An episode in Nikki Wood’s life – response to DeepBlueJoy’s forum challenge. Disclaimer:
I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Hill Street Blues Notes:
I’ve disregarded anything we know about Nikki Wood that isn’t mentioned in the TV series, so my portrayal isn’t necessarily comic or novel compliant.
As for the Hill Street Blues part, since the timescale is a little problematic given Robin Wood’s age (though not overly so) I’ve moved it to an earlier point in the 70s. The producers of the series were always careful not to say what city it was supposed to be set in, so I’ve decided on a fictional New York neighbourhood, to fit Buffy canon. Morning Roll-Call, Hill Street Precinct, The Hill, New York
The natives were somewhat more restless than normal, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus decided in mild disapproval. Perhaps it was the full moon, he thought facetiously. If so, Detective Belker had forgotten to change back to human form last night.
In truth, the denizens of the Hill Street Precinct were all a far cry from the Hollywood image of a police department. Even the uniformed officers weren’t exactly regulation in appearance, while the plain clothes detectives and undercover officers didn’t have to work very hard to fit in with the criminals they were supposed to be chasing.
“If I might have your attention, ladies and gentleman...,” the Sergeant raised his voice, with just the slightest note of impatience, eyes narrowing as Officer Andy Renko flipped a paper pellet at his partner, Officer Bobby Hill.
The hubbub died down slightly. Some mornings, Esterhaus mused, it was like officiating at a chimpanzee’s tea party. Except chimps had better manners.
“Item One... We have a memo from Division...,” he began, only to be cut off in mid-sentence.
The Sergeant’s lips tightened as someone flung open the door at the top of the stairs. If one thing was sacred, it was Roll-Call – even the most senior officers in the Precinct had felt the edge of his tongue for disrupting the morning’s proceedings.
Captain Frank Furillo held up a placatory hand. “Sorry to disturb you, Phil, but this just came in.”
He waved a slip of paper. “We lost one of our own last night. Officer Jerry McMahon, usually on the evening shift, but you may know him... He signed off early last night, feeling ill, and the Desk Sergeant sent him home. Officer McMahon never made it. He was found this morning, in an alley off 133rd Street. We’re still waiting for autopsy results, but there were two punctures marks over his carotid artery and early indications are that every drop of blood was drained from his body...”
A deathly hush came over the assemblage of officers. McMahon was the second Hill Street officer to die, in the same mysterious circumstances, within a week. Investigating teams were still drawing a blank on the killer and the motive, but with another officer dead, the implication was clear. The mere fact of the deaths was bad enough, but the means of death was even more disturbing.
“Looks like we’ve got a cop killer, Cowboy,” Hill growled at his partner, who nodded his agreement.
The mere fact of the murders was bad enough, but the means of death was even more disturbing. But if there was one crime guaranteed to galvanise even the most lethargic and cynical of The Hill’s officers into action, it was someone preying on their own people.
The Captain looked grim. “I want this – individual – caught, before he kills again. LaRue? Washington? Belker? Take whoever you need from uniforms and scour that area of 133rd from top to bottom. We may have a serial killer on our hands – someone who doesn’t like police officers. This case takes priority over everything else, so I want you all out there, with your eyes open and ears to the ground. Someone must have seen or heard something...”
They all knew that to be true. Equally, The Hill’s residents were notoriously close-lipped when it came to talking to the police. And a significant number of the more nefarious elements were probably revelling at the prospect of a cop killer, carving a bloody swathe through the ranks of Furillo’s people.
Furillo paused and cast an eye over his officers, every one of the grimly determined to bring in the killer – alive, or feet first.
“We’ve two dead officers already and I don’t want a third... So let’s be careful out there,” the Captain advised, voice heavy with concern.
Esterhaus frowned. Not only had Furillo invaded his Roll-Call, now he was using the Sergeant’s own line. Alley off 131st Street, The Hill, New York
Stake poised in one hand, flashlight in the other, Nikki Wood cautiously checked the body. The usual twin holes in the neck and anaemic complexion told the Slayer all she needed to know. It was small consolation for anyone, least of all the victim, but at least there was no trace of blood around the mouth, so the victim could rest in peace.
