Buffys Lost Summer
Part 1Sometimes, thought Buffy Summers, a burgers all good.
She opened her mouth wide and took a huge bite out of her cheeseburger. Ketchup dripped out from the opposite side, landing on the greasy fries. She chewed slowly, savoring the juiciness of the meat.
The American diner is a treasure best appreciated by very hungry people.
It had been three days since something even resembling a meal had invaded her belly, and her hunger made her stomach feel like a steam engine, aching to be stoked with fuel. Three days of walking, walking, and hey, more walking. And what was the deal with all these mountains? She could have sworn that the Rockies looked a lot smaller on the map.
At least she was closer to Las Vegas. Just one state over, and Wait a minute. Wasnt there a desert between her and Vegas?
Oh, thatll be good for the skin. Dry, knee-buckling heat. So glad I picked summer to travel the country.
She brought up the burger to her mouth again, and as she took another bite, she was aware that somebody had sat down across from her in the booth. Buffy lowered the warm sandwich to find that two FBI agents, Starkey and Jameson, had joined her.
Well, Miss Summers, how nice to see you again. Starkey stole a french fry.
The Slayer, tensing, put the burger on the plate and wiped her mouth with a napkin. Yes, if by nice, you mean, terrible.
Now, Buffy, began Jameson, dont make this harder than it has to be, okay? No need to make a scene.
She barked out a bitter laugh. Yeah, my biggest concern right now is embarrassing myself in front of strangers. God, this isnt fair. So close, and now this happens. When did my luck go AWOL, anyway?
Starkey leaned back against the seat, stretching his arms over his head. You gave us quite a chase, but the running is over, young lady. Our backup should be here in a few minutes, so lets just enjoy these quiet moments while they last.
She arched one eyebrow at them. Listen, Thompson Twins, this is how its gonna work. Im going to finish my burger and She slapped Starkeys hand, which was reaching for another french fry. my fries, and then Im going to walk out of here by myself. You can stay, or you can go, but youre not going to stop me from doing what it is I have to do. She grabbed a handful of fries and started munching on them. Her other hand reached for her burger, but Jamesons hand came out to stop her.
Just what is it that you think you need to do?
She shook off his grip easily and took her sandwich. None of your business, despite your Terminator-like efforts to the contrary.
Well, Miss Summers, said Starkey, Ive got a gun and a badge that says that youre leaving this diner with us.
She shook her head, chuckling. You men, always thinking with your well, you know. She blushed. Whatever happened to sweet talk? A little romance? Do you need that gun and badge for dating, too? I can just see it now: Hey, baby, give me a kiss or Ill pump you full of lead.
Buffy, there are two ways out of here. Starkey smiled grimly. On your feet, or on a stretcher. Its your choice.
Come on, Buffy, no fuss, no muss, right? Jamesons smile was a little less ghastly.
She finished the last of her fries and licked her lips. No fuss, no muss? What is this, good cop, bad cop? Which one of you is Sipowicz? She grabbed her bag, threw a ten-spot on the table, and wiggled her way out of the booth. Im leaving now. Youre not stopping me. Believe me, it will hurt a lot less if you dont test me on this.
The two FBI agents were exiting the booth as she turned to leave, and thats when chaos entered the Fullerton Diner.
* * *
Turn left right here. Xanders head was buried in a map.
Uh, Xander? called Oz.
Yeah, Wizard of Oz-mania?
There is no left right here. There isnt even a right right here. Were pretty much locked in on straight, actually.
Huh? Xander poked his head out to check out the view. The road was conspicuously lacking in intersections. Oh. Well, maybe its over the next hill or something.
You mean the next hill thats twenty miles away? scoffed Cordelia. Their surroundings were conspicuously lacking in hills. The land was arid, with scattered shrubbery and soil that looked like it was ready to turn Sahara at any moment. Las Vegas was only a hundred miles away. Xander, have you forgotten which way is north again?
