Of Hunters, Beer, & Victims
Disclaimer: Don't own anything, just playing with the various fandoms and toying with Shannon's twisted little world. "I am Sound" is owned by the Dandy Warhols. Hey, I know it's a weird song, but I thought it kind of fit Byron Baxter's personality.
Author's Notes: Not too sure about this chapter, I had to break it down into two separate chapters. If there are any glaring errors or such, I'll correct them.
Of Hunters, Beer, & Victims Shanahan's Bar & Grill
San Francisco, California
Alexander Harris, kindred of the Gangrel clan, enforcer for the Prince, carpenter-contractor, and father of one spunky four year old little girl slid behind a table and momentarily relaxed after having put in a solid day of work. Some of his fellow Gangrels jokingly called him a work-a-holic, but Alex didn't see it that way. He liked carpentry work and within a couple years, he had an established business along with Lonnie and Paul that was doing quite well.
Today, he had just finished the interior of an old Victorian style house (which there were quite a lot of in San Francisco) and enjoyed every moment of it.
Okay, so maybe he enjoyed the fact the three sisters who lived in the house were drooling over him and his crew...well, two of them were, the older of the three was married and wasn't drooling too much. However, on the downside, he didn't like the slight growl he heard from Emily when Lonnie and Paul were talking about the "hot sisters".
And then there was that magical presence that he sensed throughout the house. He also got the impression that they were hiding something, especially when it came to the attic. In many ways, the "vibe" he felt was very similar to what he sensed whenever Willow used magic, except this didn't feel tainted. He knew something was up with these three sisters (and there seemed to be a lot of drama with the middle one), but it really wasn't any of his business. He had brought it up with Daedelus and the Nosferatu Primogen confirmed it...it really wasn't any of his damn business.
So Alex was more than content to finish the Halliwell contract and take their money. And now, here he was, a few thousand dollars more in his account (after material costs and splitting the money with Lonnie and Paul), and enjoying a nice beer before heading home. Between the money from this job and the money he set aside from the last month, he had enough to surprise his daughter with a trip to Disneyland for her birthday. Emily wasn't too thrilled with the idea, but Alex chalked that up to a bad childhood and could understand that. However, seeing as how it was for her adoptive daughter, Emily almost melted.
He couldn't help smiling at that. Emily might not have been Alexia's biological mother, but she had no problem filling the role and Alex remembered the tears in her eyes the first time Alexia called her 'mom'. Then she promptly threatened to rip Alex's balls off if he told the other Gangrels about her meltdown.
Yes, he thought with a chuckle, life was good.
He closed his eyes for a moment and leaned back against the wall, savoring this relative moment of peace and quiet, silently praying that this would last for at least couple weeks. No Luna suddenly alerting him to a crisis, no Ve'stharyl demons trying to smuggle artifacts into town, no crazy nutjob trying to bring about an apocalypse, and no fucking Brujah trying to make life hell for everybody else, was that too much to ask?
Probably...but a mild level of activity that allowed him this small family trip...at least that was possible. Just a taste of "normality", not an actual serving, would be nice.
The Pink Floyd song that had been playing on the jukebox ended and a weird song began to play. For have I, I've built a castle
Upon believing before I doubt.
I have suffered but my friends say I have learned from it.
And for have I believed the snow could
Not be freezing upon the ground.
Now my ass is blue and black, but I am sound.
Not the kind of music normally played around Shanahan's, but it somehow fit Alex's mood at the moment. Weird and somewhat dark lyrics, but the tone of the song sounded strangely upbeat. And for have I belonged to no one
More than fleetingly and in doubt.
I have had what now is gone
But still I've known them.
And for have I, I have absolved myself
Of demons I must confess.
Having known them growing old, then
I will re-e-e-est.
The sound of a bottle being set on the table in front of him broke him out of his thoughts and he couldn't help smiling at the timing. Then again, most of the staff knew what he ordered when he showed up...one bottle of Budweiser...one of the perks of being at a bar that was owned and staffed by members of the Herd.
"Thanks," he said, eyes still closed.
"Think nothing of it, Alexander Harris."
Alex's eyes shot open at the unfamiliar voice. This was not one of the regular staff at Shanahan's bar and the beer in front of him was not a Budweiser, but an antique copper-colored bottle of Sam Adam's "Utopias" along with two small glasses.
Across the table sat a man with short-cropped hair who appeared to be in his late thirties, maybe early forties, staring back at him. His head was tilted slightly to one side, a curious expression on his face, which reminded Alex of a predator preparing to strike.
But what bothered Alex more than the fact that he didn't sense this man come up and sit down was that he couldn't sense the man at all. There was no scent or feeling coming from this man...he was nothing, and yet here he was calmly pouring himself and Alex each a glass out of the bottle. For have I delivered comfort
To the aching and for the tired
With these words of comic wisdom,
I have tri-i-i-ied.
So where are all the songs
For me to sing along,
When I am hoping someone write one for me.
