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Impedimenta

Lost Files

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Dark Star

Season two, set immediately after The Secret of Redemption.

 

 

**

Summary: Goods bought in a local sale brings trouble for Giles...

Thanks to Jo for suggesting the title.

**

 

Impedimenta 

 

Buffy gripped it determinedly. It might be big, but it wasn't going to win.

 

"Oh! Be careful!" Martha called, her feather duster flapping about in her agitation.

 

"Uh." Buffy grunted, putting the last bit of effort into her task. "There you are, Martha. All done."

 

Martha eyed the massive wardrobe that Buffy had pulled out far enough to enable her to just squeeze in and clean behind it, and then she had pushed it back in again, seemingly without any effort.

 

"That's amazing," she said in awe, and Buffy shrugged.

 

"I guess."

 

"Well, thank you."

 

The sound of a car pulling into the yard took Buffy to the window, and she watched Giles park the Discovery.  She left Martha to her dusting, and went downstairs to see if Giles had bought anything. He had been excited about news of the sale, when he saw it in the local newspaper. Edna Anderson had been the sole inheritor of her brother's estate when he passed away at the ripe old age of 97. Albert Anderson, Al, to the locals, had been an eccentric collector of curios for nigh on fifty years. Edna had not wanted the strange objects in his collection, not least because she was herself in her 80's and was planning on selling the family home and moving to a posh nursing home in the near future. Some of the collection had been promised to museums around the country, and the others Edna sold to whoever wanted them. Unfortunately, nobody did - until Rupert Giles stepped in and offered to take the rest of the peculiar - and normal - objects off her hands in one go.

 

Going through the kitchen Buffy found two large cardboard boxes on the kitchen table, and she could hear Giles moving about in the yard. She went through to see what he was doing.

 

Giles was struggling to retrieve further boxes from the boot of his car, and Buffy helped him bring them into the kitchen. Surveying the four large boxes, Buffy commented, “And you say I shop too much.”

 

“This isn’t shopping,” Giles protested. “It was simply cheaper to take them all as a job lot.”

 

Buffy picked up a curious object that lay on top of one of the boxes. “Why, exactly, would you want this?”

 

Giles looked closer at the jar of green gunge, and saw something round and tentacled preserved in the centre. “Well, it’s got… scientific interest?”

 

“Not to me,” Buffy proclaimed, dropping the object back into the box in disgust.

 

“Well,” Giles began, “Before Martha comes down and spots this lot cluttering up her kitchen, would you mind helping me to get them into the study?”

 

An hour later, his previously tidy study desk obscured by the contents of three of the boxes, he picked up the last one.

 

Buffy pulled out a stack of paintings that were pushed down the side. One showed a horse in full gallop across a lush green field, the second showed a pretty country cottage with an abundant flower garden; climbing roses and ivy entwined all over the face of the house, and practically obscured the decorative fencing all round the property. The third picture caused Buffy to grumble, “I don’t like this – it’s creepy.”

 

Giles looked up from his examination of a set of hide-bound journals. The offending picture was a portrait of a very old man. But it was done in depressing dark colours, with lots of shadow, and the feel of the painting was very sombre indeed. “I have seen more aesthetically pleasing portraits,” Giles agreed.

 

“Pleasing?” Buffy echoed. “It’s gross.” She placed the painting on top of the others and declared with a flourish, “I think it’s evil.”

 

“I think you’re being a little rash,” Giles admonished with a gentle smile, adding further chaos to the desk with the addition of a small carriage clock and a box of fossils.

 

“You’ll be sorry,” Buffy warned. “Slayer senses here, okay?”

 

Giles knew he was being toyed with, but he couldn’t resist. “And what do your senses tell you?”

 

Buffy grinned. “That it’s dinner time and I’m starving. So I’m going to leave you to your watcher-ing and go and get something to eat.”

