Chapter Seven: Adjusticar
Chapter Seven: Adjusticar
Finding the demon quickly became top priority. With the new information that Angel had provided, they had finally managed to locate some particulars about the demon they were hunting. As it turned out they had
been searching the databases with the wrong description, and once they had a name a few of the hunters had been able to provide some information on the bulletin board.
The Adjusticars were said to be immortal, created to act as a one demon justice system to police the demon communities’ millennia ago. In essence it was a bureaucrat of the worst kind—a dangerous one. The Adjusticars followed the rule of law very strictly, adhering to the letter of the law, but not necessarily the spirit of it. It felt no impetus to create new law and was therefore continually acting in accordance with the exceedingly antiquated legal precedents and statutes that it had followed upon their creation. There was no empathy or sympathy when it came to sentencing and the inflexible attitude had outraged those demons that would have otherwise accepted and abided by the Adjusticar’s decisions. The demons that had never had any intention of complying with the edicts of the Adjusticars had simply ignored the justice demons until the Adjusticars had taken matters into their own hands to force compliance.
The ability with fire was indeed related to purification, used to ‘purify’ the sentenced of their crime. On occasion defendants would also be subjected to Trial by Fire, administered in accordance with the statutes. This ability made them doubly dangerous and when the Adjusticars had taken matters into their own hands, the results had inflamed the rest of the demon community—and a few humans in the know who weren’t happy about their homes being razed to the ground. They had banded together to hunt the Adjusticars down and slaughter them—which rather disproved the notion that the Adjusticars were immortal, but none of the chroniclers had appeared to have caught the contradiction. Unfortunately there was no detail available about how they had managed to kill the demons, which was extremely infuriating.
“Great,” Xander complained. “Now we know what we’re dealing with. It would be more helpful if we knew how to kill it. All very informative and absolutely useless.”
“Another example of a good idea poorly implemented,” Gray added. “These PTB’s are starting to sound suspiciously like the defence force.”
“No wonder I haven’t had a vision. They probably don’t want to admit they screwed up.”
Fortunately the Charmed Ones had come through with charms to help protect them from fire. “Fireproof is impossible,” Paige had advised when delivering the small bundle. “It’s an elemental substance so negating its effects completely can’t be done. The best we could manage was something that will make you fire resistant
. It’ll buy you some time if you need it, but the best course would be avoiding fire completely if you can.”
Cordelia had a feeling that was going to be easier said than done.
For the next two nights they split into teams, patrolling as fire raged through out the suburbs surrounding Gotham’s five docks. The attacks were escalating, fire was engulfing more neighbourhoods, stretching the fire brigades to breaking point and turning thousands into refugees, but patrolling in the areas near the fires has so far been fruitless. The only demons that they had seen were demons fleeing their homes.
The mood in the city was dangerous. By now even the densest of its citizens had clued in that these fires weren’t random, so Gotham was scared and on the edge. With emergency services stretched so thin, it wouldn’t take much to spark violence and looting—Gotham would tear itself apart in panic and terror. It was the fear toxin all over again – same result by a different route.
They were mapping the fires with red pins on a wall map of Gotham City that Gray had hung on the wall. Once mapped out a pattern had emerged, though it wasn’t a pattern that helped them greatly. The map showed clusters of pins around the docks, spreading out into a sea of pins across the map. With three docks in the area, Downtown Gotham was almost completely ablaze, only a section of centre of the island has so far escaped destruction. The mayor had requested that the Governor call out the National Guard to help support the emergency services and aid with the evacuation of civilians. Tripping over the National Guard in addition to the Fire brigade, Ambulance service and Police had made things that much more difficult.
It was slowly becoming evident that the demon could control fire—to a limited degree. The fires were taking hold too quickly just for them to have been set and left—even for multiple fires in the same location.
The demon moved quickly though. None of them had seen any sign of it, other than the fires themselves, even patrolling the areas shortly after the fires had started. At that stage the fire brigade was struggling to gain control due to the size of the blaze more than any other reason.
Cordelia hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to Bruce in regards to their lack of progress, the lack of direct communication leading her to assume that he was having no better luck with the League of Shadows than they were having with the Adjusticar. She knew that his injury from the other night hadn’t been particularly serious because she had asked Alfred when she had given him a fire charm to pass on to Bruce.
On the Wednesday reinforcements arrived. There was still no sign of Buffy and Willow, which Cordelia was too preoccupied to stress out over, she assumed that they were facing problems with transportation as all flights to Gotham were being diverted due to heavy smoke.
Instead Rogue arrived on Wednesday morning from New York, surprising Cordelia by strolling in without fanfare and answering a ringing phone.
Once she’d completed the call, she’d examined the map on the wall until Cordelia had finished up the call she was on to Bobby Singer.
“Traffic was almost non-existent heading into Gotham this morning, but bumper-to-bumper outbound,” she commented, nodding at the map. “I guess I can see why now. Were all of those caused by the demon?”
“Mostly,” Cordelia confirmed. “The orange pins indicate fires we’re fairly confident were started conventionally.” There were five orange pins dotted around the map. They stood out mainly for the fact that they weren’t consistent with the red pins in spreading out from the docks. Opportunism at its worst. Cordelia turned to look at the other woman who was leaning against Grey’s desk, in jeans, shirt, jacket and gloves. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, but what are you doing here? Gotham isn’t exactly high on the holiday hotspot list right now—or ever, really.”
“No, you’re on a different hotspot list at the moment,” Rogue replied, the soft southern accent gilding her words. She smiled slightly. “What do you think I’m doing here? I’m here to help. I thought you could use a hand.”
“I won’t say no, but I thought you guys were busy.”
“Nothing so pressing it can’t be put off for a few days.”
Cordelia nodded. “So far we haven’t been able to track the Adjusticar down. It’s getting to the stage where I would welcome Buffy’s help, and we don’t get along.”
“I’m glad you said that. I spoke with Gerry Thompson, he’s on his way to help out as well.”
“Gerry Thompson?” Cordelia frowned in concentration and tried to recall who he was as she reached for the coffee pot. His name was familiar, but she couldn’t recall his face. “Is he the guy who saw us kill that Sha-Diva demon that time?”
“That’s the one with the green fin ridge down its back?” Cordelia nodded. “That’s him,” Rogue confirmed. “He’s been freelancing a bit in West Virgina and Pennsylvannia for a while. We’ve had him come into the office a few times when we’ve been short handed; he’s good in a tough situation.”
“If I recall correctly he didn’t freak out too badly after seeing us kill the Sha-Diva either.”
“Nah, he’d seen a few things while on tour in Afghanistan and Iraq that had made him wonder about the existence of demons. He’s handled it really well. Hell, I’ve been having more trouble with Logan and this whole thing than we had with Gerry or with some of my guys. Which is downright weird when you consider what Logan’s been up to in the last twenty years.” She glanced back at the map. “You know, with the fires radiating out like that from the docks, it could be using a boat to get around.”
