Summary: A vampire once again walks in Croglin
Village, but there is more than one kind of monster that stalks the night.
A special hug
to Jo who put up with me and my queries, and straightened out my work.
A Shade walks his nightly Kingdom,
Feasts warm, and cold, and bloody,
Unclean, Undead, Unforgiven,
Dread and Terror slides Eternal in
The Killing Sword, shines bright and
burns the Soul,
Warrior that delivers all, Remains
Under Lady Moon, who waxes and wanes,
Salvation, Damnation, Lies deep in a
incongruous to think of a vampire behind the wheel of a car, or any vehicle.
They are mythical creatures, preternatural and able to perform wondrous feats
of the superhuman. One thinks a vampire should in all probability fly. They
leap rooftops, and virtually command the law of gravity so why should they do
something mundane like drive? It is convenient, efficient when travelling in
company, less taxing on the undead energy levels, and for Angel, it is because
he loves driving, he enjoys being in command of a car. Any car will do,
although Angel has a particular love for classic cars. Of late it is his
Porsche, and before that a large black convertible took pride of place in his
automotive heart. It doesn’t have to be black but it does have to be shiny.
behind the wheel of the Discovery. It was not something a man did, giving up
control of a beloved vehicle, but Giles had. To Angel, it was very welcome. He
had spent the first three hours of the journey curled beneath blankets in the
back. Angel looked in the rear view mirror to see the Englishman asleep. A
glance to his left showed him Buffy, head lolling slightly to the rhythm of the
car’s movement. He smiled. They hadn’t been on the road twenty minutes. His
family - he thought of them as such - deserved the rest. The days were longer
now - it was spring - which meant a vampire was confined indoors for more hours
than he cared for. So it was reasonable for Giles to suggest that Angel drive
them home through the night, his eyes and reflexes superior to any mortal’s.
Giles’ suggestion had come through necessity. Buffy was tired of the cold. To a
Californian girl, Scotland in spring was winter at the Arctic, and their accommodation
hadn’t been up to the advertised promise. Buffy wanted “Home. Now!” so home it
and Angel had crossed the border from Northumberland to Berwickshire, Scotland,
to investigate the sacrifice of a young man to a water monster that lurked in
the River Tweed. The sacrifices which had taken place, supposedly on a yearly
basis, had died out long ago. Unfortunately, the ritual appeared to have
resurfaced again. It was a job for them all; a monster in the deep meant something
big and fearsome.
Angel was to
examine the body in the morgue of the Kelso Hospital. The remains were yet to
be transported away to Edinburgh, and Buffy and Angel took advantage of that
fact. Buffy insisted she come along, promising she would act as lookout. Said
lookout had her head over the drawer as Angel pulled it from its cavity in the
stainless steel wall. It wasn’t a body she stared at but several pieces of what
had once been a human being. Buffy didn’t flinch even though this was bordering
on the obscene. She was saddened by
what she saw and her throat closed up when Angel’s pale hand gently prodded the
dead flesh. She couldn’t avert her eyes from his fingers as they carefully
turned the mutilated torso. She could not help but notice his flesh bore a
remarkable resemblance to the thing that lay there. Buffy looked up into dark
eyes. Horrified, she thought he knew what she was thinking. Buffy’s smile was
shaky, not because of her treacherous mind, but because she did not want to add
her own brand of injury to his generous soul. Angel had feelings, and he
allowed everyone to trample them. She refused to be counted in that number.
Buffy nodded over her smile and was relieved to see understanding in those
“You need to
get out more,” he said, attempting humour, but the smile did not reach his
“This is out,”
she insisted, and reached over to squeeze his hand. The look he gave her made
her want to hold him tight and never let go.
her eyes back to the once-human thing on the slab. The body had been hacked so
that it resembled dog meat. The teeth marks – Angel peered into the macabre
tissue – yes, he nodded to confirm that, indeed, it was teeth that had rent the
skin and chewed bone. Angel hesitated.
couldn’t see anything amiss that wasn’t already evident.
lined his brow. He lifted the arm – the hand no longer attached - for a closer
look. He probed the flesh and examined the exposed bone. His mouth tightened
into a thin line.
“What is it?”
“This was made
to look like an animal attack.”
“Or demon,” he
voice was barely a whisper.
shivered. She knew what he implied.
He leaned in
and inhaled deeply. Truth be told, the body’s immersion in water – two weeks -
made a vampire’s ability to scent anything extremely difficult.
“A tool was
used,” he said when he lifted his head.
could have been a demon,” Buffy replied, knowing full well a demon with teeth
and claws wouldn’t need an implement. Angel’s silence refuted her statement. A
cold sick feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.
care and reverence, Angel put all that was left of the young man back into
place and closed the drawer. They left the morgue in darkness and made their
and Angel scoured the area for further clues, Giles investigated and
interrogated possible witnesses. They came to the same conclusion as the local
had been a murder, plain and simple. The murder suspect, a psychopath by all
accounts, was yet to be apprehended. The police had information that would lead
to an arrest - they hoped. Giles was happy to leave them to it. Human killers
were not their concern.
whimpered in her sleep. Angel peered at her and caught the grimace that marred
her sleeping face. Sweat beaded her brow. A groan sounded behind, and looking
in the mirror, Angel could see Giles clutching his stomach as he woke.
the car. “Are you okay, Giles?”
swallowed heavily and burped. “Does it look as if I’m alright?” he snapped.
awake at that moment and squeezed her belly.
“You have to
stop, Angel! I’m going to be sick.”
The road was
fairly quiet. It was a route that was used by several small villages to travel
to the larger towns, and not one of the major arterials that heavy vehicles and
tourists roared along. Angel slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop. He
really didn’t want the smell of vomit permeating the air inside the enclosed
space. True, he didn’t breathe, but predator that he was, he had a very honed
sense of smell. It would get up his nose whether he liked it or not. Buffy’s
and Giles’ mad dash from the Discovery would have been comical if not for the
heaving and retching that followed. Angel left the motor running, lights
blazing, and came round to see if he could help.
hung over her face as she vomited onto the grass. Giles stood, hands on knees a
few feet away, emptying the contents of his stomach. Angel made smoothing
motions across Buffy’s back as she heaved. He felt useless.
“What is it?”
poisoning I think,” Giles managed to gasp.
straightened and wiped her hand across her mouth.
“Euw!” Her nose wrinkled.
back to the car and rescued a bottle of water.
thrust the bottle at her. Her wan smile told him she was grateful, but her next
words were cross and meant for Giles.
stop at Brampton, it’s not far off the beaten track. There’s a magic shop I
have heard about and we need a few supplies.” Buffy imitated the Englishman’s
voice. “There is a fine little restaurant there that provides excellent fare.”
Buffy rinsed her mouth and spat. She swallowed a few mouthfuls before
continuing, “Excellent fare with a side dish of - heave your guts out!”
straightened, his handkerchief at his mouth. His tone waspish, indicating how
unwell he was. “Sorry. Again, it’s my fault, this need to eat. If you hadn’t
insisted on returning home in one fell swoop, perhaps this wouldn’t have
“Maybe it was
the ducks’ eggs at breakfast,” Angel said.
had the ability to dust. “Not helping!”
back from his miserable slayer fearing for his safety. To his dismay, two
stomachs growled at him.
going, I think we need to find a place that has a bathroom,” Buffy said,
confirming his fears.
