FIC MC 37 Jun ’01 Another Loss (1/?)
A Small Peruvian Town
“This is the shithole at the end of the universe!”
“No, Luis.” Jorge shook his head as he gazed around the shanty town. There was maybe two score huts constructed of wood, corrugated iron, and canvas, poor shelter against Peru’s sometimes extreme weather. A twin stench of refuse and despair hung heavy in the air, frightened eyes staring out of them through cracks in the huts’ flimsy walls. “This where the universe’s shithole deposits its crap.”
His comment was met with a rumbling laugh that put him in mind of a bear with a giggling fit. “That’s a good one,” a deeper than Barry White voice praised.
“Thanks Toro,” Jorge nodded up at the skyscraper resembling black muscleman stood beside him.
“Boss,” Jose, a pot-bellied Indian from one of Peru’s many varying tribes, spat on the lush grass. “This village doesn’t smell right.”
“I know,” Jorge nodded a distant agreement. “But the padre wouldn’t have sent us here without reason. Fan out, groups of three. Andre,” he looked towards the group’s only foreigner, a pock-marked French-Canadian, “you and Toro stay with the jeeps. Miguel, Luis,” he looked towards his younger brothers, “you take charge of the other trios.”
Even as his men responded and moved out, Jorge reflected on his feelings for the village. It wasn’t just the fear he smelt stinking in the air that set his nerves jangling. It was also the memories.
He and his brothers had grown up in such a nondescript dump. If not for a terrible twist of fate they’d have probably died there too.
They’d been boys, barely teens, when a Master Vampire by the name of El Fuerzabruta had attacked their village, massacring their parents, grand-parents, and every-one else who lived there. If not for the fortuitous arrival of a Vatican demon-hunting team, they would have joined the dead. As it was, they’d been rescued and invited to join the team.
It was an offer they’d instantly accepted. There was nothing left for them in their village, if there ever had been anything to start with.
And now they were back. Not in the village of their birth, but in a place that could have been its twin. The memories prickled up and down his spine.
He stopped as he heard a growling from one of the near-by huts. Blood pounding in an all too familiar fashion, he glanced towards his companions. Their taut faces were all the confirmation he needed that they’d heard the growling too.
It could be an animal, a barely docile pet of some description, but in their business it didn’t pay to take chances. “Fan out,” he ordered as he stepped towards the shack.
He stopped as he realised the growling was growing louder. No, he corrected with a sinking feeling, was coming from all around. They were in a town of vampires. “Oh my god!” he breathed as he realised it was going to end in just the sort of shanty town that it had begun.
* * *
Kurt Stieger shivered as he walked through France’s 2nd largest city. The port city’s air was heavy with salt and his leather trench coat was meagre protection against the lashing sea winds.
Stieger looked over his shoulder, seeking and gaining reassurance from the half dozen silhouettes stalking behind him. In a rough city, this was one of the roughest areas, somewhere that a man didn’t lightly walk alone. Even if he was the head of one of the Vatican’s vampire-hunting teams.
“Mein gott.” Stieger stopped as they reached their destination. In a city notorious for its bawdy taverns ‘Le Bruit Bonjour’ had to be amongst the worst.
A pair of western style barroom doors hung haphazardly off the entrance, the wood seeming so rotten that the slightest touch would dissolve it. Stieger likewise suspected that the cracked windows would have disintegrated except for the posters of French movie and pop starlets in varying states of undress, stuck to them, apparently holding them together by force of will alone. All in all, except for the Euro pop crap shaking its foundations, it was just the sort of place that Stieger and his men would love to spend some r&r in.
Inside was even worse. Or better depending on your point of view.
A wall of sweat hit Stieger the moment he stepped into the bar, his clothes instantly sticking to him like a second skin. The air was fetid and stale, as well as filled with the heavy scent of pop, horse, and coke.
The bar’s floor was covered by a carpet so worn its original colour was lost to the passing of the years, turned a muddy brown by a combination by spilt drinks, vomit, and filthy boots. It walls were covered by faded posters even more graphic than those in the windows.
And its clientele were unlikely to win any prizes either. Not for ‘Le Bruit Bonjour’ was the slick Parisian wine bar set. Instead, the customers were made up of an unsavoury mixture of seamen, labourers, and past their prime whores.
Stieger shouldered his way through the bar, one glance into his eyes enough to cut the rowdiest drunk’s protest. Reaching the bar, his group split, two pairs unobtrusively melting into the dimly-lit bar’s shadows, making for tables at opposite ends. The last pair flanked him as he made for the bar counter itself.
After an impatient five minutes, the portly bartender made his way over, walking with the rolling gait of an only recently bearthed life-long sailor. “Oui?”
“I’m looking for Le Bouche.”
The bartender’s mask of a genial host disappeared instantly, his black eyes hardening, and jowly face somehow squaring. “Excuse moi?”
Stieger dropped a handful of crumpled 100 franc notes onto the bar top, studiously avoiding the puddles of spit, alcohol, and vomit. “Viva la resistance.”
The notes disappeared into the barkeep’s meaty hand with a flourish that any stage magician might have envied. The man’s shoulder-length greasy hair swung as he nodded towards a door at the far end of the bar. “The door to the left of the stairs leads out into an alley; follow it until it spills out into a walled yard. He does his business there.”
“Thanks,” Stieger stared at the man for a hard second, leaving it unspoken that the snitch had better be there.
“No problem.” Stieger’s stomach dropped when the bartender’s face began to ripple, foul things moving under the skin. “Your problem is living long enough to see him.”
* * *
Dimitri Denzya licked his dry lips as he crept through Varna‘s narrow, cobbled streets, the surrounding walls casting long shadows. The Vatican hadn’t had a team of hunters in eastern Europe from the end of 19th century until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But the Vatican had moved in rapidly with the Wall’s fall, scooping up soldiers from Spentaz, SOBT, SOG, MApN, and GROM to serve in their team. Since ’98, Denzya had led the unit and was more than proud of their victories. Even so, his eight man strong team would be wise to tread carefully.
They were in one of the area‘s more run-down areas, a den of people smugglers, pimps, and dope dealers, a place where gangs fought constantly, both amongst themselves, and the gun-toting police.
But in their case they were not hunting criminals, but a far more dangerous prey. According to the information they’d received, Dalgo, a two century year old vampire who according to their records ran the Balkans with an iron hand, was near-by and alone.
It was supposed to be a simple hit, but there was something about this mission that had Dimitri’s teeth jangling. But he also knew orders were orders and the Vatican would pay very well for Dalgo’s staking. Very well indeed.
Taking comfort from the momentary inducement, Dimitri nodded to his fellow troops. “A third at the back, a third at the skylight, and the rest at the front with me. Set your watches. We go in in five.”
As his men moved into position, Dimitri stared at the crumbling single floor storage unit before him In more ordered, communist times the unit had housed auto parts. After the fall of the old regime it had begun the home of illicit drugs. And now it housed an even greater menace.
His watch beeped as the countdown finished. Dimitri threw a grenade at the door. The door exploded inwards, rotting splinters flying inwards. Dimitri nodded at his companions before charging in.
The dimly-lit interior was occupied by a solitary man. The man was tall and thin with a long, cavernous face, a silvery pony-tail, and serene grey eyes. “You’re Dalgo.” Dimitri’s voice trembled in part from excitement, in part from fear. In his years as a team leader they’d never taken a vampire this old.