Gee, maybe your reverse magnetism is screwing up the compass. Perhaps youd like to navigate? All those hours you spent in the back seats of cars must have given you some experience in telling which way is up. He tossed the map at her.
I say we follow the sounds of slot machines and Wayne Newton songs, said Oz laconically. Plus the glow of all that neon must be a big tip-off.
Cordelia wasnt finished. Xander, didnt you learn how to read maps in Dork School?
No, Cordy, it was pretty much just about being a dork.
Embrace the dork within, said Oz.
What, now you too, Oz? This is harsh. First the cheerleader from hell assaults my ego; now Ive got Wolfman Jack on my ass.
They all turned back to see Willows irritated look.
Thats all I ever hear from you guys these days. Waah-waah-this. Waah-waah-that. How about focusing on finding Buffy? You remember her, right? Shes the one were looking for.
Yeah, well, she sure doesnt seem like someone who wants to be found, said Cordelia. More like someone who wants to stay lost.
How can you say that? asked Willow, outraged. Shes just confused and scared. Her hearts in the right place. Or at least it will be.
Sure, replied Cordelia, and while were off on our little summer vacation, how many people have died in Sunnydale because Buffy wasnt there to save them? The vamps probably have an assembly line set up by now. Which, admittedly, might thin out my competition for the squad this fall, but hey, thats the breaks, right?
Once again, Cordelia Chases bid for sainthood crashes and burns in spectacular fashion. Xander rotated the map, scratching his head. He pointed to a dark line and asked Oz, Is this where we are?
Oz peered through the windshield and shook his head. Not unless the Grand Canyon got really flat recently.
Look, Cordelia, said Willow, her face tight with anger, Buffy needs our help, and if you dont want to be part of the team, well, theres the door. Dont let your fat butt stop you from squeezing through it.
Fat butt?!? I guess if you compare it to someone who has no butt at all, like you, then it would seem fat.
Before Cordelia and Willow could throw themselves at each other, Giles poked his head out from the curtained rear of the van, his headphones dangling from one hand.
Everybody, I think I found her.
They all stopped to stare, except Oz, who wisely continued to drive the van.
Theres a hostage situation in a town called Fullerton, and the man is apparently raving about seeing demons everywhere.
Demons, said Xander.
Demons plus emergency equals started Cordelia.
Buffy, finished Willow.
Xander, wheres Fullerton? Cordelia looked over his shoulder. Willow looked over his other shoulder.
He spread out the map. Well, if were here, then Fullerton is over there. About forty miles away.
Looks right to me, said Willow. Dont you think so, Cordelia?
The brunette nodded. Yep. Lets do it! Oz, step on it!
Consider it stepped on.
* * *
Guns are awful things. To start off with, theyre loud. You hear guns fired in movies and television shows, but its difficult to appreciate the whipcrack of decibels that assault your eardrums at close range through mere audio speakers. Then you have to consider the damage the bullets can do to the human body. Often the exit wound is more devastating than the entry wound, and even a surface wound burns like a hot coal pressed against your skin.
When Buffy kills vampires with stakes to the heart, her prey explodes in a cloud of dust, and while that can be a disgusting mess if it gets in your hair, at least you can brush it off.
Blood, though Everybody says blood is the hardest stain to remove.
Buffy had been in combat situations before, with life and death consequences. The difference here was that she wasnt in control of her own fate. She had no weapons, and no defense against a gun. So even as the wild-eyed man at the counter brought his gun up against the waitress head and pulled the trigger, she found time had slowed to a crawl, and she was merely an observer to the events that unfolded.
The waitress snapped backwards, crashing against the back wall of the diner. Her legs gave out immediately, and she pulled a tray of dishes down with her to the floor. Blood ran down the wallpaper.
Behind Buffy, Starkey was the first to pull out his gun, and since the Slayer was in his firing range, he pushed her down, yelling, Everybody down!
