Summary: Some step willingly into traps and trickery, ignoring the
jaws of impending doom. Others are caught unaware like mice in a mousetrap, and
then there are those, against all odds, who grab hold of the jaws and pull out
There were many things that Buffy liked about living in Britain,
and the markets were one of them. She was in her element picking over stalls,
examining wares, and chatting to the stall holders. And she had found just the
place. Camden Market offered crafts, ethnic arts, jewellery and more. Buffy was
planning to hit the covered area of the market later. At the moment she was
enjoying the outside stalls. She was admiring the waterfall of colour on offer
in the form of hand-dyed silk scarves, the stall holder leaving her to it in
favour of another customer who appeared to know exactly what she wanted. Buffy thought it was rain when something
cool and wet slapped against the back of her neck. Automatically raising a hand
that never reached her head, Buffy’s eyes rolled back in their sockets, and she
slipped into oblivion without any idea of what was happening, dropping the
scarf she had been examining as a gift for Lisa.
When Martha arrived at Summerdown House Giles was on the
telephone. Martha’s thoughts were on her daughter and her daughter’s firstborn
son, John, as she set about straightening the kitchen and clearing the remnants
of Giles’ breakfast. Martha had spent a couple of weeks with Marylyn after the
babe was born, helping her daughter and her husband adjust to life with the
beautiful new bundle of joy. She had been loath to leave the babe, but Martha
knew that she had to let her daughter find her own way, and had come home
Sighing, Martha brought her mind back to what she was doing. The
kitchen bench and sink were gleaming, and if she scrubbed any harder she would
wear a hole in the surface. Martha tackled the cupboards next. There were marks
on the doors, so she began there. Martha found that men, generally, made a mess
when fetching their own meals. Giles was no exception, although he was tidier
than most. She worried about him when the young folk weren’t about. Buffy and
Angel were in London, taking a couple of days to relax after solving the case
of the missing eyes. Well, Rupert had helped solve the mystery, and Buffy and
Angel had eliminated the demons that had been targeting the Moorfields Eye
Hospital. The demons, members of the Unni clan, had been dealing in body parts,
specifically eyes. Apparently there was a market for that sort of thing. Martha
hadn’t known that human eyes could be fitted into demon eye sockets and be
viable, but now she did. It was just another odd fact she was aware of due to
the strange and unusual profession her employer and his young friends had
chosen. That wasn’t strictly true, Martha knew. Rather, it was they who had
Giles said from the door, startling her, “Martha, I have to go to
Paris and I may be away for a night or two.”
“Business, I take it?” she asked, her heart pounding from her
small scare. She wondered if Giles had been taking lessons in stealth from
Angel. She saw that Giles wore a frown, and he appeared worried.
“What is it?”
Giles opened his mouth and closed it again. Martha began to feel
“It’s not Buffy or Angel, is it?” she asked, not even wondering
how Paris equated with London. One never knew with those two. Or could it be
that nice young man that had visited them recently? Martha hoped not, Oz had
been such a quiet, gentle soul.
“No…not them.” Shaking his head, Giles wandered into the room.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “It’s Andrew Wells.”
“The young man that was watching out for Dawn?” Martha said,
setting down her cleaning cloth and moving to sit in a chair. She knew Rupert
Giles was going to impart bad news and she needed a seat. Giles sat down at the
table with her, absently smoothing a napkin with the palm of one hand.
“The French police called me earlier. They’ve found a body of a
young man and they need to confirm his identity. That’s where I come in.”
“What about Dawn?” was her first thought, knowing Giles must be
deeply concerned for Buffy’s sister.
“It’s alright, Martha, I’ve just finished speaking to Dawn. She’s
fine. She’s on holiday with her boyfriend, Spain, she said, before I had to
impart the sad news. Of course she blames herself.”
Dawn and Buffy had had words, a row, really, a while ago. Dawn
insisting that being a grown woman, she wasn’t going to have Andrew underfoot
for the rest of her life. Did Buffy expect Andrew to be trailing after her when
she was a grandmother, and that event seemed unlikely if Andrew insisted on
playing gooseberry every time she met a boy she liked. Buffy had grudgingly let Dawn have her way,
with Andrew keeping his distance but still keeping tabs on her.
“Does Buffy know?”
“No, not yet. I tried calling her, and Angel. Both have their
phones switched off. I’ll try them again later. Besides, there isn’t much they
can do for now.”
Martha twisted her fingers nervously at her next thought.
“Did they say how Andrew died?”
Martha felt Giles hesitate.
“It wasn’t natural,” he said after a moment.
Her heart picked up its pace. “Demons?”
“I’ll find out once I’m in Paris.”
“How on earth did they know to call you?”
“They found my card in his wallet.”
“You’re leaving right away?”
“As soon as I pack my bag. Could you see to the cats while I’m
away? I’ll ring if there is a change in plans.”
Martha smiled. Giles needn’t have asked, and he knew that. He had
such a soft spot for the cats. One wouldn’t think a man in his line of work
would have such a gentle side to him. When she thought about it, and she had on
many occasions, Martha realised that the men around her did have their soft
side, even the supposed monsters in the family.
“Off you go, then.”
Angel was underground and he was moving at a fast pace. And so
were the humans that travelled with him. The train he was sitting on ran the
Piccadilly Line. He had been journeying for a while, getting off occasionally
and changing trains, changing lines. The London Underground spread its
tentacles to many corners of the city and the vampire was sight-seeing like a
tourist, if a tourist only wanted to see the inside of the stations, with their
tiled walls and moving escalators and stairs. His motives were different,
though. He had been feeling rather restless, and hadn’t wanted to be cooped up
in a hotel room for the day. He had left Buffy sleeping, having already
informed her of his plan to stalk the underbelly of the city. She had been
happy for him to have something to occupy his time. Buffy had planned to go to
the nearest market. A girl had to shop, she had remarked with a grin.
