Andrew Wells has been found murdered in Paris. Buffy and Angel join Giles in
the hunt for Andrew’s killer. Continues on from Snare.
What we once were informs all that we
have become. Darla.
the quiet of the woods. There, he was safe.
People were a superstitious lot: they feared the forest, with its creatures
and the spirits that were purported to live there. Humans were afraid for their
souls. The church and their priests had instilled and nurtured this fear over
the centuries, keeping the great unwashed cowed beneath their sanctimonious
boot. What claptrap. It was all about greed. The church was the wealthiest
institution for its time, and the most powerful. Kings bowed down before
bishops and cardinals and the holiest of them all, the Pope.
the church with all its pious trappings. His wife had been declared unclean, a
witch, by the local civil authorities, a soothsayer had been brought in, and
she had been put to death. If only she had been a real witch, then she would
have been able to save herself. But like thousands before her, she had been
burned at the stake, innocent and crying for mercy. He blamed the Church. It
was their teachings, their antipathy towards anyone who had an individual
thought in their head that had led to her demise. He had attacked and killed
the local magistrate and was hunted in turn. Until, one night, he became the
beautiful by night. Buffy pretended she wasn’t ogling the sight of the Eiffel
Tower from the back of the taxi as it carried her and Angel towards their hotel.
She had been in Paris once before, with Dawn. The city was magical, the Eiffel
Tower its jewelled crown, and it still caught her breath when she gazed upon
it. Rome had been a wonder, also. With its ancient monuments and bloodthirsty
history, it, too, had held her in its thrall. Perhaps it was the hunter in her
that was drawn to places that once held great scenes of barbaric battles, of
oiled, sweating gladiators who danced to death’s tune. Empires and their
magnificent armies, with their valiant soldiers fighting for their leader and
what they believed was a just cause, had risen and fallen over the centuries.
Britain and Europe were so steeped in blood and violence, its history old
beyond imagining, older than the young country she had once called home, that
Buffy felt as if every step she took was upon the unmarked graves of thousands.
Buffy felt a
touch on her hand, and she glanced back to see Angel smiling knowingly at her.
She sighed. She didn’t know why she thought she could put one past Angel. He
noticed everything she did.
beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked her in that soft way that made her want to hug
him and hold him tight.
“It is. No
wonder they advertise Paris as the city of romance.”
over and kissed her. The kiss deepened and Buffy found herself in Angel’s arms.
She wanted more, she wanted to…
She broke the
kiss. Panting from the need to breathe and other more pleasant things, she
said, “Angel. The driver.”
He waggled his
brows at her, and his leer was positively lascivious. Buffy kissed him, her
lips landing upon his own and pulling away an instant later.
thought,” she advised him. “I’m not fuelling some taxi driver’s fantasy.”
back into his dark corner of the cab with a rueful smile. Buffy turned to look
at the driver. His eyes were on the road ahead. She didn’t know if he had
happened to have been doing some ogling of his own, and she knew that if he
had, he would have been startled to find only her reflection in the rear view
mirror. Suppressing a giggle at the image it invoked, she sat back and reviewed
the reason they were in Paris.
had a sobering influence. Andrew Wells, reformed criminal, a Watcher in
training, and sometime guardian and friend of the Key, her sister, was dead.
Killed by persons, she amended her thought, demons unknown. Why, begged the
question. What had Andrew been up to in the four weeks since setting up home in
Paris? Andrew had been living in Rome, in his own place, close enough to be
keeping tabs on Dawn, but far enough that she had her own space. Space meant
boyfriends. Boys and friends who helped her sister get up to mischief Buffy had
complained more than once to Angel. It hadn’t occurred to Buffy that Andrew
would be the one to wind up in trouble, and dead because of it. Giles was in
Paris, asking questions of anyone that might have met Andrew.
The taxi ride
wasn’t a long one, the Haut de Seine district a mere ten minutes from the heart
of Paris. Giles had booked them into the Courtyard Paris Neuilly, the same
hotel he was currently residing in. The hotel wasn’t new by any means, or
ancient and magnificent like some she had seen as they had passed by. It had a
Thirties look to it, at least what Buffy imagined Thirties hotels looked like.
The lobby inside confirmed her opinion. The walls at reception were a pale
brick, and the décor screamed art deco. However, all was forgotten when Buffy
spotted the Eiffel Tower through the window of their room. She was excited
about the view and said so to Angel. He
was enchanted by her enthusiasm, and her lack of sophistication he found
endearing. Angel would’ve preferred a small, less expensive and more downbeat
hotel, but he wouldn’t deny Buffy the pleasure of enjoying what Paris had to
offer, even if they were here to track down the beings responsible for Andrew’s
demise. And Giles had been of the same mind, apparently, for he had booked all
three into this middle-of-the road hotel.
There was a knock
on the door, and when Angel answered it, Giles was on the other side.
Buffy ran into
his arms the minute he stepped over the threshold. Giles looked over her head
at Angel, who shrugged his approval.
“I’m so happy
you’re okay,” he said to her when she released him.
“I’m more than
okay. The morons who kidnapped me are the sorry ones.”
it’s sad news that brought you here.”
“It could have
been worse, even though for Andrew it is. I’m just happy that Dawn wasn’t
involved. What do you think is going on?”
Buffy sat on
the bed and looked at the two men in her life. Giles commandeered one of the
chairs, and Angel took charge of the refreshments. The fridge offered a variety
of fare. He held up a beer. Giles nodded. He handed it over, before producing a
small bottle of red wine.
asked her, indicating the wine with a lift of his hand.
never been one for alcohol, her one foray with beer having gone horribly wrong,
but she was happy to have a glass of wine with Angel. They couldn’t share a
meal, but a coffee or a glass of wine they could do. And to her delight, the
wine that Angel chose was always a good one.
explained the facts as he knew them.
The policeman had also supplied him with a copy of the autopsy report.
against police policy?” Angel asked.
Lieutenant Laroche. He knows there’s a world out there that has nothing to do
with being human. And he’s no fool.”
we’re here?” Buffy asked, sipping her wine.
look, Giles added, “He doesn’t know who you are, Angel. Rather, he doesn’t know
what you are. You two are his best hope of excising this cancer from his city.”
Giles passed over
the photographs that had come with the report. Angel scrutinised the wounds on
the boy’s body. Buffy eyes were drawn to Andrew’s face.
really liked him, you know?” she confessed. “He and his friends stalked me for
months…and he did horrible things.” She sighed. “We’ve all done terrible
things. But he changed. He wanted to help. He did help, and he put himself in
harm’s way to do so. I trusted him enough to have him watch over Dawn. She
liked him and, well, he was Andrew. He was an irritating, trying-too-hard,
in-your-face, kind of guy. Sweet and dumb at the same time.” She looked up at
Angel’s gentle touch on her shoulder.
who did this, Buffy.”
cared about Andrew Wells one way or another. He concurred with Buffy’s assessment
of the boy. His first impression of the lad had been one built on irritation,
but because Buffy and Dawn cared for Andrew he was going to do his utmost to
help her uncover what had led to the boy’s death. After all, Angel knew better
than anyone the value of being given a second chance, and Andrew had appeared
to have embraced the promise of redemption.
himself down on the bed next to Buffy. In his hand was a photo he had been
“The gouges on
Andrew’s chest. They look as if the claws were curved,” he remarked.
his agreement, although he asked, “There’s no chance that a weapon made those,
“Not with the
“Three talons to a hand.” She took a closer look. “I’d say the demon was a big
one. Any ideas on what we’re dealing with?”
number of demons with three claws. We need more to go on,” Giles said.
Korbinian guy. What do we know about him?”
“Not much, I’m
afraid. Laroche suspects that he is the head of the criminal element in the
area. No one knows what he looks like, if it is a he. I suspect he’s a demon. A
human wouldn’t need to keep his identity quite so secret. He deals in drugs,
prostitution, you name it. One of the drugs they found in Andrew’s flat was
Orpheus. There are some vampires that find the drug intoxicating.”
