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Livelihood

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Ares

Season 3

Part 14

 

**

 

Summary: There are some who make their living from the sea. And some who die providing it.

 

**

 

Livelihood 

 

 

“Will you hear of Cruel Coppinger

He came from a foreign land;

He was brought to us by the salt water,

He was carried away by the wind!”

 

Rev. Robert Hawker of Morwenstow.

 

 

Welcombe 1792

 

Water laced with salt beat upon expectant faces turned to the sea. Lightning crackled overhead, illuminating the drama unfolding in the bay. Drenched to the bone, chilled and numbed by the ice in the wind, the villagers, whose figures dotted the shore and the rise of the hills above, watched with keen interest the strange vessel foundering in the boiling seas. They were wreckers and they welcomed the storm.  It was their livelihood, their salvation from the meagre living they scratched from the land, and the sea promised more bounty than that of fish. The tempest howled, ripping the foreign sails to shreds, churning the waters white, bringing death to all who had the misfortune to venture there.  The current was too strong and they knew the ship would never make Harty Pool. The strange vessel was rolling. Deeply laden, was the hope of the innkeeper, water-logged more like, were the thoughts of the scowling pig farmer. It neared the shore and the folk could see the stricken faces of the men who crewed her. They stood like dead men, pale and lifeless, lashed to the rigging. One caught their attention. He was a massive fellow, tall and powerfully built. He was bare to the waist when he plunged into the boiling waters, and all thought he was lost until they sighted his sturdy figure, arms flashing as he swam through to the shore. The onlookers watched him as he staggered onto the beach half-drowned and dripping. The stranger spied a horse upon which sat a maiden and, snatching up a cloak from a bystander, mounted the horse and, capturing Miss Dinah Hamlyn within his arms, rode away letting the horse have its rein. The villagers heard later, on arriving at the door of the woman’s family home, the man greeted her father in a strange tongue. Some thought he was a Viking, a Dane come to pillage, instead, he was now flotsam washed to the pebbled shore. Others wondered if he were Irish. They say the Irish were large and fierce. Wherever he hailed from, he made himself at home.  He announced himself as Coppinger and was a grateful and gracious guest… at first.

 

Those on the beach never profited from the wreck, for there was none in the end. The ship and its crew vanished into the storm: it was as if it had never existed. They left off their vigil and, disappointed, retreated to the relative warmth of their homes. From that moment on their lives were never the same.

 

+++

 

 

The Helston Packet rustled as its pages were folded, and put aside.  The small article, once found, had produced an even smaller-sized piece of information. The body that had been retrieved from the sea two days previous hadn’t been identified. All the authorities knew; it was male, of African origin, and was a young man in his twenties. The body, as bodies are that have been afloat in the chill waters of the sea, was decomposing, bloodless, and the many wounds could have been inflicted by fish, and rocks that lined the bay and cliffs around.

 

Giles sighed, and finished his tea. The cup rattled in its saucer when he pushed them aside. Buffy was upstairs putting on lipstick and such that women do when venturing out. The day hadn’t warmed much since they set off from Westbury earlier in the day. The March wind still carried winter’s bite even though this part of Britain was warmer than most this time of year. Giles got up from the kitchen table and proceeded to wash up the dishes from their late lunch. Mac was due shortly, and they had work to do.

 

+++

 

 

Looking in the mirror, Buffy fiddled with the scarf around her neck until she was happy with it. It was a waste of time, she knew. The wind would make a mockery of her efforts, and she knew in her line of work she usually ended up dishevelled. It didn’t stop a girl from trying though.  She looked in the mirror at the spot she knew Angel occupied. She could feel him watching her from behind the covers of his book. He had had no choice but to huddle in sleep under the blanket in the back seat of Giles’ Discovery during the trip down.  Buffy mused, not for the first time, what it must be like to be restricted so.

 

“You look fine,” he said, confirming her earlier thought.

 

She smiled at him through the glass.

 

“Thank you. You’re just saying that, but I’ll take anything I can.”

 

She ran her fingers through her hair, deciding not to wear a hat after all, and turned around. The room was small as these old cottages tended to be. There was barely enough room for the small double bed, a dresser in the corner, and a robe that looked like it could topple over any moment, and not much else. Even the mirror was small. Enough to see her head and shoulders only. Angel was lying propped up against the pillows on the bed, a book on his lap but his dark eyes were on her. The worn bindings betrayed the age of the book, the yellowed pages too, and the fact it wasn’t one of those books with a glossy cover like so many on sale in the book stores. She bit back the remark poised on the tip of her tongue. Angel may be older than the volume he was holding, but he wore his age a whole lot better than it did and it wasn’t fair to tease him about it.  Another thought surfaced. Her forehead creased in a frown. She didn’t know why she hadn’t wondered about this before.

 

“How come the book doesn’t reflect in the mirror?” She asked him. “The book isn’t  vamp.”

 

Angel shrugged his shoulders. “Metaphysics, perhaps? I guess it’s the same thing with the clothes we wear. They don’t reflect either.”

 

Buffy snorted. “Otherwise you’d have to be naked to sneak up on a body…I’d like to see that.” Laughter bubbled from her lips.

 

Lines furrowed his brow.

 

Buffy stopped laughing enough to add, “Vamps’ clothes do turn to dust when they get staked, I wonder…”

 

“I took a pair of sunglasses off a vampire I staked once. It didn’t turn to ash when the rest of him did.”  His mind began to wander along that train of thought. There were infinite questions to be asked, and answered...

 

Buffy interrupted his musings. “What are you reading?”

 

“A history of Cornwall and its legends.”

 

That, she couldn’t resist. Her smile widened.  “Haven’t you lived through all that?”

 

His lips thinned. “Very funny.”

 

She grinned at him. “What history, exactly?”

 

His eyes turned down to the book on his lap.

 

“Cruel Coppinger.”

 

“Cruel? I presume they didn’t name him that because of his sunny disposition?”

 

“He was a smuggler. A cruel and vicious man.”

 

Buffy had to wonder how cruel and vicious this Coppinger was to Angel’s way of thinking. She almost missed his next sentence.

 

“He came ashore at Welcombe Mouth up in the north of Cornwall, near Devon.”

 

“Ashore?”

 

“Shipwrecked.”

 

“And this was when?”

 

He had to confess. “1792”

 

Buffy made a face. She adored the sheepish look on his face. He loved her back for making him feel that way.

 

They both heard the crunch of tyres on the gravel and the purr of a car outside.

 

“Looks like your ride is here.”

 

Buffy shrugged on her warm coat and looked again at her image in the mirror. You’ll do, she decided, planted a warm kiss on Angel lips and scooted out the bedroom door with a “see you later.”

 

Angel heard her descend the narrow stairs and meet Giles at the door.

Buffy didn’t see the look of frustration on Angel’s face when he heard the doors slam and the car pull away.