So here he was, crushed in among the masses, the bouquet of
humanity washing over him. Rush hour had just been dandy, he had grumbled to
himself, but he had endured it, knowing there would be respite once the city
was at work. And although he had been correct in this, the multitude of
sightseers and tourists and ordinary folk still ebbed and flowed as carriages
arrived and departed.
His mood was melancholy. He was in the grip of a dark humour, its
hold tenacious. He hadn’t felt this way in some time. Living with Buffy had
been a panacea for his brooding disposition.
Movement, he had decided, and the hunt would be medicinal, and it had
been, to a point. The first vampire he had encountered had the audacity of the
devil himself. The vampire had been embracing a woman, appearing to be in a
lover’s clinch, the demon nuzzling the woman’s neck. Angel had manoeuvred into
position, ready to strike and, noticing that the woman was unconscious in the
vampire’s arms, he took the opportunity when no one was glancing their way.
Angel jabbed his stake into the demon’s back, dusting it. The woman dropped
into Angel’s waiting arms, his movement fluid and almost unseen to those around
them as he sat down next to her. He had alerted one of the disembarking
passengers to the woman’s plight, and had melted away in the crowd. Angel had
stayed his journey, observing from an unseen vantage point, waiting till the
woman had been carted away by paramedics before moving on.
He had been on the Central line, Notting Hill Gate station, when
Angel had snatched at the hand of a vampire. Its owner had been reaching out to
drag a young man into the toilets. Instead, Angel swung the vampire into a two
step, dancing her into the point of his wooden stake. The young man had walked
Angel’s forehead crinkled into a frown. Something was not quite
right, he was missing something. Reviewing his earlier movements, Angel tried
to work it out. His musing was interrupted when he was jostled in his seat. A
woman, middle-aged, settled next to him, her handbag bumping against his leg.
She muttered an apology, and he nodded, turning away to look out the window at
the faces looking in, waiting for the next train. Thankfully, they were on
their way before he became too uncomfortable with their stares. Scanning the
carriage he was on, Angel noticed a familiar face. It was no one he knew but it
was a face he had seen before.
Buffy was woozy and her stomach felt like it was wrestling an
anaconda when she came to. Her head threatened to fall off when she moved. And
her stomach rebelled horribly when she did. She felt as if she was going to
throw up, and soon.
“She’s coming round. Give her another shot,” she heard someone
growl, their accent so thick she barely understood a word.
Buffy’s eyes refused to focus when she opened them. Everything was
a blur. The floor she was lying on gave a little jolt. Barely conscious, she
connected the dots and realised she was in a moving vehicle.
“I gave her the normal dose. I don’t know why it’s not working,”
came the reply.
The slayer felt rough hands take hold, a cool wetness slapped
against her flesh and she slipped away into cold, terrifying oblivion.
Giles sat in a seat on the train, studying a map of Paris. The Eurostar had already left St Pancras
Station, the newly refurbished Victorian terminal for the train to Paris and
Brussels. Giles thought it rather like an airport with its white columns,
although there were Victorian pillars about, enough glass to cover half the
country, sleek bars, restaurants, and retail outlets. When had travelling
become a trip to the shops, he wondered. Buffy would be in seventh heaven, he
knew. Perhaps she and Angel could enjoy a holiday to Paris sometime. The
Eurostar ran at night, the ticket office closing at 9 pm, it would be the
perfect way to get Angel to France.
Giles puzzled over his map. He had been to Paris a few times and
it was very easy for an Englishman to get lost. He usually relied on the French
taxi, and he kept his opinions of those to himself. Fortunately, Lieutenant
Bernard Laroche was meeting him at the station. Not the headquarters of the Préfecture of Police, a lovely but
imposing building situated on the Rue de Lutèce, but the station Gare du Nord,
the Eurostar’s destination in Paris. Giles was very grateful for the
policeman’s courtesy. Police headquarters made him nervous, and police
headquarters in a foreign country, even more so.
A squabble erupted in a nearby seat, causing Giles to look up. Two
children, old enough to know better, he thought, were fighting over an
electronic game. The parents pointedly ignored their loud and embarrassing
offspring. Giles ground his teeth. The world was doomed. Parents these days
apparently allowed their children free rein. The girl, a freckled redhead,
pinched her brother’s arm and ribs and wherever she thought was effective. The
boy elbowed his sister away, stomping on her foot and snarling at her, his
hands wrapped tightly about his game. The girl called out to her mother, and
the silly woman said, “Darling. Let your sister have a turn.”
The boy snapped at his mother, his tone of voice a hanging offence
as far as Giles was concerned, “She has her own game. She can play that. I’m at
the top level. I can’t let her have a go. She’ll lose my place.”
The girl whined, “He’s not! He’s being mean. It’s my turn.”
The father, a browbeaten man if Giles had ever seen one said,
“Melissa? Why don’t you do something else?”
The girl stamped her feet and pouted. “I want to play his game! My game sucks! It’s stupid!”
“We just bought that yesterday for you to take to Paris,” her
“I don’t like it now!” Melissa screamed.
Giles dared to say, “Perhaps it would be a good idea for the
children to read a book?” The bleeping and blooping of the children’s games had
been an annoying nuisance to all and sundry even for the short time they had
all been aboard.
The woman glared at him and opened her mouth, when her husband
jumped in. “I think you’re right. How about it, children?” The man reached
across and relieved his children of their games.
The man’s kids stared at him, dumbstruck. His wife’s look would
have killed and buried him but she held her tongue.
Giles smiled sweetly. “Thank you. I’m sure we’ll all be grateful.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Giles saw the other passengers nodding. They,
too, had had enough.
A wet and salty tang filled Buffy’s nostrils. Cracking open an
eyelid, and with a headache that threatened to make mush of what brains she had
left, Buffy could barely make out anything in the shadowy dark. Groaning, she
attempted to sit up. A hand supported her with gentle care until she made it
“Take it easy,” a woman’s voice whispered to her. “You’ve been
drugged. You’ll feel sick for a while.”
“Huh?” Buffy squinted at the woman beside her, the woman’s form
coalescing from five people to one. She blinked furiously. “What? How?”
