Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 14: Nothing short of spectacular
Cmon, tell me, Faith said.
Old girlfriends, Xander answered.
No, cmon, I wanna know.
You think Im joking? Im crushed, I thought my history of demon dating was the stuff of legend.
Xander, Faith said. Tell me. These first, she ran her hand across the thick scars on his side.
On of those giant cockroach things? Gross. And these, she asked, running her hand down his damaged leg.
A what, I never heard of a
Xander kissed her gently, said, Shhhhh Rifle. AK-47. Bullets.
Oh. And this tracing the pink line across his belly.
Girlfriend. Okay. Date. Slight miscommunication, I thought wed go for coffee, she thought wed gut me and open the Hellmouth.
Oh, yeah, I think I did hear about that one. And this? Thick purple line on his left biceps.
You know, I dont remember. Seriously.
And this, she asked, tracing the white line on his cheek and he sagged a little and went silent.
Tell me, Faith insisted.
Slayer. You dont need to know who, he added when he felt her tense. She was making a point, she misjudged, she was sorry. It was a good thing, in the long run. A lesson for us both. Enough history. Did you like the party?
Yeah. Actually. It was a good time.
I know, not really your style, but I figured it would kind of reassure the neighbors were not freaks or anything, get the girls back in act-normal mode for school, maybe get Caridad laid so shell stop looking so serious all the time.
You ever do anything just for fun anymore?
He was quiet, thinking. Not for a long time, actually.
Well have to do something about that, wont we?
* * *
The stench was almost enough to make her forget the fear. Almost.
It did raise the question of sanity, though, because surely no one could hallucinate such a horrible smell.
On the other hand, no sane person could see these Things.
The first Thing was huge, maybe eight feet tall and had to almost squeeze through the cell door. It had a head like a sack of rotten potatoes and tentacles, except without suckers but fine hair instead, more like really strong and flexible spider legs, extruding from a roundish body balanced on two more hominid legs it was wearing forest green cargo pants, Doc Martens and a fanny pack, which was where it kept the keys to the shackles.
It had gone to ADA Lodge, who had stared and screamed and begun thrashing wildly until three of the tentacles held her still while two more unlocked her, then the Thing carried her out into the hallway and Benson could hear her screams fading and echoing and then stopping suddenly.
And then, presumably, time passed, though there was no way to tell how much. Benson made an inventory of the room, but as it was mostly bare, that didnt entertain for long. She tried mightily to pull herself free from the shackles but, not happening.
At some point Cynthia returned carrying a tray with couple of water bottles and a plate with strips of processed meat. Without speaking she poured about half of one bottle down Madame Pavlovas throat and half down her chest as she struggled to swallow around the bridle. Cynthia came to Benson then and, ignoring her questions, fed her some of the meat and half the water in the bottle. She left the tray with some remaining meat and water on the floor so Bensons next inventory was much longer and twice as interesting.
Time passed. She thought perhaps she heard chanting, maybe another scream or two but she couldnt be sure.
The Thing came back and took Madame Pavlova, who seemed stoically resigned to whatever fate had in store for her down the hall. And the Thing, Benson noticed, seemed almost to treat her with respect, carrying her upright and in a seated position, one tentacle holding the scolds bridle steady so that it didnt tear at her tongue.
And then Benson was alone, fighting the panic that came and went as she told herself that this couldnt be happening, and told herself that it was.
And then the Thing came for her.
Resistance was clearly futile, and Benson had made up her mind to go with dignity in the manner of Madame Pavlova, but when the moment came her revulsion overcame her and she went with the cussing kicking punching and screaming version of dignity maintenance and ended up being carried down the hall upside down, the Thing holding her by her feet at tentacle length.
So it was from a perspective barely a foot or two above the ground and upside down that she saw two more potatohead tentacle Things, and two other Things, only these were more hominoid but also more scaly and clawed and horned and fanged and still very damn big. And she saw the altar and the girls in the plain brown robes all waiting for her and she saw Mather, waving a bloody knife around as he argued with some other Thing. Almost human shaped but with clumps of writhing worms for hands and a face like a sharpei on steroids. And also, purple. See, Benson told herself, youre safe, this cant possibly be happening.
I thought you were this great wizard now, the sharpei was saying, with all this power
The power is fine, the power is there, Mather shouted back. I can already take them over in a matter of hours, I will soon have a seer of some power herself under my control, the power is not the issue here.
Then what is? the sharpei thing shouted back.