 

+++

 

 

Mac was in Helston helping his wife Tamsin sort out a couple of cottages she let this side of the Lizard. One was vacant, needing a few repairs and Mac was the man doing them. The other the Paranormal team were using. Buffy and her side-kicks – a thought she was never going to share with said side-kicks -  had already had the pleasure of staying in one of Tamsin’s holiday lets when they had a Kran demon to take care of down Cadgwith way. Buffy has already learned from her own experience, village folk did not talk to city folk or strangers, be they in an official capacity or otherwise. Cornish people were even more closed-mouthed. They were an independent lot. Cornwall seemed, to Buffy, almost independent from the rest of Britain. That didn’t stop them knowing every detail of your life though. Tamsin was Cornish, a local as far as they were concerned, and she had heard talk of strange goings-on. 

 

Mac’s voice had a lovely lilt to it and Buffy loved his accent, although it was hard for her to understand at times.

 

“Phantom vessels,” he said, “seen, and then not. Boats running in and out, no one knows what is coming ashore, and the lot vanishing in some rum fashion.”

 

“Seems appropriate for Prussia Cove, don’t you think?”

 

Bewildered, Buffy tapped her watcher on the shoulder. “Giles? Share!”

 

“Prussia Cove used to be where the Carter brothers ran their smuggling operation.”

 

“And this was like back in the bad old days?”

 

“The late 1700s. John Carter was born in 1770, he and his brothers were wreckers and smugglers; they used to ply the French coast during the French wars.”

 

Buffy chuckled. “First Angel, and now you.”

 

“What about Angel?”

 

“He was reading about Cruel Coppinger when we left.”

 

Giles’ eyebrows rose. “He was?”

 

“And you obviously know who the guy was. What is it with you old people and tales of yore?”

 

Giles harrumphed at her dig, all the while wondering why Angel was looking up Coppinger. His stamping grounds had been on the northern side of Cornwall, miles away.

 

Mac drove, not knowing what she was talking about. Old people? Did she think Giles and himself, old?

 

“Folk about are wonderin’ what’s what,” he said instead. “There’s no money about, no sign of goods being shifted, and now a body has turned up.  Nobody’s thinking it a coincidence.”

 

Giles was sure that nothing went unnoticed by the local community. The people here were descended from smugglers, and wreckers too. They would know the score. It was almost impossible to smuggle goods by sea in these days. The coastguard made sure of that, and with the rise of vile acts of terrorism, Giles knew the authorities were extra vigilant on land, and on sea. Today the English Channel could be crossed beneath the waves with contraband hidden inside containers, the boot of a car, and the back of a lorry, if one was daring. Modern smuggling didn’t need a ship to risk the waves, or the lives of men.  And yet, some still did, stirring the blood of the locals.

 

Knowing he was asking a lot, Giles said, “Is it possible to speak to any of these  witnesses? The fisherman who dragged the body in? And what about the houses  that overlook the cove? Surely, someone has noticed the comings and goings?”

 

“The fisherman may be persuaded to talk to you. The newspapers mentioned him, and apparently he doesn’t take kindly to it. His local is in Helston. I’ll take you there, if he’s about. As for the people at Prussia Cove, they’ll not be a help.”

 

Buffy leaned forward.  “Why? Won’t they talk to us?”

 

Mac glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Lot’s been cleared out. The few houses that aren’t derelict have been leased.”

 

“Leased to whom?” Giles wanted to know.

 

“Tamsin nosed around and came up with a name.”

 

“And?”

 

“Osprey Enterprises.”

 

Giles’ look said he had never heard of it. Neither had she. Buffy knew that Giles would be getting his laptop out and looking into it the first chance he got.

 

“That hasn’t stopped sightseers and folk visiting the cove, though I doubt that anything happens much during the day,” said Mac, slowing the car and pulling up to a stop. Another vehicle stood before them, a blue sedan, slightly battered and alone.

 

Looking out the window, Buffy saw that they had arrived at the end of the road. Besides the other car, all she could see were grassy fields, but when she stepped out she could smell the sea. The walk to the cove was about half a mile and Buffy was glad of the exercise. The cold wind whipped at her scarf, which in turn tugged at her throat. Buffy didn’t mind. There was even a glimmer of sun. When she looked up, she saw patches of blue, the clouds being blown across the sky with the rising wind. The men were quiet behind her, and she could hear their breathing quicken when she set a brisker pace. A large house stood to attention on the rise of a hill. It had a grand view of the sea. Buffy frowned, looking at it, it didn’t look abandoned. It was too well cared for, set within its hedges and fields. It must be one of the leased properties Mac was talking about.  Their path led them onwards keeping a distance between them and the brooding house.

 

At the end of their walk they found several small stone dwellings clinging precariously to the cliff tops, roots of bushes long neglected finding purchase beside the old foundations. The houses stared silently with netted eyes at the sea. Anyone gazing out those windows were likely to see all manner of things the waves brought in to shore. 

 

Over her right shoulder, Buffy could see a huddle of low buildings. They seemed abandoned and run-down. The roofs didn’t appear as if they could hold back a drop of rain, they were that ramshackle. Beneath the buildings, rocks climbed up from the inlet forming the edge of the cliff. She wondered why timber and stone hadn’t succumbed to gravity a long time ago. Buffy looked back to the bay and took the time to look out at the famous Prussia Cove.

 

It had a stark beauty, Buffy had to give it that. Californian beaches were long stretches of golden sand and curling waves. At least where she had come from. The cove was rocky, the patch of sand barely large enough to hold a picnic blanket –  two people were doing just that, and in this weather, Buffy thought them mad -  and the narrow inlet was a sliver of water that rushed between the rocks and cliffs. There was power in the sea. Buffy could see how dangerous beaching a boat could be here.

 

Giles and Mac stood beside her admiring the view. Both men thought it magnificent, the earth meeting the sea. The wildness of the land and the majesty of oceans with its endless horizon falling off the face of the earth affected a man, causing his chest to tighten. An Englishman was tied to the sea, it was in his blood, Giles‘ too. It didn’t matter that one didn’t venture forth to ride the blue-green waves.  Britain was an island, herself surrounded by sea. It had been settled by people who came in ships, displacing those that had come before, or simply adjusting and learning to live side by side.

 

Buffy broke the spell.

 

“Doesn’t look like much of a place to land a boat.”

 

“Small boats were used to ferry goods ashore, the larger boats stood off, guns at the ready.”

 

“Guns?”

 

“Yes. Guns. Smugglers did battle with the revenue cutters on many occasions. Some of the boats had guns on board. The Carters had a cutter that had 19 guns, and a lugger that carried 20. The boats were rather large. It was their business, and they took it very seriously.”

 

“Giles, you never cease to amaze me with your knowledge of the oddest things,” Buffy said, images of Russell Crowe in Master and Commander blossoming in her head.

 

“I don’t think it odd,” he replied, defensive.

 

Mac put in, “John Carter had a battery of guns on top of the cliffs here. They fired on the revenuers who were intent on following one of Carter’s ships into the cove.”

 

Buffy shook her head. “The good old days were really the bad old days, then.”

 

“Smuggling wasn’t a crime as far as most folk were concerned. Taxes were high, and no one was fond of the tax man. That’s still true today. Men, women and children were involved in hiding and moving the cargo,” Mac explained, not wanting the American lass to think badly of the Cornish people.