“I am,” Dalgo seemed disturbingly unperturbed by their sudden arrival. “It is a pleasure to briefly make your acquaintance.”
“Briefly?” Dimitri’s unease grew stronger
“Why of course,” Dalgo smirked. Dimitri looked left and right as vampires began melting out of the shadows. “You didn’t really think I’d be alone did you?”
* * *
“Bloody hell mate, that was a bonza fight and no mistake,” Barry complained as he pulled their van to a stop in one of the city’s most exclusive suburbs.
“Yeah,” Bruce agreed. “But at least the Vatican has put us at decent joint for a change.”
“Yeah.” Barry nodded. His brother had a point. Their ‘safe house’, the house that the Catholic church had given them for their down-time was a three-storey building, its perfectly-preserved architecture dating back to the earliest colonial days.
Barry grinned. The house wouldn’t be perfectly preserved in three days when they’d finished partying. Hell the church would be lucky if it was still standing. “Bruce, you beauty! Leave these drongos to park up!” Barry’s grin widened at the good-natured curses that followed his pronouncement. “Piss off you bloody bunch of lightweights.”
Gravel crunched underfoot as he and Bruce made the long walk up the sweeping driveway and to the house’s elaborately carved door. There was a double click as he tried the key in the door and the last thing he saw as he opened the door was a fireball rushing towards him.
FIC MC Jun ’01 Another Loss (2/?)
He lent against the wall, its peeling wallpaper rubbing against his back as he peered down at the cell lying on his unmade bed. “Maid service ain’t exactly prompt ‘round here.”
But then, he grimaced as he stubbed out his burning cigarette on the bedside cabinet before leaning down and picking up the cell, he’d selected this motel for precisely that reason. He really didn’t need a motel with a diligent staff, a staff that paid attention to their guests.
He was running hard and fast, trying to keep one step ahead of those chasing him. But, his grimace deepened, he wasn’t a runner by nature.
He looked down at the cell in his hand. Calling for help stuck in his craw, but not as much as running did.
Still, another problem was who to ring. He grudgingly liked the kid, although, he momentarily leered, he liked the broads who travelled with him a helluva lot more. But in recent days he’d been hearing some scary shit about his potential ally. Like his involvement in a blood-crazed massacre.
Still, he scowled, the rumours paled into insignificance next to what he’d just been through. His decision made, his gnarled fingers danced nimbly over the cell’s keypad, punching in the number.
* * *
“Hey baby,” Mitch leered at her in that skin-crawling way he’d always had. “Anyone tell ya just how damn hot you are when you cry?”
“And now I’ve finished with the Watcher,” she choked back a sob when the vampire contemptuously tossed aside the broken body of the nearest thing she’d ever had to a parent, “I can move onto the main course.” Kaktosis’ brutal features re-arranged themselves into a gross approximation of a smile. “They’re going to have create new words for what I’m going to do to you.”
“I’m terribly sorry Miss Spenser,” Whyndham-Pryce’s apology had all the warmth of the snarling pitbull he so resembled, “but I simply must have those tears.” The Watcher turned to wash his bloodied hands, maniacal smile visible in the cell’s half-light. “And I will.”
* * *
“Nooooo!” Faith sat bolt upright, eyes wide open and sweat-soaked body quivering like a deer’s caught in a car’s headlights.
Faith’s eyes shot to the groaning man crumpled on the floor by the left side of their bed. “Xander!” Heart racing, she scrambled across the slept in bed to pull Xander to his feet, wincing at the blood trickling out of her boyfriend’s right nostril. “Did I do that?” she babbled. “Shit, I’m so sorry!”
“It’s okay,” Xander shot her a pained and wry grin. “Price of dating a super-powered babe. And I’m willing to pay it.”
“Shit, X,” Faith shook her head, refusing to be comforted by her boyfriend’s feeble attempts at humour. “I’m sorry. It’s just…..”
Xander filled the silent void left by her trailing-off voice. “The dreams?” Xander put a hand on her naked shoulder. “Maybe if we talked about them?”
Eyes hardening, Faith pulled away and started to dress. “I’m not some valley girl who needs a man-toy to hang onto. I can handle it on my own.”
“Faith,” Xander’s infuriatingly reasonable tone grated through her. “You’ve had nightmares for sixteen nights straight. You’re obviously having troubl-.”
“I said!” Faith interrupted with a shout, “I’d handle it!” Spinning on her heel, she strode out of the bedroom and into the on-suite bathroom, kicking the door shut with a room-shaking slam. Why the hell couldn’t X get it? If she didn’t solve this on her own, she’d never be independent again!
* * *
“Faith!” Stuck neatly between anger and hurt, Xander stared after her girl-friend. Why wouldn’t she let him help out?
“Damn it.” He stopped when the cell on the bedside table behind him started to ring, torn by indecision. After six rings, he groaned and turned back to the phone. Everyone who had their number was a friend or ally and would only be ringing if they needed serious help. And he couldn’t turn his back on someone who asked for help. “Lo?”
“Harris?” He instantly recognised the caller’s distinctive rasp. “It true about you and the Council?”
“Crow?” Xander’s answering tone was stone cold. “I’m sure you didn’t ring to just catch up?”
“Yeah,” for the first time ever Xander heard a note of fear in the Vatican’s hired gun’s voice. “Someone’s got inside the Vatican’s vampire-hunting organisation. Our teams in Australia, western and eastern Europe, and South America have all been wiped out. Of our US. Team, only I’m still breathing. Just.”
“Oh.” Shocked, Xander sat on the foot on his shared but currently depressingly empty bed. “Any ideas who’s the leak?”
“No,” the Vatican vampire-hunter sounded world-weary in addition to scared out of his wits. “And I haven’t been able to get in contact with the priest in charge of our operation.”
Xander thought for a second. “Okay,” he slowly responded. “So you need to get in touch with the Vatican.”
“No, kid,” Xander heard rather than saw Crow’s headshake. “The position of head of the Vatican’s vampire-hunting operation has always been mobile.”
“Since the 13th century the Vatican has decided to keep moving its demon-hunting operation around for security. Every time the office’s incumbent dies, they move the office of operations to a different city. To date it has been based in no less than 14 cities, all having just one thing in common, they’re all centres of Catholicism.”
“Right,” Xander paused. “So where do we need to go.”
There was a slight hesitation and then Crow rasped a reply. “Boston.”
Xander winced and closed his eyes. Figured, any chance his life had for getting more complicated it took. The moment Spenser found out what Faith had been through, he and Hawk would start looking for a wall to nail his hide to.
But it seemed as if he had little chance, not if he wanted to do the right thing. After a reluctant sigh he gave Crow the address to Spenser’s Boston base and promised to meet him in 48 hours. He nodded at Crow’s muttered thanks, he hung up and looked towards the bathroom door. “Faith, we’ve got to work to do.”
* * *
Kennedy awoke to the sight of her girl-friend’s naked back as the witch sat on the edge of their bed looking towards the wall separating them from Xander and Faith’s room. Kennedy sighed. Even in the half-light she could see her witch’s shaking shoulders.
