“You’re kidding!” Buffy grinned disbelievingly across the room at Xander.
The two friends were spending a quiet Sunday afternoon together at Buffy’s chalet on the old holiday camp which was now supposed to be Slayer Central.
“I kid you not,” Xander shook his head, “after eighty minutes of trying to kill each other; they picked themselves up and took turns shaking hands and clapping each other into the dressing rooms. Sadly they didn’t swap shirts, which I’m told is a tradition in these parts.”
“And Faith didn’t kill anyone?” the disbelief was evident in Buffy’s voice, but once again Xander surprised her.
“I thought she was going to a couple of times,” picking up his coffee mug Xander took a sip, grimaced slightly at the cold brew and then carried on with his story. “But, I was assured that it was all part of the game,” he shrugged resignedly, “afterwards, when I met up with Faith and her team mates, that’s when I really got scared.”
“How come?” Buffy wanted to know.
“I’ve never seen women drink so much beer and,” Xander looked around as if checking that he wasn’t being spied upon, “the language…it was never that bad even when I…you remember that summer?”
“Oh…yeah,” Buffy smiled sympathetically, “when you had to…”
Buffy let her words fade, Xander was still uncomfortable about having spent several weeks as a male stripper that summer after High School finished.
“Any how,” Xander continued sounding a little more serious, “I’ve never seen her so relaxed; she said it helped her control her strength and helped with her anger issues.”
“You think its doing her good?” Buffy glanced at the clock over the fireplace, it was nearly time for her to start getting changed; she was meeting Kennedy’s father tonight.
“Yeah,” agreed Xander, “I really think it is.”0=0=0=0Sunday evening, The Great North-eastern Hotel, Middlesbrough.
Having already had a stiff drink before leaving home, Buffy sipped her sparkling mineral water and looked over the top of her glass to where Anthony Scapone sat. She’d arrived at the Great North-eastern Hotel in Middlesbrough at about eight-thirty. Dressed in her poshest of frocks; she’d been met at the door by both Willow and Kennedy and immediately felt like the poor relation.
Compared to the designer creations the two women were wearing, Buffy looked as if she shopped at Primark. Her feelings of inadequacy were not made any better by both Kennedy and Willow complimenting her on her gown. She’d been led through to a private dinning room where she shook hands with Mr Scarpone. She’d only met the man briefly once, just before the entire slayer organisation had decamped to England.
Scapone was a distinguished man in early middle age; his hair was just showing a little grey around the temples. His immaculately tailored Savile Row suit fitted his six foot frame like a glove. It was only when he spoke that he betrayed his origins, although he hid it well, Buffy’s sharp ears easily picked out the trace of the New York-Italian accent that sometimes shone through his more cultured tones.
After a surprisingly enjoyable meal where they’d chatted about almost everything that wasn’t to do with money of slaying, Willow and Kennedy excused themselves and left the room. After the waiters had cleared the table and left coffee and brandy they left the couple alone.
“I suppose I should feel flattered,” Scarpone poured coffee for himself and Buffy.
“Why’s that Mr Scarpone?” Buffy looked around nervously, she was so unused to this kind of life, she felt more at home at the Double Meat Palace.
“Well,” smiled Scarpone as he sat down opposite Buffy, “those waiters obviously thought I’d brought you here to seduce you,” he laughed quietly, “and me a happily married man…not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. If things were,” Scapone paused to consider his words, “let us say different. You are, after all, a very attractive young woman Miss Summers.”
Buffy didn’t know quite what to say so she stayed quiet and sipped her coffee.
“Now I’ve made you feel uncomfortable,” Scarpone shook his head, “I apologise, shall we get down to business?”
“I wish we could,” Buffy put down her cup and studied it for a moment, “I’ll get straight to the point, Mr Scarpone…”
“You should call me, Tony,” smiled Scarpone, “if I can call you Buffy?”
“Sure, why not?” Buffy’s hand touched her face in confusion, “Mr Scarpone, Tony, there’s no easy way of saying this so I’ll just say it, like, straight out and all…”
Tony Scarpone smiled encouragingly.
“To put it bluntly,” Buffy grinned nervously, “and not to beat around the bush and not putting too fine a point on it,” Buffy wondered how she’d come to sound like Giles, “we; as in the slayer organisation are…”
“Broke?” Tony nodded his head, “Was that the word you were looking for?”
“Um, yeah,” Buffy frowned and wished the floor would open up and swallow her.