 

“If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you "pretty maid", and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!
Five and twenty ponies ...
“ Giles recited.

 

“What was that?”

 

A Smuggler’s Song, by Rudyard Kipling. The message is clear, don’t you think? Thousands of people were involved in smuggling, and no help was given to the King’s men.”

 

Buffy lifted her eyebrows. “King George? That was then, this is now, Giles. Times have changed.”

 

“Has it? And yet, not a few weeks ago in Branscombe, people descended in their droves to scavenge the cargo from the Napoli when it ran aground.”

 

“Yeah – yeah. Come on, let’s see if they left us a clue, whoever they may be.” Buffy turned and hurried down the path, the men taking it more cautiously behind her.

 

+++

 

 

“Of course there wasn’t a footprint, claw mark, slime, or a sign saying, ‘smugglers were here’ to help us, and the caves I found were empty. Still, they gave me the wiggins, ” Buffy finished, after filling in the details of her afternoon to Angel.

 

They sat together on the sofa in the sitting room. She had found him there on her return, reading. Buffy had drawn the drapes earlier so that Angel could move about if he had wanted. The room was cosy with its whitewashed walls. The floral curtains and cushions, and artfully placed bric-a-brac, made it homey, the fire in the grate adding to its warmth.

 

“Not a smuggler or contraband in sight, whatever that may be. You’d think they could have dropped a gum wrapper or something.”

 

“Mmm.” Angel wanted a look at those caves.

 

“What?”

 

“The house on the hill sounds promising,” he said quickly, not wanting to cast aspersions on her abilities. Buffy was very capable but she may have missed something only he could detect in the caves.

 

“I wanted to knock on the door, but Giles didn’t want to risk putting Mac in harm’s way if there was something weird going on.  We couldn’t break in either with possible witnesses about. Who on earth picnics in the winter?” Buffy made a face. “Anyway, Giles wanted to speak to some witness that the newspaper mentioned. That’s where they’ve gone now.” Buffy slid sideways, all talked out, laying her head on his chest.

 

Angel ran his fingers through her hair. Her skin smelled of the sea, her hair, particularly. “Did Giles leave his laptop here? We could look up Osprey Enterprises.”

 

“We can, but they’ll be hours. We could do something else?” she said, looking up at him from beneath her dark lashes.

 

“That sounds like a plan,” he murmured, and leaned down to kiss her upturned lips.

 

+++

 

Giles and Mac found themselves in a bar of the Blue Anchor. They had passed the Angel Hotel just up the road, and Giles’ eyeballs had felt the urge to roll when he had noticed the name. Buffy would be amused, he thought, and wished that she had come along just to see it. It was a pretty whitewashed building, belying the fact the Angel Hotel was one of the oldest buildings in Helston. It shared Coinagehall Street with the oldest brewery – some claimed – in the country, the Blue Anchor, as it was now called.  The blue of the trim stood out against the stonework, breaking its grey monotony. The planter boxes beneath the windows sills were bereft of blooms. Giles thought the pub would be quite the sight when spring finally arrived.  Giles looked about as he and Mac approached the landlord behind the bar. There were quite a few patrons enjoying a welcome sip of ale. At Mac’s enquiry, he nodded at a door down the back, and both men carried their drinks away with them. They had a bottle each and one extra of the local brew Spingo. Mac had recommended Giles try a drop.

 

 “This’ll put hair on your chest,” Mac said. “It’s brewed on the premises.”

 

Giles eyed the blue label on the bottle before lifting his glass to his lips. He spluttered on the first sip.

 

Mac grinned. “Told you.”

 

The back door led to a beer garden. It was under cover, a tent affair with several tables beneath. Inside sat a dog, a collie by the looks, and attached to its rope was a man. The two sat alone, the other patrons finding the March evening too cold. The man and dog didn’t seem to be bothered. Giles and Mac approached the man’s table, and grey-blue eyes peered up from under sun-bleached brows. The creases of his face did not move as Mac set down a bottle in front of him. The collie lifted its head though, curious.

 

Mac spoke. “The barman said you liked a drop. Can we sit?”

 

The eyes moved to consider Giles.  Giles put his drink down and offered his hand.

 

“Rupert Giles. May we?”

 

The grey-blue orbs lowered to the offered hand and moved up again to Giles’ gaze.

 

“I suppose I can’t stop ye.”

 

Giles withheld a sigh, withdrew his hand, and both men sat. The dog sniffed at their shoes beneath the table. Giles felt the weight of its nose on his feet.

 

Giles dared another sip and choked when he took more than he had intended.  The brew could be a proscribed drug it was that fierce.

 

The lips in the weather-beaten face twitched.

 

“We’re interested in the body you fetched aboard,” Mac said, getting right to the point.

 

The lips froze. Looking at the man, Giles realised he wasn’t that much older than himself. Decades of wind and sea had added years to the body, but not to the mind, he was sure.

 

Giles thought it was time he said something.

 

“We’re not the police, or from the newspapers. There are mysteries and oddities beyond what people would call normal, and some of them very dangerous. We’d like to help.” He produced his card and set it beside the man’s glass. That even stare left off, and the fisherman glanced down at the legend that said, Project Paranormal.

 

“Name’s Gordon,” said the man finally, and Giles relaxed.

 

“Tell us what happened.”

 

A callused hand reached down to stroke the collie’s head.

 

“We was on our way back to Porthleven, Bess and me. We were later than we usually was, the engine had stalled, you see. Took me a time to fix it. We was coming past the cove when Bess started makin’ a fuss.”

 

Bess sat up and put her head on her master’s leg at the mention of her name. Gordon blessed her with another pat before picking up his glass and taking a swallow. Giles envied the man his cast-iron stomach when he didn’t flinch.

 

“There was something floating in the water. A body. Almost unrecognisable. Bess went all quiet when I hauled it in. We had drifted close to the shore, when the dog began to whimper. She was all scared, she was. I shone the light towards the beach…” Gordon’s eyes were wide, staring through them into memory.

 

Giles and Mac waited quietly not wanting to distract him.

 

“It was hard to see, exactly. The cliffs were full of shadows and some of them were moving. I heard growling…animal-like, only it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. Made the hairs stand up on the back of me head, it did. That, and some of the shapes looked like men.  Then there was nothing. No sounds, no movement, nothing. Even Bess shut up. I found her hiding in a corner of the boat later.”

 

With a comforting hand, he patted Bess’ head.

 

“We ran down the coast and didn’t look back.”

 

Mac licked his lips, shook himself and helped himself to another swallow. Giles himself needed the burn of ale to shake off the feeling of dread that had insinuated itself with the fisherman’s tale. He had seen some pretty horrible things in his time as Watcher. This wasn’t anywhere near the worst of them, but the man’s words were chilling all the same. Gordon had been frightened, and Giles didn’t believe Gordon scared very easily.

 

“Are you…” Giles sought for the appropriate word, “alright?”

