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Undercover

Undercover

 

 

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Dark Star

Season 3

Part 12

 

**

 

Summary: What lies underneath?

 

**

 

She smiled as she listened to the little dog rushing up and down the hallway below, and Sharon's grip tightened on the handrail. Carefully she picked her way up the wooden stairs, cautious on the worn carpet until her feet met solid ground.

 

As she walked down the shabby passage, she could hear noises through the open doorway. The mugs chinked together in her hand, and she picked her way across the abandoned rolls of paper lying on the floor.

 

"How's it going?" she asked.

 

Andy, her husband of seven years, turned from his task of wallpaper stripping, and grinned at her. "Just fine, babe." He stepped forward to take one of the mugs from her. "And you've already brought refreshments. Thanks."

 

Sharon put her mug down on the paint-splattered stepladder, and glanced over her husband's working area. "What's that?" she asked, pointing to some lines that had appeared from under the receding wallpaper.

 

"Just some kids drawing on the walls, that's all. Didn't you ever do that?"

 

"With my parents? You must be joking!" Sharon picked up the second scraper and started on the opposite wall. The light was starting to fade and she wanted to help him get the stripping done before it got dark. The electrics up here weren't up to much. "They weren't as laid back as yours."

 

Andy laughed, making her stomach do a little flip. "Yeah. I can't see 'em letting you loose with pens, somehow."

 

For a moment, Sharon watched him peel back a whole strip of paper, revealing more of the lines underneath. "What did you draw?"

 

"Fish," he confided in her.

 

"Fish?"

 

Andy looked a little sheepish. "I like fish, okay? Used to go fishing with my dad. Used to dream about the darn things…"

 

Sharon laughed, returning her attention the rather sticky wallpaper. What had they used to stick this stuff up with?

 

The late afternoon passed in light-hearted banter, the room slowly losing the faded red wallpaper.  Sharon spent the time planning what furnishings to buy when they had finished decorating, and where everything would eventually go.

 

It was now getting too dark to see properly, so she crossed over to the soon-to-be replaced light switch and gingerly turned it on.  "There! Now we can…"

 

Blinking against the glare of the uncovered bulb in the centre of the room, Andy noticed that Sharon's eyes were wide. What was she looking at? He glanced round the room, the light bulb illuminating what the fading daylight had hidden.

 

"What kind of children did we say lived here?" he said quietly.

 

All around them, covering every wall, were the lines that they had been uncovering all afternoon. But there were so many of them, and what they had taken for childish scrawl, turned out to an eerie pattern created out of old symbols and pentagrams.

 

** 

 

"Thank you very much, Buffy." Fred Grainger eyed the rooms of his small cottage appreciatively. No green ichor seeping from under the floorboards. Whatever it was the young woman had done, had certainly hit the spot. "Um…" he said awkwardly. "Do I pay now, or…?"

 

"Giles will bill you," she said helpfully. "He handles the money part. Me? I'm just the get-it-over-with girl."

 

Fred's eyebrows rose. She really was a very strange girl. "Right. Then… um… would you like a cup of tea?"

 

"No, thanks." Buffy grinned and went to where her jacket hung behind the door. It was bad enough to get green muck all over her jeans - she had no idea if it would even wash out - she hadn't wanted her jacket to suffer the same fate. "If you get any more ickiness, Mr Grainger, just give us a call. But I doubt that you will."

 

"I will," he responded, a little too enthusiastically. "And those… odd sounds? Will they…?"

 

"All taken care of," she assured him. She hadn't, of course, told him that the strange slithery noises coming from under the floor had been coming from a nest of Skhirh, even if she had been able to pronounce it properly. Or that said Skhirh had likely been mating to cause such… peculiar sounds.

 

Fred watched her from the doorway as she got into her Mini, belted up, and pulled away. He hadn't really heard some very peculiar sounds when the girl had pulled up his floorboards, had he? And what was that green stuff all down the front of her clothes? Mould? That was it. Rats and mould…

 

Buffy turned on the heating in the car as soon as she pulled away. England was great, pretty and green and everything, but it could be damned cold. It was at times like this that she missed the sunshine of home; it had been wet and windy all day, and the thunderstorm that opened overhead, bouncing torrential rain off of the roof of the car wasn't helping any. She hated driving in a thunderstorm; it was the sitting inside a metal box while electricity raged all around that did it.