Gracefully kneeling up behind her girl-friend, Kennedy kissed the nape of Tara’s neck and wrapped her arms around her. “Are they arguing again?”
Tara sniffled and quickly wiped her eyes before nodding. “Y…..yes.”
“They’ll be alright,” Kennedy soothed. For over two weeks Xander and Faith had done nothing but bicker. Personally she thought Xander could do waaaaaay better than Faith. But for some reason Tara worshipped the ground both Xander AND Faith walked on. Sensitive soul that her girl-friend was, it tore her apart to see her friends falling apart. “They’ll be alright,” she repeated.
Although she didn’t know how.
FIC MC 37 Jun ’01 Another Loss (3/?)
An Undetermined Location
“Heeee haaaas eeeescaped, many dead bodies.”
“Yeeees,” he was gratified when his subordinate cowered before his righteous anger. “But weee know whereeee heeee haaas goneee.”
“Where is that?” he demanded.
“Boston. To look for the leak and report.”
He rose from his throne, eyes searing through the half-lit gloom. “Then contact must not be made. Kill him!”
* * *
“All this stress is what turns you pale-skinned folks bald,” Hawk commented.
Spenser shot him a baleful look. “As opposed to you African-American folks where it’s all choice.”
“Luther and Samuel L. are fashion leaders in the African-American community,” Hawk smugly responded.
“As opposed to Mr. T?” Spenser shot back.
“Hey,” he flashed his best and only friend a smirk. “There’s no messin’ with dat fool!”
“80s nostalgia? Next thing ya know the two of you will be exchanging Hasslehoff vinyl.”
“See,” a grin on his face, Hawk turned to the sultry brunette who’d managed the nigh on impossible feat of sneaking up on them, “there’s no need to be insulting a man’s taste.” His grin disappeared as he belatedly registered the drawn, almost haggard look on the raven-haired beauty’s face and the dimness in her usually luminous eyes. Hawk cast a suspicious look at the young man traipsing behind his best friend’s niece. It looked like someone would be taking a trip to the woodshed.
His exceptionally unobservant for a gumshoe best friend noted none of this of course as he rushed over and engulfed the Slayer in a whooping-accompanied bear-hug. “Faithie!” his friend spun the long-haired teen like a top. “God, I’ve missed you!”
“Missed ya too.” Hawk raised an eyebrow at the east coast beauty’s uncharacteristically husky voice. Just what the hell had happened?
“H…hello Mr. Hawk,” Hawk glanced to his left to see Tara, a beautiful brunette clinging possessively to her hand. The midnight-haired teen had what he guessed was a characteristically defiant gleam in her eyes. “It’s good to see you again.”
“And you, Tara,” he shot the timid teen a smile. “And I told you the last time, only people who owe me money call me Mr.” He glanced towards Tara’s lovely companion. “Damn, lesbianism’s getting all the babes these days. I’m even thinking of converting myself.”
Tara giggled. “This is Kennedy.” The witch paused. “She’s my girl-friend.”
“Yeah?” Hawk chuckled. “Pasty over
there might be the one with the PI’s licence, but I worked that out for
myself.” He nodded towards the younger teen. “Pleased to meet you.”
”Yeah,” he was amused by the teen’s distrustful look. He was always getting women looking at him like that, just part of his unavoidable charm. “The same.”
“Your email said you were in town for business.” Hawk looked over his shoulder to see Spenser had finally put the Slayer down. “What business?”
“A contact of ours works for the Catholic Church as a vampire hunter.” Hawk’s gaze swivelled towards Xander. “In the past fortnight though, all the Vatican teams have been ambushed, Crow’s the only survivor.”
“And this Crow,” Spenser’s voice was like stone. Hawk nodded inwardly. His friend had eventually noticed. Typical honky, always slow on the uptake. “He’s here.”
“Yeah,” Harris’ brow furrowed at Spenser’s latent hostility, “apparently the priest who runs the Vatican’s vamp hunting operation is based here.”
“But?” Hawk put in.
“But,” Kennedy spoke up. “He’s not answering any calls right now. So we’re here to meet Crow and find out why.”
“And we’re meeting him where?” Spenser asked.
“Outside the priest’s place,” Xander replied. “If it’s a trap-.”
“Our numbers will turn it round on them,” Spenser said, tone still rock-hard. “Good plan,” his friend turned to him. “How about you and I go collect our chariot while the kids get their bags.”
“Ain’t never heard your four-wheeled heap of junk been called that before,” Hawk commented. “But,” he recognised his friend’s suggestion for the diversion it clearly was,” I’ll come with you. Being around a black brother always makes you pasties feel safe.”
”And they’re friends?” his keen ears picked up Kennedy’s disbelieving murmur. “They must be downright evil to their enemies.”
* * *
An Undetermined Location
“News?” he leaned forward in his chair. “Have you finally got him?”
He was angered by his follower’s timid headshake. “No sir. But the Slayeeer and the reee-born god have arrived in Boston.”
“The head of the Mithras Brotherhood here.” He felt a chill hand over his heart. All his carefully-laid plans coming to naught. But, he forced himself to calm, if he killed Crow before he managed to meet up with the Brotherhood, the Brotherhood wouldn’t have enough information to track him down. He slowly smiled. And a chance to take the Brotherhood on on his own terms was very tempting indeed. “I want Crow dead before he meets with the Brotherhood.”
“Of courseee sir,” his acolyte nodded.
* * *
“You noticed how Faith was?” Spenser demanded the moment they reached the busy airport’s exit.
“I noticed,” his best friend replied. “Was starting to wonder if you did though.”
His glare slid off his unabashed best friend’s chrome dome. “I want to find out what’s up with her, only she might not talk in front of Xander if she’s scared of him.”
Hawk snorted. “Wouldn’t wanna see what the hell scared your niece, kid’s a wildcat.”
“Yeah,” Spenser allowed himself a brief proud half-smile, “she is.” He sobered. “But we both know someone can be beaten down psychologically. Especially,” his voice trailed off.
“Someone with Faith’s past?”
Anger choking him, he nodded. God help him, but if his sister was still alive, he’d kill her himself as payment for all the pain she’d selfishly, thoughtlessly put his niece through. Finally he spoke, voice hoarse with emotion. “So I was thinking once we’ve met up with this Crow, you suggest as two Boston homies-.”
“Homies?” Hawk raised an unperturbed eyebrow. “I think you’re using the word in an incorrect vernacular.”
Spenser quickly translated that. “Hey, I’m down with the brothers,” he quickly retorted before once again sobering. “I was thinking I suggest that as Bostonians familiar with all the local characters and places of interest,” Hawk snorted, “that we split up into two groups. Me taking Faith for some uncle-niece quality time, you take the others.”
“And you pump her for information in your imitable Mickey Spillane way?” Hawk guessed.
“Minus the cosh, because it’d only end up doubling as a suppository,” he nodded.
“Smart plan,” his running buddy approved. “Must be one of Susan’s.”
“I dig smart chicks,” Spenser replied.
“Yeah?” Hawk shot him a sceptical look. “Susan know you call her a chick?”
“Broad, gal, hon, sweet-cheeks. It doesn’t matter what I call Susan, jus as long as I dig her,” Spenser confidently replied.
“Yeah?” Hawk snorted. “Was I you, I
wouldn’t test that theory.”