It was then that Buffy realised she could hear other sounds. She
peered about in the dark and could just make out huddled forms. The weeping was
coming from them.
‘Where are we? What’s happened?”
“We’ve been kidnapped,” the woman said.
Buffy’s head felt as if it was full of fog. She felt sick.
“Kidnapped? Where are we?”
“Somewhere on the coast. Here.” A bottle of water was placed in
her hand. Buffy gulped down the much needed drink. Her head cleared a little.
“Actually, we’re off the coast. There’s nothing but water all
around,” the woman continued.
“Sorry? Are we on a boat?”
“No. We’re on some sort of a platform. It’s all rusty and old. I
think it’s been here a long time.”
“We’re on Shivering Sands,” a voice out of the murkiness said.
“Sands. Just off the coast of Kent. It’s a World War Two gun fort.
I’m Rachel, by the way.”
“I’m Buffy, and you are…?” Buffy said to the woman who had helped
her sit up.
“I can’t say that I’m pleased to meet you, being kidnapped and
all. Have you seen the people that abducted us?”
“They’re in another part of the fort. We’ve been locked in.”
Buffy wobbled to her feet. She wanted to see for herself. Using
the wall for support, she felt her way around the room. It had a strange shape
and the windows had been overlaid with steel. They were welded shut. The door
in the corner was locked. Buffy tried to pull it open. It wouldn’t budge.
Either her strength had been compromised with the drugs in her system or the
door had a very good bolt on the other side. Buffy guessed it was both. She
also guessed there were about nine or ten other women in the room with her.
Buffy wondered what the kidnappers had in store for them. She knew whatever it
was it wouldn’t be good.
“Buffy?” a voice called softly in the dark. It was Suzanne.
“I’m here,” Buffy replied, feeling her way back to her new friend.
“How long have we been here?” she asked when she sat down.
“Not long. Maybe half an hour. They had to carry you up the
“You weren’t drugged?”
“We were, only we came to on the boat. There was nowhere to go.
They had guns…”Suzanne finished with a sob. Buffy put out a hand and found a
shoulder to squeeze.
“Rachel. You seem to know something about the fort. Are you from
“I am, as a matter of fact, I’m from Tonbridge, but everyone knows
about the forts. We’re off the coast, in the Thames Estuary.”
“Tunbridge, as in Wells? I’ve been to Tunbridge Wells,” Buffy
“No,” Rachel chuckled. “Tonbridge spelt with an O. Tunbridge Wells
is four miles south of Tonbridge.”
Buffy liked the sound of Rachel. She kept her cool, and her
humour, in the face of adversity. Buffy thought she could rely on Rachel if she
“Where were you when they grabbed you?” she asked her.
“London. I was up there for the day. My sister…oh my God. My
sister will be worried.”
“That’s good,” Buffy said. “She’ll have notified the police.” At
that thought, Buffy patted her pockets. Her phone was gone, and there was no
sign of her hand bag, either. Buffy’s face flushed hot when she realised
something else was missing. Her fingers were bare. The eternity ring Angel had
given her was gone. Blinking back tears and clasping her hands together, Buffy
tried to concentrate on what was being said.
Suzanne was saying, “I live in London. I was on my way to work.”
“It looks as if we’ve all been abducted from London. Let’s ask the
others, shall we?” Buffy said, hoping her voice didn’t betray her emotional
state. The women needed someone who was calm and could get them out of trouble,
not a weepy girl who wanted her ring back.
For want of something better to do, and, without really
understanding why, other than Angel didn’t believe in coincidence – the man had
appeared more than once on the same train that the vampire journeyed on - Angel tracked the face he had become
familiar with beneath the city of London.
The man appeared oblivious to all and sundry and especially the vampire
who was stalking him. It was as if he was lost in a world of his own, only
surfacing to exit the carriage and head for another level where another station
and train waited. Fortunately for the vampire, the man was content to ride the
rails. Angel would have been trapped below if the man had decided to venture
out. It soon became apparent that the man’s route was narrowing down. They were
changing trains with more frequency.
While watching his prey, Angel turned on his phone to call Buffy.
He wanted to know how much she was enjoying herself. Her phone was switched
off. Angel frowned. It wasn’t like Buffy to turn her phone off. Perhaps she was
in an area they called a black spot, one where there was no signal. Angel
relaxed a little at his next two thoughts. Buffy’s phone batteries may have run
down, but she was out in daylight. It was unlikely that she would be in any
danger from vampires. Buffy could handle herself.
Still, Angel decided he should call Giles to see if he had heard
from Buffy. The watcher’s phone rang on until he got voice mail. Angel hung up
without leaving a message. He didn’t like talking to a machine. It made him
feel stupid. He turned his phone off and followed his quarry onto another
Giles belatedly realised it was his phone that was ringing. By the
time he had fumbled for it, the caller had hung up. When he checked his missed
calls he found that it had been Angel. He called back immediately. The vampire
had switched off his phone. Giles cursed him under his breath. Hadn’t the man
listened to his messages?
After confirming that, indeed, all the women in the room had been
taken from London, and once everyone had been introduced, which seemed to calm
the girls down, Buffy set about doing inventory. Handbags and personal items
had been confiscated, including their shoes. Buffy wasn’t the only one
bemoaning the loss of a ring. The people who had kidnapped them had left them
with bottled water. An open box sat against a wall.
“Have they fed us at all?” Buffy asked.
Buffy decided she had better ask the hard questions if she had any
hope of getting them out of there.
“What do these people look like? Are they normal?”
“Normal? I’m Emily,” a voice out of the gloom said.
“Hi, Emily. Was there anything unusual about them? Their faces,
hands, that kind of thing?”
“Only that they’re animals!” another woman growled.
“They’ve taken one of us…oh God! What are they doing to her?” The
woman began to sob.
“Wait! They’ve taken one of us?” Buffy’s stomach turned over. “Did
you hear anything…like…?”
“Her screaming? Yeah. At first.”
The group went quiet and huddled closer together for comfort.
Buffy wanted to scream, herself. She understood why no one had told her about
the missing girl. They must have assumed that she already knew.
