Disclaimer. Anything you recognise belongs to other, more intelligent and wealthier people. Anything you don’t belongs to poor old me.
Buffy stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of the couple entwined on the floor. Natalie looked around from her cross-legged position on the floor and dropped the spinner in her hands. Josh and Dawn collapsed in surprise on the mat with the rows of multi coloured circles on.
“Twister!!!??” …… You’re playing Twister?” Buffy shook her head in disbelief, a bemused smile on her face.
Dawn disentangled herself. “And you thought what?..…….No, never mind……I can guess!………Josh, this is my sister. Buffy this is Josh Hartnell…… My boyfriend. ”
Buffy eyed him with suspicion.
Josh did a double take. He grinned and nudged Dawn. “You said boyfriend….Isn’t she going to…..”
“Get mad …...No, you‘re safe.” Finished Dawn.
“Twister..” Buffy muttered again, shaking her head.
She felt a tug at her jeans.
“An’ I’m Natalie Harland.”
Buffy eyes fell to the source of the voice. “Oh, right. Sorry, I…….Can we go downstairs……meeting. ….. Where’s Willow?”
“Aunty Willow’s in the labratree, doin‘ sperryments.” Natalie informed her.
Dawn sniggered at the sight of her sister being upstaged by a four year old.
Buffy recovered from her shock and knelt down to her. “Thank you. Hi, I’m Buffy, we spoke on the phone, remember, when I called your mommy.”
Natalie nodded and held out her hand to shake. “How’d you do.”
Buffy grinned and shook the hand.
Dawn and Josh came over to them. “So what’s the what?” She asked.
“Oh, nothin’ much.” Replied Buffy, nonchalantly. Okay. If Dawn could shock her, there was one coming right back at her. She flashed the ring in front of Dawns face.
“I‘m getting married!” She beamed.
Willow was located in the lab and obliged her in collecting Xander and Vi from France.
After she and Dan told the gathered group, the impromptu celebration lasted the rest of the afternoon and the evening. The Hartnell’s made their excuses and left for home around nine. Natalie had gone to bed at the same time, protesting loudly at missing the party, but as with most children her age, as soon as her head had hit the pillow, she’d fallen fast asleep. There was a call put in to Robin and Faith informed her that she wasn’t surprised, they’d had several of the girls come to them with reports of seeing the ring in their dreams. They just hadn’t connected it to Buffy.
Dawn and Josh didn’t need to be in lectures until eleven a.m. so they decided to travel back the following morning.
The information that Buffy and Dan had brought from London lay untouched on Giles’ desk……
The following morning was grey and overcast. No-one slept late as they all had things to do, or places to be. Willow had teleported back to Rio at around midnight, her calculation being that Kennedy and the others would be arriving back there at roughly the same time. No-one had to guess why her reasoning was so, it was obvious from the stammering reaction to Buffy’s raised eyebrow that said it all.
Three women stood on the steps of the school, watching their menfolk engaged in the age old ritual of male bonding.
“Boys and their toys. They’ll be there for hours if we let them. I’ll go and get started on those books and paperwork for Giles.” Said Vi, smiling. “When Xander realises I’m not here, tell him where I am.” With that, she disappeared inside.
The two sisters stood watching the three men drool over the Morgan and Audi, discussing the finer points of classic versus modern motoring. Xander, Josh and Daniel were getting along like a house on fire. Dawn let out a heavy sigh.
“Not feeling ignored already. Are you?“ Asked Buffy.
“No, but I like him and he likes me, and well…It‘s not love…..yet, but it might be soon…...” Replied Dawn.
“I did notice that you had separate rooms last night.”
Dawn grinned. “Yeah, well since the noise from your room would have kept us both awake. …..Owww!” She squeaked, rubbing her arm from the slap.
“Do I have to interrogate him. See if he stammers afterwards?” Warned her sister.
“No. Buffy he’s nice. I’m comfortable around him. You’ve met his parents, and Willow’s checked him out. He’s one of us. A watcher, or at least he will be.”
“If he hurts you…..”