”Ignoring your thorough butchery of the English language my good man, you have inadvertently hit on the problem,” Spenser replied as they reached their car. “You are not me, and therefore not irresistible to Ms. Silverman.”
“Yeah?” Hawk stared at him over the roof of his car. “Ain’t never had any complaints.”
“You’ve had plenty,” he retorted. “You just weren’t listening.”
Hawk’s wry grin disappeared, replaced by his customary iron mask. “If we find Harris is behind Faith’s jumpiness?”
Spenser scowled. “Then I teach the boy the error of his ways.”
“I want in on that.” Hawk commented. “After all that girl’s the nearest I’m ever likely to have to a niece.” The African-American smirked. “And failing that, she might figure on a change to a long tall piece of chocolate.”
Spenser shuddered. “Don’t say that. I hear Al Bundy’s available. Or maybe even Ted.”
“Ah sar,” Hawk tipped a non-existent cap, “am I not good enough to be part of the white folks’ family. Uncle?”
Spenser shook his head. “Hawk, you’re not good enough to be part of anybody’s family.”
“Whitey you wound me.”
FIC MC 37 Jun ’01 Another Loss (4/?)
Crow pursed his lips together as he peered out of the alley’s shadows to his final destination. It wasn’t much, an anonymous brownstone building in a nondescriptly middle-class Bostonian suburb, but inside was the man who just might be able to answer his questions and save his life.
Sean Adams didn’t have an official church, parish, or even congregation to tend to but he was a priest nonetheless. Indeed, thirty years ago he’d been the priest on the first vampire-hunting team Crow had served on. Since then Adams had risen to the unofficial yet highly prestigious, four of its previous holders had become popes, of chief of the Vatican’s vampire-hunting organisation.
Crow scowled as he glanced at his watch, peering through the early morning darkness. The kid was late. Deciding he couldn’t wait any longer, Crow peeked his head out of the crumbling-walled alley and glanced left and right. Satisfied that there wasn’t anything to worry about on the deserted road, he started to cross over.
The roar of an engine being pushed to and beyond its limits sent him twisting at the waist. His eyes widened and mouth dried at the sight of a jet-black, steel-grilled van shooting out of an alley-mouth to his left. Heart racing, he turned back to leap for the relative sanctuary of the pavement.
“FUCK!” Pain flared through his knee as his foot caught and twisted in a pothole. Knocked off balance, he fell to his hands and knees in front of the speeding van.
* * *
Faith listened half-heartedly to the stilted conversation between her uncle and Xander. She was getting definite hostile vibes from her uncle towards Xander, but couldn’t be bothered to figure out why. They’d gotten on alright last time they’d met, but it was probably some macho bullshit over her.
Faith scowled. Well screw ‘em. Every time she closed her eyes recently, she’d been plagued by images of men who’d thought they had the right to own her.
“It’s Mr. Crow,” Tara’s voice broke into her ruminations. “Oh no,” the witch hissed. “That van is going to run him down!”
“Shit.” A quick glance confirmed her best friend’s words. The Vatican’s hired gun was knelt crumpled on the ground, helplessly looking up as a van speeded unerringly at him.
Her companions’ alarmed shouts ringing in her ears, Faith exploded into action. Hair swinging wildly and legs pumping as hard as they’d ever done, she raced towards the soon to be road kill. Sneakers slapping hard into the unforgiving tarmac, she powered into the air, jumping both higher and longer than any Olympian could dream to duplicate.
Her leap carried her shoulder first into the felled man, knocking them both rolling clear of the on-rushing van. “Shit!” Faith grunted as she hit the ground, hard tarmac ripping through the shoulder of her leather jacket, tearing skin from her left hip and shoulder, and giving her a jarring blow to the back of her head “Falling doesn’t get any easier.”
Faith shook her head clear in time to see the van finish a quick yet clumsily-executed u-turn and head back in their direction. “Bastard just don’t quit,” Faith mumbled as she struggled her feet, legs rubbery and head woozy. “Crap,” Faith grunted as she realised Crow was out cold from her knocking him to hoped for safety. She could leap out of the way, but she wouldn’t have time to also rescue Crow.
The van shuddered as shell after shell from Xander, Spenser, and Hawk’s guns thudded into it, shattering its tinted rear windows, and slamming into its side. The vehicle swerved away and screeched off, engine hissing and steam emitting from under the trunk from the abuse it was suffering.
* * *
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Crow groaned as he awoke. Forcing his eyes open, he saw he was surrounded by Harris, his sidekicks, two older, harder-looking bastards, and another gorgeous-looking brunette. Man, Harris had a talent for collecting hot broads.
Speaking of which, he directed his gaze towards the buxom Slayer. “Thanks for the save, Slayer but couldn’t you have been a little gentler?”
Faith’s answering glare had even more heat than usual. “I could have just left ya?”
“No,” Crow groaned as the two older men grabbed his arms and yanked him to his feet. Twenty years ago he wouldn’t have needed the save, ten years ago he would have shook off its effects in seconds. He was getting old.
The head of the Brotherhood stepped forward, a stern expression on his face. “Is that the priest’s quarters?” The kid nodded towards the building in question.
Crow nodded. “Yeah, that’s Adams’ place. He’s a good man, for a priest.”
“Okay,” Harris nodded. “Mr. Spenser,
you and Hawk take Kennedy go up the fire escape in the back. Crow-.”
“You take Harris and the others to the front, they’re three siblings you rescued from vamps on your way here. If anything goes wrong, we come in from the back,” the middle-aged man finished.
“Okay,” Harris shot the white man a confused, almost hurt look, “Mr. Spenser. It wasn’t the plan I was going to go with but sure. How long do you figure it’ll take for you to get to the window?”
The man Harris had identified as Spenser looked towards him. “Fourth floor, right?” Crow nodded, regretting it instantly when the world tilted around him. Spenser turned back to Harris. “Twelve – fifteen minutes tops.”
“Okay,” Xander nodded. “We’ll be at the front door in fifteen.”
* * *
As Xander made his way up the brownstone’s narrow walkways, their faded furnishings and wallpaper reflecting a style of décor last seen in Hollywood noir thrillers, he worried about Spenser’s change of attitude towards him. Spenser wasn’t just the head of the Massachusetts branch, he was Faith’s only relative. He wanted to stay on the PI’s right side. If nothing else he didn’t need the added complication.
“This is it.”
Xander forced himself to focus on the more immediate task at hand. After a look towards the faded brown door, a match to a dozen they’d already passed on the floor, he looked towards Crow. “You remember what to say?”
“Jesus, kid,” Crow shot him an irritated look, “not exactly a rookie here.”
“And yet,” Faith scoffed, “you need our help.”
Crow shook his head before repeatedly slamming his fist into the door, the wood shuddering under the impact. “Padre! Padre! It’s Crow! Get your ass out here now!”
“That’s an invitation nobody could resist.”
And yet despite Faith’s muttered sarcasm, the door wasn’t answered. “Damn it,” Crow snapped. “Priests, never there when you need one.” The veteran demon hunter started to rifle through his pockets.
“Do you have a key, Mr. Crow?” Tara queried.
“Nah, honey,” the grizzled warrior shook his head. “But I’ve got a lock-pick somewhere.”