Buffy asked. “How do vampires…?”
on humans who have taken the drug,” Giles said with his eye on Angel. The vampire
was looking a little uncomfortable. Wesley had left his diaries to Giles, and
in them the older man had found the passage that described Faith’s capture of
Angelus. She had injected Orpheus into her veins and thus drugged Angelus when
he fed from her. “Both human and vampire experience a connection…a…sharing,” he
thinking about Riley and his addiction to being bitten. “Is it addictive?”
become addicted. I don’t know if it’s the same for vampires.”
Angel shook his
head as if to say no. Giles hurried on, changing the subject slightly. “If only
I had access to the Council’s archives. I know you’ve both heard me say that
many times, but it’s true. There may not be much I miss about the Council but
that is one of them. Those books may have contained something about this
Korbinian fellow.” Wesley had collected a few books from Wolfram and Hart, as
well as the journals he had been keeping, and Giles was grateful for all of
them. Still, they didn’t hold the wealth of knowledge the Council’s had.
built a Benedictine monastery and school on a mountain near Freising when he
was sent to convert Bavaria to the Faith,” Angel said for Buffy’s benefit.
“Could this be
the same guy?” she asked.
rather Saint Corbinian, spelled K or C,” Giles was in explicit mode, “was born
in six hundred and seventy.”
“He was a
saint? No chance, then?” Buffy sounded disappointed.
October 1805 Ulm. Austria.
Even after two
centuries walking the earth, the man from Freising found the carnage of battle
a glorious thing. The stink of carrion, blood, and gunpowder filled his senses
in a way that nothing else could. He felt complete, whole, his pain diminished
in the suffering of others. This was Hell on earth and he luxuriated in it.
Smoke filled the sky, almost blotting out the sun and, if he dared, he thought
he could go out on to the field and take his fill. Mindful of his state of
being he held back, and only when the sun surrendered the sky did he slither out
into the night and slake his thirst. He did not know how many he killed, there
were so many dead and dying it really didn’t matter. Not that he cared of
course. Human beings were beneath his notice, unless they declared war on one
another. Then, it consumed him as he consumed them. The more that perished, the
better, he thought. It was only later did he read that around ten thousand
souls had died on that battlefield.
Paris was a
city like any other in that it displayed its beauty to tourist and locals
alike, denying the sunless underbelly that lurked below. On its face ran the
river Seine, snaking its silver length through land now covered in stone and
concrete, bridges spanning its flanks, taming the once savage beast. The city
of lights, as Paris was called, shone like a beacon in an endless ocean of
humanity. Beneath the brilliance, beasts of another sort roamed. Those denizens
of the underworld scraped out a living just like those born to the sun
For once, Buffy
wasn’t thinking about the demons and creatures that moved through the night,
she was staring with wonder at the monuments and buildings that decorated the
skyline. Their hotel sat on Boulevard Victor Hugo and, walking down its
tree-lined street, past expensive-looking townhouses and apartments, Buffy
began to question Andrew’s motives. Where had the man come up with the money to
live in a place like this? Neuilly-sur-Seine was a suburb of Haute-de-Seine,
which meant that Andrew had lived in the neighbourhood. At least that was how
Buffy saw it. Andrew’s apartment was a good walk away, and Angel thought it a
good idea to take in the sights. Buffy was tired but eager to begin their
investigation. They could have broken into Andrew’s flat, no one being the
wiser, but Giles had suggested they keep the law on their side. Laroche was
meeting them at the apartment, Giles already gone ahead in a taxi. Buffy was
wondering at the hint of admiration Giles had allowed to peek through when
speaking of Laroche. The man had made an impression. She wondered what sort of
impression she and Angel were going to make.
need an invitation into Andrew’s apartment but he and Buffy had to wait outside
for one, all the same. When the door opened, they were greeted by a tall, large
man. Buffy’s instincts told her that beneath the suit was a man who knew how to
handle himself in a fight. Intelligent, kindly eyes stared at them from a
craggy face. Buffy could see Giles hovering behind the policeman. It had to be
The man smiled
at them, and she could see the smile reflected in his eyes. Buffy liked him
Giles. These are your friends, no? Come in, please.”
Buffy in, aware of the policeman’s eyes on him.
This is Lieutenant Laroche.”
offered her hand the Frenchman cupped it in his and lifted it to his lips. He
kissed the back of her hand before releasing it. Buffy blushed. The only person
who had kissed her hand before had been Angel, and she had giggled the first
time. She refused to do so now. A girl had her dignity.
meet you,” she said instead.
his hand out. Laroche clasped the vampire’s hand and shook it. Angel, who was watching
the man closely, noticed the small frown that crossed Laroche’s brow.
evening,” the policeman said by way of greeting.
“Bonsoir,” Angel replied.
The man beamed
with delight, whatever concerns he was beginning to have about Angel drifted away
for the moment. “Parlez-vous français?”
Angel answered in English.
Buffy hid her
smile at his reply. Angel spoke fluent French, and she thought that Giles did
too. Didn’t Giles once say that he spoke five languages? She knew that German
was one of them. Buffy broke away from
their huddle and made her way into Andrew’s apartment.
whistled through her teeth. The place was extraordinary. It screamed money.
There was no doubt that something was wrong with this picture.
up beside her. Only she heard him whisper, “My penthouse at Wolfram and Hart
looked a little like this.” Buffy glanced up at him, surprised. She couldn’t
imagine Angel living in such opulent sterility. He was a guy who belonged in a
castle, or a mansion, or a large and beautifully appointed hotel.
voice to include the two men behind him, Angel said, “I wonder who was paying
“That is the
question,” Giles agreed. “One can only surmise ill-gotten gains.”
studying Buffy and Angel intently. Buffy could see the gears in his mind
turning over. What could a young woman like Buffy do against the creatures that
prowled through his city? Angel looked the part. She didn’t, she knew. It was
to her advantage, however, and she took great pleasure in proving to all and
sundry that she was stronger than she looked.
confirmed her thoughts when he said, “You are the experts Monsieur Giles was
telling me about.” To her ears it sounded more a question than not.
to us than meets the eye,” she said with a smile.
moved away and left the room. She followed to find him in one of the bedrooms,
Giles and Laroche behind her. The crossbow in Angel’s hands was only one of the
items collected there. Giles had told them they wouldn’t need to bring weapons
with them and she could see why. Andrew hadn’t had this big a collection when
he was living in Rome. Buffy lifted a sword from the pile on the bed and swung
it deftly, getting a feel for its weight. She grinned when the policeman took a
hasty step back. Laroche bumped into
Giles, who hadn’t moved. He regained his composure quickly and stepped forward
with his hand out. She was surprised to see his fingers curl expertly about the
sword’s hilt when she passed it to him.
The lift in
his brow matched hers. “There’s more to any of us that meets the eye,” he said
with a twinkle in his eye.
all I need, another cryptic guy,” she grumbled good-naturedly.
around for a bag. Finding one, he began to load the carry all with weapons.
Angel handed Buffy a couple of stakes. Laroche gave back the sword, and was
fascinated to see it disappear beneath Angel’s long black coat. A couple of
long knives completed Angel’s packing.
the pair. Angel with the bag in hand, a sword at the ready, and Buffy, a couple
of pieces of wood her choice of weapons, did not look like warriors, but their
demeanour said otherwise. There was a confidence about the two of them born of
experience and pain. The man, Angel, made him uneasy and he didn’t know why,
and yet he was prepared to trust him. It was obvious the other two did, and the
young woman known as Buffy? Laroche instinctively wanted to protect her and
keep her safe. It was apparent, though, that Buffy wouldn’t take too kindly to
being coddled. With a toss of her head, she said, “Where are we headed, again?”
“I have a
map,” Laroche offered. “On the table.”
They returned to
the living area and stood around the table while the policeman pointed out the
streets and places the Korbinian gang were supposed to hold sway. He had also
marked the scenes of the gangland killings. It was a place to start.
“Paris has a
network of sewers,” Laroche said, out of nowhere. “A lot of items get lost down
team turned to look at the policeman.
Giles finally asked.
she could be cryptic too. “I reckon the sewers could open their own post
office, the things that get lost down there.”
“I don’t want
to have to arrest you for murder,” the policeman cautioned. They didn’t know if
it was a warning, or after what had just been said, advice.
