After the explosive end to the former watchers council things had been changed. Not just the multitude of slayers, but the overall structure of the ancient organization had undergone a massive renovation under the watchful supervision of the new head of the council, Rupert Giles.
One of the first things that was created was a brand new research department, constantly manned and accessible during all hours of the day. Centered in London and employing over fifty hard-working watchers (their official title, even though they didn't have much personal experience with slayers or work in the field, if any at all), they could on a good day dig up information needed by a group of slayers stationed for example in the jungles of central America and send it to the people in urgent need of it in a matter of hours, when in the days of the old council the single slayer and her watcher would have had to spend several days researching by themselves, and by the time they had found out what type of demon they were dealing with and exactly how to get rid of it, it might already have been to late.
The department had been working around the clock since the mysterious skinless demon had appeared in Heathers room, but had failed to come up with anything. Or rather, they had come up with an endless supply of more or less improbable theories; there was a surprising amount of quasi-demonic entities that fit the description Paul Horner had given.
Now, when he was relatively sure that Paul had lied about the whole thing, or at least hallucinated it (perhaps because of some outside influence), Giles had called the department and given them the new facts as he understood them; Paul must have been possessed by someone or something. Something wanted Buffy's daughter, and had constructed a rather complicated plan to get to her.
Something else had occurred to him; whatever or whoever was behind all this, he/she/it apparently wanted the whole scheme set in Midsomer, or else the kidnapping could easily been done in London if the thing already had control over Paul. They had been herded here (or rather, Buffy and Heather had) like a flock of sheep in front of a shepherd, but why? What was so special about this place?
One more thing for research to find out.
He had called as soon as the impromptu interrogation with the DCI had ended, and now, half an hour later he was surprised that the people in the research department was already calling him back. Having a vague idea that mobile phones were not allowed inside the hospital he went outside the glass doors to pick up the phone. It was raining again, in small, flying droplets that in reality was barely more than thick fog, but he felt more or less safe from the wet where he was, huddled against the wall of the hospital just outside the glass doors. He answered the phone, and for the next seven minutes everything was quiet except for the occasional 'allright', or 'go on' from Giles. Then he ended the phone call and went inside again.
There had not been much new information on the thing that wanted Heather, but some new and to his mind very interesting things about this place had been excavated amongst the dusty tomes (and nowadays, probably on the Internet as well; this was the new and modern watchers council after all). Just enough at least that he was convinced that the best course of action right now were to be as far away from the county Midsomer as humanly possible.
The smell of soap with a slight undertone of cut grass that translated into 'DCI Barnaby' in Spike's brain led him to the corridor outside Paul Horner's room. It was deserted now, but it hadn't been empty for long. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose to pick up the scent again.
Close. Very close.
When he opened his eyes the fist thing he saw was the very man he was looking for emerging from a door at the end of the corridor. An older woman with grey hair in a loose ponytail followed behind him. They were talking, but Barnaby seemed preoccupied; he was looking through a thick file of papers at the same time as walking.
When the woman glanced ahead of her and saw Spike she stopped dead in her tracks and quieted in the middle of a sentence. Barnaby noticed her silence,stopped as well and cast a curious eye at her before following her line of sight and locking eyes with William the bloody.
He hadn't actually heard anything they'd said, despite his enhanced hearing, but it didn't take a genius to work out what, or rather who, they had been discussing. Spike smirked.
“Ooh, my ears are burning! Talking 'bout little old me, were you?” He didn't get the reaction he'd anticipated. In fact, he didn't get any reaction at all. They just continued staring at him. His smirk faded, and he crossed his arms, leaned against the wall in the most nonchalant stance he could manage, and cocked his scarred eyebrow at them.
“Well, don't get all embarrassed about it. I know I'm a fascinating subject.” he nodded towards the papers in Barnaby's hands. “Interesting reading in there, Detective Chief Inspector?”
Barnaby could practically hear the capital letters dropping into place when Spike uttered the words 'Detective Chief Inspector' with exaggerated care. He glanced down quickly to the file, then looked back at the vampire.
He could still not entirely believe it, despite the evidence he'd seen. All rational thought in his head practically screamed at him that there was no such thing as vampires, and yet... Brenda had given him the file, Rupert Giles had told him an incredible story and William Sinclair's face had changed into the features of a monster before his very eyes. Nothing seemed to make any sense any more.
'So let's force it to make sense,' he thought to himself. 'Let's see if I can't hammer this into shape, after all.'
“Some of my contacts came through. I had been asking about you, and it seems I got even more that I could have hoped for. I would appreciate it if you could clear some things up for me.” He offered the file to Spike, who after looking at it warily for a couple of seconds took it hesitantly and opened it. He skimmed over the papers, not really reading the writing but getting the gist of it all anyway. His still rather recently acquired soul cringed at the descriptions of the vile deeds he'd committed during his first ninety years as a vampire, but he'd gotten used to it during the two years since he'd won it back, and he merely felt slightly nauseated. Both Brenda and Barnaby noticed the expression on his face however, one with barely concealed surprise and the other with grim satisfaction.