It wasn’t fair, she ruminated bitterly. No one deserved to die terrified and alone, their body abandoned in an ally choked with stinking trash. And as if the inhabitants of The Hill didn’t have enough to worry about, without another damned vampire moving in. There were already all too many bloodsuckers of the human variety – pimps, slum-lords, protection-racketeers, drug-pushers – without the supernatural kind adding their own malign presence. This was one of the city’s toughest neighbourhoods, with rampant crime, drug use, unemployment and grinding poverty. It was also a battleground for numerous gangs – white, black, Hispanic, Jewish, and all the pointless subdivisions in-between – with an over-stretched local police department barely preventing all-out warfare between them at times. The vast majority of the population here just wanted to eke out a living, but they were constantly living in the shadow of the criminally-minded minority. There were, Nikki was all too aware, humans on The Hill who could give some demons a lesson in applied evil.
If it hadn’t been for her Watcher, Bernard Crowley, she could all too easily have been occupying a slum apartment in this very neighbourhood. People had very little sympathy to spare for a young, single, black mother these days. It was hard enough being a Slayer and a mother, even with her Watcher’s assistance. She saw all too little of young Robin, between long days spent waiting tables in the diner for meagre wages, and equally long nights patrolling already dangerous streets. Crowley had been Nikki’s saviour, caring for the eighteen-month-old boy while she worked and patrolled.
With her Watcher’s assistance, she’d moved into a slightly better area in Jefferson Heights, adjacent to The Hill, though the latter remained her main hunting ground. It wasn’t an easy life for Crowley, either. Also living nearby, he was the constant target of malicious gossip and innuendo from his neighbour. A middle-aged white man, living in a predominantly white locality and in regular contact with a young black woman, was an easy target for the local bigots. Furthermore, Nikki herself wasn’t always made to feel welcome, living in the same neighbourhood. Fortunately, both Nikki and her Watcher had thick skins, but it still made her spit to think that she was putting her neck on the line for these people on a nightly basis.
Suddenly the Slayer heard footsteps approaching, her head jerking around and looking for an avenue of escape. Nikki cursed – it was a blind alley with apartment buildings on three sides. She tensed for a fight or flight, hoping it was the vampire returning. A good dusting tonight – even one - would make her feel so much better.
A flashlight beam abruptly caught Nikki straight in the eyes, momentarily dazzling her.
“Hold it, sister! Let’s see those hands!” a slightly gravely voice commanded.
The Slayer cursed under her breath, surreptitiously dropping her stake into a pile of trash and raising her hands. The last thing she needed right now was a run-in with the local cops – if that’s who they were.
Two men stepped into view, each with a revolver trained in her direction and one of them brandishing an NYPD badge.
“Police – don’t move...” the nearest one announced, wholly unnecessarily.
“Detectives LaRue and Washington, Hill Street Precinct,” he clarified a moment later.
“There’s a body there, Lover Boy...,” the other man dropped to one knee beside the corpse, while his companion kept his weapon trained on Nikki.
“It’s Rae DiCarlo!” Washington growled. “With two holes in his neck...”
DiCarlo was an undercover cop, usually operating out of Midtown, but currently attached to a narcotics team on The Hill. The cop killer had seemingly struck once more.
The Slayer didn’t resist as the two detectives pushed her up against a wall, one of them roughly frisking her.
“Gotta knife, Neil,” LaRue announced, plucking Nikki’s stiletto from her boot.
“We’re taking you in, sweetheart,” Washington told her, pulling a set of handcuffs from his pocket.
The frustrated Slayer knew she could take them both down in a blink. Guns or not, they were too close to avoid her hands and feet. That, however, would only cause her even more trouble.
“On what charge?” Nikki demanded, as her wrists were secured.
“Well... It might have something to do with that body lying there, with all the blood drained...” LaRue suggested.
The Slayer’s voice rose. “What am I? Some sort of fucking vampire? See any pointed teeth? Or blood on my lips? Or anywhere, for God’s sake?”