“That’s what Gray thought. Gordon has asked the Port Authority to monitor the water traffic.” Cordelia handed Rogue a cup of coffee.
“Can you trust the Port Authority to notify Gordon if they notice anything?” she asked, cradling the cup.
Cordelia sighed. “That’s debateable.”
“You’ve had no other luck tracking it?”
Cordelia shook her head. “No. The only thing we have to go on is the fires themselves. We have some information that it is probably targeting the organised crime syndicates first, but the fires are so indiscriminate in their damage that it’s difficult to corroborate.”
Rogue hummed her acknowledgement and changed the subject. “Lennie says hi, by the way. He’d like you to visit once this is all said and done.”
Cordelia smiled. “What, did he forget the number?”
“Nah, he’ll be calling one the fires are done. He doesn’t want to distract you right now.”
“Is the visit going to be for business or pleasure?”
“Bit of both. He’s been complaining that it’s been a while since he heard you snark at him in person.”
Rogue was grinning as she continued. “And we have to move again because we’ve hired more people and things are crazy. Lennie thinks it would be a good idea if you met the new hires.”
“Sounds good. What’s your opinion of them?”
“They’re good people from what I’ve seen. One’s a little geeky. He’s part time at Columbia and we hired him to maintain the network and help out with any technical investigation that needs to be done.”
“I thought you were farming that out to Riley?”
“We were, but were running into computer crimes more often so we thought we’d get someone on site. It had gotten to the point I was asking Kitty for help, which was annoying for both of us since she’s approaching her mid-terms.”
“That the same Kitty who’s Bobby’s current flame? Yeah I can see how that could get awkward.”
“It was a little,” Rogue admitted. “The others seem nice. A couple more ex-cops. One of them is a guy called Mike Logan, he used to be Lennie’s partner.”
Cordelia grinned and made a victory motion with her fist. “Yes! And once again Lennie Briscoe comes through with great people.”
“I take it you’ve met Logan then.”
“Mike I have, yeah.”
“He’s a bit of a ladies’ man isn’t he?”
“He is a bit of a flirt, yes.”
“Not only is he a really good detective, but he’s really good for my ego to have around.” Rogue was wearing a satisfied expression. “Mario recruited a forensic accountant who used to work for the IRS. Her name’s Anne. It’s kinda nice not to be the only woman in the place. Plus it means that I don’t have to worry about the books or payroll anymore and can concentrate on other things.”
“That would be nice,” Cordelia agreed feelingly.
Rogue smiled, knowingly. “Is the bookwork driving you nuts?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to have to hire someone full time. Getting Allison in once a fortnight to check over my figures isn’t working and she’s not available any more frequently. I should have done it before now, but...” she trailed off.
“Are you finding it difficult to give up a bit of control?”
Cordelia nodded slowly. “Yeah. It wasn’t a problem with the other branches because really, New York is you and Lennie, Miami is Fi and Sam and Nate, well mainly Sam and Nate. Doyle-Oracle is my baby though and...”
“...you’d like to avoid your accountant absconding with your money and leaving you to deal with the IRS?”
Cordelia blinked. “I’d never thought of it like that before, but yes, avoiding an audit and the IRS are good things.”
“Think of it this way, you’ll be able to get much more sleep if you don’t have to spend all that time doing bookwork. And you’ll be about to do much more of the actual investigating.”
“That would be good. Gray is about ready to mutiny, I think, if we don’t get some extra help with that side of things soon.”
“Why haven’t you already?”
“It’s Gotham,” she said, as if that explained it all. “It’s not that easy. The police force is largely corrupt so finding an ex-cop who wasn’t on the take and is trustworthy is nigh impossible. Gray’s from Chicago, which is probably why Gordon recommended him.”
“You might want to talk to Gerry when he gets here then,” Rogue suggested. “When he was in New York last he was making noises about settling down in one place for a while.”
“I might do that.”
The front door opened, and Gray entered. “Rogue!” he greeted warmly as he shrugged out of his coat. “It’s great to see you. How are things?”
“Hi Gray,” Rogue returned hugging the man. She and Gray had gotten on like a house on fire since they had met. Better than Gray and Cordelia had initially. “Things are good. How’s the slave driver been treating you?” she asked with a mischievous grin.
He returned the smile. “Ah, you know, the usual. Decide to come and help, huh?”
“Well, I’ve had some experience with fire. Besides, knowing how short staffed you guys are, I thought you could use the extra pair of hands.”
“We can,” Gray confirmed. “Although, we aren’t too badly off at the moment. The Winchesters turned up last week, Cordy seems to have hired a Slayer as our receptionist and I came in on Monday to find a friend of Cordelia’s making a god almighty mess of the third floor.”
Rogue looked at Cordelia questioningly.
“Xander,” Cordelia explained. “He’s taken it upon himself to start remodelling. I don’t know if it’s because he was bored, or if he’s doing it to entertain the seven year old who seems to have a serious case of hero worship going on.”
“It can’t be both?” Xander asked from the bottom of the stairs. He stretched and yawned, running a hand through his hair. He looked at the clock on the wall. “Why didn’t you wake me earlier?”
“I figured you could use the sleep.” She said shrugging. “Sam and Dean are still in bed as well.”
“Xander?” Rogue enquired, brow raised. “The high school boyfriend, Xander?”
“Yeah,” Cordelia and Xander confirmed at the same time.
“Hasn’t that been awkward?”
They considered each other for a moment. “Oddly, no,” Xander replied. “The awkward part is that now there’s only one bathroom.” He shuddered. “I thought sharing with a houseful of slayers was bad.”
Cordelia smothered an amused chuckle. Alice had accidentally walked in on Xander in the bath yesterday, which had freaked him out. Apparently, sharing with teenagers was one thing, sharing with a seven year old was another.
“Is Alice at school?” Xander asked once he and Rogue had introduced themselves.
“Alice?” Rogue asked. “Is she the seven year old you mentioned earlier?”
“Yep,” Gray confirmed and briefly explained about Jane and Alice while Cordelia answered Xander’s question, “Yeah.”
“I’m surprised that you’re still sending her. Hell I’m surprised that the school hasn’t closed until this is over.”
“Being on this side of the island, we’re far enough away from the docks that the school board feels that it’s safe, so they’re still open for the time being. And Alice is just as safe at school as she is here at the moment and Jane doesn’t want her skipping school.”
Gray glanced around the office. “Speaking of Jane, where is she?” he asked when he didn’t see her.
As if summoned by the question, the front door banged open and Jane appeared carrying two grocery sacks.
“She went to get coffee,” Cordelia said, eying the younger woman. “But it looks like she’s come back with half the store.”
Jane closed the door behind her with her hip, juggling the grocery bags. She stopped when she noticed the stranger. “Uh, hi.” Due to the fires, business had been really quiet so far this week. “Are you a customer?”
“Jane, this is Rogue. She runs the New York branch. She came to help with our demon problem.”