She persisted with her questions. “How many of them are there?”
“Five that we know of,” whispered Rachel. “Four men and a woman.”
“The bitch queen from Hell!” Glenda spat out. At least Buffy
thought it was Glenda in the gloom.
“Why do you say that?”
“There was something about the look in her eye and the smirk on
her face when they dragged one of us away,” Suzanne explained.
Just then, they heard a bolt being drawn. The door began to open
and the lights came on.
Angel alighted from the train, his quarry in sight. They were at
Waterloo Station. It wasn’t their first visit and Angel hoped it would be their
last. Keeping well back, he couldn’t help but notice the young man didn’t look
well. The shaking hands were a give-away, as was the pallor of the man’s skin.
But it was the eyes that told Angel something was amiss. They had a haunted
look. Angel was beginning to sympathise. His mood wasn’t the best, either.
Angel trailed the man towards the exit, passing by the posters on the walls,
the people sitting on benches, passing the exit, until the man was alone at the
end of the station. There was a door set into the tiled wall. One wouldn’t know
it was there, it was well camouflaged with advertising. When the man cast a
furtive look back, Angel appeared to be heading for the exit. When Angel turned
around the man had disappeared. He
hurried back to the door. Beneath the advertising, Angel made out the words
Keep Out, Authorized Persons Only. The door was not locked when he turned the
handle. Angel slipped through the door. On the other side there was a tunnel,
conduits and cables adorning the walls and ceiling. Making sure the door behind
him was closed, Angel set off looking for his prey. At the end of the passage
he discovered a gap in the wall. It was wide enough for a person to squeeze
through. He had no trouble getting past.
Reeling from a sudden onslaught of despair, Angel put out a hand
to steady himself. Each step thereafter was an agony of emotion. Angel now knew
why his mood had been grim. Someone, or something, was broadcasting an
emotional holocaust, and anyone sensitive enough suffered its impact. No wonder
the man ahead appeared pale and ill. Angel shook off the devastating effects,
forced them away, and hurried down the tunnel. The passage veered to the right
and, narrowing, began to descend. He caught up with his prey. The man was on
his hands and knees, crawling forward in the dark.
Angel put a hand on the man’s quivering back. “I wouldn’t do that.
Go back. Go home.”
The man was sobbing, every breath hollowing out his lungs.
“Leave me alone. I’ve gotta do this. Please…”
Knowing that any argument he put forward was going to be ignored,
Angel put his arms about the man and lifted him to his feet. Rearranging his
hands, Angel applied pressure on the man’s windpipe. In a few moments he felt
the man slip into unconsciousness. Angel put him down gently and carried on
down into the bowels of the earth. And from what he could see when he got to
the bottom, a good many other people had been there before him.
A small cavern yawned before him.
Thin strands, filaments of white, spread their tentacles every-which-way
across the dark space. When Angel put out a finger to test a strand, it was
mucilaginous, like a spider’s fine spin, but as strong as a nylon fishing line.
He could make out dark shapes in the web, cocoons of people, hanging like
flies, waiting to be devoured. Most were dead, the lack of heartbeat told him
that, but there was one that was still breathing. Angel wished he had his sword
with him. It hadn’t seemed prudent to board a train with a weapon, albeit one
he could hide beneath his coat, and there had been a lot of sitting involved,
The stakes in his pocket were nigh on useless. The honed knife in
his boot, however, had possibilities. Angel pulled it free and was pleased to
see that it did, indeed, slice through the web-like substance. The strands,
however, clung to the blade, and as he cut through the filaments the knife
started to look like one of the cocoons. Having nothing but his clothing to
clean the knife, his jacket began to look as if it belonged on the web.
Eventually, he made it through to the person still alive. It was a woman’s face
he saw, when he cut away the webbing. Carefully, he sliced away until he could
pull her free of her prison. He carried her to where he had left the young man
and lay her down beside him.
When he returned to the cavern its tenant was waiting for him.
Blinking against the glare of the lights, Buffy and her fellow
prisoners were horrified to see a battered woman flung at their feet. She was
sobbing, shaking, huddling in on herself, traumatized. The two men who had
thrown her to the floor stood there, pleased smirks carved on their faces. Buffy
hurried over to the woman and helped pull her away from their captors.
Clutching at her ragged clothing, she allowed herself to be comforted by the
A third man stalked towards them, a woman, platinum blonde, at his
side. Buffy stood up, narrowing her eyes. The woman wore her eternity ring.
Buffy decided then and there she would break that finger.
Buffy examined the ogre before her. Except he wasn’t really an
ogre. Ogres she could handle. Ogres she could like. Ogres she could kill. The
man was of slight build, dark haired, and not unattractive. His eyes were a
dead give-away. They were cruel, the light colour belying the darkness lurking
“You belong to Oska now. You don’t give us any trouble or you’ll
get the same your friend did.”
The man had an accent. Buffy couldn’t place it, other than she
knew it was European. Somewhere eastern, she was guessing.
“She didn’t give you any trouble and you did that to her!” Buffy
The cruel eyes turned her way.
“She was a lesson. For
you. This is what you get if you don’t do as I say.” His tone was menacing.
“Spoiled goods aren’t a problem.”
Buffy shivered. She heard the women behind her suck in their
breath. She knew they were pleading silently with her to not antagonise their
“And what’s her deal?” she remarked with bravado, gesturing to the
platinum blonde. “She like to watch?”
The blonde marched over, a gun in her hand. She shoved it in
Buffy’s stomach. “I like to hear you scream,” she growled.
“Where’s your umbrella?” Buffy asked, mentally labelling her the
Wicked Witch of the West.
The Wicked Witch frowned at her question, puzzled, before striking
Buffy in the face. The slayer fell back a step, giving no indication that she’d
had worse. The slap stung, though, and Buffy rubbed her cheek, her eyes
The man with the platinum blonde surveyed his prisoners.