Buffy set his
mind at ease. “We don’t kill hu…people.”
nodded, seeming satisfied.
careful,” Giles advised when they were ready to go. “We don’t know what we’re
dealing with here. I’ve got Alice looking through my books, and the internet
hasn’t been a success so far.”
Giles.” Buffy patted him on the arm as they headed out the door. “We’ll soon
I’m afraid of,” he called after her as she slipped past. Angel gave a curt nod
to Laroche as he followed after his girl.
stared at the door. He said, “Angel doesn’t say much, does he?”
quirked up in a smile.
winter of 1942
bitterly cold, and men were freezing where they slept, dying with cold and hunger.
He helped them along, whether they be Russian or Germans, it was all the same
to him. Their life blood poured down his throat. He glutted himself: there was
no need to be secretive. The humans were killing each other again, as they had
done so for millennia. They called creatures like him unclean and the devil’s
work, and yet one only had to look around to see who the unholy were. The
depravity, the baseness of the human soul reinforced his hatred for mankind and
their Church. Despicable though he may be in the eyes of God, man was always
given another chance for redemption even after they had proved to be viler than
the vile. They only had to confess their sins and the gates of heaven would
swing wide for them, while his kind grovelled in the dust of Hell. Around a
corner he came upon a young soldier exchanging fire with his unseen opponent
across the way. He killed them both, their bullets an inconvenient sting when
they entered his body.
Angel returned to their hotel room just before dawn, Buffy exhausted. They took
turns in the shower. Sadly, they found it wasn’t big enough for two, and when
Angel emerged from the bathroom Buffy was already asleep in the bed. He eased
himself between the sheets, kissed Buffy’s parted lips, and lay beside her, his
mind reviewing their evening’s activities. It had been a long night. They
hadn’t found Korbinian or his minions but Paris was now a few vampires less.
visited the scenes of bloodshed and murder that had been marked on Laroche’s
map. And although Angel could detect the faint odour of blood, with the city’s
traffic polluting the landscape and rain washing the streets clean, the trail
had run cold. Buffy got to see some of
Paris’ finer sights, and the not so fine.
In his head,
Angel could still hear her. “Typical! Come to Paris and end up at a cemetery.”
visited the graveyard near the Pont d’Asniéres, not that far from their hotel.
None of the newly interred had risen. Buffy had pulled a face. She didn’t want
to waste the trip. “What? The French don’t have vampires? Hasn’t anyone heard
turned in New Orleans.”
“But Louis was
the pretty one,” she had rejoined.
observation and shelving it for future discussion, he had continued, “It was
Lestat who was born in France,” thereby earning an, “Aha! You’re so busted,
mister. I thought you disliked Anne Rice and her vampires?”
He had covered
his ass by telling her, “I had to read them to make an informed opinion.”
To which she
had answered with an impish grin, “Them?”
station had been another must see on their itinerary, as was the building site
next door and the railway yards. However, Buffy had been mollified when they
ventured into the shopping and restaurant districts.
“This is more
like it,” she had said, walking along well-lit streets with their fancy signs
Her good mood
hadn’t lasted long, when, approaching the prostitutes on the street, those cold
and shivering women dressed in skimpy, barely-there outfits, Angel doing most
of the talking, and Buffy not liking it one bit that the “girls” were all over
him, Buffy, herself, had been propositioned. A car had idled to the kerb, its
driver calling out to her. Buffy didn’t need to speak the lingo to understand
what it was the man wanted. She had stalked over to the car, indignation
fuelling her every step.
“What did you
say?” she had demanded. Angel
remembered how he had had to intervene – with vampire speed – to prevent
bloodshed. He had wrestled her away, telling the driver Buffy wasn’t available.
The car had moved on, stopping further up the road.
When Buffy had
asked him what he had told the man, he had had to confess he had said that she
wasn’t in her right mind due to an illness, one that could be dangerous to
snorted. “Yeah, the creep. I’d make sure he got his jollies.” Then she had
asked him if what she was wearing made her look like a hooker.
Lying on the
bed, Angel smiled at the memory. Working with Buffy always kept him on his
toes. Andrew’s photo had been passed around. It had been to no avail. None of
the girls had seen or heard of Andrew, even as a passer-by. Nor had any of the
vampires they had run in to. Of course, it was hard to get an honest answer
from a vampire, even with torture, and they had tried. Most were dust before
they had a chance to question them. Angel pretended to stumble once, letting
the vampire he was fighting flee the scene.
Angel felt the
sun haul itself up from below the horizon and his eyelids fluttered shut. His
last thoughts were, drifting into sleep, on whether his ruse would bear fruit.
Giles spent the day,
with Andrew’s photo in hand, in the local area canvassing people. He found the
little café Andrew liked to have breakfast in. Croissants and coffee: very
continental. The pharmacie and the épicerie (grocery store) remembered the boy,
too. An American living in Paris makes an impression. They all thought him a
charming young man, if not a little étrange.
One of the girls had even been asked for a date by Andrew. She had
declined, because she already had a boyfriend. She was very helpful, though,
when she added that, in chatting her up, Andrew had offered dinner at a
delightful restaurant he had discovered in Nanterre. Giles decided to see for
himself this restaurant. He had missed lunch and was hungry.
The maitre d’ stared
blankly at the photograph, apologizing to Giles, saying that he saw hundreds of
customers a week. He couldn’t possibly remember every one. Giles wasn’t
impressed. A good maitre d’ would recall most guests, and he wondered if the
man was hiding something. However, short of a lie detector test, there was
nothing he could do but accept the man’s statement. He allowed himself to be
shown to a table and had a very enjoyable lunch of onion soup gratiné, and a
salad, and a glass of white wine to accompany the meal. He finished with Tarte
au Citron and coffee. Giles paid his bill and headed out the door. He would
return to the hotel. His two friends should be awake by now, hopefully with
more information than he had garnered. Having established that Andrew had,
indeed, been living in Paris for the last few weeks leading a seemingly
ordinary life, was well and good, but it was not very useful. Giles had been
hoping to find someone he may have struck up a friendship with. Someone that
could tell him, “Yes, I remember Andrew. He was chasing after monsters the last
time I saw him.” Giles shook his head at the absurdity of his notion. He knew
that that sort of luck never happened in real life. He hailed a taxi. It pulled
up to the curb, and he was yanked inside.
Buffy snuggled into
the pillow she was lying on. It didn’t move like a pillow should. It was hard
and unyielding, and she was sure her neck would have a crick in it when she
tried to move it. She wriggled and jostled and squirmed but to no avail. The
damned pillow would not accommodate her.
“Are you done?” the
pillow rumbled at her.
Oh. Buffy’s eyes flew
A strong arm adjusted
her posture until she was comfortable.
“Mmm, that’s better.”
Buffy’s head was on Angel’s chest, his arm wrapped around her waist.
“What time is it?” she
asked after a moment.
“A little after two.”
“I’m starving,” she said
without thinking. Angel hadn’t brought any blood with him and he hadn’t had
time to purchase any yet. He had no choice but to stay hungry.
“Me too,” he said, and
shifted about till her face was level with his. He kissed her. She made a face.
Angel pulled back,
surprised. “What’s that for?”
Buffy quickly kissed
away his consternation. “Just thinking that it’s time I got up.” She stretched,
fingers and toes curling in delicious recall of what they had been doing a few
hours previously. Paris wasn’t called the city of romance for nothing, and
although they hadn’t been able to have the drapes open to enjoy the view, they
had managed just fine with them closed. Besides, Buffy thought the city might
have blushed from some of the things that had transpired in their bed. On that
thought, Buffy curled up against Angel. Five more minutes wouldn’t hurt.
“I thought you were
getting up, not that I’m complaining,” he said.
“Mmm. In a minute.”
Buffy happily drowsed,
all woes forgotten for the moment.
An eternity later she
said, “I can’t see Faith in a wedding dress.”
Buffy felt Angel’s
body jerk a little. She thought he must have been dozing off.
“She might,” he said.
“A sexy dress, maybe.
Nothing lacy and demure for her.”
wondered where Buffy was going with this. All women dreamed of a beautiful
wedding, with a fabulous gown. Perhaps this was something he should take into
“You’ll look gorgeous
in a tux.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. That night
at the Prom. You outdid James Bond.”