Jane and Rogue shook hands. “I thought Leonard Briscoe ran the New York branch? That’s what it says in the internal directory.”
Gray chuckled. “Lennie and Rogue are partners. Lennie would like to think
he runs things, but really it’s Rogue.”
“You make it sound like he’s my puppet.” Rogue shook her head at Gray, mildly exasperated. “Lennie is in charge. I handle the day to day administrative things. I run the office, and until very recently kept the books.”
“She keeps all her guys in line, in other words,” Xander translated. He was a little familiar with the iron fist in a velvet glove approach.
“Do you work as an investigator as well?” Jane asked Rogue curiously.
“Occasionally. Everyone multitasks, you may have noticed.” Jane nodded. “It’s not my forte, though. I focus more on the business development side of things. Advertising, meeting customers, making sure all the necessary paperwork is done, filing, chasing Mario for his reports. All the sort of things that Gray tells me you’ve been doing. You have my commiserations for having to deal with Cordelia’s filing system.”
Jane went red at the implied praise. “You’ve had some experience with it then.”
“Yeah. The last time I was here we found the Grenfell file under M.”
Xander snorted in amusement. Cordelia sighed. She always had to explain her reasoning. “For money.”
“It was a case of identity theft.”
“Which we discovered after money had gone missing.”
Jane tried to smother an amused giggle. “It makes a certain kind of sense,” she managed.
“Oh go right ahead, laugh,” Cordelia told her. “I know my filing is unconventional, but I also know where everything is.”
“You shouldn’t encourage her,” Gray admonished.
“Why not?” Cordelia looked at him, confused.
“I meant that Jane shouldn’t encourage you
. You might start filing again and we’d never find anything.”
She grinned wickedly. “What better way to ensure that I’m irreplaceable?” She winked at him.
They made small talk and helped to unpack the grocery bags. Xander moaned in delight when a packet of Twinkies emerged from the depths of one sack.
“You are a goddess,” he told Jane solemnly, before tearing into the packet.
Rogue watched appalled as he scoffed two Twinkies down in quick succession. “You do know that Twinkies aren’t a breakfast food, right?”
“Alice isn’t here for me to set a bad example for,” he retorted, “so I can have whatever I want. And I haven’t had a Twinkie in months.”
“It’ll give you a stomach ache if you keep eating them like that,” Cordelia said as she handed Jane a folder of papers. “I need you to fill out these. The bank details I’ll need back today to process your pay.”
“Pay?” Jane yelped, blinking in surprise. “You’re paying me?”
Cordelia was offended. “Of course you get paid. You’ve been working. What kind of person do you take me for? I’m not into slave labour.” A shudder racked her. “I’ve been a slave, it’s not nice.”
“Yet another story we’ve yet to hear,” Xander commented, swallowing.
Cordelia levelled a look at him. “It ended up with me being appointed princess of another dimension, freeing the slaves and helping to overthrow an evil priesthood. Do you still want the details?”
Xander considered her words. “Probably no point now, that was very concise.”
“Uh, Cordelia, these are employment forms.” Jane had flipped the folder open and was staring at the forms like she expected them to suddenly sprout wings and fly.
“Yes. They are.”
“But...” she hesitated. “What are you employing me to do?”
Gray looked at her surprised. “What you’ve been doing.” He turned to Cordelia accusingly, “I thought you’d talked to her.”
“I asked her last week, after she’d finished the first lot of filing, if she wouldn’t mind helping out!” she defended. “What did she think I meant?”
Jane stared at the paperwork detailing the proposed renumeration. That was more money than she’d ever seen. “But... I’m not qualified to be a secretary.”
“Neither am I,” Rogue advised. “But the question isn’t whether you’re qualified, it’s whether you want the job and can do the job.”
Jane still looked uncertain. Cordelia tried to reassure her. “Jane, we can teach you what you don’t know when it comes to processes. Hell, you already know half of them. What we can’t teach you is how to handle hunters and ex-cops. You stood up to Frankie, I know you won’t take any crap from them. And I need someone who won’t freak out at demon slime.”
“C’mon, kid,” Gray urged. “You don’t want to go back to working at a fast food joint for minimum wage, do you?”
“No,” Jane admitted.
“Right, so sign the papers already.”
“Ok.” She gave a small smile. “But you’re just saying that because you don’t want to have to do the filing again.”
He grinned. “You’re right. I really don’t.”
She laughed, and dug out a pen.
Dean and Sam rose around lunchtime. Cordelia flipped the sign on the door to ‘Closed’, and they all gathered in the Conference room to re-think their plan of attack.
“’Cause what we’re doing isn’t working,” Xander noted.
“We’re being noticed,” Sam added, cradling a cup of coffee strong enough to stand a spoon up in. “The police and the fire departments are noticing that we’re at multiple fires. We’ve been getting some searching looks. If we continue like this, we’re likely to find ourselves hauled into the station for questioning.”
“Add to that the fact that the demon is gone by the time we get there,” Dean added. “Either he’s slipping back to the docks and escaping via water, or he’s escaping in the confusion, through the city.”
They were interrupted by a banging on the front door. Rogue went to answer it and returned, followed by a familiar face. It was easier to remember Gerry Thompson now that Cordelia was looking at him. He was one of Rogue’s recruits, a former marine who had been discharged from the corps after his tours of Afghanistan and Iraq due to PTSD. They’d met Gerry when he had stumbled over Rogue and Cordelia slaying a Sha-Diva demon in an alleyway in New York while they’d been dressed for clubbing. He hadn’t freaked out too badly. Whether that was to do with the fact that he’d seen enough to be open minded about the supernatural or whether he’d been distracted by the rather brief outfits both girls had been wearing, Cordelia hadn’t been entirely sure about.
Rogue introduced Gerry to everyone present.
“Hello,” he greeted with a wave. He looked at Cordelia. “I came because I thought you could use an extra pair of hands.”
“We could,” she confirmed with a nod. “Thanks. How’d you know? I didn’t ask Rogue earlier.”
“From your posts on the intranet message board I guessed that a demon might be responsible for the fires and when I saw on the news that large sections of Gotham were being evacuated...” He shrugged. “When Rogue called, I was already on my way.”
She looked at him, a slow smile curving her mouth. This was why she had started Oracle Service Industries. To get the hunters backing each other up and give them extra support. It was working—even if Gerry had come to back her
up. “Thank you.”
He coloured and waved the gratitude away. “No problem.”
“Gerry Thompson,” Sam mused. “Are you the guy who gave us the information on the F’quita a few months back?”
“What?!” The mouthful of soda that Xander had been gulping spayed across the table. He coughed a few times. Jane handed him a fist full of napkins. “I’m sorry, the what?”
Sam’s long suffering sigh told Cordelia that Dean had reacted similarly. That and the hugely gleeful grin that Dean had on his face. “F’quita.”
“You’re making that up,” Xander accused.