 

The drive down from Gloucester was not a pleasant experience. The gunge had soaked through her jeans, and the fabric was sticking to her legs. The rain pounding on the roof of the car was unrelenting and only stopped when she passed into Wiltshire. The roads were still wet but at least the thunder had moved off elsewhere. By the time she pulled into the driveway of Summerdown House she was cold and disgruntled. She parked the car in the garage, and sat for a minute. Normally, because Angel would often be sleeping at this time, she would go over to the house and beg something hot from Martha. But today, she needed some clean clothes, and that meant going to the flat and risk disturbing Angel. He hadn't been sleeping too well since the business with the voodoo spell, and she wanted him to get whatever rest he could. Getting out of the car, and closing the door quickly, she sprinted for the covered walkway and she hurried up, trying to get her circulation going after sitting wet in the car for so long.

 

She let herself quietly into the flat, and found the room still in darkness; she didn't want to wake Angel, but she only had to take a few steps - the bathroom door was just on the right. She'd taken two steps when he said, "Everything all right?"

 

Damn. "Great. Go back to sleep, Angel."

 

The sheets on the sofa bed rustled, and Buffy tried not to imagine him getting out from under the duvet and standing next to the bed.  "You smell weird," he said. "What happened?"

 

"Demon nest," she replied, a little more forceful than she had meant to. Weird?  Angel drew back the curtains; the flat hardly ever got direct sunlight, and certainly never when the weather was as dark outside as today.

 

Buffy forgot her forlorn state when she saw just-from-bed-rumpled Angel, standing in the light from the window; his expression one of concern for her well-being.

 

"I'd drop your clothes in the kitchen, if I were you," he advised. "The fewer steps you take, the less likely to drop green… whatever-it-is all over the floor."

 

Buffy looked down at the puddle collecting at her feet, and realised the sense in his suggestion. Angel went past her into the bathroom. "I'll run the bath for you."

 

Peeling off her clothes and dropping them in a messy pile on the wooden kitchen floor - she suspected that Angel would have gathered them up before she'd finished bathing - she went into the bathroom.

 

The room smelt lovely, the water looked warm, bubbly, and inviting, and she wanted nothing more than to immerse herself in the bubbles and get clean again. Almost nothing.

 

"You staying around?"  She grinned wickedly at him. "I want somebody to scrub my back!"

 

"Thought you'd never ask," he replied playfully, closing the bathroom quietly behind him.

 

**

 

Balancing the new light fittings and plug sockets in one hand, and his toolbox in the other, Andy ambled down the corridor leading to the room they were renovating. It was still very early, but he wanted to get on with the decorating; it wasn't that long until Easter and he really wanted to have this room all done by then. There were still plenty of rooms to do, but he wanted to take his wife to Paris for the Easter break - it would be good for them to get away from dust and paint fumes for a bit.  The unexpected discovery of the pentagrams on the wall had thrown them; Shaz had been so freaked by the sight of them that they had stayed up late last night to slap some white paint over the walls to cover them up again.

 

This part of the house never seemed to get much natural light, and this time of year the daylight was in short supply, which is why they had wanted to have some decent electricals put in. Unfortunately, they needed to have good light to do it, which meant waiting until later on. Still, there was plenty that he could be getting on with while he waited. He flipped on the light.

 

"Hells Bells."

 

The symbols and pentagrams, so painstakingly covered up the previous evening, had reappeared on the walls overnight.

 

**

 

There was something special about having the first cup of tea of the day. Giles cradled his mug, carrying it over to the kitchen table. The postman had already called this morning, and he sorted through the mail, searching for something that didn't look like a bill. Ah. One that bore the stamp of Wessex University caught his eye, and he slit the top open and pulled out the contents. Attached to the letter was his cheque, payment for his lectures on Central Selva's conservation programme to protect its native plant and animal species.