The killer turned with terrifying speed, his gun swiveling to meet this new threat. Even as Buffy stumbled forward, her hands splayed out in front of her to check her fall, she watched the gun fire, and heard the sickening sound of a bullet striking flesh and bone. She hit the floor and turned her head to see Starkey tumble backwards, a large red stain spreading on his right shoulder. Jameson was still in the booth, but his gun was out, and it was pointed at the killer.
Put the gun down, yelled the FBI agent. Youre covered!
No, I dont think so. The killer didnt smile, but his tone sounded slightly amused. One of us is wearing a bulletproof vest, and it isnt you.
Theres no way outta here, pal. Put the gun down, and youll leave this place alive. Jamesons gaze and voice never wavered.
Buffy rolled onto her side and peeked up at the killer before checking out Starkey. He was alive, but his face was white, and it was obvious that it was all he could do not to start screaming with pain. Buffy could only guess how bad it was underneath his body. Without thought, she reached into her bag, pulled out a shirt, and crawled over to the fallen agent.
I dont want to shoot you, man. The waitress I killed because she wasnt one of us. Dont make me kill a fellow human. The killer ducked down out of Jamesons view, and the agent scrambled up onto the table, where he could now see his target pressing the barrel of his gun against the side of a young boys head.
This is going to end really badly for you if you dont surrender your weapon. Jameson risked a quick glance at his partner and winced. It didnt look good.
The killer stood up, bringing the boy and the gun with him. Youve got five seconds to drop your gun. One. Two.
Jameson laid his gun carefully on the table. Okay, guy. You win.
The killer let the boy go, and pointed his firearm at the FBI agent. All right. Come over here, to the cash register.
As Jameson made his way across the diner, Buffy quickly folded her shirt and pressed it against Starkeys shoulder. He groaned. Shush, now, whispered the Slayer. I need to see the other side. She poked lightly at the top of his shoulder. The agent nodded, and grimaced. Straddling him, Buffy took him by the neck and pulled him up to a semi-sitting position. Blood soaked the back of Starkeys suit-jacket, but the bullet hole wasnt any larger than a dime. A few feet away, two middle-aged men were huddled on the floor underneath their table, and one of them offered Buffy his napkin. She pressed it against his exit wound, and lowered Starkey back to the floor.
Now lie quietly for a minute while I figure out whats going on, she whispered. The agent nodded.
Jameson came to the cash register and stopped. The killer was ten feet away. So, what are you, a cop? A Fed?
FBI, replied Jameson.
Was that your partner I shot?
Im afraid so.
Well, you should thank me. Your partner isnt human. Hes a demon.
* * *
Outside the diner, a nine-year old girl named Amy, walking home from her friends house, heard all the commotion in the diner, and decided she wanted to investigate. Besides, she had five bucks in her pocket, and she could always use an ice cream sundae.
* * *
Buffy checked Starkeys eyes, which seemed pretty bright, but alert. Then she got herself into a crouch, so she could get a viewing angle on the situation at the cash register.
A demon, said Jameson without inflection.
Thats right, FBI-man. Theyre everywhere. I think theyre trying to take over the world or something. The waitress was a demon, my landlord was a demon, the kid who bagged my groceries last week was a demon. But youre a Fed, you probably know all this.
All I know right now is that there are a bunch of scared people in this diner who would like to leave. If theyre not demons, then let them go.
What do you think I am, stupid? When your demon buddies get here, the first thing theyre gonna do is shoot me full of holes. I need hostages, man. But I dont need you. You can leave.
Not without my partner. Hes dying on that floor over there.
The killer laughed. Hes a demon, numb-nuts. I shouldve smoked him in the head, thats the only way to make sure theyre dead. You leave, or Ill kill you. I should kill you anyway for being a traitor to our species. The gun raised up to Jamesons eye level.
Just then, the door opened.
The killers eyes flicked to the little girl, and he yelled, Shes a demon! The barrel of the gun dropped down to a lower angle. A woman screamed, and as the killer squeezed the trigger, Buffy came flying past the doorway, enveloping the girl in her arms, and they slid several feet across the floor. The bullet whined off the pavement just outside the entrance. The gun came back to center on Jameson, who had remained still with shock during those three seconds.