“No he’s not,” Gerry refuted. “How did that go, anyway? They’re tricky little buggers.”
“We got ‘em eventually.” Dean’s smile turned smugly satisfied.
“They were a pain the ass though,” Sam added.
Gerry pulled up a chair, Dean handed him a half empty pizza box and they filled Gerry in on what they knew and what they’d been doing.
He chewed a slice of cold pizza thoughtfully. “How did you find out about the League of Shadows thing?”
Xander shot a glare at Cordelia. “A friend of Cordy’s has run into then before. He gave us a heads up.” He wasn’t happy at keeping his mouth shut about the Batman, but she had wrung a promise out of him the other night on the roof. She had made the point that she had known the Bat for a while with no harm befalling her and he’d just have to trust that she knew what she was doing. He wasn’t any more comfortable with that than he would have been had she been one of his Slayers. Strange as it may be, she was one his girls—he wanted her safe. She’d obviously read his reluctance correctly, because she’d then resorted to blackmail, threatening to tell Willow and Buffy about Africa. He decided that keeping his mouth shut was the lesser of two evils.
He needn’t have bothered to keep mum on the Bat though. Gray looked enquiringly at Cordelia. “The Batman?”
She looked at him in shock.
Gray sighed. “You’ve been getting information on the Mob for months. Not enough to be coming from the inside, though so that means someone with a serious interest. Not GCPD. If they’d been on the take, they wouldn’t have talked or you’d be dead. Not one of Gordon’s crew, they wouldn’t have given you that level of information, even if they had it.”
“You know the Batman?” Gerry, Dean and Sam were all staring at her incredulously.
Dean’s expression turned to that of horrified anger. “Cordelia he’s wanted for murder!”
Jane fidgeted with a napkin while Rogue eyed Cordelia thoughtfully. “He didn’t do it, did he?”
“No,” Cordelia replied steadily. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if he had.”
“I didn’t think so.” Rogue looked at Gray. “Why haven’t you said something before?”
“What was I going to say?” he asked. “I don’t think he did it, but it’s not like I could ask him.”
“You don’t think he killed those people?” Jane watched Gray carefully. “Why not?”
“It doesn’t match up with his behaviour before or after.”
“A violent vigilante?” Xander muttered sarcastically. “Can’t see why you’d think that so very different from murderer. He’s dangerous, a blind man can see that.”
“I hardly think that we’re in a position to throw stones,” Rogue told him pointedly and he had to concede the point.
“It’s not just that. Jim Gordon has been... off about the whole thing. Most of the city may be going after the Bat with everything they have, but Gordon isn’t. I’d bet you anything you like Gordon knows what really happened—and I’d lay odds that it was something to do with Harvey Dent.”
Xander noted the worried frown Cordelia was making. “What makes you say that?” he enquired.
“I’ve known Gordon a long time. We were at the Academy together—”
“Gray, you’re from Chicago. I thought you went to the Academy there?” Cordelia interrupted.
“No. In my senior year of high school we moved to Gotham. I attended the academy here and spent a couple of years as a beat cop before my wife was transferred to Chicago. That was before the kids, so I’ve known Gordon a long time. You know what? He’s a lousy liar. I watched Dent’s memorial just like the rest of the city. Jim may not have been flat out lying, but he was uncomfortable as hell. Things weren’t being said.”
“But why not say that Batman didn’t kill those people then?” Gerry asked in confusion. “Why take the blame?”
“I could only guess,” Gray told him. “But whatever their reasons, neither Gordon, or the Bat are saying a word. If it was
something to do with Dent, something damaging and it was made public, it could break the spirit of the city, and then we’d be back to the apathy that allowed the Mob to control the city for so long. The Bat is smart. And he understands Gotham. I can’t see him letting that happen.”
“But if something did happen with Dent, why not just explain what had happened?” Gerry frowned. “People are smart.”
That sounded familiar to Xander and understanding hit him over the head. “Oh,” he said in realisation. “I get it. Like K in Men in Black said, ‘A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.’”
“In large groups, mob mentality rules,” Gray agreed. “They teach you that at the academy.”
“So it’s official and everything? Nice.”
Dean looked to Cordelia. “So princess, how close is he in his supposition?”
“Reasonably, from what I understand,” she admitted reluctantly. These weren’t her secrets to reveal, but she wasn’t disclosing details, so she didn’t feel too guilty about it.
Jane quietly asked, “He brought me here last week, didn’t he?”
Cordelia nodded. “Yeah,” she confirmed quietly. “You fainted on him while he was trying to make sure you were ok after the vamps had attacked you.”
“Great.” Jane let out a frustrated sigh. “I survive three vampires by running away but faint in fright at Batman. What a great Slayer I’m going to make.”
“The first rule is ‘don’t die,’” Xander told her. “My personal second rule is ‘He who runs away lives to run away another day.’ The other stuff we can work on. By those, you’re doing well so far.”
“Good to know.” She let out another sigh. “I guess I owe him an apology. Do you think he likes cookies?”
Cordelia had a sudden absurd image of Bruce in the suit carting cookie tins around like a demented girl scout, and had to bite her lip. Eventually she managed to speak without laughing. “I think an apology would be fine, without the cookies. You ok with this?”
Jane shrugged. “I saw him talking to you in the office last week, on our first night here. He’d been worried about you, and then Xander told us about the wards. Are you sure cookies are a bad idea? Cause that’s something I can get Alice to help with.”
Cordelia’s amusement hadn’t quite died. “I’m sure. In any case Batman has had some experience with the League of Shadows in the past. He’s asked that we leave them to him, which I have no problems with. Apparently they are all human, so other than getting a demon to do their dirty work they’re not our problem. He is counting on us dealing with the Adjusticar though.”
“Which brings us back to, how the hell do we do that?”
“Dean was saying before that our presence at the fires is being noted,” Cordelia told Gerry. “Reacting to this demon isn’t working. We’re going to have to get pro-active.”
“If it’s working out from the docks, wouldn’t it be best to patrol in those areas?”
“But they’ve already been burned. Most people have fled those areas and there’s not much of value left to destroy,” Xander pointed out.
“I meant the neighbourhoods just outside the currently charred areas,” Gerry clarified.
Jane chewed her lip thoughtfully. “We can’t have been the only people to have noticed the pattern, surely? Has there been much of an increased police presence?”
“A little.” Sam nodded. “But with this being Gotham, it’s not what you’d expect. Either the GCPD is short staffed because their members have had to flee the flames, or there are a few cops who aren’t doing their jobs for other reasons.”
“I’m more worried about what we do with the demon once we find it,” Gray said. He indicated to Cordelia with his mug of coffee. “The boss already shot it with a crossbow; it didn’t seem to do much from what Jane said.”
Rogue grimaced. “We’re going to have to kill it; I don’t think that there’s going to be much choice there.”
“Taking it out from a distance is still our best option I think,” Cordelia said. “It looks like it’s going to be the only way we can get around the fact that it can shoot fire at us. The charms that the Halliwells sent may be good, but I’d rather not put them to the test if I can avoid it.”
