Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 10: Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Theyd done the morning workout.
Theyd had lunch.
A bunch of the girls were watching a DVD in the rec room.
Xander was with Ms. Travers in the office trying to con her into doing as much of his paperwork as he possibly could.
Zoey was in the garage fixing bicycles.
Amber, Melanie and Safiyah were in the basement trying to get through a whole set without breaking more than three or four guitar strings and maybe even, just for once, not one drum.
Renee was playing a board game with Shad, Marybeth, and her sisters.
Caridad was studying, Vi was on the phone with her boyfriend.
Faith was bored.
* * *
Elliot, Detective Benson said. We have to rethink this whole thing.
They were sitting in a rather large but still quiet Chinese place Detective Shreiner had recommended. So far, so good, the hot and sour soup, always a good indicator, was really excellent. Wasted on Stabler though, hed already downed his bowl and Benson was pretty sure he hadnt tasted a drop.
She was a little bit worried about her partner. She knew how he could obsess, torture himself with the idea that someone out there was suffering because hed missed something, could let the anger that was always bubbling inside him cloud his judgment.
Normally when he got into tunnel-vision mode something external would pull him out. Hed go home, see his kids, come back on center. Or theyd get a break on the case. But he couldnt go home now. And this case
She fought back a yawn. Shed been called at four a.m. Amy, the branding victim, had been attacked while strapped down in her hospital bed, wasnt making much sense and they thought maybe a female detective
Her own anger was at a pretty high pitch by the time shed reached the hospital, how could this have happened, under police protection, its almost like we held her down.
But it turned out that attacked wasnt quite the right word.
The brands had been removed. The doctor said there were needle marks that suggested that a local anesthetic had been used. A sharp instrument, presumably a scalpel, had been used to remove the skin containing the branding, a powder still being analyzed but apparently containing an anti-coagulant had been applied to the wounds, covered by an anti-bacterial cream and a lightly taped gauze pad.
Nice work, the doctor had said.
It was Harris, Stabler said. I checked with surveillance. At two a.m. the white van leaves and they decide to follow. White van goes a mile to a convenience store where a girl goes in, buys a pack of breath mints, and drives back to the house, where the surveillance team sees the truck is gone. Truck returns about three thirty with Harris and three girls, including our Miss Leather. We need to get more than one car out there.
Our Miss Leather. Benson had spent far too long the night before playing what I shoulda said to her was
Benson had long ago made peace with her methods. With Elliots. It was a dirty, hard business they were in and you had to play it that way. So maybe she went a little far sometimes, maybe Elliot did too, the guilty had it coming and the innocent, well if a little rough treatment in interrogation was the worst thing that happened in their lives, they should count their blessings.
The methods didnt haunt Benson, but mistakes did. Better to step on a few toes and get the right guy then be all sweet and get the wrong one. Or no one at all.
She was happy, Elliot, Benson said of the girl in the hospital. She was a little loopy from the sedatives, but she was ecstatic. She said she had been visited by angels and now she was free. I think we have to consider that, whatever the hell Harris is, we have no evidence that hes a killer or a sadist. And that means someone else out there is.
* * *
Check this out, Jimmy said. He dug in the drawer beside the bed and pulled out a baggie and pipe. He filled the bowl, lit up and sucked hard and pulled the smoke in deep, and held it.
And held it.
And held it.
Cool, huh, he said, grinning, as tiny tendrils of smoke began so escape from his nostrils.
We can still get high? Carla marveled.
Sure. Theres a little something extra in the mix, but sure. He filled the bowl again, handed her the pipe. She took a deep hit and held it. It didnt even burn. She just felt her head begin to float a little and she giggled and lay back on Jimmys satin sheets and stretched. She decided she loved satin sheets. The whole live forever thing was feeling a whole lot more doable if there were satin sheets and guys like Jimmy who knew just what to do on them. She held out her arms and pulled him in. Again.
You hungry? Jimmy said, after.