And sings me something sweetly
For, I promise to sing along
And then we'll both know nothing's wrong,
Singing naaaaaaaaa, na-na-na
The man then raised his tiny glass in a salute to Alex. "Cheers," he said before taking a sip. He motioned at Alex's glass. "Relax, Mr. Harris, at a hundred and fifty dollars a bottle, I can assure you that it's not poisoned."
Alex took the tiny shot glass filled with beer and mimicked his unknown benefactor. He managed to keep a calm facade, but internally, his senses were screaming at him that this man was a threat. Okay, maybe they weren't, because he still sensed nothing, but that cold feeling in his gut said differently. The same cold feeling he got back in Sunnydale when he knew something bad was going to happen.
"Who are you?" he managed to ask after a moment of awkward silence.
"A friend, an enemy, an enigma...I'm known as many things," said the man as he poured himself another glass of the beer. "Byron Baxter. And you...Alexander Harris...are the white knight, though there are some who probably see you as fallen."
Okay...it was now official, this Baxter was definitely a threat. And yet, Alexander couldn't get over the fact at how casual and calm this monster was...or was he a monster?
"What are you?"
Baxter gave Alex a tiny small as he put the topper back on the bottle and, with one slight gesture, made the bottle vanish. "As I said, I'm known as many things...warlock, monster, killer, mentally deficient...it all depends who you talk to." Baxter then leaned back in his chair and finished off the beer in his glass. "At the moment, I'm just a man who came in to have a beer and Shanahan's was the only place in town that had a couple bottles of Utopias."
"And then what," Alex snorted. "Hit on me?"
"Well, this IS San Francisco," chuckled Byron. "But to use a phrase...I do not swing that way. No, Alex...I simply came in to have a beer and inform you that I'm going to kill you."
This time, it was Alex's turn to laugh. "Oh, really...at least you're honest and up front about it."
"I've found that people appreciate my honesty."
"And when, exactly, do you plan to do this?"
Baxter got up out of his chair and tapped the table twice with his fingertips. "Now is as good a time as any, Alexander. It was good to meet you face to face like this."
Alex watched the older man leave, a puzzled look on his face. He was about to follow Baxter out of the bar, but his attention was suddenly drawn to the single glass on the table...a single glass. Wait a second...there were two glasses on the table when he made the bottle vanish...what the hell?
The momentary shimmer of the glass on the table was the only warning Alex got, but it was enough of one to get him to react. He immediately kicked over the table a dove as far away from the corner as possible.
"Everybody down!" he screamed, getting startled looks from most of the patrons.
The tiny explosion didn't do much, just tear out the tiny corner Alex had been sitting in, the shockwave knocking most of the patrons off their feet and shattering the tinted front windows. Alex himself was sent flying across the bar, slamming into the mirrored wall behind it before hitting the floor.
"Ow," he mumbled as he pulled himself up from the floor and grabbed the .45 out of his shoulder holster. He cautiously peered over the bar and could see a gaping hole in the wall where his table had been. "Shit...George is going to kill me."
Through the hole he could see Baxter standing outside on the sidewalk, smiling and waving at him. Okay...time to wipe that smile off your face.
Alex fired four shots that would have hit the man dead-center...would have if the bullets hadn't stopped a foot in front of their target, literally splitting in half before dropping to the ground.
"My turn," said Baxter as he brought up hand which held a silver throwing knife. Then he hurled the knife in Alex's direction. For Alex, time seemed to stand still for a second as the knife closed half the distance between them before three other knives materialized around it, all them whizzing towards their target. Declino!
Alex barely managed to think up the spell as he brought his arm up, causing the four blades to veer off in different directions before embedding themselves in the ceiling, a side wall, and two tables. Then he saw a blur before Baxter suddenly reappeared in front him, grabbed him by the front of his shirt pulled him across the counter, before throwing him into a couple tables.
"Eyes front, Alex...you lost focus, not a good thing." Baxter shook his head and brought his arm out to catch a would be attacker who tried to come from behind, sending the poor bastard reeling back into another table before falling to the floor in an unconscious heap. He then helped himself to an unopened bottle of beer that had been knocked to the floor. "Hmmm...LaBatt black label...don't find many of those."
Alex shook his head to get his bearings and took a moment to study his attacker who seemed momentarily distracted by a beer bottle. While his highly honed sense of danger screamed at him, his enhanced Kindred senses kept telling him the same thing...nothing. No smell, no heartbeat...and yet, Baxter was standing in front of him. At least I can see my enemy,
Alex thought as he lunged at Baxter.
Baxter rolled with the attack, blocking Alex's punch and then using the Gangrel's own momentum to throw him against the wall. Alex kicked off the wall with one leg, rebounding off it and kicking out with other leg, catching the older man in the middle and causing him to stumble back. That's it, keep on him.
Alex followed up with a couple more punches, the first one connected, but Baxter moved in close, landing a shot to Alex's ribs. There was an audible crack from the impact and Alex felt like someone had lit his ribcage on fire.He grunted and managed to shove the pain aside, and threw Baxter across the room.
