy herself picked up a sword, Mr Pointy already secure in
her pocket. Angel snagged the bag of remaining weapons and led the way towards
the bay. Giles, and Buffy to some extent, had to rely on his keen eyesight as
it was too dangerous to have a light betraying their presence.
They walked on
in silence, Angel stopping briefly to indicate the house on the rise of the
first," she whispered, and he nodded.
The sound of
the sea flowed over them well before they stood at the cliffs. The wind had
picked up sending the swell crashing against the rocks below. Angel handed the
weapons bag over to Buffy, and quickly descended to the beach below. The tide
was on the ebb, and sand and rock glistened wetly beneath his feet. Using his
preternatural senses he surveyed the area, and was disappointed. Whatever had
been and gone, all traces had been washed away, or whipped clean by the wind.
He sighed. That would have been too easy, he thought. Nethertheless, he made
his way to the gaping mouths of the small caves that burrowed into the cliff
face. He wriggled into the smallest of them and refused to go further. The cave
hadn't been used for a very long time. The first of the two he found that he
could walk in reeked of human sweat, and fear, and the smell of blood was over-powering.
Angel was dismayed when his teeth lengthened. He forced them back, and
continued a pace or two. Other than the blood stench, it too was empty. The
next and largest cave narrowed a little, widened, and came to what he thought
was a dead end. Buffy would have thought so too. He sniffed the air, walked to
the rock wall and found it curved back around and ended in a jagged jumble of
large stones. He felt a stir of air, tainted too, and when he put his face
close to the rock the draft appeared to be sifting through the fine edges and
cracks in the wall. There was a way forward. Angel left the cave and made his
way back to the others.
Giles had gone to investigate the ruin of buildings along the far side of the
cove. It had been a waste of time. Birds and wildlife had made themselves at
home there. Buffy had stepped in something that stank, and she wasn't
Angel?" she asked him when he appeared.
"A couple of
the caves were interesting. They've been used, and recently."
Angel quickly added, "There's a hidden passage. I only found it by smell."
In the dark,
Angel's eyes were dark pools to Giles. "You don't want to know."
we see what's so inviting about these houses that Osprey Inc. want to rent
them, and then we go spruiking."
Giles corrected her.
Let's do it."
With a jerk of
his head towards the homes crouched above them, Giles proposed, "You break, and
we enter, Angel."
She wanted to do the breaking. Angel's teeth gleamed at her, and she smiled
back. One of these days she was going to make Angel confess his mind reading
approached the door, and stood quietly listening, his head canted, scenting the
air. Buffy tensed, ready for an attack. Giles stood behind her, his crossbow
ready but carefully not aimed at Angel's back. They watched anxiously as Angel
reached out and broke the lock. The door swung open and Angel stepped inside. That
didn't bode well.
deserted, Giles thought, as they followed him in, or Osprey Enterprises were
more than met the eye. The place was empty of life, and unlife. Buffy drew in a
frustrated breath. She was hoping for a trap and that she and Angel would
spring. Instead, it looked as if the people who had lived here had just walked
out one day and hadn't come back. Their personal effects were everywhere.
Photos, ornaments, even a hair brush sitting on the table, a glass of water
They left the
house quietly, Angel pulling the door closed with a careful click. The house
next door was empty. Of everything. The only things left inside were the
kitchen sink and the bathroom fittings. The next house was in the same order. Angel paused in his wanderings.
answered. Giles watched him as he trod the floorboards. Angel indicated a
corner in the larger room, a place by the back door, and following him upstairs
to a bedroom, another two where the beds had stood. Buffy, who could see better
than Giles in the dark, couldn't see a bloodstain anywhere.
"I can't see
any blood," she complained.
cleaned, but the smell lingers."
shivered. Her slayer senses were tingling. "Someone died here," she said,
stating the obvious.
tell?" Giles asked without thinking.
answer. He wandered over to the window and looked out.
Buffy put in,
"You can bet that house on the hill has something to do with it. I said we
should have knocked on the door earlier."
