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Snare

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Ares

Season 4

Part 11

 

**

 

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 the teeth.

 

**

 

Snare

 

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 rather reluctantly.

 

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 been chosen.

 

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 alarmed.

 

“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 on, oblivious. 

 

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 father replied.

 

“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 upright.

 

“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.

 

“Shivering what?”

 

“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.

 

“Suzanne.”

 

“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 ladder.”

 

“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 around here?”

 

“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 said.

 

“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 needed help.

 

“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 carriage. 

 

+++

 

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.

 

“No.”

 

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, among people.

 

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 others.

 

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.

 

“Listen up!”

 

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 within.

 

“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 declared angrily.

 

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 captors.

 

“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 watering.

 

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 feet.

 

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 cowed.

 

“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, Lieutenant?”

 

“There are monsters everywhere, monsieur, of one kind or another. I think your friend was involved with something that was…other.”

 

“Involved?”

 

“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 country.

 

“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 corridor.

 

“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’ residence.”

 

“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 car door.

 

“Of course, but sometimes a victim’s background can inform us of a likely suspect.”

 

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 you meet?”

 

“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.”

 

“Errands?”

 

“He travelled around the world contacting people I needed to speak to.”

 

“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 here?”

 

“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 his reply.

 

“Do you believe in vampires, Monsieur Giles?” Laroche verbalised his question.

 

“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.

 

“A drug?”

 

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, Monsieur Giles.”

 

“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 trouble.

 

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 mouth gagged.

 

“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 twice.

 

“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 face, hard.

 

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 Underground?”

 

Angel stared at the demon hanging in its web, its sightless eyes staring back.

 

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” he said.

 

 

The End

 

Author’s notes.

 

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 -

 

http://www.londontourist.org/markets.html#Camden

 

And here -

 

http://www.londonmarkets.co.uk/

 

 

The Underground network of London

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/tube-dlr-trams-and-train-travelcard-zones-map.pdf

 

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/standard-tube-map.pdf

 

 

Eurostar

http://stpancras.eurostar.com/en-gb

 

http://www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/travel_information.jsp

 

For a look at the photo of the headquarters of the French Police and for more information.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefecture_of_Police

 

 

For more on the suburb Haute-de-Seine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

Shivering Sands Fort

http://subterrain.org.uk/maunsell/part3.html

 

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.

 

 

 

 



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