On a quiet hill stood The Church Of Violence - a quaint looking Roman Catholic Church that operated legitimately, holding masses, the occasional prayer service and even maintaining a charity or two within the vice-ridden city of Roanapur.
The Church transported weapons and other goods of varying degrees of legality from anywhere to anywhere for fees that were exorbitant by anyone's definition. Thus the other nickname Roanapur's citizens used occasionally - The Rip-Off Church.
Use of that nickname within earshot of Sister Yolanda, the grandmotherly woman who ran the place, wasn't recommended however. The old woman was an infamous crack-shot while her associates Eda and Rico weren't far behind.
Xander's stolen tuk-tuk creaked to halt outside the church before the engine issued a final choked cough and died.
It was Eda, cackling like a madwoman at the sight of the near destroyed rickshaw, who emerged from the depths of the Church to greet them. "Sweet Baby Jesus," She laughed, "did you actually manage to drive that shit-heap all the way here?"
Eda wore the outfit of a traditional nun but was as far from a cloistered bride of Christ as one could get. She was a notorious con artist and could stand with some of the deadlier gunslingers in the city. Rumors persisted however she was much more then she appeared. That she was a little too well-informed, that she might even be some kind of government operative or observer. Some wondered how much Xander really knew about his on-again-off-again girlfriend. Was she secretly spying on him? Was he using her for information that might prove useful to the New Watchers Council ? Any and all theories had been put forward with neither Xander nor Eda inclined to confirm or deny any of them.
Xander and Eda were engaged in what might be called a relationship by anyone who saw sarcastic banter, near deviant sex and dates involving quasi-legal activities as the basis of romantic partnership.
"Surf-Boy drive like lunatic." Shenhua snapped, as she and Rotton stepped gingerly from the hulk of the smoking wreck. It was perhaps to Xander's credit that so eager were the duo to escape the rickshaw that even Rotton, with his almost obsessive need to "look cool " when entering or exiting a situation, jumped from the rickshaw without even a hint of his normal dramatics. It was as if he thought the vehicle would explode.
Instead of an embarrassing detonation however the thing gave a final groan before collapsing in on itself, the chassis falling to the ground as the undercarriage snapped and the wheels fall off.
"... And that, my son, is why you always buy American." Xander deadpanned.
"Funny guy no wonder I tolerate you." Eda sneered, as she motioned them inside.
"Tolerating me?" Xander asked. "is that what all that yelling and carrying on you do when we get together is?"
Shenhua shuddered in revulsion at their conversation, "Could live whole life without knowing crazy shit you idiots do when I not around." She cried out, "I hope sex crazy nun have my money."
Eda laughed, "Relax, Turns out someone else stepped in to take care of it for me."
"Your Boss " Eda pointed across the room. Xander saw Yolanda sharing a quiet tea with Shenhua's most frequent employer Chang Wai-San. aka The Heavenly King aka Boss Chang.
"Alexander, you do mange to stir the pot don't you?" he smiled. as he pulled a envelope from, his jacket pocket and tossed it to Shenhua. The Taiwanese murderess snatched it out of the air, counting the pile of cash inside before passing a small amount onto Rotton.
To Xander's eyes, Boss Chang looked like he usually did. His black tailored suit that almost hid the double holsters containing his beloved engraved Beretta M76's, dark shades and white silk scarf. Tossed carelessly over a chair was his flowing black trench coat Combined they all made it seem like he'd stepped fully formed from a B-movie. The man's entire look made one forget he was head of the Thailand branch of The Chinese Triad making him one of the more powerful and dangerous people in the city and a person you did not want to have pissed with you.
Chang was a moderate however, ruthless as he was , and he could be very, very ruthless when the mood took him, he often tried to find some middle ground with anyone he dealt with. This included the Russian Ice Queen, Balalaika - with whom he'd occasionally warred for control of the city.
"A little bird tells me a certain Russian might be a tad peeved with you." Chang commented mildly. He was downplaying it, A man in Chang's position maintained that post by being in the know about virtually every relevant detail of the goings on in Roanapur.
"I - borrowed- Vasili Leptev's freighter." Xander explained, "I was supposed to sink it at sea but there were complications, of the living and breathing variety."
"I hate those kind of complications," The mob boss mused. "Leptev, Vasili Leptev where have I heard that name?"
"He tried to have you killed a year or so back," Eda reminded him, "tried to make it look like Fryface was behind it."
Chang snapped his fingers, "Head of Hotel Moscow's Tokyo branch," He said with sudden realization, "I thought he was dead?"
Yolanda shook her head, "He and his leadership are on life support, his competition in Japan have been pressing him hard ever since that unpleasantness here in Roanapur."