Giles almost begged.
left on the road as an anxious vampire raced through the night, hoping that
Buffy and Giles could hold on.
Fortunately for Angel and the afflicted humans, the farming village of
Croglin loomed out of the night, and the sign, The Robin Hood Inn, was a
welcome sight. Angel pulled in and
barely had the key turned when the two desperate people beside him leaped out
and raced towards salvation. Angel wrestled their bags from the back and headed
of the 17th Century inn was typical of its like. Plush nylon stools
sat before the well-stocked bar; panelled wood, dark and well polished, added
to the olde worlde feel. Beams criss-crossed the ceiling against stark
whitewash and the small windows matched the pattern in leading. Cumbria was one
of the areas claiming the legend of Robin Hood. Angel briefly wondered about
his own legend as he hurried over to the innkeeper.
grey-haired and craggy-faced, jerked his head in the direction of the hall.
stairs, One and Two,” he chuckled. “See to them and sign in when you’re done.”
Door 1 had its
key hanging from the lock. Angel knocked softly.
He inched the
door open and called again. A male grunt from the bathroom answered him. Angel
wanted to be anywhere else.
leave your bag on the bed.” He placed the key on the bedside table, left the bag
and quickly backed through the doorway. Outside, he sagged in relief.
Door 2 offered
up its key to the vampire. He gingerly ventured inside.
He eyed the
bathroom door as he put their bags down on the double bed
person should never hear assailed his ears.
against the bathroom door. “Buffy?” he whispered.
was roughened by the vomiting. “Go away,
Angel. I’m not alright! I’m gross and disgusting. I’m sitting side-ways on the
toilet so that my head can reach the basin. How’s that for a Kodak moment? I
don’t want you here. Just go!”
fists clenched, hurt that she didn’t want his help. Part of him wanted to
escape this all too human frailty, but he couldn’t do that to Buffy. She needed
“I know you’re
still there,” she said roughly.
softened. “It’s not because you’re a vampire and you can smell me, and let’s
not forget the sensitive hearing. Well, it is, but it isn’t. I wouldn’t want
you here if you were human. Let me be gross and horrible and barf-worthy in
peace. Go! Be a creature of the night, and don’t come home till dawn. Please.”
she was right. She needed space. There was nothing he could do.
“Shall I go back
and eat the chef?”
He heard a
snicker. It turned into a whimper. He left her to it, closing the door softly
out the forms, Rupert Giles, Buffy Summers and Angel. The man didn’t bat an
“I take it you
won’t be wanting dinner.”
“It’s a bit
late but I could get the wife to fix you something?”
around the room. The centre table was occupied. Three men sat, beer foaming in
glasses within reach. A binoculars case rested on the table. Angel noticed
another case on the floor beneath a chair. The men wore thick jumpers and
parkas. Their hats lay in a pile on the table.
By the window,
an elderly couple nursed small glasses of something, perhaps sherry.
He turned back
to the publican.
sick.” The man raised a glass in question of a drink.
no, I’m not.”
The whisky was
good and went down smoothly. Angel nodded his appreciation.
“I’m Alan by
the way. Glenda is my better half. She’ll look after you.”
being doing some bird watching while you’re here?”
“I’m kind of a
night owl myself.”
his fingers tightened around his empty glass. The murmurs of the three drinkers
died away. The room paused.
He turned to
look at the old woman by the window. His keen eyes found her grey-eyed gaze
focused on him. A finger pointed in his direction but he did not see fear
written on her well-worn face.
Vampire. The legend is famous in these parts.”
Angel, lifted a brow, smiled and asked, “Where?”
terrorising a young woman up at Croglin Grange, years back.”
ma.” The old man’s hand plucked at his wife’s sleeve.
him, as she must have done for years now.
folk found the beast in a coffin, at the churchyard. The creature was a dry
husk, a corpse and yet it had a fresh wound in its leg. A wound inflicted by
one of the Cranswell brothers. They dragged it out into the light of day and
burned it to ashes.”
“It burned in
it, the villagers burned it. It was an evil thing.”
“Where is this
The old man
squeezed his wife’s arm and managed to get in a word. “St John the Baptist
Church was destroyed in Cromwell’s day. The present church was rebuilt in…” the
old man paused trying to retrieve the memory, “1878 I think. If you believe the
vampire story, you will find no sign of the crypt. Some say, however, the story
is younger than that. Others believe otherwise.”
The woman pulled her arm away with a glare at her husband. “Go see for
yourself, young man. The church is a sight to be seen. It’s pretty by day.”
“Where is this
The old man
coughed and took up his glass. Angel could practically see through the man’s
papery skin when he swallowed.
where you think.” He winked at the vampire. “Many believe The Baptist is the
church of the legend. It’s not, never was. Mavis likes to play this game.”
Mavis shut her
mouth with a loud tut.
“Come join us,
and I’ll tell you more.” A gnarled hand patted the chair beside him.
with his hand for another round of drinks for the couple. The innkeeper
snorted, shook his head, and grinning, complied. Angel made his way to the
A vampire once
again stalked the village of Croglin. It was a small place and it did not take
him long to walk the length of it. A huddle of old stone buildings hugged the
paved road that led in and out. His sense of déjà vu lessened with each
overhead telephone wire he passed. Angel could smell Croglin Waters as it
meandered down from Black Fell; the river was cloaked beneath trees
nearby. Modern roofs showed their faces
at the edge of town, unwelcome by their older neighbours no doubt. The vampire
kept walking, turned at the cross roads until he came to the sad little church
of John the Baptist. A stone wall hemmed in the large grounds of the church.
Houses sat on either side, rammed tight at the boundary walls as if to claim
the church their own. Beyond the houses, open ground and farmland ran free with
a wild beauty. The graveyard had a somewhat neglected lawn. A single tree sat
sentinel amongst marble which angled this way and that, like drunken sailors frozen
in a swell. Through these Angel wove, scenting the air, not really expecting
anything other than natural death. He peered through the dark but clean
windows. The pews stood silent. Royal purple led the way up tiled floor to a
stained glass and cordoned altar. The church had worshippers still. He was
old man’s advice, Angel ventured further up the narrow road. He passed a
farmhouse he was told was once the Croglin High Hall, saw nothing unusual about
the place and continued on. A row of trees led the way up the rise to the farm
once known as Croglin Low Hall. Angel knew that he was unable to enter the old
fortified farm but his interest was piqued. He would see what he could from any
vantage point. The house that presented itself was two-storied, and yet the old
man had told him that at the time of the vampire attack it had been a single.