"I wonder if
the body found in the water was one of the people killed here? Could you tell,
Angel, if you had a look at the body?"
"I could, but
I don't think we need to."
"No, I suppose
you're right. I think we've learned all we are going to here." Giles looked
across at his slayer. "Buffy, time for
"Yay for plan
B." She hefted her sword. "I say we go kick some butt, be they demon or not."
the door first, Buffy. They may be innocent bystanders."
And my boyfriend isn't 255 years old. Let's go ask them, shall we?"
her. "The cave?"
that be C for cave?" Buffy sighed. "Plan C before plan B it is, then."
Angel muttered under his non-breath, "254, thank you."
Giles held the
torches while his slayer and her vampire moved several large stones that
blocked the passage. It had been a clever bit of trickery, really. He wouldn't
have been able to tell that the wall hadn't been solid, behind. Buffy hadn't
either, and he could see that she was still beating herself up about it. It was
in the way she moved, and he was certain that Angel had noticed. Finally, the
entrance was clear. Angel first, only because he didn't need the light, Buffy
next, with Giles bringing up the rear. Almost immediately, Giles felt as if he
was walking uphill. The incline was minimal at first, but he felt it all the
same. The tunnel was low enough that he and Angel had to stoop a little. Buffy
had no trouble, small as she was, and the Englishman envied her her size; his
back was beginning to ache when the gradient of the floor rose sharply. It
seemed an age, but in reality it was only minutes before Angel put out his arm
and brought them to a stop. By then, Buffy and Giles could also smell whatever
it was that Angel had been scenting from the start.
knotted. He knew what they would find, what Angel had led them to. Buffy didn't
say a word, she had been following Angel's tense shoulders and knew that the
scent he was following had a lot to do with it. She sidled up to him to shine her light into the dark hole he was
staring at. There was a grate in the floor of the tunnel, impossible, the floor
was solid rock, and yet there it was, and beneath those iron bars, something
moved. It growled, low. Her beam caught the glint of huge teeth, fur and
frightful eyes, and then the light exposed flesh, glistening red, and many,
many bones. The stench coiled up into her nostrils. Buffy stepped back wishing
she didn't need to breathe.
"Did they dig
a pit in the rock?" she asked, her voice shaking with revulsion. The bloody
flesh she spied had looked too much like a human torso.
The watcher in
him had Giles peering into the hole.
"I think this
is a natural formation. The walls don't appear to have been chiselled or
blasted." He quickly examined the monster below before stepping aside. "Mmm, I
don't recognise the demon though."
at detachment was just that, an attempt. Buffy wasn't fooled, neither was
Angel. They continued on in silence
until eventually the tunnel came to an end. Buffy squeezed past Angel and shone
her torch at the door ahead.
muttered, "it's steel, and I bet it's locked and we haven't a key."
She tried it
all the same and was surprised that the handle turned, and when she pushed, the
door moved slightly.
around to look past Angel to Giles. "I've got a really bad idea."
that look. His stomach churned again, and once more he wished he hadn't eaten.
The Dane, Irishman, whoever he was,
settled in at the Hamlyn's home, won the heart of the daughter and married her.
He seemed a kindly-disposed man until the old man died. Not a few folk were surprised when,
practically overnight, he became a hard man, taken to fits of anger easily. His
mother-in-law handed over her fortune; some say he tied his wife to the bed and
tortured her in front of the mother. The village priest heard the stories but
was too cowardly to offer succour, or sanctuary. Bands of lawless men descended on the household, smugglers,
wreckers, and riff-raff were all welcome in Welcombe Mouth. Strange ships began
to appear, the villagers knew, with nefarious intent. One of them, The Black
Prince, a schooner, ruled the shoreline with terrible force. Coppinger was said
to be its Captain and he became known as Cruel Coppinger, cutting off the head
of a gauger who dared to cross his path.