Rogue chewed on a nail thoughtfully. “We could drain it.”
“Drain it?” Xander asked intrigued. “What do you mean?”
“St John, a boy from my old school, his mutancy let him control fire. I had to use his power once to stop him from incinerating a yard full of cops and—”
“Oh, he sounds like a right charmer,” Cordelia muttered sarcastically, interrupting.
“Yeah, well he went and joined the Brotherhood of Mutants not long after so I’d have to say he had a few issues. Anyway, when I used his powers—”
“You used his powers?” Sam’s looked interested. “How can you do that? I didn’t think that was possible.”
“It is with witchcraft,” Xander stated.
Gray raised a questioning brow at Rogue. “May I?”
“Rogue can do it because of the nature of her mutation,” he explained.
Most of the occupants of the room looked at Rogue in surprise. “You’re a mutant?” Jane asked, curious. Given her earlier concerns about her sudden abilities she found that she was curious about the path not taken, so to speak. She hadn’t suspected that Rogue was mutant.
“Yeah.” Rogue nodded. She waved her gloved hands to illustrate as she explained how her mutancy worked.
“That sucks,” Xander commiserated. “It sounds a little similar to Gwen’s thing actually.”
“Cordelia said pretty much the same thing when I told her about it too. The thing is, when I touched Johnny to gain control over the fires he’d created, I drained his energy and he couldn’t control the fires any more. It took him a little while before he was able to create it again as well.”
“We aren’t getting you to touch the demon, don’t even think about it,” Cordelia warned.
“I wasn’t,” Rogue replied with a laugh. “I’m just suggesting a way of dealing with the demon. Even his energy can’t be unlimited.”
“It could be the reason that the whole city isn’t alight yet,” Gray mused. “It may need to rest to recharge.”
“So the best time to attack it would actually be after
it has set a neighbourhood aflame? That sucks.”
“Yes,” he acknowledged. “But it’s what we have to work with.”
“So? Teams of two?” Gerry proposed. “Patrolling the areas just outside of the last lot of fires?”
“It sounds almost like a plan. Now let’s see how well it stands up to contact with the enemy.”
Gerry and Gray were patrolling Uptown in the North City Park area, near the Liberty docks.
Xander and Jane had taken Reatton in Midtown, near the Sheal Docklands simply because it was closest to home. Despite wanting to help, Jane had been a reluctant to leave Alice with Gray’s daughter Vicki, so Alfred had agreed to stay with Alice for a few hours.
Dean, Sam, Rogue and Cordelia took Downtown. With three docks in the area, there wasn’t much of the area left untouched, but it was spread out as the downtown area was on the largest of Gotham’s islands. Dean and Sam took the west of the island, Harlow towards the China Docks then moving south, while Rogue and Cordelia went east, Haysville towards the Gotham Docklands then moving south to join up with Dean and Sam in Stevensburgh before patrolling what was left of South Hinkley near the Admiral docks.
“Sam was right,” Rogue noted as they passed a foot patrol. “It’s not much of a Police presence.”
“He probably had a point about the reasons as well.”
“How do you stand it? Living in a city with so much corruption?”
“Well it’s not like New York doesn’t have corruption. And I’m from Sunnydale. Our police force would fit right in with the GCPD.” Cordelia’s mouth quirked. “It has its upsides. There are some good people here. Plus all the corruption makes carrying weapons easier.”
“Fair point,” Rogue admitted. She clasped her hands and blew into her fist. “It would help if it rained or snowed instead of just being freezing cold.”
“Your Mississippi roots are showing,” Cordelia teased with a smile. “It’s not freezing yet. All those years in New York and you still haven’t adjusted.”
“So speaks the SoCal girl,” she returned with a smile, raising a pointed eyebrow at the coat that Cordelia was wearing.
“Let’s face it; we’re women living in cities very different from where we grew up. I never thought that I’d miss a Santa Ana.”
Rogue chuckled as she examined an alleyway for movement.
“Did you ever think, back in Meridian, that you would end up in Gotham hunting a demon?”
Rogue snorted. “No. Going into business management was a possibility, but I would never have guessed the mutant/investigator/office administrator/demon hunter parts. I wasn’t that imaginative.”
“Sadly I was. But even back in Sunnydale I wouldn’t have thought that this was a possibility. I was determined that when I left the Hellmouth that the weird and freaky was behind me and I was headed for superstardom. If someone had told me I’d be hip deep in demons and hunters, I would have had them committed.”
“Nothing ever turns out how you’d expect, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t. Otherwise these,” she pointed at her boots, “would be Louis Boutins, and the only weapon I’d be carrying would be my credit card.”
They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes, continuing to check down side streets for any sign of the demon. It was very quiet. Most people had fled the Downtown area as fire had closed in on three sides.
“I should warn you,” Rogue broke the silence, “that you might end up with an angry Wolverine on your doorstep at some point.”
Cordelia was surprised. “Why?”
“He’s heard of you.”
Rogue elaborated. “He’s heard about you and the demon slaying that Oracle Investigations does.”
“Again, so? He objects to evil skanky demons being slain?”
“No.” She let amusement bubble up into laughter. “But when I told him that I was slaying demons last year, he thought I was speaking metaphorically.”
“And now he knows you weren’t?”
“Right. He ran into a hunter in Canada who had one of your business cards. He put Doyle-Oracle Investigations, Oracle Freelance Investigations and Oracle Investigations New York together very quickly.”
“He didn’t take it well, I gather?”
“No. I got a rather interesting phone call a couple of days ago. He demanded to know what the hell I thought I was doing.”
“He’s pissed because you weren’t more explicit when you told him you slay the occasional vampire?”
“It wasn’t the vampire slayage that made him really hit the roof. It was the regular patrols and the demon slayage.”
Cordelia blinked. “This is the same guy that was training you for the X-Men before you tried the cure, right?” she asked incredulous. “To face mutants with unknown powers?”
“Then why does he have an issue with you slaying the occasional demon with unknown powers?”
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “My inner Logan is a little out of date. It might be because of the fact that I’m killing things. Or not. I think he stopped listening after I said, ‘I helped kill a Mohra demon yesterday that was trying to kill a client.’ I don’t think he heard the part where I explained that I don’t patrol alone, that there’s back up and research and health insurance and a very generous salary.”
“So I can expect an angry Logan on my doorstep demanding to know...”
“Everything.” She grimaced. “Unless he turns up at the office in New York to kill Lennie first.”
“Mike and Mario can take him. Right?”
“That would depend on Logan’s mood. But probably not.”
Cordelia thought about what little she knew of Logan. “Hmm. Good point.”
“There’s more, unfortunately.” Rogue looked at Cordelia apologetically.
“More or worse? ‘Cause with Logan I’m not sure I want to deal with either.”
