And deliver us from evil, forever and ever, amen.
The chorus of amens echoed nicely in the chapel.
Go with God, my children, go in peace. Dismissed.
The slaves began filing out of the chapel. The Reverend continued to stand at the pulpit, watching them intently. That was one of the first things he learned as a kid on the streets: never turn your back on someone you dont trust. Despite the mild behavioral correction drugs he had his young workers hooked on, he still didnt trust any of them. Besides, he felt that his looming glare did as much to keep them in line as anything else.
He peered into the crowd, searching for one specific young girl Now where was she ? Ah, there. Young Miss Buffy Summers, wanted by the FBI and the Sunnydale police department, beautiful but dangerous, oh yes, she had a dangerous look about her. Obviously any teenager wanted by the federal government was someone to be careful with. At least she wasnt armed; the Reverend thought that she had probably gotten into trouble with guns or drugs, and he was very familiar with that situation. Not a user, though; her eyes were too sharp and focused.
The blonde girl disappeared into the night along with the rest of his flock. The Reverend relaxed slightly, his smile cold and dark. He closed the Bible on the pulpit and walked over to the side door leading to his chapel office. Opening the door, he was mildly surprised to see two vampires waiting for him.
Hell of a sermon, mate. Brought a tear to my eye, it did. Well, that may have just been from the dust in here, who can tell, eh? The blond-haired vampire with the British accent waved a hand in front of his face as if he was brushing something away. His luscious female companion was smiling sweetly. The Reverend never liked it when he saw that smile.
Dont you find it difficult to be standing inside a church? he asked, slightly annoyed.
If you were a holy man with good intentions, perhaps we would. But then again, those men are so rare these days. In fact, I dare say I havent met a real, honest-to-goodness holy man since I eviscerated a Cardinal back in the old country. Now that was a party, wasnt it, Drusilla?
We filled a bathtub with blood from every Catholic we could find. She smiled indulgently at her paramour. Took you forever to get the stains out of your hair.
The Reverend shook his head. Lovely. His voice was terse and quick. We were supposed to meet later on tonight. Why the change of plans?
The blond-haired vampire the Reverend knew as Spike raised his hands in supplication. Please forgive us, padre. We just wanted to confess our sins. Have you got a few decades to spare?
The mortal man moved around his desk and sat in his plush leather chair, one hand snaking down to the hidden cross. Are you done? We have business to conduct.
Spike sat down in the chair across from the false holy man and crossed his arms expectantly. Whos next? Pippi Longstocking?
The Reverend rummaged through his top drawer and pulled out a small folder with a picture clipped to the front. Her name is Rachel. Shes the last of the upstarts.
The last one? protested Drusilla. But we were just getting started
Well, there may be more. We have a new girl who might be trouble, but Id like to have some fun with her first.
Spike slapped his hands on the edge of the desk and, with apparent ease, pulled it towards him, creating a terrible screeching noise as the legs dragged on the wooden floor. Keep us in the loop, mate. You dont want to make Drusilla unhappy, do you?
The vampiress flashed that sweet smile at the Reverend again. Keeping control of this situation wasnt going to be easy, but how difficult could it be? These vampires looked young and ignorant, much like his teenage slaves. Dangle a few carrots in front of their pale faces, and stake them in the heart when youre done with them.
It would be my pleasure to keep that smile on her face.
* * *
I dont know if I like the looks of this, she whispered.
Rachel inched the window upwards, wincing at each squeak the plastic made against the wood. How else are we going to eat? Unless you planned on pursuing a modeling career.
Buffy looked down at herself. Why? You dont think Im too Kate Moss, do you?
Rachel smirked. When was the last time you had a strawberry danish? Or a cheesy poof?
The Slayer sighed. About the same time I could still pretend I had a life. Hows that window coming?
Rachel shoved it a little higher and nodded. Were good to go. She pulled herself up onto the sill and wriggled her way inside the kitchen. Buffy heard a muffled oof and assumed it was her turn. Once inside, she blinked a couple of times to get used to the darker environs.
