Easing One's Conscience II - In The Admiral's Arms
Disclaimer -- I own nothing but the time it took to write this. Joss Whedon, George Lucas and Troy Duffy own the rest...********
It was dark and cold in that alley. Angel had chosen his spot well; in his years of rampaging as Angelus through Europe, and Britain particularly, he had known many of his kind to frequent this place. It was quiet and out of the way, meaning the random passer-by would not be noticed were they to be snatched up by a vampire looking for a sip of something sweet. And the staff that ran the Admiral’s Arms club was always impartial. They didn’t ask questions for which they didn’t want to know the answers.
It was only logical that as the years passed, more and more vampires began to frequent the establishment so that normal, living human beings learned to avoid the place. The ones that did tended to run with the Goth crowd or some other such fringe group that had become regularly, if foolishly, fascinated by the creatures of the night. And those tended not to walk back out those doors alive; the lucky ones were simply killed and their blood drained to slake a vampire’s unnatural appetites. Angel sympathised for the ones who were turned. Would that he had an Orb of Thessula for each one of them so they could retain their souls post siring.
He checked his smartphone for the time and shivered. Sometimes being human again really sucks –damn, it’s cold!
Angel thought to himself, and then he wrapped his coat more tightly about him. It had been nearly fifty minutes since he and Smecker spoke, so he still had no reason to wonder yet as to the man’s whereabouts, but that still didn’t mean he couldn’t have come a bit sooner. Then they’d bot h be inside and out of this blasted cold weather.
“Someone has a thing for Anne Rice books,” said Smecker behind him. He jumped halfway out of his skin; there had been no warning, no trigger of his senses to tell him to keep an eye over his shoulder. He spun around to face the man, and it was through a supreme effort of will that he was able to keep his hand off the stake concealed in his coat’s inside pocket. He took in the full measure of the man now before him. Even following his instructions, Smecker still looked every bit the government agent he had been in his career. He would stick out like a sore thumb. That was good, as the vampire crowd was particularly thick here tonight. He would have the answers he sought; Smecker had hinted in their first conversation that he knew something about what went on in Angel’s business, and perhaps he even knew something of the supernatural world. It would all reveal itself tonight.
“Hmph,” Angel snorted derisively, “maybe for that failed movie that pissed her off so damn much she pulled the rights to the rest of her books. Take off your scarf and tuck in your crucifix, Smecker. You’ll draw less attention that way. Other than that, you’re alright, so we can go inside.”
“Gets kinda chilly in there too, Angel AKA Liam, if you follow me,” Smecker retorted. “Last time I was here, someone actually tried to bite me in the neck. Needless to say, I had to tell the bitch to shove off; I wasn’t into the vampire crowd. And I don’t go for women,” he said as they went inside.
“You’re not hitting on me, are you?” asked Angel suspiciously. He felt rather nervous that Smecker would suddenly try to turn on the homo charm. “Because I’m straight.”
“Nope, I’m just saying. Ah, it looks just the way I left it,” he said as they strode over to an empty booth in one of the far corners of the establishment. “Still as dim and gloomy as ever. They always play the same creepy music here, the kind of shit you don’t hear on the radio. I’ll take Bach or Strauss over this any day of the week.” They sat down, and soon a rather scantily clad and unnaturally pale skinned waitress sauntered over.
“What’s your pleasure, gentlemen?” she asked in a silky, seductive voice. Her smile showed unnaturally white teeth, and despite her curvaceous appearance she looked like she hadn’t seen the sun in ages. She was older than she looked; it showed in her eyes rather than her skin. Also, her smile was aimed in Angel’s direction rather than Smecker’s.
“A Guiness for each of us, if you please,” said Angel.
“On a cold night like this,” replied the ivory skinned beauty, “wouldn’t you prefer something a little warmer?” She particularly emphasized the word “warmer”.
“Some Shepherd’s Pie, if you have it,” replied Smecker. “I’ve always had a preference for it since I arrived here.”
“An American?” she replied, noting the accent; she was suddenly very interested. “Well, I think we should be able to accommodate you, mister Tall, Dark and Colonial. Very few of your kind come here through our doors; I think it shall be my pleasure to accommodate you personally.