“He’s not as gorgeous
as you, but he does have that tall, dark, and handsome thing going for him.”
she asked me to give her away.”
“Well, you are old
She got a tickle in
the ribs for that. She giggled.
“I think you’re
supposed to be her best man.”
“Isn’t that the
“You know Faith. Never
one for convention. Maybe she’ll have you wearing something that is not a tux.
And talking of convention, I suppose I had better get up and find out how Giles
got on today.”
Here was a war between
religions, a war about Gods and beliefs, among other things; at least that is
what men told each other. It was never about that. It was about power. Power over
the other. It never ceased to amaze him the depravity that men would stoop to.
Demons such as he could learn a thing or two from mankind. Sure, he killed, and
on occasion he tortured a victim, but the mass murder and rape he witnessed
boggled even his mind. He would dance on mankind’s grave. He would celebrate
the end of the world if he could. Bosnia was the picture of corruption, a
corpse that rotted and stank within its own Armageddon. He thought of himself
as the Angel of Death, giving succour to the desperate and the degenerate by
putting them out of their misery. He dusted his two companions while holidaying
there. They had become tedious, as had all the vampires he had sired over the
centuries. He tired of his family so quickly, and he decided that no more would
he be encumbered so.
“I’m worried, Angel.
It’s not like Giles to not leave a message, or not answer his phone.”
Angel was worried as
well, but he saw no point in adding to Buffy’s concern, at least, not until
they knew for certain that Giles was in trouble.
“And the nice
policeman hadn’t heard from him, either. I thought he and Giles might have been
following up a lead.”
Buffy had rung the
Lieutenant when she couldn’t get hold of their friend.
“He may be following
up a lead.”
“That’s what I’m
afraid of. He, singular.”
They were on the
streets of Paris again searching for demons and for clues. The night was warmer
than the last, although winter was well and truly on the way. Buffy could feel
the chill of the wind as it whipped past and through the concrete tunnels the
buildings made. She shivered inside her coat. She had forgotten how a city
could crowd in and make her feel claustrophobic.
A couple of blocks
away they had been set upon by a gang of demons. Not vampires. Grappler demons,
at least that was what Angel called them. Buffy was reminded of the walrus with
its curved tusks, only the demons were meaner than a walrus. If walruses even
got mean, she had briefly wondered before she flew into the fray. Grapplers
were strong, but a little stupid she found. If not for Angel’s vampire super
agility and speed, her slayer strength and form, they would have been
overwhelmed in an instant. The demons closed in as a group, crowding them.
Fortunately for Buffy and Angel, this meant the weapons the Grapplers were
brandishing couldn’t be brought fully into play for a moment or two. They,
however, weren’t so hindered. Buffy raised the axe she had brought along, and
with Angel darting behind the demons with his sword they hacked and slashed till
the pavement ran with blood. It was hard to tell whether the blood was red or
green or black in the gloom. It ran in rivulets along the concrete and into the
gutters. The gutters led to a drain. Angel threw the carcasses into the sewer.
They heard a splash when the bodies hit bottom.
approve,” she said looking about. They were alone. There were no
witnesses. “I wonder what the fine is
Angel picked up the
remains of Buffy’s axe and placed it in the bag they had brought along with
them. The haft had shattered when it had come into contact with a sledgehammer
a Grappler had been swinging about. Perhaps John could replace the handle for
them. John was good with his hands. And then, gently, Angel had examined Buffy
carefully for cuts and bruises. He was thankful that the blood on her cheek
wasn’t hers. He did not tell her it was in her hair. The bruises he could do
nothing about. A slayer healed fast. He let go her hand.
“Your turn, buster,”
she said when he was done. Buffy wasn’t some fragile damsel that had to be
smothered in cotton wool, to be kept safe from the blows of the world. Angel
knew that as a slayer she could take a lot of knocks. She knew he stood back
and gave her room in a fight. Always ready to protect her, and knowing when not
to, Angel let her get on with the job, pride emanating from his very being at
times, if the grin she had seen on his face was anything to go by.
“I’m fine, Buffy.” And
he was. A couple of cuts and bruises were neither here nor there for a vampire.
He, too, healed quickly. Buffy squinted up at him. He appeared to be okay. He
wasn’t limping or moving gingerly. She pointed to his hair. Something glistened
“Your hair.” And when
he reached up a hand, she added, “Your coat has demon brains on it.”
He grimaced and picked
off the offending material. “Thanks. It doesn’t smell too good, either.”
Buffy turned three
hundred and sixty degrees to survey their surroundings. “I think we were
ambushed. And I think we need to explore more of this town.”
And here they were,
sandwiched between hard concrete and steel.
The alley was no different from the alleyways they had seen the world
over. The refuse and flotsam of the city gathered in malodorous untidy piles.
The stacks of rubbish were stirring with the wind.
“Rats,” Angel said,
reading her mind.
“Ugh. Just what we
She felt Angel tense
beside her just as her slayer senses kicked in. Out of the corner of her eye
she caught a blur of movement. Vampires. Of one mind, Buffy and Angel attacked.
Buffy dusted a vampire before Angel did.
“One to me,” she
grinned, not even slowing down as she ducked and twirled to avoid the next
As her stake struck
home she heard Angel mutter, “It’s not a competition.”
“Two,” she crowed, and
“One, two,” he said in
a bored tone. His sword had taken two heads with the figure eight thing he did
with his blade.
Buffy giggled. He was
so competitive. Distracted, a fist caught her in the face. She somersaulted
back, landed on her feet and dived forward. The surprised vampire hadn’t time
to blink before it was dust.
Her voice reverberated
off the surrounding buildings. “Three!”
She raised her head
when there was no word from Angel. His sword was tickling the neck of the last
vamp. The demon held its hands up in supplication.
“I’m here with a
message,” it said in accented English.
“What? All six of
you?” she sniggered. “Oh, that’s right. There were six. There’s only you now.”
teeth, Angel asked, “What’s the message?” The tip of his sword bit a little
deeper. Blood trickled down the demon’s neck.
“You are to come with
me,” the vampire said.
churned. She knew what was coming, and by the look on her love’s face she knew he
did too. She had to ask anyway. “And why would we do that?”
“We have your friend.
Buffy’s chest filled
with dread for Giles. She hid her fear behind sarcasm. “You couldn’t say
please?” she said. “You were here to kill us.”
The vampire shrugged
an unfelt apology. “Either way works.”
Angel gave the vampire
a little push with the tip of his sword. It stumbled back, and turned to walk
away as if it had nothing to fear from them. Maybe it didn’t, Buffy thought as
they followed it. Angel squeezed her arm and let go. When his hand came back,
it held an eleven inch knife. It was sheathed in leather, and she knew the
handle was made of yew, the wood embellished in a knot work design. Angel had
picked it up in his travels. She slid
the knife into an inner pocket of her coat. If they had harmed Giles in any
He decided to build an
empire. The criminal world was an easy target. He was the invisible man, paying
his hired thugs to do his dirty work by way of a third party. And when that
third party was no longer useful he got rid of them too, and hired another and
another, always keeping his identity secret. His assassins killed and maimed
and eliminated anyone that stood in his way, be they demon or men. Soon, he had the respect of every gang boss
and clan. They had the resources to give him what he wanted. And so it was that
his plan began to come to fruition.
wasn’t what they were expecting. Buffy thought an evil demon mastermind should
have a lair that was dark and dank and cobwebby. This was far from it. They
were shown in through a side door of a fancy building of chrome and glass and
Buffy heard Angel
mutter, “Wolfram and Hart.”
Her fear turned to
ice. It melted a little when, on entering the foyer, they could see, carved in
black granite, a bird, and underneath the words, Raven International. A
portrait of a man was mounted above the reception desk. There was no name
assigned to the painting, and if Buffy had to guess, she would have bet it was
that of the owner of the firm. Buffy let out the breath she had been holding.
Angel’s next words did nothing to reassure her.
“A building like this?
Wolfram and Hart in all but name.”
Angel deposited the
bag at reception figuring it would be taken from them anyhow. They were led
into an elevator and watched as the vampire pressed Basement. That’s more like
it, Buffy thought. She stared at the doors and walls. There were no mirrors or
shiny surfaces, and Buffy liked shiny. She knew that any vampires travelling
the elevator would appreciate the lack of mirrors, and she wondered if it was
the reason the interior was decorated with a leather-like material. When she
put out a hand it felt soft, like suede.