Nikki could also smell just the slightest hint of alcohol on his breath. As the current Chosen One, all her senses were enhanced, but smell probably the least of all. The trace was barely discernible – and probably wouldn’t be to a normal person – but to the best of her knowledge, cops weren’t supposed to drink on duty.
“She’s got a point, lover boy,” Washington, the black half of the partnership, pointed out.
“Only lead we’ve got, Neil. And when Tibbets was killed a week ago, one of the witnesses remembers seeing a woman in a leather coat – just like this one. Nice, by the way...” LaRue responded.
The Slayer cursed inwardly again. Five days before, she’d found a dead uniformed cop, drained by a vamp, and left the scene before his buddies arrived. Obviously, one of the locals had been more loose-lipped than normal. It seemed as though a vampire was targeting police officers, but that lead would have to wait until they cut her free. Hopefully, it wouldn’t take too long – it wasn’t as if these two cops had much of a case.
In any case, her poor Watcher was going to be left holding the baby for longer than usual tonight. Still, she was at least allowed one call, so he’d know she wasn’t lying dead somewhere with her throat torn out.
Not this time, anyway. Interrogation Room, Hill Street Precinct, The Hill, New York
The interrogation room was almost a cliché, Nikki mused. Flaking paint on the walls, hard wooden chairs and table, and a bare light-bulb overhead. The room itself stank to high heaven of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. Not that the rest of the Hill Street Precinct was much less shabby.
“So you want to tell us what you were doing in that alley?” Washington asked politely.
Nikki decided to temporise. She could have said absolutely nothing until someone from the Public Defender’s office arrived, but it wasn’t as if she had anything to hide.
“It’s kinda personal...” she offered vaguely.
“Try us,” LaRue suggested.
The Slayer feigned embarrassment. “If you must know, Detective LaRue, I needed a place to pee...”
“Public urination’s a Misdemeanour Offence,” LaRue pointed out, with a smirk.
The Slayer decided that she definitely didn’t like that half of the partnership, though Washington was a different matter. She found the black Detective quite attractive, in a rugged world-experienced sort of way, if he were only a few years younger.
“You try having a baby, Detective! Eighteen months on and I’m still not back to normal...,” Nikki shot back, not entirely faking this time.
Washington cleared his throat. “I think we can put that to one side, Miss Wood. But one thing we’re still interested in... Was it you that our witness placed close to where we found Officer Tibbets?”
Nikki shrugged. “Can’t say that I wasn’t... But I didn’t see a body.”
That part wasn’t true, but the witness had apparently only reported seeing her close by. If they could have proven otherwise, the two detectives would already have said as much.
“And you’re absolutely certain you’ve never met – or heard of – Officer Bill Tibbets, Officer Jerry McMahon, or Detective Rae DiCarlo?” Washington pressed, watching her eyes for a reaction.
“Not until you told me their names just now,” the Slayer answered truthfully, memorising the names for future investigation.
Her eyes didn’t even flicker, Washington noted. But he nevertheless had an uneasy feeling that she was hiding something. People who lived and worked on The Hill tended to grow up quickly, too quickly, but this young woman had a look in her eyes that he hadn’t seen since Nam. She had the appearance of someone who’d seen too much death, too often, and who’d only just avoided the reaper on occasion.
But right now, Washington had nothing to work with. The woman had been found beside a bloodless body – and the whereabouts of said blood were still completely unknown. There was no basis for a charge, unless the Detective pushed for felonious possession of a knife, but he might even have problems making that one stick.
The door abruptly opened and a well-dressed woman strode purposely inside.
“I think we’ll call a halt to this right now, Detective Washington,” the lawyer said firmly.
She held out a hand. “Joyce Davenport, Public Defenders’ Office.”
“We were just...” LaRue began.
“I can imagine, Detective LaRue,” Davenport raised a perfectly trimmed eyebrow.
