I own nothing. Except the plot, that is
mine. Las Vegas (the TV show) is owned by, well, however owns it. Buffy (the TV show and the character) are owned by the usual suspects: Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, etc.
Ed Deline, President of Operations for the Montecito Hotel and Casino, sidled up to his second in command in the Surveillance and Security Control Room. Danny McCoy, Chief of S&S, and his friend Mike Cannon were fast forwarding through the previous night’s video footage obviously looking for something specific.
“What's up?” Ed asked.
“Missing woman. She was last seen here, last night. Redhead, 24 years old, named Willow Rosenberg.” Danny, his attention on the screen, missed the look on Ed’s face at the mention of that name. “She called her friend around midnight sounding woozy and out of it. The friend, Xander Harris, said he heard her arguing with someone, then what sounded like a scuffle followed by what he thinks was the phone hitting the ground. He was in LA and flew here as soon as she called. He was making a scene at the front desk so I brought him up here while we look at the footage. He’s in the conference room.”
Anyone who’d looked at Ed Deline at that moment would have known that something in Danny’s summary was ringing bells in the ex-CIA operative’s head.
“You run those names yet?” Ed asked, trying to sound casual and mostly succeeding.
“Mitch is running them now,” Danny answered distractedly, “while Mike and I go over last night’s casino footage. Mike’s running facial recognition with the photo he gave us.”
Ed hummed absently, eyes on the tightly wound young man clearly visible in the glass walled conference room. The guy was on his cell phone.
“Listen, I’m gonna go talk to this guy. See if he can’t remember anything else.”
Danny made a sound of agreement, eyes still glued to the video racing past his eyes.
“…I know, our lives suck,” Harris was saying with a weary smile as Ed entered the room. “Yeah. I gotta go. Love you, too. Bye.”
The one-eyed young man closed the phone with a snap and dropped his head briefly into one hand before looking up at Ed.
“You look tired, kid. You get any sleep last night?”
“Sleep?” Harris asked. “That’s that thing where you lie down and close your eyes right?”
Ed chuckled. “You’re Xander Harris.”
“That would be me. Who’re you?”
“Ed Deline. I’m the President of Operations here at the Montecito.”
“That sounds like a big deal,” Harris offered, though he didn’t sound impressed.
“Means I’m in charge here,” Ed agreed. “I just wanted you to know that we’re gonna find your friend.”
“Find out who took her,” Harris said grimly. “Leave finding her to me.”
“You planning to kill them?” Ed asked blandly.
Harris went still and held Ed’s gaze a moment. “Why would I do that?”
Ed pulled out a chair and sat down. “It’s not a good idea to lie to me, son. And the cops here aren’t nearly as incompetent as the ones in Sunnydale.”
“I’m not your son. And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”Kid’s a good liar
, Ed thought. Of course, he’s had plenty of practice.
“You can drop the act, kid, I know who you are. And I know why someone would be after you and your friends.”
“Do you?” Harris asked, sitting back with a small smile. “Mind telling me?”
“Alexander L. Harris, known as Xander to –well, everyone. Born 1981 in Sunnydale, California. Currently living in Rome but travelling regularly between Rome, LA and Cleveland as well as the occasional trip to remote regions of Africa, Asia and South America. Your American driver’s license has an address in Cleveland and you’ve been spending a lot of time there recently getting the newest branch of your construction business off the ground.”
Harris had tensed but stayed leaning back in his chair, pretending total unconcern. “Anybody could know any of that. Public record. I haven’t exactly been trying to hide.”
“True,” Ed agreed. “But not everybody knows that Sunnydale was what’s known as a Hellmouth and that you were involved in the rescue of a number of Army Rangers and civilian personnel just before the shutdown of a project codenamed The Initiative.”
Harris shot up and backed away from Ed, arms moving in front to ward off any potential attack. The younger man’s reaction and posture were completely instinctual, Ed noted. He doubted Harris was even aware that his reactions were more those of a soldier rather than a civilian. Ed waited patiently for the inevitable question.
“How were you involved?” Harris asked, his voice hard.
“They brought me in to run the debriefings, after it was all over. I’m ex-CIA. It was an NID project but oversight wanted an outsider to run that end. After what happened.”
“No shit,” Harris snorted, relaxing the defensive posture a little. He watched Ed with an assessing eye before nodding and taking a seat. It was a couple of chairs down from his previous position and left some space between himself and the former CIA agent. “So you know everything?”
“I know what those soldiers told me,” Ed allowed. “You saved a lot of lives, walked into what you knew was about to become a fire zone to try something you weren’t sure would work. A lot of people wouldn’t even have tried in that situation, especially when the people they were rescuing had been trying to kill them not so long ago.”
“A lot of people are not us,” Xander said. He seemed to be trying for indifferent but Ed could hear a certain amount of pride. “Anyway, it wasn’t about them and us. It was about saving lives.”
Ed hadn’t been sure, when he’d questioned the survivors, if they hadn’t been exaggerating certain things about the group of –mostly- teenagers that had saved their lives. He’d wondered at their motivations and had requested to interview them. That request had been denied. He’d pressed the issue and had been told, by one Riley Finn, that the group might be young (with some exceptions) but they were experienced professionals and knew how to keep a secret. It went unsaid that the government officials involved were afraid of the people who’d saved their personnel, bringing down a supersoldier using a magic gourd could have that effect, and didn’t want to provoke them any further by demanding they turn up in Washington to be grilled about their actions.