All perished in one of the King's vessels while trying to chase the
Black Prince down. Coppinger had no fear of folk, or revenuers, yet he was
greatly feared by all. Even the rough and ready villagers, wreckers themselves,
walked in dread of him. He amassed a fortune in gold doubloons, ducats and
smuggled goods. A cave was said to be full of contraband, and if that wasn't
enough for the man, he penalised any for walking the paths of his land at
There was an heir, a wicked boy, deaf
and dumb, and cruel like his father. He delighted in the torture of animals,
and some say he murdered a playmate by throwing him off a cliff.
Grief-stricken, the parents of the dead boy were mortally afraid, and avoided
their neighbour like the plague. The people in the countryside often made the
sign of the cross to ward off evil; they thought Coppinger's boy had no soul,
so cruel and vicious was he. He was his father's son, no doubt, in thought and
deed. And yet, he didn't have the look, as father and son were wont to have.
One dared not glance side-ways at the mother, the poor and defenceless woman,
who would not speak of it, or, could not. She kept to herself, pale and as
timid as a ghost, a shaking leaf of a creature. What terrors did she endure, one
wondered, in her bed?
The King's ships multiplied, trade
petered out and money became scarce. Coppinger left one night, putting out in a
small boat, rowing, fearless in the face of another storm. He was seen heading
for a ship that stood out in the water, its sails readying for wind getting set
to fly. Coppinger was never seen again, and often did the villagers wonder what
became of him. His wife survived him
and would not speak of anything she knew or had suffered. She was broken, in
soul, and in spirit. The boy had disappeared, and none mourned his absence. The
reign of terror was over.
through the door that his two companions had managed to push open. A normal man
couldn't have budged the heavy steel. On the other side was a storeroom, and
from what he could see, half-empty. A few boxes and crates stood stacked along
the walls, and his light picked out a wine rack that filled one side of the
room. The dust and cobwebs told him how long the bottles had stood therein. He
was surprised there had been no sentry, no-one to guard the underground entry.
Giles surmised that whoever it was that used the cave had no need. No-one knew
of it, so why post guards? Pillocks!
He shook his head at the lack. He strode over to the stairs and climbed to the
door. Patting the stake he had in his pocket, Giles turned the handle, and
stepped through. His light stabbed the gloom of the room beyond. A shroud of
cloth covered a piece of furniture; ghoul-like it stood to one side, not
hindering the way to and from the basement door. Giles trod very carefully, and
as quiet as he could, he opened the outer door.
A hall trailed
off in one direction, and turning his head, a window, and next to it a door
that let one outside. Giles walked along the threadbare runner that had seen
better days, its pattern uncertain in his torchlight. Peeling wallpaper curled
towards the floor in small and lacy curls; in not a few places the sacking
behind could be seen.
to open the next door he came to.
he said mildly into a startled face, his fingers finding the wood inside his
pocket. "I wonder if you can help me?"
did you come from?" The face became the ridges and fangs of a vampire. Giles
shoved his stake into its chest, stepping back quickly from the fall of dust.
He smiled, and
continued on his way.
till Giles had disappeared into another room before she herself skipped along
the hall to keep an eye on him. Her eyes caught the pile of dust on the carpet
in the doorway. Way to go, Giles!
cat and mouse along the hall, each exploring the various rooms they came
upon. Buffy kept an eye on him as best
she could, knowing that although Giles was in fine form, he wasn't a slayer.
A door opened
and two men literally walked into her. Two vampires, Buffy knew.
innocent, eyes wide, she said, "Hello, can you help me? I seem to have lost my
vampires could open their mouths Mr Pointy found their hearts, and Buffy was
moving through vampire dust to check the room beyond. She held her breath.
Vampire dust, not a good thing.
Buffy continued their game, quietly dusting any vampires that came their way.