 

 

His gaze wandered over to the flat over the garage. The lights were off, and the room stood in darkness, though he doubted that they were both in there. His stomach rumbled and he was reminded of how hungry he was this morning; Scrambled egg sounded like a good idea, and he went to the fridge to help himself to some eggs. Martha had bought bacon! He hadn't had bacon for breakfast in… ages. Bacon, eggs, bread…. All were carried over to the kitchen counters. This was going to be fun!  

 

*

Giles was just finishing loading the dishwasher when the phone rang. He picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

 

"W…would that be the Paranormal office?" a man's voice said.

 

"Project Paranormal, yes. Rupert Giles speaking. Do you have a problem?"

 

"Yeah, you could say that. I'm Andy Morris, and… I'm not sure we have a paranormal problem, but Shaz thinks we've got a poltergeist."

 

*

 

When Buffy went over to the main house, she found the kitchen deserted. Bother, she had forgotten that Martha had a day off today. She had hoped to get the older woman's help in de-gunging her jeans. Martha had become surprisingly resourceful when finding unorthodox methods of stain removal, and often, only the worse cases had to be thrown away. Well, hopefully if the jeans stayed in soak another day it wouldn't be too detrimental to them. Standard washing had done no good at all.

 

"Giles?"

 

She wandered over to the pantry, looked inside and grinned. She pulled out a tin decorated with red roses and pulled off the lid. Martha had made a lovely batch of fruit scones, and there were still four left. Actually, she was fairly certain that she had eaten most of them. She left two in the tin, and put the lid back on. Just as she lifted the tin to put it back in the pantry, she saw a piece of paper on the table. She must have put the tin on top of it without seeing it.

 

She picked it up, and recognised the writing immediately.

 

Buffy.

 

Called out to a case early this morning, suspected poltergeist activity. Details are on my desk if you need them. Be back as soon as I can.

 

Giles.

 

P.S. Feel free to finish off the last of the scones.

 

*

 

Giles pulled up outside the address on his notepad. The cottage  looked very old, circa 17th century, and although parts of it were looking dejected, it was obvious that it was in the process of being renovated. The roof was new, but done to be sympathetic to the rest of the house. There was no front garden. The net curtain twitched as he got out of the car, and made his way to the front door. The woodwork was faded and peeling, and before he could put his finger on the doorbell, the door opened.

 

 

"Mr Giles?"

 

"That is correct. Mrs. Morris?"

 

The woman nodded, smiling nervously. "Thank you for coming. Won't you come in?"

 

She opened the door wider and allowed him into the hall. "Did you have a pleasant journey?"

 

"Very congenial, Mrs Morris, thank you."

 

"Well," she said briskly, "You probably want to see the phenomenon." She turned and started up the stairs, obviously expecting him to follow. Giles walked behind her, his observant nature taking in as many details as possible en route. She led him down the hall, and sounds were coming from the room at the end.

 

"We're trying to get this room done for Easter," Sharon Morris was saying. "We've done all of the downstairs rooms and are having somebody coming in soon to replace the bathroom suite. Our main job now is to modernise the rest of these bedrooms, but we hit an odd problem."

 

When they reached the bottom of the steps, a fair-haired man came through to meet them. He held out his hand. "Andy," he said.

 

"Giles," he replied, shaking the offered hand.  Beside them, Andy's wife squirmed restlessly, and Giles realised that what he had taken for shyness, was in fact something else. The room made her nervous.

 

The room in question had been painted white, and recently, because the smell of fresh paint permeated the confined space. But what interested Giles were the pentacles and symbols on the walls. They were everywhere, on every wall. He pulled his digital camera out of his pocket. "Do you mind?"

 

Carefully, and meticulously, he photographed every wall, taking special care to make sure he had everything. While he worked, he encouraged the couple to tell the story of how they had uncovered the design, painted over it, only to have it reappear the following day.

 

"That's not all," Andy said. "Touch it."

 

Tentatively, Giles touched a digit to the design. The paint was still wet on the symbols.

 

"I know what you're thinking," Sharon said. "That we did it ourselves. But just look at how complex the design is. It would have taken us hours."