Angel wasn’t staring
at the walls, he was eyeing up the vampire standing in front of him. The demon wasn’t afraid of them. It was
pretty self assured. That meant only one thing. It was more frightened of its
master, whatever it, or, whoever it may be. Angel was sure it would be an it.
Vampires were never afraid of humans, unless, they were more than they appeared
to be. The Mayor of Sunnydale sprang to mind.
elevator silently arrived at its designated floor. Upon opening, the vampire
marched across a small entrance way and to a locked door. It keyed in a code on
the lock, Angel managing to catch a glimpse as he peered over the vampire’s
shoulder, and the door slid open. The interior was not at all dank and dark. It
was pristine and white: the carpet and the walls, the ceiling and the doors all
the same blank hue. The furniture broke the monotony. The leather was red, and
the pieces were splashed about like droplets of blood on the pale skin of a
corpse. Angel rolled his eyes as they were led into the belly of the beast.
Talk about making a statement. Buffy wasn’t impressed, either.
She said, “It must be
hard getting stains out of the carpet.”
“You’d be surprised,”
a voice answered from the side of the room.
Buffy wasn’t surprised
they hadn’t noticed anyone at first. The room, or rooms, were immense. They had
to have taken up one entire floor of the building, even if it was only the
An ordinary man stood
in a doorway. At least he looked ordinary. Ordinary enough to be taken for an
accountant, or a “lawyer…” Angel breathed.
“No such thing,” the
man said, insulted. “We’re not Wolfram and Hart. Such a paltry firm. Dabbling
in apocalypses and the like. Come…” He waved a hand at them, and turned to
disappear through the door. When Buffy and Angel followed, they noticed that
the vampire stayed put. It shut the door behind them.
“The name is Jacques.
Mr Raven will be with you shortly.”
Jacques waved his hand
again, indicating the bottles of liquor and glasses that were set on a table. Both
ignored the invitation and stared about the room. This one wasn’t at all white
and pure. The décor was decidedly different. The room was tiled in a deep red,
almost black, hue. The chairs were made of steel. They were shiny, as was the
table. All were washable. Buffy thought of hoses sluicing off bloody remains.
Buffy started. Her eyes had come to rest upon Giles. He had been seated in a
corner, and was tethered to a chair. And he was gagged. Angel had already
discovered him, his beating heart giving him away. Buffy rushed forward. Angel
stood his ground. He would keep his eye on the man, no, the scent told Angel he
was a demon, called Jacques. One thing bothered him. They hadn’t been searched
for weapons. Jacques stared back at him, his grey eyes giving nothing away.
Buffy was overjoyed to
see her friend alive. “Giles! Are you
She ripped away the
gag. Giles spat out a few fibres and licked his lips.
“Thank you, Buffy. The
only hurt I have is to have been captured like a fool in the first place.” He
tried moistening his lips but his tongue was awfully dry. “Could you fetch me a
glass of water, please?”
She held the glass to
his mouth so he could drink. He swallowed half the glass before pulling his
“Thank you. Anymore
and I’m afraid I might have to ask for the bathroom.”
“Why have we been
brought here?” she asked him.
“They asked me a lot
of questions. Who we are… why are we asking about Andrew. What did we know.
Those kind of things.” He looked over her head to where Angel stood. Angel’s
attention appeared to be on their captor and Giles knew that Angel was
listening to their conversation. “I think we’ve found our man.”
“Well, duh!” At Giles
expression Buffy softened her exclamation. “We were ambushed. You were missing.
And the prize goes to…”
A door opened and
suddenly, the room began to fill with demons. Six, Buffy counted. Six ugly and
brutish forms filed in and went to stand either side of the opening. She patted
Giles on the arm and put herself between him and the door. Angel, too, she
noticed, was on his toes. Not that he was physically tip-toeing. Buffy had learned to read his body language,
and it was telling her that he was ready to go to war. Four people strolled
into the room like they were out in the park. They were safe in their house of
evil, they took their time. Buffy raised a brow at Angel. He mouthed “human.”
Mmm… Mr Raven should be coming through round about…except it wasn’t Raven, at
least not the man that had his portrait on the wall in the lobby, it was someone
The man’s jet-black
hair was tied back in a ponytail. His pale eyes, stared down an aquiline nose.
His lips were full, almost pouting. Two puckered lines ran across each other on
one cheek, marring what could have been a handsome visage. He wasn’t tall, but
his frame was powerfully built. Buffy’s scrutiny went to his hands. They were
big, and scarred. Those hands had fought a battle or two. Buffy felt his
scrutiny like a physical blow. She was sure her skin was peeling back to reveal
her inner, darkest secrets. The man shifted his gaze to Angel. It was like she
had been imprisoned and was now released. Buffy inhaled a sigh. Her slayer
senses were screaming at her, saying Master
vampire. And more importantly it wasn’t Angel. Kill was knifing through her blood.
Angel felt the other’s
stare. He matched it with an intensity of his own. A small part of him relished
the fact that the vampire was shorter than he. The other’s gaze left him
without a flicker in its cold eyes. The vampire walked to a chair and sat upon
it as if it was a throne.
Angel couldn’t help
himself. “Korbinian, I presume.”
The other smiled. It
was a wolfish grin.
nodded at Buffy. “Slayer.”
“Korbinian? Then who
is Raven?” Buffy asked, ignoring Korbinian.
“Korbinian is Latin
for Raven,” Giles said from behind her.
“Ah. The Englishman.
Move aside, girl. Let us have a look at him.”
Buffy didn’t like
taking orders but thought it prudent to do as she was told. For the moment,
anyway. She stepped aside but stayed close to her friend.
“Raven is just the
front man, am I right?” Giles concluded.
A shrug. “There are
certain advantages in having a human as a stand in.”
“Sunlight being one of
them?” Buffy retorted.
Korbinian’s cruel eyes
sent a shiver up her spine. They stared at her as if she was a specimen, a bug
to be ground beneath his heel.
A languid hand
dismissed her words. “I prefer anonymity. Some, however,” and Korbinian turned
his head to consider Angel, “attract attention, unwanted or not.”
Angel refused to rise
to the bait. “So what are you afraid of?”
“No one.” And Buffy
“What do you want from
us?” she asked.
Korbinian turned back
to regard Buffy. “Weren’t you the ones looking for me?”
“Andrew Wells. Was he in
your employ?” Giles said from his seat.
“Mmm. Master Wells. A
promising young man. He had a…shall we say, a dalliance? With one of my girls.
She was in Rome on business. You know how it is. Boy meets girl…”
“Girl gets boy
killed,” Buffy interjected. She should know.
The vampire continued
on as if Buffy hadn’t interrupted. “Renata was sure he would prove useful. She
could always spot that bit of darkness inside a person. She offered him a
position with Raven International. A bit of cloak and dagger stuff. The boy
jumped at the chance. I am pleased to say that he proved quite adaptable.”
“How adaptable?” Buffy
asked with a sinking heart.
A satisfied smile
played across Korbinian’s lips. “You saw his apartment. The boy craved wealth
and luxury. It was quite sad, really, how easily he was swayed.”
“I’m sorry to say that
he came across information that was not his to know.”
Although Buffy was
shattered to think that Andrew hadn’t been quite so trustworthy as she had
believed, she breathed a sigh of relief that his death had nothing to do with
Dawn. Her brief moment of ease was
ripped away when the vampire added, “And we couldn’t have that, what with his
connection to the slayer and her sister. It’s a shame, really. We thought we’d
be able to keep an eye on the slayer and her paramour through Monsieur Wells.”
Buffy ground her
teeth. Once again others had become a pawn to be used against her.
Deliberately, she shoved away the pain of betrayal. Now wasn’t the time. Later,
when they got out of this situation, would be the time to examine her feelings.
Angel asked, pointedly ignoring the vampire’s cutting words. He knew it was
hard for Giles and Buffy to hear the truth about someone they had trusted, so
he moved the conversation right along.
whatever the man’s name was, laughed. The sound raised the hairs on the back of
“This is not the
movies where the villain tells everyone his plans, Angelus. Even if he intends
to kill the pesky heroes.”