The slayer knew that their two heartbeats wouldn't go unnoticed for long. She
smiled. That was the plan.
still in the storeroom below. Carrying his sword, and Buffy's - she wouldn't
look so innocent if caught with it, she'd said - the bag of weapons left in a corner, he scented the air and,
following his nose, the tantalizing aroma of terror lead him to a dark nook in
the room. Stone steps, well-worn from decades of use, led him in three paces to
a padlocked door. Gripping the lock, it was no effort at all to rip it from its
clasp. Beyond was another passageway, and built right into rock and earth, a
cell, complete with bars and chains. Eyes looked up at him in trepidation,
terrified at what he must be, a monster come to feed. Skin as dark as midnight
moved feebly in tattered rags, crouching away from his approach in fright.
Angel dropped to his haunches. A young girl clutched at a man, her face buried
in his chest. The man, and girl, whimpered. The other, a woman, scuttled away
to the furthermost corner of the cage with a rattle of her chain, a low keen
escaping her lips. Another lay insensible on the floor. She was the lucky one.
Angel lifted a
hand attempting to calm their fright. "I'm here to help. I'm not here to hurt
and fear stared back at him. They
were too traumatised to understand. Angel glanced about. Plastic cups lay empty
of water. Without thinking about his choice of words, he said, "Wait here," and
was back with a bottle of the wine he had purloined from the shelf. The wine
would fortify their spirits, perhaps. Give them strength to communicate. He broke open the bottle by smashing the
neck against stone, poured the wine into the cups, offering the first to the
man before him. The man's arms tightened about the girl, and he averted his
face and closed his eyes. They were too frightened and believed it was a trick.
Angel left the cups within reach and tried again. In French this time. That
they were African, he had no doubt.
Portuguese, and then a smattering of Arabic, before the cowering man
dared to open his eyes. The woman did not stir from her corner, but the sound
from her mouth ceased.
Arabic Angel explained that he and his friends were there to help, and he would
come back for them when it was safe. He offered the wine again, and with a
trembling hand the man took it from him. Angel watched the dark liquid spill
down his chin and into the young girl's matted hair. The man's other hand
patted the girl's back, comforting her. Angel pushed the other cups forward,
and rose to his full height.
thready voice pleaded.
down at the dark face looking up. He knew they wanted him to unlock the cage,
to break their bonds, but he couldn't do that and risk them bolting into
danger. Besides, him breaking the lock with his unnatural strength would alarm
into eyes filled with hope for the first time in days. "My friends need me.
I'll come back," he promised, and took his leave knowing they thought he was
Buffy and Giles through the house. He hardly glanced at the doors off the
hallway as he slid by. Buffy would have seen to anything that lurked, but he
kept alert anyway. He knew where he would find his slayer and her watcher. And
sure enough, Buffy's voice carried from a room that stood with its large doors
open. Angel flattened himself to the wall, risked a quick peek inside, and
retraced his steps back down the hall.
He availed himself of the first window he saw, and disappeared over the
wondering where Angel was. Shouldn't he
be here by now? Three vampires, their smart business suits not hiding the
fact they were demons, kept watch over Buffy and Giles, their numbers
diminished after her and Giles' foray earlier. She surveyed the room. A rather
ornate chair, throne-like, was the focus of the room, and in that chair sat a
very large vampire. Buffy thought Angel a big man, though more slender since
his return to the world. This vampire was a slab of granite compared. The eyes
that stared at her were hard and lifeless. Blue, and as cold as ice. No hint of
what passed for thought flickered within, and Buffy knew they were in trouble.
into those eyes and shuddered. A few years ago he had looked into similar eyes.
They had been Angelus' dark orbs, and like Angelus, this vampire was powerful
and wasn't used to being thwarted. If there ever was an example of how very
different Angel was to his alter ego, this was it. Giles knew that it had taken
him a long time to remember that fact, and now, more than ever, he regretted
past circumstances. Now, where in the
hell was Angel?
her eyes to wander, checking the room for numbers.
"Is this any way to treat a guest?"
The vampire in
the chair did not answer her. One of the suits leaned in, however.
"You are not
our guests," it all but hissed. "How did you get in here?"
settled on two demons sitting in a corner of the room.
interrupt something?" she said. "I mean, what's up with the suits? Is this a
conference or something?"