Lets go then.
They shared a quick and giggly shower and then dressed, Carla hesitated at the door. She felt safe here in Jimmys apartment, cozy behind the blacked out windows and double-locked door.
Its okay, Jimmy said. You gotta go out sometime. Dont worry, Ill take care of you, show you the ropes.
But its still daylight.
Yeah, I know. Lets go.
They stepped out into the hall, Jimmy set the alarm and locked the door and they took the elevator down to the basement, from there to a service tunnel that eventually opened on the RTA.
They came up in a long low bar, a little dim and smoky but not too bad. There were vamps and creatures there, a few at the tables, a couple at the bar, all contemplating a beverage container of one kind or another, conversation was low, desultory, a slow afternoon. There were even a few humans. Johnny Cash on the jukebox, so that was cool. Jimmy led her up to the counter, greeted a weasely looking man. Hey, Willy, this is Carla.
Jimmy, the man answered and nodded at her, what can I get you?
Carafe of AB-neg and warm it, you still doin the chicken fingers?
Okay, medium basket of fingers with O-pos sauce.
You got it, Jimmy.
He led her to a booth in the back, went to feed the jukebox, slapped himself in the forehead and waved her over to help him pick the songs. By the time they were done the food was ready. Jimmy collected and paid, came back to the booth and poured her a glass, she took a sip.
It was good. But.
I know, Jimmy said, but you gotta kind of save the kills for special occasions.
She looked at the strips of breaded and fried chicken. What about these, are they
Just for fun. Something to munch on. Just like McDonalds or whatever, no nutritional value whatsoever, but at least now it wont make you fat. Besides, its all about the sauce. They ate. Jimmy explained, Theres a few places you can go where people will actually pay you to suck out a pint or so, but generally the customers, not the most attractive people in the world, you know? Theres basically two ways to get fresh blood without a kill, one, you make it look like a mugging, you hit them over the head, cut them with a knife so you dont leave fang marks, and drink, just not so much that you kill them or make them real weak or anything. And of course, you take their money, so bonus.
And the other way?
Cocktails and pussywallows, depending on your preference.
Again, as long as you dont drink too much, bite a human on the genitals and mostly they just want to forget it ever happened. Although, I had a friend, she used to do what she called a two-fer, shed go down on the meat and right when he came shed bite. She had a few walking meals that would come round on their own like once a month. Humans can be very, very strange.
Your friend, Carla asked, is she
Dust. She was careless.
Jimmy, Carla asked, If I did, you know, the cocktail thing. Would you be mad? You know, jealous?
He stared at her. Youre joking, right? That would be like like being jealous of a chicken finger. But you give another vamp a BJ, thats a whole nother issue, got me?
Good. Now, for those occasions when, you know, you just gotta have a kill, two things. Pick a victim that wont be missed, and have a good disposal system
The door to the bars street entrance slammed open and a dark haired woman in leather jeans strode in like she owned the place, Jimmy reached out and grabbed Carlas arm. Just be cool, baby, just be cool.
Slayer! Willy said loudly. Long time no see, Slayer.
Yeah, Willy, the woman said. I think everybody knows Im here. Thought youd be retired in Florida by now.
Home is the Hellmouth, Faith, what can I get you?
I just know you got a bottle for me.
Havana Club, right?
How nice. You remembered Willy.
This bottles been opened. You know I aint drinking anything in here I dont break the seal myself.
What?! No. Oh. How bout that. Dont know how that happened, Ive got a fresh one in the back.
The woman, Faith, lit a cigar, leaned back against the bar and surveyed the customers, Carla stared down at her table, knees trembling, sure she could feel the Slayers eyes drilling into her.
Willie came back with a bottle and a glass and Faith poured herself a drink, drank, said, Who picked the tunes? and Willy pointed.
Oh, God, Carla thought, but Jimmy just nodded and Faith nodded back, said, Good choice.