 

Gordon gave a mirthless laugh. “Seen plenty strange things in me lifetime. I expect to see many more.”

 

Giles nodded. Out of the corner of his eye, Giles noticed Mac doing the same. This was the second time Mac had been involved with Giles and his friends,  and any closer association would bring Mac in contact with things he would rather not know existed. Giles suspected that Mac already knew too much.

 

“Thank you. You’ve been a tremendous help.”

 

Gordon continued to stare at Giles. “What are you going to do about it?”

 

“What we have to.” Giles got to his feet. Mac followed suit.

 

“I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” Gordon said, as they turned away.

 

Giles looked back. “We’re not just anyone.”

 

They were at the door of the pub when Gordon spoke one last time.

 

“There was something else out there.”

 

Both men turned round, Giles’ hand on the door.

 

“Something else?”

 

“Something big, something moving away from the beach. Something afloat, something invisible.”

 

“You know this, how?” Giles asked, his heart racing.

 

“I could feel its wake.”

 

 

+++

 

 

Angel had dinner waiting for Giles when the Watcher re-appeared at the cottage. Giles ate his meal: grilled lamb chops that had a subtle piquant flavour, and sautéed potatoes along with winter vegetables. Giles wondered what spices Angel had used on the meat. It was delicious. And instead of wine, he drank coffee.

 

“To clear the head,” he told Buffy at her look.

 

He decided to ignore Angel’s smirk when the vampire caught the whiff of ale on his breath. Instead, he retold the fisherman’s tale.

 

“The man-like shapes sound like vamps to me. Especially with the growly,” Buffy said when he had finished. She glanced at Angel with apology. “Or not. There’s plenty of man-shaped demons about.”

 

“I’m wondering what sort of creature passed him by in the night,” Giles said around a swallow of coffee. “It was big enough to leave a noticeable wake.”

 

“I say it’s time to find out.” Buffy got to her feet. She had had her dinner earlier not knowing what time Giles would be getting home. “I’ll get the weapons.”

 

“Just a moment, Buffy. We need a plan. What about Osprey Enterprises? There could be something useful on the web.”

 

Buffy pointed to his computer. It was on the sideboard behind him.

 

“Been there, no connection.”

 

“What?”

 

“No phone line, and no wireless hot spot. I don’t suppose you have a mobile phone thingy, do you?” Buffy’s look went mischievous. “You could go back to town and try while we go kick some demon butt.”

 

“Bloody marvellous!” Giles’ cup went down with a clang.

 

Buffy snorted, while Giles glared.

 

Angel was restless. It had been a long day for him stuck indoors, and under a blanket unable to move in the car. The vampire wanted out, wanted to feel the sky above his head, to move his limbs, to feel his heart pumping - which would never happen - he just wanted to do… something.

 

Angel was at the back door, his decision made.

 

“I’ll meet you there.”

 

“Angel?” Buffy said, turning her head.

 

Angel shifted on his feet, ready to be somewhere else. She could see he wanted to be out, doing something physical and away from these confining walls. He had energy to burn. She knew. He had been very energetic that afternoon.

 

“I’ll bring your sword,” she said, and he was out the door and away into the night without another word. “See,” she said looking back at Giles, “a plan.”

 

 

+++

 

Angel’s long legs barely touched the ground as he loped across the Cornish  countryside. It was good to feel the wind in his hair, the cold caress of it across his face. He was airborne, leaping over the odd obstacle that loomed in his path. It was enough to make a vampire think he could fly. It was approximately six miles to Prussia Cove, and Angel knew that he could get there before Buffy and Giles. That wasn’t the purpose of his escape though. It was this. Freedom. He chafed at the smallness of English cottages, the low ceilings and lower doorways. He missed the vastness of the mansion in Sunnydale, the hotel in L.A., to name a few. Still, he had lived in worse, and he wasn’t complaining. He had Buffy in his life now and he would suffer the small inconveniences gladly for her.  He sped through the night, a vampire in flight.

 

+++

 

The Discovery coasted to a stop, Giles having turned its lights and motor off well before the carpark. A dark shape separated itself from the pool of darker shadows and moved towards them. It was Angel. He opened the door for Buffy and offered his hand. She liked that about him. So gentlemanly, and yet he didn’t make her feel as if she was a helpless maiden. She handed him his sword and a few stakes, which he promptly hid about his person. Giles accepted the crossbow she had ready for him, and Buffy herself picked up a sword, Mr Pointy already secure in her pocket. Angel snagged the bag of remaining weapons and led the way towards the bay. Giles, and Buffy to some extent, had to rely on his keen eyesight as it was too dangerous to have a light betraying their presence.

 

They walked on in silence, Angel stopping briefly to indicate the house on the rise of the hill.

 

“The beach first,” she whispered, and he nodded.

 

The sound of the sea flowed over them well before they stood at the cliffs. The wind had picked up sending the swell crashing against the rocks below. Angel handed the weapons bag over to Buffy, and quickly descended to the beach below. The tide was on the ebb, and sand and rock glistened wetly beneath his feet. Using his preternatural senses he surveyed the area, and was disappointed. Whatever had been and gone, all traces had been washed away, or whipped clean by the wind. He sighed. That would have been too easy, he thought. Nethertheless, he made his way to the gaping mouths of the small caves that burrowed into the cliff face. He wriggled into the smallest of them and refused to go further. The cave hadn’t been used for a very long time. The first of the two he found that he could walk in reeked of human sweat, and fear, and the smell of blood was over-powering. Angel was dismayed when his teeth lengthened. He forced them back, and continued a pace or two. Other than the blood stench, it too was empty. The next and largest cave narrowed a little, widened, and came to what he thought was a dead end. Buffy would have thought so too. He sniffed the air, walked to the rock wall and found it curved back around and ended in a jagged jumble of large stones. He felt a stir of air, tainted too, and when he put his face close to the rock the draft appeared to be sifting through the fine edges and cracks in the wall. There was a way forward. Angel left the cave and made his way back to the others.

 

Buffy and Giles had gone to investigate the ruin of buildings along the far side of the cove. It had been a waste of time. Birds and wildlife had made themselves at home there. Buffy had stepped in something that stank, and she wasn’t impressed.

 

“No luck, Angel?” she asked him when he appeared.

 

“A couple of the caves were interesting. They’ve been used, and recently.”

 

Buffy frowned. Angel quickly added, “There’s a hidden passage. I only found it by smell.”

 

“Smell?”

 

In the dark, Angel’s eyes were dark pools to Giles. “You don’t want to know.”

 

“Okay. First we see what’s so inviting about these houses that Osprey Inc. want to rent them, and then we go spruiking.”

 

“Spelunking,” Giles corrected her.

 

“Whatever. Let’s do it.”

 

With a jerk of his head towards the homes crouched above them, Giles proposed, “You break, and we enter, Angel.”

 

Buffy sighed. She wanted to do the breaking. Angel’s teeth gleamed at her, and she smiled back. One of these days she was going to make Angel confess his mind reading abilities.