Lights a bad idea? she asked, feeling her way along the counter.
Let me get to the fridge, replied Rachel, and we can use the light from that.
A couple of bangs and ouches later, the fridge door swung open, and the two girls huddled around the coolness and fluorescent brightness.
So, which of the four food groups do you want to attack first? asked Rachel. I got dibs on the fruits and vegetables.
Any meat in here? Buffy ducked down and rummaged around in the bottom tray.
An amused, familiar voice answered her question.
Theres meat, all right. Fresh and salty. I remember this fish shop on the Thames I went to once. The serving girl there was fresh and salty, too.
Buffy turned slowly, her eyes wide.
The vampire stepped back in surprise. Slayer? Oh, this is too much. Dru, baby, its an old friend come back to haunt us.
Drusilla emerged from the doorway and draped herself on Spike. Is it really the Slayer, Spike? Can we kill her?
Rachel grabbed a butcher knife from the counter. What is going on here? Who are you? She glanced at Buffy. You know these freaks?
The Slayer brought up her hands in the classic defensive posture. I know them all right. Rachel, Ill try to hold them off while you run for help.
The young girl shook her head and raised the knife. Uh-uh. Im tired of running. Lets take these weirdos.
Rachel, Buffy said urgently, please, get out of here. Theyre more dangerous than they look.
Spike held up a hand. Slayer, Slayer, if the girl wants to play, stop being the party-pooper. How about you and me relive the old days, eh?
You mean the days when I kicked your butt up and down the western seaboard?
Uh, well, not exactly. Spike lunged at her, and Buffy caught him by the arms, fell backwards, tucked into a roll and used her legs to toss him into the fridge. Before she could go after Spike, Drusilla caught her from behind and spun her around.
So pretty. Like one of my dolls. Drusilla punched Buffy in the face. I hate my dolls. The Slayer staggered back, and with a sixth sense, threw a roundhouse kick behind her, nailing Spike in the head. He fell down, crashing into Rachel, who shrieked and began stabbing the vampire with the knife.
Buffy turned, grabbed the edge of the counter and used it to swing upwards and kick Drusilla in the chest, knocking her back to the other end of the kitchen.
Rachel, you She stopped, staring. Spike was holding Rachels wrist, which was holding the knife. The blade was buried deep in his belly. His teeth were busy tearing out her throat. NO! she yelled, rushing the couple. Spike released Rachels wrist and brought up his hand in a fist, connecting with Buffys jaw. The Slayer lost her balance and fell to the floor, stunned.
Dont you know its impolite to interrupt someone while theyre eating? Spike licked up some of Rachels blood, and waved to his true love. Dru, come and get it while its still warm.
Drusilla came over and took the girl from Spikes arms. Ill take good care of her, I promise. She pulled the knife out of Spikes belly, and he groaned.
God, thats going to hurt in the morning.
Buffy got up, her face a mask of anger. I should have staked you when I had the chance.
Yeah, funny, isnt it? How you loved Angel, and hes dead; you hate me, and Im alive! Thats a riot, is what that is. Spike tried a forward kick, which she blocked, and returned one of her own. They exchanged punches and kicks for several seconds, neither one doing much damage. As they fought, they came closer and closer to the window. Finally, Buffy threw a punch that Spike caught, and using her momentum, swung her around and through the window. The sound of glass shattering echoed in the night, and she hit the ground outside with a loud thump. With tears stinging her eyes, the Slayer struggled to her feet.
Hold it right there!
Buffy blinked, and realized that three security guards were holding guns on her. She pointed to the window. Theyre in there! Shes going to die! She took two steps, and something hit her from behind.
Everything went black.
* * *
The first thing Buffy was aware of was the dampness. It seemed to surround her like a muddy blanket. The second thing she was aware of was the throbbing pain at the base of her skull. She groaned involuntarily. The third thing she was aware of was the utter darkness. She blinked a few times, waved her hand in front of her face, and saw nothing.