“He’s not gonna. Hayley and Diane have already given him ‘the talk‘.” Said Dawn.
“So, you’ve not slept with him,…… yet.”
Dawn was indignant. “No. God Buffy, you think that’s all I want to do……Hello!. FYI! I’m not like you. I don’t wanna jump in the sack with every……….” The glare she got cut her short.
She looked away and then composed herself. “I’m just saying. I’m not you. You’re a Slayer. Faith’s the same. And before you say you’re not. You are. It’s the old H & H. Hungry and Horny. All the other slayers get what the deal is. Why don’t you? …. It’s the way you were built.”
“So why aren’t you? You were…..”Buffy started.
“Made from you….Yeah, but I’m not your clone. When I decide the time is right, then I’ll …… I’ll enjoy what Josh has to offer, but until that time I’ll save myself…. Okay.” Finished her sister.
Buffy hugged her. “Okay, your decision. You know me. I worry. Just….”
“I know…..Be careful……You too.” Replied Dawn.
“I should tell you.” Said Buffy. “Daniel knows about you being the key.”
Dawn cringed slightly. “Uh, oh.”
“No, it’s okay. I didn’t have to tell him; he sorta saw the energy around you. It’s kinda like an aura, I guess. It was when he woke up after being in that beam of light thingy that came out of the Grail.” Said Buffy.
“And he’s okay with all of it?” Asked Dawn.
“Yeah, he’s okay.” A vague smile graced Buffy’s lips. “Catching you up on the languages. He’s fluent in about seven or eight already. A few words, and he can speak it…….An‘ if you ever need a cure for a hangover…….He‘s your guy….It‘s like, …Wow! Almost as good as …….”
“That good huh! ….. Did I pick the wrong guy to date?” Said Dawn, grinning mischievously.
“No…Mine.” Said Buffy, firmly.
Their conversation petered out and they returned to leaning on the stone balustrades, watching the men discuss their cars.
“They’re still talking about those cars.” Dawn commented.
“Yeah, but guy’s need guy friends, …. bud’s. Don’t they?” Replied Buffy.
“We’ll have to watch them, you know that don’t you?” Said Dawn, wryly.
“Yeah, pretty soon it’ll be ‘guy’s nights out’ and we’ll get stuck at home with the laundry and the cooking and the babies……..” Buffy jumped as she was cut off.
“Eeeeek!” Dawn squealed, excitedly. “You’re not, are you?” She added beaming at Buffy.
“No! No! No! Not that. No. ….Definitely not.” Replied her sister, resolutely. “No. But I‘m not saying never. I‘d like to be married a while before……You know. I think Dan wants a family. He loves his nieces.”
Dawn nodded sagely. “Sure. I’m cool with that. I think I‘m a little young to be an aunt, anyway. About forty-ish should be the right age.”
Buffy snorted. “I’m not waiting until I’m nearly fifty!”
There was al loud roar as Xander fired up and revved the Morgan, Josh came up the steps towards the pair. “Come on gorgeous. Let’s get you back to the land of education.” He held out a hand to Dawn.
Buffy cleared her throat. “Nice meeting you Josh. ….Take care of my sister.” She warned.
Josh grinned. “Don’t worry. I’ve crossed ritual sacrifice off the list for the next thirty years, on account of pissing the big sister off. Alright?…..And congratulations, again.”
Buffy smiled. “Thanks. Okay, be careful. …… Both of you.”
As they drove away, Dan and Xander came up the steps.
“So, what did you get out of him?” She asked, looking at Dan.
Xander paused at the top, pointing at the pair. “And can I just say…….That was sneaky.” He commented, and left to find Vi.
Dan grinned at Buffy and took her in his arms. “He’s a decent bloke. He’s got the intelligence, he understands the hard work involved, and from what his dad told me, he’s a chip off his grandfathers block. He’ll keep Dawn safe. I think they’ll be okay.”
“So he didn’t catch on then?” She asked.