Angel’s preternatural senses kicked in telling him the house was empty. The
owners’ absence did not allow him access, however. Angel walked round the house and spied a gate that beckoned, and
when he pushed it open, he saw a paved courtyard in need of some care. A
creeper climbed a wall, its flowers closed for the night, and obstinate weeds
were pushing up between the flagstones. He stepped into this haven of
tranquillity and paced the area, finding nothing out of the ordinary.
the front door, Angel contemplated the window that stared back at him with a
blind eye. Several windows, five in all had suffered the same fate. The glass
had been replaced with brick and his spider senses were tingling as Cordelia
would have said. Flexing his leg muscles, he pushed his centre of gravity down
and flew upwards, landing gracefully on the roof. He ran along the tile as
sure-footed as a cat. He stopped when he reached the pele tower, the top floor
ending there. Standing at the battlements that had thwarted invaders of
centuries past, Angel looked out into the nightscape, able to see quite well.
He was beginning to think this had been a wild goose chase when something
tugged at him, something familiar. He looked into the crisp, cool night to
gather in that feeling. There!
The leap he
executed was exhilarating. He liked nothing better than to move his body,
expend the energy he had curled inside. Without missing a step he landed beyond
the house on to the long grass. He did not tarry; his long legs carried him
away in an easy lope until he came to a field that for some reason bade him
stop. He hesitated. The ground had been sanctified and then defiled; it was
something a vampire knew. A church had stood here once upon a time, a bastion
against evil, and then it had not. Angel could feel the earth beneath his feet
as he paced, and stone and space where there should not be. An odour, the taint
of unclean, wafted to his nose. He lay prone on the cold ground; the long grass
tickled his nose when he inhaled again to be sure.
his jacket and wishing he had brought an axe, his sword, anything that would
spare his efforts, he began to dig through the turf and down into the earth
beneath. His vampire strength a blessing, it took him little time to reach the
stone hidden below. The mound of soil beside him threatened to spill inwards as
he grasped the ancient slab, half of which was still buried. His fingers found
purchase because the slab, heavy as it was, was not aligned perfectly. There
was a gap, and from this rose a faint but unmistakeable scent. He exerted
pressure, and the stone lifted slightly. Another burst of effort and the earth
released its hold. The slab moved slightly to the left when he gave another
into the partially open space and darkness yawned below. The vampire went to
work on the rest of the earth until the entire stone was revealed. He pushed
and pulled at it until it moved enough to give him the room to slide through
the opening. He found himself in a crypt, or the remains of a crypt. Subsidence
had occurred a long time ago, burying whatever tombs had been at the far end of
the vault. One sepulchre remained untouched by time, and this Angel approached.
The lid slid aside with a sharp scrape. It was empty. He hadn’t really expected
anything else. The bodies would have been removed by the devout: it wouldn’t do
to let the dead lie in desecrated ground.
The lack of
light inside the grave was almost absolute. Even so, Angel could see to some
degree, but it was his sense of smell that prompted his fingers to move. He
crouched low and withdrew the remnant of cloth lying rotting in a corner of the
coffin. Bringing it to his nose, he inhaled. His posture did not betray the
feelings the scent instilled. His gut twisted, however, in trepidation, and
anticipation. He had work to do.
the slab and returned the earth to some semblance of order. The grass came last
and he could do nothing about the crushed stalks and flattened leaves. He hoped
that the field was not in use. It didn’t appear to be. Angel picked up his coat
but did not put it on. His clothes were soiled and wrinkled, and he did not
want his precious coat to suffer the same fate.
quietly slipped into his room at the inn and found his love asleep on the bed.
She had showered sometime in the night; her hair was damp, and her pyjamas so
child-like with their animal faces. Angel carefully covered Buffy with the
quilt that lay on the floor before divesting himself of his ruined attire,
changing into fresh clothes after a hurried wash. That the slayer did not wake
told him that she was exhausted. He leaned over and breathed a kiss on to her
cheek before silently closing the door.
burst into life. Angel turned the vehicle and headed north once more. Carlisle
was his destination. Cumbria claimed a link to King Arthur by way of the young
king’s father, Uther. It wasn’t a king that drew Angel north, it was something
else, someone who thought himself a king.
“Let me get
this straight,” Buffy said brushing hair back from her eyes so she could look
at both men. “The beast, creature, vampire, whatever, climbed in through the
window and bit her.”
miss. Miss Cranswell lay bleeding, and it was touch and go for a while whether
she would survive.”
slid to Giles. He did not look at all well but his wits were still about him.
His eyebrow rose and she knew he was thinking the same thing she was.
“It can’t have
been a vampire.” Buffy shut her mouth with horror. Did she just say that out
loud? She had.
“Why do you
say that?” The innkeeper leaned
forward, his arms on the table.
Giles came to
her rescue. “Vampires are myths, legend. They’re not real. Bram Stoker made
them up,” he added for good measure.
swallowed a giggle and picked up her cup of tea. The hot liquid seared her
battered throat but she welcomed the heat. Lightly buttered toast followed it
down and her empty stomach growled with protest while absorbing the much-needed
sustenance. Giles, too, had tea and toast set before him, his second helping in
fact. Buffy would’ve been annoyed if not for his pallor. Giles had suffered
along with her even though she suspected his English stomach should have
survived the onslaught of tainted British food better than hers. He grew up on
black pudding, cottage pies, Cornish pasties, toad in the hole, Yorkshire
pudding, which wasn’t a pudding, and the like. That said it all. What people
named their food with such ridiculousness?
“I don’t know
about this Bram Stoker, but hereabouts we believe in vampires.”
on her tea, burning her tongue when the liquid splashed back.
gently patted her back, his smile enigmatic.
the small dining room trying desperately to control her cough. Buffy and Giles
were the only diners. They were late for breakfast, so late that lunch was a
worried. Angel hadn’t been in their bed when she had opened her eyes, and after
another shower she had discovered his pile of muddied clothes. A quick look out
the window showed the car park minus the Discovery. Where the Hell was he? She dialled his number, but was unsurprised,
and a little vexed, to hear it ring from within his bag. Buffy invaded her
Watcher’s room, and his pasty and not too happy face scowled up at her from
tangled sheets when she insisted he wake. She tuned out his indignant protests
and insisted they interrogate everyone they could find. Giles’ question of
where they had spent the night added to her anxiety. It highlighted how
incapacitated they had been, how ill. It hadn’t really mattered, because Angel
had her back, had their backs, and now he had up and disappeared.
her feet, her stomach still queasy, Buffy had ventured down the stairs to meet
Alan the innkeeper and his understanding wife, Glenda, who insisted on a light
meal to settle their systems. Glenda rattled pots and pans in the kitchen while
her husband sat entertaining their guests with tales of vampires and unholy
goings on back in some dark century.
the one that got into the house and attacked Miss Cranswell - what happened to
ran into the night.”
spirited their sister to Switzerland, did they not?”
at Giles. Of course he knew the story. It had probably been required reading at
the academy for up and coming Watchers.
astonished. “Yes, they did. They came back in the winter to kill the creature.
There was some talk of a little girl from the other Hall that had strange bite
marks on her neck. Miss Cranswell decided she was going to be the bait. One of
the brothers managed to shoot the beast as it made its escape.”
the vampire in a crypt in the church grounds, I believe.”