Rules tended to be twisted, ignored, or otherwise trampled underfoot in cases like this. But not on her watch and – ongoing personal relationship or not - Frank Furillo knew better than to allow any flagrant abuse of the system in his Precinct
She turned to the Slayer. “I trust you haven’t said anything – incriminating or otherwise?”
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Nikki smiled.
Davenport frowned. “Of course you haven’t, but that doesn’t always matter to the more zealous elements in law enforcement.”
“Been called a lot of things, but never a “zealous element”,” LaRue muttered to his partner.
Washington looked embarrassed. “We haven’t actually charged Miss Wood with anything... She was just helping us with our enquiries...”
The lawyer exhaled impatiently. “Then let me help you. Have you killed any police officers, Miss Wood?”
“Hell, no!” the Slayer had never yet taken a human life.
“Do you know who killed them?” Davenport continued sardonically.
“That’d be another “no”,” Nikki confirmed.
She knew “what” was responsible, as opposed to “who”, but not even the specific “what” as yet.
“Do you possess any knowledge that might lead the police to the person or persons responsible?” the lawyer asked.
“No, I don’t,” the Slayer responded.
Again, it was the truth. A few well-placed enquiries of her own, however – and she knew just who to ask – might just help her locate the vampire before it killed again.
“Then I expect you either to charge Miss Wood or release her, Detective,” Davenport insisted.
Washington shrugged, nodded and reluctantly indicated the door. “If you remember anything, Miss Wood, please call me.”
“I can’t say it’s been a pleasure, Detective...” the Slayer shot back, as Davenport ushered her from the interrogation room. Main Office, Hill Street Precinct, The Hill, New York
“How’s my little soldier?” Nikki picked up her young son and spun him around, the child gurgling with delight.
Her long-suffering Watcher had been left with Robin all night, while the Slayer languished in the Hill Street interrogation room. Crowley never complained and he was always there for her, but she still felt guilty.
“Mama...” the little boy grinned, his vocabulary still pretty much restricted to that one word.
It was surprising, the Slayer reflected sadly, that he could even associate her with the word. Given a Chosen One’s life expectancy – and she’d been Called later than normal – Nikki knew she’d be lucky to see him start school, let alone grow into a man. All she could do was love her son and try to impart a core set of values in the time she had. Crowley had promised to raise Robin if the worst happened and Nikki wondered what the Council would think of that – if they even knew. She’d been three months pregnant when the bastards had put her through that evil Cruciamentum, with her Watcher doing his best to sabotage the proceedings. Crowley had been fortunate not to be fired for his attempted interference in their precious rite of passage, but he was still adamant that the Council could never know she had a son.
And if those cold-hearted fuckers ever came within ten feet of Robin, Nikki knew she’d break the tradition of never deliberately taking a human life – and without the slightest of qualms.
“Thanks, Bernard. I owe you one – again...” the Slayer kissed him on the cheek.
She checked her watch. “Crap! I’m late for my shift...”
Her employers were, by local standards, quite accommodating. There were, however, limits and she couldn’t afford to lose her job right now.
Crowley smiled. “I took the liberty of calling them and explaining that you’d be late. Your boss is actually quite obliging.”
The Englishman lowered his voice. “So I’m guessing we have a problem?”
Nikki shook her head firmly. “Not here, Bernard....”
“The car’s outside,” the Watcher replied at once, recognising her “Slayer-business” tone of voice. Captain’s Office, Hill Street Precinct, The Hill, New York
“I dunno about this one, Captain. My gut says she’s hiding something – I don’t think it’s the killer – but I also reckon she’s seen this before, or something similar. I mean, how would you react if you found a body that looks like it was attacked by a vampire?” Washington asked helplessly.
“Maybe it was...” LaRue muttered.
So far, no one had come up with any explanation for how the killer had managed to drain his victims on the spot, in a very short period of time, and without leaving any traces.
Furillo firmly fought back the impulse to agree with him. His Italian grandmother had always been full of stories about the supernatural – including vampires.
“She didn’t start screaming or even look queasy – and she looks like a damned veteran, Captain. Want my guess? I think she wants to bag the killer herself. And I’ve no evidence to back that up, either...” Washington opined.
