Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 2: Mad Dog and Englishman
Darren had had dreams like this, where beautiful girls just stripped down for no reason, and this girl, even compared to his dreams, damn! Standing there nude and naked all hard-muscled and soft-curved, perfect skin rosy in the red glow of his trucks running lights, double damn!
Of course, in his dreams Darrens hands werent tied behind his back and he wasnt standing on his tiptoes straddling a sword that had been shoved through his passenger door. A very, very sharp sword that had gone through the door like it was a made of tinfoil but now seemed to be very securely lodged about an eighth of an inch below his most valued possessions.
Stay, shed told him and, yeah, well. Duh. Not moving. Not him. Not an inch. Not until he learned to levitate.
And then shed stripped and jumped off the cliff. Just turned and took two steps and gone.
That had been some time ago now and Darrens knees were beginning to quiver. Darren was getting a little resentful. Darren was getting a little pissed.
It was her own damn fault, dancing around in her underwear like that, swinging that big shiny sword that gleamed in his headlights, a man couldnt help but take his eye off the road, faced with a sight like that. So hed had a drink or two, hed driven this road many times after a drink or two and never had a damn accident till she started dancing around in her underwear swinging her big damn shiny sword, it was all her own damn fault, she had no call to take it out on him.
Shed jumped off the cliff. She was dead, wasnt she? She was dead. Seventy, eighty feet down, rocks, water, she was dead. She wasnt coming back. Shed just left him here, to slowly tire and sink down and he would have to decide whether to lean to the right and cut off his left nut, or lean to the left and cut off his right and then and then and then. He wasnt going to think about that. He was going to take a deep breath and stand on his tiptoes till hell froze over. Or someone stopped to help. Whichever came first.
And then she was back, coming back over the cliffs edge like she had just been out for a stroll. It must have been a trick, there was a a net or something, this whole thing was setup just to fuck with him No.
She was wet, now. She was carrying a soaking wet set of saddlebags. She looked Right through him. Like he wasnt there. The girls in his dreams were wet sometimes, but they never looked at him like that, not even contempt, hate, nothing, just Nothing. Emptiness.
It was going to be a long time, Darren thought sadly, before the girls in his dreams did anything but make him scream. And not in a good way.
Darren stood on his tiptoes and waited.
She dressed, black leather, heavy boots, if shed been scary before, now, geeze. She turned on his cab light and dumped her stuff out on the seat of his truck and sorted out what could be saved and what was totally ruined, and repacked. Darren took a deep breath and risked the future of his family line on a peek over his shoulder. Girl liked her knives.
Darren stood on his tiptoes and waited.
Finally she came around the truck and took the sword and pulled it free, Darren sank to his knees too tired to even flinch when she raised the sword and swung and cut through the belt shed used to tie his hands. His belt, his favorite snakeskin Never mind.
She grabbed his arm and lifted him up like he was nothing, said, Think you can drive now?
Darren nodded. Oh yeah, he could drive, he was sober, stone cold sober, he could drive, he could do about anything to get away from those eyes.
She threw her saddlebags in the back and got in on the passenger side and waited as he started it up, backed and turned toward the highway. North, she said, and the words, But I was going actually formed in his head. But stayed there, where it was safe. Relatively. North it was. After while she leaned over and felt under the seat until she found his bottle. She held it up to the dashboard light.
Mad Dog? she said. You were drinking Mad Dog? I know slime demons that wouldnt drink this shit.
Darren stayed silent and drove north. After a while she opened the bottle and took a hit.
Xander and Marybeth were gone for two hours, two of the longest hours of Vis life. Shed tried to talk to the little girls, she tried to talk to the Mom. Dad just sat and glared at her. She sat silent and waited as each lonely second squeezed slowly by. Dad tried to leave once but she took his arm gently and squeezed, just enough.
Lets just wait for Xa Mr. Harris, shed said. Im sure hell be back soon. Shoes, she decided. He was going to pay her back by buying her shoes, and, if he didnt get back in the next fifteen minutes she was going to make him go shopping for them with her. A mall. Maybe two.
Then at last he was back and Vi didnt say anything about shoes. He had that look, the one he got whenever one the girls got in trouble, real trouble, the funny-Xander-is-not-at-home look.
They came in the door, the new Slayer and Xander and without a word they marched down the hall, there were the sounds of things breaking, a cabinet of some kind, something metal. And then they came back carrying guns, small shotgun, two pistols, a hunting rifle which they laid out on the coffee table.
Wait, Xander said, then taking each gun in turn he checked to be sure they were unloaded before he handed them over to Marybeth, who bent them each in half. Then Xander took Marybeth by the shoulders and stared into her eyes.