“Don’t think so, if he did he didn’t show it. Xander did about halfway through. I can usually get information out of more difficult people than Josh, even when they know they’re being interrogated. What did you get out of Dawn?”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “We, make too much noise at night. ……. I’m thinking sound proofing, or a bedroom further away from everyone else might be a good idea…..”
Detective Günter Hauser came out of his apartment and walked to his parked car. Under the wiper blade he spotted a note with his name on. Sitting in his car he read the note, expecting it to be from one of his informants. All it said was…….
“The murders you are investigating. We have a common enemy. We need to talk. Meet me in the Tiergarten, by the Siegessaule. Eleven a.m.”
It was unsigned. Nothing unusual in that, most informants wanted to remain anonymous, he could deal with this before he went into the office.
Arriving at the Siegessaule, he recognised the informant immediately. He grinned, shaking his head.
“Utcha Kostava. What in gods name brings you to Berlin!” He said, embracing his old friend and smiling.
That smile was wiped from his face as Utcha gave the detective the details of his wife’s departure from his life, and how her death meant someone must be held accountable.
Günter didn’t know what he could do to help at that moment, but he promised the grieving man that he would do all he could.
It wouldn’t be until later that day that Hauser would provide Kostava with the information on the man he was seeking, when the file on the Musketeers appeared on his desk.
The accompanying report said that two of the four were wanted for murder by police in England, and the one known as Royce may be using the identity of Ronald James, also a victim of Royce. Cross referencing that with the case he was working on, he would discover the truth about the man wanted for questioning in connection with the death of three people locally, and why he hadn’t taken his flight home. The copy of the photograph found in Chelsea threw up the connection, and a possible destination for the man…….
When Utcha got the call from Günter, the phone was hardly back on the hook before he was snapping orders to his bodyguards to get them a means of travelling to Bern. Switzerland was his next stop…….
Royce snapped his mobile phone shut. There was already activity from the other three whilst he‘d been talking. Doing the jobs they’d been trained to do so many years before. Maps, communicators and weapons lay at the ready to cover any eventuality.
Royce leaned over the spread out map of Geneva. He pointed to a park by the side of Lake Geneva, just outside the main town.
“He wants to meet here at fifteen hundred hours today. La Grange Park. Si, you get there first, check it’s not a trap, provide backup for me. Tom, you’re wheel man. Matt, you take procurement. We’ll get back into England by as many different routes as possible. We’ll need new passports, ID‘s, the works. Any search is going to be looking for Tom and me outgoing, so we’ll sneak back in and throw them off.”
“What about this place?” Asked Matt Quinney.
“My guess is that they’ll eventually find it. They must know we’ve got away by now. We’ll set up a welcoming package. Rig it to blow if anyone tries to by-pass it. Use a webcam and the internet to monitor it.”
“What about weapons back in the UK? We’re not going to get these through customs.” Said Davies.
“Remember that Russian official we topped last year. Tom brought his briefcase back here after the job.” Said Royce. Davies nodded.
Tom Parker reached into his case and pulled out a file. “There are twenty locations dotted around the UK. All of them are safe holes with enough rocket launchers, explosives and guns in them to start a war. It’s all left over from the Cold War. In the last six months I’ve been checking them out and making sure they’re not compromised by anyone. …… Gentlemen. I give you our arsenal.”
After Maguire ended his call from Royce, he re-dialled. Hecht answered.
“Arthur, what news do you have?”
“First dose was applied to the crew this morning. I put it in the milk. They drink a lot of coffee. How’s your end coming along?”
“I’ve found three willing candidates. Khazic demons. They’re in Istanbul at the moment, but they can only travel at night, they don’t want to be seen in the daylight.”
“That bad? I‘d heard they were an ugly lot, and smelly, no wonder they want to get a human body. Are they intelligent enough? I don’t want a repeat performance of that bloody Fyaral demon I did the initial trials on. All he wanted to do was pump iron and kill things that had upset him.”
“Don’t worry, they’ve got the brains, and the muscle to back it up. They’ll be here in four nights time. I’ve got a safe place for them until you’re ready. I‘ve also started making some removals enquiries for the lab.”
There was a pause.
