Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 15: Xander and Olivia get intimate
Benson heard footsteps and hurried to slip her hands into the shackles and sag against the wall, hoping whatever was coming wouldnt notice she was loose.
The cell door opened and the potatohead Thing came in carrying a body which it took and locked to the wall in the shackles that had held Madame Pavlova. The Thing stepped back and Benson started with surprise when she saw the disfigured face and realized it was Harris with his eye patch askew. What in the hell is he doing here? she thought.
What in the hell am I doing here? she thought.
And then Mather came in with Detective Shreiner trailing meekly behind and it was all Benson could do to restrain her rage. Mather crossed over to Harris, reached up and waved something under his nose and Harris coughed, snorted and shook his head, blinked awake and straightened, taking his weight back off his wrists and onto his feet. He looked at Mather for a moment, then around at his surroundings.
Ah, crap, he said, not again.
Mr. Harris, please, allow me, Mather said, reaching up to adjust the eyepatch. Such an ugly wound.
And you would be Mr. Mark of Saqaliba. He looked over at Detective Shreiner, added, Hes one of yours, is he? Can I just say, ewww, with a side of gross?
To achieve greatness, Mr. Harris, one must make certain sacrifices. Im sure the pleasure of having a Slayer or two on my altar will wash it clean of any less pleasing memories.
Yeah, like thatll happen.
Benson couldnt help herself, she raised her head and stared. Harris was laughing.
Yes, Mr. Harris, it will, Mather said.
Ah, Harris said, quite mad, I see. I suppose offering you a chance to surrender now would be pointless? We might let you live if Willow can bind your powers
Spare me the repartee Mr. Harris.
I rep you no partee, my friend. You know how this ends, you make big plans and get all threat-happy and doom-talking, and then the Slayer kicks ass, you RIP and we party. Same old, same old. Or we could skip all that, you surrender and we go for pizza. Itd be different. You could really break the mold here.
No, Mr. Harris. That was then. This is now and youve grown soft. Buffy Summers is retired and the Red Witch is a navel-gazing flower child, Rupert Giles is a petty bureaucrat, and Xander Harris has grown weak and sentimental, den mother to a group of lazy children who hunt in packs, dusting fledglings and beheading the occasional careless demon and who have no stomach for a real war. When was the last time you sent a Slayer into real danger, Harris? I am no madman threatening apocalypse, I dont want to destroy the world. I just want my piece of it.
Its one thing to risk death when the alternative is, well, dying. All out war to save the world, sure. Are you willing to die to save Cleveland, Harris? How many Slayers will you sacrifice for a bit of real estate? What will your little girls give up to have you back? There will be talk of surrender soon enough, Xander Heart of the Scoobies Harris, but the terms will be mine.
Mather turned and started toward the door and stopped, said, Oops, I almost forgot. Bwa-ha-ha-ha, he laughed. How was that, Detective?
He came toward Benson, reached out and caressed her cheek and she thought, now, maybe I should attack him now But Shreiner was just there and armed and the potatohead Thing was by the door and she simply stood and took it, Mather spoke, said, Im afraid Detective Shreiner may have exposed himself a bit too much this time, but Im sure youll make an able replacement. I have a few details to attend to. But Ill be back soon, Detective, I have eaten well and rested and we have much to do together.
And then Mather was gone and the cell door shut and bolted and she looked over at Harris who was clearly waiting for the skeeved out shuddering to leave her shoulders. And when it did and she relaxed, a little, he grinned. So, Detective, he said, you come here often?
* * *
Georgianne stood by the door, watching for five minutes after the cops left, all but one car parked across the road.
Okay, Vi, she said, go tell the girls they can come out of Clems Room now, but lets leave the weapons there for the moment. She raised her voice loud enough for Slayer ears throughout the building. Everybody take five minutes to see if anything is missing or if any of your private cabinets have been breached, then meet in the dining room, please.