Patience, he said. Stay in at night. Promise me. After moment Marybeth nodded. Xander turned and stared at Dad.
Sir, he said, these girls, theyre not alone, not anymore. Do you understand me?
* * *
They stopped at a Pizza Hut about a mile from Marybeths house and Xander sent the girls ahead to order.
Vi stopped at the door and sent Renee ahead to order while she lingered and listened to Xanders end of his call.
Hey, who is this, Toby? Its me, Xander.
Xander Harris my what? My code? Xander Harris X-ray monkey, zebra-Im-gonna-call-Willow-and-have-her-turn-you-into-a-kipper if you dont put me through. Yes, Xander from The Bus and I know some of you are referring to it as the short bus these days but Im really serious about the whole kipper thing if
hello Hello, who is this, Helen? Helen, do I know you oh, right you had the wart er, right, Helen, I need Giles. I need to speak to Giles Yes, I know what time it is, okay well, no I dont, but I dont care look, Helen, old chap, Ive got a code whatever-it-is thats not apocalyptic or life threatening but really fucking urgent anyway. okay, you swear, Helen, first thing in the morning, the very fucking first thing he sees in the morning?
Okay then, its like this, ready; Giles, politics be damned, I need another damn Watcher in Cleveland yesterday, ASAP, immediamente, I dont care if you send original edition Wesley, I need an adult-with-legal-rights Watcher now. And Giles, right after you send the Watcher, send lawyers, guns and money, cause Im about to do something really stupid.
Okay, Helen old boy, read that back. Okay, first thing in the morning or its kippers for you, too. Ask Toby. Pip-pip.
Vi heard the tapping of Xanders cane coming her way and she went inside to slip innocently into the booth next to Renee.
* * *
Slight change of plans, Xander said after the second pizza had been decimated. Im going to stay here a couple of days, you two are going to go on ahead Dont even start, he added when Renee opened her mouth to protest.
But she started anyway but Vi kicked her under the table.
Spend tonight in Springfield, tomorrow, get the van detailed, stop at a used car lot and pretend youre going to trade it, anything, just get it on the record somewhere that it was empty. Use the credit card to buy gas, go inside, flirt with clerks, get a speeding ticket if you think you can get the beast to go fast enough. Anything to leave a record that you two and this van were far away from here, got me? And dont call this phone, you need anything, call Caridad.
Yes, boss, in tandem.
Once more, with less sarcasm, please.
We understand, Xander, Vi said.
* * *
A half mile down the road Vi stopped the van.
I dont like it, Vi said.
You know it has to be me, Renee said. Im not old enough to drive. Besides, if it does end up being some kind of legal problem Ive got the whole juvie thing still going. It has to be me.
I know, still If he catches you, hell kill us both.
Nuh-uh. Youre the oldest, hell kill you, me, Ill just get a spanking.
You wish . Crap. You got everything?
Renee held up her pack. Stakes, check, crossbow, check, cash, check, lip gloss, check. Cell phone, check. Drive safe, Vi. And Renee opened the van door and was gone.
I was just, you know, hanging in the square look, I already told all this stuff about forty million times, the girl said.
Detective Benson put on her most sympathetic face, leaned forward, said, I know, Cynthia, I know its hard. But we really want to catch this guy and
It was the girls really. I mean, the guy did the you know, rape stuff, but Im not completely stupid, I wouldnt have just gone off with some guy, you know? But Id seen those girls around, you know, usually three or four at a time, they usually had, you know, like chocolate bars or cigarettes or some gum and theyd share, you know, I didnt think nothing of it, cause it wasnt like they were just giving them out like they were trying to buy something, you know? It was just, if they had a candy bar theyd break it in half, if they had a pack of smokes theyd give you one.
Where do you think they got all these treats?
You know, five-finger discount you could tell they kinda worked together, you know, buncha girls go in a store, a couple girls getting in the clerks face, the others could, you know, make out like bandits? They had cool clothes, too look, I know they were playing me. Now I know. But they were cool, you know, me and Florida
Thats the girl who was with you?
Yeah. I dont know what her real name was, we just called her Florida cause she was always talking about going there sometime, you know you havent ?
No. We havent found her. Im sorry.
Anyway, me and Florida, we were always kinda hoping theyd let us, you know, join up, be in their gang. That night they came by, said theyd found a back way into some club on 4th, so we went. But you know we never got there last thing I remember, wed gone past the bus station, we turned down this alley, I dont know where really, it was all dark, you know, and one of the girls grabbed me around the neck and squeezed and the next thing I knew I was  She paused, closed her eyes moment, took breath. Next thing I knew I was tied down and my back hurt and I was cold and that thing was standing over me
You mean the man in the mask
I guess. Thats what everyone keeps saying. But it looked damn real to me.