The Captain nodded, aware of the value of a gut reaction at times. “Okay, Neil... We know where she works and lives. Put Belker on her tail. Quietly – we officially don’t have enough evidence even to justify that much.”
He could almost hear the lecture from Joyce Davenport already. Los Diablos Gang Headquarters, The Hill, New York
Slayer and associated combat skills or not, Nikki didn’t feel overly comfortable around here. While she wasn’t a gang member, the Slayer was black and currently deep within the home turf of a Hispanic gang.
It wasn’t the first time she’d had dealings with Jesus Martinez, of course. If something happened on The Hill, the leader of Los Diablos knew everything about it or, at worst, knew someone else who did. From time to time, Martinez had even hinted that he was quite aware of The Hill’s hidden nightlife – the sort Nikki dealt with. The Slayer, for her part, had strongly “suggested” that he keep that to himself. To her intense satisfaction, the roguish young Hispanic had even seemed afraid of her – and there weren’t many people who could claim that.
Crowley had, nevertheless, insisted she take some back-up. Nikki didn’t particularly like guns, especially since they were of dubious effectiveness against most of her usual quarry, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t use one with lethal effect. Her Watcher’s big 9mm Browning automatic was, therefore, tucked into her waistband, concealed by her favourite leather coat. The Slayer only hoped she wouldn’t have to use it, or any of the blades tucked away in various places around her person.
She checked her escape route once more. It was dark quite early at this time of year, but she could see perfectly well. A fairly wide alleyway led onto the 135th Street and Nikki knew she could outrun any normal human, if the worst came to the worst. A group of vagrants, clustered around a fire in an old trashcan, hadn’t given her a second glance as she passed. Looking back, their numbers appeared to have increased by one. The Slayer was also pretty sure she’d seen the newcomer behind a desk at the Hill Street Precinct. No doubt, her visiting the haunts of a known gang leader would add a little spice to his report.
“Wrong part of town to be turning tricks, sugar,” one of the two Los Diablos look-outs suggested, with a sneer, arrogance and attitude oozing from every pore.
Nikki didn’t recognise either of the young guards outside the disused warehouse currently occupied by Martinez and his gang. That made her task slightly more difficult, as the usual gatekeepers had long since learned to be cooperative. After all, the rules only said she wasn’t allowed to kill humans – they didn’t say anything about breaking a few bones, if necessary.
“I want to see Jesus Martinez,” the Slayer asked, in as mild tones as she could muster.
“You’re not his type, sister!” the second guard laughed harshly.
“Pretty sure he doesn’t want to see you!” the first one added.
Nikki stood her ground, as the two gang members circled around her. “Pretty sure he will... Hey! Knock it off!”
One of the Diablos had just groped her ass and the Slayer was itching to teach him a painful lesson.
“Who’s gonna make us?” the second one copped a feel of her other butt cheek and she almost gagged on the smell of cheap cologne.
Four seconds later, both Diablos were writhing on the ground, one clutching at his manhood and missing several teeth, the other nursing broken ribs and also painful damage to the family jewels.
“That would be me,” she responded with a growl. “And I’d stay down and bleed a while, if I were you...”
Nikki hammered on the metal door with a piece of old brick. Suddenly, she wasn’t in the mood for any more crap – and woe betide the first individual who tried anything here. Logic said to watch her step. Los Diablos raised traditional Latin American machismo to ridiculous levels but, on the other hand, they also respected strength. And the Slayer had that in spades.
The door was cautiously opened by yet another of Martinez’s attack dogs. The gang leader was either paranoid, or he had a lot of enemies – or perhaps both - Nikki decided. One thing was certain, though. Assuming a miracle and she survived until he reached his early teenage years, if Robin ever even thought about joining a gang, she’d Slay his butt.
Nikki planted her foot firmly in the door and pushed hard, flinging the guard hard against the passageway wall inside. An instant later, her hand shot out and caught him by the throat, lifting him off the floor.
“Whaaauuurrrggghhh!” Diego Gutierrez, one of Martinez’s lieutenants, let out a strangled squawk as the Slayer’s hand tightened around his windpipe.