 

"Yes." Giles agreed thoughtfully. "It would." That had been his first thought when seeing the room, but why would they have gone to all that trouble and then called him in while it was still wet? That would have been a dead giveaway that it was a hoax. "How long have you lived here?"

 

"Three years," Andy replied. "The house was in a heck of a state, but going very cheap because of it.  So we bought it as an ongoing project and try to do it up as, and when, we can afford it."

 

"Have you ever noticed anything odd about this room?"

 

Andy shrugged. "Like what? It's just a room. But in truth, we haven't been up here very much so it's hard to say."

 

"Sherry doesn't like it," Sharon said quietly.

 

"Yes, but…"

 

"Sherry?" Giles queried.

 

"Our dog," Andy explained. "She's a Jack Russell - highly strung little thing. She won't come in here."

 

"Is she like that with the other rooms?" Giles asked.

 

"Sherry is a funny dog," Andy explained. "One minute she's fine, a minute later she is hiding from you - no apparent reason. She was like that before we came here, so it isn't the house. She has spells when she won't go in certain rooms, but she's never been in here, as far as I know."

 

While they had been talking, Giles was surveying the room and making notes in his book. He looked up. "What was on the walls before you started decorating? I take it that the symbols weren't visible then?"

 

"Just wallpaper," Andy said, as Sharon went into the hallway to pick up a black bag filled with wallpaper off-cuts. She brought them back in for Giles to see, and he picked up one of the faded red pieces to get a better look. The paper looked very old; he was sure he had seen similar designs in some historical journals. He turned the paper over, and the backs were sticky to the touch. He doubted that traces of the paste they used would still be tangible, but maybe it would give him a clue. He pulled a plastic specimen bag out of his case, and carefully labelled it before popping the piece of wallpaper inside. He would send the paper to his friend at Bath University for analysis. That done, he turned his attention back to the young couple.

 

"Tell me what you know about the house."

 

*

 

Buffy was just putting the empty tin on the drainer when the telephone rang.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Uh, hi. I'm Greg Milton, and I own Undercover."

 

"Undercover?"

 

"Yeah, camping supplies - tents and so forth. We do a great selection of sleeping bags and…"

 

Buffy groaned. "Thanks, but we don't do much field work, so we don't need any tents. Giles has all that stuff, anyway." She spoke quickly, trying to get rid of the salesman, and was just about to hang up, when he spoke again.

 

"You misunderstand me! I'm not trying to sell you anything. I want your help."

 

"Our help?" she repeated, curious. "What's your problem?"

 

"We have a large supply of tents," he said again. "Really nice ones. Um… there's something living in them."

 

*

 

Undercover was nearly empty when Buffy went inside. A girl stood behind the counter inside the door, sticking special offer labels on to rucksacks, and a young lad was opening a cardboard box full of white footballs, and set about restocking the empty shelf. The only customer in the store was browsing through ladies ski suits situated beside the cashier. Buffy supposed that it was the wrong time of year to buy your camping requirements. An area to one side had been roped off and had boxes piled in front of it. She went behind the boxes to find out what was concealed by the ropes, and saw that they were around some display tents. Her hand had just touched the rope, in readiness to dive underneath, when a man appeared next to her.

 

"I'm sorry - those tents aren't for sale today. Manufacturing problem."

 

Buffy turned to face him. Actually, she had to look up to see his face - a big guy. "Really?" she replied. "And would this be the problem that you called us about?"

 

Realisation dawned, and the man - she assumed it to be Greg Milton - looked apologetic. "I'm so sorry," he mumbled awkwardly. "I expected somebody… older."

 

"So what have you found?" Buffy asked hurriedly, before he got onto the part where she was just a girl.

 

"When I got in this morning, I found rubbish and orange peel all over the floor. It wasn't there when I went home, and I assumed we'd had a break in. But there was no sign of a forced entry, and when I started to look I heard… noises from inside the tents. I went to investigate, thinking it would be kids, or maybe a homeless person. But…"

 

"You found something else." Buffy finished. "Is that why you didn't call the police?"