Baxter hit the ground hard, but rolled up into a crouch, a tiny smile on his face as he stood up. There was something in his eyes that caught Alex off guard somewhat. Alex had seen anger, hatred, and more than a healthy dose of fear in the eyes of his enemies...but this Baxter had none of those emotions. If anything, Baxter seemed genuinely amused by this confrontation. But other than the emotions on the other man's face, Alex could still sense nothing. It's like fighting a ghost...except the ghost is solid and standing right here in front of me.
His eyes caught a gleam off something poking out from the remains of a table...it was the .45 he had dropped earlier when Baxter had grabbed him and thrown him across the room. There were at least four shots left in the clip...if he could get to it and somehow catch Baxter by surprise... Not the best plan in the world, but I'm getting low on options here.
"What the hell are you?" Alex asked again, refocusing his eyes on Baxter and making sure he didn't even glance back at the buried gun. He wasn't sure, but he had the suspicion that Baxter would pay attention to the slightest movement and react accordingly.
"Didn't you ask me that question already, Alex?"
"You never gave me a real answer."
Baxter smiled again and chuckled softly. "No, I suppose I didn't."
"What are you? Sabbat? An Assamite?" Alex kept the questions coming. If he could keep the other man talking, he might have a chance to get that gun.
Baxter shook his head and frowned slightly. "It's really sad, you Kindred seem to have this narrow vision of the world...unaware that it's truly bigger than what you perceive and accept as 'the world'." He paused and tilted his head to one side, a tiny smirk pulling on the corner of his mouth. "You of all people should know this, Alex, given where you came from."
Alex took a step towards Baxter, which also would bring him closer to where the gun was partially hidden. "Yeah, well, I've been kind of busy here...dealing with all the demons and what-not that have decided to relocate here after some idiots decided to close the Hellmouth."
"Well, San Francisco is closer than Cleveland," said Baxter. "But that doesn't change the fact that you really are uninformed about the world around you. Oh...and by the way...you'll be dead before you get that gu-"
A loud roar from outside cut him off and Baxter turned to deal with the intruder, which happened to be a large Ford pick-up truck slamming through the front of the building and into Baxter, throwing him across the room.
"Alex!" someone yelled as the driver's side door opened. "You okay?"
Alex charged towards the truck, grabbing the gun off the ground along the way. He felt something whiz by his head and caught a glimpse of another silver knife before it smashed through the windshield of the truck and embedding itself in the passenger's seat.
"FUCK!" Cavan screamed as Alex took cover with him behind the open door. "I just had that seat reupholstered." He reached into the truck and pulled out a shot-gun while Alex returned fired the remaining shots in the .45 at Baxter who took cover behind an overturned table.
"So Alex," Cavan said casually, pumping a few rounds from the shotgun while Alex slammed another clip into his .45. "A friend of yours?"
"No, not really," replied Alex. "Just some guy trying to kill me."
"Hmm, that's not right," said Cavan. "It's Friday, I thought shit like this only happened on Tuesdays."
Alex fired several shots at Baxter who managed to throw a couple more of those silver knives that embedded themselves in the door, the points just sticking out of the other side.
"Dammit," groaned Cavan. "I just had this thing repainted." He fired another shot at Baxter who suddenly charged forward, almost a blur of movement.
"What the fu..." Cavan didn't finish his sentence as he saw Baxter land on the hood of his truck before vaulting over the cab and into the city street. During that whole time, Alex emptied the clip out of the .45, but somehow managed to miss even at that close of a range.
Alex and Cavan were about to chase after him until the sound of approaching sirens in the distance made them stop...someone had called the cops.
"Shit," snarled Alex as he lowered his gun. He couldn't take off after Baxter now, not with the cops descending on the area.
"Who was that, Alex?" asked Cavan.
"Not sure, Cav, but we better call Luna."
"He's not going to be happy about this. Covering this up will take a little work."
"Oh, he's going to be more than unhappy," said Alex. "Especially with what we just dealt wi-"
Alex was cut off by the Imperial Death March ringtone he had on his cell-phone and pulled the phone out of his pocket. He glanced at caller ID, but it read as "unknown" and listed no number. He flipped open the phone, already suspicious of who it might be.
"And the White Knight emerges relatively unscathed, unknowing of what is to come..."
Alex's eyes narrowed in anger. "How the hell did you get this number?"
"Yellow pages...Harris Carpentry and Contracting," replied Baxter. What annoyed Alex was the somewhat cheerful sing-song tone of voice. "Opening round has ended, Alex...no victor on either side. We will meet again...if you survive the others."
"Others? What the fuck are you talking-"
Alex closed the phone, pondering what Baxter meant while simultaneously thinking about chaining the bastard to the back of his bike and dragging him through the streets. Others? He obviously meant that others are targeting me...but why?
Then he felt his stomach tighten in fear as another thought hit him. What if he wasn't the only target? Oh God! Emily and Alexia!
He flipped open his phone again and hit the speed dial button when Emily's name was highlighted, silently praying that he was wrong or, if he wasn't, that he wasn't too late.
Author Notes Part Two: Yeah, I know, kind of a cheezy cliffhanger ending, but trust me, the next chapter will mesh with this. Next: Emily and Alexia run into another strike team and McCade gets stuck right in the middle of it.