“There’s a washroom next door. You can use the facilities, one at
a time. If you try to escape, some of you will die. We have something for you
to eat. I suggest you do so.” The bigger of the two guards disappeared and
reappeared with a box of what looked like biscuits, potato chips, or crisps, as
the English called them, and candy bars. The box was dumped on the floor at his
From behind Buffy, Rachel asked, “Who is Oska?”
A grin, one to rival Angelus’, crawled across the leader’s lips.
“He’s your owner. He bought you. You belong to him now.”
There was a collective gasp, and a few quiet sobs.
“Are we part of his harem, or what?” Buffy asked, not at all
“That’s for him to decide, although, I think he has other ideas
what to do with you.”
“He’s not like you and me,” the Wicked Witch hissed. “He’s
something you’ve never even dreamed of in your worst nightmare.”
Buffy didn’t think much of that statement. Her nightmares were
terrible and tended to come true. However, their captors had given her a clue.
Oska wasn’t human, and with the light on Buffy had discovered something else.
The women in the room were all blonde, of one shade or another. That didn’t
bode well in Buffy’s books. What did this Oska want with blonde young women?
Were they going to be used as sacrifices in some dreadful arcane ritual, or
were they going to be demon snacks? She couldn’t let the women get carted off
to the horrible fate waiting for them.
“How long are we going to be held here?” she asked.
“A boat will come when it’s dark.” Cold eyes surveyed the
windowless room before coming to rest on hers. His laugh was cruel. “But I
guess you won’t know when that is. Franz will escort you to the toilet.” The
man and his team left them, with Franz guarding the door.
Giles was in the mortuary waiting for the attendant. It’s the
smell, he decided, unpleasant and nauseating, that embedded itself in one’s
nasal passages, which then burrowed into the synapses of the brain, bringing
forth images of specimen jars filled with amphibians and alien-like creatures
that floated grotesquely within. With
him was Lieutenant Laroche. At first glance, Giles thought the man was built of
granite. The policeman’s body was imposing, large and muscular, made for
punishment and for giving out the same. Giles felt diminutive standing beside
him. The man’s eyes, however, set in a craggy face, were kind and a little sad.
At last, they were allowed to view the body.
“This is your friend, yes?” Laroche asked.
It was, indeed. Giles nodded, gazing down at Andrew Wells’
lifeless form. The young man looked much the same as he had the last time he
had been a guest in Giles’ home. Giles peered closely at his neck. He could see
ligature marks around Andrew’s throat.
“Garrotte?” he asked his companion.
“And this…” The policeman pulled down the sheet to expose the
body’s torso and arms.
“Are those claw marks?” Giles asked without thinking, intent on
the deep gouges covering Andrew’s chest. Through the cuts, bone glistened.
“You don’t seem surprised, Monsieur Giles. Most would ask what
kind of weapon does this to a man.”
When Giles looked up at the policeman, he found the hint of a
knowing smile looking back at him.
Laroche said, “I looked into your background. You investigate the
paranormal. Monsters and the like.”
Giles blinked, surprised. “Do you believe in monsters,
“There are monsters everywhere, monsieur, of one kind or another.
I think your friend was involved with something that was…other.”
“When we inspected Monsieur Wells’ living quarters, we found items
that suggest he was involved in criminal activity. Was your friend ever in
trouble with the law, monsieur?”
Giles evaded the question by asking two of his own.
“Is this the real reason why you invited me to Paris? You didn’t
need me to identify the boy, did you?”
“We had enough to identify him without you, yes, but it is always
preferable to have a friend or family member confirm. As for his background? Is
there anything you can tell me?”
“Andrew was in a little bit of trouble back in the States,” Giles
admitted. He wondered if the Sunnydale police records had disappeared into the
crater, never to be seen again, or if Andrew and Jonathon’s misdeeds had been
filed away on a computer allowing access for the police in other parts of the
“It never did get to court.” Giles refused to divulge that Andrew
and Jonathon had fled to Mexico, away from Willow’s wrath. “Can we?” Giles
nodded at the door. He had had enough of staring at Andrew’s pale form, and he
would like to breathe fresher air.
“Of course.” Laroche thanked the morgue attendant and they both
exited the room. “Your friend rented a place in the Hauts-de-Seine…do you know
Paris at all, Monsieur Giles?” the policeman asked once they were in the
“Hauts-de-Seine? Isn’t that the theatre and shopping district?”
“One of them. Monsieur Wells didn’t have any visible means of
support, and yet he could afford to pay for an apartment in an expensive part
of the city. He dressed well and had expensive tastes.” Laroche frowned. “His
family weren’t wealthy, were they?”
“Not to my knowledge, no. I did, however, send him a small
stipend. It wasn’t enough to set himself up in luxury.”
Laroche led the way through the building’s corridors and out into
the parking lot to where his car waited.
“I would appreciate it if you had a look at Monsieur Wells’
“Why? Haven’t your colleagues been over it with a fine tooth comb?
Besides, he’s the victim here,” Giles pointed out as the policeman opened the
“Of course, but sometimes a victim’s background can inform us of a
Giles got in the Lieutenant’s vehicle.
“Anything to help the Gendarmerie.” Giles sighed. He wondered if
the French police could cope, tracking demons. Knowing about monsters was one
thing. Killing them was another.
They careened madly through the busy streets, Giles fearing for
his life. What irony to die in a vehicle accident came his panicked thoughts,
with his foot planted on a phantom brake pedal. Dead is dead, until it came to
Buffy, or for that matter, Angel, he repeated to himself. Giles relaxed his
foot only when they arrived at their destination.
Andrew’s apartment was upmarket and a surprise. Giles eyed the
cluster of flats, the building’s façade reminding him of a woman’s rouged
cheeks with its ruddy pink paintwork, the architect obviously going for ultra
modern and succeeding, as he and his police escort made their way to the
entrance. The furniture inside appeared expensive to Giles. Leather, if he
wasn’t mistaken. He reached out to caress the material. He had guessed
correctly. The large wide-screen television and the stereo and electronic
gaming equipment had Giles wondering if the lad had managed to procure an I.T.
position that paid extremely well. No, Laroche had mentioned that Andrew had no
visible means of support.
