Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 6: Alley Oop.(Authors note: Not that hes altogether wrong, but do bear in mind that Xander is not necessarily an impeccable source of nutritional or medical information.)
Xander scrubbed vigorously but it was no use. He was going to have a very light green mustache and very pale orange goatee for at least a couple of days. He was going to have to do something about Renee or the younguns really would start losing respect. Something clever but not vindictive, embarrassing but not cruel. Something.
Hed gotten Marybeth settled, let Vi and Caridad vent a little, convinced Mchumba that Faith was well over the strangling Xander habit and unlikely to relapse. And now Faith.
There was something going on with her. There had been a whole lot more than good-to-see-you in that hug. As an expert receiver of upset Slayer hugs, he rated that one a serious doozy, one Slayer vibrating on the edge.
He went into his room over to the little mini-bar hed installed and with practiced ease fixed a small pitcher of gin and tonic and lime, put it and two glasses on a tray and made his way out onto the verandah where Faith waited, swinging slowly back and forth on the wooden glider, her face pink in the red glow of her cigar.
Hey, he said, setting the tray down on the waiting table, bad habit I picked up in Kenya. Care to join me?
She accepted a glass, took a sip and nodded, he filled his own glass and settled down beside her.
Tell you a secret, he said.
Its not really a bad habit. Its health food, he said. They say what, a drink a day is good for the heart, the lime gets you some vitamin C, the quinine in the tonic is good for muscle cramps and stuff. Plus the whole anti-malaria thing. Health food. Big glass of warm whole milk before bed. Thats a bad habit.
So, Faith, he said carefully. How are you, really?
She got up, for a moment he thought she was going to bolt, but she just went to lean on the railing. So, she said, you did all this, waving at the verandah, the dining room and everything.
Me and the girls, yeah. Place was kinda run down. He grinned, remembering. Buncha Slayers running around with saws, hammers and ninepenny nails. Some scary shit. Sometimes I didnt know if we were putting up a porch or knocking down the building.
Didnt the Council get all pissy about using Slayers for, whatsit, manual labor? I was in London for awhile
One of the meetings there was this big fuss, some Watcher in Brazil was using a couple of girls in a gold mine or something. They passed this big rule about Slayers never doing labor
Yeah, well, didnt tell the Council. Cheap bastards. I made up invoices like wed contracted the work, billed them for labor and architects drawings and everything. Thats how we paid for the big freezer and all the modcons in the kitchen.
Sweet. Youre not worried, you get a new Watcher here ?
Its done. Its not like theyd tear it down.
So you called Giles, asked for a new Watcher
But you got me.
Well, I didnt tell Giles the sitch, I just told him the shit was coming. So I guess he sent the big gun.
Faith snorted. Yeah, right.
Faith, he said softly. I need another Watcher here. Or four. Theres all this day to day shit to do. All the food and clothes, getting the girls to school, theres PTA meetings, forgodssakes, theres patrols to organize and reports to write, hands to hold and fights to mediate. I need someone to teach the girls real Watcher shit, sigils and basic spells, demon species. Its a Hellmouth. I need a Giles, or even a Wesley But that doesnt mean Im not damn glad to see you.
Yeah well, if I can help out
Oh yeah, theres all kinda training you could give the girls that I cant. Caridad and Vi, theyre okay, run the girls through the drills but theyre part of the gang, you know. Weve got a guy comes in, a real Mr. Miyagi, great guy, youll love him, but its not the same as a Slayer
Theres a couple demon bars in town I need to pay a visit to, but the girls arent really ready for that yet. I got a whole list, Faith, I dont know what else you got goin on
But that room is yours for as long as you want it and I wont even make you pound nails. And Faith
Its not just that. Its nice just having you here. Someone to talk to, you know, out here on a night like this, someone who really knows the score. I love these girls, but with them, you know, I always gotta play a role. So, youll stay awhile?
Yeah. Sure. If you want. She came back, sat down beside him again.
I do appreciate you getting here so quick, you have to come far? he asked. I hear you have this badass Harley, dont let Zoey get near it or youll find it in pieces Faith?
