All characters in this chapter are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
. Some dialogue from ‘Reptile Boy’, by David Greenwalt.Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life28. Another Mission
‘So, still no news?’
Ms Calendar looked up from her computer screen before replying to Buffy’s question.
‘Still nothing’, she said, and behind her both Willow and Amy shrugged and shook their heads in support of her negative answer.
Buffy turned to look at Giles, by the counter. ‘And you haven’t heard anything from Angel?’
‘Nothing specific. He agrees that the Anointed One and the Order of Aurelius, or what’s left of it, are still out there and must still be regarded as a threat, and that the same is true for Spike. He’s still guarded when talking about his vampire past, and therefore about theirs, perhaps understandably so, but I trust that if he hears any rumours of present activity he’ll alert us. I don’t suppose he’s, ah, by any chance confided anything more specific in you?’
‘No’, Buffy said. ‘He hasn’t got chatty with me.’
Giles broke the silence that followed this remark by saying, ‘I have found a little more information about Spike, but it only confirms that he’s, well, unpleasantly violent. Extremely so. I don’t suppose it’s necessary to go into details, because they don’t really give us any more guidance on how to deal with him—except that we should be careful. As for the Order of Aurelius, you thoroughly routed them on the night of Saint Vigeous, but I imagine that their loss of force means only that their next reprisal effort will be deferred, and when it comes it is likely to be motivated with greater bitterness than ever.’
Willow came over to Buffy, and put a hand on her shoulder. ‘We’re all in this together, right, Buffy? And you’re still the Slayer.’ She looked across at Giles. ‘You don’t have to give her such a hard time.’
Amy joined them. ‘You’ve beaten everything they’ve thrown at you so far, right? We’ve got faith in you, don’t we, Will?’ Willow nodded vigorously.
Giles lowered his head a little. ‘I’m sorry.’
Now Ms Calendar crossed the room as well, stopped in front of Buffy, and stretched out one arm to touch Giles on the sleeve. ‘He pushes you because you need to be at your best to face whatever threats may come. Even if the vampires are keeping their heads down, you know there’s no telling what mystical attack may hit us next. And he knows you can handle it, the threats, the training—and his nagging.’ She turned to look in Giles’s direction. ‘He’s just not very good at verbalising how he feels sometimes.’
Without lifting his head, Giles brought his hand to his mouth and gave a small cough.
‘I know, I know’, said Buffy, pouting only a little. ‘He’s got his job to do. And I’ve got mine. And I’ll be here after school, and once I’ve done my homework I’ll train, and then this evening I’ll patrol, because I’ve got to be ready when the next threat comes. I did just think maybe
I could have a little bit of time to pretend
I have a life of my own before
the next threat comes.’
Ms Calendar nudged Giles and he looked up again. ‘Well, yes’, he said, ‘that is reasonable. We’ll, uh, we’ll ease up a little. No sense in, ah, over-pressuring you.’***
‘Oh, hi, Willow!’
‘Aren’t you on your way to the library, to do your homework and your training’—Willow ducked her head—‘I mean, not that it’s any of my business, but you said …’
‘That’s all right. It’s good to see you.’ Buffy started walking, with Willow following her. ‘I am going to head to the library in a minute, but first I’m going outside for a breath of fresh air, watch all the normal kids leaving school, heading off to have fun, or just going home, or out with their dates … Where’s Amy?’
‘She’s talking with Ms Calendar about something. I’ll probably join them in a minute, but I came to find you first, see how you’re doing.’
‘I’m doing okay, really. Just because I’m the Chosen One doesn’t mean I can’t have a snit-fit occasionally, right?’
Willow put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. ‘I’m your friend, remember? The one who’s on your side?’
Buffy touched Willow’s hand and didn’t answer. They stood together for a minute in companionable silence. Then Jesse and Jonathan came out the door behind them and greeted them.
‘Anything—up?’ said Jonathan. He raised one hand and wiggled it as he went on. ‘I mean, anything—you know, like—strange?’
Buffy shook her head. ‘It’s been quiet for a while now. Nothing since the night of Saint Vigeous, except that business with the mummy that ended up pretty much taking care of itself. But, you know, Sunnydale …’
Jonathan nodded. ‘I know. Jesse’s been filling me in on a few stories—’
Jesse nodded too, enthusiastically. ‘How you fought that Master guy, and the whole business with Chris Epps and Eric Gittleson.’
Willow said, ‘We were just enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, while it lasts.’
‘Believe me’, said Jonathan, ‘I’m in no hurry for more trouble.’
Buffy pulled a face. ‘So much not.’ She gave a small sigh. ‘I guess I should head in to the library now.’ She leaned back against the railing. ‘On the other hand, I guess Giles can wait two more minutes.’
Jesse pointed. ‘Who’s that Cordelia’s talking to?’
‘Two older guys in a black BMW’, Buffy said. ‘That’s who Cordelia’s talking to.’
Willow gave a start. ‘I think they’re coming this way!’
Cordelia came up the stairs and grabbed Buffy by the hand. ‘Come on. Richard and his fraternity brother wanna meet you.’