“Decide for yourself. He’s been working with SHEILD on and off for the last couple of years, so god knows what he’s heard about you from them.”
“If he’s been getting his information from the SHEILD grapevine it could be anything. I’d been frustrating the bureaucrats they’d been sending to meetings with my all-knowing-seer routine.”
“The All-Knowing-Seer?” Rogue spluttered in amusement. “And they bought
that? They don’t know you very well, do they?”
“Nah, but I had to do something to explain how I knew about them with I contacted them. And how I knew about what happened in LA. I didn’t want Michael to get into any more trouble than he’s already in. Even after endless meetings they’re still not sure what to make of me. Well, they weren’t sure.” Cordelia corrected and grimaced at the memory. “By now I’m sure they’ve written me off as a crackpot. The last meeting was actually with Fury, but he said some very derogatory things about Toby and I lost my temper. Calling him a ‘Dumbass Shaft wannabe with an attitude problem’ was probably a bad move, I think.”
Rogue stared at her in disbelief for a moment. “Probably,” she agreed, faintly. “How’d Toby react?”
“Explosively. At me.” Toby Zeigler in full rant mode was intimidating as hell, even to her. But still, he was one of her guys and hers to protect, and Fury had been way out of line. “I think it’s safe to say we won’t be working with SHEILD. They seem to have gotten the idea that I wanted them to pardon murderers and traitors, rather than you know, help with making the smaller things like being charged with desecrating graves and credit card fraud, go away.”
They fell into comfortable silence as they made their way across the South Hinkley bridge. South Hinkley was just north of the Admiral Docks and together they covered the most southern of Gotham’s islands. Half of the neighbourhood had already been burned during previous fires, and the rest had been evacuated, except for a few stubborn people who had refused to leave. That meant that the streets seemed to be deserted as they made their way deeper into the island. There was still no sign of Dean and Sam. Or the demon.
“Speaking of Michael, have you heard from Miami recently? They’ve been quiet on the message boards.”
“Yeah, Fi calls occasionally to update me on what’s really going on. All the juicy stuff that Nate and Sam leave out of their reports.”
“The kind of things you can torment Sam with later?” She asked with a grin.
“Of course.” Fi obviously relished twitting Sam. The fact that she wasn’t actively—or at least officially—a part of the business anymore didn’t mean that she didn’t know exactly what was going on at any one time. It hadn’t really been one of Cordelia’s better ideas to get Fiona Glenane to start up the Miami office. Fi wasn’t someone who liked doing the same thing for long periods of time. Normal PI work bored her silly. And giving up the gun running was something that just hadn’t stuck. Fortunately she had managed to talk Sam Axe into taking over, and before she knew it Michael’s brother Nate had been a very frequent signatory on the reports she had been getting. “Nate, surprisingly enough seems to have found a niche, which has surprised me—surprised everyone really.”
“He really annoyed you when you met him, didn’t he? I remember you snarking about him.”
“Yeah, but at least I don’t have to work with him on a daily basis. That’s Sam’s torture.” Cordelia grinned wickedly.
“That’s the advantage of—” she broke off as something caught her eye. “Cordelia?” She caught Cordelia’s attention and indicated with a nod to where the movement of flickering light had caught her attention. Cordelia nodded her acknowledgement and reached into her purse to withdraw her crossbow. She loaded it with precise, practiced motions as Rogue un-holstered her Glock 9mm.
At Cordelia’s questioning gaze she shrugged. “The results of working with so many ex-cops. They insisted on training me with a pistol. A stake and sword may be more traditional, but a gun is easier to explain, and it gives you options at a longer distance.”
Cordelia conceded the point. “Must have been a few interesting training sessions.”
“They were nightmares. Three men trying to teach you to handle a handgun, each a different way.” She shuddered at the memory. They had confused the hell out her until she had told them to back off and just listened to the instructor instead.
They approached a cross road. A six story building on the right corner had flame leaping from the second story window. None of the other buildings appeared to be on fire, but the roar and crackle of fire was loud in the night.
Cautiously they rounded they moved into the intersection and stumbled to a halt. To their right the Adjusticar that had proven so elusive stood at the entrance to the flaming building, his body engulfed in flame, pouring fire through the broken glass of the lobby. There appeared to be no one else in the area, so either the cops had patrolled this block already, or they were avoiding it for other reasons.
‘Hey, ugly!” Cordelia called, aiming the crossbow. The demon turned at the taunt and she squeezed the trigger. The demon suddenly moved, and the crossbow bolt buried itself in the demon’s left shoulder instead of the chest as she’d been aiming, upsetting his balance. He staggered back bellowing in pain. Rogue took aim. “Damn!” Cordelia cursed as the demon caught his balance and reached up to yank the bolt from its shoulder. On second thought, catching it's attention without decent back up had been a stupid thing to do.
Rogue thumbed the safety on her pistol and put a bullet into its chest. It staggered back with the imparted energy, tripping to the pavement, grunting in pain.
“I guess Dean was right,” Cordelia muttered, cautiously approaching the demon.
She’d only taken two steps before her senses prickled. She flung herself at Rogue, hitting the deck and taking the other woman with her as bullets whizzed by over their heads.
“What the—” Rogue cursed once she’d gotten her breath back from the impact. Cordelia scrambled off of her, and she raised her head to scan the streets and buildings. She spotted a couple of men in police SWAT uniform on the other side of the street re-aiming their rifles on a second story balcony behind the demon.
She cursed again, how wonderful, fire, bullets and a demon, what a fantastic combination.
Rogue sprang to her feet and they retreated back the way they had come until the building shielded them from the immediate line of fire. This was insanity, counting on a burning building to provide cover.
“I’m going to assume that they’re the League of Shadows, and not actual cops,” she said acidly. “Because even for Gotham, that would be a step too far.”
“Very possibly,” Cordelia agreed, fumbling for her cell phone. She punched a few numbers in while scanning the street and buildings for other snipers.
Rogue cautiously peered around the corner of the building. The Adjuststicar had clambered to its feet, but it wasn’t flaming any more, which only made it appear even more ugly and intimidating. She pulled back just as a bullet impacted the building an inch from where her head had been. “Either the League members are crack shots, or they don’t care about their pet demon.”
“I’m guessing it’s both,” Cordelia replied snapping the cell closed and rearming her crossbow. “What’s the Adjusticar doing?”
“Shaking off being shot.”
Cordelia quickly peeked around the corner. “Crap. I guess that’s why the sources thought it was immortal.” She crouched then quickly moved out and fired the crossbow at the demon again. She felt a stinging sensation in her upper arm then heard the shot before she could get back into cover. She swiped at the stinging sensation and it escalated into pain. She glanced down and saw a tear in her coat. “Damn.” This was her favourite coat.
Rogue had other problems. She had spotted movement out the corner of her eye. More ‘SWAT’ were moving in from the right. If they stayed where they were they were going to be trapped in a shooting gallery. “I think it’s time to make a strategic retreat.”
