Legacy of Night
Disclaimer: Buffy Summers, Faith Lehane, Xander Harris, Amy, and others belong to Joss Whedon and BtVS. The rest are mine (unless otherwise indicated).
Prologue – 1953
They came at two AM.
Roman Harris, a retired archaeologist, opened his eyes and for few seconds vainly tried to realize as to from where did that ringing come from. Then he realized that it was the doorbell. Sighing, he got out of bed and went to open the door.
Odd, scratching, metallic sounds came from the other side – apparently, somebody was already trying-out a skeleton key. Roman Harris turned on the light and opened the door.
The door immediately flew open, tall men in black entered, their shoes squeaked, smell of leather filled the air. Mr. Harris got grabbed by his arms and frog-marched to the living room. There, at the round table (where the whole Harris clan used to dine), he was forced to sit, with two men in black behind him, the third – an androgynous blonde – sat across him, and looking at Mr. Harris with odd, immobile eyes, spoke:
“Well what?” replied Mr. Harris, who was still sleepy and partially thinking that this was just a dream that would vanish with the sunrise.
“Where is it?” the blonde elaborated. He seemed immobile, but his fingers twitched like oddly-shaped worms across the table. “We’ll find it anyways; don’t make us search Mr. Harris, this will make it all just worse for you.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t know anything…”
The blonde imperceptibly nodded. The other two grabbed Mr. Harris by the arms and neck and slammed him face first into the table.
“I mean your rare find, Mr. Harris. Your artifact. Your vase…”
That awoke Mr. Harris in a hurry. He stared at the CIA man as he was some giant reptile, whose fossils he found before the WWII in Morocco.
The blonde’s arm struck forwards like a snake, grabbed the ex-archaeologist by the chin, pulled him forwards. Those odd eyes stared at him from too close a distance, a voice hissing like a snake’s, flowed in his ears.
“The Grail, Mr. Harris, where is it? I want the Grail…”
And then Mr. Harris fully remembered where he had seen the man – or the woman? He fully remembered Morocco, the houses of clay bricks; the dead Bedouin mullah in the white clothing besmirched in red, and fully understood, who he was dealing with. He screamed, and the blonde, realizing that Mr. Harris got his memories in order, struck with a finger at Mr. Harris’ throat. Mr. Harris slumped, he practically fainted. The blonde wiped the hands and nodded to the other men:
“Begin the search.”
The blonde then went to the library and began to search the books. Apparently, it was done purely for appearances – there was no system, no goal. The books would be leafed through and thrown under the table, while the others searched the rest of the apartment.
Mr. Harris himself re-awoke at about five in the morning. The throat hurt, the head was dizzy. “Must be some Oriental trick”, he thought, “some sort of a Cobra Strike or something… and the mullah!”
Footsteps sounded in the hall. Mr. Harris pretended to be asleep, but he felt that the intruder knew he was awake. The androgyne re-started to speak.
“Now listen you dirty commie. Either you tell willingly where you hid the rarity, or the professionals will shake it out of you back in Dakota together with the rest of your guts. Well?”
Mr. Harris just shook his head in refusal, awaiting the blow. But the blow didn’t come and so he began to speak, eyes still closed:
“I have no cup, do you hear me, Lilith, Hecate, Hel, Kali, or whatever your name is.”
“Enough,” the blonde said dispassionately. “You’ve gone mad, is that it? Just tell me where the rarity is, or the thugs in prison will make you want to die a hundred times before you are shot. So tell me. Mr. Harris-“
“I am an honest man,” the archaeologist said firmly. “I will be found innocent.”
“Are you really daft?” the blonde sounded truly surprised. “Son of a Russified German, dirty commie, and Soviet spy – what are you counting at? Look, if you co-operate I can shorten the sentence to a minimum – ten years. You’ll still be young when you’ll be free. So – where did you put it?”
“I had it for all three minutes,” Mr. Harris persisted. “I left it back there – in Atlas mountains.”
“You’re lying,” the blonde countered calmly. “You think I did not realize why you have fled for America so quickly? Why you hid all those years? Or maybe you hoped that there were no witnesses? I have talked to that monk, you know I did, and he admitted that he gave it to you. He gave it to you and you took it!”
For the first time the blonde’s voice grew emotional.
“No,” Mr. Harris whispered.
“The dead do not lie!” the blonde suddenly yelped.
Suddenly, Mr. Harris felt that he was no longer afraid. Suddenly, he felt truly free for the first time. He opened his eyes and looked into the blonde’s bony face.
“Blondie,” he said calmly, “you seek it? Have failed to do so? Then continue to do so.”
For a moment he expected another blow, but the blonde just turned around and exited the corridor to talk to the other men. From there Mr. Harris heard the callous: “Take the scum to the slammer.” “Scum – that’s me,” Mr. Harris thought and fell unconscious. (He recovered only in the car.)
Meanwhile, the blonde sat into a separate car and drove-off in an opposite direction, till she arrived at a nondescript building at a nondescript city street. There, she entered it and ascended to the sixth floor and opened the door to her cubicle. The phone rang in it, but the blonde ignored it as she drank coffee.
She swept away her paper-cluttered desk and produced a fine blue folder out of a safety deposit box. There, lying on red velvet was a heavy black Magnum, and an odd, transparent skull, made from either glass or crystal, glimmering dimly from its empty sockets.
There was a shy knock on the door. The blonde hurriedly closed the box.
The blonde then proceeded to swallow two cups of hot coffee like water. As the secretary left, she re-locked the door behind her.
In an hour, the blonde was done. She had re-looked through the blue folder, and added on the last page the word “Isolated” and odd, star-shaped sign. She also extracted from the folder an old, pre-WWII photo and put into her inner pocket. And then she put the folder away and left her cubicle.
Two floors above her, in the cubicle number 8032 the blonde colleague, an investigator named Paul Frost, was sleeping. His was an uneasy sleep, and so as soon as the blonde entered his space, Paul awoke.
“Oh, it’s you, Andy? Come in,” he said belatedly.
The so-called Andy entered and came over to the huge window that overlooked the city. Sunrise was coming over it, making the city look glorious.
“Still asleep, Paul?” she said acidly. “And at such a time?”
“Easy for you to say, Andy?” Paul replied, also wryly. “Our nights are sleepless, this is our time. It’s only you, who got this super-stamina, can be awake for hours at end… Guess that’s why you’re the field worker, and I work in an office, eh?”
“Speaking of offices,” Andy interrupted. “You’re to go the holding unit and took to this Mr. Harris. Roman Harris. Shake him empty, but discover where he has this?” Andy gave Paul the photo from her inner pocket. On it was a chalice, illuminated by some unseen light source. “What it actually is is irrelevant. He knows, and that’s what counts. He’ll lie, of course, but he has it – or had it, it’s also irrelevant. Find out where it is now. Got it?”
“Andy, come on, I have six cases already!” the shorter Paul got up and tried to look Andy in the face, but failed, for the blonde still immovably looked at the city. “Do you imagine what the higher-ups will do to me?”
“Don’t worry,” the blonde replied. “I’ll deal with the higher-ups, you know. Think instead about that this is the most important case you’ve ever had – or will have. Do it correctly, and you’ll be promoted.”
“Yeah right,” Paul muttered, but the fight gone out of him. He pulled out a small rubber club. “Would you look at this beauty? Best there is in the world!”
The so-called Andy didn’t listen. She was looking at the snow-bound city, at the rooftops glinting in the late winter sunlight, and was remembering the light on the helms of Aztec warriors, storming another city – a holy city, located high amongst the snowy peaks of the Andes.