parts 104 & 105
“There are so many things that aren’t adding up to any sort of normal answer,” Ryan Stevens murmured, handing his boss a stack of papers. “The hospital is twice the size that you would expect for a town with only thirty thousand people, and it stays fairly full. While there are some larger cities nearby, they aren’t the reason the hospital stays in business, they have their own medical facilities. The jail’s about half the size most towns of comparable population have, likewise the police force.”
“Those could be explained away. What has you twitching over there, Stevens?” the man in gray took the papers, glancing over them while he listened to his agent.
“As near as I could tell without physically breaking into the Board of Elections, this summer had the first mayor elected in this town. The last one died under strange circumstances, and nobody seems to know when he came into office, he’s just always been there, and apparently his father held office before him. Oddly enough, nobody could give me a cause of death for Richard Wilkins the third, but everyone agreed that it was on the same day as the eclipse. He’s just one of too damn many strange deaths and disappearances in this town.” Failing to conceal a shudder, Ryan mumbled, “what kind of town needs nineteen cemeteries anyhow?”
“How many disappearances are you talking about?” there was a twist to the man’s lips that could pass for a smile and a tilt to one dark eyebrow.
“Several hundred a year, across all ages. Apparently, quite a few people just go out and never come back. There’s a high real estate turnover, not to mention the employment turnovers…”
For several long moments, the man in the gray suit was silent, his empty eyes staring at the wall as his thoughts spun in a dozen twisted directions. He leafed through the papers as he made a soft hmmmm. “Excellent hospital, good infrastructure, inobservant police, hundreds of disappearances given no more than a cursory report and a token search if they’re underage or particularly attractive… Dozens of empty buildings… I do believe that we’ve found a place to establish another base of operations.”
“That’s one way to get a good look at what’s going on,” Ryan nodded. Setting up a base here would give a lot more time to try to sort out what was going on in the town. He couldn’t give a logical reason for the feeling, but something from the pit of his stomach was quivering, wanting to scurry away from this town right now. He didn’t want to set up a base here, he didn’t want to keep looking for McGee; he wanted to go somewhere else, anywhere else.
“While we’re here, someone needs to figure out what the hell happened to Cantu,” his boss grumbled. “I’ll begin drawing up the requisition orders and staffing requirements.”
As Ryan Stevens left the office, he couldn’t help thinking that finding Charlie McGee would no longer be their biggest problem.
* * * * * * * * * * *
While the man in the gray suit was plotting the best way to find and capture Charlie McGee and force her to become a weapon under the control of his agency, Charlie was walking along a gravel path in a garden in Westchester, New York. She was listening to Scott Summers pointing out basketball courts, vegetable gardens and greenhouses, and a path to a nearby lake. Charlie, Tara, and Justin were trying to remember where things were in this new school.
“It’s almost as big as the UC Sunnydale campus,” Tara offered. “Not as many people, and a lot more green things growing.”
“Football and soccer out on the yard?” Justin gestured at a patch of grass with several areas scuffed thin and a few poles driven into the ground.
“Informally,” Scott agreed. “You did see how we landed in a hanger that’s normally hidden under the first basketball court. The plane didn’t originally have vertical take-off and landing capabilities. That’s just one of the modifications that we put in place.”
“Cool. I can’t wait to start working on engines,” Justin grinned.
A Frisbee almost clipped Justin in the head, and a handful of people chased after it, with a solid dark haired guy grumbling that ‘Bobby was supposed to have caught it.’
Another guy, with smaller shoulders and light brown hair smiled at them, “Hey, new students? Sorry about the Frisbee, Pete keeps forgetting that the rest of us aren’t as tall as he is and it went right over my hands. I’m Bobby, the redhead’s Theresa, and Pete’s the big guy. Jubilee should be… here she is!”
Another person caught up, an Asian girl wearing a bright pink shirt. “You said you wouldn’t launch it into the house again… ohh, hi! What do all of you do?”
“I survived my home town without getting eaten, and I can bend light around corners,” Justin grinned at her.
Tara shrugged, mumbling something that ended with her name, visibly nervous around all the strangers.
Charlie shrugged, giving a half smile. “I’m Charlie, and I do a couple things with varying skill. But since I’ve got a few mutated genes, some nasty people were after me. Scott and Jean said I’d have a place here, and I could be safe and learn a bit better control.”
Somehow, the group of teens took the tour away from Scott. The flocked Justin, Tara, and Charlie away with them, talking about the recent shop projects that Mr. Summers had assigned, the history lectures from Ms. Munroe, and Jubilee chiming in with a few things about ‘the Professor’ and his physics lessons. Theresa didn’t speak above an accented whisper, but she did mention that there were music lessons offered.
Charlie hoped that she could stay here for a while. It seemed like a nice place.
End part 104.