“The villagers found bones and such-like inside a vault. The creature lay
inside a coffin. It was a corpse, all withered and dry. A fresh wound was found
on one leg. The vampire was burned to ash.”
his nod, popped another piece of toast into his mouth and chewed. His colour
was improving, as was his mood. “Fascinating,” was all he said.
too much time with Andrew.”
“I beg your
Spock you are not.”
“I fail to
her arms in frustration. “Forget it. Between you and Angel, I waste my time
with pop culture.”
pushed back his seat and rose. The mumblings of the pair were beyond his ken.
He left them to it.
“God! Can you
believe it?” Buffy leaned forward; her words were for Giles alone. Her whisper
was quite hoarse. “They believe in
vampires, Giles. Vampires!”
“You and I
know that it wasn’t a vamp they burned.”
“No. I suppose
you are right.” Another piece of toast, raspberry jam coated, went into his
demon – it was a demon – didn’t need an invite - prime requisite for a vampire
- it broke into the house.”
“There is the
“If it was a
vampire, it had to have had an invitation. My bet is still on the demon.”
“I agree. The
Watcher’s Council have always discounted the legend of the Croglin Vampire.
There are too many anomalies.”
swallowed more tea before continuing. “The body was withered, dry, a husk. A
real corpse – you know what I mean – not a walking talking vampire corpse...”
Buffy paused. Angel was a vampire and therefore a corpse. She and Angel made
love – frequently. What did that say about her? She shook her head. Angel may
be a corpse, but he was a handsome one, and for a dead man he did some amazing
“The vampire wouldn’t have been sitting still while they burned it either. It
would have been fighting to get away.”
wound in the leg may have been a ruse, placed there to fool the wannabe Van
blinked. “I didn’t know you had seen the movie.”
you mean Dracula?”
“No! The one
with Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing. What was it called? Van Helsing!”
at Giles’ look.
If it was
possible, his frown deepened. “Did they make a movie about Van Helsing?”
Giles, it was something else that attacked that woman. It got away by giving
them what they wanted, a dead body.”
appeared again. The case was closed, the vampire vanquished and all’s well,”
against the wall as still as the stone against his back. Ash stirred at his
feet, dust scurried with the breeze and was gone. His questions had gone
unanswered, the questioned: dispatched. A moment no more, the flash of steel
safely hidden within cloth, wood snug inside silk-lined pockets, he stepped out
of the alley and continued his search.
hundreds of places to look and Angel intended to see every one. He found two
vampires huddled over a young woman. He dusted those, foregoing the
interrogation. The girl was cooling, her brown eyes fixed forever in fright
when he leaned in. There was nothing he could do for her. He wouldn’t move her,
the best he could do was call the police. He patted his pockets and cursed. He
left, promising her she would be found.
continued his quest moving through the city of Carlisle. As he passed through
The Lanes he thought that Buffy would love to shop here. The Border city
offered very good shopping for locals and tourist alike it seemed, not that he
was eager to shop. It was late, far too late for anything to be open. He could
see, however, the window dressings were pretty. The Lanes was silent, and his
senses keen, informed him the street was empty. The centre of town was wide with cobbled streets, and there were
trees planted here and there to give one the feeling of space and well-being.
As he walked past the flowering plants of The Citadel, he ignored the figure of
the Earl of Lonsdale standing frozen forever, looking over the city. He wasn’t
here to sightsee. The many buildings surrounding the fortress offered promise
though. He would work the perimeter and flush out the ones he sought. He
ignored the terraced houses and the apartments, if he couldn’t get in; neither
could they. The Carlisle Railway Station was a good place to start, there was
bound to be a demon or two lurking in the large and imposing structure.
He worked off
his anger – brown eyes foremost in his mind – by clearing out the
neighbourhood. The vampires he interrogated swore they were ignorant, but he
continued his crusade anyway. A couple of Grappler demons dared to stop by and
take him on. It looked as if the one vampire he had allowed to escape was
spreading the word. Angel welcomed them with a sneer. The larger demons tried
to stay out of reach of his sword, unsuccessfully. The first went down quickly,
clutching its gut, cursing him.
“Too late, I’m
already cursed,” Angel retorted as he whirled to fend off the other.
rush threw him back, and his sword clattered to the ground. He felt as if bones
were broken; the brick wall certainly was. Hell, he’d fought the Beast and
survived, this Grappler was nothing compared. His side stabbing with pain as he
fought to avoid a crushing blow, he didn’t quite manage it, and a leathery fist
glanced off his ribs as he spun. He grunted into game face, and rolled, lashing
out with his foot as he went, and felt a satisfying crunch. His hand curled
about the hilt of his sword, and as he came to his knees his arm flicked out,
power behind the graceful motion, his blade sliced through tendon and bone. The
head rolled off and away, the body followed in a sickly slump. He smiled
through jagged teeth. This was more like it. There was nothing like a spot of
violence to get the blood moving, or in his case, bloodlust. He should be
ashamed, repulsed by what he felt. He had, for a long time. He got over it. He
used his abilities to do good, to protect, and if he felt a wicked
pleasure? It was one he kept to
himself. He was a vampire. That was never going to change, it was who he was,
what he was. Angel caught a movement in his peripheral vision, and his smile
Later in the
“This is a
bust,” Buffy grumbled. She leaned against the odd looking monument in the
grounds of St John the Baptist, her blue jumper in danger of getting dirty.
There is no sign of anything untoward.”
Buffy eyed her
Watcher. His jacket was no longer tweed, and the jeans he wore made him look
younger and less Librarian-looking.
there are no mud holes about that he could’ve fallen into.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Angel had fallen into a hole. She put a hand over
her mouth to stop giggling. That had been a sight to see, Angel down a well.
back. They were both feeling better. Breakfast and fresh air had invigorated
them both and it was good to hear Buffy laugh.
Although, you say his clothes are in state…”
Giles the Look. It was a glance that only women seemed to have perfected, he
thought. Giles tried it himself in Sunnydale, and he had been ignored, woefully.
He removed his glasses, polished them on the hem of his jumper, squinted at the
sky, and replaced them.
“Filthy is the
word I would use. You know Angel. He hates getting his clothes dirty.” She
kicked off from the stone. “We might as well check out the Grange and see if he
has left any clues.”
“Lead on, Miss
Scarlet.” Giles grinned as he followed her down to the road.
what?” Buffy turned to look back at him.
following clues.” At her blank look, Giles sighed. “Never mind.”
Scarlet?” Buffy stopped, comprehension dawning. “Oh… the game. I wonder if
Angel has ever heard of it. Couldn’t the man at least leave a note? No. We have
to follow clues to find out what he is up to.”
Giles tried to
reassure her. “He’ll be okay, Buffy. Angel is not exactly helpless. He knows
his own strengths.”
“I know, but I
bet he is having fun!” she pouted, trying to push aside her own fears.
“Well this is
spattered with blood and gore and dust. He didn’t mind at all. That some of the
blood was his never mattered. He would heal, and fast. In his journey about the
city, he had left reminders of his visit. There were demon carcasses hidden in
dark corners for the rats to feed on, or for clan members to retrieve. The rest
had blown away, a handy thing for a vampire slayer, no bodies, no evidence. He
looked up at the sky. Clouds scudded across the expanse blotting out what
little of the moon there was; it was only a couple of hours till sunrise.
