Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 8: Faith waxes eloquent
Benson and Stabler kept it up for two hours.
They tried the were just trying to help you ploy. They tried youll feel better if you get it off your chest. They tried if we have to get a warrant to search this place were going to really tear it up.
They asked him what happened to the girls in the alley?
He shrugged. What girls? Which alley?
They tried Stabler getting in his face and shouting while Benson slapped the back of his head. They tried Stabler rubs the pictures of the victims in his face. They tried were gonna throw you in a holding cell and call you short eyes. They tried Benson insults his manhood. They tried Benson gets in his face while Stabler smacks his head. They tried Stabler grabbing him and shoving him up against the wall, but that was mostly because Stabler couldnt help himself.
Then they did it all again.
They stepped out into the hall and conferred in whispers under the watchful eyes of the hall sentinels.
Hi, Benson said. Whats your name? and got no answer and Can I use your bathroom? got a curt head-shake, no.
They gave up. Benson went back into the office, Harris had his bad leg up on the desk, stretching to reach his toes, speaking into his cell phone. He handed her a lawyers card, held the phone up between them, said, Detective Benson, as the legal guardian of the girls living here I am notifying you that you are expressly forbidden from speaking to them without either myself or my attorney present, understood? Benson nodded, picked up her briefcase and stared at him a moment, turned and left.
They stepped out onto the porch, Benson took a deep breath, looked over at her partner, asked, You okay?
He nodded and they started toward the steps when a throaty voice called out just loud enough for them to hear clearly, Hey five-oh, cmere a sec. Its okay, you can talk to me, Xanders not my daddy.
They looked and saw a brunette taking her ease in the wooden glider, languid, just as feline as she could possibly be. She was wearing painted-on leather jeans, heavy boots, a tank top that looked like it wanted to reach out and touch someone. She had what looked like a week-old knife wound on her arm. She was smoking a long cigar and grinning in a way that just immediately pissed you off.
Benson bit back her irritation. And you are?
Faith, the woman answered. Just Faith, like Cher only more like Faith. Tell me, what do you guys do for fun, base-jump? Naked hockey? Russian roulette? Cause obviously youre into some serious extreme sports.
What do you mean?
Being mean to Xander where his girls can hear you. Man, she shook her head in mock awe, thats living on the edge.
Faith came to her feet with sudden and surprising grace and both Stabler and Benson stepped back, hands automatically reaching for their sidearms. She stopped, lazily raised her arms up to press her hands together, did a pirouette, said in falsetto, Dont shoot, ossifers, Im unarmed.
She turned back toward the street, raised her voice, called out, Shadow, Zoey, Renee and Isobel, get your asses back here now. She turned back to the detectives. So, she said. SVU.
Stabler started. How did you know that?
Maybe a little birdie told me. Maybe I just smell the shit on your shoes. She raised her voice again. Shad, Zoey, dont make me come and get you, and after a moment two, then three, then a fourth girl appeared, riding bicycles, two arrived from the east, two from the west, they came and stood in a line at the foot of the steps, staring daggers at the detectives.
Faith spoke, more gently now. These are Detectives Benson and Stabler, they work sex crimes in New York and their souls have suffered in the line of duty. So we are going to forgive them, just this once, for they know not what they do. Ya got me? The girls nodded, reluctantly. Zoey, have a look at the detectives car, would you? Make sure the engines not gonna fall out or anything.
Stabler turned to watch one of the girls start toward their car, Faith snapped her fingers, pulling his attention back.
Come on now, be cool, she didnt do anything dangerous, just a potato in the exhaust or something more high tech, maybe, but nothing fatal. Look, Faith paused to knock some ash off the end of her cigar. I know you guys have seen some shit, had to wade in the sewers. I grew up in the shit. Cops didnt do anything for me when I was in it. Maybe you would have. Who knows? Thing is, I been there. So I know how if you live in the shit long enough it gets inside you. And everywhere you go, you smell shit, even if there is no shit.
You guys just spent almost two hours with Xander, if you dont know by now hes a good guy, you damn sure oughta quit your jobs.
Hes hiding something, Stabler said.
Sure he is. Lots of things. But a bloody altar in the basement isnt one of them and you know it.
How ? Benson started.
Dont get your panties in a bunch, Detective. We have interesting waddyacallit when you can hear sound, like everywhere in a place .?
Yeah, could be, anyway, we all heard every word. We know that youre trying to stop some nut job who rapes and tortures girls. Thats why were gonna let you call Xander a pervert and walk out of here with your testicles intact. Well, that and because Xander told us to.