You see how serious I am, federale?
That that was a little
Demon, I know. Now when your buddies arrive, Ill let everybody know what I want. So out!
Jameson backed away, moving quickly towards the door. Several dozen eyes watched him leave the diner with no small amount of envy.
* * *
Are you all right? asked Buffy softly. The Slayer was still covering the little girl with her body.
Whats your name?
Okay, Amy Buffy turned her head and realized the killer was standing over them with his gun poised to strike like a rattlesnake.
My, but were acrobatic. Too bad you wasted all that energy to protect a monster.
Buffys face hardened. Are you going to shoot me?
The killer shrugged, then replied, Not unless I have to.
Then it would be so helpful to my state of mind if you could not point that thing at me.
The demons got to go, honey.
Buffy stared at this man, who seemed to be in his thirties, tallish, with short black hair, and eyes that looked like theyd been open a long time. How big of a threat could a little girl demon be, anyway? What is she going to do, beat you with a Barbie doll?
Little girl demons grow up to be big girl demons. Its called the circle of life. Look into it.
How about this: Ill keep an eye on her, and if she suddenly has a growth spurt, Ill let you know.
The killer said nothing for a long moment, studying the Slayer. Finally, he said, All right. She could be a valuable hostage, I guess. But if she causes trouble, its your ass, blondie.
Its Buffy, actually.
Okay, blondie. Since I did you a favor, now I need you to do me a favor. Id like you to close all the blinds on the windows, so they cant see in here. You dont need to do any backflips or somersaults for that.
He backed up, moving to his original position next to the counter. He surveyed his temporary kingdom. As Buffy went to each window, she also snuck a few peeks at the situation.
Booths along the front windows, tables in the middle, counter along the back, one door to the kitchen on the north side behind the counter, bathrooms on the south side, about twenty people inside the diner. She noted that from where the killer was hanging out, his only weakness to attack was from the bathrooms; he could easily see the kitchen door and the front door. I wonder how big the windows are in the bathrooms. If there are even windows at all.
She finished making the circuit and returned to the cash register, where the killer was waiting.
All right, people, listen up! Im not going to kill any humans unless I have no choice. Be aware that I am not flexible on this point; Ive used up all the mercy I was going to give. In five minutes or less, the local authorities will arrive, and within the hour, the State Police. Maybe even the good old FBI. Believe me when I say that they will use any means necessary to kill me, and I think they would sacrifice any of you to get to me. He chuckled. I guess were going to find out. Now, Im not insensitive. If anybody needs to use the bathroom, ask, and I shall grant your wish. But nobody leaves until this is over. You try to leave, and Ill kill you and an extra person just cause. If you do manage to sneak out on me, Ill kill someone else in this room. Simple, huh? Oh, and dont try the heroic tackle of the hostage-taker. That would just embarrass us both. Any questions?
Throughout his speech, Buffy had observed him carefully. Did he seem crazy? Well, he seemed really full of himself, and she was already certain about his ruthlessness. He didnt sound crazy, and for the first time that afternoon, Buffy wondered if he could be telling the truth.
Yeah, said the Slayer. Whats your name?
Its Luke Brody. By nightfall, every demon in the countrys going to know that name. Know that name and fear it.
Like humans fear the name Pauly Shore?
He cocked his head sideways. Youve got quite the pert tongue for a girl with a gun pointed at her.
She shrugged, locking her eyes with his. I do what I have to do without a gun. I dont need it to give me confidence. Why dont you come closer, and Ill show you.
Luke smiled. Ah, no thanks. With my luck, youd be a black belt. Right there is good enough for now.
Are you sure you couldnt let the FBI agent you shot leave? He wont last long, what with all that blood in such a hurry to find the nearest exit.
No, hes gotta stay. Hes a pawn I can play, if I have to. So are you, blondie. Well just have to see how it all turns out. Isnt this fun?
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