 

"They wouldn't have believed me," he said wryly.

 

Buffy ducked under the ropes but before she could move toward the tents, Greg caught her arm. "Could you wait, just a minute, please?"

 

Buffy frowned, not understanding, and he nodded to where the customer was paying for her purchase and preparing to leave the shop. When she had gone, Greg spoke to the cashier and waited while the girl locked the door. At Buffy's questioning look, he explained, "Bad for business."

 

Buffy's attention turned back to the tents. Greg had said on the phone that something was in there, and she wondered what it was she would be dealing with. Demon? Vampire, perhaps? She approached the tents cautiously, wishing she had brought a weapon with her.

 

Carefully, she pulled the tent flap to one side, and something darted out, dived between her legs and disappeared behind her. The cashier shrieked, and Greg was shouting, "There!" But Buffy was already whirling round, just in time to see a tail disappear between a chink in the boxes.

 

"Don't let it get out!" Buffy shouted, and the lad whacked his hand against the box, making the little creature dive out again, chirping like a cricket. It huddled against the box, watching her.

 

Buffy stayed absolutely still. The creature was only about six inches high; it stood up on its hind legs and had tiny hands and a wispy tail. It chirped at her. She knew it was astonishingly fast, but then, so was she. She waited her moment, and then dived forward without any warning, taking the creature by surprise and grabbing it by the scruff of its neck so that it dangled from her fingers.

 

"I don't suppose I could have something to put it in?" she asked her audience, and Greg went to fetch one of the rucksacks that the cashier had labelled earlier. He held it open while Buffy slipped the little creature inside. It was chirping furiously… and from inside the tent a chorus of chirping responded to him. Buffy's heart sank. Great. More of them.

 

"Could you move the boxes closer so that they can't get out?" she asked, and the others pushed the boxes closer together, adding more to provide a better barrier. Just before the last one went into place, Greg and the boy slipped through. The girl fetched more bags for the creatures, and was told to wait outside and watch for any that made it outside.

 

Buffy took a deep breath and pulled the tent flap back. She tried to grab the creature as it rushed out, but missed - largely because dozens squeezed out at the same time, and the confined space inside the boxed off area was filled with commotion. Tiny creatures darted about, reminding her of a nest of mice with a cat in the vicinity, except for the excited chittering that they were making.

 

Buffy and her two helpers dashed about, grabbing at, and mostly missing, the creatures. From outside the boxes, the girl shouted instructions and the whole thing was getting more like a farce every minute.

 

"There! Behind you! Look out!"

 

Buffy was filling her second holdall, while Greg had still to catch one. The lad was fast, and had managed three - except one had escaped when he tried to put another in the bag and he only had two left.

 

By the time every last one had been rounded up, they were all hot and tired. Greg was leaning against the boxes gasping, and Buffy, fearing she might have to call the medics out, said worriedly, "Are you okay?"

 

"Knackered," he complained, holding his side. "I'm too old for this lark."

 

"Perhaps you should sit down," she suggested, concerned by his red face and fast breath, and began shifting the boxes so that he could get out. The girl fetched a chair and some water, and when things had calmed down, Greg nodded to the bags. "What are you going to do with them?"

 

"Oh," Buffy said, thinking fast because she had absolutely no idea, "we have a plan for occasions like this."

 

The youngsters helped to carry the four bags out to her car. The bags were moving about alarmingly, but were thankfully quiet now. She had left the tiniest of holes in the zip and hoped it would be enough to allow them to breathe, and after Greg had come out to thank her for her help and they had all gone back into the shop, she turned her attention to the bags. What was she supposed to do with them?

 

She pulled her phone out of her pocket. Time to ask Giles…

  

 

*

 

Angel heard the Discovery pull into the yard, and heard Giles get out of the car, cross the gravel and enter the main building. He let him settle in a bit and then made his way over to the house. He found Giles in the study, two mugs of tea standing on the desk. One had milk, the other was black.

 

"You were expecting me?" he asked, a small smile on his lips.