 

*

“I’m serious, Angel. That painting was creepy.” Buffy nestled closer to Angel’s chest and sighed when he gently stroked her hair. “Have there been cases of cursed paintings?”

 

“Some, yes.” Angel responded. “What does Giles think?”

 

“He thinks I’m over-reacting,” Buffy said. “Maybe I am… but… the moment that box entered the study I felt… something. I don’t know what.” She sighed again, as Angel’s fingers slipped down from her hair to stroke the side of her face. “Will you have a look at it?”

 

“Yes,” Angel replied softly, lifting her chin up for a kiss. “Tomorrow.”

 

*

It came from nowhere.  Shining red eyes reflecting the light of the afternoon sun. Saliva dripped from the vicious jaws.

 

He stumbled back, wishing he had brought some kind of weapon with him. His eyes never left the creature for an instant, but his peripheral vision instinctively searched for something he could use in his defence. He found nothing. What was he going to do?

 

 

Giles woke with a start. Damn. That had been a rather disturbing dream, and not least because he knew that black dogs were sometimes regarded as harbingers of death. He sighed, reaching for the glass of water he always kept at his bedside. Been there, done that. He really didn’t want to do it again. He was aware that it was only about three o’clock, but he didn’t feel like going back to sleep just yet. He pulled on his dressing gown and ancient slippers, and went downstairs. 

 

The house at this hour felt cold; the heating was on low – he didn’t like it too high when he was sleeping – but he couldn’t quite get used to how silent the place had become. He made himself some tea in Martha’s spotless kitchen, and while he waited for the kettle to boil he pulled the curtain back and looked out over the yard. The light was on in the flat over the garage, which presumably meant that Buffy was awake, too. Angel wouldn’t bother with it if it kept her awake, or maybe he was with her, and Giles chose not to think about that, either.

 

Come on, now, old man! He admonished himself. He was a bit grouchy because he was tired, and he didn’t begrudge Buffy her companionship; but sometimes, especially at night, it could get damned lonely in here. He shook his head slightly. This wouldn’t do, he decided. He busied himself making the tea, and then carried it to the study to continue his exploration of the boxes. 

 

*

Angel let himself into the kitchen; Giles’s study light was on, but the rest of the house stood in darkness. It was too early yet for Martha to be at work. He crossed to the covered teapot and lifted the tea cosy. The pot stood cold, so it must be a while since it had been made, and he occupied himself making a fresh pot. He made no attempt to be quiet, hoping that Giles would hear him and not be startled when he appeared at the study door.

 

“I thought you could use one,” Angel said, handing the other man a steaming mug. He had been about to make a comment about him staying up all night, but he took  in the dressing gown and slippers and said instead, “Been up long?”

 

“Couldn’t sleep,” Giles replied sheepishly. “Dreamt of black hounds.”

 

“That can’t be good,” Angel replied. “Get them often?”

 

“No – only last night.” Giles assured him. “What are you doing here so early?”

 

“I was returning home and saw your light on. Buffy said something last night about a cursed picture… I promised to take a look at it, if that’s all right with you?”

 

Giles sighed. “She has far too much imagination.” He reached under the desk and pulled the painting out of the box. “Here it is.” Angel took the painting from his hand, and Giles added, “The colour is very strange… it looks a bit like…”

 

“Blood.” Angel replied firmly. “It’s painted in blood.”

 

Giles found his mouth had suddenly gone very dry, and he cleared his throat. “Human or demon?”

 

“Both.” He pointed to some dark green stains marking the background. “I think this is Okra blood – the others I can only guess at.”

 

Giles stashed the picture back in the box, and began piling some of the desk's clutter in with it, “I think, for safety’s sake, I’m going to store this in the utility room until we know what we’re dealing with.”

 

Later, Angel carried the box down to the utility while Giles went upstairs to get dressed before Martha arrived for work, and he decided to run a bath. The water refused to heat up, and he discovered why it had been a bit chilly during the night. The boiler had broken down and there was no hot water, and no heating, either. The engineer was called later that morning, but he said that he couldn’t possibly get to them for at least three days, due to his high workload.  Hot water had to be either boiled manually, or fetched over from the flat, because that ran on a separate boiler from the main house.