And then Faiths voice changed, the smoky rasp turning icy, Benson felt a sudden trickle of fear run down her spine. But just this once. Cause I know you like it.
She turned on Stabler. I know you. Youre a bully and self-righteous asshole born and bred, you cant help it. If you were a cowboy youd be an asshole cowboy, if you were a balloon salesman youd be an asshole balloon salesman. But youre an SVU cop so you can tell yourself its okay, youre being an asshole to save kiddies and puppies and damsels in distress And maybe youre right. Aint singing no sad song for the short-eyes and the pervs. But how many people you slap around and they didnt do it?
Cause thats the part you really like, isnt it? Getting in peoples faces when they cant fight back, shoving them against walls, putting them in cuffs, thats what gets you hard. You just found a way to get your fun and keep it legal. They say rape is all about control. I say theres about this much difference between you and your perps. Maybe that difference makes all the difference. Hell, Im in no position to judge.
She turned toward Benson. As for you, I figure its like beer. First time you taste beer, not so good. Sour, nasty stuff. But you get a little buzz. So you try some more. After awhile you get to like the taste. Smacking some skel in the back of the head, telling some scumbag all about how hes a pervert and youre not, feels good. You get to see it, move right in close and watch their eyes the actual moment some loser realizes his life just became a cage. A little power, a little control. Hey, been there. Hell, Im there now. And you know, fuck the head games, cause WHY doesnt really matter, does it? Cause even B gets it right sometimes, in the end its only about the power, and Benson and Stabler felt themselves forced back against the wall and pinned like butterflies on display, and Faith was suddenly about eight feet tall, or so it seemed. A warning, promise, threat, whatever, you can come and talk anytime, but treat my friend Xander with respect. Anymore attitude and I wont call the girls off, Ill help them bury the bodies. Capisci?
And a little advice. Maybe youll do your thing and catch your guy and itll be cool. But if you find yourselves feeling like tourists who took the wrong off ramp and youre wandering around lost where its dark and scary then if you really want to stop this guy and save some girls, then youll come and ask for help. Because you are not the meanest mother in the valley. Not by a long shot.
And then they were moving, frogmarching across the porch and then flying down the front steps to land in a heap at the edge of the gravel.
Oopsie, Faiths falsetto squeaked behind them. Benson rolled over on her back.
Thats the woman Harris was making out with last night, isnt it?
Yeah, Stabler answered.
No wonder we didnt faze him. You want to go arrest her for assaulting an officer?
Yeah. I do. Right after SWAT gets here.
* * *
Hes not our guy, Benson said.
Hes our guy, Stabler said.
Oh, good, Maddux said. They were meeting in the case room after a late lunch.
Hes exactly what we are looking for, Stabler argued. Hes a charismatic leader with apparent total control over a group of extraordinarily strong young girls, he has a deformity that would explain his wearing the mask during the ritual, he has control over a large building with a basement, in a quiet area. He wasnt at all shocked or disturbed by the pictures of victims, in fact he seemed fascinated
Thats just it, Benson said, the way he looked at the photos. Let me show you Damn it to hell! She had reached into her briefcase and pulled out a handful of file folders, now filled with blank paper.
* * *
Faith was fellating a Twinkie.
Ms. Georgianne Travers, her stylus hovering just over her PDA, hesitated. She had pledged to herself many MANY times during the endless hours shed spent wading through the typically tedious prose of the Watcher diaries as part of her studies, pledged to herself that HER diaries would sparkle. Her diaries would not just report dry fact but capture the colorful details that would bring the events to life. Faiths performance was certainly not a dry fact. Ms. Travers knew for certain that many if not all of her colleagues at the academy would have found that detail riveting. Still.
Ms. Travers was slightly irritated that Faith was only, as it were, caressing the confectionary, in an attempt to attract Mr. Harris attention. Ms. Travers was irked to notice that she had been successful. But what really bothered Ms. Travers was the sudden, entirely inappropriate, urge she felt to compete for that attention, and the realization that she had no idea how to do so. Not that she felt herself to be in any way unattractive or sexually inadequate but . Faith.
Faith, please, Harris finally said, do you mind? Youre making me beat hungry.
Ms. Travers smiled, pleased. Score one for Mr. Harris. She reconsidered. Still, it was not like she was short of material.
Ms. Travers was having a very strange and wonderful day. She had started the morning with her head in the commode, a detail she had easily decided her diary could be spared, and now here she was, on the Hellmouth, an integral part of the team.
There had been the chaos of the introductions. Harris had led her into the dining room, rapped on the table for attention and introduced her as the new Watcher, and as the girls had chorused the now traditional Are you evil? she had felt a perverse sort of pride that her aunt was remembered.