 

The vampire approached the door, and stood quietly listening, his head canted, scenting the air. Buffy tensed, ready for an attack. Giles stood behind her, his crossbow ready but carefully not aimed at Angel’s back. They watched anxiously as Angel reached out and broke the lock. The door swung open and Angel stepped inside. That didn’t bode well.

 

Dead, or deserted, Giles thought, as they followed him in, or Osprey Enterprises were more than met the eye. The place was empty of life, and unlife. Buffy drew in a frustrated breath. She was hoping for a trap and that she and Angel would spring. Instead, it looked as if the people who had lived here had just walked out one day and hadn’t come back. Their personal effects were everywhere. Photos, ornaments, even a hair brush sitting on the table, a glass of water beside it.

 

They left the house quietly, Angel pulling the door closed with a careful click. The house next door was empty. Of everything. The only things left inside were the kitchen sink and the bathroom fittings. The next house was in the same order.  Angel paused in his wanderings.

 

“What?” Buffy whispered.

 

“Blood,” he answered. Giles watched him as he trod the floorboards. Angel indicated a corner in the larger room, a place by the back door, and following him upstairs to a bedroom, another two where the beds had stood. Buffy, who could see better than Giles in the dark, couldn’t see a bloodstain anywhere.

 

“I can’t see any blood,” she complained.

 

“It’s been cleaned, but the smell lingers.”

 

“A struggle?” Giles asked.

 

Buffy shivered. Her slayer senses were tingling. “Someone died here,” she said, stating the obvious.

 

“Four,” Angel corrected.

 

“You can tell?” Giles asked without thinking.

 

Angel didn’t answer. He wandered over to the window and looked out.

 

Buffy put in, “You can bet that house on the hill has something to do with it. I said we should have knocked on the door earlier.”

 

“I wonder if the body found in the water was one of the people killed here? Could you tell, Angel, if you had a look at the body?”

 

“I could, but I don’t think we need to.”

 

“No, I suppose you’re right. I think we’ve learned all we are going to here.” Giles looked across at his slayer. “Buffy,  time for plan B.”

 

“Yay for plan B.” She hefted her sword. “I say we go kick some butt, be they demon or not.”

 

“Knocking on the door first, Buffy. They may be innocent bystanders.”

 

“Yeah, right. And my boyfriend isn’t 255 years old. Let’s go ask them, shall we?”

 

Giles reminded her. “The cave?”

 

“Shouldn’t that be C for cave?” Buffy sighed. “Plan C before plan B it is, then.”

 

Behind them, Angel muttered under his non-breath, “254, thank you.”

 

 

+++

 

 

Giles held the torches while his slayer and her vampire moved several large stones that blocked the passage. It had been a clever bit of trickery, really. He wouldn’t have been able to tell that the wall hadn’t been solid, behind. Buffy hadn’t either, and he could see that she was still beating herself up about it. It was in the way she moved, and he was certain that Angel had noticed. Finally, the entrance was clear. Angel first, only because he didn’t need the light, Buffy next, with Giles bringing up the rear. Almost immediately, Giles felt as if he was walking uphill. The incline was minimal at first, but he felt it all the same. The tunnel was low enough that he and Angel had to stoop a little. Buffy had no trouble, small as she was, and the Englishman envied her her size; his back was beginning to ache when the gradient of the floor rose sharply. It seemed an age, but in reality it was only minutes before Angel put out his arm and brought them to a stop. By then, Buffy and Giles could also smell whatever it was that Angel had been scenting from the start.

 

Giles’ stomach knotted. He knew what they would find, what Angel had led them to. Buffy didn’t say a word, she had been following Angel’s tense shoulders and knew that the scent he was following had a lot to do with it.  She sidled up to him to shine her light into the dark hole he was staring at. There was a grate in the floor of the tunnel, impossible, the floor was solid rock, and yet there it was, and beneath those iron bars, something moved. It growled, low. Her beam caught the glint of huge teeth, fur and frightful eyes, and then the light exposed flesh, glistening red, and many, many bones. The stench coiled up into her nostrils. Buffy stepped back wishing she didn’t need to breathe.

 

“Did they dig a pit in the rock?” she asked, her voice shaking with revulsion. The bloody flesh she spied had looked too much like a human torso.

 

The watcher in him had Giles peering into the hole.

 

“I think this is a natural formation. The walls don’t appear to have been chiselled or blasted.” He quickly examined the monster below before stepping aside. “Mmm, I don’t recognise the demon though.” 

 

Giles’ attempt at detachment was just that, an attempt. Buffy wasn’t fooled, neither was Angel.  They continued on in silence until eventually the tunnel came to an end. Buffy squeezed past Angel and shone her torch at the door ahead.

 

“Great,” she muttered, “it’s steel, and I bet it’s locked and we haven’t a key.”

 

She tried it all the same and was surprised that the handle turned, and when she pushed, the door moved slightly. 

 

She swung around to look past Angel to Giles. “I’ve got a really bad idea.”

 

Giles knew that look. His stomach churned again, and once more he wished he hadn’t eaten.

 

 

+++

 

The Dane, Irishman, whoever he was, settled in at the Hamlyn’s home, won the heart of the daughter and married her. He seemed a kindly-disposed man until the old man died.  Not a few folk were surprised when, practically overnight, he became a hard man, taken to fits of anger easily. His mother-in-law handed over her fortune; some say he tied his wife to the bed and tortured her in front of the mother. The village priest heard the stories but was too cowardly to offer succour, or sanctuary.  Bands of lawless men descended on the household, smugglers, wreckers, and riff-raff were all welcome in Welcombe Mouth. Strange ships began to appear, the villagers knew, with nefarious intent. One of them, The Black Prince, a schooner, ruled the shoreline with terrible force. Coppinger was said to be its Captain and he became known as Cruel Coppinger, cutting off the head of a gauger who dared to cross his path.  All perished in one of the King’s vessels while trying to chase the Black Prince down. Coppinger had no fear of folk, or revenuers, yet he was greatly feared by all. Even the rough and ready villagers, wreckers themselves, walked in dread of him. He amassed a fortune in gold doubloons, ducats and smuggled goods. A cave was said to be full of contraband, and if that wasn’t enough for the man, he penalised any for walking the paths of his land at night.

 

There was an heir, a wicked boy, deaf and dumb, and cruel like his father. He delighted in the torture of animals, and some say he murdered a playmate by throwing him off a cliff. Grief-stricken, the parents of the dead boy were mortally afraid, and avoided their neighbour like the plague. The people in the countryside often made the sign of the cross to ward off evil; they thought Coppinger’s boy had no soul, so cruel and vicious was he. He was his father’s son, no doubt, in thought and deed. And yet, he didn’t have the look, as father and son were wont to have. One dared not glance side-ways at the mother, the poor and defenceless woman, who would not speak of it, or, could not. She kept to herself, pale and as timid as a ghost, a shaking leaf of a creature. What terrors did she endure, one wondered, in her bed?