Cordy followed her gaze, quickly assessing. “I think you’re right,” she agreed readily. They swiftly began to retrace their earlier steps, Rogue covering them from the League and the demon, while Cordelia scanned the buildings and streets for more ‘police’.
Shouting echoed through the night, mixing with the crackle, roar and pop of fire and an approaching engine sound. The Adjusticar rounded the corner of the building, tall and imposing and Rogue shot it again. Her aim was off due to her own movement and she only clipped it in the shoulder. The demon’s yell of rage mixed with the rumble of an engine as a dark figure on a very odd motorcycle streaked past at high speed. He took the corner at speed into the street where the first snipers were stationed, drawing the fire of the others further down the street.
Not being shot at any more was a relief, but the demon still needed to be dealt with. They were almost at the next crossroad when Rogue emptied her magazine into it at an almost point blank range as the demon kept approaching. It staggered a little at first, but then it quickly braced against the shots until her weapon clicked indicating that it was empty. Dumb, dumb rookie mistake, she berated herself. She had miscounted the shots and given away that she was out of ammo.
The Adjusticar growled and fire engulfed its body again. Cordelia awkwardly swung around, aiming the crossbow again. Before she could pull the trigger though, the demon faltered, the flames diminishing.
“Vishudda,” he breathed in wonder.
Rogue could feel Cordelia freeze beside her at the word. The paralysis only lasted a moment then she squeezed the trigger.
The demon grunted as the bolt impacted. “Why?” it demanded in astonishment.
Cordelia stopped, staring at the demon in outraged surprise. “What do you mean, ‘why?’ You’re setting my city on fire!”
“They are guilty,” he told her in bewilderment. “This city must be purged.”
As far as Rogue was concerned, things had just reached a new level of bizarre, even for Cordelia, though she found small comfort in the notion that things couldn’t get any weirder. Starting a discussion with the demon they were trying to kill was at the top of her ‘Strange things that have happened to me
Cordelia put her hands on her hips. The pose was ruined by the awkwardness of having a crossbow in one hand and blood seeping through her coat on the other arm. “And who decides that?” Cordelia demanded heatedly.
“I am Adjusticar,” the demon said, as if the answer was obvious.
Justice demon. Right. Still... “What exactly have you judged Gotham guilty for?” she enquired, drawing the demon’s attention. As long as it wasn’t trying to kill them they may as well get some answers.
The Adjusticar looked at her like she was a roach. “You are all accessories,” he said shortly.
“To what?” Cordelia demanded and Rogue took the opportunity to slide her spare magazine from the rear pocket of her jeans. As quietly as she could she ejected the spent magazine and slid the full one home.
“Corruption. Extortion. Theft. Murder.” His head tilted. “Do you wish me to continue?”
“No, we get the picture,” Rogue muttered, drawing his attention back to her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Cordelia reach down to slide her knife from her boot. Shouts and the sound of fighting could be heard over the roar of the fire. He seemed genuinely astonished that they didn’t understand, and she tried to understand his perspective. He was a justice demon dispensing... Hang on. He was a demon. And she had obviously spent far too much time with ex-law enforcement to be picking up on this. “But the whole city isn’t your jurisdiction. You’re responsible for policing the demon communities, not the human.”
Cordelia quickly picked up on her train of thought and climbed aboard. “She’s right. By pronouncing sentence against the human population you’re overstepping your authority.”
“I have not. Others have pronounced sentence against the humans!”
“Who?” Rogue demanded. “The League of Shadows? Who gave them that authority?” She’d been wrong earlier, she thought. It could get weirder. Getting into a legalistic argument with a demon capable of flambéing her was officially the weirdest thing she’d ever done—or the stupidest.
The demon looked at them blankly. He didn’t know, she realised, he’d just accepted that they’d had the right to judge because that’s what he did.
Cordelia must have sensed it as well and pressed the point. “No one appointed them. Not the Powers and not the humans. They assumed the right.” Cordelia was glaring at him, anger infusing her tone. “And you, for what you’ve been doing on their behalf..!
The Adjusticar looked taken aback, as if she’d assaulted him, then anger flared, as did the flames. “I am Adjusticar, I—”
He was cut off as a figure dressed as a ninja stepped out from behind them and attacked. Before she could get a bead on him, or do more than bring an arm up, Rogue had her legs swept out from under her at the same time as a punch landed on her jaw. She hit the pavement heavily, stunned and clinging to consciousness by her fingertips. She heard a pained grunt, the sick sound of flesh against brick, the Adjusticar’s outraged bellow “Vishudda!” followed by a ‘voom’ rush of flame sound and then panicked screams of agony.
She shook off the stars dancing in her vision and clambered to her feet, wincing as her wrist complained as she put pressure on it. Her Glock had been knocked some distance away, so she retrieved her knife from her boot and turned to engage the new attacker.
Only to find that the Adjusticar had set him on fire—was still setting him on fire—with an intense satisfaction. The terrible smell of burning hair and flesh filled the air, accompanied by agonised shouts. She stared in horror for a frozen moment. Muttering a quick prayer that the Charmed Ones knew their stuff, she lunged for the man, felling him. “Roll,” she ordered him in a tone that bypassed his brain and commanded his central nervous system to move. The flames extinguished quickly once the demon had stopped engulfing him in flame.
“You protect him?” The demon demanded in outrage. “After he harmed Vishudda?”
Vishudda. It had said that before. She looked for Cordelia finding her unconscious at the base of the wall. Cordelia would be no help right n—Cordelia. It had stopped attacking them when it had gotten close enough to see her properly, had talked rather than tried to barbeque them. Cordelia was Vishudda? She’d have to ask Cordelia about it later.
“Leave humans to deal with human crimes,” she said, gathering her courage. Facing him alone was different than facing him with Cordelia, it put her in a weaker position. The man on the pavement was whimpering in pain, glass shattered up the street, and the last of the shouts died out.
“They won’t. I’ve seen places like Gotham before. You think that there is anything new in the course of history?” he asked contemptuously. “And how could they comprehend what it means to attack Vishudda?”
She supposed they wouldn’t. She certainly didn’t. She didn’t even know what it meant. Still, she stuck to her guns. She’d had to deal with an office full of stubborn men for the last year, she could do this. “Human crimes should be left to human authorities,” she reiterated, “to authorities that have been appointed.”
He glared at her scornfully. “The appointed authorities in Gotham have elected to abdicate their duty.” Cordelia moaned, drawing his attention. “I am Adjusticar, there must be justi—” He stiffened suddenly, turning to reveal the Winchesters both holding shotguns.
The Adjusticar roared, and sent a column of flame at their heads. Rogue took the opportunity to bury her knife in the base of his neck—it was a vulnerable area for a lot of demons, though apparently not for Adjusticars because the demon didn’t suddenly drop dead. He reared back, throwing her backwards, howling in pain. She stumbled then caught her balance. A shot rang out, Sam, Dean or both had fired and Rogue took the opportunity, afforded by the demon’s battle to steady himself under the onslaught of gunshot, to move out of the Winchester’s line of fire and scramble for her Glock.