Well, if Im blind, at least I wont have to look at Principal Snyders ugly mug again.
She sat up and realized why she was so damp; she had been lying on a dirt floor. Quickly she felt around in all directions and found dirt walls on every side.
Great, Im in the Hole.
She scrambled to her feet, and the sudden movement made her dizzy enough to stumble into the wall. Buffy allowed the earth to support her body for a moment as she assessed her situation. The Hole was about six feet by six feet, with nothing but dirt for walls and a floor. She jumped up and felt nothing. She grimaced, crouched down, and really tried to jump up. Still nothing. So, it really was at least nine or ten feet deep. She scratched the wall with a fingernail, and little bits of dark earth crumbled down, but it felt fairly solid.
Maybe I can make some footholds and climb outta here.
A creaking noise above caught her attention, and she peered upwards. The door was being lifted up by a pale arm, but there was little light to seep in. Its still dark outside. Havent been out long.
Hey, Slayer! Wakey, wakey! Ive got a nice little present for ya! Spike waggled something in the dim light.
Unless its a stake with your name on it, Im not interested.
Spike chuckled. Gods alive, I do admire your spirit. Youd make a great vampire, if you werent so occupied with saving the world and such. Now, Slayer, if you get hungry, gnaw on this if you can. He laughed and tossed the object down the Hole, letting the door drop down to a close.
Buffy reached up and caught the object. To her horror, she realized that it was a human arm, and she threw it across her small prison. Gagging, she sank down to a crouch, wiping her hands frantically on her pants. Tears threatened to burst from her eyes, and she closed them tightly, rocking back and forth. God, oh god, Im so sorry, Rachel. Why didnt you run when I told you to?
The night dragged on.
* * *
What the Christ?!? exclaimed Jimmy as he entered the kitchen.
Hold on there, Sheriff, said Stan Faulder, holding up his hand. Stan was one of his two deputies, and was twice Jimmys age. Right now, he was crouched over by the fridge. Youre about to step in some of the red stuff.
Jimmy looked down and saw the sticky tendril of blood which was blocking his way. Stan, what the hell
Its not pretty, Jimmy. None of them have been, I guess.
The Sheriff stepped carefully over the blood and found himself with a clearer view of what Stan was crouched over. He idly wondered if he could step backwards and forget what he had just seen without any nasty nightmares. Yeah, right.
What happened to her, Stan? Jimmy drew closer, dropping to a crouch, tilting his head sideways for a better look.
Stan pointed to each of the items as he spoke. Throat ripped out, left arm torn off, and a deep belly wound, probably from the butcher knife on the counter behind you.
Jesus Christ in a sidecar. Uh, where is her left arm?
Stans blank look told him the answer.
Oh, man. Oh, man. You get the feeling this is gonna get worse before it gets better? asked Jimmy, nervously running a hand through his hair.
A booming voice made them both jump.
Sheriff! What have we here? The Reverend stood in the doorway, hands clasped above his navel, his eyes cold and stern.
Jimmy straightened and turned to face his erstwhile employer. Its another dead girl, Reverend. Shes He glanced back at the corpse and winced. just as bad as the others. Her left arm is missing. I guess our killers taken to collecting trophies now.
The Reverends gaze never wavered from its lock on Jimmys face. How unfortunate. Hopefully, the Lord will see fit to welcoming the girl into his good graces. Rachel was making such good progress, too. Well, such is the will of the Lord. Be a good boy and clean up the mess like the others. Go with God. And with that, the Reverend disappeared from the doorway.
Jimmy took a deep breath. I never told you who it was, Reverend. What arent you telling me? He nimbly leapt over the pool of blood and dashed into the hallway. Reverend!
The dark man stopped and turned his head slightly. Yes, Jimmy?
Who discovered the body?
Thats really none of your concern. Just take care of the remains, please.
