Chapter 5: Closest
A week after Buffy’s visit to the Giradi family kitchen, Joan smiled as she watched the police car go by. Following the instructions of a roller skater hippy God to “give of herself to the needy”, she had given a dollar to a beggar, who used it to go to a convenience store for food, which led him to recognize the clerk as someone wanted for a robbery. She hoped the policeman would not mention to her father, the police chief, that she was there. He might start to wonder if she became involved too frequently in police business, even if it seemed like complete coincidence. After all, no one would suspect she was divinely inspired, literally.
“And speaking of divinely inspired,” she muttered as she saw a Goth looking youth loitering by the side of a building. She instantly recognized him as God had used this guise before.
“So Joan, lots of homework tonight?” the Goth God asked.
“Tons,” Joan sighed. “Far too much for me to do any of your assignments.”
The Goth shrugged his shoulders and cupped his hands. “Well, then you should get help. From your closest friend.”
“My closest friend,” Joan looked up at the sky. “Why the guessing games? Why can’t you ever just flat out tell me what you want me to do and why?” But when she looked around, the Deity was gone. “Now I have to choose between my friends.”
Of course, such a choice was rendered less complex by virtue of her only having two friends in school. But Adam was busy working on a sculpture with modifications that had to be completed before the resin dried. And Grace was out of town for a protest rally; her father was not sure what exactly his daughter was protesting this time, but was sure it was against some establishment or another. So Joan sat by the telephone, “Closest friend?” she asked herself. “That’s pretty much it.” Then a sudden birdcall diverted her attention out the window and she saw the blue house next door. “Closest physically? Dawn?”
She would not have thought of the gangly teen as a friend. Sure she had said hello in the halls but she had not done anything when Dawn, the new kid in school, sat alone in the cafeteria. But then, God had told her to be neighborly toward the Summers family before, so it was certainly worth a try.
Grabbing her bookbag, she went over to knock on their door as she did not know their phone number or even if they had gotten their phone installed.
“Hi Dawn,” she said when the girl opened the door. Looking down the hallway, Joan could see some signs of acquiring more furniture. “You’re in some of my classes and I was wondering if you wanted to get together and work on that problem set in AP Chem. I could fill you in on the stuff you missed earlier in the year.”
Dawn looked at her neighbor. She had been given careful instructions to stay away from Joan since Willow had detected that there was something strange about her. But Dawn literally knew no one else in this town and Joan was right next door and seemed friendly. “Besides,” she thought to herself, “Maybe I can ask her a few questions and figure out what is going on.”
“Sure,” she said, stepping away from the door and waving her in. “Buffy’s at the police academy,” she made a face, “And Willow’s in England, so we have the house to ourselves.”
The two settled in for some serious studying mixed with the occasional bit of gossip.
Dawn and Joan had finished their science homework and Dawn was helping Joan with French when the phone rang. Dawn grabbed the portable phone that was next to the kitchen table where they were working and moved to the next room to answer it. Joan did not mean to eavesdrop, but the place was quiet and she was curious about the lives of three young women living alone. So she moved to the wall and heard everything Dawn said.
“Dawn?” Willow asked in response to the girl’s hello.
“Hey Willow, how is London?”
“We have a bit of a situation,” Willow said. “We needed to sorta borrow the amulet of Uriahok from a museum to stop a summons and the police here may have a description of me.”
“Can’t you just ah you know with their minds?” Dawn asked.
“They may have stuff written down, gotten someone to do a drawing, told someone, anything,” Willow went on. “But if I show up in Arcadia before a plane could have gotten me there, it will be the perfect alibi.”
“I’m not alone here,” Dawn cautioned. “Joan from next door is here.”
“Joan the police chief’s daughter.” Willow said. “Actually, she would be the perfect witness. How long till you could do the traveling spell?”
“Give me five minutes from now,” Dawn glanced at her watch and waited until the sweep second hand was at the top and then said, “Mark.” She walked into the room; Joan, confused by the half of the conversation she had heard, hurried moved so it did look like she had been listening in. “Sorry, Joan,” Dawn said quickly. “I have to go to the basement for a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Dawn ran down the stairs to the basement. On the floor, off to one side, there was a five-pointed star painted in red such that the middle of the star was a pentagon. Dawn took a knife there for this purpose and cut her hand, allowing one drop of blood to fall at each of the five points of the star. She recited the Latin phrase that Willow had turned into a poster and hung on the wall. While Willow had learned how to teleport herself, the distance from Arcadia to London was too great to travel without a boost from the receiving side. The star began to glow, the pentagon flared and suddenly Willow appeared.
“Thanks Dawnie,” Willow said. She reached out and grabbed two band-aids from the bucket of them next to where Dawn was replacing the knife, and gave one to Dawn. The two went up the stairs.
“Hi Joan,” Willow stuck her head in the kitchen. “I see you’re working with Dawn on your homework.”
Joan looked at Willow and then at Dawn and back again. “Um, well, yes. Dawn was helping me with French.”
“Oh good,” Willow replied. “Dawn is good with languages. Oh, do you happen to have the time?”
Joan, confused as the kitchen clock right above Willow, pointed at it and said, “Four thirty”
“Oh my,” Willow said. “I need to get some stuff for dinner,” she rushed out to substantiate her alibi with additional witnesses who could testify that she was in Arcadia, not London.
Joan, now completely confused, looked at Dawn and asked, “I thought you said she was in London?”
Dawn thought quickly. “I don’t keep track of all her comings and goings. I thought she was in England but someone may have rescheduled.”
“Then why…” Joan stopped. She was going to ask why Willow had called if she was just downstairs, why Dawn had asked about London if Willow had not gone, but that would be admitting she had eavesdropped. But she resolved to pay close attention to her new neighbors. There was something strange going on in the Summers household.