The vampire in
the chair threw back his head, and laughed.
There was no amusement, however, in his eyes when he brought his head
dispense with the act," he rumbled. "It doesn't matter."
"Who are you?"
Buffy asked, fingering the stake inside the waistband of her woollen trousers.
"And you are?"
His eyes were
like flint. "Americans with their silly names, and Englishmen with theirs."
her arms. "It's okay to poke fun at our names when we don't know yours."
five of my men missing. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that?"
grip captured her upper arm. "Can I eat
"Food's getting low."
A massive hand
went up. "Wait. This one doesn't fear me like the other."
indignant in silence.
"Why is that?"
her head. "What's to fear? Some vamp who thinks he's a big shot. I've met far
worse than you."
got out of his seat. To Buffy, he seemed to go up and up and up before he
straightened to his full height.
"What do you
know of vampires?" he asked her.
off the hand that held her. "Only that they think themselves more powerful than
they are." She dared a wink at Giles. "And, that they are bad house guests."
face was close all of a sudden. Buffy could almost feel his teeth in her neck
when she heard him inhale deeply.
"Ah, a slayer.
"What can I
say?" she shot back.
it prudent to say something. "The owner of Osprey Enterprises, I presume?"
the urge to flinch when the malevolent visage turned his way. "You have done your homework. What do you
Giles took a
guess. "The body found in the water was your handiwork. Untidy, that."
such messy eaters." Buffy tsked. "Don't you know that throwing your rubbish
away is not environmentally friendly?"
refused to be baited. His gaze hadn't left Giles' face.
emboldened to continue. "You've killed people in the houses below to get the
privacy you need."
The eyes did
not blink. "Leased."
Buffy said. "We found blood."
"I see my men
weren't thorough enough. I may have to set an example."
"Good. Dust a
few, save me the trouble!"
"And why have
I done this?" the vampire asked Giles.
"Money? Vamps don't worry about money,"
vampire turned his head to look at her.
"My dear, of
course we do." He waved his hand at the room. "This is not one of my more
graciously appointed abodes, but it will do. It has, one can say, a room with a
view, and, it's only temporary. Just because we're dead doesn't mean we don't
appreciate the finer things in life, and to do that, we need money. Lots of
"Get a job!"
stepped away from them then, and they couldn't help but take a breath in
"I have a job as you put it. This is my business."
sir, if we're to die."
across at Giles. He just couldn't let a mystery go unsolved, and what's with
shoulders shrugged. "Names mean nothing. I've had many."
"That's a first. Most vamps love to brag about their exploits; tell me how evil
and clever they are. Who have we encountered, Giles? Oh, I know. The Master,
Mister Fruit Punch Mouth himself. Him, and his Anointed One. The Order of
Taraka, although I thought them a waste of time..."
Kakistos then, and there was The Three. They were vampire assassins who didn't
amount to much..."
"Enough! Those names are meaningless."
Buffy was on a
roll. "Does Dracula ring a bell? He was a bit tricky, turning into a bat and
all, but I got him in the end."
was a gypsy, a fool with his illusions and mind games."
her mouth to say more, when Giles interceded.
"What is it
that you're smuggling? Drugs? Booze? Diamonds?"
mundane, I'm afraid. It is none of your concern."
"The boat that
you use," Giles continued, trying to learn all he could, "you have a glamour that enables it to move
"My, my, you
are perceptive. The coastguard are much more efficient now than back in the
day. We only had to worry about wind, and cannon, then."
doing this a long time. Habits die hard."
eyes narrowed. His mouth set in a hard line.
the modern world these days. I dabble, occasionally, in smuggling. A little
sideline from time to time. "
"And amassed a
fortune, no doubt."
businesses do. I run a business, and if I happen to like luxury? What's the
harm?" Buffy glowered.
"Can't we just
eat them, Boss?" said the minion by her side.
we're not on the menu." And Buffy's
stake slid into its heart.
powerful swipe of his massive arm Buffy was sent flying, crashing into
shattered suddenly, and a dark form barrelled through the window.