A stir in the
air brought Angel’s head down. A figure stood there, not close, a safe distance
from him. They eyed each other through the darkness. Angel waited. The other
stepped back with hands held palm up. Angel waited some more.
voice hinted of sharp teeth.
He did not
amnesty. He wants to see you.”
Angel felt as
if air had left his lungs, which was impossible. It had been a gamble, a whim
to travel here, to test the waters, to see what came to the surface. He hadn’t
really expected to be rewarded. After all it had been a very long time. The
tension in his shoulders eased, he hefted his sword, twirled it in that wrist
action he loved so much, and readjusted his shoulders as another load of weight
waited, impatient, but not enough to insist he hurry. He did add, however,
“It’s no trap.”
matter,” Angel said, finally stepping forward.
backed away, an eye on the sword, before turning his very vulnerable neck to
lead the way. Angel followed, aware that, yes, this could be a trap, and no, he
wouldn’t be caught napping. Each building they passed, every alley and wall, he
scanned. There was movement ahead and another shadow disengaged from a wall and
joined the first. Better ahead than behind, he thought. The two led him through
narrowing streets of Cumberland stone, and suddenly they were in a yard wide
enough for several trucks, the entrance at the far end. He glanced up knowing
that there were sentries looking down. Never one for backing away from a fight,
a fight he had instigated, he used his speed and was beside his escort with his
arm about his neck and the sword slicing the neck of the other. The door opened
as the dust was settling and he pushed his way through using his new shield for
necessary,” the shield panted from a constricted throat.
The demon who
opened the door straightened from hitting the wall, Angel’s push had flung him
back from the entrance. Angel kicked the door shut and pushed the vamp away. It
fell against the yellow-skinned demon and they both staggered against the wall.
Angel turned while they were sorting themselves out and shot home the very
sturdy bolt to secure his back. The door looked reinforced to stop an army.
He lifted his
sword to indicate they proceed and the minions obliged by taking him deeper
into the building. They passed several rooms, large and well furnished,
obviously a living area for a group of beings. The rooms were notably bereft of
windows and there was no sign of their inhabitants. Angel wondered if all the
occupants were up on the roof and if not a few were waiting for him ahead. A
familiar tang tainted the air and his fangs itched to elongate.
The pair led
him through to where an empty kitchen waited. To the left a stairway beckoned.
The carpet was new he noted; plush and red, it ran up the stairs.
said, “You go up alone.”
“If you say
so.” Angel threw the stake he had in his free hand, dusted the vampire, and he
ran the demon through with his blade. The demon slid to the floor with a look
of surprise and it garbled a curse at him as it died. Angel did not dwell, his
booted feet stepped over the body, and he headed up.
A voice he
recognised, but thought to never hear again, spoke when he arrived at the open
door at the top.
never change, Angelus.”
Later in the
The farm was a
working farm, they could see that, and yet there was no one about. Giles left
off knocking on the door and joined Buffy at the foot of the steps. Both
Watcher and Slayer stared at the bricked-in window.
look as if anyone is home,” he said.
Buffy bit her lip. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m…”
know, Buffy. It’s alright, I understand.”
Giles an apologetic smile. “It’s not as if Angel would have been seen by anyone
even if they had been home. He can be pretty stealthy when he wants to be.”
“Shall we continue to look about? He may have left signs of his visit, if he
had visited, that is.”
“If we see a window
smashed in, or a door, you mean? That would tell us that this place is
always smash in doors to gain entry.” Giles defended the vampire in his
haven’t been with him on enough cases.” Buffy grinned, her spirits lifted for
spied the gate that led to a courtyard. Giles opened it and they trooped in.
need pruning,” the Englishman muttered, surveying the inner sanctum.
“Not much on
the weeding either,” Buffy rejoined, eyeing the plants that were underfoot.
They continued on. The pair had circled the house twice before admitting
defeat. Of Angel there was no sign.
had definitely settled and was telling him it was time for another meal.
“Are you hungry?”
he asked Buffy, hoping that yes, she was, and yes, they could go back to the
inn for food.
feeling a lot better, and peckish, but she wasn’t out of the game yet.
“How about we
search the farm?” she asked, ignoring his question and his downcast look at her
“Where do we
start? It’s a big area to cover; we could walk past a clue and never notice.”
Professor Glum. We each take one side of the house and meet here in the middle.
We know the front faces the road, so we’ll ignore that for now. We’ll repeat
at…” she looked out towards the fields, “…how far is that?” She pointed at a
squinted. He pursed his lips, refusing to be baited. “Twenty yards?”
I mean a hole or at least an area of mud isn’t likely to be small. We should
see it from that distance.”
“How far do we
go?” Giles stared out at the farm. There was a lot of it. He had no doubt that
Angel was fine. He would turn up. The vampire had the knack. He was willing to
do this for Buffy’s sake though. She needed to do something to stop herself
“And if we
don’t find anything?”
“I should kill
you. Probably will. Come in, don’t mind my guards.”
Angel did not
falter. He strode through the doorway as if he owned the place. His eyes were
drawn to the armchair in which sat a man – no, vampire. Angel flicked his gaze
to the two vampires standing behind the chair, each stood to one side and each
held a crossbow. The crossbows followed his entrance, unwavering, his chest the
“You can try,”
he said, as if there were no bolts aimed at his heart.
barked a laugh - it held no humour - it was as dry as the dead man he was.
“A drink for
old time’s sake?” the other asked, and with a wave of his hand, another emerged
from the shadows. The young man arrived with a silver tray on which sat a
decanter of Scotch and two crystal glasses. The tray went down onto the
polished table that sat between the chairs.
Angel did not
move. He studied the man in the chair. His hair was light, long, and tied at
the back, probably in a tail. It had been near two centuries since he set eyes
on the other. The man hadn’t changed. The face was large, the nose broad,
rugged, not unpleasant to look upon, except for the eyes. They were dead,
almost colourless pits of emptiness that stared out at one. Angel knew that his
eyes had once held that same emptiness.
been a lifetime or two.”
“Oh, much more
than that.” Varian gestured to the wingchair. “Sit. I promised amnesty and you
repay me by killing my servants.”
to answer. He wasn’t at all worried about the vampire’s servants. The minion
stood by, motionless, waiting for Varian’s guest to sit. The glasses glowed amber
from the liquid within. Angel shrugged. What the Hell! He sat, settled his
sword, his hand never leaving its hilt, and accepted a glass. The minion went
away. His eyes though, scrutinised the room, and the goons, who had not lowered
their weapons. His eyes continued to roam until something curious - almost
heart-stopping, if it beat – caught his attention. He did not allow the
smallest flicker of emotion to paint his face. His gaze wandered on and back to
for Angel to speak. He waited some more, swallowed another mouthful of whisky,
before, “What brings you here?”
“You did.” And
then Angel tasted his drink. The whisky was old, smooth and fiery. It slid down
his throat and warmed his belly for a moment.
found me. What do you want?”
deliberately ignored the guards and looked into Varian’s dead eyes.
to find you here,” he said.
eyes narrowed. “You slaughtered the denizens of this city to attract my
didn’t know that you were actually here.”