Giles’ musings were interrupted by his companion.
“Monsieur Wells was American, yes? And you are English. How did
“I was in the United States, working at a California high school.
Andrew was a student there. Later, when I moved back to the United Kingdom and
set up my business, I employed Andrew to run a few errands for me.”
“He travelled around the world contacting people I needed to speak
“In your capacity as a paranormal investigator?”
“Yes. Of late he had been living in Rome. I had no idea he had a
dwelling here in Paris.” As far as Giles knew Andrew had taken a small flat in
Rome, away from Dawn, but still within striking distance, as it were.
That led to his next question. “How long had Andrew been a tenant
“According to the landlord, four weeks.”
Giles looked about the apartment. Four weeks? What on earth?
The Lieutenant had been very intent on Giles, staring at him the
whole while. It was as if the man was measuring his worth. Giles hoped that he
wasn’t found lacking, or at the very worse, suspected of any wrongdoing.
“And do you think this young man could have turned to running
errands for someone else, here in Paris?”
How on earth was he supposed to know? Andrew had neglected to
inform him about quite a few things. Giles didn’t voice his thoughts. Instead,
he said, “Possibly. Andrew was very capable of putting his mind to anything.”
Laroche opened what appeared to be the spare bedroom. The walls
were littered with posters of old science fiction shows. Amongst the chaos
there were weapons. Medieval weapons. Crossbows, swords, axes and the like. The
policeman picked up a wooden object. It was a stake.
The Frenchman’s eyebrows rose, inviting an answer. Giles shrugged
“Do you believe in vampires, Monsieur Giles?” Laroche verbalised his
“Do you, Lieutenant?”
Laroche put down the stake.
“Quite an arsenal. I wonder, if we had our forensic people examine
these weapons, would they find evidence that they had been used?”
Giles evaded the man’s question. What had Andrew been hunting?
“You said that there was evidence that Andrew had been up to
something illegal. Items had been found. Did you mean these?”
A grimace played across the policeman’s craggy face.
“These are unusual…but we also found traces of drugs, Ecstasy,
Ice, and a large quantity of Orpheus.”
Giles latched onto the last. “Orpheus?”
“You know what this is?”
Giles did know what Orpheus was, and who it was that used the
drug. How much did Laroche know? By what had been said, or not said, Giles
gathered it was a quite a lot.
The policeman chuckled.
“A drug. Some users take it intravenously.”
Giles decided that, yes, Laroche knew that Orpheus was the drug of
choice for some vampires.
“Andrew was dealing?”
“Perhaps. I think he was the delivery boy. There have been rumours
about a gang? Is that your word? Gang that moved into the area. Now, suddenly,
the competition end up dead. The head man goes by the name of Korbinian
although it has been reported that none has set eyes on him.”
“Korbinian? Wasn’t he…?”
“The eighth century Frankish saint?”
Giles’ respect for the policeman ratcheted up another notch, even
more so when Laroche continued.
“But we both know that it isn’t possible or likely, that this
Korbinian is related in any way to our saint.” Laroche stared at him with just
the barest hint of amusement. Giles refused to obey his body’s inclination to
squirm. The man had a way making one feel as if they had something to hide, and
in Giles’ case, it was the truth.
“Korbinian’s minions are a matter of concern to us. They are
ruthless in their pursuit to control the district.”
“Maybe Andrew got caught up in something he was unprepared for?”
Laroche’s gesture included the weaponry in the room. “He was
prepared for something, but I doubt that he was intent on doing battle with
Korbinian and his men. These tell me that your friend was familiar with the
other parts of society. The unseen denizens of our city.”
There, it was said. Laroche waited for Rupert Giles to confirm his
suspicions. The man knew more than he was saying. The policeman waited as the
Englishman polished his glasses.
“Andrew wasn’t one for great acts of bravery.” Giles felt as if he
was betraying the boy’s memory, so he added, “Although there was one time that
he did come to our aid. That one act allowed me to see past his… misadventures
and give him a chance to be something more than what he had been. If Andrew was
drawn into, for want of a better word, the underbelly of society, he did so
with open eyes. He knew its dangers.”
Laroche looked sceptical. “These weapons were for defence?”
“Maybe he liked to collect them?” Giles tone indicated that he
didn’t expect to be believed.
The policeman snorted.
“I think your friend got himself killed. Maybe he got greedy,
maybe he pissed off Korbinian in some way, or maybe he just got in the way.
Whatever it was he paid the price.”
Giles knew that Andrew had been no innocent, and the boy had
showed that he had been capable of change. Giles, and Buffy, wouldn’t have
given him the task of watching over Dawn, otherwise. What if they had been
wrong to trust him? And why now, after all these years would Andrew revert to
his old ways? Giles knew there must be another explanation.
“How are you going to catch this Korbinian if no one knows who he
is?” he asked the policeman.
“We may not know who he is, but we know where he does business. He
will be caught, sooner or later.”
“Guns may not be of use,” Giles dared to say.
“And these…?” The Lieutenant made a sweeping gesture with his arm
to indicate Andrew’s armoury.
“Would be better.”
“My men have had little experience with stakes and swords,
“Your men shouldn’t. You’d be sending them to their deaths. It
takes a special person to handle problems like these.”
The smile that blossomed on Laroche’s face was a sight to see. It
was one of triumph.
“And you have a special person in mind?”
Giles’ smile matched the Lieutenant’s.
“As a matter of fact, I have two.”
Buffy wasn’t worried about her lack of shoes. She could still
function as the slayer in bare feet. Martial arts were taught in bare feet in
most dojos, or gyms, around the world. It was how you used your feet and hands,
and of course, body. You never kicked out with your toes, unless you wore shoes
that were steel-capped. Kicking out with bare toes led to broken bones. No, it
was the ball of the foot, or the heel, that did the damage. You could apply
devastating force that way. The same applied when using your legs. You hit your
opponent with your knee or shin or the top of your foot, and Buffy was a
natural, her slayer powers instilling in her an innate sense that Giles, and
Angel, had helped her hone. And it was the body’s force, or power behind the
blow that inflicted the most damage.