Cordelia found herself on the cement when she regained consciousness. Her head throbbed at the same frequency as her arm. Bracing herself against the wall she had been knocked unconscious on, she hauled herself to her feet. There was a man whimpering in agony three feet away, burns covering his body and clothing stuck to his skin. He stomach turned at the sight and at the stench. She shook her head to clear it and quickly surveyed the scene. Rogue was checking her weapon and the Demon was aflame again, angrily focused on a couple of figures that Cordelia had to blink to recognise as Dean and Sam. Crap. Movement to the front and right of her caught her eye and she turned to see, Gerry and Gray approaching. Gerry had a sawn off shotgun braced against his shoulder, while Gray had his old service revolver. They moved up to flank the Winchesters.
The roar of fire was combined with shot after shot as her guys worked to keep the demon off balance and its attention on them, while they did their best to avoid being flambéed. They were giving her and Rogue a chance to do something at close quarters, but Cordelia was at a loss. What would work? She thought furiously. None of them could have many shells left. Rogue was taking aim when Cordelia noticed the hilt of the knife at the base of the demon’s neck. Her mental light bulb went off. The sources said that the Adjusticar was immortal, yet they also indicated that it could be killed. That sounded eerily like a few recent friends. She glanced around for her crossbow and spotted it near the burnt man’s head. She reached for it, grimacing as she knelt by the man. She stopped, arrested, as she spotted a pommel poking out from beneath him. A pommel meant a bladed weapon. She grasped it, ignoring the man’s moaning and whimpering, and drew it back, unsheathing the weapon. It was a wakizashi—a shortened version of the katana. This would do the job.
Rogue glanced at her, catching her gaze. Cordelia shifted her grip to give her the leverage she would need and nodded at the Adjusticar. Rogue nodded in acknowledgement. Keeping the demon in her sights she moved in an arc, out and around, so that she was at a 45° degree angle to Gray and Gerry and in front of the demon, so that she wouldn’t draw attention to Cordelia.
“We’re out,” Dean called, two more shots, and Gerry was out of ammunition as well, followed a shot later by Gray.
Rogue started firing.
Cordelia breathed deeply and counted the shots. She’d only get one chance at this and she’d have to move quickly. Once the last shot had been fired she moved.
It was over in an instant, adrenaline giving her the necessary strength.
The head rolled clear of the body, which pitched back and fell to the pavement as Cordelia leapt out of the way.
There was a sudden cessation of noise, followed by a roaring in her ears and the crackle of a building on fire. The wail of sirens could be heard in the distance. She shuddered and dropped the blade as the initial shock passed.
She never wanted to do that again. It had been much worse than beheading vampires, or other demons that she had hacked into in the last few years. Perhaps it was that fact that he had believed that what he was doing was right, or perhaps the fact that he had been at one point an agent of the Powers—she didn’t know. She did know that once all of this was cleaned up she needed a vacation.
“You ok?” Dean asked urgently as they all approached, eyeing the corpse warily.
“Fine,” she said.
“You’re bleeding,” Rogue pointed out.
“So are you,” she advised, indicating to the scrape on Rogue’s cheek. “And why are you holding your wrist like that?”
“It’s just jarred,” she dismissed. “Let me see the arm.” Her tone brooked no opposition.
Cordelia had to smile. She knew that tone. She’d used that tone. No wonder Rogue could manage the guys in New York. She submitted to Rogue’s prodding and eyed the guys carefully. “Is everyone else ok?”
They all assured her they were. Footsteps came from behind, and they turned to check who it was and saw Xander and Jane approach.
Xander retrieved the crossbow from the pavement and peered at the demon corpse. “Is it dead?”
“Pretty sure it is, yes.”
“There’s not much that beheading won’t kill,” Rogue added.
Jane eyed them all. “This isn’t a normal week for you, is it?” she asked, shakily.
“No,” Cordelia, Rogue, Gray and Gerry chorused emphatically.
“Sometimes it’s worse,” Gerry advised, only half joking.
“But most the time it’s quiet and you only have to worry about vampires,” Cordelia added. “At least in Gotham.”
Jane considered the demon for a moment, and pulled a face. “I’m not leaving Gotham for a while, then.”
“Police and fire department are on their way,” Batman spoke from behind Gerry, Gray, Dean and Sam. They all spun around, raising their weapons. They hesitated then lowered them once they saw who it was half cloaked in shadow.
“The League?” she asked shortly, noting the scuffs and tears on the suit.
“Most of the members here are dealt with for the moment; there are a few others to be rounded up.”
“You missed one,” Xander told him grimly. “One block down and over, he’s trussed up waiting to be picked up.”
It wasn’t every day that she saw Bruce surprised, so she took what pleasure she could from it. “Thank you.”
“No problem, but it’s really Jane you should be thanking.”
“What?” Jane asked as they all looked at her. She shrugged. “I may be lousy against vampires, but my father insisted I learn how to throw a right hook.”
Gerry smiled at her. “Your father was a smart man.”
“Yes he was,” she agreed.
“Thank you, Jane.”
Jane went red at the words from the Bat. “Consider us even for you saving my butt last week?” she offered sheepishly.
Batman nodded in acknowledgment. “Is everyone alright?” He looked pointedly at Cordelia as he asked.
“Just peachy, with a side of keen, you?”
She could tell he didn’t believe her, but he didn’t call her on it. She’d be hearing about it later though, from him and Alfred. “Fine.” Yeah, she didn’t believe him either. “I take it you’ve got it handled from here?”
“Yep,” she confirmed. He nodded, then left with a swirl of black cape.
“You know, now I get why he has the Mob worried,” Gerry reflected. “He is a bit intimidating.”
Xander stared at him. “Understatement much?”
“Fortunately,” Rogue said. “It looks like we escaped with a few minor injuries, but nothing serious.
“What about him?” Gerry asked indication to the burns patient who was now unconscious on the pavement.
“We should get him to the hospital,” Cordelia said, not sounding very enthusiastic.
“Or we could let him suffer until the police or an ambulance gets here,” Xander proposed.
Cordelia frowned at him. “That’s a little bloodthirsty for you. How much coffee did you drink today?”
“Rogue has a sprained wrist and you were shot. And half the city has been burned down. Sorry if I’m not in the mood to give comfort and succour,” he retorted.
“Comfort and succour? You have been spending far too much time with tweed wearing English people.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I need to start spending more time with Americans.”
Cordelia reached for her cell. “Better call an ambulance,” she sighed then cursed as she discovered the state of her phone. It must have impacted the wall when she did, because the screen was shattered. “Can I borrow yours Gray?”
“Don’t bother,” Jane advised. “I called the 911 just after the demon lost his head.” The wail of sirens was becoming louder, punctuating her announcement.
“Right then, who’s up for demon disposal duty?”