“Was there something else, Arthur?”
“Yeah. I’ve just had a very interesting call. …… You know the bloke who did the hits on Manning and Smitts. …”
“He died in the car wreck in England……”
“No he didn’t. He caused the accident and set it up so that the police thought he’d gone up as well. Now he wants the balance of his money. I’ve arranged to meet him in La Grange Park at three p.m. this afternoon. That way I can check out if it’s somebody who might be scamming me or if there’s anything else he might want.”
“Do you need any back up?”
“No. The less who know the better. If he is the one who did the job, I’ll pay him. No sense in making enemies.”
“Fair enough. Be careful, make sure he knows you no longer require his services.”
“I will. Bye.”
“Yes, I’ll see you soon Olivia. Bye.“ Giles replaced the receiver on the phone. Olivia had taken Natalie home to gather more clothing and some personal things for them both and was to return later. Buffy was the only other person in his office at that moment, and she took her opportunity.
“I’m glad you and Olivia are back together. She’s nice, …. and, …. She’s good for you……And Natalie’s ……”
“A handful.” He suggested.
“I was gonna go with cute, but as you put it….. Yeah, a handful.”
There was a brief silence as she paused.
“Something else?” He asked.
“Will you give me away?”
“Sorry?” He asked, puzzled.
“Will you, …..You know, …… The wedding. Will you give me away?”
Giles removed his glasses and stared at her for a moment, then a smile spread across his face. “Yes. Of course I will. I‘d be delighted to.” He said, gently. “But what about Hank, er, your father?”
“What about him?”
“Shouldn’t you at least…….” He started.
Buffy cut him off. “No Giles. I want you to. You’ve been there for me and Dawn more than he ever was. He lost the right years ago, when he abandoned us.”
“Did you ever discover why he stopped coming?” Enquired Giles.
“Nope, and, don’t care.” Retorted Buffy.
“Is that Dawn’s opinion also?” Asked Giles.
“I haven’t asked, but, technically, he’s not her father.” Said Buffy.
“Perhaps, and this is only a suggestion, perhaps you and Dawn should consider making your peace with him, find out the reason why. There may be a logical answer to it all.” He said.
“Like being in Spain with his secretary, that sort of logic……No, I don’t think so. I think the answers I get might scare me more than the ones I‘ve chosen to believe. Dawn never talks about him anyway…..” She trailed off.
“So, let sleeping dogs lie, then? Very well. I just thought it might be something to consider.”
“What about you?” She asked.
Giles gave her a perplexed look. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand?” He paused. ….. “Buffy, I sometimes fail to comprehend your cryptic speech. Could you be a little more forthcoming with an explanation?”
She rolled her eyes. “Giles. You and Olivia. You have a four year old daughter. Are you going to make an honest woman of her? I did kinda notice that your room and hers were the same one last night…….And look where that got you!”
“How did you?. …. Oh, never mind. …. Actually, yes. We’ve discussed it, and as soon as Leigh is buried we’re going to make the arrangements. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to rain on your parade, as it were. It will be a quiet affair though, neither of us want any fuss.”
Buffy smiled. “Good. I didn’t wanna have to go into competition. …. You wouldn’t stand a chance!” She grinned, and skipped out of the room before Giles could reply.
Two men sat one at either end of a bench in an open area of La Grange Park. They began their conversation without looking at each other, but scanning the park and its occupants, each trying to identify any oncoming threat.
“So, who are you.?” Asked Maguire.
“I’m the bloke who did the work, and now I want the balance of my money.” Said Royce.
“Okay, let’s say I believe you. How should it be paid?” Asked Maguire.
“Into the same account that you paid the deposit into.” Said Royce.
“And the codeword is…..” Queried Maguire.
“D’Artagnan.” Answered Royce.
“And what is the balance?” Asked Maguire.
“Half a million. Sterling.” Royce stated.
“Very well. That confirms to me that you’re who you say you are. How did you get away from the coppers in England?” Asked Maguire.
“Trade secret. Can’t have everyone knowing how it was done. Can I?” Said Royce, still not making eye contact with Maguire.