The Slayer sat the bar, smoking and chatting with Willy and one of the demons at the counter until she finished the cigar, then she capped the bottle, slipped it into her pocket, slammed her hand down on a table with a crack like a pistol shot, said, Listen up. Two things. One, got some joker going around putting brands on girls, binding spell thing called Sallys Balls or something like that. Drop a dime on the bastard and maybe theres something in it for you, like maybe we dont stake you on sight for a day or two. Maybe even a little more if the info is really good. I still got the same cell number so I know you funny bastards got it written on the pisser wall about a hundred times or my friend Willy here knows how to get in touch. Second thing, I got a fright job, need one beast with muscles and one or two with good visuals, cause I dont want anyone actually hurt, got me? She stepped forward. You there, with the snakes, do your thing. Not bad. You busy tonight? Got big plans?
Whats it pay?
It pays I dont cut your head off next time I see you in the street. She paused. And fifty bucks if it comes off right.
Another voice asked, This deal with you or Cyclops?
The room went still.
Who? Faith said softly.
Mr. Harris. This deal with you or Mr. Harris?
This deal is just with me, the info is for both of us. You, you look strong. And I could use another frightener. Thank you. She pulled out a map and spread it on a table. Gather round, children.
Finally she left. Jimmy reached over and tousled Carlas hair.
And now youve seen Faith the Vampire Slayer in the flesh, and lived to tell the tale. See, you can make it. Just be smart, baby, and you can live forever.
Later, after the sun went down they went out and saw a movie, then stopped in at another bar Jimmy knew for nightcaps, Jimmy introduced her to the Pacific Sunset, raw egg floating in tequila and O-pos.
And then Jimmy took her home to his apartment and his satin sheets.
* * *
Mathers beamed at his girls. It had taken some effort, some skill, certainly some perseverance, he had started with street kids after all. But they looked fine, fabulous, straight off the runway gorgeous
Okay, if you looked closely, at their eyes, maybe, something in the purse of the lips, they still had the hungry look, the frightened look, they look like call girls, but very high class. The sort of girls who were always welcome in the circles he was endeavoring to enter.
He told them they were beautiful, for he knew they liked to hear it, he caressed his remaining vampire, told her, I know you cant see it sweetheart, but trust me, you are a vision.
He showed them the pictures again, one last time and they nodded, assured him they had the faces memorized.
The machinery cranked and the door opened and he walked the girls over, helped them in to the white van, and approached the driver. This is a big night, Detective, please dont disappoint me.
And then he closed the door and the van was gone and there was nothing he could do but watch and wait.
* * *
Georgianne Travers sat in the remodeled office feeling quite pleased with the world. She had her own desk now. She had modestly demurred at first but, as Xander she called him Xander now, after spending most of the day with him calling him Mr. Harris seemed silly. She could hear her classmates now, mocking her for going native in twenty-four hours, but she thought, again, the hell with them. And he called her George. Hed promised to limit himself to one By George, I think shes got it crack per day. Sometimes she really disliked her father.
She had initially declined the desk but as Xander pointed out, one thing about living in Slayer house, moving heavy furniture about was never a big deal. Xander had insisted that she remodel the office to her own specifications as organization had never been his strong suit.
Shed come across a muddled pile of Xanders Lectures:
Lecture Number One: Dont Die.
Lecture Number Two: Try not to kill people.
Lecture Number Three: Xander is NOT a TOY.
And so on.
She had arranged them in a rack by the door. She thought of the impassioned and turgid arguments going on back in London where the New Revised Slayer Handbook was being hashed out in committee and thought she would send Giles a copy of all the Lectures (except possibly number three) as a possible alternative. And then it occurred to her that maybe the reason the handbook was taking so long was that it kept certain people totally occupied. Suddenly her mind was full of such heresy.
And she had her own computer all organized for her various tasks. Xander had agreed that, provided she built in a randomizing element so that the patrol never developed a predictable pattern, they would give her statistically optimized patrol program a trial run. She had set-up a template so that she could enter the daily slayage notes and statistics for both her own use and reporting to London. She had templates for weekly and monthly reports as well.
