set immediately after The Secret of Redemption.
bought in a local sale brings trouble for Giles...
Thanks to Jo
for suggesting the title.
Buffy gripped it
determinedly. It might be big, but it wasn't going to win.
careful!" Martha called, her feather duster flapping about in her
Buffy grunted, putting the last bit of effort into her task. "There you
are, Martha. All done."
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.
amazing," she said in awe, and Buffy shrugged.
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
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.”
up a curious object that lay on top of one of the boxes. “Why, exactly, would
you want this?”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Buffy echoed. “It’s gross.” She placed the painting on top of the others and
declared with a flourish, “I think it’s evil.”
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
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
“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.”
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?”
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?”
replied softly, lifting her chin up for a kiss. “Tomorrow.”
from nowhere. Shining red eyes
reflecting the light of the afternoon sun. Saliva dripped from the vicious
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
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
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.
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.
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?”
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?”
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?”
“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…”
replied firmly. “It’s painted in blood.”
his mouth had suddenly gone very dry, and he cleared his throat. “Human or
pointed to some dark green stains marking the background. “I think this is Okra
blood – the others I can only guess at.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
replied. “I’ve put it out – no need to worry.”
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
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?”
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
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.
out,” Buffy retorted. “Giles is going to see if the painting really is evil.”
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.”
that's right. I remember Willow explaining that to me once."
stared at the powdered frame and waited for it to change, but the powder
was saying with an expression that said, I told you so. “It isn’t
her arms. “I still say that…”
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…”
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.
Buffy exclaimed. "It was a clock? Well, that's a bit… lame."
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
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."
sightings?" Buffy queried. "Isn't that going to be a problem,
Giles gave her
a knowing smile. "Not really. Cley hill is well known for its sightings of
and shopping removed from Giles's car, Buffy was just about to bid him good
night when a black Porsche pulled into the yard.
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.
he growled, going toward the steps up to the flat.
Giles began, calling after him
called back. “All done.”
“I’d better go,” she apologised. “See if I can stop him breaking something.”
She grinned affectionately at him. “Night, Giles… pleasant dreams.”
Here is an
article about Cley