‘Well, I don’t really wanna meet any fraternity boys.’
Cordelia wouldn’t take no for an answer and pulled Buffy down the stairs, and then up to one of the fraternity boys who’d got out of the black BMW, the driver—Richard, or so Willow supposed; they were talking just out of earshot. Whatever he was saying, Buffy was trying to get away from him, even when Cordelia tried to stop her. Then the passenger from the BMW came up and started talking with Buffy, walking along with her, back towards the stairs and the school building. They came back into earshot and Willow could hear him introducing himself as Tom Warner, a senior at Crestwood College, and telling Buffy about a party on the weekend. He was bantering with her. Willow didn’t think she’d ever heard anybody actually banter in real life. Buffy seemed to be liking it. Maybe she just liked Tom. There’d be enough reason for that. Or maybe she liked the idea of going to the party he was telling her about.
‘I wanna say that I’ll come, but …’
Tom said, ‘Well, this could be me talking too much again, but I think if you want to say that, maybe you should say that.’
Buffy shifted from one foot to the other. ‘It’s just that I have these—well, obligations. Or responsibilities. Or something like that. Whatever, they tend to eat into my time in the evenings. Can I just say that I’ll come to the party if I can? Would that be all right?’
Tom smiled. ‘That’s better than all right. I hope—’
Buffy cut him off. ‘Sorry, Tom, I gotta go now. Those responsibility things. But it was really nice meeting you.’
‘Same here’, said Tom, as Buffy turned and started up the stairs.***
The afternoon’s training session had gone well, and Giles had been happy for Buffy to leave early. The evening patrol was going well, too, in the sense of no signs of any kind of trouble. Maybe there wasn’t any reason she couldn’t take an evening off to go to Tom’s party.
She spotted something shining on the ground, near the cemetery wall, and bent to pick it up. It was a bracelet—or part of one; it was broken.
‘There’s blood on it’, said a voice behind her. She turned, startled, and saw Angel.
‘Blood’, she said cautiously.
‘It’s a—a thing. I mean, I can smell it. We can smell it. We, ah, I mean …’
Buffy shook her head. ‘We’re good, okay? I know it must be hard to talk about.’
Angel shrugged. ‘You know, now. There’s no point pretending. It’s just—well, blood …’
Buffy shrugged, too. ‘It’s part of my job.’ She looked down at the bracelet. ‘If there’s blood, there’s not enough to see. I know that—you—all—have special powers of smell … There’s something I should ask you.’
Angel looked cautious, but he said, ‘Go ahead.’
Buffy kept looking down. ‘Well, I know you need to drink blood to stay … Do you drink from other vampires? Or, or what?’
‘No, that wouldn’t work. There’s a meat-packing plant in town, I buy pig’s blood there … It’s a—kind of place that …’
‘I’m not a vegetarian, y’know. I eat meat. Maybe even from the same meat-packing plant. I mean, I’m not exactly gonna put it on my list of tourist destinations, but … There’s writing on this bracelet. Take a look at it.’
Angel moved closer to her and looked over her shoulder. ‘It’s E, N, T.’
‘Does that mean anything to you? The sign of some ancient mystical conspiracy, or anything like that?’
‘Nothing I ever heard of.’
‘It’s been broken in two, though. There could have been more writing on the other part. I’ll take it to Giles in the morning, see what he says.’
‘It was broken’, Angel agreed. ‘A broken bracelet, with blood on it—that means violence.’ He looked all around.
Buffy guessed what he was thinking and looked around, too. ‘It’s a girl’s bracelet, by the size. A girl was here, there was some kind of fight, and her bracelet got broken. In a cemetery. Not far from the edge of it, though.’ She looked at Angel. ‘Although that doesn’t automatically mean vampires or anything paranormal.’
‘No, I—I guess not.’
‘Well, when I go to Giles in the morning we’ll try to figure out the situation. If—if it’s one for a Slayer—you’ll be there to back me up?’
Angel turned away and started to talk without looking at her. ‘Buffy, I—when I was cursed, when I realised what had happened to me, what I’d become, what I’d done—I just wanted to hide from it. But I couldn’t. And then—then there was you. I wanted to do something, something that could make a difference. What you’re up against, what you’re fighting—I wanted to be part of that fight. But I still am what I am, Buffy. If I get too close to you—I don’t know whether that’s a good idea. Does this—do I make any kind of sense?’
‘I don’t know’, Buffy said softly. ‘I don’t know whether I make any kind of sense. I know the Slayer has to be careful—I guess maybe we both do. But you’ll be there to back me up—if you can?’
Without turning to look at her again, Angel gave an unmistakably definite nod. Then he was gone in the darkness.***
In the morning they had their usual debriefing session, as Marcie called them. Marcie herself, instead of meeting Buffy on her arrival at school, was the last to turn up, but when she did she had something useful to say about the bracelet Buffy had found. Jesse had already said that he had seen something like it before, but had not been able to think of anything more helpful to add.
‘If you’ve got a question about an accessory’, Marcie said, ‘take it to the queen of the accessorisers.’