She had met Slayers before, socially at Council functions, seen a couple of fighting demonstrations. She had never seen a roomful of them attack an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet before. She had made a note to inform Mr. Stibbins, in accounts, that Harris was not, in fact, padding the grocers bill.
She had sat and nodded and tried desperately to work out a mnemonic system to match names with faces while girls came and went, introducing themselves, a system that had gone completely out of her mind when Faith had appeared and Harris had called her over and shed come through the crowd like a great white through a school of makos, and suddenly stopped short to stare.
Her niece, Harris had said.
No, Ms. Travers had managed to assert.
Okay then, no funky gloves and no bullshit about Spartans and were five by five, and shed turned to Harris, said Youre a dead man, and Ms. Travers was forgotten. She pulled out her PDA, the sentence already forming in her head: The first time I encountered the legendary rogue Slayer Faith, she was threatening to kill her Watcher
Hey, Harris had answered Faith, the joke was supposed to be on Renee. I expected to find her tied up and stuffed in a closet
And then a girl had announced that the police were at the door and suddenly the chaos was gone, Harris was standing and barking out instructions and girls were moving with swift purpose. The red-headed Slayer and her two little sisters were bundled away somewhere out of sight. Travers had followed Harris downstairs and watched him touch an otherwise unremarkable spot on the wall, speak a brief incantation and the wall slid open to reveal a bank of security monitors and workstations, two girls slipped into seats in front of computers, attached earpieces and sat waiting. Soon another girl came running back with the policemans badges in hand and the girls at the computers took down the information and began working, soon they were briefing Harris on the two cops records and personal information.
And then they were back in the dining room where the girls not otherwise occupied waited, Harris had called for attention.
Let it play, he said. It may be nothing, it may get nasty, but let it play. I mean it. Then shed had seen his body seem to sag and go soft and he turned and went down the hall and shed heard him greeting the detectives.
For awhile she had sat with the others in the dining room, feeling the rage gathering in the air like a change in barometric pressure, gradually she realized that while she could hear the mumble of voices the Slayers could hear every syllable and didnt like any of them. Then one of the girls had pointed out she could listen in downstairs and so she did and was soon only aware of her own anger.
And then it was over and Harris came down and set two girls to copying the stolen files and then Ms. Travers moment came.
Shed had fantasies of course, of her first assignment, arriving just in time to correctly translate a warning, to call out to an embattled Slayer just the exact information needed to save the day, A silver blade beneath the ear, she would cry out, throwing the needed weapon for the Slayer to catch and drive home to kill the demon and avert the apocalypse.
This wasnt quite that dramatic, but shed been tested and come through. Harris had dropped a golden amulet and a copy of the file on the table in front of her and said, What do you make of this, and shed been immediately able to say, Thats the Mark of Saqaliba.
Tell me. Shed told him what she knew off the top of her head.
And then Harris had called a meeting in the dining room.
The good news is that the cops didnt seem to know anything about Marybeth, this visit was about something else entirely, Harris said. Bad news is, there seems to be a new nasty in town. Volunteers?
And all the hands went up. One of the girls left and came back shortly with a small wooden box and brought it to Harris who pointed to Ms. Travers and told her to pick five. So Ms. Travers and reached in to find small wooden plaques, she pulled five and read the engraved names and as the selected girls gathered round a girl carrying a stack of copied files asked, Do we send Dawn a copy? and Harris had said,
Thats up to Ms. Travers, this ones her baby. Think you can have briefing ready for the group before patrol, say eight oclock?
Yes, sir, shed said.
Xander, hed said. Im your colleague, not your boss. Hed given her shoulder a squeeze and gone off to take a shower.
Hed showed up later downstairs in the inadequate but not totally useless library (it did, after all, have access to the Watchers growing digital archive) and asked her if the girls could take a break. She had of course nodded, when theyd gone hed settled down in the chair across from her, said, Giles said you know your stuff. So I figure you know your stuff. But dont hesitate to ask for help, me, Dawn, Giles. If you think Robin Wood can help, give him a call, I dont care. We all make mistakes. Just dont make them out of pride.
I can handle this, shed told him. And actually, you know, if the girls have other things theyd rather do, I can do this alone.
Of course you can, hed answered. But thats not really the point, is it?
He asked, Is Willow sending through the rest of your clothes and stuff, or do we need to rustle you up some duds?
For patrol. I know Giles used to wear tweed when he went on patrol with Buffy, but he never wore a dress. At least not that I know of. Ill have to ask her. At the very least youll want to change those shoes.