“Who do you think kidnapped Ms. Rosenberg?” Ed asked.
Harris sighed, once more letting his exhaustion show. “It’s a pretty long list. We’re not exactly popular with…certain people. Especially not since we scrunched The First.”
“Scrunched?” Ed couldn’t help asking.
“Technical term,” Harris joked. “Anyway. ‘Who would want to’ isn’t the right question. Who could have? That’s the question. Willow’s not easy to take down these days. She has to have been drugged. Or knocked out or something.”
“None of my girls are easy to kidnap,” Xander said. “But especially not Willow. She’s got…resources not many people have. She’d have fought, one way or another, and she’d have won unless she was unconscious or the next thing to it.”
“Or dead?” Ed suggested gently. It wasn’t a possibility he liked to mention but it seemed to him there were a lot more people who’d want to see Harris and his friends dead than captive.
“She’s not dead,” Harris said firmly. “I’d know. So would Buffy. It’s a…thing.”
“A useful…thing. You’d just know?”
“It--” Harris caught himself and sighed. “This doesn’t leave this room?”
Ed agreed readily.
“It started with the joining spell, that’s the one we used to stop Adam. Afterwards, we started walking through each other’s dreams, things like that. It faded, for Giles, but…we were always more involved with Willow’s casting than anyone else. Buffy and me, I mean. Even though me and mojo don’t really mix that well. We learned to control it, t-to close that door, but it never completely faded. And it, got stronger sometimes, depending on the spell. It’s not actually that useful, except I am sure that Willow’s alive.”
“Then I guess the question is why? And for how much longer?”
“If you can get me a picture, or a name, for whoever took her I can pass it on to Dawn. See what she comes up with. She decided a database of the people that want us dead would be useful. I’ve already got her working on who’s in Vegas.”
“I’ll make sure my people cooperate,” Ed assured him. “Anything you need, just ask. Even if it’s backup. I know some guys who…know some things.”
Harris smiled. “Thanks. I shouldn’t need any, though. Buffy’s on her…” he trailed off in mid-sentence, eyes wide. “Aw, shit.”
“Trap,” Harris snarled the word. He flipped his cell open and hit a speed-dial button. “Dawn. Trap. No, I’m serious, it’s totally a trap. Buffy’s changing planes in Chicago, get her to head to Cleveland or somewhere. No, I’m not leaving, we haven’t found Willow yet.” He sighed. “I know, but I’m safer where I am. I’ve got backup, it’ll be fine.” He paused, and Ed could hear the female voice on the other end speaking rapidly. “Oh, hell, you’re right. Look, tell her to fly to LA and then head to,” he covered the phone to ask where the nearest town was and Ed told him, “to Pahrump. No, that’s not a joke. It’s about a half-hour from here. I’ll call her for the actual rescue. My hand to God. Okay. Bye.”
“Do you need to arrange-“ Ed interrupted himself when the door opened and Danny stuck his head in.
“We found it,” the security chief announced.
Ed and Xander stood in unison and followed Danny back to the monitors.
“We got an ID yet?” Ed asked.
“Working on it, Mr. D,” Mike Cannon said, fingers moving quickly across the keys in front of him.
Ed turned his attention to the video currently playing in front of Danny. A man and a woman, both unremarkable brunettes, walked up to a woozy redhead. She was stumbling over her feet and leaning against the wall but also had managed to get her phone open and up to her ear. When they walked up to her, she was leaning her back against a wall, her eyes closed, all of her attention on her phone conversation.
“She called you?” Ed asked Xander in an undertone.
The younger man nodded. “She knew something was wrong with her. She thought it was-- something else—that I’ve helped her with before. And she knew I was in LA and, the closest. Freeze that!” he ordered suddenly.
Danny hit the button to freeze the picture and then had to lean over as Xander moved forward, squiting at the screen. “Can you, like, zoom in?”
“Not with you there,” Danny grumped.
Xander moved out of his way with quickness.
“What do you want me to zoom in on?” Danny asked.
“His hand,” Xander requested. “The left hand of the guy. I thought I saw—“
“You’re right,” Danny murmured. “What is that?”
“Cockroach,” Ed said grimly, with some idea of what that meant.
“Not that,” Xander dismissed it, “though that is gross. No, the ring.”
Danny zoomed in and cleaned up the picture without being asked.
“Fuck,” Xander swore.
“Language, Harris,” Ed warned.
“Oder of Turaka. Ring a bell?”
“Fuck,” Ed agreed with Xander’s assessment. “You know what this means?”
“It’s a burden always being right,” Xander grumbled.
“What’s it mean?” Danny asked.
“It means you have a price on your head,” Ed informed Xander.
that,” Xander replied. “It means this is a trap, to get as many of us as they can. Just as well I’m the only here yet.”
“What?” Danny asked.
“Lowest price tag,” Xander said absently. “They won’t bother with me until at least one of the others is here. And they won’t be hiding very hard either. They’ll want us to find them eventually.”
“You’re sure?” Ed asked.
“Done this before. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten a ransom note yet.” He turned to Danny. “Listen, can you get stills of the kidnappers and send them to an email address I give you?”
“Uh,” Danny looked at Ed, who nodded. “Sure.”
Harris wrote the address down on a slip of paper and then looked up at Ed. “Looks like I’m gonna need that backup after all, Mr. Deline.”
“It’s Ed, kid. Whatdaya need?”