Reverend, Im the Sheriff. That makes it my concern.
The Reverend sighed. Feeling a little self-important this morning, Mr. Branson? Very well. One of my security staff found her after investigating the broken window. Is your curiosity satisfied?
Reverend, I cant keep sweeping these things under the carpet. Somethings bound to poke through.
The dark man spun around and advanced on the younger man, looming over him like an avalanche at bay. Have you forgotten some simple facts of life, Jimmy? Have you forgotten the necessity of keeping my farm out of the range of prying eyes? Have you forgotten who gave you that badge?
The Reverends voice was sharp and icy. You will clean up this mess and ask no questions and you will smile like it is your most favorite thing in the world. How is your mother these days?
Shes Jimmys eyes widened. You wouldnt
Listen to me, Sheriff Branson. Everything here is under control. I have a feeling that young Rachel was the last victim of this mysterious killer, so why dont you run along and follow your orders, all right? Otherwise, well, who knows what sparks this killer to strike?
If anything happens to her, Ill be coming for you.
The Reverend chuckled. Brave words from a small man. Try not to get any blood on you. The stains are impossible to clean.
* * *
Buffy slumped against the earthen wall and wiped her brow. She hoped she wasnt smearing mud into her forehead, although that really wasnt her biggest concern. The severed arm, that concern was number one with a bullet. At least it was buried now after two straight hours of painful digging, destroying her nails in the process. The earth was so hard-packed that it was like trying to excavate stone with a Gummi Bear, but then again
I am a stubborn little Slayer, arent I?
She hoped the arm wasnt going to start smelling anytime soon. Her stomach rumbled. She guessed that part of the purpose of the Hole was to starve you into submission, and she had already been imprisoned for at least a day. At least, she thought it had been a whole day. Hard to tell with all this constant darkness going on around her.
I suppose this would be nice if I was a vampire. Well, probably not.
As she began catching her breath, she found her eyelids wanting to close. The adrenaline rush of fighting Spike had worn off long ago, and the only reason she was still awake was that she didnt want Rachels arm lying there taunting her any longer than necessary. Not being able to see it had really bothered her, too; when she had finished digging the grave, she had a horrible moment as she reached for the arm. Her mind had asked the question: are you grabbing the hand or the severed end? The answer to that question seemed vitally important, as the movie screen inside her head showed the fingers sinking into crusty, bloody flesh; locking around smooth, stubby bone. Finally she had compromised by using her left foot to pull the arm forward and identify which end was which. Even the touch of the cold, clammy skin was nearly enough to make her retch.
Her last thought before she fell asleep was: I hope the nightmares arent too bad.
* * *
On the way out, Sheriff Jimmy Branson stopped the car beside the security building. Well, building was too fancy a word for what basically amounted to a hut. Jimmy remembered climbing onto the roof and suntanning for hours on end back when he had been security. Now, there were a lot of guys he didnt know, outsiders that he guessed knew the Reverend in some way. These days, there was only one local left from when he had been working there, and Jimmy hoped that Billy Chatham knew something about what happened the night before.
Leaving Stan in the car, Jimmy got out and entered the hut. Inside were a couple of rough-looking boys by the window, with faded tattoos on their arms and a cold gleam to their eyes. Sitting at the lunchtable was Billy Chatham, staring at a jelly sandwich like it held the secrets to the universe. Jimmy sat down beside him.
Hey, Billy, how you doin?
Chatham started, and looked up. His eyes narrowed. Sheriff Branson. Caught any serial killers lately?
The two roughies chuckled.
Im tryin to, Billy. Know anything about last night?
Whats it to you? The Reverend let some lead out on that leash or what?
Jimmy flushed as the roughies chuckled some more. He got up and grabbed Billy by the arm. Come on outside, Billy. We need to talk somewhere more private.
Hey, watch that arm, I only got two of em.
Jimmy pulled and dragged Billy out of the hut until they were a safe distance from prying ears.