Before Buffy could head out to do just that, Jonathan cleared his throat and said he had a question, if nobody minded. When he was encouraged to go on, he said, ‘Can you say exactly where you found it?’
Buffy remembered she’d been near the south wall of the cemetery, but not what else had been nearby. Willow quickly brought up a map on her computer screen. Looking over her shoulder, Buffy pinpointed the location.
Amy looked over Willow’s other shoulder. ‘That’s right near Crestwood College.’
‘Crestwood College?’ said Willow. ‘Isn’t that where Tom is, and his fraternity party tonight?’
‘Tom?’ said Jesse.
‘Fraternity party tonight?’ said Giles.
‘That could just be a coincidence’, said Buffy, as Ms Calendar put a hand on Giles’s sleeve and raised her eyebrows in his direction.
‘It could be a handy convenience’, Willow said. ‘I mean, seeing as you’ve already got an open invitation. It’d be an opportunity to get inside and check things out without arousing any suspicion.’
After the necessary explanations, everybody agreed that was a good plan, and then the meeting broke up so that Buffy could find Cordelia.***
Finding Cordelia was made simpler because she was already looking for Buffy. For some reason the fraternity, the Delta Zeta Kappas, said that Cordelia couldn’t come to the party unless Buffy came too. Cordelia was very emotional about it. ‘And I’m talking about Richard Anderson, okay? As in Anderson Farms, Anderson Aeronautics, and’—she was nearly sobbing by now—‘Anderson Cosmetics.’
Before Cordelia’s appeal became even more grovelling, Buffy explained that she wanted to go to the party with Cordelia, and made an awkward segue into asking about the bracelet. ‘I just found it lying around somewhere’, she said, ‘and it made me think of you. I thought to myself that Cordelia would be sure to recognise something like this.’
Cordelia only needed one quick glance. ‘Well, sure. The girls at Kent Preparatory School all wear those. See those letters?—except the part with the K has been broken off. It’s just outside town.’ She dismissed it. ‘Now, about the party. I’ll drive. And don’t wear black, silk, chiffon, or spandex—they’re my trademarks. And your hair—well, we’ll see if we can figure something out later.’
Buffy could see that Cordelia was in full flow, so she cut her off. ‘Okay, later, I’ll see you then. Gotta go now.’***
Willow found the Kent school newsletter online without difficulty. A student called Callie Megan Anderson had disappeared without trace over a week ago.
‘Missing girl, cemetery, blood’, said Amy, ‘am I the only one thinking about Chris Epps and Eric Gittleson?’
‘We stopped them, though’, said Jesse. ‘Didn’t we?’
‘I didn’t mean them specifically. I meant a similar scenario.’
‘A similar scenario to that could involve more than one girl’, said Marcie.
Willow started searching online, as Marcie continued talking. ‘A prep school girl goes missing, I figure frat boys would be natural suspects—I don’t mean vampire frat boys or demon frat boys or mad scientist frat boys, I just mean the same sort of frat boys you might find in any college town in America. In fact, if this girl has been missing for over a week, even the Sunnydale Police might have got round to knocking on the fraternity’s door by now. Not that I have much faith in them, but you never know.’ She took the broken bracelet from Buffy and handed it to Ms Calendar. ‘You should take this to them, tell them one of your students found it, tell them exactly where. It can’t hurt, can it? They might at least check it for fingerprints.’
Willow had found some more information: two other girls, from other schools, disappeared almost exactly a year earlier. Giles and Ms Calendar agreed that the coincidence of timing made it look like a ritual was being followed.
‘That doesn’t rule out a human killer’, said Marcie.
‘A killer?’ said Willow, at the same time as Jonathan said, ‘She’s right.’
Amy put a hand on Willow’s shoulder. ‘What else are we going to be worrying about?’
Jonathan came over to where Willow was still sitting at her computer. ‘I know we said the place Buffy found the bracelet was near Crestwood College, but can we take an even closer look at the map?’
Willow took a quick look over her shoulder at him before doing as he asked.
Jonathan pointed at the screen. ‘See, not only is Crestwood College close, the Delta Zeta Kappa fraternity house, specifically, is practically just across the wall.’
Buffy came over to check for herself. ‘Okay, well, I’m already going in there tonight to investigate.’
Willow told her to be careful. Marcie said she should talk with Angel about back-up. Buffy nodded.
Jonathan cleared his throat. ‘About being careful … About fraternity parties …’
Buffy looked a question at him until he went on.
‘Don’t drink anything you haven’t been watching.’
‘He’s right’, said Ms Calendar. She looked at Jonathan. ‘Go on.’
‘Well … If you see it poured from the bottle, and guys are getting drinks from the same bottle, okay so far. Same if you see it dipped from a punch bowl and guys are getting drinks from the same bowl, or anything like that. But once it’s in the glass, if that glass has ever been out of your sight, don’t drink from it. It’s just … It’s a good rule. Because you never know.’
Ms Calendar nodded in agreement.
Marcie put a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder. ‘Good advice. Thanks for thinking of it. Okay, Buffy, it’s up to you now.’