Brenda couldn't get her head around the fact that the... beast, the horrific monster from the reports was the same man in front of her, the one who seemed disturbed by the text he was reading. Shouldn't he be feeling proud of these bloody deeds?
Barnaby was pleased with the fact that his previous assessment of the young (or rather, the very, very old) man had been proven right; he seemed genuinely repentant of his previous crimes, but he he could also feel the anger and resentment bubbling inside him. If this man truly was responsible for half of what he'd read in those reports, he shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets.
He shouldn't be allowed to live!
That though startled him! He'd never once in his career thought that before, not even about the most disgusting criminals he'd encountered. But he couldn't find it within him to fully regret thinking it, not after the gory descriptions in those papers...
Barnaby didn't know it, and he would have been extremely surprised if he'd found out, but much the same thoughts had flitted briefly through 'the monster's' mind as well. It had quickly faded though. He'd long since made a much peace with it as was possible. Going around brooding about the past all the time wouldn't do any good, wouldn't undo anything he'd done. In the end, he just sighed resignedly, closed the file and gave it back to Barnaby, looking him in the eyes the entire time.
“They've missed a couple of decades”, he said, rather quietly. Then he settled against the wall again,waiting for one of them to speak. None of them did, so he continued. “I was actually looking for you,” he said to the DCI. “Buffy sent me. She was wondering about the swordsman, and then she wants to leave. The little one needs to be put to bed, and frankly, she does too, even if she won't admit it. She's bloody exhausted.”
“Where is she going? Both the cottage and the bed and breakfast are crime scenes.” The question was short, clipped, Barnaby's steady, grey gaze not leaving Spikes for a second, his face set in grim features. Spike seemed to sag a little, but he never looked away from the policeman's face.
“Don't know. Away from here, at any rate. She's never been too fond of hospitals. I'm sure the watcher can rustle up something; that's what he's for. Ground service and all that.”
A few seconds of silence, blue eyes trying to stare down grey, then a clipped; “No.”
Buffy had dozed of on her chair, not that she'd ever admit it. Heather was fast asleep, and today's events had finally caught up with her. Had she been on full alert she log ago would have noticed the attractive brunette woman walking slowly towards her chair, but as it was she seemed oblivious to the world around her...
An incredulous scarred eyebrow shot up in the air. Spike looked hard at the woman behind the DCI and she stared right back at him. Barnaby turned around and looked at Brenda, winning one on Spike by raisin both his eyebrows. Brenda didn't brake the staring contest she had going with Spike, but the words she spoke next weren't directed to him.
“You can't just let them leave, Tom, ” she said sharply. “not until I've had the chance to talk to my people at least.
“What soddin' people? Who the hell are you, and what makes you think you have a say in what we can and can't do? I wasn't asking permission to leave, I was telling you; we're going. End of bloody discussion.” Those who new Spike would have started backing away by now, or, if they were Buffy, had tried to calm him down, but Buffy wasn't here and all Brenda knew about Spike was what she had read in that folder. Which, considering, probably should have been enough not to antagonize the vampire in front of her. But she was a woman who had always put her job first, and even though she had more or less been retired for several years you could never entirely quit doing what she had been doing since she was twenty years old.
She glared at Spike, William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers, and it didn't even occur to her to back down. Now she was addressing the vampire; “You have nowhere to go, as Tom so aptly just pointed out.”
“Brenda, we cant keep them here.” Both Spike and Brenda now turned their heads to look at Barnaby. “It's not like we have any cause to arrest them. The only thing we can do is to secure some way to get hold of them, and to find out exactly where they're planning on staying.”
Brenda opened her mouth to give him an angry reply, but the arrival of Giles interrupted her. He seemed to ignore both her and the DCI and turned directly towards Spike.
“We're leaving now. Go get Buffy and tell her to get ready.”
Spike didn't waste any time, but turned around instantly and went back the way he came from. Giles turned towards a fuming Brenda and to Barnaby, who was wearing a facial impression impossible for Giles to read.
“I'll need the address you're staying at, and a phone number on which I can reach you”, Barnaby told him.
“We're going back to London”, Giles clipped. Brenda gathered her breath, but before she could Say a word Barnaby beat her to it.
“No. You're not leaving Midsummer.”
Brenda turned to him. “But you just told..”
“I said they were free to leave the hospital, but not the county.”
Giles shook his head. “I'm afraid it doesn't matter. We're leaving any way. This is not your authority, not your jurisdiction any more.”
Before a full scale argument could break out, Spike came running back towards them. The expression on his face was both terrified and frightening to look at.
“They're gone,” he said, clearly only addressing Giles. “Buffy and Heather are gone”.