Getting to her
feet, Buffy heard gunfire and saw Angel's form recoil as bullets hit his flesh.
His face transformed into his demon.
Buffy flew at
the vampire, and leg extended, kicked the pistol out of its hand. Spinning
about, she caught the sword that Angel threw across to her. To Giles, he threw
Buffy" Angel said as two demons rushed at him from their corner of the room.
One was mouthing words in a demonic language he didn't understand but Angel
knew what the demon was attempting. He could feel the hairs rise on his head.
His sword knew where to find its throat and it collapsed in a gout of blood,
the spell half-formed dying on his tongue. Its partner drew a small axe from
beneath its robes.
his sword from the demon at his feet and, avoiding the axe swinging at his
head, he deflected the blow with his sword arm, and with his other arm, threw a
powerful jab at its head.
"My, what have
we here? Vampire allies? And you call yourself a slayer!" Angel heard the
vampire say to Buffy.
snatched up his own sword from a display hung on the wall, and parried her
thrust before answering with a riposte.
He smiled, and Buffy grinned.
"Not scared of
a little girl, are you?" she taunted him.
with a slash of his sword.
to dust one vampire before his crossbow was pulled from his grasp and smashed
underfoot. He fell backwards, the last minion going for his throat. His hand closed about his stake as fangs
scraped his neck, and he coughed in the fall of ash when his stake pierced the
"By the way,"
Buffy was saying, "I don't like people shooting at my boyfriend."
"Boyfriend?" The sneer was evident in his
voice. "A vampire should feed on a slayer not f..." Buffy's fist slammed into his
mouth cutting off his words.
somersaulted away from her opponent's sword, a smile of triumph on her lips at
her lucky punch. A chair splintered against a wall when the vampire kicked it
aside and advanced on her position. Buffy felt a shiver of fear for all her
talk. She knew that size didn't matter in the vampire world. The smallest vamp
could be just as deadly, but facing a vampire as large and as old as this one,
did intimidate. Even though she was a slayer, one mistake and she could be
her enemy to know she was worried, she said to Angel, "What took you so long?"
guards," he said over the clash of steel.
"Will you two
shut up!" the vampire growled.
swung her sword, "am I not paying enough attention to you? Angel, this is...?"
say? Never heard of him."
demon gore, and two carcasses at his feet, Angel grounded his sword, ready to
go to Buffy's aid but also happy to watch her work.
times, different names," was Angel's cryptic reply.
over and up from a knock that had sent her sprawling. She hadn't lost the grip
on her sword though. Suddenly, she was too busy for speech. The vampire surged
towards her intent on finishing her. Blades clashed, and Buffy landed a boot
against a knee. She felt as if she had broken her foot, but the knee wobbled a
little when it moved. She renewed her
for Angel to step in and help his slayer. He knew in his heart that Buffy could
handle the vampire, but it was hard to watch all the same. He moved to stand
beside Angel, ready to offer his meagre services if needs be.
"Cat got your
tongue?" Buffy sneered as her blade sliced into her attacker's arm.
their mouths," he grunted in reply. "There is only one thing a woman's mouth is
good for." The vampire lunged, thinking he had her at his mercy.
"Wash your mouth out!" Buffy shot back, and
her sword found the opening she was looking for. It slid in under his guard to
pierce his neck. Using all her strength, two-handed, she dragged the sword
through sinew and bone. The head flew from the neck, both it and the body
disintegrating before they hit the floor.
over at the two men most precious in her life.
Giles made the refugees as comfortable as they could while they waited for the
ambulance. Buffy found blankets for them, and Giles rummaged around for tea.
Angel had managed to have enough of a conversation with the ex-prisoners to
find that they were from Darfur, in the Sudan.