It was like shed been hit in the gut, she bent over, he heard a strangled sob. Its gone, she whispered, leaning back again, shrugging off his arm as he tentatively reached out. He watched her fight for control, she bit out. It was my fault. I was being reckless, riding too fast, I almost caused an accident, could have got people killed. So the Powers took it away, sent this asshole in a truck and threw my bike into the ocean like an old beer can. It was my fault and then she broke, but Angel gave it to me, it was all I had left, I dived in, it was all broken, its not fair, Angel gave it me, Angel she tried to push him away again, but she had no strength, she was shaking, her chest heaving, she was wailing with loss and pain and clinging to his shirt and Xander wrapped his arms around her and held on tight.
* * *
Was that a scream? Did she scream? Benson said. Should we
Wait, Stabler said, peering through the night vision goggles, but his view of the couple on the swing was mostly blocked by the railing. She kinda pushed him away once, but she really doesnt seem to be struggling. See for yourself. He handed Benson the goggles, rubbed his tired eyes with the back of his fists. He hated stakeouts, hated sitting there with nothing to do but think. To review the case, to picture those poor girls tied down and bleeding. To picture Maureen, Kathleen, Elizabeth. He knew it wasnt healthy. He couldnt help it. Not being able to go home, see them every night, tuck them in. That wasnt helping.
No, Benson said. Doesnt look like a struggle. But if this is our guy his control wont be strictly physical.
Yeah, but if we go up there now, I dont think we could even bust him on public indecency. Damn railings in the way. Hell, for all I know, theyre cuddling.
Yeah, right, Benson said.
The radio crackled. Their replacements were in place.
* * *
Warren H. Mather III smiled as he heard the van arrive in the garage above, heard the doors shutting, heard the machinery grind, bringing the van down to the basement level, down to his own little kingdom. He stood and stretched and straightened his robes, eager to see the new treat his girls had brought him. Something petite, he hoped. Fully formed, of course, he wasnt a pervert. But he was in the mood for something delicate, tender. One that hadnt been on the street too long.
The elevator mechanism stilled, the service door rolled up and he turned in eager anticipation.
Instead of seven girls triumphant, bearing gifts, one girl, kneeling at his feet, tears rolling freely down her face. Im sorry sir, she wailed. Theyre all Gone. I dont understand, they were just girls, but so fast, so strong
Slayers, Mather said softly. Damn.
And only you survived?
It was my turn to drive, I was in the van. The others It happened so fast, I dont understand.
I do, my pet. I do. We shall have our revenge. You are not to blame. Still, you have failed me. I shall have to make do.
Go. Cleanse yourself. I shall await you at the altar.
* * *
There was no popcorn, but Captain Maddux had coffee and pastries and a bank of monitors set up at one end of the conference table and waited as the detectives filed in, followed by a striking brunette whom the Captain introduced to the New York contingent as ADA Catherine Lodge, who would be assisting the investigation with obtaining warrants and any other legal issues that arose.
Okay, the captain said, weve got the video cued up that my tech guys culled out overnight. I want to walk through the video and see if between the tapes and you gentlemen who lived it we can figure out what the hell happened last night. Now you can see, weve got the video set at the time when Detective Munch reported sighting our suspects at the bus station. Detective Tutuola, if you would.
Fin picked up one of the laser pointers laid out on the table and pointed it at the screen, picked out the four girls hed recognized.
Good, the captain said. Well spotted. Now, watch carefully when we run the tape back, we can trace all four girls back to this white van, plus two others. Roll it back a little further, now forward again
The van arrives and six girls get out, the driver stays and keeps the engine running. Unfortunately we never get a good look at the driver, but from what we can see it does appear to be another young female.
Okay, the girls spread out, taking positions on either side of the passenger area. So it appears theyre waiting for a bus. Question is, are they waiting for this bus in particular, waiting for someone, or just fishing? Well come back to that. Questions, comments so far? No?
Okay, now, a second white van arrives in the parking lot and two girls get out and
Wait, hold that, Detective Benson interjected. The black girl, thats the girl who answered the door at the Girls Home, isnt it Elliot?
Yeah, Stabler agreed, and they were both in that white van when it showed up there around one this morning. So girls from the group home were there meeting the same bus. This cant be a coincidence.
Captain Maddux said. Do you have a name?
Er, not for those two, no.
Okay, well call them Mutt and Jeff. They get out of the van, the driver keeps the motor running. Mutt and Jeff go over to wait for the passengers, now correct me if Im wrong, but doesnt it look like Mutt and Jeff spotted at least two, maybe three of our suspects?
Yeah, Fin added, leaning forward, now that you mention it, it sure does.