Whats wrong with you, Billy? Why you busting my cojones?
Billy glanced back at the hut and gave Jimmy a sheepish look. Sorry, man, Im just trying to fit in better, you know? They, uh, well, they dont respect you much.
The Sheriff shook his head. Youre trying to win the favor of a bunch of hard-asses and criminals. Why dont you quit, man? I can find you a job somewhere else.
What do you mean, quit? What about you, hoss? The Reverend talks, you walk.
Listen, I dont have time for this. I know the Reverends holding out on me on this killing spree, and Im trying to figure out what. Now, what do you know?
Billy checked the hut; it was silent. Well, I tell you one thing the Reverend was there last night before any of us were. And there were a couple others with him, too. He was herding them out the back when we got there.
Jimmy put his hand over his face, rubbing his forehead. Lies and more lies. Who were these two people? Maybe the better question was what were these two people. Wait a minute
Why was the window broken?
You dont ? Billy swallowed. There was two girls in there, Jimmy. One got out through the window.
What? Are you kidding me?
Nah, man, she flew through the window just as we were coming round the house. It was that new girl, the blonde. Roy Depape, he clocked her in the back of the head when she tried to go back in.
The world seemed to swim in and out of focus. Buffy? She almost died? And she wanted to go back inside? Who was this girl? Where is she now?
Billy shuffled his feet. Well, the Reverend had us take her to the Hole.
I dont know, man, ask him. Now, listen, Ive told you more than enough. Can I go now? Those boys are gonna give me a hard time for talkin to you in the first place.
Jimmy waved him away, distracted. Yeah, go. Thanks, Billy.
What the Christ is going on here?
What does the Reverend have to do with it?
* * *
He sat in a wicker chair on the main balcony overlooking the farm, watching Jimmy and Billy have an animated conversation by the front gate. The King James version of the Bible sat open in his lap, unread. The sun beat down like a hammer, but he ignored the heat. There was a storm coming, he could feel it. He sighed, settling into the chair. Billy left the conversation in an abrupt fashion, walking stiffly back to the security building.
Hes going to have to die.
Jimmy kept standing there for several seconds, obviously thinking hard. Finally the young man looked towards the house, and it pleased the Reverend to surmise that the Sheriff had noticed him watching from the balcony.
Hes going to have to die, too.
Too bad, really; young Jimmy had been so pliable, so obedient. He doubted that any of his recent security hires would do the job as well as Jimmy Branson at least from the Reverends point of view. But Jimmy knew too much now, or he knew enough to realize that he wasnt in the loop. Either way, he was a dangerous element. The Lord shall provide, and He did provide the two wandering vampires to take care of his discipline problem. The question was, how long should he allow those two access to his flock? He hoped his experience with the dark arts was enough to maintain his advantage.
* * *
Dru? What is it, luv?
His girlfriend was lying flat on her back, stretched out on a pool table, writhing to music that only she could hear. She was staring at the basements ceiling, which was crisscrossed with pipes and wooden beams. Spike watched her with a keen eye, although he allowed himself to appreciate the comfortable sofa on which he was relaxing. He remembered the first morning they had arrived here, and Drusilla had picked this house seemingly at random. Sure, the retired couple that had lived here had been closer to dead than alive, but blood was blood, right? And this cellar was one sweet deal, with thick curtains on the windows, nice furnishings, and wall-to-wall shag carpeting that had earned its name over the last couple of weeks.
I see something
What do you see, Dru?
I see clouds. Theyre angry and dark. And lightning, Spike, lightning to blind your eyes and thunderclaps to deafen your ears.
So a storms coming, then?
Yes, a storm, a storm that spins round and round and round
Spins round a tornado! Spike grinned. This is our perfect excuse for taking our liberties with the boys and girls at the farm.
Drusilla sat up and beckoned him over. And the perfect cover for our getaway.
Spike kissed her. I love you, pet.
She kissed him back. I love you more.
Previous Part Next Part