Franz was unconscious on the floor of the toilet. Buffy kicked him
with relish and none too gently to make sure he wasn’t faking it. Racing back
to where the other women were kept, she asked for a pair of pantyhose. The
cries of surprise that greeted her when the women saw her without her guard,
Buffy quickly silenced. Explaining what she was up to and accepting the hose
that Suzanne passed her way, Buffy asked Rachel if she could help her with the
unconscious man. The other woman did so, lifting Franz’s feet with Buffy at the
head, hauling him along under the arms.
“You’re strong for such a wee thing,” Rachel observed.
The slayer chuckled. “You’re not the first to say it, either.”
“What did you hit him with?” Rachel asked, having noticed Franz’s
bruised and bloody face.
“The wall,” Buffy replied, keeping an eye out all the while for
Once back inside with her fellow prisoners, Buffy placed her
captive in the corner of the room, his arms secure behind his back and his
“What if you get caught?” a woman who had introduced herself as
Valerie asked Buffy. “We’ll get punished…like…” Valerie’s frightened small
voice choked into silence.
“What they’ve got planned for us is worse. We’ve got to act now. I
know you don’t know me but I’m asking you to trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
“Do you work for the CIA or something?” Rachel asked in all
innocence. Her question elicited a few quiet chuckles from the others.
“What? She’s American. It’s what they do.” Rachel folded her arms,
indignant. Buffy caught her surreptitious wink.
With a grin splitting her face, Buffy replied, “The CIA can’t
afford me. But I do know what I am doing,” she repeated.
There were a few tentative nods at that. A woman got to her feet;
it was the girl who had suffered the beating, and worse, at the hands of the
man in the corner. Her steps weren’t at all tentative, they were purposeful and
they led her to the unconscious kidnapper. The woman raised her foot and
stomped on his back, his head, and his legs before Buffy pulled her off him.
She figured the girl was owed that much.
“What’s your name, honey?” The woman was about Buffy’s age. The
slayer felt like she was handling a traumatized kid, which she supposed she
was, in a way.
“Tracy, and I spit on this piece of shit.”
Tracy spat, her salivary missile landing on the man’s cheek. Buffy
watched it slide down his face, disappearing under his chin. The man hadn’t
stirred during the assault and Buffy didn’t think he would any time soon.
Tracy, her sudden burst of energy evaporating, sagged into Buffy’s arms. The
slayer handed her across to more willing hands. There was work to do.
“Guard the door. Push on it if you have to. Keep them out. I’ll
give you a signal when it’s me.”
As she was closing the door, Suzanne asked, “What’s the signal?”
“You’ll know when you hear it,” and Buffy was gone.
One of the things that Buffy did well was being able to sneak up
on her prey. Vampires have exceptional hearing and she had learned to be quiet,
only attacking when she knew that her heartbeat had given her away. Buffy knew
that that wouldn’t be a problem today. She scouted round the old fort. The
place was a fortress indeed. The authorities must have had good reason to keep
people out, she thought, and now it was being used to keep people in. The floor
that she reconnoitred held no one else other than her and her fellow captives.
Crumbling partitions hindered her path, old newspapers and posters littered the
area. The only secure room was the one they were being held in. Buffy hesitated
at the top of the stairwell.
The drone of an engine caught her ear. It was coming from outside
the fort. A boat was near. Buffy didn’t know if it was the boat to come to take
them away or if it was some innocent boatie out for fun or fishing. Either way,
she had to tell the women to keep quiet. She couldn’t risk their lives or those
of possible bystanders. Hurrying back to their prison, Buffy rapped on the door
“It’s me,” she whispered, and pushed the door open a little. “Keep
quiet. There’s a boat approaching.” Buffy pulled the door closed again, and
headed back to the stairs.
At the top, she could hear the clamber of feet. Buffy hid in the
small closet-sized room beside the stairs. When the thug passed by on the way
to the women’s room, the man calling out to Franz in his native tongue, Buffy
pounced. She smashed his face against the wall, hearing his nose break. Some of
his teeth came rattling loose. Sweeping his legs out from under him, Buffy
kneed him in the back and then punched him in the head. Hauling him over to the
door, she knocked again. Buffy left her victim with a group of very excited
women – the guns they now had confiscated giving them a modicum of courage –
and made her way down the stairs.
The layout below differed to the floor above but that didn’t faze
her. Buffy tiptoed about checking everything out as she headed towards the
sound of voices. What looked to be a communal bathroom was first in her path,
the bath and toilet bowls cracked and stained between dilapidated walls.
Peering round the next corner, she saw the Wicked Witch with her boyfriend. The
blonde had her hands on the man’s shoulders. She was giving him a massage. Her
gun lay on the table in front of them. Buffy hated guns. A gun had nearly taken
her life, the same weapon had killed Tara, and Buffy despised anyone that used
such a weapon to terrorize others. The buzz of a boat swept through the room
and both kidnappers laughed. Buffy backed away. There was a man missing.
The slayer veered over to the other side of the stairs, and there
he was in what looked to be another bathroom. His head was in a sink. Slipping
quietly up behind him, Buffy grabbed hold of his head and bounced it against
the sink’s hard surface. Dazed, the man only began to struggle when he couldn’t
take in a breath. Buffy was holding his face under the water and his frantic
movements soon lessened. Hauling him upright, the slayer slammed her fist into
his face for good measure. The man was out for the count. Tying his hands
behind his back, Buffy threaded the belt around a pipe to tether him. She
didn’t bother to gag him. She hoped that she would have the other two subdued
long before he came to.
She waited till the sound of the boat had faded away. Ripping a
hole in her top and adopting what she hoped was a look of desperation, Buffy
rushed into the room where her captors sat. Uttering a cry of terror, Buffy
tried to back away. The Wicked Witch snatched up her weapon from the table and
aimed it at her.
“Stop! What’s going on here?” the woman shouted at her.