She found Faith downstairs doing what she thought she recognized as a tai chi form not usually performed at such supersonic speeds. She waited a moment, then spoke softly: Faith, and watched as the Slayer slowly eased to a stop like a big jet coming in for a landing. Isnt that form supposed to take, say, forty minutes?
Yeah. Heard that, Faith said, her voice husky. Never really worked for me. She turned and Georgianne was startled to see the tears welling in her eyes, the tremble in her hands.
Hell be okay, Georgianne said. Well get him back.
I know. I just cant stand seeing He shouldnt be in cuffs, I had to just stand there and let that bastard
I know. Xander said be cool, Ill be cool. Go on. Gimme a minute and Ill go check my shit and join the meeting
Okay, Georgianne said and started up the steps.
Faith called after her, George ?
If something happens to him, dont try to stop me, okay? You just keep the girls out of the way, okay, dont let them try either. Cause if something happens to him Im not gonna be cool. At all.
Faith, Georgianne said, if something happens to him well all be there right behind you.
She hesitated for a moment, then strode forward and stood at the head of the table, Xanders place, took a quick headcount, nodded.
Okay, first off, she said, I want to say well done to Caridad for her excellent work in the hallway, which was very effective and damned funny. And well done to all of you to taking advantage of the time provided and following the drill perfectly. And especially well done on keeping your tempers and keeping your cool with the police, I know that was very difficult and I know youve made Xander proud.
On that note, I want to assure that the Councils local attorney has been notified and is on his way to meet Xander as we speak, Xander will be fine and back with us shortly, I am sure. Now, she held up the papers Stabler had shoved in Caridads face, these are the court orders. They were signed by Judge Winters who was one of those abducted by the sorcerer we are looking for and is almost certainly under his control. That means that, as unpleasant as the police
Those grotty little men one of the Slayers interrupted, with spot-on mimicry of Georgiannes voice in high dudgeon, and there was laughter round the table. Georgianne tried to act annoyed but knew that this was probably the first moment she was truly accepted into the group, and it was all she could do to hide her pleasure.
as unpleasant as the police may be, they are only tools. This was an attack from a very clever magical opponent and we must prepare ourselves for a real battle
Later after the meeting she was sitting with MaryBeth and her sisters. None of this is your fault, you know that, right? They would just have found some other reason when Caridad came and called her to the phone in the office.
What?! Georgianne said.
What is it? Faith asked from the doorway.
Xanders disappeared. According to the lawyer, he never showed at the precinct, and the cops say they dont know where he is.
* * *
Like most cases, Fin and Munchs rape/murder had been simple, the perp was an animal who bragged to his buddies that hed finally killed the bitch, still had the knife in his pocket and seemed outraged that anyone would care that the woman was dead. After the night at the demon bars it was a little disconcerting to be faced again with plain old human evil. Disconcerting, but not at all unfamiliar.
They brought the perp in for booking and found the place in an uproar, they could hear Stabler and Maddux going at it.
Ive known Ed Shreiner for twenty years, Maddux was yelling. Whatever happened, he didnt do this!
He was the last one to see both Olivia and Harris and theyre both gone and hes missing and whatever the hell is happening hes right in the middle of it! Stabler was yelling back. I want to see his goddamn file!
And Fin saw Munch answer his cell and, if it was possible, go even paler than normal.
What? Fin asked.
That was Faith, Munch answered.
Whatd she say?
She said, and I quote, Dont make me come down there.
They both contemplated the concept for a moment. And shuddered.
* * *
So, Detective, Harris said, you got your hands free, didnt you?
She stared back at him, unsure.
Detective, youre fucked, and, Im sorry to say, literally in a little while. What do you possibly have to lose by trusting me?
It was a point. She slid her hands free and came to stand in front of him. Who the hell are you? she asked.
Short story, youre a cop, you do sex crimes. I do supernatural crimes.
Yep, Mather is a sorcerer, that other cop is under a spell so dont be too pissed at him, he cant help himself. That thing with him was a demon. Now, Im afraid we may well have time to play twenty thousand questions later but first, being a cop and all, you wouldnt happen to picked up a few useful skills, like say, lock picking?