“And if I
Angelus would have been proud of the boredom in his voice. And yet, Angel
thought as he peered over the rim of his crystal, he was Angelus, wasn’t he?
his legs at the ankles. His dark pants stretched against powerful thighs. The
red brocade jacket, screamed affectation, or was it nostalgia, as did the
ruffles at the cuffs that peeked out when he moved.
“I was told
that you would seek me out here. I thought you were dead. Unfortunately the
rumours were unfounded.”
thought he would get a reaction from his visitor, he was mistaken. His guest
accepted the statement without blinking. Varian tensed, as did his guards, when
Angel placed his glass on the antique table and put his hand in his pocket.
Fingers on triggers tightened. His hand came free holding a scrap of cloth.
Angel placed that on the polished surface before taking up his unfinished
and picked up the scrap. He held it to his nose, and smiled. The vampire’s eyes
regained a measure of life. A spark ignited in those pale orbs, and Angel knew
that he had been right to come here.
“It’s been a
long while since I caught the scent of
Him.” The eyes shut down again with his next sentence. “You killed Him I recall.”
“I didn’t. I
was there, and I didn’t.” He wished he had, now.
“Where did you
find this?” The spark was back, a glimmer, no more.
back his head and laughed. “That place! He toyed with those who lived there.”
“I thought so.
There were monks?” Angel asked.
“You know how
He liked to deceive, Angelus. He had no choice up here above ground. A habit
can hide many sins.”
“His were many,” Angel agreed. “He didn’t go
“He could have
taken the village,” Varian said.
resonated within Angel. He swallowed his last drop of Scotch. A cool customer
the outcome? The peasants were fooled and a legend was born. It was all a game.
And then He left, I never saw Him again.” He stared at the Scourge of Europe
have visited. You knew where to find Him.”
“The New World
has never appealed, Europe is my hunting ground.” A hand waved, imperious.
“Once was yours, what did happen to
you? I heard something about an evil law firm and that you were running the
place. I thought, how typically Angelus.”
can I say?” Angel cradled the glass on his lap, his sword still clasped within
his fingers. “How long?” he asked, finally.
ago. Vienna. It is a maddening gift she has. I nearly didn’t come but she
yourself at home.”
“I come and go
every decade or so. Carlisle is a bit of a backwater. Stefan looks after things
Angel waggled his fingers. “Green shirt, black jeans? He fell apart the last
time I saw.”
vampire’s lips pressed into a thin line. Angel could feel the hatred stab at
him. He stood abruptly, making the bowmen twitch. The sneer that crawled across
Angel’s lips was worthy of Angelus. He turned his back and paced to the chest
of drawers against the wall. Curls, lace, porcelain and glassy eyes peered up
at him from a corner of the chest. His heart squeezed tight and he turned,
without reaching out to touch, to face his enemy.
“He named you well.”
fickle, even you. You spat in His face, walked away. I did too.”
“I never went
sideways as if to examine the painting on the wall, and he ended up doing just
that. It was a landscape by a long dead local artist, William James Blacklock.
Once upon a time a painting of the countryside was the only way a vampire like
Angel could see the colours of the day. That was before the advent of movie
theatres, television, and necro-tempered glass. Angel sighed. He missed
“I don’t feel
her near,” he said when he turned back. He wasn’t dust, and he was surprised.
Never hesitate; never give your enemy an edge.
bored, she left, and she isn’t happy with her Daddy.” Varian leaned back in his
seat. He added, “You with a soul and all. She says that you’ve changed.”
shrugged. His body was bruised, his wounds smarting; he moved a step closer to
his chair and the low table. Sword and crystal dangled from each hand, his arms
relaxed, and his stance easy.
“It must be
abhorrent, a soul.” Varian tilted his head to look up at Angel. “It hasn’t
affected you as I was led to believe. You’re still the same bastard I knew back
in the day.”
formed on Angel’s lips. “It took a while to come to grips…Darla…”
“Long story -
she came back.”
gleam came into those pale eyes. “A soul isn’t all it’s made out to be. The man
in my cellar has a soul. He wants to become one of us. It is tempting...I haven’t made up my mind.”
struck out hitting the table. It spun into the air towards the two armed men.
He threw himself sideways as he launched his crystal missile at Varian. The
twang of the bows and the thud of bolts hitting wood sounded. Angel sidestepped
back and removed the head of one of the bowmen. Varian launched himself from
his chair, tackled him as Angel’s fist smashed into the other bowman’s temple.
The guard toppled as Angel and his attacker flew backwards, both landing on the
floor. Varian was enraged, his forehead connected with Angel’s in a vicious
blow and his hands circled Angel’s throat.
“Is this the
way you repay my hospitality?” he snarled, his eyes narrowed with pure venom.
“Well, you did
say I haven’t changed,” Angel bit back between gritted teeth. His ears were
ringing and there were holes in his vision but it didn’t deter him.
his knee up and hit the vampire in the gut. Varian did not let go, instead his
grip tightened. Angel knew that the demon was going to rip his head off. A
movement over the other’s shoulder warned him that someone, the waiter or the
other guard, was waiting. Angel manoeuvred one of his hands until he gripped
the other’s hands. His other hand, sword still wrapped in his grip, came up and
he thumped the hilt against the blonde head. Varian grunted, Angel used his leg
and brought his knee up again, this time he hit a sensitive spot, and the other
vampire howled in agony. Once again Angel banged the hilt against a temple,
hard, the body collapsed boneless on to him. Angel brought a leg up beneath the
inert vampire and kicked out. The body sailed in the air towards any wood that
was aimed his way. Rolling quickly, Angel jumped up and found the bowman
fumbling to hold his master. The vampire who had served the drinks never stood
a chance when he lunged towards the former Scourge of Europe. The minion’s
stake tumbled to the carpet as his head left his shoulders. Angel rescued the
wood, sank the stake through Varian’s heart and on into his minion as the
The room was
silent and the vampire with a soul resisted the urge to pant with the exertion.
He did not need the breath; it was habit only, one that he used when he was
exhausted beyond vampire endurance. He wasn’t done yet, and truth be told, the
fight had been exhilarating, the light of battle still bright behind his eyes.
getting nowhere. She looked about at the stark and yet beautiful countryside,
and sighed. The house, when she turned her head, was still visible. Giles was
approaching in his quest for clues and she knew that he had come empty handed.
It was time to call it quits. Buffy sighed again and focused her gaze ahead
once more. The field before her was
overgrown, unused by animal or man, and all of a sudden, it was…inundated with
sheep. Where had they come from? The flock had appeared at a run, frightened
lambs were calling for their mothers and the ewes were not stopping. The poor
things were desperately trying to keep up.
“What is it?”
Giles asked her as he finished his arc.
Something has them spooked.”
perhaps?” Giles gazed at the frantic sheep as they ran by. “It is lambing
season. The county warns visitors to keep their dogs under control, but some
never do and there are always incidents.”