“I know, Kennedy explained everything to me,” Tony leaned back in his chair and watched Buffy for a long minute, “and apart from everything else I’ve had my people over here look into your…um…problem.”
“You have?” Buffy asked meekly.
“I have,” agreed Tony, “and I’d like to offer you a deal.”
“A deal?” the smallest sliver of hope entered Buffy’s voice.
“As you know, Buffy I’m a business man,” he smiled, no doubt thinking of the millions of dollars he’d made over the years, “and I might say, without being too immodest, I’m a very successful one at that. I have no intention of simply bailing you out.”
“You don’t?” this had been Buffy’s preferred option, some sort of loan to bide them over until they could get hold of the old council’s assets.
“No,” Tony sighed in a satisfied way before continuing, “What I propose is a business arrangement between our two organisations.”
“I don’t know if I…” Buffy stopped talking when Tony lifted his hand.
“Just hear me out first please,” Tony rested his elbows on the table and looked Buffy directly in the eye. “What I intend is this,” Tony started to explain his plan, “The Saltburn site cost you, what? £5 million?”
Buffy nodded her head.
“I’ll buy it off you for six million.” Tony watched to see how Buffy would react.
“That’s…that’s…” Buffy thought it was beyond her wildest dreams, there had to be a catch, “very generous…what’s the catch?”
“HA!” laughed Tony, “Kennedy said you weren’t as stupid as you looked…her words. No the catch is that you rent part of the sight back at say a nominal fee of £1000 per annum.”
“Part?” Buffy asked wearily she remembered her mother telling her that if something sounded too good to be true; it was probably because it was.
“Yes,” Tony continued to lay out his idea, “from what Kennedy and Willow tell me the actual camp is too big for your purposes. I understand that you bought it because of its remoteness and the ready built facilities. I intend to bulldoze the part of the camp that you don’t want to use and redevelope it.”
“As what?” Buffy had visions of unwanted people sticking their noses into slayer business.
“A couple of warehouses, a couple of offices and maybe a truck park,” Tony smiled disarmingly, “there’d only be a few people on site at any one time and I’d make sure they were based well away from your ‘school’.”
“I-I don’t know…” Buffy thought for a minute, maybe they could make it work, “what’ll these warehouses be used for?”
“Storage,” Tony replied innocently, “I’m expanding my business into Europe. This area has good access by sea to Europe and by road to the rest of the British Isles. It also has the advantage of being out of the way up here…”
“And what,” Buffy’s eyes narrowed, “would you be storing?”
“I’m thinking of getting into the farm machinery trade,” replied Tony nonchalantly, “and maybe pharmaceuticals.”
“Oh!” Buffy smiled brightly, “that doesn’t sound so bad.”
“I don’t expect you to make up your mind straight away,” Tony got up and walked around to Buffy’s side of the table, “I’ll have my people draw up a draft agreement and you can look it over with your people,” he held out his hand to Buffy.
Hesitating for only a moment, Buffy finally stood up and grasped Tony’s hand in her own and shook it firmly.
“It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Buffy,” Tony winced a little at Buffy’s grip.
“And with you, Tony,” Buffy replied.
“Now shall we go join, Kennedy and Willow,” Tony gestured towards the door, “nice young woman that Willow, I think she’s good for my girl, don’t you think?”
Buffy smiled non-committaly, before changing the subject.
“Tony,” Buffy studied her clutch bag for a moment, “I’ve always wondered…why ‘Kennedy’? It’s an unusual name for a girl.”
“Promise I made to a business rival,” explained Tony.
“Rival?” Queried Buffy.
“Yeah, just coz you’re rivals doesn’t mean you can’t be friends,” Tony pointed out, “I promised I’d name my first born after him…it was a death bed sorta thing.”
Before Buffy could ask more questions they walked out into the hotel bar where Willow and Kennedy were waiting for them.0=0=0=0Cleveland Police HQ Building, Sunday evening.
Alone in his office DI Higgins studied the crime figures on his computer screen intently. Something had changed; in the last few months the number of mysterious kidnappings, murders and accidents with kitchen utensils had dropped by a good ten percent. The only thing that wasn’t falling was the number of vehicle thefts and other ‘normal’ crimes.