She had to lean up against him to look at the lock, knew he could smell the fear on her, feel her trembling.
Its gonna be okay, Detective, he said. The great wizard doesnt want you dead, and youve got twenty-five pissed-off superheroes on your side now.
You did notice that the girls are a little unusual. I mean, I understand why you didnt just go, wow, Slayer, but you did notice some things, right?
Yes but but theyre just girls. Even that woman who threw us down the steps, shes just a little
Faith was very, very gentle with you guys, trust me. No good on the locks?
She shook her head. Carefully, a little afraid it would fall off. This was just unreal. But she felt better, somehow. He was so calm.
Okay, he said, tell me.
He stood calmly and listened as she went into testimony mode and recited everything shed seen and heard since shed woken up in the dungeon.
Okay, he said. Not so bad. We got four P-head demons
The things with the heads like a sack of potatoes? She nodded. They have a name, of course, but its unpronounceable, sounds like a Russian politician choking on a pickle, so we call them P-heads, short for potato-head for one thing and, well, well come back to the other reason in a bit. We got two members of Fyarl clan and a quarshink, better known as your lesser purple-headed dogface demon, ugly as hell, but basically a big pussy. We got one bespelled detective, two bespelled girls and a vamp. Not bad.
You must be joking.
Out of all this, its the vampire you have trouble with? Interesting. But later. Now, I told you help is on the way, and it is, but itd be way cooler if we escape on our own, right?
So, were not totally helpless here. We got that water bottle You got a first name, Detective?
And Im Xander, we might as well be informal here cause well, I told you theres another reason we call them P-heads. Now, that water bottle will make a decent delivery system, but we have to load the weapon and while I can avert my eyes like a gentleman while you make your contribution, I, he rattled his chains that were holding his hands above his head, am going to need a little help hitting the target.
What the fuck are you talking about? she nearly shouted.
He grinned, said, I have a cunning plan.
* * *
Elliot, Fin said. Come with us. We need to talk.
* * *
Mather watched Robert OHare, CEO of Achmei Inc, largest employer in the greater Cleveland metro area, shoot his son a puzzled look, then glower across the table at his host in disbelief.
Mather smiled. He had chosen his Dr. Strange outfit, the one with the especially high collar, for this meeting just to tweak the pompous bastard.
OHare turned to his son, said, You want me to go into business with a man wearing a tights and a cape?
Yessir, Thomas OHare answered, because he couldnt help himself.
All right, Mather, my son says you have something to show me. Show me.
Certainly. Lets start with the stick, shall we?
He had Thomas sing the teapot song. He had him drive a knife though his hand.
I can have him put it through his throat, Mather said. Or yours, and when he saw the belief in the old mans eyes, he brought the demons in.
Mather congratulated himself on judging his man right. OHare had to touch them, smell them, see them move, hear them talk, but he took it in. He had to sit still a while and nurse a scotch, and adjust his view of the world, but he did it. He was a practical man. Seeing was believing.
Mather told him of the Hellmouth. He would have to take that on faith.
Are you ready for the carrot? Mather asked. He led the two men down the hall, and after a dramatic pause, threw wide the doors of the model room, where the meticulous miniature of his long dreamed of future Cleveland covered half the floor, under glass so you would walk over and look down like a god. Mather couldnt resist, he said, If you build it they will come.
What is it, OHare said, some kind of demon theme park?
And Mather nearly killed him.
No! he shouted, then calmed. No, there are two of those already and one is going bankrupt. No, this the first Free Demon State, sovereign unto itself where the laws of Man will have no bearing and the beasts will walk free and unafraid. No more cowering in the sewers except of course for those that like that sort of thing. There will be streets covered in eternal night, and stadiums covered in necrotempered glass so the vampire nation can watch gladiators in the morning and baseball in the afternoon.
And how are you going to pay for this?