 

The King’s ships multiplied, trade petered out and money became scarce. Coppinger left one night, putting out in a small boat, rowing, fearless in the face of another storm. He was seen heading for a ship that stood out in the water, its sails readying for wind getting set to fly. Coppinger was never seen again, and often did the villagers wonder what became of him.  His wife survived him and would not speak of anything she knew or had suffered. She was broken, in soul, and in spirit. The boy had disappeared, and none mourned his absence. The reign of terror was over.

 

 

+++

 

 

Giles entered through the door that his two companions had managed to push open. A normal man couldn’t have budged the heavy steel. On the other side was a storeroom, and from what he could see, half-empty. A few boxes and crates stood stacked along the walls, and his light picked out a wine rack that filled one side of the room. The dust and cobwebs told him how long the bottles had stood therein. He was surprised there had been no sentry, no-one to guard the underground entry. Giles surmised that whoever it was that used the cave had no need. No-one knew of it, so why post guards? Pillocks! He shook his head at the lack. He strode over to the stairs and climbed to the door. Patting the stake he had in his pocket, Giles turned the handle, and stepped through. His light stabbed the gloom of the room beyond. A shroud of cloth covered a piece of furniture; ghoul-like it stood to one side, not hindering the way to and from the basement door. Giles trod very carefully, and as quiet as he could, he opened the outer door.

 

A hall trailed off in one direction, and turning his head, a window, and next to it a door that let one outside. Giles walked along the threadbare runner that had seen better days, its pattern uncertain in his torchlight. Peeling wallpaper curled towards the floor in small and lacy curls; in not a few places the sacking behind could be seen.

 

Giles ventured to open the next door he came to.

 

“Oh, hello,” he said mildly into a startled face, his fingers finding the wood inside his pocket. “I wonder if you can help me?”

 

“What? Where did you come from?” The face became the ridges and fangs of a vampire. Giles shoved his stake into its chest, stepping back quickly from the fall of dust.

 

He smiled, and continued on his way.

 

Buffy waited till Giles had disappeared into another room before she herself skipped along the hall to keep an eye on him. Her eyes caught the pile of dust on the carpet in the doorway. Way to go, Giles!

 

They played cat and mouse along the hall, each exploring the various rooms they came upon.  Buffy kept an eye on him as best she could, knowing that although Giles was in fine form, he wasn’t a slayer.

 

A door opened and two men literally walked into her. Two vampires, Buffy knew.

 

Playing the innocent, eyes wide, she said, “Hello, can you help me? I seem to have lost my friend.”

 

Before the vampires could open their mouths Mr Pointy found their hearts, and Buffy was moving through vampire dust to check the room beyond. She held her breath. Vampire dust, not a good thing. 

 

Giles and Buffy continued their game, quietly dusting any vampires that came their way. The slayer knew that their two heartbeats wouldn’t go unnoticed for long. She smiled. That was the plan.

 

 

+++

 

 

Angel was still in the storeroom below. Carrying his sword, and Buffy’s – she wouldn’t look so innocent if caught with it, she’d said -  the bag of weapons left in a corner, he scented the air and, following his nose, the tantalizing aroma of terror lead him to a dark nook in the room. Stone steps, well-worn from decades of use, led him in three paces to a padlocked door. Gripping the lock, it was no effort at all to rip it from its clasp. Beyond was another passageway, and built right into rock and earth, a cell, complete with bars and chains. Eyes looked up at him in trepidation, terrified at what he must be, a monster come to feed. Skin as dark as midnight moved feebly in tattered rags, crouching away from his approach in fright. Angel dropped to his haunches. A young girl clutched at a man, her face buried in his chest. The man, and girl, whimpered. The other, a woman, scuttled away to the furthermost corner of the cage with a rattle of her chain, a low keen escaping her lips. Another lay insensible on the floor. She was the lucky one.

 

Angel lifted a hand attempting to calm their fright. “I’m here to help. I’m not here to hurt you.”

 

Incomprehension and fear stared back at him. They were too traumatised to understand. Angel glanced about. Plastic cups lay empty of water. Without thinking about his choice of words, he said, “Wait here,” and was back with a bottle of the wine he had purloined from the shelf. The wine would fortify their spirits, perhaps. Give them strength to communicate.  He broke open the bottle by smashing the neck against stone, poured the wine into the cups, offering the first to the man before him. The man’s arms tightened about the girl, and he averted his face and closed his eyes. They were too frightened and believed it was a trick. Angel left the cups within reach and tried again. In French this time. That they were African, he had no doubt.  Portuguese, and then a smattering of Arabic, before the cowering man dared to open his eyes. The woman did not stir from her corner, but the sound from her mouth ceased.

 

In halting Arabic Angel explained that he and his friends were there to help, and he would come back for them when it was safe. He offered the wine again, and with a trembling hand the man took it from him. Angel watched the dark liquid spill down his chin and into the young girl’s matted hair. The man’s other hand patted the girl’s back, comforting her. Angel pushed the other cups forward, and rose to his full height.

 

“Please,” a thready voice pleaded.

 

Angel looked down at the dark face looking up. He knew they wanted him to unlock the cage, to break their bonds, but he couldn’t do that and risk them bolting into danger. Besides, him breaking the lock with his unnatural strength would alarm them more.

 

Angel nodded into eyes filled with hope for the first time in days. “My friends need me. I’ll come back,” he promised, and took his leave knowing they thought he was abandoning them.

 

 

Angel tracked Buffy and Giles through the house. He hardly glanced at the doors off the hallway as he slid by. Buffy would have seen to anything that lurked, but he kept alert anyway. He knew where he would find his slayer and her watcher. And sure enough, Buffy’s voice carried from a room that stood with its large doors open. Angel flattened himself to the wall, risked a quick peek inside, and retraced his steps back down the hall.  He availed himself of the first window he saw, and disappeared over the sill.

 

 

Buffy was wondering where Angel was. Shouldn’t he be here by now? Three vampires, their smart business suits not hiding the fact they were demons, kept watch over Buffy and Giles, their numbers diminished after her and Giles’ foray earlier. She surveyed the room. A rather ornate chair, throne-like, was the focus of the room, and in that chair sat a very large vampire. Buffy thought Angel a big man, though more slender since his return to the world. This vampire was a slab of granite compared. The eyes that stared at her were hard and lifeless. Blue, and as cold as ice. No hint of what passed for thought flickered within, and Buffy knew they were in trouble.

 

Giles stared into those eyes and shuddered. A few years ago he had looked into similar eyes. They had been Angelus’ dark orbs, and like Angelus, this vampire was powerful and wasn’t used to being thwarted. If there ever was an example of how very different Angel was to his alter ego, this was it. Giles knew that it had taken him a long time to remember that fact, and now, more than ever, he regretted past circumstances. Now, where in the hell was Angel?

 

Buffy allowed her eyes to wander, checking the room for numbers.

 

 “Is this any way to treat a guest?”

 

The vampire in the chair did not answer her. One of the suits leaned in, however.

 

“You are not our guests,” it all but hissed. “How did you get in here?”

 

Buffy’s gaze settled on two demons sitting in a corner of the room.

 

“Did we interrupt something?” she said. “I mean, what’s up with the suits? Is this a conference or something?”