Buffy edged towards her, keeping an eye on her boyfriend. The man
hadn’t moved. His lips twisted in a vicious smile. He was going to let his
woman handle the wayward girl.
Buffy lunged towards the woman, her hands out in supplication.
“Help me, please?” she wailed, bursting into tears.
The Wicked Witch stepped towards her, raising the arm that held
her weapon in a move that would have the gun smashing into Buffy’s head. The
slayer was ready for her. In a grip that could splinter bone, Buffy grabbed
hold of the woman’s wrist and twisted, hard. The platinum blonde whimpered but
did not relinquish her hold on the gun. Buffy smiled, and brought her other
elbow up, cracking the woman’s jaw. She would have staggered back if not for
the hold on her wrist. Buffy wrenched the gun away and, pushing the woman away
from her, threw the weapon at the man just clambering to his feet. The gun
connected above his right eye, and her target reeled away from the table. Quick
as a flash, Buffy threw a chair at him before her knee connected with his
girlfriend’s chin. She went down. Buffy’s leap cleared the table. Too late, her
opponent tried to pull his gun from his waistband. Buffy slugged him hard. Both
fists found soft spots. He fell at her feet. Buffy stomped on his gun hand and
kicked it away. She then kicked him between his legs. He screamed before she
used her heel to grind his head into the floor. He stopped moving. Buffy
grinned. Banging heads was becoming a habit. Turning, she made her way back to
the Wicked Witch. The woman was groaning, trying to get to her feet, and Buffy
caught the glint of a blade in the blonde’s fist. The heel of Buffy’s foot came
down and she heard bones breaking. The woman collapsed with a scream. Buffy
leaned in close, eye to eye, and smiled.
“I think you have something that belongs to me.”
Tugging none too gently on the woman’s broken fingers, Buffy
retrieved her eternity ring and the knife that lay on the floor
“Bitch!” the other woman spat.
“Takes one to know one,” Buffy retorted, and punched her in the
Crossing to the pile of shoes and handbags and other pieces of
clothing on the floor, Buffy found a couple of scarves and belts. She bound the
woman and man by their feet, with hands tied behind their backs. Her phone was amongst the others that had
been stolen from the women upstairs. Buffy checked the pockets of the villain
on the floor. She was rewarded with a wad of notes. Theft was the least of the
man’s sins. Buffy emptied his pockets. The women could sort out who was owed
what. In fact, she would let them search the rest of the gang. She was sure
that they would take great pleasure in that.
Praying that there would be a signal, Buffy turned on her phone.
Her prayers were answered.
Angel was fighting for his life. The demon trying to take his head
had far too many arms and legs for Angel’s liking. The vampire was no victim,
sitting placidly, allowing himself to be wrapped in a deadly cocoon. Using his
knife, he dodged and weaved, slicing and stabbing at the underbelly of the
spider-like demon. Spider-like as in the number of appendages and the use of
web-like strands to trap its victims. Its head, however, held razor-sharp teeth
in a pale grub-like visage. All the
better for chewing, Angel thought, as he sought one of its obsidian eyes.
Its arms were made for running up stone walls, its tactile digits supple and
strong, and at each end wickedly sharp hooks hung. Strong enough to bruise,
punish, and draw blood, he found, as he fought to pry them from his body.
An image blossomed in his mind. It came from the creature he was
dealing with. It was telling him that it didn’t eat dead vampire meat and he
was free to go.
“So you can lure sad, suicidal people in here, and convince them
to crawl into your net? I don’t think
so,” he managed to breathe out from the chokehold around his neck.
One or two of the demon’s extremities fell foul of Angel’s blade.
They tumbled away out of sight. He got knocked in the head for his trouble.
Ears ringing, Angel kicked back. Angel could smell the blood trickling from the
gash on the back of his skull.
The creature attacked, broadcasting a torrent of anguish and
suffering. Angel stopped struggling. The demon brought its jaws towards his
acquiescent victim. Angel’s knife hand jabbed upwards. His knife pierced the
pulsating organ he had noticed beneath the monster’s throat. It bellowed in
agony and attempted to thrust its tormentor away. Ignoring the frantic
thrashing, Angel leaned against the steel and it bit deep, penetrating the
monster’s flesh to the hilt. Reflex action had Angel flung aside as the
creature’s body convulsed in death. Bruised and aching, Angel lay and watched
as everything went quiet.
After a moment he retrieved his phone from inside his jacket. He
turned it on, and it rang. Angel
thought he would have a heart attack.
It was Buffy.
“Missed me?” she said.
“I’ve been worried about you.”
There was a short pause. Angel’s worry meter pinged.
“Nothing to worry about. It’s all in hand,” she said.
“What’s in hand?”
She told him, and by the time she was done Angel was growling low
in his throat.
“We’re okay,” she said quickly as if soothing a savage beast,
which she was. “The police are on their way. I don’t know when I’ll be back,
though. It could take some time.”
Voice deathly quiet, he asked, “Are you sure they’re human?”
She understood what he was hinting at.
“They are, and no, we can’t kill them. Oska, though…we’ll have
Giles look into it.”
Angel simmered silently, unhappy.
“So, what have you been up to? Found any monsters lurking
Angel stared at the demon hanging in its web, its sightless eyes
“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” he said.
First and foremost a huge thank you to Jo. Her help has been
invaluable. Anyone writing a story set in the UK needs a Jo. It’s all in the
detail. Thank you, my dear.
The southern end of Camden Market was burnt out in a huge fire and
was closed for most February this year, thank you, Jo for alerting me to that fact.
However it is still operating and for a look at the markets and a little info
go here -
And here -
The Underground network of London
For a look at the photo of the headquarters of the French Police
and for more information.
For more on the suburb Haute-de-Seine.
Shivering Sands Fort
I don’t know if there is a cell phone signal out at Shivering
Sands but I assumed there was for the sake of the story. The same goes for the
interior of the forts. One article I found says that the interior walls are in
decay, which I used. However, I do not
know if the bathrooms were stripped of their facilities so I left them intact.