Gold, mostly, gems, precious metals. Bearer bonds. And banking, of course, tax havens, money laundering, Id like to see the FBI accountant who dares subpoena records from the First State Bank of Demonia. Also gambling and, of course, the tourist trade.
Yes, Mather thought, I can see the wheels working, hes hooked, Ive got my man, hes only resisting to save face. Almost time for the lawyers.
Why me? OHare asked.
Details, Mather said. I need someone to handle the details. You already have the people and the places. Somebodys got to take out the bodies and other garbage. Somebody has to serve the roasted kittens and pour the yak bile. You handle the details and you get richer, fight me and you and your son die. Any other questions?
Why here, in the States where you know theyre going fight you? Why not someplace like Sierra Leone or some island somewhere?
The Hellmouth is here. And once the Slayers are gone, the demons will come like piranha to bleeding meat. I already have some things in place, the tunnels that extend off the subway, caverns ready to accommodate paying tenants. I have interests in a number of demon bars and other real estate. They will come and they will pay and we will grow until we are strong enough to throw back the shadows and the secrecies and declare ourselves independent and free. What part of that dont you understand?
About all of it, OHare answered, but that doesnt really matter does it?
No. Now, if youll excuse me, there are a few details only I can attend to. If you have any more questions there are men and other things down the hall. Its good to be in business with you, Mr. OHare. And Mather wrapped himself in his cape and stepped into his elevator and went down to deal with his detectives.
* * *
It was a mistake, Munch thought, glancing at the rearview mirror and watching Stabler in the back seat, looking like a kernel of popcorn in hot oil. We shouldnt have told him. Its bad enough now that he just thinks were crazy. When the shit actually hits him, hes going to pop.
But Benson is his partner, we had to bring him in.
So, what the hell are we doing now? Stabler demanded.
Waiting for Faith, shes meeting us here
This is stupid, we should be at Shreiners place and then Faith, two other girls and the man in the three-piece suit appeared in the air a couple of feet above the cars hood and the girls landed like cats and the man hit the hood like a sack of wet sand and immediately bounced up and began with the, Pardon, pardon, pardon, until Faith told him to shut up.
The detectives got out of the car. Fin, Munch, she said, glanced at Stabler, whats he doing here?
Bensons missing. Shreiner was the last one with her, just like with Harris. Elliots her partner.
Okay, but keep him on short fucking leash, and you understand, anything happens to Xander and hes dead.
Faith, it wasnt us, the warrant came through the ADAs office, he was just carrying out the order
I get that. Im just sayin, Xander gets dead and Im not gonna care. Now, why are we here? You figure Madame Pavlova really does know all?
We figure maybe she told Benson something that forced Shreiner to shut her up.
Okay, lets have a look. Faith sent the other two Slayers around behind the building and bounded up to the front door and knocked and listened for a moment, then shoved the locked door inwards with a crack of splitting wood. She pulled a dagger out of thin air and went inside.
What the hell are we doing just
Just let it go Elliot, Fin said. Think of them like Delta Force or something and just stay the hell out of their way.
Then Faith was back outside waving for Thiago to enter, and they all followed him inside. Wait please, he said, and Faith and the detectives stopped and watched as he pulled first one leg up and then the other and sat hovering in mid-air with his hands extended and his eyes closed. And then he matter-of-factly dropped his feet and stood again, said, Ovids petals.
Which is Faith asked.
Mystical knockout powder, get a handful in the face and instant sweet dreams. Literally. If you are going to kidnap someone, thats about the nicest way to do it. And she was, Im afraid. Taken. And she is a woman of no small power, if he has her under control .
Bad. Very bad.
Munch and Fin began looking through the papers on Madame Pavlovas desk in the next room, Stabler stood leaning against the wall and occasionally shaking his head. Faith answered her phone, it was Caridad with a crack in her voice. Faith, a courier came with a package. Its its Xanders cane, its broken. And theres a note.
Read it. She listened.
She called to Munch, told him, You find Shreiner, you call me, yah? Thiago, she said, we gotta go.
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