Look, you dont understand how do you things reproduce, cut your left foot off and stick it in the ground, for all I know, but you know
Are you mad? the thing interrupted. When a prime is in the second stage of grune
Did I ask? Did I? I did not. My point is that the Mark of Saqaliba is sex magic, human sex magic and that is something you know nothing about. In order to make the connection I have to inject Look, Ill have you know that for a man my age my performance tonight has been nothing short of spectacular. Perhaps I spent a little too much time with Lodge but she is a very beautiful woman and after the those last three I needed Look theres just no point in being an evil overlord if you cant play with your victims, is there? Besides, he waved at Benson, she wasnt supposed to be here.
The sharpei muttered something and Mather whirled. No, no, thats not the point, even if I could get it up again which would be a minor miracle, the well is dry and nothing but a big glass of juice, a decent meal and a good nights sleep will change that. Take her away.
And the Thing holding her turned and started back, she heard Mather going on. And let me remind you who it is who has a direct link to the power of the Hellmouth and just who it is that came up with this plan in the first place
Meanwhile the Thing carrying her was stumping along, mumbling to itself in words Benson couldnt understand though the meaning was clear and universal in the language of gofers everywhere, Next time make up your freaking minds BEFORE I have to carry the screaming woman down the hall.
It was still grumbling in the cell, and careless, and Benson made fists as the Thing shoved her upright against the wall and began fussing with the shackles and she managed to slide down a little so the Thing closed the hard metal not on her wrists but on her clenched hands. Which hurt like hell but when the Thing stumped out and slammed the cell door behind it, she was able to release her fists and slide her hands out of the chains and she was free.
Well, free in the sense of being locked in a dungeon cell in an unknown location and surrounded by monsters, but it was an improvement, nevertheless.
* * *
Mather sat and picked idly at the remains of his meal. Madame Pavlova sat in front of an untouched plate and stared blankly forward. She spoke in mechanical, monotonous tones, her voice hoarse now.
Really, that is interesting, do go on Mather said. And their names? Really, how quaint. That will be so very useful indeed. Do go on.
* * *
Monday morning and Stabler was getting worried. Benson wasnt answering her cell So maybe shed forgotten to charge it. But then she didnt answer when he knocked on her hotel door and now she wasnt in the squadroom, he checked with Munch and Tutuola, they hadnt seen her either since Saturday.
She was following up on Lockleys profile with Shreiner, Fin told him. Thought it was a little odd we didnt see her around on Sunday but figured maybe she was helping you out.
Detective Shreiner said he dropped her off at the hotel around nine-thirty, ten. At the side entrance, the bar, she invited me for a drink but I could tell she was just being polite, so I just dropped her and went home. No, didnt watch her go in, didnt occur to me, she seemed like she could take care of herself.
Since the VIP kidnap victims had returned apparently unharmed and unwilling to talk to police, and the missing branding victims seemed to be moving about freely, Maddux moved that case to the back burner and sent Fin and Munch off on an apparent rape-homicide on the west side. She listened to Stablers concerns and told him that, so long as nothing big hit he could spend his time looking for Benson. You find any evidence of foul play and you get all the resources you need, but I dont want to hit the panic button only to find out she met a new friend on Saturday night and overslept
Her room hadnt been slept in. Stabler woke up the night bartender but he didnt remember anyone matching Bensons description. He made the manager go through the receipts, nothing with Bensons credit cards, nothing charged to her room. He searched around the entrance to the hotel bar and found no signs of struggle. He got the list of places theyd been Saturday night from Shreiner and found Madame Pavlovas closed and locked tight with the shades drawn, he went around back and peered in the windows, but saw no sign of life. He asked at the next door shops and was told that it wasnt unusual for her to be closed on Mondays. He called the number in the window and got voicemail and left a message.
He called Munch and Fin, but they hadnt heard anything either. She was just gone.
Shreiner was patient but irritated. I understand, Elliot, but what do you want me to tell you? We interviewed the nutcases, Madame Pavwhatever talked her ear off but we got nothing. She was tired, she was gonna have a couple of beers or whatever and turn in. I dropped her off. I went home. I been going over it in my head, I dont remember getting any feeling that anybody was following us, nothing. I think of something, youll be the first to know.
And then Maddux was calling them into her office, where Catherine Lodge was sitting, looking a little tired but striking as ever.
Anything? Maddux asked Stabler, who shook his head. Okay, Ill put a word out to the uniforms to keep an eye out for her. Meanwhile if you dont have any leads I got a couple of court orders you might find interesting.
* * *
Stabler banged on the door and yelled Police, open up, and grinned when the short Latina appeared. He shoved the papers in her face, said, I have an arrest warrant for Alexander Lavelle Harris, and a court order to search the premises, open the door.
She took the papers and slammed the door shut in his face.
Stabler smiled and stepped back. He was ready this time, and he waved the uniforms with the battering ram forward. They took aim and swung and the door opened and the two cops on the ram fell forward in a heap at the girls feet, with two more cops tripping over them and adding to the pile. Stabler watched as the girl leaned down to help the first cop up but somehow managed to jam the battering ram into his knee and knock him down again.