“True. It’ll be paid into the account tomorrow. Good enough?”
“Good enough. If it isn’t. ……I’ll come looking for you.”
“As would I if anything was wrong.” Said Maguire. “Are you still available for business?”
“Actually no. I’m thinking of retirement. Quit while I‘m ahead.” He replied.
The Musketeers didn’t want anything further to do with Maguire after this. They weren’t going to be anyone’s private army.
“Anything you need any help with?” Queried Maguire.
No. Got it all covered.” He paused as he made to get up. “Possibly one thing. …. A blonde. American accent. Petite build. Good with a knife. She caught me on the hop at the last hit. Any ideas who she might be?”
“Why?” Asked Maguire.
“Loose ends. Her, and that copper who was taking the information from Smitts.”
“Can I give you some advice?”
“You can try. It depends on what it is.”
“Forget her. She’s out of you league.”
“Why. Who’s she working for?”
“She’s an independent. She doesn’t work for anyone.”
“Give me a name, seeing as you know so much about her. The rest I can sort.” He paused. “There’ll be no charge, so don’t worry. She and the copper can identify me. As I said. Loose ends.”
“I can’t dissuade you to leave it, then.”
Got to be done. …Witnesses… I need a name?”
“Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you……..Summers, Buffy Summers.”
There was a snort of amusement from Royce. “’Buffy‘! Sounds like a bloody cheerleader’s nickname.”
“Actually, I think she was at one time.” Maguire paused. He looked at Royce. “Don’t let the name fool you. I’ve never met her personally, and I don’t wish to. She’s good. ….They have a name for her. ………… The Slayer!”
The trip back to the lodge took two hours. On the way Davies, Parker and Royce discussed the meeting with Maguire.
“But the voice I heard was German accented. I’m positive. If this woman’s a Yank, then…….” Parker was cut off as his colleagues caught on.
“There’s more than one of her out there. I wonder if she’s been pulling the same trick we’ve been doing for all these years. Like us, she’s got a team and they back each other up when needed. That might explain why she’s got such a reputation. One thing puzzles me though. How come we’ve never heard of her?” Said Davies.
“Don’t know. But then again we’ve never been up against it like this before. We’re not being set up, are we?” Added Parker.
“We’ll soon know. Let the money go through tomorrow. In the meantime we’ll look at how best we might take her and the copper out. We’ll use the US. Defence system to see if we can access any info on her. The copper shouldn’t be too hard. Their database is a doddle. A six year old could get in.” Said Royce.
He looked at his watch and pulled out his phone.
“Matt. How are the new passports and ID’s coming. ……Good. We ready to go tomorrow? …….Great. See you soon, about half an hour.”
Arthur Maguire had a satisfied smile on his face as he walked back to his car. He loved the smell of sweet decay. He’d played it just right. Let the man’s curiosity and his need to be the winner get the better of him. He’d asked, so he’d been told. ….. Just enough. Whatever happened now, it wasn’t his fault. And maybe, just maybe, the hit man might succeed, now he had a tit bit of information. What he did with it was up to him. Better still; no cost to Arthur Maguire. Even better, if the hit man didn’t succeed, it still might keep the slayer occupied long enough to allow him to complete the project.
The project. His baby. Sanctioned by the Senior Partners. In recent years they’d lost too much ground to the likes of Angelus and the Slayer’s Witch. Pylea had fallen, so had several other dimensions and realities. And they were losing ground rapidly here. The balance needed redressing. Soon…….
To meet the agenda that the Senior Partners had laid down, demons needed to be hidden from the world, especially from the slayers. And what better way to accomplish that than to add his seemingly inert powder to bottled drinks. Not many of the world’s movers and shakers, political leaders, or civil servants drank water from the tap anymore. All that had to be ensured was that it was in a preferred brand. Then at the right moment; a demon in the right place, a broadcast spell, and your worlds leaders weren’t yours anymore. Wolfram and Hart would win, hands down. And not a damn thing the Slayers could do about it……….
End of Chapter Nineteen.