* * *
“Figured you’d ask the fair Faith to join us,” Hawk commented as they entered the shadow-shrouded alley that snaked up the back of the building. The shaven-headed African-American grinned at her. “Not that your sunny presence ain’t an ever-living pleasure.”
“Pig!” Kennedy snapped.
“I wanted time to talk to her,” Spenser replied. “Besides, they’re going in through the front entrance. Any chance of this being a trap, they’ll need their best fighter. Our talk can wait.”
Kennedy’s brow furrowed in confusion. Talk about what? Just as she was about to ask, they came to a halt beneath a chipped grey fire escape. Hawk peered up at the ladder. “It’s a long climb up.”
“You getting lazy in your old age?” Spenser scoffed.
“Gettin’ smart,” the unfazed black man replied. “Situations like this are why we brothers created the elevator.”
“Enough,” Kennedy’s never long patience snapped, propelling her past the two Boston natives and onto the ladder’s first rungs.
Over the ladder’s clanging, she heard Hawk’s appreciative voice. “Man, that a sight to savour.”
“As a happily involved man, you don’t seriously expect me to comment on this young lady’s rump?”
“Man,” Hawk laughed. “You’re whipped.”
“Just appreciative of an orderly and quiet domestic life,” Faith’s uncle replied.
“Like I said, whipped.”
Kennedy ignored the middle-aged chauvinists’ bantering in favour of continuing climbing. In just a few minutes they were all stood on the landing looking into the priest’s quarters.
“Either he’s a worse slob than you, Hawk, or this place has been ransacked.”
“Gee,” the black man scoffed, “I can see why they gave you a PI’s licence.”
Chairs lay everywhere, pillows, and cushions likewise strewn across the floor, the stuffing torn out of them. Books had been flung from their shelves and a computer vandalised. And there was something else too. “Look!” Kennedy pointed towards the door. “It’s a bomb.”
“Shit!” Hawk reached inside his stylishly expensive leather jacket. “I’ll phone them and -.”
”No!” Spenser grabbed the black’s arm. “She might not answer. Or the signal might set it off!” Spenser’s foot smashed through the window as if it wasn’t there. “FAITH!” the PI’s desperation filled roar thundered through Kennedy. “BOMB!”
FIC MC 37 Jun ’01 Another Loss (5/?)
“Ah,” Crow smirked. “Nearly got it.”
Faith’s eyes widened as she heard the door click open at the same time she heard her uncle’s panicked roar. “Shit!” Grabbing Tara and Xander by their shoulders, she flung them behind her with enough force to send them crashing to the carpet half-way up the corridor. Ignoring her friends’ shocked shouts, she leapt forward, took two handfuls of Crow’s canvas jacket and propelled him through the plaster cast wall of the apartment next door, leaping through after her human missile.
The room shook and the door splintered, wood flying out a half-second before a thunderous wall of flame. “Someone’s gonna need an interior decorator,” Faith commented as she clambered to her feet in the thankfully deserted apartment, dragging Crow with her. “Jesus, picking up your ass is getting to be a habit.”
“Padre!” Crow stumbled through the hole they’d made and into the priest’s apartment.
“Hey,” Faith muttered as she followed the grumpy old bastard out into the hallway, a quick glance assuring her that Xand and sis were regaining their feet and appeared to be unhurt, “you’re welcome. Don’t mention it. No, really.”
Faith winced as she entered the apartment. The wallpaper was charred and the carpet filled with scorch marks, a number of fires still burning throughout the apartment, and smoke blackening the ceiling,
“Faith!” she looked through to the back of the open quarters apartment to see her uncle and the others stood by the shattered back window. “Perhaps you should leave searching the place to us, there might be other booby traps.”
“K,” Faith nodded before glancing and stepping towards the already feverishly searching Vatican gun. “You heard the man, let’s split.”
Crow shook his head. “I need to find something, a clue. It has to be here!”
“Okay,” Faith was not in the mood for prolonged debate. Snatching a hold of the vampire-hunter’s shoulder, she spun him around to face her and cold-cocked him with a straight right to the jaw. She caught the hired gun as he slumped forward, easily tossing him over one shoulder before stalking out.
* * *
“Your girl’s got a way with people,” Hawk commented.
Spenser shot his best friend a proud grin. “That she has, that she has.” Spenser sobered. “Let’s get inside.”
“Wait!” Kennedy protested. “You just sent Faith out because you think the place might be dangerous!”
“Ah, you’re worried about me,” Hawk leered at the lesbian. “I just knew you weren’t immune to my charm.”
“Crow was too personally involved to do a safe search,” Spenser broke in before the tiny brunette had chance to reply. “I’m too smart to be killed. He’s,” Spenser looked towards Hawk, “too mean.”
“Well thank you kindly boss sah,” Hawk drawled.
Spenser chose to ignore his friend in favour of looking towards the far more beguiling Kennedy. “Stay here.” Eyes glinting, the teen’s mouth began to open. “Have you much experience clearing booby-trapped rooms?”
After a second the teen shook her head,
full lips parted in a pout. “No, but.”
“Personally I’d rather not put my life in the hands of a rookie.” Spenser turned to the broken window and began carefully kicked away the glass shards littering the bottom of the window frame.
Spenser tuned out the teen’s shrill and
expletive filled protestations. Hawk chuckled. “Man, Harris really is a
glutton for punishment. First your niece, now her.” Spenser ignored the insult
to his family honour in favour of climbing through the window and beginning the
search, starting in the office space. “You realise of course we ain’t likely to
find anything in here. Not with all the booby traps. The priest or whatever’s
got him is long gone.”
“Maybe what’s missing will provide as great a clue as what is here,” Spenser sagely replied.
“I’m betting Hammett and Chandler never came out with shit like that,” Hawk retorted.
* * *
Hawk stared in disgust at the opened desk drawer. “Empty,” he shook his head. “Five minutes to open the damn thing and nothing.” He made to close the desk and squinted when the drawer seemed to jump en-route to clicking shut. “Could be wood warping,” he muttered. “Or -.” Whipping the drawer out, he flipped it onto its back. He came the nearest he ever did to a full beaming smile. “Spenser!” he tore the leather-bound notebook off the bottom of the drawer. “Got it Mr. PI.”
His best friend shot him a pained look. “Taped to the bottom of a drawer. Doesn’t anyone have any originality anymore?”
“He was a priest not a secret agent,” Hawk drolly pointed out.
“True,” Spenser conceded before scowling. “But if I was of devious mind-.”
“You devious?” Hawk snorted. “I find that hard to imagine.”
Spenser shot him a hard look that bounced off his rhino hide. “I’d have a dummy diary to lead any dupe up the wrong path -.”
“Interesting theory,” Kennedy broke in from the fire escape. “But how about we discuss it later? Only I can hear police sirens and they’re getting closer.”
“Sounds like our cue to leave,” Hawk responded.
* * *
“Jesus H. Christ,” Crow awoke to a thudding headache and aching jaw. After a couple of seconds his vision had cleared enough to allow him to stare malevolently
at his assailant. “Slayer did you have to hit me so damn hard? And you Harris,” his eyes zoned in on the male of the quartet, “ain’t you got this crazy bitch trained ugh-.”