“So it’s world domination
or something in that vein,” Angel replied. “Why else would you go to all this
Korbinian waved that
away with a languid hand.
“I remember the tales
told about you. The Scourge of Europe rampaging through Europe, killing and
maiming everything in your path. Quite a name you made for yourself.”
“I don’t recall
anything about you. Were you hiding behind somebody’s skirt?”
“That’s the difference between you and me,”
Korbinian replied with a shrug.
attention was fixed solely on Angel now. Buffy, Giles, and Korbinian’s minions
might as well not be in the room, for all intents and purposes. “Anonymity
Angel snorted in
derision. “You like to play it safe, do you?”
“I was once like you.”
The vampire rose from his seat and stalked over to Angel. “The bloodlust
controlled me. I had a purpose, though, and I threw off the shackles of need.”
Angel tilted his head
with a question. He was guessing when he asked, “What are you? Four hundred
years? Sixteenth century?”
“Yes, very clever of
you. The good old days. The Church killing innocents, and villagers turning
upon one another.” Korbinian cocked his head. “Nothing much has changed. I hear
you had a predilection towards convents. It seems we share a common hatred for the
It had never been
about hate for Angelus. Innocence and piety had attracted Angelus to convents.
That, and the sweet taste of virginity.
Angel changed the subject. “The mark on your cheek. The Inquisition?”
The vampire fingered
the scar. “It was a secular court that questioned me. I still hold the Church
responsible. They had everyone cowed back in the day. A cry of heresy,
witchcraft, hell, even if you dared to question, you were put to death. You
remember how it was. I returned the favour a hundred fold. Torture is an art
form, as I know you are aware. My questioners learned first-hand my curious
“They murdered your
family?” Angel could see the fire ignite in Korbinian’s eyes. This was an old
wound, the scab a welcome sore in the immortal’s dreary existence.
“They tried to get me
to betray my wife. I wouldn’t, and she died, nevertheless. This is a reminder
of their work.”
Buffy and Giles
listened with interest. To hear a vampire talk about lost love and his past
life reinforced the fact that this was once a man, a human being. Just as Angel
once was. Buffy steeled her heart. The small spark of sympathy for the
vampire’s human past was quenched with the knowledge that the demon had killed
thousands and would continue to kill. Korbinian was no Angel. He didn’t have a
soul. He was evil, and judging by their surroundings was doing quite well out
of it. Besides, he had corrupted Andrew, turning him back to the dark side.
Buffy grimaced at her reference to anything Star Wars. Andrew’s influence was
still at work.
“Korbinian wasn’t your
human name,” Angel said.
“Ironic, isn’t it?
Korbinian was the saint of my town.”
“Do you know what the
name means? Raven. They thought that ravens were the souls of the damned. The ghosts of
the murdered. How appropriate for the Church to beatify Korbinian.” The vampire
sneered. “He wasn’t much of a man, by all accounts. And your name, Angelus. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ. If only the Church knew the blessings you bestowed.”
While Angel and their
host talked, Buffy edged closer to Giles. Her eyes were on the demons and
humans that stood waiting for their master’s orders. The demons kept a wary
watch on her, but the human servants were intent on Korbinian. To Buffy’s eyes
they looked like gangsters, and if gangsters had a look, then theirs was it.
Sharp suits, mean mouths, and dead-looking eyes. Giles, too, was aware of
Buffy’s surreptitious moves. He kept an eye on her, waiting for the right
moment to act.
The knowledge that
Andrew had been swayed by fast money and easy women saddened him. Giles was
angry that he had put his trust in the boy. He, most of all, should have been
aware of Andrew’s fickle ways. He was thankful the boy had been loyal to Dawn
and hadn’t put her in any danger, small comfort though it was. Giles tested his
bonds, well aware that they had to escape this trap. He didn’t see how his two
friends could hope to vanquish so many, and he blamed himself for their
predicament. Still, they had been in worse pickles. He began to work a small miracle.
“We’re not here to
talk about names. What do you want?” Angel was saying.
“It’s easy to be a non
person in this world. These times and those times, it’s all really very simple.
You don’t make a fuss, don’t call attention to oneself, and you get to do
whatever you want. Kill anything that steps in your way, leave no witnesses.
That is why you are here. You’ve been asking questions, you have involved the
“Seems to me the
police already knew about you.”
“But not what I am or
what I am about.”
“And that is, what,
“Back to that. It
won’t work, Angelus. You’ll die wondering if the world is about to end.”
Korbinian made a
gesture and his lieutenants, if they could be called that, stepped away from
the walls. Buffy was ready. She pulled a stake from out of her pocket. Angel’s
sword appeared to materialize in his hand. He swung it at Korbinian. Kill the
head and the rest of the snake dies. The vampire was too quick. He virtually
flew up and back, Angel following in his wake. Buffy launched herself into the
fray. Giles’ chair toppled backwards as he flung himself out of it, the bonds
tethering him to the chair cut with the knife Buffy had slipped him earlier.
Giles jabbed and slashed at the demons converging on him. Buffy slammed into
one, pushing it onto Giles’ blade. She spun away.
“You didn’t search them for weapons?”
Jacques, who had been
standing sedately in the corner, smiled at his master, while drawing forth an
axe that had been hidden by his legs. “You didn’t ask me to.” Jacques joined in
the melee, his axe making short work of the demon advancing on Buffy. She
stopped for a moment to process what she was seeing. She had been wondering why
they hadn’t had their weapons confiscated and now she knew why. Apparently,
Jacques had changed sides. Four against one, better odds.
Angel was chasing
Korbinian. He needed to keep the vampire in the room. Korbinian was fast. Very
fast, and strong, when the vampire tackled him, coming in under his guard. The
vampire’s minions left them alone. They had other fish to fry. Buffy’s stake
smashed into the eyeball of a demon and up into its brain. It fell away. Buffy
kicked and lunged and twirled aside. Jacques killed a man as he tried to open
“No!” Buffy cried, too
It was then she
noticed that Jacques no longer resembled the human he was pretending to be. She
didn’t know when it had happened, but his face was now dotted with blue quills,
his skin was green, and red eyes stared back at her.
“Huh?” she gawped for
A gun went off. Buffy
ducked. The shot went wide. The gunman was one of the men that worked for
Giles said, “I’ll get
Buffy threw one of the
chairs across the room. It bounced off the wall and onto the men huddled there.
Another shot, and the bullet smashed harmlessly into a wall. She saw Giles
throw his knife. It found its mark and the gunman went down, the knife
protruding from his shoulder. The watcher scrambled after the knife and gun,
and when he turned, the two remaining humans had scrambled out the other door.
Angel had lost his
sword. He was trading blows with Korbinian. The other vampire snarled at him.
“You’re stronger than I thought. All those years of living soft I thought might
have taken its toll.”
Angel didn’t bother
enlightening him. Angel had come back from…where ever it was that he had been,
when Connor resurrected him, stronger and faster than before. Stronger than
even Buffy, he thought. To the others in the room, other than Buffy with her
slayer senses, the two vampires moved in a blur. Angel and Korbinian looked
like they were flying. Their forms flew across the room, entangled and still
trading blows. The walls shook as they rebounded away. Buffy, Giles, and
Jacques fought on, Jacques saving her life when his axe took the arm of a demon
that had her by the throat. Buffy returned the favour by stabbing a demon in
the neck with her stake after it had knocked away the axe and had the stunned
Jacques on the floor. One demon remained. Buffy scooped up Angel’s fallen sword
Korbinian and Angel
were hammering each other. Blow after bloody blow fell. Korbinian’s smirk was
slipping. The first glimmerings of defeat had entered his eyes. Korbinian made
a desperate attempt to get away.
“No!” he shouted.
Korbinian flung himself towards the door to his inner sanctum. Angel was there
before him. His arms went about the vampire’s neck, and he twisted. Korbinian
fell to dust, the head in Angel’s hands disintegrating along with him. When he
looked up, Angel saw the carnage that was the room, and the love of his life
standing in the middle of it. His grin was infectious. She grinned back at him.
Giles, too, gave a relieved and shaky smile.