 

Thinking it had not been a good start to the day, Giles retired to his study to prepare his speech and the graphic presentation he was working on for the Westbury Archaeologists society. It took him an hour to type up his speech, and was just about to finish the final couple of paragraphs when the computer crashed and he lost the lot. Annoyed, he left the study to get a glass of water, leaving the study door open. When he returned, he found that one of the cats had wandered across the desk, scattering papers, and left a trail of muddy paw prints right across his important presentation. It took him three hours to redo it, and he wasn’t happy with the finished result. Somehow, they never seemed to look as good the second time around. 

 

Martha came to him to report that the washing machine had sent water gushing all over the floor, and the local washing machine repair man came up from the village to assess the damage. He declared that the machine was ‘ancient’, and stated that it was impossible to get parts for it anymore. A new machine would have to purchased. Giles was preparing to argue that the machine wasn’t actually that old, but realised he’d bought it some time before going to live in California to be Buffy’s watcher. So maybe the repairman was right, after all. He agreed to take Buffy into Trowbridge the following afternoon so that she could help him choose a new machine. 

 

Hungry and frazzled, it turned out that he couldn’t even have his dinner without drama, because Martha forgot the vegetables on the stove while she went to answer the phone, and found that the carrots had completely boiled dry on her return. No amount of scrubbing would remove the black deposit on the pan, and everybody prudently kept out of her way until she had calmed down.

 

Deciding to give in and just watch some television, he found that the art programme he had been looking forward to all week had been cancelled without notice, and he pulled his bottle of emergency whisky out of the cabinet and had a good shot of it. The best thing to do with a day like this, he thought, is to go to bed. Tomorrow would look a lot better, he decided.  Unless he had to dream about those black dogs again.  

 

 

*

 

What had woken her, Buffy had no idea. The bedside clock read 3. 17, and she got out of bed. Angel was nowhere to be seen, but it wasn’t unusual for him to take off for hours… it went with the whole ‘creature of the night’ deal. She pulled on her jeans and a sweater; she was just slipping on her shoes when it occurred to her that she had no idea where she was off to in such a hurry.  Something wasn’t right, and she didn't know what had unsettled her. But she had been the slayer for far too long not to trust her instincts, and she picked up her keys and slipped a stake into the waistband of her jeans just in case.

 

It was cold outside, and she hurried down the steps. A quick scout round the yard showed nothing untoward, and she made her way over to the house. She had almost reached the back door when the fire alarm went off, and she slammed the door open as soon as she had unlocked it, and hurried thorough the kitchen toward the hall, snatching up the small fire extinguisher as she went.

 

The cupboard under the stairs was slightly ajar, and she wrenched the door open, aimed her extinguisher, and doused the small blaze that had begun in the confined area. The fire taken care of, Buffy had a quick check round downstairs and was just about to go upstairs when Giles came hurrying down the stairs.

 

“Is that smoke?”

 

“Yeah,” Buffy replied. “I’ve put it out – no need to worry.”

 

Giles had disappeared into the cupboard to assess the damage. He was relieved to discover that it was largely cosmetic, and he hypothesised that it had been caused by an electrical fault.

 

After checking the house, they both ended up in the kitchen and after sitting themselves down on the kitchen chairs, Giles said, “Not that I’m not grateful, Buffy. But what are you doing here?”

 

“Saving you, it seems.” She smiled at him. “Lucky I woke up early.” She gestured toward the utility room. “Do you believe it’s cursed?”

 

“After the day I’ve had…” Gilles grimaced, “anything is possible.”

 

“Isn’t there a way to know? I mean – things have been way crazy today, Giles. I really think there’s bad mojo going on here.”

 

“If it makes you feel better, I can perform a ritual of exposure. It will tell us if the painting has had any magic bestowed on it.”