“First off,” he gasped as he was lifted into the air, the Slayer’s awesomely strong hands around his throat, squeezing with crushing power, “not a bitch. Second,” he stared into the Slayer’s slightly less than sane eyes even as he pulled vainly at her hands, “no-body trains me. No-body!”
With that hoarsely screamed pronouncement, the supernatural warrior threw him to the ground. “Faith!” Xander jumped towards the Slayer, face anguished. “I know you’re going through a hard time but-.”
The buxom brunette shot her boyfriend a look of whittling contempt. “You’ve no idea what I’m going through so fuck off.” The crimsoning young man stepped back, the Slayer stalked out of the room.
* * *
“Hey!” Seeing the Slayer didn’t stop at her shout, Kennedy charged after her, grabbed her shoulder and started to pull her round to face her. “What do you thi-, oooof!”
Kennedy grunted as the Slayer shoved her into the wall, the impact bruising every muscle in her back and shoulders. “Are you slow?” the supernatural warrior grated, “’cause if you think you can get away with putting your hands on me-.”
“Newsflash Faith,” Kennedy ignored her pounding heart to stick her face into her fellow brunette’s, “Tara might worship the ground you walk on and Xander might adore you too much to say a word, but I’m telling you straight – get over yourself!”
“You uppity bitch!” The Slayer’s coal-black eyes flashed. “You’ve no idea-.”
“No idea what you’ve been through?” Kennedy scoffed. “Maybe not, but I have to comfort Tara when she cries herself to sleep over what’s happening to you. I had to watch, half-scared to death, when Xander went nuts over what might be happening to you!” Kennedy shook her head. “But you keep pushing people who care away and maybe next time there won’t be anyone left to care what happens to you!”
“And maybe,” Faith’s breath was hot against her face as the taller teen leaned into her, “you wanna watch that pretty mouth, ‘less you want me to bust it open for ya.” Kennedy gasped when the Slayer shoved her to the ground. “Stay out of my business, kid. You ain’t ready to play with the grown-ups. Not even close!” With that, the Slayer strode out of their rented accommodation, door slamming shut behind her.
* * *
“Well,” Hawk commented once the ravishing brunette had stormed off, her boiling fury making her oblivious to their presence in the shadows outside the teens’ house, “wasn’t that interesting?”
“Wasn’t it just?” Spenser absently agreed, eyes fixed on the receding figure.
Hawk shot him an unusually serious look. “Looks like Harris isn’t responsible for what’s up with your gal.”
“Looks like,” he agreed.
“Guess the woodshed is benched,” Hawk continued. “But the rest of the plan?”
“Oh we’re still going ahead,” Spenser agreed. He’d heard combat vets who sounded like Faith, two steps away from cracking up. Whatever was wrong with his niece, she wasn’t going to fall.
He wouldn’t allow it.
FIC MC Jun ’01 Another Loss (6/8)
“You really figure that tracking down Adams’ contacts is gonna lead us to what happened?” Faith pressed as he and his niece ducked out of a distinctly boring meat wholesalers who turned out to be nothing more than a supplier to a soup kitchen Adams had organised on the side.
“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.” Faith stared blankly at him. Spenser sighed. “Sherlock Holmes?”
“Rrrrright,” Faith raised a mascaraed eyebrow “You realise he’s not real, right?”
Spenser counted to ten. “Classic literature gives us lessons for life. The car’s this way.”
* * *
Hawk looked at the morose kid before him as they stood outside their companions’ bedroom, awaiting their arrival. It seemed that all women, no matter their persuasion, liked to keep men waiting. “You still love her, right?” The young man stared stonily at him. Unfazed, Hawk continued. “I’m not the guy you should come to if you want sayings like ‘love conquers all’ or ‘love will find a way’. But me and Spenser aren’t blind, we noticed something was wrong with the girl. First we figured it was something you did and were measuring you for a pine overcoat.” Unworried by the youth’s answering glare, Hawk continued. “But it ain’t, and I don’t know what it is and I don’t expect you to tell me.” Way he figured it, Spenser would more than likely tell him anyway. “But the way I see it, the good times with a girl like Faith make the hard times more than worth it. Stick with her.”
The young man stared at him for a long second. “I was going to. But thanks.”
“Fucking hell.” Hawk’s hackles rose at the sound of Crow exiting his room. In his estimation, fifty years ago the Vatican’s hired killer would have been an ideal candidate for the KKK. “Are they still not ready?”
* * *
“How’s running the state working out for ya?”
Spenser glanced at his niece with a heavy heart. She was so beautiful, smart, and strong. And so close to breaking. “There were eight groups of 6 – 9 hunters around the state. Once Hawk and I had kicked some ass, we were left with three teams of ten covering the entire state.”
“Cool,” the Slayer nodded approvingly before lapsing into yet another moody silence.
Spenser decided that faint heart never won fair lady. Or in this case found out what was worrying fair lady. “What happened to you three weeks ago?”
Faith’s eyes flickered and left cheek twitched, as sure sign as any he’d hit bulls eye. “Don’t know what ya mean!” the Slayer snapped.
“Oh,” Spenser was undeterred by his super-powered relative’s frosty tone. “Then why did my niece stood phoning and emailing me 2 – 3 times a week?”
“Got bored with the all relative thing,” Faith’s face was now completely devoid of emotion. “It was fun for a while but got old real fast.”
Spenser ignored the hurt his niece’s words caused him, recognising that she was lashing out at him the way she’d been lashing out at Xander and Tara, trying to push away all those who cared. Only he wasn’t going to let her. “Years of being a PI have taught me when someone’s lying.”
His pride and joy’s eyes hardened. “I don’t like being called a liar.”
“Then you shouldn’t lie.” Ignoring the fact the young woman could snap him in two without a second thought, Spenser pressed his point. ”You can shove me away all you like, young lady, but I refuse to stop loving you. And so do Xander and Tara.”
Faith’s bottom lip started to quiver.
“Fine!” Tears welled in the teen’s coal-black eyes. “Ya wanna know what’s
wrong? I’ll fuckin’ tell ya!” The teen’s voice shook with emotion. “Three
weeks ago the Council bastards got their hands on me.” Spenser’s heart
twisted. “Xand and the others were in an ambush, but they escaped and tracked
me down. But while I was prisoner, the bastards drugged me and gave me to the
pop of the guy who used to be my Watcher. See I disgraced his family and he was
determined to break me.” Spenser’s horror turned to a barely controllable
rage. “I held on,” his niece began to shake, “I was wicked determined. But in
the end I screamed and screamed-.”
“Hush,” Spenser snatched a hold of his relative as she began to sob, pulling her into a hug, pressing her face to his chest, “it’ll be alright.”
Finally Faith pulled away, a mortified look on her face. “I…..I’m sorry.”
“Hey,” taking his niece’s face in his hands, he kissed her on the forehead, “think nothing of it. They’re dead now, though?”
Faith nodded. “Xander wiped the bastards out.” Spenser nodded approvingly. The boy had saved him a job. “But I….I’m the Slayer!” the teen suddenly wailed. “When I got these powers I figured no-one would ever take advantage of me again!”
Spenser gritted his teeth against the oblique reference to his relative’s torrid past but forced his tone to remain calm. “John Donne said it best – ‘no man is an island’.”
Confusion replaced hurt in the brunette’s liquid eyes. “I ain’t ‘xactly got the right equipment to be a man. And what the hell does that mean anyhow?”