 

"This time of day you'd probably be awake but not able to leave the flat. And with Buffy's car not in the garage I'd say she isn't here. You're likely to be bored, so yes - I was expecting you." 

 

"Fair enough." Angel pulled up one of the clients' chairs and sat down next to the desk. Giles was plugging his camera into the computer and preparing to download the images. While it was doing that, he opened his bag and pulled out his notebook.

 

"Interesting case," Giles was saying. "Couple found a lot of pentacles and other symbols on the walls which reappear after painting - which implies this is something mystical rather than some kind of deception." He clicked on the keys to access the files. "The family dog refuses to…" He leant in closer to the screen. "Oh, my."

 

Angel got up and went to stand next to Giles. The screen showed a room covered in white painted walls. There were no images on them. "That's the room?" he asked.

 

"Yes. The images were everywhere." Pictures of the room passed by as Giles checked them all, only to find that none of them showed anything untoward. Frowning, he opened his notebook, looking for the pages where he had sketched some of the images in detail. He found what he wanted, and passed the book over to Angel. "They looked like that."

 

Angel looked at the drawings, and something… some vague memory stirred. He looked up to find Giles staring at him. "What is it?" Giles asked.

 

"I'm not sure. I've seen something like this before, but I can't remember where."

 

Before Giles could answer, the phone rang. He picked up the receiver.

 

"Hello…. Buffy? Is something wrong?"

 

Angel tensed at the mention of trouble, but Giles held up his hand placatingly, and he relaxed again and listened to the one-sided conversation.

 

"Like crickets, you say? A lot of them? Well, tell me - was there any fruit debris? Skins, pips, that kind of thing?" he smiled at the reply. "Then you've nothing to worry about, and no slaying need be involved. They're Peterkin, and quite harmless; they live exclusively on fruit. Just round them up and release them back into the countryside, somewhere close to a colony."

 

Angel had gone back to his chair to drink his tea at the mention of Peterkin. He'd seen a group of them once. The chirruping was a bit annoying, but they hadn't been dangerous.

 

"Not the country around Westbury," Giles was saying. "I know there is a colony just outside of Sherborne. "I don't know of another one close by, but I could research… all right then. I'll see you later."

 

When Giles put the phone down, he said, "Buffy will be a while. By the time she sends them home, it will be quite late."

 

"How did the Peterkin get down here, if they come from Sherborne?"

 

"There might be a closer colony, of course." Giles allowed. "But sometimes they stow away on lorries, while looking for a dark place to hide, and end up somewhere else. That's how they got here in the first place. They are from Spain originally, but managed to spread right through Europe to end up here."

 

"If we introduce them to the wrong colony, will there be trouble?"

 

"Oh, no. Peterkin aren't territorial. The more the merrier as far as they are concerned."

 

The habits of Peterkin taken care of, Angel returned his attention to the drawing in Giles' book. "Would it be possible to have a look at the house?"

 

"Of course." Giles reached for the phone again. "I'll see if I can make an appointment for sometime after dark."

 

*

 

Angel stood next to Giles in the room, looking around; Andy Morris was with them, but his wife had gone out for the evening. A small Jack Russell terrier sat out in the hallway next to the door to the bedroom, refusing to be lured in.

 

"I've seen this - or something like this - before." Angel said.

 

"What do you think it is?" Giles asked.

 

"It's a spell to conceal something," he replied, his mind's eye bringing up memories of Lindsey, covered in symbols very much like these, in his attempt to hide from Wolfram and Hart.

 

"You think there is something here to conceal?" Giles asked.

 

"Yes, I do."

 

"Surely… " Andy offered, "Whatever it was concealing would have been removed by now, wouldn't it?"

 

"Not necessarily," Giles said. "The house has been empty for large chunks of its history. This is the first time this room has been redecorated, so it's likely that whatever was here is still here. Do you mind if we have the floorboards up and find out?"

 

"I guess not," Andy replied apprehensively. "I called you in. We might as well find out what it's all about."

 

Taking care to measure the exact location of the room's central point, Giles made a mark on the wooden floor with chalk. "I believe this would be the spot," Giles said.