Buffy had that
slayer tingle that informed her that that wasn’t the case. Damn it! She didn’t
have a weapon other than the stake she carried in her pocket. Her sword and
weapons were with Angel, wherever he was, in the back of the Discovery. Mind
you, she thought as she ran to the drystone wall that was prevalent in the
English countryside, she wouldn’t have been carrying a sword about the village
in the middle of the afternoon.
called after her.
“It’s not a
dog, Giles. Try and find something to defend yourself with.” Buffy scrambled up
and stood perfectly balanced on the wall.
find…?”Giles looked about at the nearly barren field. “Not a lot of that going
round,” he muttered as he followed Buffy’s orders. He looked about for
something long and sharp, a branch or two would be nice. Not finding anything
suitable, Giles stood and watched Buffy balancing on the wall.
Of course! The
wall! Giles wondered for a moment if he had acquired brain damage along with
the food poisoning. He searched the disturbed grass and found a rock embedded
in the earth. He pulled it free and felt the weight. It would do. Another
caught his eye and he plucked that up as well.
“Can you see
where the sheep got in, Buffy?” he asked as he placed the rocks on the wall
down and nodded her approval of his choice of weapon. She picked one, hefted
it, threw it in the air and caught it one handed. It was a start.
“It looks like
a breach in the wall down the hill a bit. I’m not sure, but the trampled earth
leads up from there.” Buffy stood on her toes and still couldn’t see any
further. Why did she have to be so short?
“Can you see
the demon?” Giles was back with three more rocks.
“No, but it’s
there.” When her friend turned to go, she said, “Stay here. Use the rocks if
you have to.” With that she was gone - slayer speed - off the wall and heading
towards the break in the wall.
A flash of
dark fur hurtling from shrubbery alerted her to impending attack. She spun as
she kicked out letting her movement add force to her blow. A growl, and the
solid smack on flesh, told her she had hit her target as she planted her feet
and straightened. Buffy’s eyebrows rose in recognition. The thing before her
appeared awfully familiar. Its jaws opened wide – my, what big teeth you have –
and it sprang for her throat. The slayer threw her stone missile with
supernatural strength at the airborne demon. The rock hit the demon in its
hindquarters and it glanced away. The Hellhound, she was confident it was
related to that species, yelped, turned from its attack, and ran past her to
pursue its previous prey.
“Oh no, you
don’t!” she shouted as she chased after it up the hill. Buffy could run fast,
she was the slayer, but the demon was faster. It was heading towards the sheep
and it had to run past Giles.
yelled, concerned for him, her fright spurring her on, her arms pumping as she
tried to outrun the demon.
She saw the
demon flinch and duck and weave. Giles was throwing his rocks at the creature,
slowing it down. It danced around the human as it dodged the next few missiles.
That gave Buffy enough time to catch up. Without breaking her stride, she
tackled the hound to the ground, punching the monster in the ribs, chest, head,
wherever she could land a blow. It tried to turn its head to bite, but the
slayer hung on, riding its back as she delivered blow after blow. Finally,
sensing it weakening, Buffy grabbed its head and yanked hard. She heard and
felt the bones snap as the spine gave. The demon shuddered and lay still in a
tangled mass of fur, teeth and claws.
“What were you
saying about dogs, Giles?” she puffed as her friend helped her to her feet.
Buffy!” Giles said, his heart still racing from the excitement. He peered down
at the dead demon and frowned. “Doesn’t that look like…?”
Hellhounds that tried to ruin the high school prom? Yeah, I think so.”
Giles stooped for a closer look. “The snout I think is longer and the legs too.
The fur is thicker, maybe for the cooler climes, and its colour is a muddy
brown, not at all the grey-black of the Sunnydale demon.”
brushed at her jeans. They were filthy. She pulled at her jumper and grimaced
at the stains marring the blue.
my clothes. Maybe I should wear brown now and be done with it,” she muttered.
close, Giles barely heard her complaints above the sheep that were huddled in a
circle and trembling with fright. Little black faces bleated loudly for
mothers’ milk as ovine hooves trampled the pasture leaving a mess of dirt and
grass. Any clues were sure to be obliterated underfoot.
It’ll wash.” Giles cleared his throat. “I think we should hide the body under
the brush. The foxes will do the rest.” He pointed to a line of trees at the
bottom of the gully.
shoulders slumped. “Great. More dirt.” She toed the dead carcass and voiced the
question bouncing around in her head. “Do you think Angel ran into one of
“He may well
have done, although it doesn’t explain why he disappeared in the Discovery.
“Oh, he’ll be
explaining alright, when he gets back.”
the vague threat in his slayer’s voice; he knew that she was only worried. He
hoped that the vampire showed up in one piece and with his car intact.
“Let’s get this done shall we?”
and grabbed the back legs of the demon. Buffy lifted the body by holding onto
the shoulders. The head lolled grotesquely back towards her knees. She eyed the
tongue that threatened to lap at her legs with every step she took.
“That is so
gross. I hate my life!”
“I hate my
life,” Angel muttered as he surveyed the ruin before him.
inside a room that harboured terrible secrets. The cellar was beneath the city,
underground where evil lurked and evil did. Blood lust, strong and unyielding,
reached out and filled him with unrelenting need. The life force, spattered on
every surface, begged to be sipped, lapped and tasted. The blood was congealing,
cold, and yet he still wanted to partake. He forced the primal urge down,
buried it as deep as he could, knowing that his cravings still simmered,
refusing to be denied.
there was a distant pounding. The sun was rising.
A man stood
backed up against the farthest wall. His hands and arms dripped viscous red.
Angel couldn’t help but track the drops as they fell towards the putrid floor.
The dismembered person was beyond recognition. The face had been peeled away,
eye sockets empty and staring wetly. Instruments of torture lay haphazard,
used. He recognised the similarity to the wounds he had examined on the body in
Scotland. He brought his gaze up to the thing standing before him. Human,
maybe. A monster, no question. Beyond redemption? He would find out.
The man moved
and Angel could see he wore protective clothing. A long leather apron,
butcher-like soaked red, squelched a little as he pulled away from the wall.
hate such a gift. Come, taste. Why do you hesitate?”
Okay, the man
guessed he was a vampire. Considering where he stood, it was a logical
deduction. Angel studied the open face, it was fair, hardly the face of a
killer. The brow hugged a fringe of light brown hair, longer than fashionable,
but then what was in fashion these days? Large hazel eyes looked back at him in
all openness as if the question was ordinary. Angel could see freckles dusting
cheeks where blood spatter had not flown.
his hand to encompass the room. “Why?”
“Why not?” The
man glanced down at the carnage at his feet. He looked up again, his face calm.
“Do you think I’m mad, a raving maniac? Do you think I know not what I do?”
dared to step towards him. The vampire eyed the saw that dangled from one
“Being what you are, you must understand what
it is to maim, to kill. I bet you consider torture an art form.”
was flat, emotionless, as he said, “You consider this, art.”
beginning. Practice, if you will.”
have called it butchery. It lacked finesse, and he should know. He had
practised the art and had allowed himself to be carried away on occasion. Many
marks?” The vampire raised a brow.
“I wanted to
see the difference between an animal attack and a demon’s. I have learned that
it depends on the demon.” The man chuckled and it would have raised the hairs
on the back of Angel’s neck if he had been human.