“It means that in the past you had only yourself, your looks, your brains, and your powers to rely on, you’ve got people who love you now.” Faith’s cupid-shaped mouth opened in a doubtless protest. “Having people help you isn’t a sign of weakness. What John Donne meant was human beings don’t thrive on their own.” Spenser gently brushed the Slayer’s soft hair off her face. “The most powerful human being needs other people to remain human. Xander and all these people help you to remain human. Xander and all these people love you, want to help you heal, let them,” Spenser kissed his niece on the forehead. “Okay?” Faith nodded. “Good,” he smiled, “and remember no mater what I’m proud of you. Now let’s find Adams.”
* * *
Kennedy stared doubtfully at the occult bookstore’s dusty front, its old-fashioned appearance standing out even more when one took into account the gleaming business fronts surrounding it. “Why would a priest come here?”
“He was the head of Vatican’s demon-hunting operation, he’ll have to keep in touch with what’s happening occult-wise,” Xander pointed out.
“Yeah,” Kennedy acknowledged her friend’s comment with a nod, “I guess.”
A shrill ring announced their entry into the bookstore and wooden floorboards creaked as they walked into the dimly-lit shop, nostrils filling with the mustiness of ancient books. And the tiny book store was stuffed full of them, case after case to capacity and beyond. If not for the Eternal Archive, Tara could have spent a happy lifetime in the shop and not thought of leaving.
To the door’s left stood a chipped counter. A second after the bell’s greeting, a shock of white hair appeared behind the counter, followed by a portly, bespectacled figure stepping out from behind. “Hello,” the figure quavered. Tara’s mouth dried as she realised the ‘man’ didn’t have an aura. Even as she opened her mouth to scream a warning, the book shop owner’s rheumy eyes flashed violet and the world plunged into black.
FIC MC Jun ’01 Another Loss (7/8)
“I can’t get in touch with either Tara or Xand!”
“I know,” Spenser forced himself to remain calm in the face of the Slayer’s wild-eyed gaze. Not only was his best friend also missing, but he knew that both Tara and Xander were vital to Faith making the best possible recovery. “But we have a list of the places they were meant to visit and a list of texts saying which ones they’ve already been to. All we have to do is go to the last place they visited and start from there.”
“Makes sense,” Faith nodded. “So let’s make a move.”
* * *
Tara bit back a groan as she awoke to a shuddering headache. At the last instant, she’d tried to put up a magical shield. Although the shield hadn’t been completely in place, it had been enough to slightly deflect the demon’s attack.
Gathering her nerve, she forced an eye open. She was unable to prevent a gasp escaping at the sight that greeted her.
They were in a dimly lit underground chamber that Tara guessed from the brief length of time she felt she’d been unconscious was the bookstore’s cellar. Flickering candles placed in each corner provided what little light there was, but that was more than enough for Tara’s taste.
The cramped room’s mildewed walls were covered in arcane symbols that she couldn’t decipher but whose foulness crashed at her spirit. Steel manacles held her, Kennedy, Crow, and Hawk to the wall, the others still unconscious. More distressing still was Xander’s position. Her friend was tied spread-eagled to the top of a blood-splattered altar, still fouler sigils adorning his naked to the waist body, the marks seeming to pulse with a life of their own. Tara attempted to will her restraints loose, instead a wave of nausea swamped her, forcing her to fight back bile.
The ‘man’ stood by the altar grinned at her awakening. “So! One will be conscious for my next victory!”
Tara licked her desert-dry lips. Reminding herself it was completely down to her to stall for whatever faint chance there was of rescue, she spoke, voice trembling. “You’re not human…”
“Human?” the portly figure laughed, a sneer stretching his scholarly features, before somehow standing taller than his true height. “I should say not. The serpent people of Stygia worshipped me as a god! The savages of eons-dead Valusia and grand imperial Lemuria feared and cursed me in roughly equal measure.”
Tara hoped with all her heart that the words were just the deranged babblings of an unhinged mind, but another part of her knew they weren’t. “Who are you?” she demanded, hoarse voice betraying her fear.
“Who am I?” the monster’s shrill cackle sent icy tremors down her spine. “I am Fallacia The Fakester! Master of Masquerades! Tyrant of Tricks! Supreme amongst the Chaos Lords and second only to the omnipotent one – Erebus himself!”
Heart pounding like a hammer on an anvil, Tara searched her mind for what little she remembered about the Chaos Lords from their previous encounter with ‘The Grey One’. “But you were banished?”
“Ah, one with lore as well as talent,” the demon cackled. “A worthy prospect if I did not have an even juicer soul at hand.” Fallacia looked down at Xander before looking up again. Tara noticed the demon’s face appeared to ripple and shimmer in the flickering candlelight. “Yes I was banished. But centuries upon centuries weakened the locks upon my mystical prison, and this body’s former host, an occultist of some minor talent found and reversed what remained of the binding spell.” Fallacia’s chilling screech rang out again. “The fool thought he had such power as to make Fallacia, a demon who had caused vast nations to quail, his slave. Instead I drank his blood and consumed his essence, leaving him a dry husk and taking on his appearance and memories. And through that, I discovered who Sean Adams was and used the opportunity to destroy his organisation, and butcher his agents. “And now,” the creature peered down at Xander, “I’ve got the head of this time’s pre-eminent demon fighting organisation. I will take his soul and use it to shred the Brotherhood apart.”
“Man,” Tara’s heart leapt at the familiar husky voice coming from behind Fallacia, “I’ve got a wicked problem with that.” But would her psychologically-damaged friend be able to handle the Chaos Lord alone?
Sensing the beast was about to blast Faith with a spell, Tara shoved her misgivings aside to use the last of her energy to cast a last ditch defensive charm. And then she blacked out.
* * *
Faith fought back a gasp when the air around her flashed briefly violet. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tara slump forward, chains rattling, and guessed her shackled friend had somehow magically saved her bacon. “Thanks sis,” she murmured before advancing.
Even as she glided into the attack, her opponent rippled, features lengthening and becoming feline, teeth elongating, and eyes slanting and turning violet. But by far the greatest changes were to the thing’s body.
Before her adversary had been around her height, now it grew to around seven feet in height, head almost scraping the low ceiling. Its tweed clothing shredded, unable to withstand the explosion of scale-covered muscle. The beast’s four fingered, one thumbed hands turned to a pair of three-talon claws hooked like scythes.
“I definitely preferred whupping on the shop owner’s ass,” Faith mused before sliding under an attempted decapitation via claw.
Defeating this hellish creature seemed unlikely, but that was cool by her. Her first objective was giving her uncle time to free Xander and Tara. If the cost of that freedom was her life so be it, they were the important ones.
A backhand slap crashed into the side of her head, lifting her off the ground and flinging her shoulder first into the wall. Ignoring the pain reverberating through her left arm, Faith dropped to the ground and rolled towards the charging monster, lashing up with a heel kick at the demon’s crotch.
The monster took her blow with little apparent effect, leaning down to snatch at her throat. Faith narrowly managed to roll away from the grasping talons, dust billowing up where she’d been. Rolling back onto her hands, Faith used her arm strength to spring back upright before gliding into a classical boxing guard.