Sighing and taking a mouthful of cold coffee, Higgins sat back in his chair and stretched his stiff back. Yes, something had changed, but what? He’d spent most of his police career in Cleveland and Middlesbrough. He knew perfectly well that there was something about the area that made the seemingly impossible possible, every police officer had to accept that; if they didn’t they either resigned or transferred out.
So what new element had come to Cleveland in the last, say six months? Staring at the wall, Higgins thought through all the odd things that had happened in the last six months. Things like giant monkeys rampaging through Hartlepool. He remembered something he’d read recently; at the time he’d smiled and thought that it was about time the local yobs picked on the wrong person.
It was a report about an attempted mugging or possible sexual assault. The mugger/rapist had attacked a young woman near the University. Not only had the young woman fought off her assailant, she’d then beaten him so badly that he’d had to be taken to hospital. Higgins, smiled a he searched through the crime reports, after a while he came up with the report. The description of the girl was vague; aged seventeen to eighteen, redish hair, biker jacket and woollen hat; and according to the yob, very, very strong.
Obviously the thug had attacked a girl who was heavily into self-defence. No one had been charged with anything, no one had come forward with any new information. The report had been filed and quickly forgotten about; until now. Tapping on his keyboard, Higgins started a search for similar instances just as his phone rang.
“DI Higgins,” he said absently into the mouth piece, he listened to the voice at the other end of the line for a moment and glanced at his watch. “OH! Bloody hell! Is that the time? Sorry love I got caught up in something.”
It was Mrs Higgins on the line, a patient and understanding woman who taught at the University, she’d been wondering when her husband was coming home.
“I’ll pack up and be home in half an hour, okay?” Getting up. Higgins hung-up the phone and left his computer running; there was nothing that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.0=0=0=0The North Yorkshire Moors, Monday morning.
It was a bright morning and you could look out over Cleveland almost all the way up to Tyneside. Kennedy stood next to her father as they looked out over the great expanse of north eastern England and the North Sea; they were both wrapped up well against the stiff cold breeze and Tony Scarpone’s limo only stood a few yards away.
“Are you sure you can’t stay a little longer, Daddy?” Kennedy linked her arm through her father’s.
“Sorry pumpkin,” Tony sighed sadly, “business, y’know.”
Nodding her head, Kennedy did know; business came first; always had, always would.
“Y’know,” Tony gestured to the county laid out in front of him, “it amazes me that in such a crowded island there’s still places like this that are…well, wilderness almost.”
“Yeah,” agreed Kennedy, “you better believe it and you should see the things we find living up here.”
“Yes, yes of course,” Tony went quiet for a moment; he’d know about what Kennedy was and what she could be for years, that didn’t mean he liked it.
To him she was still his little girl; when he looked at her he saw his first wife staring back at him. This was no doubt why his second wife, Catherine had insisted that Kennedy be sent away to school. Of course she’d not put it like that, it’d all seemed very reasonable then. But now he could see it all; maybe it had been for the best in the long run; but he’d missed so much, and now…and now she could be dead tomorrow.
“There’s something I’d like for you to do,” Tony turned to look at his daughter, “you’re, what nineteen now?”
“Nearly twenty-one, Dad,” Kennedy reminded him.
“Look,” Tony smiled, “I have enough problems thinking of you as older than twelve, so don’t expect me to remember you’re a grown woman now.”
“So, what do you want you’re big grown up daughter to do for you?” she grinned and joked, “Want someone whacked?”
“Don’t joke about things like that,” her father told her sternly, “no I think its time you took an interest in the family business…”
“But Daddy,” Kennedy managed to stop herself from sounding like a whining thirteen year old, “slayer now, got a mission in life.”
“Don’t worry,” Tony patted his daughter’s hand, “I just want you to be my eyes and ears over here, that’s all.”
“I don’t have to dress in a suit and work in an office?” Kennedy asked suspiciously.
“Only if you want to,” her father explained, he paused for a moment, “and another thing keep an eye on Buffy for me, would you?”
“Why?” Kennedy sounded really suspicious now.
“Oh,” Tony gazed off over the moors, “she’s a business partner now, I like to know what my partners are doing, okay?”
“Okay,” agreed Kennedy, “come on.” She started to pull her father towards the limo, “We can have lunch with Willow before I put you on your plane.”
“Sure,” agreed Tony with a laugh, “and promise me the both of you will come over to stay in the new year, okay?”
“Will Madison be at home?” Kennedy referred to her half-sister.
“No,” sighed her father.
“Then we’ll come!”The End.0=0=0=0