Okay. Now our girl Jeff
Thats the short one, right? Stabler asked.
Yes. Our girl Jeff makes two quick calls on her cell. And were waiting. Maddux ran the tape on fast forward until a moving bus appeared.
Okay, heres the eleven fifty bus originating in St. Louis and making several stops along the way And now here come the passengers, couple military guys, fat lady and her six kids, maybe college guy, salesman and here come our players, first, see the guy with the eye patch
Hold it, Benson said. He was there, too, at the Home. Sorry, go ahead.
Eyepatch, little red-headed girl on his shoulder and, note the cane, and behind them we have a teenage red-head with another little red-head on her shoulder. Now I may be jumping the gun a little but Im guessing those three girls are related. So, here comes Mutt and Jeff and were all introductions and happy families, Id say the red-heads are new arrivals at the home. Now, freeze it, zoom in. Check out Eyepatchs face.
Yeah, my guys were all excited when they saw that, thought they had a guy in a mask, but looking closer it seems to be face paint of some kind, though we have no idea why
Could be a disguise, people will remember him, but theyll remember face paint and an eye patch, he washes his face, takes off the patch and he could walk right by them.
Could be. Now, keep your eye on Little Lost Blonde there
Shes with them, Stabler said. She shows up later in the van.
Somehow, that doesnt surprise me, Maddux said. So, shes just kinda wandering around looking just about as lost and alone as she possibly could be, isnt she? And our little dwarves here by the Coke machines, theyre sure taking an interest. So Im thinking they were just hunting, hoping for a convenient victim.
Now, back here on camera three we got Mutt and Jeff loading Eyepatch and the redheads into White van #2. Now, watch Little Lost Blonde. Such a big sigh, then she looks left, she looks right, she walks away into the darkest area she could possibly find Are you thinking what Im thinking?
But She cant possibly be more than fifteen, Stabler said. You cant really think
You tell me, Maddux answers, here comes dwarves one, two, three, and four and five together, five of our six dwarves. And look here, White Van #1 is on the move, just a little behind the dwarves. But, look here, see whos walking along, taking the night air. Its Mutt and Jeff. And White Van #2. Its a parade! And look here, who are these handsome fellas, our very own Detectives Munch and Tutuola.
And where are we all going? To a dead end alley.
Please tell you got a camera in the alley, Fin said.
No, that would be too easy. We got a nice view of the entry from the north side, but not the alley itself. It is a dead end, after all. Just a space between buildings. So. Camera twelve or whatever it is. Alley entry, there goes Little Lost Blonde, there goes dwarves one through five, running, and then
Then we heard a scream, Fin said.
And there goes Mutt and Jeff into the alley, and those girls are really moving Detective?
We were hearing fighting, maybe a couple of shouts
And heres Van #2 and theres Eyepatch, charging into the alley, and you note hes carrying his cane. And here comes Detectives Munch and Tutuola, and heres dwarf number six.
She fucking came out of nowhere, Fin said. One moment were running for the alley and the next Im flat on my face and someone is standing on my head.
And out of chute number one, currently known as Van #2, comes yet one more girl, who well call Curly for obvious reasons, and Curly runs over and grabs dwarf six, and, I cant believe Im saying this, appears to set the world record for dryland dwarf tossing and then follows after, out of camera range.
And Van #1 takes off. Van #2 takes off. Detective Munch finds his glasses and gets up and runs to the alley only to get a faceful of
Really, really nasty tasting dust, Munch says quietly.
And there goes Detective Tutuola and here comes the squad cars youd called for, blocking off the alley, here comes the uniforms, guns drawn and ready. And weve got them, dont we, all trapped in a dead end with no way out but straight up a sixty foot wall.
Except theres nobody in the fucking alley, Tutuola said, and turned to Stabler, said, So, how was your night?
Lets take a break, Captain Maddux said.
* * *
Munch and Fin stood side by side in the mens room, giving their morning coffee a proper burial.
So, Munch said, in the cold light of day, what did you see?
In the cold light of day, I aint sure. Last night in the dark I thought I saw Little Lost Blonde carrying Eyepatch up the wall like she was Spiderman and he was made of balsa wood. Whatd you see?
Not a damn thing, I had a face full of dust, Munch said, shook, zipped and turned away, added, but somehow I dont think well be seeing Sneezy around much anymore.
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