Buying their way to freedom and a new life, fleeing from the perils of the evil
that ravaged their land, had landed them in more dire circumstances.
listening to her watcher, a mug of hot tea in her hands. The Sudanese sat
quietly with theirs, watching them, unable to understand any of their
discussion. At last the little girl was asleep.
"I know we
deal with a world that consists of demons and majicks. It is within our power
and responsibility to protect people from such things, and sometimes we save
the world. At times I wonder if it is worth saving. One only has to look at the
television to see what horrors our fellow human beings inflict on one another. Whole communities are decimated and
destroyed by governments meant to protect and serve. There are despots and
tyrants aplenty that inflict evil and degradation on millions of innocents.
Those, we are unable to stop, and that is a sad fact of this world. There are
monsters out there far worse than vampires; this one vampire in particular."
"Who was he,
Giles? Some bad ass vamp from back in the day?"
"I don't know,
Buffy. Perhaps we'll never know. He could have been this Cruel Coppinger that
Angel was reading about. He fits the description. I had often wondered if the
man had been a vampire. He was dastardly enough, certainly cruel enough. The
Carter brothers were good men even though they were smugglers. John Carter went
on to become a preacher, I believe.
Smuggling wasn't a bad thing when your people were starving."
Angel was down
in the tunnel disposing of the demon corpses. He would meet Buffy and Giles
back at the cottage when all was done. He stood staring into the inky
blackness, the walls of stone cold and unforgiving company, while he
contemplated the past. Coppinger had been cruel and vicious; and as vampires
go, if indeed it had been Coppinger, he had not been extraordinary in that, it
was in their nature. Angel knew that he had done far, far worse. Angelus had
surpassed all that Coppinger had done. Torturing, maiming, and killing had been
his idea of a good time. To him, it was a work of art to carve and slice silent
screams from his victims. He had redefined the act of torture, to bring human
degradation, humiliation and suffering to new heights. People smuggling?
Angelus would have thought that in poor taste, although handy if one were
starving. Where was the thrill of the chase, the promise of freedom to be
denied at the very last? The tiny glimmer of hope dying in his victims' eyes
when he snuffed out their lives? Or quenched his thirst?
silent beside the grill that was set in the floor. The sledgehammer he held in
his hands swung high and crashed down onto the lock, smashing it free with the
one blow. He flung the grate open and dropped into the pit. A roar reverberated
off the stones. Another answered it.
foremost, a big thank you, and many hugs for an ever ready Jo, who,
press-ganged into service always does a wonderful job of beta.
To Dark Star
also a thank you. DS gave me such wonderful ideas with her story Wreckers, and
other brilliant suggestions for this tale.
were dispossessed or killed at Prussia Cove. I presume they live there still.
The Legend of
Cruel Coppinger can be found here. I embellished the tale with fancies of my
own to suit my story.
brothers of Prussia Cove
photograph of Prussia Cove. As I have never ventured there I used this photo as
This house is
the one I used for the vampire's lair in Prussia Cove, although I stood it on
the hill amongst the fields and hedges you see in the photo above.
buildings of Prussia Cove
A picture of
the Blue Anchor
More on the
Blue Anchor and its ale, Spingo
For a peek at
the Angel Hotel
here it is.
The BBC News
did report on 23rd January 2007, a story called Ship's Scavengers
Ignore Police. I do not know if the report can be found on the net still, I
tried and couldn't, but I did copy the article to my files when first posted.
Here is a little of what it said.
Hundreds of people are continuing to rummage through
cargo from the stricken ship MSC Napoli despite
police road blocks and warnings to stay away.
the last two days scavengers have descended on the beach in Branscombe, Devon,
taking away goods that included BMW motorbikes, wine and nappies.
closed the beach to deter treasure seekers and to allow contractors to start
officials have accused scavengers of "sheer greed".
is a view reflected by one family who were shocked to see pictures of their
belongings being looted from one crate on the beach.
Here is a site
that Jo kindly looked out for me for more information on the Napoli
and the modern day wrecker. It's greed,
not livelihood, that had these people scavenge. Thanks, Jo.
sites on the same.