Eda continued, "He's lost some face so the sharks have been circling. There are rumors he made a sweetheart deal with persons unknown to keep himself alive."
"Not unknown," Xander corrected, "That freighter passed through Wolfram and Hart's hands and they've smuggled werewolves and arranged blood hunts for their more extreme clientèle before."
"So whys Fryface so pissed with you - this is Stefan's mess." Eda asked.
Chang answered her, "... Because if Stefan owns the vessel then technically it's Hotel Moscow property. Xander hits the vessel, Xander's declaring war... and it won't stay local."
Xander looked at Chang "You think Moscow would go to war with Buffy and The Watchers."
"If only for appearances sake - wouldn't do for the little people to start thinking we can be mugged like an Old Lady on the damn subway by a bunch of weekend warriors. There are some who think playing nice with a bunch of declared do-gooders who's only claim to being professional crooks is Uncle Sam being shit scared of them, might just be the height of stupidity."
Xander shook his head with a sigh. "What do they want me to do, run around stroking a cat and doing a bad Marlon Brando imitation?"
"They want you commit Junior, to quit acting like this whole "international terrorist thing" is just some bad dream you're going to wake up from any minute. You my good Sir, are a criminal and it's time you started acting like one.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Xander asked suspiciously.
"What do you THINK it means. " Chang sneered, "This Harmony Kendell thing is a perfect example. She's a thorn in your side. If this was my problem to deal with I'd have already sent Shenhua pay her a visit ... problem solved."
"All appearances to the contrary, Harmony isn't that dangerous." Xander explained, " She's annoying as hell and I would never trust her unless her life or more importantly her fame depended on you, but she's essentially harmless. She can and will be your best friend ... until someone else who could do more for her came along ... then she'll sell you out in a New York Minute."
"Sounds like a real charmer," Chang replied, "Dangerous or not however she and that camera she's brought with her are making problems and in this city, you solve problems - even the problems that went to school with you."
Eda smiled in sympathy, "Honestly Xand, do you really want two wolves at your back. This bounty hunting nonsense is bad enough without Ol' Fryface hunting for you as well."
"Look don't worry, I have a plan. ... Well it's not my plan exactly. More like Rock's plan but I'm fairly sure it will be brilliant."
"Oh god he's being cocky," Eda sighed. "Now I KNOW this will end badly."
"How could this get any worse?" Xander rolled his eyes, "Oh wait, I keep forgetting. This is MY life, of course it can get worse."
Chang smirked at Xander, "You do realize at the rate this is going you'll end up with half the hunters in this city after you again."
Xander looked spaced, "I barely survived the first time I had the city after me now I have to do it again? What God did I piss off?"
Rotton sighed, "I assume Miss Shenhua intends to grant Xander a sporting chance by not hunting him here?"
Shenhua snorted, "You kidding? I hear stories of what happen to city last time Surf-Boy have price on his head. Sawyer working nonstop for day and a half to keep up with body count."
Xander looked defensive, "That was not all me, sometimes people took shots at each other while they were looking for me."
"... And the story of you blowing up a building?..."
"Roberta tore up a ton of real estate and you people don't bitch and whine about it as much you do about me blowing up a single damn building."
"That was the Lovelace Maid , anyone who knows her knows what to expect. besides it wasn't JUST the building. It was the couple dozen hunters who were inside at the time." Eda reminded him.
Xander sneered, "... And you wanna know something? I'm not that broken up about it coming out in my favour."
The ringing of Chang's phone interrupted them. The Triad Boss spoke to the caller in rapid Chinese. When he disconnected he was looking at Xander speculatively.
"Would it surprise you to learn that Faith just pulled a run-and-gun at Bougainvillea, A ton of Balalaika's boys got roughed up."
"Please tell me she didn't kill any of them?"
"Apparently not, what the hell's going on Junior?"
Xander shook his head, "Not my idea...unless..." He gave Chang a sheepish look, "I may have let it slip to Faith that you and Balalaika were not going to go-gentle-into-that-good-night if things went bad between us all."
Chang snickered, "Well played Junior I was wondering when you were going to get serious and it looks like you have." Chang laughed, "You have to know yer getting played right?"
"Someone wants you NOT doing exactly what you are doing right now...laying low. They've turned up the heat it seems like they really, really want to see how far they can make you jump." Chang explained.
Xander shook his head, "I have no choice," he replied, "I have to deal with That Ship if nothing else."
"Think smart junior," Chang advised, "whoever is after you persuaded a doofus like Houndstooth to hunt you, included the the one vampire you'd have a aversion to killing to make it emotional. and setting the whole thing up so that it plays out in front of the world."
Xander nodded and reached for his mobile, "Whoever's after me has gone to a lot of trouble for a show. I'd be rude if i didn't give them one."