She had a calendar set up to track Slayer-requested nights off for dates and parties still a little bit of a difficult concept for her Travers blood to accept But Xander had practically growled at her, the one bit of ill-temper hed shown all day. Repeat after me. Girls, who happen to be Slayers, not Slayers who happen to be girls, okay? Got it?
She would also be able to track school dates and schedules, PTA meetings and so on.
Xander had transferred a copy of the financial software to her machine as well, set her up with passwords, etc., so she could take care of utility bills and taxes and so on.
She had kitchen duty rosters and household and yardwork chore rotas all organized for easy updating and substitutions.
All set up neat and organized so that with a mere two or three hours a day she should be able to keep her share of the household running efficiently while Xander . Bought the groceries.
Wait a minute.
Well, he would also oversee the training.
Run by Faith, Caridad and Mr. Lee.
Sneaky bastard, she thought, and smiled fondly.
Uh-oh. Georgianne Travers, while no virgin, was not all that experienced in the ways of love, but she knew full well that when a woman calls a man bastard and smiles fondly, shes on a slippery slope.
She didnt care. Last night, or early this morning she, with two Slayers, had scaled a wall to break into a secure facility to perform a sacred ritual to free an innocent girl trapped under an evil spell. Tonight she had gone on her first solo patrol, albeit with four Slayers and a fifth acting as her bodyguard, but without Xander or Faith looking over her shoulder. And she had managed to get the girls to give her full descriptions of the three kills before they became totally occupied with issues of food.
She was having the best time of her life.
And now Xander was knocking on the office door, inviting her to come join him and Faith for a nightcap on the verandah.
They came out on the porch and once again Georgianne was aware of what a dominating presence Faith was, emanating rum and cigar and leather and female, a perfume that may not have been a big hit at Lady Weatherlys salon, but were certainly some of Mans favorite things. She was maybe a little bit drunk, definitely a bit hyper, one moment standing at the railing, staring into the night, the next squirming around on the glider, giving Xanders shoulder a tit-rub and begging a sip of his drink, then bouncing back up to the railing.
Georgianne sat primly at Xanders side, sipped her G and T and watched Xander watch Faith with his head cocked a little to the side. Faith, he said suddenly, What have you done? and Faith whirled around with a wide shit-eating grin, said,
You know those cops that have been watching us the last few days?
Oh, God, Xander said.
You guys ready, Faith whispered and Georgianne heard answering whispers from the roof above, then Faith had her cell out and said, You guys ready? Then go.
And then the lone, nondescript car parked a little ways up the street was illuminated by the green glow of a dozen chemical flares coming to life, something large and ominous and bi-pedal moved behind the car and lifted the cars rear end while something that looked like a two-legged wooly mammoth trying to swallow a giant squid whole leaned in over the hood and growled and hissed at the occupants.
There was shouting. There was the car coming to life and the engine screaming in futility as the tires spun, there were shots fired, and two men piling over each other to be the first out the driver side door and go pounding down the street at Olympic speeds.
There was applause from the roof, there was Faith laughing so hard she fell off the railing and lay on the lawn kicking her feet like a child having a tantrum.
There was Georgianne Travers standing totally appalled, shouting, Demons? She used demons?! looking down at Xander whose shoulders were shaking.
Oh, give it up, George, he said, you can be all tweedy in the morning.
Thats Ms. Travers to you, she wanted to say, but she couldnt. She hmmphed. She felt like Katherine Hepburn in, well, pretty much any movie starring Katherine Hepburn.
She began to giggle.
Demons. And Faith was running across the lawn to pay them off for a job well done.
She thought of what she would have thought of such a thing just a week ago. She didnt know whether she was being corrupted or liberated or both.
She spotted Faiths rum bottle and picked it up and finished off the last two inches worth out of pure spite.
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