Oops, the girl said and Stabler waited, he could hear Harris talking in the background, instructing someone to call a lawyer and say hi to someone named Clem, telling someone else to be cool.
Oops, the girl said again. Im so sorry, the floor IS slippery, isnt it? Careful. Oopsie.
Stabler looked past the pile-up, thought he saw movement down the hall.
Oh, I am sorry, the girl said. is this your gun? My, its big, and Stabler winced and watched the last of the fallen cops struggle to his feet and sheepishly accept the return of his sidearm.
And then Harris was making his way through the confusion in the hallway, giving the girl a pat on the back and grinning, coming to Stabler. Detective Keystone, I presume? and Stabler grabbed his unresisting shoulder and spun him around, pulled his arms behind his back and cuffed him, said,
Alexander Lavelle Harris, you are under arrest for the kidnapping and false imprisonment of Marybeth, Virginia and Michelle Gorton, you have the right to remain silent
He passed him over to Detective Shreiner for delivery to a patrol car for transport, turned and took a breath and went inside.
* * *
Your piece of paper allows you to search the building, you grotty little man. It does not give you right to bully children and I assure you your superiors, which I imagine includes most of the mammals in the Western Hemisphere, and not a few of the reptiles, will be hearing a detailed list of your petty brutalities
Goddamn Mary Poppins was beginning to really grind on Stablers last nerve. It was going to give him distinct pleasure to arrest her as an accessory as soon as they found the missing girls.
Thats all of them, sir, a uniform insisted. Weve been everywhere.
Stabler eyed the pictures Lodge had provided again, looked again at the girls sitting at the long dining room table, searching in vain for his targets. The girls were staring back at him like he was a mouse and they were cats. It was a little unnerving, after awhile. Wasnt anybody afraid of the police anymore?
Hed seen them at the pig roast, three freckled light skinned redheaded sisters, Marybeth, Virginia and Michelle. Not looking, Stabler had to admit to himself, all that kidnapped and imprisoned against their will.
There was no altar in the basement, just weight machines and a dojo. Perhaps a little over equipped with edged weapons, but nothing of the dark and damp dungeon the branding victims had described.
But if its all so innocent, where are the girls now? The little blonde girl was gone, too. The extremely tall black girl, at least two others, he thought, he would have to check his surveillance photos.
He set himself up in Harris office and had the girls brought in one by one. And they ignored his questions, sitting and staring silently at him with varying levels of hostility and boredom until he gave up, and waved for the next one.
Mary Poppins, who had graciously conceded to give him her name as Georgianne Travers, Ms. Travers to you, had sat down, asked him if she was under arrest and when he said no simply stood up and left.
He called Bensons cell, still no answer.
He considered his options. He had photos of the missing girls at the residence. He could arrest Travers and Leather Girl that was certainly tempting and maybe a couple of others for obstruction, they would lawyer up, at least it would cost them some money and some frustration, but he had very low hopes of flipping any of them.
Harris was the underage girls official guardian, with him under arrest he could bring in social services, have the girls pulled out of the home, appoint guardians ad litem who might be more cooperative
He decided that would wait, be something he could threaten Harris with. Yeah, he thought, it would be different this time, with Harris down at the precinct, well see if hes so cool and indifferent playing on Stablers home turf with kidnapping charges hanging over his head.
He conferred with the uniforms again. They had found no cameras, no recordings except commercial DVDs, no recording equipment, the only computers were two PCs in Harris office that demanded a password and Travers only laughed when theyd asked her. Well, the techies would sort that out.
Stabler wondered if theyd been tipped somehow, had known they were coming. Time to talk to Harris.
Hey, five-oh, it was Leather Girl, calling him as he started out the door, he turned back, bracing. Just so you know, she said, with a leer that would embarrass Larry Flynt. I inspected his body thoroughly this morning, Im gonna inspect it again when he comes home and if theres marks there that shouldnt be, Im holding you responsible.
Is that a threat?
Detective, you and I know I can break you like a twig, but I can be all weak and girly if I wanna, you really want to go to court and explain how some little girl shoved your gun up your ass? Stabler tried to laugh her off, but somewhere in his gut he had the feeling she wasnt speaking in metaphors, and his sphincter puckered just a little.
On his way back to the precinct Stabler called the hotel, he called her cell, he called Maddux. He called Munch and Fin. Still no sign of Benson. He told them hed arrested Harris.
You did WHAT? Munch said.
When he got back to the squadroom he called down to booking, asked the sergeant to have Harris brought to interrogation room two.
The sergeant said, Who?
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