“Jesus Martinez. Now!” she barked.
Face beginning to turn purple, Gutierrez gestured frantically down the passageway. Nikki lowered him to the ground and released her grip, flipping back the edge of her coat to show him the automatic inside, just in case he had any foolish ideas.
“Show me,” the Slayer commanded curtly, grabbing him by the collar.
In most circles, this might not be the best way to win friends and influence people. Even in gangland, there was a certain amount of protocol and pseudo-diplomacy, but sometimes fear and violence had a certain language all of their own.
Gutierrez desperately wanted to tell – and show – Nikki what he thought of women like her, but decided better of it. This incredibly strong and tough woman was on reasonable terms with his leader and, what was more, she’d just bulled her way through three Diablos. Sometimes, it was better just to suck it up.
“Hey Nikki!” Martinez had appropriated a former office for his own use and he indicated a threadbare sofa. “Take a seat... And why so hard on my boys?”
“Your boys don’t know how to treat a lady, Jesus. So I taught them a lesson... Those two by the door? They might be able to have kids in future, but no guarantees,” the Slayer responded dryly, taking the proffered seat, but ensuring she could watch both the door and Martinez.
The gang leader laughed nervously and flung his arms out. “What can I say, Nikki? Good help? Real hard to come by these days. But that offer I made before? It’s still good, if you want to make big money...”
“Told you once, Jesus. I’m no one’s hired muscle,” Nikki retorted.
“Guessing this ain’t a social call, then?” Martinez stubbed out his cigarette.
The Slayer nodded. “Give the man a prize. Information’s what I need, Jesus.”
“What makes you think Los Diablos got any information?” Martinez drawled. “Or, if we do, why would we want to share?”
“I think you’ll wanna share, Jesus. ‘Cause I’ve two good reasons why you should... First one? I continue to keep your turf safe from the stuff you don’t like to talk about...” Nikki paused.
“And the second?” the gang leader lit another cigarette.
“I don’t tell Captain Furillo that you know something about the cop killer. Unless you want Hunter and his guys kicking your doors down,” the Slayer cleaned her nails with a switchblade.
Martinez scowled. “You come in here, hurt my boys, and try to blackmail me?”
“Not blackmail, Jesus. Good business practice,” Nikki returned smoothly.
The gang leader sighed. “What you wanna know?”
“Three dead cops. Tibbets, McMahon, and DiCarlo. All dead in under a week by – uh – not the usual way,” the Slayer knew that Martinez, while apparently having some knowledge of the local supernatural element, didn’t like to refer to it directly.
“So any idea why them, in particular? And where the killer’s hanging?” she asked bluntly.
Martinez sat back on the sofa and rubbed the ridiculous goatee beard he was currently trying to grow. “Name you’re looking for is Suarez. Tomas Suarez – used to be in Los Diablos, with his three brothers, but they were trouble. One dead brother – Felipe - killed by the cops during a liquor-store raid. Want to guess who shot him? Officers Tibbets and McMahon.
“Another brother - Bolivar - doing twenty to life... DiCarlo put him away,” the gang leader paused.
“We thought Tomas was dead, but two weeks ago, maybe? He shows up and starts telling people how he’s gonna get even for his bros... Thing is, Nikki, we only saw him at night. And he’s looking real pale, allergic to the sunshine, if you know what I mean?” Martinez actually shivered.
Nikki was about to speak, but the gang leader held up a hand. “Not only the cops he wants. Tomas blames the DA for putting his brother in Harrisonville. And Frankie’s lawyer-lady for not keeping him out... Now if it was just the cops, I wouldn’t care, but Frankie’s always been straight with me. And Joycey’s kept me out of jail more than once.”
The Slayer sat up straight. “ “Joycey”? Joyce Davenport, the Public Defender?”
Martinez nodded and blew a cloud of smoke. “That’s the one, Nikki. She’s a classy chick – wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her...”
* Not sure if I have the Hill Street Blues atmosphere quite right – any comments will be welcome*