 

Angel dropped down on one knee, took the proffered screwdriver from Andy and began levering up the floorboard. Underneath the board, he found a parcel wrapped in linen. He pulled it out of the hole, brushed off the dust and cobwebs and handed it to Giles.

 

Carefully unwrapping the linen, Giles found an oblong wooden box nestling inside the fabric. It was about the size of a shoebox, and was covered all over with the same symbols covering the walls.

 

Andy had moved closer to the box to see what had been uncovered. "What is it?"

 

"I've no idea," Giles replied honestly. "I'm not sure what it is, but somebody went to a lot of trouble to conceal this, and I have to wonder why."

 

"May I?" Andy asked, and Giles gave him the box to hold; Andy was surprised at how heavy the box was. He moved under the light to see the design better.

 

"The question is," Giles was saying to Angel, "do we open the box?"

 

"I have a bad feeling about this," Angel said.

 

"Yes. I would have to agree with that," Giles agreed. "I want to research this further, and see if…"

 

"No!"

 

Angel's vampire hearing had heard the soft click on the box as Andy flicked the catch open. He had only had the box open for a fraction of a second before Angel slammed it shut and slid that catch back on, all in one fluid movement.

 

"Have you any idea how dangerous that was?" he barked, making the boy jump. If he hadn't seen Angel move that fast, he wouldn't have believed it. What was he dealing with, here? Was there any danger?

 

"Have you got some paper?" Angel said unexpectedly. Giles pulled out his sketchbook and a pencil and handed it over without a word. Angel took the paper out into the hall and sat down on the bottom step, furrowed his brow in thought, and began to draw.

 

"What’s he doing?" Andy asked.

 

"I think he got a glimpse of what was in the box," Giles said gently. "I believe he is trying to reproduce what he saw."

 

"But… it happened too fast!" Andy protested. "He can't have seen enough to draw!"

 

After a few moments, Angel stopped drawing. Frowned, sketching something else in, stopped, added some shading. Then he stood up and brought the finished product over to Giles.

 

"Ever seen anything like that?"

 

Giles took the sketch and studied it. Eventually, he shook his head. "No. It looks like nothing I know of - I'll need to do some research on this."

 

He handed the drawing over to Andy who had been peering over his shoulder. The image was… kind of creepy, though he wasn't going to be the first to say it. "What happens now?"

 

"We need to find out precisely what it is." Giles replied. "If you want me to take it into care for you, I'll be happy to do so. If it stays here, it will probably be best to keep it in this room, exactly where it has been stored for years. And I will ask you - please do not open the box until we know what it is."

 

Andy looked slightly uncomfortable. The box was his property, hidden in his house, and he really didn't want these strangers to take it away. After all, it might be valuable. Yet, he was uncomfortable about having something that could be dangerous left in his home.

 

"We hide it," he agreed reluctantly. "Can I have a copy of the drawing to show Shaz?"

 

*

 

Buffy dropped the rucksacks on the floor by Giles' desk.

 

"You had no trouble re-homing the Peterkin, then?" he asked her, moving his books away from her coffee mug that had also appeared on his desk.

 

"Nope. I just opened the bags and they scampered off." She smiled at the memory. "Kind of cute, really. Shame everything I have to deal with isn't so easy."

 

"You'd get bored," he told her.

 

"You're probably right." She flopped into his leather chair.

 

"Are you going to return the rucksacks to the shop tomorrow?" Giles asked, indicating the ungainly sprawl across his carpet.

 

"Mr Milton said I could keep them," she grinned at him.

 

Giles raised an eyebrow. "And why would that be?"

 

"Well," Buffy laughed. "I rang him up and asked him if he wanted them back. I reminded him that there had been dozens of little animals cooped up in them and they had been eating quite a bit…"

 

Giles gazed at her reproachfully. "The digestion system of Peterkin is extremely slow. I doubt there were more than a couple of… end products… in evidence."

 

"None at all, actually." She chuckled, bending forward to pick the bags up off of the floor. "You want one, Giles? They're really nice."

 

The reproachful look was replaced by a gleeful smile. "Really? Can I have the one with…"

 

End.

 

 

 



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