When Jacques clambered
to his feet he was back in human form, and his hand was massaging the bruise
forming on his scalp.
Buffy asked him, “Why
the change of heart?”
“It may have been an
unfortunate incident that killed your friend, but it was an opportune one for
me. When the boss had us bring you in I knew that this was the chance I had
been looking for.”
“And that was, what?”
“To put an end to him.
He started a clan war by killing Krate, the leader of the Septio clan, and
blaming it on the Lutz family. Believe you me, you don’t want to make an enemy of
the Septio. Vicious beasts. The Lutz are a devious breed of demon, but they are
not really up to starting a war. It was
time to act. I couldn’t do it on my own, and his trust was hard won, so I
couldn’t bring in members of my own people to help. His was the quest for
power, and more. Korbinian had a plan to alter the world. His hatred of it was
so complete that he had something diabolical planned. I couldn’t allow that. We
couldn’t allow it. We…I love the world too much to let it happen. It’s our world
too. We have a place in it as much as you do.”
“Do you have a
family?” Giles asked.
Jacques smiled. “I
“And what was this
plan, do you know?”
Jacques shook his
head. “Monsieur Wells liked to snoop. He came across something…I don’t know if
he heard a conversation, or whether he saw something he shouldn’t have. He was
always asking questions, making a nuisance of himself. Wells was set upon one
night after leaving work. One of the boss’s assassins did the work. Korbinian killed Renata after she had gone
running to him about Wells’ transgression. He couldn’t let her live,
either. I don’t think we will ever know
what he was about to do.”
intentions were, there may be another that has knowledge of them. How can we be
sure that this plan won’t go ahead?” Giles said.
“You didn’t know
Korbinian like I did.” Jacques grimaced. “He was a control…how you say? Freak.
He let no one, and I mean no one, know what his plans were until the last
minute. All we knew was that he was up to something. Something pretty bad.”
“And he couldn’t allow
us to get in the way,” Angel said.
Buffy toed the demon
corpse by her feet. “This is us getting in the way.”
“I think we need to
contact Laroche.” Giles said, wondering just how the policeman was going to
react to the demon corpses.
quietly. “We have a unit that can clean up this mess. Your policeman needn’t
concern himself with…” He indicated the room and its dead occupants.
“The cleaners?” Angel
asked him, his lips twitching just a little.
have something similar, do they not?”
Angel knew Jacques
must have seen a file on him that mentioned his stewardship of the Los Angeles
branch of Wolfram and Hart.
“I had to terminate
their contract. They were a bit over zealous,” he replied with a gleam in his
eye. Angel threw Giles his phone, and Buffy’s Watcher began to dial Laroche’s
Jacques said, “Inform
the Lieutenant that Léveque is here. And that Prideux and Durand are on the
loose.” He waved his hand in the
direction of the man with the knife wound. Léveque was gripping his shoulder
and groaning in agony. He explained, “He’ll know who they are. Léveque,
Prideux, and Durand were once the lords of crime in this city. The boss
eliminated any who opposed him, and they and their henchmen had no choice but
to join with Korbinian. I’m sorry I killed Brun, he was Prideux’s number two,
but he won’t be missed.” He didn’t look too sorry, Buffy thought. She sighed.
She couldn’t worry about it. What’s done is done. Besides, she didn’t think
anyone would miss him, either.
“I know what I saw.
You’re half Brachen,” Angel said when Jacques had finished his little speech.
Buffy stared at her
boyfriend. Angel had told her about Doyle, with his visions and his demon
heritage. He had told her of the sacrifice his friend had made, and how much he
missed him. Buffy could see the old
pain back in his eyes.
Jacques smiled. “Yes.
On my father’s side.”
Angel returned the
smile. “I knew a half Brachen once, he was good people.”
Jacques bowed his head
in thanks. “Before the police get here, there’s a vampire at the door,” Jacques
reminded them. “Even with all the noise, the vampire would not enter the room
unless the Master invited him in. Silly, really.”
Buffy was happy to
Laroche burst into the
room followed by several of his men. The cleaners had only just arrived and
were bundling corpses into body bags.
“What the hell?” one
of his associates cried when they caught sight of claws and scaly hides.
“I gather this is
something new for your men?” Giles asked, moving toward the group of policemen.
They bristled at his approach. Giles stepped back, giving them room to come to
grips with what they were seeing.
The Lieutenant shook
his head. “For one or two of them, yes. They know what’s out there, but to see
it face to face is another thing.”
Laroche dismissed his
men with a wave of his hand. They caught up Léveque and escorted him from the
room, happy to leave their boss dealing with matters.
“You were here pretty damned quick,” Giles said
once they were out the door.
“No one appreciates
the police anymore. Usually, people complain when we’re late,” the Lieutenant
Giles recalled the
policeman’s driving, and shuddered.
Buffy considered Laroche
as the body bags disappeared through a door. The policeman appeared to study
every detail of the operation as if it were an everyday occurrence. The man was
not your usual run of the mill policeman, she knew, in the same way Ian Collins
wasn’t, either. Both men accepted that there was more to the world than met the
eye, and were prepared to deal with it anyway they could. Buffy wished there
were more people like them. Members of
the clean up team began to set the room to rights. Buckets and mops appeared,
and the walls and floor were set to with vigour. They decided to leave them to
Laroche followed Giles
and Buffy into Korbinian’s private sanctuary. Angel was there in conversation
with Jacques. When he saw the policeman, Jacques bid Angel adieu, and they
shook hands before he departed. Angel
raised his eyebrows at Buffy, silently asking her if the room had been cleared
before the policeman’s arrival. She shook her head.
“Nothing I haven’t
seen before,” Laroche said as if reading his mind.
Angel understood. He
nodded, and looked away to pick up an object he had found in the room. It was
small, egg-shaped at one end, and intricately carved.
“Is that a…” Laroche
“A pyx? Yes it is.”
Angel turned it over and opened the lid. Inside were two desiccated eyeballs.
“Let me guess,” Buffy
said peering in. “Someone that pissed Korbinian off.”
“A cleric perhaps,”
Angel answered snapping on the lid. “The pyx is the vessel that usually holds
the Blessed Sacrament.”
“You what?” Buffy
“The wafers for Holy
“Nothing holy about it
Laroche held out his
hand and Angel placed the pyx in it.
“Fifteenth century, I
believe.” The Lieutenant smiled at their startled looks. “I like to dabble,” he
explained and handed back the pyx.
Wanting to test the
policeman more, Buffy quickly scanned the room. An object caught her eye in a
display cabinet on the wall. She released it from behind the glass and,
ignoring Giles’ eager look, held it out to the Lieutenant. Laroche examined it with an expert eye.
century, perhaps? A steatite plaque. One used on caskets, I believe.”
dabbling,” Buffy commented, awe colouring her words. “Watch out, Giles, you’ve
Giles was looking at
Laroche in admiration. “You’ve been studying antiquities long?”
“It’s a hobby of
mine,” the policeman answered. “One sees things and one wonders…”
“It explains a lot.
You wouldn’t be interested in a job, would you?” Giles asked hopefully.
The policeman smiled.
“I have one, thank you. But if you ever need help, just call. Speaking of jobs,
what exactly happened here?”
While Giles was
filling in the policeman on all the details, Buffy and Angel searched the
office for clues as to what the founder of Raven International had been up to.
With Korbinian dead the company would collapse, they hoped. The firm had been
built on the proceeds of crime, and unless it continued to do so, there wasn’t
much hope of it making an honest dollar.
When Buffy laid eyes
on the tempered steel bow, she longed to have it. Damascus steel, according to
Angel. An odd-looking helmet was also on display. A strange design inlaid with
silver covered half of it. Buffy hadn’t seen its like before and she wondered
about it. She moved on to other things. Angel pocketed the pyx when no one was
looking his way. The image of Cordelia being auctioned for her seer’s eyes came
to mind. He didn’t know what he was going to do with the eyes, but he knew he
didn’t want to leave them here to be sold off, or used for nefarious
purposes. It was then that he noticed
the slump of Buffy’s shoulders. He pulled her into his arms, her back to his
Andrew?” he asked her.
