to Plan Ahead
A naked blue woman with scales glared at a human looking man in red glasses, her voice oddly doubled as she snarled, "You think that they will accept you because you look like one of them? Think again! Why should it matter how we look?"
Swirls of fog covered them both, pierced by flashes of light in red and white and bright gold that wasn't fire.
A loud wail came from everywhere, shaking the fog and lights away, leaving only blackness. The noise faded, and she could hear her first Watcher's voice. "A Slayer fights against evil. A Slayer protects those who can not protect themselves. A Slayer must learn and adapt or perish."
"Adapt or perish."
Faith turned on her narrow cot, beads of sweat over her body. The images didn't feel like a normal dream. She'd far rather be dreaming about scruffy pirates calling her Captain, and drinking rum on white sand. She'd even rather be dreaming about steamy clubs down south, with live alligator wrestling as entertainment.
Adapt or perish.
Faith woke with a gasp, her hands clenched into fists. Only the normal middle of the night prison sounds, with people snoring, and a couple guards walking. No screaming, no voices talking about appearances or acceptance. Nobody telling her about a Slayer's duty. No voices telling her to adapt.
She didn't bother going back to sleep. It might have been a Slayer dream, suggesting or warning about things yet to happen. It might have been her wee little underdeveloped conscience, guilty about what she did. Or maybe it was the meatloaf at dinner.
Her father visited that morning, walking in with a limp, leaning heavily on what was either a very solid cane or a slender cudgel. They talked a bit about older family history, stories that his grandmother had told him and his cousin Sean about 'the old country and the little people' when he'd been a boy. Stories about trouble that he and his cousin had found. A few stories about her cousin Theresa, who was Sean's daughter and attending a school outside of New York now.
And when the guard stopped listening, eyes rolling at all the stories about family and folklore and silly teenage tricks, her father had flashed a wicked grin, and murmured, "Did I mention that my cousin Sean works in law enforcement, and feels that the case against you was as solid as Swiss cheese? Or that most of the evidence was as solid as tissue paper?"
"No, you hadn't mentioned that at all..." Faith had found herself smirking. "But what about the whole confession part?"
"As he put it, a teenage girl, recently arrived in a strange town with no family, no job, nowhere to stay... and then badgered by the police for almost fourteen hours before confessing? That sounds like the strategies of a witch-hunt, rather than proper procedure."
Faith blinked, a corner of her mind wanting to shout out that she had done it. That she had killed people in Sunnydale. "I guess that isn't the normal way to go, is it?"
He paused, his eyes flicking to the bored guard before he mentioned, "Someone I know had a few words with someone you know of across the pond. Turns out that he was expecting a new girl to take over your old position in a few weeks."
For a few moments, Faith just sat there, wondering what he could be talking about. Who would she know that he'd have someone talking to? Wait, he'd said someone that she knew of, not that she knew. And what position...
Adapt or perish.
"He thought that someone new would be Called... called for the position?" Faith whispered, her insides feeling very cold. If what her father had said meant a new Slayer... she was in excellent health. Someone would have to kill her for a new Slayer to be Called. And if she was sitting in prison, she would be very easy for an assassin to locate...
"There's apparently a high turnover rate for interns in historical research," his voice sounded flat, but his accent was very strong.
"Part of that might be the working conditions," Faith mumbled, trying not to shout at the idea that Travers wanted her killed. She knew that she'd failed in her duty... failed and betrayed and spat on it. But for him to arrange for her to be killed... to arrange for it to happen now? Why not just make certain she'd never wake up from her coma? Why not make her disappear after leaving Sunnydale?
"Aye, the city life isn't for everyone," he nodded. "But it isn't that easy to give up on looking into history once you've got a taste for it."
"I guess it does grow on some people," Faith agreed. She wasn't certain if he was still meaning Slaying, if he meant actual history, or if he was just bull-shitting to kill time. She wondered who he might know that was making Travers' life miserable.
She wondered if it was safe to let herself hope.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“You’re telling me that we’ve been searching everywhere, and found no sign of Travers. Can you elaborate on that just a little?” The senior Watcher’s shock was clear.
“According to his housekeeper, he left for work Thursday, as normal. There was a call from his office to his wife around noon, and then… nothing. She assumed that it was just another one of the longer trips that he’s taken on occasion for what she called Society business. The housekeeper is under the belief that Travers is part of the top level of a Historical Society. There have been trips in the past, with two to five days being normal, and a few that were several weeks. She has no useful information,” relayed Milton Hayer.
“According to his wife, he hadn’t mentioned any plans to go anywhere in the near future, though their second daughter is graduating in June, and they were planning to collect her from University. She was also quite irritated at him – apparently last Friday was their anniversary, and he ignored the whole thing. No present, no card, not even a nice dinner and a few words.” He paused to observe the winces of the other married Watchers. “As you may have guessed, Mrs. Travers is quite irritated at Quentin. She assured me that if she had any idea where the wretched, empty-headed bog-brain was hiding himself, she’d pry him out from under his hedge, in bloody pieces if need be.”
“A major anniversary?” murmured one of the Watchers.
“Their thirtieth, I believe,” answered another.
“Has anyone seen him since… well, since he left our building?” demanded the elderly Sophia Wheatley.
The general consensus proved that none of the Watchers had seen or heard from Travers since Thursday afternoon, when he’d left their own Headquarters. The Travers household knew nothing helpful. The police had nothing. The banks refused to comment on their account-holders business, citing his right to privacy. None of the hospitals had treated a Quentin Travers or an unidentified male of his description, including blood type. Various junior Watchers had been sent to double check an assortment of unidentified bodies, none of which had been Travers.
A voice from the back cut through the clamor, “Why not try a bit of magic to locate the bloody fool?”
“As he is the Head of the Council, Travers had spent the last ten years making himself all but impossible to locate, track, or observe through magical means. To foil spying, don’t you know,” murmured another senior Watcher.
“We are absolutely certain that he isn’t at home. He isn’t visiting one of his sons, or his eldest daughter. He does not currently have a mistress. So far as we have determined, he has not contacted any of the Council or our usual channels of communication or informants. The police have been informed of his disappearance, and have given us no information. His car was left in the usual garage, as has been his habit during work hours.”
“Then we have no choice but to assume foul play, possibly demonic involvement,” murmured another senior Watcher.
“We must appoint an Acting Head of the Council. While I do not suggest that we give up our efforts to find Travers, his absence must not paralyze the Council,” wheezed a very senior watcher.
Names were suggested and debated over the next few hours. The whole matter of possible ways to find Travers was lost in favor of the new power-play. After all, to twist an old saying – the King is dead, long live the King. There would be a new Head of the Council soon, only Acting Head at first, but in the last few centuries, only three Acting Heads had not transitioned into full Headship, and two of those had only been stopped by death.
The fact that Quentin Travers was most likely dead at the hands, talons, and possibly teeth of some horrendous demon was a tragic fact accepted by most of the Watchers. He had known the risk of death by demon – Travers was a Watcher, they all knew that risk. Best have someone take charge and make certain the same couldn’t happen again.
End My Daughter 15: To Plan Ahead