“Our drinks, if you please,” interjected Angel.
“Straight away, then. And the name’s Gwyneth,” she replied, looking pointedly at Angel once more.
As she left, the two men suddenly chuckled to themselves and each other.
“She was being quite direct with you, wasn’t she?” said Angel. “I’m glad you’re gay. I don’t think you’d survive a night with her.”
“And you would?”
Suddenly Angel’s hairs stood up on the back of his neck. It seemed Smecker had her figured out as well as he. Did he somehow know she was a vampire? It would explain why he was familiar with the place and also why he didn’t seem bothered too easily by the lack of warmth in her body, despite her proximity to them at the time. Something Giles said…this bears closer scrutiny, we should get on with our ‘uncommon conversation’…perhaps I should like to watch his reaction when Gwyneth returns with our drinks, and then I’ll discover what else he knows.
He kept the alarm bells that were ringing in his head from showing in his expression, as it would not do for Smecker to see just yet what he knew. He had a distinct feeling that Smecker would be too alarmed at a revelation that Sith Lords were real; no one was yet ready for their war to begin, not by any stretch of the imagination. But if Smecker knew of the supernatural world, then it stood to reason that he had his ear to the ground.
“I’ve run into her type before. She’d most likely use you for all she can, then throw you away like yesterday’s rubbish. They tend not to be committal. When she comes back, you should pretend to be straight and come on to her like she came on to you. I have a feeling she’ll want to take you out to the back alley close to where we met before coming in. If she does ask, accept her offer. I’ll follow closely behind you, but not too close. Her kind also have a nose for trouble.”
“She’s a vampire. That’s what you want to say, isn’t it?” Angel’s eyes went wide at the comment. “I could tell, you know, right from the first clue when you and I were talking on the phone. You asked me to cover my neck and wear a cross, remember?”
“Yeah,” Angel replied.
Just then Gwyneth returned with a tray laden with their drinks and a plate of steaming hot Shepherd’s Pie. She laid the tray on their table and looked deep into Smecker’s eyes. The food smelled delicious, but what smelled even better was the perfume Gwyneth was now wearing. If her voice had sounded seductive before, it was harsh and grating compared to how it sounded now.
“Here are your drinks, kind sirs, and the Shepherd’s Pie for my American friend; I do
hope you find it satisfactory. And if there’s anything else, anything at all,
” and here she smiled pointedly at Smecker, winking as she did so, “please don’t hesitate to ask.” Then she stood up to her full height and turned to walk away, but as she did so, she looked over her shoulder to Smecker and looked deep into his eyes again. Just then she paused and stepped directly toward him. She leaned over him and whispered in his ear. Her breath on his cheek was ice cold, but her next words heated his blood like nothing else.
“I really mean what I said. In fact, my break starts in about fifteen minutes. I’ll come your way again, and I’d like you to meet me outside. I know a place where you and I can be alone for a few minutes. I guarantee you shan’t regret it.”
Smecker, for his part, decided to play it cool and see what she was all about. Angel watched their verbal exchange with satisfaction; soon he would know what Smecker knew, or he would be burying the poor brilliant Federal Agent in a remote area of England. He shrugged in his coat once more, gripping the lapels and feeling the comfortable shape of the stake in his pocket. He waited as Smecker responded to Gwyneth’s offer of sex.
“You really are direct when you want something; I like that in a woman. And you do look like you’ve got it where it counts. I think I might take you up on that, and I hope I measure up to your expectations.”
“Oh, I know I have it, sweetness, and I don’t doubt you do,” she said, smiling as she brushed the tip of his nose with one delicate, frigid finger. He shivered slightly, whether in anticipation (in her eyes at least) or out of feeling the deep cold in her flesh she did not know. “I’ll see you soon…”
Angel and Smecker followed her with their eyes as she walked away. After a minute, not taking his eyes off her, he said to Angel, “Lend me your stake.”
“Huh?” Angel could only say. He knows! This
had to be reported to Giles!