 

The vampire in the chair threw back his head, and laughed.  There was no amusement, however, in his eyes when he brought his head down.

 

“You can dispense with the act,” he rumbled. “It doesn’t matter.”

 

“Who are you?” Buffy asked, fingering the stake inside the waistband of her woollen trousers.

 

“And you are?”

 

“Buffy.”

 

“Giles.”

 

His eyes were like flint. “Americans with their silly names, and Englishmen with theirs.”

 

Buffy crossed her arms. “It’s okay to poke fun at our names when we don’t know yours.”

 

“There are five of my men missing. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that?”

 

“Men?” Buffy’s eyebrows rose.

 

A vice-like grip captured her upper arm.  “Can I eat her, Boss?”

 

Another, said, “Food’s getting low.”

 

A massive hand went up. “Wait. This one doesn’t fear me like the other.”

 

Giles stood, indignant in silence.

 

“Why is that?”

 

Buffy tossed her head. “What’s to fear? Some vamp who thinks he’s a big shot. I’ve met far worse than you.”

 

The vampire got out of his seat. To Buffy, he seemed to go up and up and up before he straightened to his full height. 

 

“What do you know of vampires?” he asked her.

 

Buffy shook off the hand that held her. “Only that they think themselves more powerful than they are.” She dared a wink at Giles. ”And, that they are bad house guests.”

 

The vampire’s face was close all of a sudden. Buffy could almost feel his teeth in her neck when she heard him inhale deeply.

 

“Ah, a slayer. Well, well.”

 

“What can I say?” she shot back.

 

Giles thought it prudent to say something. “The owner of Osprey Enterprises, I presume?”

 

He resisted the urge to flinch when the malevolent visage turned his way. “You have done your homework. What do you know?”

 

Giles took a guess. “The body found in the water was your handiwork. Untidy, that.”

 

“Unfortunate, I agree.”

 

“Vamps are such messy eaters.” Buffy tsked. “Don’t you know that throwing your rubbish away is not environmentally friendly?”

 

The vampire refused to be baited. His gaze hadn’t left Giles’ face.

 

Giles felt emboldened to continue. “You’ve killed people in the houses below to get the privacy you need.”

 

The eyes did not blink. “Leased.”

 

“And killed,” Buffy said. “We found blood.”

 

“I see my men weren’t thorough enough. I may have to set an example.”

 

“Good. Dust a few, save me the trouble!”

 

“And why have I done this?” the vampire asked Giles.

 

“Money.”

 

Money? Vamps don’t worry about money,” Buffy argued.

 

Now, the vampire turned his head to look at her.

 

“My dear, of course we do.” He waved his hand at the room. “This is not one of my more graciously appointed abodes, but it will do. It has, one can say, a room with a view, and, it’s only temporary. Just because we’re dead doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the finer things in life, and to do that, we need money. Lots of it.”

 

“Get a job!” Buffy sneered.

 

The vampire stepped away from them then, and they couldn’t help but take a breath in relief.

 

“I have a job as you put it. This is my business.”

 

“Your name, sir, if we’re to die.”

 

Buffy glanced across at Giles. He just couldn’t let a mystery go unsolved, and what’s with the sir?

 

The wide shoulders shrugged. “Names mean nothing. I’ve had many.”

 

Buffy snorted. “That’s a first. Most vamps love to brag about their exploits; tell me how evil and clever they are. Who have we encountered, Giles? Oh, I know. The Master, Mister Fruit Punch Mouth himself. Him, and his Anointed One. The Order of Taraka, although I thought them a waste of time…”

 

“They weren’t vampires, Buffy.”

 

“Oh, right. Kakistos then, and there was The Three. They were vampire assassins who didn’t amount to much…”

 

Enough! Those names are meaningless.”

 

Buffy was on a roll. “Does Dracula ring a bell? He was a bit tricky, turning into a bat and all, but I got him in the end.”

 

“Dracula? He was a gypsy, a fool with his illusions and mind games.”

 

Buffy opened her mouth to say more, when Giles interceded.

 

“What is it that you’re smuggling? Drugs? Booze? Diamonds?”

 

“Nothing so mundane, I’m afraid. It is none of your concern.”

 

“The boat that you use,” Giles continued, trying to learn all he could,  “you have a glamour that enables it to move about unseen.”

 

“My, my, you are perceptive. The coastguard are much more efficient now than back in the day. We only had to worry about wind, and cannon, then.”

 

“You’ve been doing this a long time. Habits die hard.”

 

The vampire’s eyes narrowed. His mouth set in a hard line.

 

“Profits drive the modern world these days. I dabble, occasionally, in smuggling. A little sideline from time to time. “

 

“And amassed a fortune, no doubt.”

 

“That’s what businesses do. I run a business, and if I happen to like luxury? What’s the harm?”

 

“What’s the harm?” Buffy glowered.

 

“Can’t we just eat them, Boss?” said the minion by her side.

 

“I’m sorry, we’re not on the menu.”  And Buffy’s stake slid into its heart.

 

With a powerful swipe of his massive arm Buffy was sent flying, crashing into furniture.

 

Glass shattered suddenly, and a dark form barrelled through the window.

 

Getting to her feet, Buffy heard gunfire and saw Angel’s form recoil as bullets hit his flesh. His face transformed into his demon.

 

“Angel!”

 

Buffy flew at the vampire, and leg extended, kicked the pistol out of its hand. Spinning about, she caught the sword that Angel threw across to her. To Giles, he threw the crossbow.

 

“I’m fine, Buffy” Angel said as two demons rushed at him from their corner of the room. One was mouthing words in a demonic language he didn’t understand but Angel knew what the demon was attempting. He could feel the hairs rise on his head. His sword knew where to find its throat and it collapsed in a gout of blood, the spell half-formed dying on his tongue. Its partner drew a small axe from beneath its robes.

 

Angel pulled his sword from the demon at his feet and, avoiding the axe swinging at his head, he deflected the blow with his sword arm, and with his other arm, threw a powerful jab at its head.

 

“My, what have we here? Vampire allies? And you call yourself a slayer!” Angel heard the vampire say to Buffy.

 

The vampire snatched up his own sword from a display hung on the wall, and parried her thrust before answering with a riposte.  He smiled, and Buffy grinned.

 

“Not scared of a little girl, are you?” she taunted him.

 

He replied with a slash of his sword.

 

Giles managed to dust one vampire before his crossbow was pulled from his grasp and smashed underfoot. He fell backwards, the last minion going for his throat.  His hand closed about his stake as fangs scraped his neck, and he coughed in the fall of ash when his stake pierced the un-beating heart. 

 

“By the way,” Buffy was saying, “I don’t like people shooting at my boyfriend.”

 

Boyfriend?” The sneer was evident in his voice. “A vampire should feed on a slayer not f…” Buffy’s fist slammed into his mouth cutting off his words.