“Yeah. We were wrong about him. I was wrong
to trust him. All this time…Dawn wasn’t safe.” Angel smelled the salt of
Buffy’s tears. She put a hand up to wipe them away. He gave her a gentle
“I think Andrew must have genuinely cared for
Dawn. She didn’t come to any harm
through him. And it wasn’t your fault. You gave him a second chance and
he abused that chance.” Angel kissed the top of her head. “Do you remember the
Wolfram and Hart lawyer I told you about? Lindsey? The man who tried to drive
me round the bend by bringing Darla back?”
Buffy gave a small
“I gave him a second
chance and he threw it in my face. Eventually, a third chance came along, and
he grabbed it with both hands and left town.”
Buffy nodded again to
show him that she did remember. Angel drew in a breath. He hadn’t told Buffy
about the part that Lindsey had to play in the final battle. He wasn’t proud of
the way he had used Lorne to kill Lindsey. To lessen Buffy’s feeling of guilt
he decided to unburden himself.
“A few years later he
was back and up to his old tricks.”
“What happened to
“I killed him.” He
couldn’t apportion the blame. Lindsey’s death was on his head.
Buffy wrapped her
hands about his, in a bid to comfort them both. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too.” Angel had
lost a good friend with that deed. He often wondered where Lorne was and what
he was up to.
“Korbinian was a
vampire,” Laroche was saying, nodding as if it should have been obvious. “Did you stake him?”
“Angel found another
way,” Giles said.
When the policeman’s
eyebrows twitched, Angel shrugged, having moved away from Buffy’s embrace.
“Of course,” the
policeman agreed. “And you have no idea what he was up to, besides the
“We’ve begun searching
his office. We’ll check the rest of the apartment but I doubt we’ll find
anything. Apparently, Korbinian kept everything close to his chest. I doubt
we’ll ever know.” Giles hoped that whatever the vampire had been up to was now
dead and buried with him.
He was informed he had
visitors. Solicitors, he was told. The courts had appointed him a lawyer and he
wasn’t happy about it. The man was nekompetentnyy, incompetent. Now he wondered why he
suddenly had two. The guard then told him that his employer had sent the
gentlemen. His mood brightened. That was more like it.
He followed the guards
from his cell in Brixton to the interview room. He was on remand, pending
trial. Apparently he was a flight risk and bail had been denied. His was but
one of many trials pending. Brixton served as a prison, and not a few prisoners
were incarcerated along with him while waiting for justice to be served. The
police hadn’t wasted much time. He seethed at the ignominy of it all. To be
trounced by a mere slip of a girl, and with a dozen witnesses, his fate was
doomed. Nikolai heard the door behind him close. Consultation between
solicitors and clients were private. No one would be listening in.
The two men standing
there waiting for him were dressed in suit and tie. The inevitable brief case
on the table. The older one, his spectacles, giving him a bookish air, looked
the part. The younger one…well, Nikolai had seen a fair share of thugs in his
time, and the young man looked like he could handle himself in a fight. The
shoulders were wide enough, and the stance he knew well. Bit of a pretty boy,
though. Nikolai decided he would reserve judgement.
“About time,” he said
in his accented English. “When do I get out of here?”
The older man coughed
and, taking off his glasses, began to clean them with a handkerchief. “I think
“What do you mean I
misunderstand? You’re here to get me out, aren’t you? I knew that Oska wouldn’t
let me rot in jail.”
“Oska didn’t send us.
A little deception on our part.” The older man smiled in apology.
Nikolai’s blood ran
cold. What was this?
“I’m not telling you
anything.” Had he said too much already?
The younger man, the
one who had been standing silent and still, opened his mouth and his face
changed. The monster rushed him and, before Nikolai knew it, he was dangling by
his neck from the hand of the demon.
“What is this?” he
tried to say but his throat was being squeezed into submission. All that came
out was a croak.
“This is how it’s
going to work,” the vampire hissed in his face. “You are going to tell us
everything. We want to know where to find Oska.”
Nikolai’s mouth worked
“Speak up, I can’t
hear you,” the vampire ordered.
His feet kicked out
uselessly. Nikolai’s vision began to go dark. He clawed at the hand that held
“Angel. The man needs
to breathe,” the other man suggested.
The grip loosened, and
Nikolai felt the floor beneath his feet. He gulped in much needed oxygen. The
vampire’s eyes held disappointment when Nikolai’s vision cleared and he looked
“You can’t kill me.
The guards will know,” Nikolai said with his last remaining piece of courage.
“Dead is dead,” the
vampire named Angel threatened. “Besides, after what you did to my girlfriend
and all those women you kidnapped, I’m inclined to a spot of violence.”
crawled when the vampire smiled a mouthful of fangs.
“Blonde, about yay
high?” The vampire put out his hand to indicate the height. “She was the one
that put you out of business.”
Nikolai cursed his
luck once more. Not only had the girl given him and his men a hiding and put an
end to their lucrative enterprise, her creature-of-the-night boyfriend was here
threatening to finish him off. A shiver of fear coursed through him. Vampires
were killers, but so was Oska. His life wouldn’t be worth a cent if he gave
And while he was
prevaricating about his choices, the vampire leaned in, his fangs gleaming
“We can do this the
easy way or the hard way. Which is it going to be? I’m kinda hoping it’ll be
the hard way. It’s been a while. My torture skills are a little rusty.” A long
elegant finger positioned itself over a nerve. The finger pressed. The pain was
excruciating. Nikolai opened his mouth to scream, only to find a hand had
closed over his mouth.
Nikolai spilled the
beans, and that wasn’t all that he spilled. The scent of urine soured the air.
Giles shook his head
in satisfaction as he and Angel exited the gate of the prison. It was one of
the few times that Giles appreciated the skills that Angelus had honed. Angel
hadn’t baulked at the task, in fact, if he didn’t know better, he thought that
Angel had relished the undertaking. He was just as sure that that exuberance
would extend to the hunting of Oska, and his demise. Glancing over at Angel, he could see the smile on the vampire’s
lips confirmed his thoughts.
Angel was lost in a
pleasant day dream. Fingers and toes would be the first to go. Skin. It had
been a long while since he had flayed anyone. He thought back to how it was
done. It could take long, excruciating hours. Yes, that would do. Oska would
also keep his tongue. The demon would be begging for mercy before he was
finished. The eyes would stay. The demon would die watching pieces of his body
fall away in a welter of blood. Angel felt his lips curve up into a smile.
A huge, huge
hug and a thank you to Jo, for all her hard work. The woman is an amazing beta,
and I’m happy to say a good friend.
I have used
facts gleaned from a book by Wolfgang Behringer found here on Google about the
witch hunts and trials in Bavaria in the sixteenth century. You can find more information here.
Excerpt from the book - 148 Witchcraft
Persecution in Bavaria
Everywhere in 1590 soothsayers appeared and offered to find witches.
'Witchfinders' had an immense following among the people, and posed a threat to
the policy of the city governments, which showed little inclination to hunt
witches. In 1591 Augsburg banished a witchfinder from the city; he had tried to
extort money from a member of the house of Fugger by exploiting the general
fear of witches. At Nuremberg one of these troublemakers was executed.
Stigler, a soothsayer and friend of Eichstätt the executioner, was himself put
to the sword, losing his head after having endured terrible torture, for
accusing, falsely, several women as witches without any grounds of proof.
Nuremberg, 28th July, 1590 was a day for celebration. Not every
accused witch lost their lives. Some were exiled, quite a few released, free to
go about their daily business, but not a few, and many of those young men,
suffered dying by inferno. By then, the man who had lost his wife to the
purifying fires no longer cared. He should have felt vindicated, should have
been weeping with relief that that horrible, evil man had gone to his death.
Instead, he was occupied with other, more fascinating things. For he had joined
the ranks of evil.
– raven, Latin Corvus meaning raven.
And here – Witchcraft
and Magic in Europe by Bengt Ankarloo, Stuart Clark, William Monter
Courtyard Paris Neuilly
knife. It’s at the top of the page.
Battle of Ulm
For a picture
of a pyx -
The steel bow
Buffy coveted is RL26, about two thirds down the page. The helmet is Mughal and
can be found at the bottom of the page.
is Ukrainian for incompetent. Nikolai, if you hadn’t already guessed, is
if you’re so inclined. Thank you, Jo for the link.