Smecker looked directly at Angel with death in his eyes. “I don’t think I stuttered. Your stake. Coat pocket. Inside left. NOW…”
“OK,” he said, and reached in his coat for his stake, which he handed to Smecker underneath the table. “Now explain to me how you know for sure. What tipped you off?”
“You mean the fact that she radiated no body heat at all? The pale skin, the eyes that look like they’ve seen more than any human could hope to see in a lifetime? You mean that?”
“Add to that her comments. When she asked if we cared for something a little ‘warmer’, so to speak, she must have thought we were vampires ourselves, or at least one of us was. I’ll ask about that later, but right now she thinks she’s leading me into a trap, and I intend to spring the trap and turn it on her. She’s dust, and she don’t even know it, my friend.”
“And how did you know I had a stake?”
“Anyone whose body is still warn and comes to this place more than once invariably comes ready to fend off an attack. They either wear a cross like you told me to wear, or they’re packing either wood or ultraviolet ammo. It’s usually wood, cuz a person in the know understands that they have to keep things as quiet as the suckheads try to do. Don’t want Slayers coming into this place looking to tear the place apart, at least when the vamps had to worry about Slayers…”
“Sounds like you know just about everything there is to know about what goes on in the world,” said Angel at length. Suddenly he saw Gwyneth appearing from behind the kitchen access, removing her apron as she walked out. “Watch it, she’s coming now. We stick to the plan, and I’ll be close behind you if you need any help.”
“Sounds like a plan to me; here goes,” Smecker replied, and as she sashayed past their table, her hips in full swing, obviously to use her feminine charms to full effect, Smecker stood up and walked to her, then wrapped his arm around her waist. They then walked together to the back door, looking behind each other to make sure they were not followed. That might have been on her mind, but Smecker looked back toward Angel to ensure he stood far enough behind as to not tip Gwyneth off to their counter-ambush. After perhaps half a minute, Angel stood and drained his glass of its contents, then followed them.
He appeared in the alley to a scene that looked like it might have come straight out of “9 ½ Weeks”. Smecker might have claimed he was a homosexual, but he was pulling off the heterosexual act like a consummate artist. She must have been leaching his body heat at a rate approaching fifty British Thermal Units per hour, but the way he was groping her body and thrusting against her made it appear as though she was generating more body heat than she was absorbing. She was moaning and gasping with pure delight as his hands stroked her in all the right places. Soon she was beginning to lose control, and the features on her face began to morph, the flesh to flow, the bones to shift, and the eyes to change colour and luminosity as the canines in her maxilla began to lengthen and sharpen. Still she gasped and moaned ever more intensely as Smecker kissed every spot that on a warm, living body might have been hot, but on Gwyneth simply electrified her. Her human memory would have registered the places on her as having been kissed and stroked before when she had lived, and so her own memory had become an aphrodisiac.
After only a couple of minutes of watching to ensure she was distracted by her own passion, Angel cleared his throat with a decently loud “Ahem”. In shock at having been discovered, Gwyneth snapped her head around, her mouth severely agape, her face fully displaying her demonic aspect. However, a split second’s awareness was all she required once she recognized his face.
She recognized it from ancient memory. She recognized him.
” she queried in confusion. It was all Smecker needed. He reached behind his back for Angel’s stake, and in the split second of her distraction, he had pulled it out from his waistband and plunged it directly into her heart in an overhand stab.
She couldn’t scream; the pain of her heart’s penetration was too overwhelming. Yet she was somehow able to comprehend that the man she had assumed was simply another meal and possible one-time paramour had destroyed her, and she snapped her head back to Smecker and stared into his eyes in further confusion and hurt, her sudden sorrow and regret warring with deep betrayal.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” was all she had time to hear before her body began to crumble into dust.
The chill London wind soon swept away the last remains of the lovely Gwyneth. Smecker stood there in brief contemplation before he wiped his hands of her, then bent down to pick up the stake. He then stood up and said to Angel, “We should get moving; her boss will want to know why she disappeared, and we don’t need to give him any clues.”
“Agreed,” Angel replied. The pair scurried away from the alley and into the main thoroughfare and streets of London, and were soon lost in the night-time crowd.