 

 

She somersaulted away from her opponent’s sword, a smile of triumph on her lips at her lucky punch. A chair splintered against a wall when the vampire kicked it aside and advanced on her position. Buffy felt a shiver of fear for all her talk. She knew that size didn’t matter in the vampire world. The smallest vamp could be just as deadly, but facing a vampire as large and as old as this one, did intimidate. Even though she was a slayer, one mistake and she could be dead.

 

Not wanting her enemy to know she was worried, she said to Angel, “What took you so long?”

 

“There were guards,” he said over the clash of steel.

 

“Will you two shut up!” the vampire growled.

 

“Sorry,” Buffy swung her sword, “am I not paying enough attention to you? Angel, this is…?”

 

“Angel, you say? Never heard of him.”

 

Covered in demon gore, and two carcasses at his feet, Angel grounded his sword, ready to go to Buffy’s aid but also happy to watch her work.

 

“Different times, different names,” was Angel’s cryptic reply.

 

Buffy rolled over and up from a knock that had sent her sprawling. She hadn’t lost the grip on her sword though. Suddenly, she was too busy for speech. The vampire surged towards her intent on finishing her. Blades clashed, and Buffy landed a boot against a knee. She felt as if she had broken her foot, but the knee wobbled a little when it moved.  She renewed her attack.

 

Giles ached for Angel to step in and help his slayer. He knew in his heart that Buffy could handle the vampire, but it was hard to watch all the same. He moved to stand beside Angel, ready to offer his meagre services if needs be.

 

“Cat got your tongue?” Buffy sneered as her blade sliced into her attacker’s arm.

 

“Women and their mouths,” he grunted in reply. “There is only one thing a woman’s mouth is good for.” The vampire lunged, thinking he had her at his mercy.

 

 “Wash your mouth out!” Buffy shot back, and her sword found the opening she was looking for. It slid in under his guard to pierce his neck. Using all her strength, two-handed, she dragged the sword through sinew and bone. The head flew from the neck, both it and the body disintegrating before they hit the floor.

 

Buffy looked over at the two men most precious in her life.

 

“That, for woman power!”

 

 

+++

 

 

Buffy and Giles made the refugees as comfortable as they could while they waited for the ambulance. Buffy found blankets for them, and Giles rummaged around for tea. Angel had managed to have enough of a conversation with the ex-prisoners to find that they were from Darfur, in the Sudan. Buying their way to freedom and a new life, fleeing from the perils of the evil that ravaged their land, had landed them in more dire circumstances.

 

Buffy sat listening to her watcher, a mug of hot tea in her hands. The Sudanese sat quietly with theirs, watching them, unable to understand any of their discussion. At last the little girl was asleep.

 

“I know we deal with a world that consists of demons and majicks. It is within our power and responsibility to protect people from such things, and sometimes we save the world. At times I wonder if it is worth saving. One only has to look at the television to see what horrors our fellow human beings inflict on one another.  Whole communities are decimated and destroyed by governments meant to protect and serve. There are despots and tyrants aplenty that inflict evil and degradation on millions of innocents. Those, we are unable to stop, and that is a sad fact of this world. There are monsters out there far worse than vampires; this one vampire in particular.”

 

“Who was he, Giles? Some bad ass vamp from back in the day?”

 

“I don’t know, Buffy. Perhaps we’ll never know. He could have been this Cruel Coppinger that Angel was reading about. He fits the description. I had often wondered if the man had been a vampire. He was dastardly enough, certainly cruel enough. The Carter brothers were good men even though they were smugglers. John Carter went on to become a preacher, I believe.  Smuggling wasn’t a bad thing when your people were starving.”

 

 

Angel was down in the tunnel disposing of the demon corpses. He would meet Buffy and Giles back at the cottage when all was done. He stood staring into the inky blackness, the walls of stone cold and unforgiving company, while he contemplated the past. Coppinger had been cruel and vicious; and as vampires go, if indeed it had been Coppinger, he had not been extraordinary in that, it was in their nature. Angel knew that he had done far, far worse. Angelus had surpassed all that Coppinger had done. Torturing, maiming, and killing had been his idea of a good time. To him, it was a work of art to carve and slice silent screams from his victims. He had redefined the act of torture, to bring human degradation, humiliation and suffering to new heights. People smuggling? Angelus would have thought that in poor taste, although handy if one were starving. Where was the thrill of the chase, the promise of freedom to be denied at the very last? The tiny glimmer of hope dying in his victims’ eyes when he snuffed out their lives? Or quenched his thirst?

 

Angel stood silent beside the grill that was set in the floor. The sledgehammer he held in his hands swung high and crashed down onto the lock, smashing it free with the one blow. He flung the grate open and dropped into the pit. A roar reverberated off the stones. Another answered it.

 

The End.

 

 

ANs.

 

First and foremost, a big thank you, and many hugs for an ever ready Jo, who, press-ganged into service always does a wonderful job of beta.

 

To Dark Star also a thank you. DS gave me such wonderful ideas with her story Wreckers, and other brilliant suggestions for this tale.

 

 

No homeowners were dispossessed or killed at Prussia Cove. I presume they live there still.

 

 

The Legend of Cruel Coppinger can be found here. I embellished the tale with fancies of my own to suit my story. 

http://www.cornishfolklore.com/coppinger.htm

 

 

The Carter brothers of Prussia Cove

http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/famous-cornish-people/carter.htm

 

A magnificent photograph of Prussia Cove. As I have never ventured there I used this photo as my guide.

http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/photos/img62.htm

 

 

This house is the one I used for the vampire’s lair in Prussia Cove, although I stood it on the hill amongst the fields and hedges you see in the photo above.

http://www.viewsofcornwall.com/viewphoto/229/

 

 

Ramshackle buildings of Prussia Cove

http://www.geniusloci.co.uk/images/prussiacove10.jpg

 

 

Helston, Cornwall.

http://www.connexions.co.uk/areas/html/helston.html

 

More on Helston

http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/Helston/

 

 

A picture of the Blue Anchor

http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/photos/img571.htm

 

More on the Blue Anchor and its ale, Spingo

http://telematics.ex.ac.uk/realcornwall/foodanddrink/spingo.asp

 

 

For a peek at the Angel Hotel here it is.

http://www.infotel.co.uk/16932.htm

 

 

 

The BBC News did report on 23rd January 2007, a story called Ship’s Scavengers Ignore Police. I do not know if the report can be found on the net still, I tried and couldn’t, but I did copy the article to my files when first posted. Here is a little of what it said.

 

Hundreds of people are continuing to rummage through cargo from the stricken ship MSC Napoli despite police road blocks and warnings to stay away.

Over the last two days scavengers have descended on the beach in Branscombe, Devon, taking away goods that included BMW motorbikes, wine and nappies.

Officers closed the beach to deter treasure seekers and to allow contractors to start the clear-up.

Coastguard officials have accused scavengers of "sheer greed".

That is a view reflected by one family who were shocked to see pictures of their belongings being looted from one crate on the beach.

 

Here is a site that Jo kindly looked out for me for more information on the Napoli and the modern day wrecker.  It’s greed, not livelihood, that had these people scavenge. Thanks, Jo.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/6375365.stm

 

And more sites on the same.

 

 



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