“Clever use of
the ritual,” Angel admitted.
smiled. “It was, wasn’t it?” He pointed one bloody finger. “You got that,
“Who was it?”
backpacker. No one will miss him.”
Angel did not
like the way the victim was dismissed so callously. “You will not become one of
us. You get to go to prison,” he promised.
“Why do you
care?” the killer cried with disbelief, and as Angel watched, the man’s face
crumbled. The eyes filled with tears, the gaze grew distracted. It was not the
same man standing there.
the killer babbled, “I was following the Word of God. He told me to cleanse the
world of unbelievers. I will join him in Heaven because I am His disciple.” The
face straightened, the eyes cleared and the gaze chilled. “Do you think an
asylum for the criminally insane will stop me?”
was a whisper that only a dead man heard. “No.”
He brought up
the sword that he held against his leg. The human killer tried to ward off the
strike but Angel was preternaturally quick. The hand flew away and fell with a
clang, the saw still held in death’s grip. The sword of Angel pierced the man’s
gut. It was a mortal blow.
butcher stared at his killer as he sank to the floor.
stared back at the man who believed in evil and wanted to embrace it, had in
fact become evil. There was no saving this one, but by killing him, Angel would
save the others this one would prey on.
“It’s what I do,” he whispered to the dying
man on the floor.
the two sentries guarding the sewer exit beneath the cellar. Day had dawned,
the pounding on the door had desisted, and cover had been found for those
creatures of the night outside. He supposed the demons with them had gone to
ground as well. He hoped, as he left behind a blaze burning inside the vampire
nest - an old landscape rolled up inside his coat - that the cellar and its
stone walls would survive the inferno and leave evidence of its gruesome guests
to the authorities.
As he ran
through the rat-infested tunnels, looking for a place that he could rest and
hide for the day, he thought of the girl in the alley and the two young men.
All three had fallen prey to two different kinds of monsters. They would not be
forgotten. He would leave a note and the painting outside a Police station when
night fell. Angel found a nook that led to nowhere. It smelled of human
effluent and rat, as did everything, but the surface was dry and dusty. The
vampire settled down to sleep, not minding the dirt for once, his clothes were
ruined anyway. He chuckled wryly at his fate. Here he was, in a confined space
and having to endure the smell of the sewers. As he drifted off, he thought of
Buffy. Heaven knew what reception he would get when he returned to Croglin
village. He sighed. He had a fair idea Buffy would not be happy.
happy. She had been watching the road from her vantage point at the small
window in the pub. Giles had left her to her gloomy thoughts and sat chatting
with Alan the owner. There hadn’t been that many cars, but still, there had
been one or two. They were both feeling a lot better, their stomachs had
demanded food, and she had eaten a light meal with Giles just before sunset.
Now she sat and waited. There wasn’t a lot that they could do other than wait
for her vampire’s return. If he did not show up soon, he was a dead man! Or
deader than he already was.
her chin rested on her hand as she looked out at the area reserved for cars.
The slayer prayed to whoever was listening, that her love was, any minute now,
about to arrive in Giles’ vehicle. If not, then they were in trouble. They had
no car and no idea in which direction Angel had gone. There was Penrith in the
south, Brampton to the north of them and Carlisle to the North West, let alone
all the many small villages in between. Damn him and damn his not taking the
sighed again and moped. An engine growled as a car drove up the road. She
straightened and started to rise in anticipation. It passed by. Her shoulders
slumped and her chin hit her hand once again. They had given up the search for
Angel after she had killed the beastie in the paddock. A shower and change of
clothes had led to a quiet snooze and here they were, fed, with nowhere to go.
Giles’ voice and she turned to see him looking at her, a patient smile in
place. Why wasn’t Giles worrying about his precious car? Angel was sooo dead!
missed the familiar purr of the familiar vehicle in her funk. She looked up and
saw the lights swing into the parking area. Buffy flew from her seat and raced
out the door. She pulled up short just outside and waited. He had better have a
good explanation. She wasn’t worried, no. She was mad.
lights swung across the doorway of the inn catching the slim figure of a woman
standing there. The woman had her arms crossed. It was Buffy. He swallowed. She
was mad at him and had full reason to be so. He would have been frantic if she
had disappeared like he had. He was sorry but he had good reason. She would
understand. He hoped.
as Angel parked the car. She felt Giles’ presence behind her and shooed him
back. He fled, wise man. Buffy tapped her foot and stared at her boyfriend as
he walked towards her.
“Where have you been? Giles has been
Angel knew she
meant she had been worried. He opened his mouth…and shut it again.
“Would it kill
you to take your phone and carry some money? What were you thinking?”
Buffy bit off
her tirade when Angel stopped in front of her. Now that he stood near the light
of the open door, she could see his dishevelled state, not to mention, he
smelled. Angel never smelled.
alright?” She reached out and fingered his shirt. It was torn and sticky.
“You’re hurt. What happened to you?” She looked up at him, sorry she had
snapped. She had been worried.
“I’m sorry. I
had money but I didn’t have a phone,” he shrugged sheepishly, “…thing. Are you
okay? Are you well?”
nearly stamped her foot. He was the most exasperating individual.
first, Buffy? I promise to tell you everything once we’re on the road. We are
on the road, right?”
her nose. “A shower is a must, I agree, but enough of the cryptic crap. What
had you stealing Giles’ car to go haring God knows where?”
delaying the inevitable. “It’s taken care of.”
Her foot tapped
once more and her frown deepened.
“It’s a long
down at his love, knowing that his next few words would bring back painful
memories. It had been a difficult time for Buffy, she had suffered nightmares and
had had trouble coping. He and her friends bore the brunt of her pain all those
years ago, not realising the source and how deep her anguish ran. Angel had
gone to deal with the problem hoping to spare his girl, hoping he would be able
to tell her knowing that she could finally put it behind her. The past never
rested, it always came back to bite
you in the ass. His past was extraordinarily long and his family had a long
reach. His family had been the cause of so much destruction, he had been, and the consequences ranged
far and wide. Family was too strong a word. That implied love, care and
sacrifice whereas his previous family had not. Buffy was his family now, Giles
too. No, his other family had been all
about blood, violence, the thrill of the kill, and pain, so much pain. He was
about to inflict more on the woman he loved.
He let two
words slip from his tongue and watched her carefully. “The Master.”
for any inaccuracy in my descriptions of Croglin Village or Carlisle.
I have gleaned
what little information I have from the net and have included below a couple of
the sites I found useful.
The Robin Hood
Inn is real and can be found in Croglin Village. The name of the owner has been
The very brief
reference to Human Sacrifices located on the River Tweed can be found here.
Villages including Croglin.
The Legend of
the Vampire of Croglin Grange.
the Croglin Grange Vampyre.
St John the
Baptist’s Church, Croglin.
Blacklock 1816 – 1858. Blacklock is one of Cumbria’s most important landscape
artists. He painted the scenery of Cumbria, the Lake District and The Borders
and favoured remote areas. His painting, Catbells and Causeypike; The Rookery,
can be seen at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle.