Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 3: You wanna play or dont ya?
Faith held up the fresh bottle of MD 20/20 shed made Darren buy at a convenience store on the edge of town.
Darren, it was Darren, right?
That was my motorcycle you smashed into the ocean, Darren. In my whole life theres only been two people who really cared for me, loved me. And theyre both dead, Darren. And one of them gave me that motorcycle. I loved that motorcycle. You are so lucky to still be alive, Darren, I cant even tell you.
She handed him the bottle.
Have a drink, a good long drink, Darren. You know what I want to do with that bottle, Darren? I want to shove it up your ass. Drink. But then Id have to look at your ass. And I bet its all hairy and pasty white and wobbly like your belly there, Darren. Drink. I just dont need to see that. Drink. Drink. Drink, cmon now, big drink, thats a boy. Now lets just spill a little on your shirt here, hell, lets just spray it all around, isnt this fun?
Put your seat belt on, Darren. Dont want you to get killed now and waste all that self-restraint I used up not killing you myself. Now you know what you gotta do, right, Darren?
Im gonna stand over there and watch and if you dont do what I said, Im gonna come after you, and you dont want that, do ya?
Try to hit at least two cars, Darren.
Faith took her sword and jumped out the truck, reached in the back to retrieve her saddlebags and crossed the street, stood and watched as Darren revved up the truck and drove half a block to crash into the front end of one cop car and carom into another. Then he leaped out of the truck to go running up the steps toward the Police Department of Carmel-by-the-Sea, throwing himself at the feet of the first cop that appeared.
It was perfect, just like a movie, or it would have been if the cars had exploded but that hardly ever really happened, so still pretty perfect. But it didnt help any. She couldnt even muster a grin.
Faith was just numb, had been since shed heard the bike hit water. Couldnt feel a thing.
She turned and ran. Movement, that was the thing. Motion. She ran til she came to a Best Western shed noticed on the way in, she took a room and a quick shower. She decided to leave the broadsword in the room, loaded up instead with a couple of her favorite daggers and an assortment of stakes. She called a cab.
Take me where the action is, baby, she told the driver.
What sort of action?
The first place she hit had a decent band, a couple of good looking guys who could dance and no vamps. She needed vamps. She moved on.
The third place she hit, the band was playing some terrible smooth jazz shit and she almost turned and left as soon as she arrived, but then she spotted the vamp sitting deep in a corner, eyes closed, his left hand doing a little conductor number to the music, and again she almost left. But she needed a kill.
She crossed to his table, leaned over giving the full cleavage, out of kindness, really, a last feast for the eyes, she said, Wanna dance? and the vamp, eyes still closed, shook his head gently, no.
Aint fucking polite, fucking refusin a lady, she said and took his arm and pulled him up hard, slid her arm around and held him, slinking up against him, feeling the cold. His eyes went wide and he fought for a moment, but the mood was on her, the power flowing through her veins and he had no chance. She felt him surrender, and pulled him out on the floor, made him dance.
Slayer, he said softly. Of all the gin joints in all the world
Yeah, she said. Sucks, dont it? How does it feel to dance with death?
It hurts my toes, he answered, must you wear those boots? Theyre most unbecoming.
Bullshit. Theyre hot.
Not on the dance floor. I suppose a last waltz is out of the question? Thats the problem with Slayers, they never live long enough to learn to dance properly.
I dance fine.
You dance like youve got a taser up your ass.
Hey! Watch it.
Ooooh. What are you going to do, stake me?
A last request? the vamp pulled back a little and after moment she let him.
The vamp raised a hand and waved until he caught the eye of the bandleader, the music changed, took on a steadier, slower beat. The vamp took her hand, placed it on his shoulder, put his own hand on her waist and pulled her close, whispered in her ear, Now, just follow my lead, and started counting off, Ah, ONE two three, ONE two three ONE two three
They stumbled a bit at first, but he was smooth and she was a Slayer and caught on quick and soon they were gliding around the floor, which they pretty much had to themselves for the first song. Slowly other couples began to join, the music quickened, it was different, not the pounding beat she usually sought, but Faith could feel the rhythm, the flow, she closed her eyes and let the vamp guide her, let the music take her, had the first moment of peace shed had since Since LA. The vamp went for her throat during the fifth song, she stepped sideways, slipped her elbow under his chin, snapped his head back, breaking his neck. She twisted and pulled his head off and found herself alone in a dark corner, covered in dust.
Well, she said, shit. She opened the wallet shed hooked from his pocket while they were dancing and counted the cash. Seven hundred and change. Score.
She hit the mother lode at the next bar, caught five vamps playing tease-the-meat on a pool table in a back room. She dusted three in the flurry of her entrance, knocked the remaining two down and sent the potential victim scrambling back out to the bar.
Rackem, she told the remaining vamps, one slightly pudgy guy and a tall black woman who stared blankly back at her.
What the hell are you? the woman asked.
Faith slipped a stake out of her sleeve, threw it backhand across the room into her heart. Slayer, she said as the vamp dusted. Any other questions?
The pudgy vamp hurried to rack the balls, said, What happens if I win?
I dust you.
And if I lose.
Then whats the point?
You tell me. You wanna play or dont ya?
The vamp stared at her moment, then nodded. Break?
Faith was taking aim at the eight when the vamp made his move, swinging his reversed cue toward her head and missing as she ducked and came up with a dagger in each hand and pinned him to the wall, a blade through each shoulder. She went back and sank the shot.
Tell me, she said, where do the real demons hang out in this town?
Wheres the bar with the yaks bile on tap, where a beast can get a good gall bladder, where the O-pos is cheap and the AB-neg is way overpriced, you follow?
Why should I tell you?
Ill torture you if you dont.
Ah, miss, the cabbie said when she gave him the address, you dont want to go there.
Thanks for the concern, baby, but yeah, I do. I got business.
The driver turned in his seat stared back at her. Miss, I dont think you understand. Its dangerous there. How much do you need?
No girl goes there who isnt desperate. I can give you a ride over to Monterey, and, he paused, dug through the cash in his pouch, maybe seventy-five bucks, that oughta get you into the city. Not that San Fran is the safest place in the world but at least you could hide.
And you think a blowjob will cover that or you wanting the whole round-the-world trip?
No, Miss, the cabbie said stiffly. Nothing like that. Im a married man.
Okay, Miss, I tried. If you change your mind before we get there, the offer is still open. No strings attached. Really.
Well, thanks anyway, but its cool. I know what kind of place it is, baby. Its where I do business. Lets roll.
Faith got out of the cab, slipped a hundred dollar bill through the window to the driver, said, Keep the change. You were serious about that ride to Monterey, werent you, no strings?
Yes, miss, though, he waved the hundred, Im thinking now I need the seventy-five more than you do.
You got a pen? You got something to write on? Faith wrote down a number, handed the pen and paper back. This club, she said, the things that run this club, they ever give you a hard time, you ever take a girl here who doesnt come back, you call this number, if you dont get me, tell them Faith sent you. Really.
The bouncer held up a hand to stop her. Members only, he said. Faith stared at him.
Members only, the bouncer repeated, standing strong. She took his hand, bent it back, not too far, not to breaking, but far enough.
Im sorry, couldnt hear you.
Welcome to the Bohemian Club.
There were ferns. There was oak paneling on the walls. There was a big picture window with a view of the bay. There were waiters in penguin suits. There were waiters. There was classical music playing discreetly in the background. If it wasnt for all the demons drinking at the bar, Faith would have felt seriously out of place.
She strode through the sudden lack of conversation, over to the bar where she stamped her feet and shook her hair out and spoke slightly overloud. You know what I hate most about vamps? You can never get the damn dust out of your hair.
Slayer, the bartender oiled up behind her. What can I do for you?
You got Havana Club?
Ill have a bottle on the house, raising her voice again, and tell your customers trying to slip out the back that theyre safer in here than out there. You know what happened to me today, barkeep?
Do tell, the bartender said.
My motorcycle got totaled. I was planning on riding on up the coast, maybe go up to Seattle, have a cup of coffee, take a ride on the ferry. But now, I may just have to settle down here for awhile. It seems a pretty place, a girl could get comfortable. Course, if I happened to stumble across some traveling money I might keep going, but you know, only if I could go in style.
Ill see what I can do.
The first time the bartender came back, he had a little over three hundred dollars in crumpled bills. Faith stared at him. Now, thats just insulting. I hear theres a nice beach. Maybe Ill call some of my friends, have them come down, well lay in the sun all day, fry some fish in the evening. And at night, well go out and kill things. Sounds like a party. Im thinking a first class plane ticket, maybe back to Boston, cause if I go up to Seattle Ill probably have to just come back this way in a month or two. But Boston, thats home. And all the way on the other side of the country, too.
Faith took the five grand, folded it up, stashed it in a pocket of her coat, took her still-sealed bottle of Havana Club and went out the front door where they were waiting for her, as she knew they would be. A half-dozen vamps, something that looked like second cousin to a Polgara, a snake thing and blue and green hominoid with teeth on its arms.
Now, this was what shed come for. Okay, shed come for the money, but shed come for this too. She shucked her jacket, dropped the bottle, and took up her daggers, and strode forward, saying, Okay, boys, bring it on.
So what, we have some sort of blood-thirsty Fagin here? Munch said.
They were sitting in the squadroom with Captain Maddux and Detectives Schreiner and Gonzalez of the CPD, comparing notes.
Yeah, Detective Shreiner, a bulky balding red head, added, sort of the Hammer Films version of Oliver.
Theyd been over the physical evidence, of which there was none. If they ever found the knife they could probably prove it was the one used, but that was it. No DNA, no fingerprints, no similar MOs showed on the FBI database. Nothing from rousting the usual suspects.
The ritual, I dont know, Benson said, either hes really really sick and believes in it, or hes using it to convince the girls he has some kind of supernatural power.
Either way is sick in my book, Fin said.
Well, psychotic or just sadistic, lets catch the bastard and do the diagnoses when hes behind bars, Stabler added.
It all seems too organized to be run by someone delusional, Benson said. What I dont understand is why hes letting these girls live. This girl Florida has completely disappeared and there was another girl
Josephine Gifford, Detective Gonzalez chimed in, she was with the second vic when she was taken. Hasnt been seen since.
So he either still has them captive or theyre dead. None of the released vics saw anyone else under restraint, so I think we have to assume that he is willing to kill. So why release them?
Well, lets hope its because he wants to be caught, Captain Maddux said. Lets get down to cases. Weve got three teenage girls, taken, tortured and released. The first was simply abducted right off a bus coming in from Indianapolis. The other two were befriended and then abducted by this girl gang downtown, both girls mentioned being near the bus station when they were rendered unconscious. So were using the bus station as point zero for additional surveillance. To supplement increased manpower in the area, weve put in some extra cameras in addition to the traffic monitors. We dont have the personnel to watch all the footage, but next time something happens we might get it on tape.
All officers have pictures of the girls the vics picked out of the photo book, weve had several sightings, here, here and here, the Captain said, pointing to some colored pins stuck in a huge city map on one wall of the room. All late at night. Officers have given chase but the girls just seem to disappear. Before you ask, the IDed girls who were listed as dead, weve checked with the MEs office. In both cases the girls were positively identified. Both were murdered, violently. Ones throat was slashed, the other was stabbed in the heart. Both were local and were buried by their families. Its strange, but were working on the assumption that the resemblance is just coincidence
It could be those girls were members of the girl gang who fell out of favor and he recruited look-a-likes, literally replacing them, Benson suggested.
Leading credence to the hes a genuine wacko theory, Munch said.
Well, Captain Maddux said, were open to any approach at this time.
Well, we need to check online, see if we can find any mention of this particular ritual. Hell, the perp may have his own website, for all we know, said Munch. And we need to check occult shops, that knife the vics described seem fairly distinctive
You dont seriously believe
No, but if the perp does, maybe he buys supplies, or better yet hangs out and brags.
And costume shops, maybe find where he got the masks and robes, Fin said. Captain, Im sure youve already thought
Of course, but theres always room for more legwork, and fresh eyes, Detective. Anything else?
The building they were held in, apparently it was pretty big place, larger than ordinary house anyway. And the vics all said they felt like they were underground, like in a basement. None of them remember seeing any windows, even boarded up. And it was quiet, they remember hearing occasional engines, but not any really steady traffic, so they must have been transported somewhere out of the downtown area. Im not sure where that gets us, but just be aware in case any of your other investigations takes you to a building that fits the description.
Anything else ? Okay, get to work. And keep me updated.
Oh, one thing, Benson said. Do you know anything about the uh, Cleveland Gifted Girls home? Cynthia, vic 3, said something about the word on the street was that this place could help out with quote weird shit unquote.
Umm, hang on, that sounds familiar, Detective Shreiner said, tapping at the keyboard of his computer. Ah, here we go. The Cleveland Home for Gifted Girls. Took over an abandoned Delta Zeta Kappa frat house about three years ago. No trouble until five months ago when a few of the girls that live there were arrested for tipping over tombstones out at Lakeview Cemetery. They were released to the manager of the house Alexander L. Harris, who apparently is the legal guardian for all the girls there. I dont know if its some kind of orphanage or what, you could contact social services. Anyway, apparently Harris made some deal with the cemetery and all the charges were dropped. And thats all I got.
A frat house, Stabler said, probably a large building in a quiet area, could have a basement.
Knocking over tombstones could be some kind of ritual thing.
Seems kind of a long shot, but check it out. Go easy, if they do have some kind of rep with street kids maybe they know something we dont.
Or they could be the perps.
Well, that would be even more helpful, wouldnt it?
Renee sat on a branch and watched Xander watch Marybeths house.
The hair on the back of her neck rose as she sensed them first, then looking down saw the two vamps approach and stop right below her, half-hiding behind her tree.
Shit, the first vamp said. Its Harris. Were too late. And I was so looking forward to a nice baby Slayer for dinner.
So what. Hes just a human, we can take him.
I dunno, man, the first vamp said. If it was that easy, hed be dead by now. Besides, it aint just him. Killing one of the Scoobies, do you really want to be known as the vamp that brought a pissed-off Buffy Summers out of retirement? Youd be lucky to get dusted. Very lucky.
Yeah, I guess, the second vamp said reluctantly, sides, hes probably got a couple Slayers here watching his back.
Or, Renee said, watching yours. And then there was dust, because Renee was very, very fast.
Just to be sure, she took a quick dash around the neighborhood but sensed nothing more dangerous than couple of underfed pit bulls. She came back to her tree, climbed up, and watched.
A little after midnight, the back door opened and Marybeth slipped out.
It was scary sometimes, Renee thought, how Xander always just seemed to know. And annoying. It took all the fun of sneaking out to meet your boyfriend if, when you came back, you found a box of condoms on your bed along with a printed copy of Lecture 12: Slayers are Not Immune to Disease and Syphilis is Not Funny.
Of course, that just made it so much sweeter when you could put one past him. Caridad and Zoey were legends, gods in Cleveland house, for the time theyd got a picture of Safiya dusting a vamp, a great picture, you could see parts of the skeleton and everything. And they had a fake front page for the Plain Dealer printed up with a huge Freak Girl Slays Monster! headline and story to go with it. And got up early and substituted their page for the real one when the morning paper came.
And hed totally panicked. Hed called Giles! Priceless.
Marybeth, Xander said softly, and Renee brought her attention back to the events at hand. She saw the new Slayer tense, then, slowly, sag.
Im sorry, Mr . Renee saw Xander raise his hand. Xander. I just had to.
Yeah, Xander said. I figured. He tossed her a stake. Lets go.
And that was the difference, Renee thought, between Xander and Mr. Wood. Mr. Wood would have taken her back inside for a long talk about responsibility and duty and safety and never ever lying to her Watcher.
Xander gave her a stake. And, and this was key, Xander went with her, walking along while she bounced around him all excited, like that cartoon with the bulldog and the little yap dog, S-word and Chester.
Xander never told his Slayers not to lie to him. He just made them feel really bad when they did.
Except like now, when Renee was here instead of Springfield where she was supposed to be, cause it didnt count as lying if you did it for his own good. It was a rule. It was written down somewhere. In Renees diary, anyway.
He had taken the fake newspaper out to the workshop in the garage, and framed it. And hung it in a place of honor in the basement gym.
Stupid vamps. Lay a fang on Xander Harris and Buffy Summers would be the least of their problems.
She dropped down out her tree and ran on ahead, cause she knew where they were going. To the cemetery.
* * *
Renee spotted them first, two vamps waiting by a fresh grave for the third to rise, it was all she could do to restrain herself, but these were Marybeths. Renee circled around, made sure there were no others waiting in ambush, positioned herself to be ready in case the vamps decided to run.
Crossbow armed, aimed and ready, she watched the fight, Marybeth was strong but she was clumsy, relatively speaking, she used her fists and forgot her stake, knocking the vamps down again and again but not going for the kill. One of the vamps broke away, went for Xander, Renee aimed but eased back as she saw the vamp impale itself on the sharp end of his cane and go to dust.
And then Marybeth finally got tired of pounding the other vamp to pulp and pulled out her stake and got the heart on her second try and stood triumphant and Renee fought back her twinge of jealousy as Marybeth went for a hug.
She watched as Xander made Marybeth stand still with her eyes closed, saw her sense the fledgling yet to rise, and turn eagerly standing over the grave, stake in hand. Xander smiled and waited patiently until a sheepish grin stole across Marybeths face. Renee watched as Xander walked Marybeth through Slayer kata number 1, stake to the chest, made her practice the simple moves over and over and over until the fledgling broke ground.
And this time Marybeth took the vamp out in one smooth thrust. A Slayer is born, Renee thought.
And then Xander turned and looked straight at her and said, just loud enough for a Slayer to hear. Coming, Renee? MB says theres ice cream back at the house.
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