Detective Olivia Benson led the girl slowly and carefully back through her story, trying hard to keep her own growing horror from showing on her face. Shed read the file, read the girls previous statement but hadnt really believed it, not in her gut. But hearing it for herself, in girls own voice, a little shaky at times but no hints of hysteria or delusion, matter-of-factly recounting how shed watched her thigh being cut, watching her blood flow out and down a gutter to be gathered in a bowl for God knew what reason. Gathered in a bowl by a girl named Happy.
Thats how they addressed each other, Cynthia had said, Happy, Grumpy, Dopey and so on. The seven dwarves. The man in the mask they just called sir.
Between bleedings they locked her in a cage with food, rich food, steak and fries, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, lasagna, apples, oranges, ice cream, chocolate cake, truth be told she hadnt eaten that well in in ever. Shed tried to defy them, tried not to eat, but the food was right there and it smelled so good and she couldnt help herself.
Then theyd come and pull her out of the cage and hose her down and take her back to the altar and start over. Shed tried to run once, but they were strong, so strong, theyd just laughed and knocked her down and picked her up and carried her like she was nothing.
Then one day, after, she didnt know, four, five days, a week maybe, instead of bleeding her theyd burned the marks on her breasts and butt. And she felt hands on her throat. And the darkness came again and shed woken up naked in an alley down by the docks.
I can feel them at night, Cynthia said. The marks. The brands.
What do you mean?
Like theyre alive or something. I can feel them, like, moving. I dunno, theyre cold, like snakes. Then I turn on the light and sometimes I think theyre different. But thats not really possible, is it?
No, Olivia said firmly. Im sure its just a bad dream.
She brought out the photo books then and, keeping her face carefully neutral, watched as Cynthia identified the same girls she had before, including the two dead girls. One of them was called Sneezy, the other either Doc or Grumpy, she wasnt quite sure.
Olivia gathered her notes, handed the girl her card, asked her to call if she thought of anything else and turned to leave, the girls voice stopped her at the door. When my parents get here do I have to go with them?
That depends. Did they abuse you?
No, no. Nothing like that. Its just. Life on the street sucks, you know? But its still better. I was just wondering, theres this place Ive heard about, you hear talk sometimes, down on the square, they say that if you get into some weird shit theres this place out by Case that can help you. The Cleveland Gifted Girls home or something like that. I mean, I know Im not gifted or anything, but I thought maybe
I cant promise anything, Olivia said, but Ill look into it.
Rupert Giles sipped his tea and stared out the window of his office and wished for demons. Vamps, werewolves, succubae, fyrals, haxils, wendigos, whatever. Oh to be a simple Watcher again. Anything was better then the endless fight to corner and quell the dreaded Pointless Bureaucrat. With Buffy leading la dolce vita and more power to her, no one deserved it more and Faith doing her Lone Ranger act in the colonies, he was without his big guns. Not that Faith had been that helpful the short time shed tried to do the Council thing, but she did scare people. And he could still use her as a big stick, sometimes, since no one else could control her and Giles still managed to convey the false notion that he could. But a stick halfway around the world lost some of its effectiveness.
Bastards. Ingrates. Old Council families insisted on seeing Council money as their money, on loan to the Council like a museum display and subject to recall, New Council members concocting elaborate plans featuring the extensive training and feeding of, surprise, surprise, New Watchers. Banks pretending they could only release funds if presented with the dead bodies of Quentin Travers and several other old boys the banks knew damn well had been vaporized in the blast.
And Robin Wood trying to mount some kind of coup or alternate Council based in New York.
He was tempted, damn tempted sometimes to go dig Willow out of the Covens clutches and so what if it set her search for true peace back a year or two, a few toads hopping around some corporate offices and his life would be so much easier. But he knew he wouldnt. Willow too had earned her rest.
Of course, if she volunteered that would be different.
There was a delicate tapping, then his door opened and a shy blonde girl peered in, whatshername, thats right, Helen, the unfortunate girl with the enormous wart that everyone tried and totally failed to ignore. Maybe Willow could at least do something about that.
Mr. Giles, she said urgently. Did you look at the note, yet, please. I promised Mr. Harris youd see it first thing. He said something about Willow and kippers if I didnt and I dont want to be a salted fish sir. Please?
Right. He was going to do it. If Xander could hit people with a Willow stick, so could he.
Its okay, Helen, he said, crossing back to his desk. Im reading it now.
He read the note. He polished his glasses. Oh, he said, dear.
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