Patrol? shed squeaked.
Yeah, I figured youd want to go out with the girls a few times right away, get to know them, get to know the city.
Hed reached into the bag he was carrying, pulled out a box of doughnuts and set it in front of her. Better grab a couple now, he told her, when the girls get back theyll vaporize. Dont forget to take a break yourself, all work and all that.
And then there had been the utter strangeness of dinner, with the girls all gathered at the table, their plates heaped with lasagna and bread, the room reeking of garlic and olive oil, and not eating, waiting until Faith had whispered, Now, and all the girls had whipped out dollar bills and started waving them in the air just as Harris came through the door, closing his eye and shaking his head as the laughter echoed in the room, along with calls of Take it off, and Shake it baby.
Hed sat down and waited until the giggling slowed and spoke to her, said, Its encouraging, isnt it?
What is? shed asked.
How many young people these days would rather eat plain yogurt and read an improving book than eat ice cream and watch TV, and suddenly all the dollar bills disappeared and the room grew so quiet you could hear forks cutting pasta.
What ? she started, but Harris shook his head.
Some things, he said, you poke with a stick. Some things you dont.
So now, as the last girls were trickling in, carrying crossbows and stakes and Ms. Travers gathered herself in preparation for making her very first official act as a Watcher, she closed her PDA and decided, firmly, that Faith and the Twinkie was one colorful detail posterity would have to do without. Not really the highlight of her day.
She thought of all her so-called friends back at the Academy, gathered round to bid her farewell, and grin, and laugh at her caught by her own drunken arrogance and sent to ignominious Cleveland while they contemplated their choice of postings to Ibiza or Berlin. Well, screw them, wouldnt trade places for the world, she had something they never would.
Xander Harris brought me doughnuts.
* * *
Thats just my point, Benson was arguing. Hes a pro. The way he looked at the pictures, he wasnt excited, he was interested, he was studying them, looking at details. He put up with our interrogation for two hours just waiting for a chance to swap the files. And he told us nothing. Hes a pro.
A cop? Tutuola asked.
I dont know. A cop. A spook.
Demon hunter? Munch said quietly.
Nothing. Just something I came across in my tour of online wackoville.
Maybe military, that eyepatch is genuine, sos the scar on his cheek. Look, Im not saying I understand it. The whole thing with the girls, I dont know. And I agree with Elliot that this Faith did time somewhere. Im not saying the whole things kosher, Im just having trouble picturing this guy carving up girls in a dark basement.
There was a knock on the door and the ADA Lodge came in, and was brought up to date.
She shook her head.
Technically that cane is an illegal weapon. I will if you want me to, but Im not eager to go into court and charge a crippled man with carrying a sharp stick. You could pull him in, book him, maybe keep him overnight at best, but if hes got a halfway decent lawyer, as I expect he does, hell be out before his fingerprints dry. And you already have those. As for this Faith, well, if youre going to charge her with an assault on an officer, the judge is going to want to know why you didnt arrest her immediately.
She looked up at the two detectives who decided that moment was a good one to spend studying the evidence boards.
As for the files, hell either claim he never saw them, or say you dropped them on the floor and can you prove otherwise?
Another knock and a uniform poked his head in. Package for Detective Benson.
She took the envelope, opened it and of course her files were there, and a note, she read,
Dear Detective Benson,
Having reviewed the enclosed materials, I must inform you that it is imperative and urgent that you place the victims in some sort of protective custody. The brands suggest that the attacker believes he has marked them as his property, which he will most likely try to reclaim. Be aware that he may have implanted an hypnotic suggestion that may cause the victims to attempt to return to him of their own volition.
Do try and understand that this is merely an educated guess and information provided strictly in order to aid your investigation, and is in no way a threat of action on our part.
We are not the bad guys here, Ms. Benson. But if you cannot simply accept my assurances, please review the enclosed additional material before considering any further hostile acts toward Mr. Harris or any other person associated with Cleveland Home for Gifted Girls.
I must say Mr. Stabler is particularly photogenic. It is perhaps fanciful of me, but I must say, in the third picture, the one where he has Mr. Harris pinned against the wall, he looks positively demonic, dont you think?
Georgianne Travers, Watcher
Cleveland Home for Gifted Girls
Detective Benson looked down and saw ADA Lodge glancing through a series of eight by ten pictures, clearly stills taken from good quality video, shaking her head.
I rest my case, Detective Benson said. Hes a pro.
Captian Maddux answered her phone, cursed, said, What? when? then turned and addressed the room. Victim three has disappeared.
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