“Ah,” the creature hissed, its alien throat now unable to speak clearly in the human language, “such a warrior, such power. You will make a worthy host, a most pleasing victim.”
Faith’s eyes hardened. “Not going to happen,” she declared before leaping backwards to avoid a throat-rake, back brushing lightly against the wall. Leaping up, Faith tucked her knees into her chest before kicking off, her feet cannoning into the monster’s bank-vault sized chest. The demon stumbled backwards, but by the time she’d landed the monster had already righted itself.
“Shit!” Faith spun into a leaping spin-kick at the creature’s face only for the monster to grab her ankle and fling her away. Faith cart wheeled to the ground, landing in a crouch.
The demon let out a shrill shriek before charging in. Faith danced to the left, heel kicking out to crash into the demon’s knee. The monster howled before slumping face-first into the wall, the collision’s impact sending motor flying.
A grin on her face, Faith danced in behind the demon. “Crap!” the monster’s elbow cannoned down, crashing into her face. Pain flaring through her left eye and cheek, Faith stumbled backwards until her denim-clad butt hit the altar.
“A fine bout,” the monster hissed as it approached, “but it is more than past time to end this”
“Couldn’t agree more!” Faith’s hands shot out behind her to grab hold of the altar. Powering up through her arms, she leveraged herself off the ground, wrapping her legs around the beast’s scaly torso. Grinning slightly at the monster’s shocked expression, she twisted at the waist, flinging the monster into the wall, the force of the collision cracking the wall behind.
She was at the demon’s side before it had chance to react, hands reaching down to draw her sword. “And for the record,” she smiled as a huge weight lifted from her as her blade sliced through the demon’s throat, “I’m no one’s victim.”
llFIC MC Jun ’01 Another Loss (8/8)
Xander closed his eyes and smiled as he felt the sun of a new day on his face. His back and head still ached from whatever spell Fallacia had hit him with the previous day, but he didn’t care. Faith’s victory over the Chaos Lord had caused a cloud to lift from over his girl. Her step was lighter and the sparkle back in her eyes.
“The men who hurt Faith?”
Xander started at the deep bass voice behind him, surprised that its owner could so completely sneak up on him. He turned to face the stone-faced man. “What about them?”
If his grating tone unsettled Hawk, the African-American failed to show it “They died hard?”
Travers and Whyndham-Pryce’s faces flashed before him. After a second he nodded. “They died hard.”
“Good,” the black’s stoic face relaxed slightly, “good to know there’s still natural justice."
* * *
“And how’s my niece today?”
Faith grinned at the friendly hand on her shoulder savouring the love displayed through the gesture. “Five by five.”
“Susan was thinking, if you need someone
to talk to-.”
“I’m fine Unc,” Faith shook her head. “Way I figure it, I got people who care about me who I can talk to. Way I figure it, if I get curled up in a ball every time someone takes a run at me, then the powers were wrong to pick me, that I’m not special.”
“You’re special,” Spenser confirmed. “And no more waiting three weeks to get in touch, you hear me?”
“Jeez,” Faith winked up at her uncle, “you nag more than Tar, Suse ever tell ya that?” Faith sighed and nodded at the Boston gumshoe’s glare.” Least twice a week, k?”
“Good enough,” Spenser agreed with a nod. The Private Investigator hesitated. “You know that-.”
Faith rolled her eyes even as she reddened. “Yeah, you’re proud of me, I know.”
“No,” her uncle shook his head. “Well yes, I’m proud of you. But,” the east coast detective turned her around to face him, hands now resting on both her shoulders, “most of all I love you. Slayer or no Slayer, powers or no powers. I love you.”
* * *
Crow looked around the busy roadside café. “Times a wastin’,” the Slayer’s impatient voice broke into his jumbled thought processes. “How about you grunt a thanks for us saving your ass and then go back to your bullshit church?”
Unfazed by the supernatural warrior’s hostility, Crow reached into his denim jacket pocket and pulled out a cigar. Desperate for time to re-order his thoughts, he lit the cigar.
“T…this is a no-smoking area,” the witch pointed at a tar-stained ‘No Smoking’ sign precariously nailed to the wall above a table three tables away.
Crow shrugged before putting the cigar to his mouth and inhaling its rich, full taste. “I don’t go for this political correctness bullsh-, hey!”
He gasped as the Slayer snatched the cigar from him and put it out on her palm. “Sis don’t like the smell of stogies or cigarettes,” the curvy brunette remonstrated. “So we don’t smoke around her, ‘kay?” The raven-haired beauty glared at him. “Why ain’t ya back in Rome, kissing ass?”
Again Crow ignored the Slayer’s hostility choosing to direct his stare towards Harris. “I want to join the Brotherhood.”
His declaration was met by shocked stares, “Y….you always turned us down before,” Tara was first to recover. “W…why now?”
Crow’s grimaced at the question. Bitterness had slowly begun to grow towards the Vatican over the past two years. He’s always been dissatisfied with the Vatican’s general attitude towards his work, but recently that had deepened to distrust.
Crow stared at his companions. Giving voice to his emotions had never been particularly easy for him, his lack of a true childhood and rough life hunting vampires hardening him. “Derek Bliss was my future with the Vatican, Sean Adams was my past. I want to continue hunting vampires, but without the Vatican I’m just another hunter. With your resources behind me, I’m still dangerous.”
“Shit,” the Slayer’s nose wrinkled as she took a sip of the scalding-hot, tar-strong coffee, “seems like it’s all about you.”
Crow shrugged, not bothering to deny the accusation. “Like I say, I hunt vampires and I’m damn good at it. I didn’t much care about who paid the bills as long as someone did. “But,” his face twisted in distaste, “you don’t judge a person as ‘touched by the devil’ because they have some supernatural talent, no matter how they use it. When the Vatican didn’t even bother to tell me Bliss had gone missing,” Crow’s voice shook with anger and outrage, “you helped. And when the Council disowned me after Adams tried to set me up, you helped. You guys are good allies and worst enemies, I want in.”
Slayer, potential, and Mithras head all looked towards to the witch. After a second Tara nodded, face intent. “H…he’s telling the truth. He really wants in.”
Xander’s face and body relaxed. “Okay, you know the terms?”
“One hundred and fifty million dollar trust fund, the annual interest to be used to fund my team, access to weapons, technology, and plugged into your intelligence network.” Jack Crow replied. “In return me and my team are answerable to you, and we agree to come when you need us.”
“And they’re agreeable to you?” Harris pressed.
Crow shrugged. “I get more resources, your motives are purer than the Vatican’s, and I don’t have to pay lip service to a god I don’t believe in. Works for me.”
Harris glanced towards Tara. Crow was relieved when the witch nodded again. “In that case what state do you want?”
Crow immediately thought of his home state. It would be good to go home. “Is Tennessee free?”
Xander nodded before glancing around and discreetly pulling a laptop out of the Always Pocket . “Who’s in Tennessee, Tara?”
The witch quickly fired up her computer. “There’s six groups of between 8 – 10 competent and trust-worthy vampire hunters, two occultists, and a white witch who sometimes helps people.”
Crow raised an eyebrow as Xander passed him a laptop, a collection of cds, and cell. “You’ll need these to keep in touch.”
“Okay,” Crow paused. “Any chance of the airfare?”
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