 

“No time like the present,” Buffy suggested. “It’s not like you’re actually going to get any sleep.”

 

Well, she had a point, so he began to gather the ingredients he needed so that he could perform his ritual of exposure. Just as he was mixing the last ingredients into the bowl, Angel appeared at the kitchen door.

 

“Everything all right?”

 

“Soon find out,” Buffy retorted. “Giles is going to see if the painting really is evil.”

 

Preparations ready, the trio made their way to the utility room and filed their way into the small room. Giles asked Angel to place the painting on top of the washing machine, so that it was easily accessible. He dabbed his finger in the bowl and smeared a little of the powder on the picture frame.

 

“How does it work?” asked Buffy.

 

“After a few moments, the powder bubbles if there is an item affected by a spell close by. If the powder is added to such an item, it will turn blue.”

 

"Oh - that's right. I remember Willow explaining that to me once."

 

Everybody stared at the powdered frame and waited for it to change, but the powder remained white.

 

“Well,” Giles was saying with an expression that said, I told you so. “It isn’t cursed.”

 

Buffy folded her arms. “I still say that…”

 

“Giles?”

 

Giles turned sharply at the questioning tone in Angel's voice. He and Buffy were standing next to the table that held the box that had stored the painting, and the remainder of the white powder. The surface of the powder was sizzling gently. Giles stared at it curiously, then his furrowed brow smoothed out and he said apologetically. “I think it’s you, Angel. Cursed with a soul…”

 

Angel stepped away immediately, but the powder continued to sizzle. Frowning, Giles dipped his fingers in the powder and touched it to an ornament of a dancing demon couple that was still in the box, but nothing happened. One by one, he removed things from the box and touched them with the powder. A bag of gemstones… a fat brown Buddha… a bottle of holy water… an ornamental dog… a small carriage clock… that fizzled and turned blue.

 

"A clock?" Buffy exclaimed. "It was a clock? Well, that's a bit… lame."

 

"But it seems your slayer instincts were right, Buffy," Giles said. "There was something untoward in the box."

 

*

 

The next day Giles called in the electrician to check the wiring, but no problems were found. John started preparing the cupboard for redecoration; he said it was lucky there had been no serious damage, and it would be right as rain in a few hours. The macabre painting of the old man was relegated to the loft, and Giles took the carriage clock away to dispose of it safely. The rest of the boxes were sorted, and the contents put away or stored for further observation. Late in the afternoon, Giles took Buffy in to Trowbridge to help him choose a new washing machine, and she was looking forward to buying herself a new winter jacket. Just as they were about to leave the car park in Trowbridge, his phone rang.

 

"Yes? Good… that's good. Do you need… right, then… see you later."

 

He put the phone back in his jacket. "That was Angel," he explained to Buffy. "There have been several sightings of some mysterious lights up at Cley hill. From the descriptions, Angel thinks that they might be our missing fire demons, and he's gone to round them up."

 

"Several sightings?" Buffy queried. "Isn't that going to be a problem, explaining them?"

 

Giles gave her a knowing smile. "Not really. Cley hill is well known for its sightings of UFO activity."

 

*

Carrier bags and shopping removed from Giles's car, Buffy was just about to bid him good night when a black Porsche pulled into the yard.

 

Angel parked the car and got out – not quite slamming the door behind him. His approach to them was stiff, and even at that distance, they could see his grim expression, and the torn and dirty spots on his coat.

 

“How did it go?” Buffy asked delicately.

 

“Don’t ask,” he growled, going toward the steps up to the flat.

 

“Did you….” Giles began, calling after him

 

“Yes,” Angel called back. “All done.”

 

Buffy sighed. “I’d better go,” she apologised. “See if I can stop him breaking something.” She grinned affectionately at him. “Night, Giles… pleasant dreams.”

 

 

End.

 

 

Here is an article about Cley Hill.

 

 



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