Joyce opened the door, smiling at Vic. Despite the fact that he almost blocked the whole doorway, despite the fierce gleam in his eyes and the sharp nails on his hands that could be mistaken for claws, she felt safer seeing him. “Good to see you.”
“Joyce,” he leaned down, wrapping her in a solid hug. “I know there were a lot of sirens headed towards the college, is your daughter all right? And the little redhead, Willow?”
“Buffy called, she insists that she’s fine. Something exploded, one of the buildings collapsed, and apparently some demons popped up out of manholes on the campus. Buffy said that she thinks the problems have been taken care of, but she sounded worried. Sheila went to talk to Willow about her classes and came back mumbling about demons, denial and orange blood, and it sounds like Willow had a few angry words for her but wasn’t injured. It’s just been a long, strange day,” Joyce sighed, and leaned against him.
“Your daughter seems okay, good in a fight and quick on her feet. Willow’s a good kid, but she’s got a bit of a temper. I knew her and the boy she’s friends with, Alex… he said he went by Xander now… they’re both good kids. Pretty good at slipping out of trouble.” He closed the door behind him, and guided Joyce to the couch in her office.
Snuggling on the couch, Joyce sighed, “Can’t things settle down and let us catch our breath? Can’t we sort things out and try to be happy for a little while?”
“Why settle for a little while? I’ll rip anyone who tries to ruin this apart,” Vic’s words held more than a hint of a growl.
“Isn’t that a bit excessive?” Joyce murmured, still snuggled against Vic, her feet curled on the couch and her head leaning against his shoulder.
“I guess we can try warning them off first, but sometimes force works the best,” Vic rubbed her back, and sighed. “Things have you stressed. Can I help you relax?”
Part of Joyce wanted to argue that violence wasn’t a good solution. Another part of her remembered that blond man who’d threatened Buffy during Parent-Teacher night a few years ago. The blond vampire that she’d hit over the head with an axe. Maybe there were times when violence worked pretty well…
“Promise not to leave me alone against the big, bad world?”
Joyce looked up with a smile, “That will make it better. Not needing to deal with this alone, and having someone who’s there for me, to hold me and tell me that it will be okay in the end…”
Vic pulled her close, and held her. “I won’t be run off, and this world’s not going to get rid of me that easily.”
It would have to do, for as long as what she and Vic had lasted. She just hoped that it would work out better than things with Jim, or Bailey, or Hank, or Ted, or that brief, awkward fling with Rupert when they’d had that strange chocolate… Joyce tried to push her worries away for now. Carpe diem, because you only have so many tomorrows to enjoy.
* * * * * * *
Anya closed the door behind her, listening carefully to the sounds of the apartment. She could hear the shower running, and Xander’s slightly off-key singing. His was the sort of voice that would never make millions of dollars as a musician, but would have been wonderful leading a battle-chant a thousand years past. He put his heart into his singing, into everything that he did. She did mean everything. A smile slipped over her face as she locked the door.
Heading into the bathroom, she peeled off her shirt, letting it drop to the couch. The danger had passed, and neither of them had died or been seriously wounded. It was time to celebrate that continuing health, and the best way that she could think of was plenty of sex.
“Oh Xander? I think it’s time for post not quite a battle sex…”
There were times when she was very glad that she’d returned to Sunnydale. This would soon be one of them.
* * * * * * *
Ira and Sheila Rosenberg looked over the last couple days’ worth of newspapers, wondering how they had been so blind as to not notice any of this for so long. They’d known there had been plentiful real estate options, but they’d never really thought about why there were so many homes and stores on the market. They’d never really thought about the substantial obituaries, missing persons, and hospital admission sections.
“Between what we’ve been missing for so long about the town and what was going on in that base, this town is… It’s a nightmare,” Ira shook his head.
“She said people want to explain it all away, that people don’t want to know,” Sheila closed her eyes, seeing her daughter’s face again, seeing Willow’s eyes as she had asked if she’d repress it all again, accused her of forgetting what had happened in January.
“Willow said that?” Ira blinked, looking at his wife. “Our shy little girl said that?”
“She said things about stalkers and being hospitalized, about being class valedictorian and we weren’t even in the state for her graduation. She said there were demons and vampires, and she’s been fighting them… I’ve never felt like I’ve disappointed someone so much, Ira,” Sheila whispered, feeling her throat close up and her eyes watered.
“Maybe we need to have a family conference,” Ira offered.
“If it’s not too late to build something,” Sheila agreed. “Our daughter shouldn’t be such a stranger to us.”
Making plans for tomorrow, the Rosenbergs' continued scanning files and newspaper articles. Each article left them more dismayed at the town they had left their daughter unprotected in, more appalled at the crime and accident rates. More appalled at what had been done in the names of ‘scientific curiosity’ and ‘protecting civilians’.
Only time would tell if these plans would be carried out.
End part 105.
End Tangled Plans.