The turn of the key in Faith’s cell door was loud enough to her Slayer’s ears to have her awake and alert in an instant. The dark-haired, dark-eyed woman didn’t leap out of her tiny bed or give any other signal that she wasn’t still asleep. Ever since the First Evil had sent someone to kill her while in prison, Faith had stopped giving anyone any potential advantages they didn’t need.
“Lehane! You’ve been summoned,” Warden Danielle Jordan said.
Faith turned around and stood up. Warden Jordan – a burly Hispanic woman who was the only person in the prison who didn’t find the alliteration of her title and name to be at all amusing – didn’t usually visit individual inmates. Something special had to be going on. “What’s up? I didn’t think visitors’ hour was for another… What time is it, anyway?” Faith didn’t get visitors often, but when she did, she made a point of being fully awake for them. Having people care for her was still a strange concept, and she tried not to take it for granted.
“Not that kind of visitor, Lehane. You’re goin’ to him. Just be good and don’t try to escape again
and we can all have a nice day. Since I want to have a nice day, and I think you want to have a nice day also, you’re not going to do anything to mess things up, now are you?”
Faith stifled a chuckle. The Warden was a tough woman, but despite her tough talk, she hated confrontation. Any rule-breakers found themselves punished harsher than was technically proper for disrupting Warden Jordan’s peace and quiet. “No, ma’am. Not plannin’ on messing anything up.”
Danielle Jordan snorted. “Yeah, right. What was your excuse when you broke out in oh-three? ‘Trouble found you,’ wasn’t it?”
Faith held up her hands in a placating gesture. “My life was screwed up way before I ended up here. My past caught up with me, and I’ve told you that over and over, so why don’t we just skip to the part where we all get to have a nice day, eh?”
The Warden huffed. “Yeah, whatever. Just be on your best behavior. From what I hear, you might get a sentence reduction if you play your cards right.”
Faith gave the Warden Jordan a strange look as she exited her cell. “You know I’m not looking for that.”
The dark-haired Warden huffed again. “Hell, I know that, but some big shot above my pay grade either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Yolanda, take Lehane from here.”
Yolanda was a slender, well-muscled black woman who, if Faith was honest with herself, would have liked to have a romp with if circumstances were different. Thankfully, she was a lot cheerier than the Warden. “This way, Faith. We got a bit of a ride ahead of us, and its rush hour.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere, Yo,” Faith said, using her nickname for the one guard who let her get away with calling her by anything other than ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir’.
Yolanda chuckled good-naturedly and ushered Faith into the back of a police car once they got out to the parking lot. “Just keep acting like you’ve been since you came back and it should all be good,” the guard said as she got into the driver’s seat and started the engine. “I don’t suppose you’re ever gonna tell us what really happened back in oh-three?”
“Personal stuff,” Faith said, not wanting to think about the Battle of the Hellmouth or the chaos with Angel that had come right before it. She’d had to escape back then; she’d been needed. Thankfully for her, there were tons of other Slayers now, so Faith had turned herself back in as soon as Sunnydale has collapsed and was content to live out the rest of her life in prison.
Yolanda shook her head. “Don’t know anyone else who could pull off what you did just for ‘stuff,’ even if it was personal.”
Faith smiled. “What can I say? I’m one of a kind.”
A chuckling Yolanda replied, “That you are, Faith. That you are.”
The rest of the ride passed peacefully enough until they reached their destination. Yolanda actually took an interest in her charges, so Faith told her how her last visit from Buffy and the gang had gone, to which Yolanda said that she was blessed to have friends like that. Faith knew she was right, given how messed up most people in maximum-security prison were. That anyone bothered to go through the strict security needed just to visit her was astounding.
Faith caught a glimpse of a sign before they entered an underground parking lot. “Shit, Yo! What does the FBI want with me?”
“Couldn’t say, Faith. An agent wants to see you, so I’m delivering you. Don’t know more than that. And I’m sorry, but I gotta cuff you before I take you upstairs. I know you’re not gonna try anything, but they don’t.”
“Yeah, I hear you. S’all good,” Faith said, though she was truthfully more than a little nervous. Horror stories about the supposedly-defunct Initiative were all she knew about when the government and the supernatural crossed paths, so she was on her guard. The Mayor had never counted as ‘government’ in her book.
Yolanda brought Faith out of the car and into an elevator marked ‘Authorized Personnel Only.’ When they got to level 26, a bland-looking male agent in a suit and tie took Faith off Yolanda’s hands. The friendly prison guard gave her an encouraging look before the elevator doors closed again, and Faith was led off down a few long halls and then into an interrogation room, complete with the wall-length mirror that just had to be two-way.
Time passed during which Faith resisted the urge to talk to the people she was sure were waiting on the other side of the mirror. She also had to make an effort to not make any faces, since she really
didn’t want to mess anything up here.
After about ten minutes, the door buzzed and opened to admit a bald black man in a suit and tie. He held a number of case files in his hand, which he placed on the table in between Faith and himself as he sat down across from her. The top file looked had her name on it.
“So, Faith – may I call you Faith? – you’ve got quite a record for someone so young.”
Faith didn’t bother to answer his question about her name. He seemed to want to do the talking himself. Hell he was one of those guys who seemed to be in love with his own voice.
“You were wanted for the murder of Sunnydale Deputy Mayor Alan Finch, but that turned out to be an accidental homicide. The murder weapon was a wooden stick of all things. You must be stronger than you look to have killed a man with that,” he said with a smile that Faith knew was an attempt to bait her. She kept silent.
“You should have realized by then how messed up things were, but you didn’t,” the man continued. “Professor Lester Worth – a volcanologist teaching at UC Sunnydale – was your next victim. This one wasn’t accidental. And at your trial, you confessed to a third murder – I beg your pardon: third homicide, second murder – of a courier whose name you never knew, and whose body your similarly unnamed accomplices dumped who-knows-where.”
Faith kept silent, thinking that the agent’s monologue was more for his own benefit instead of hers. Or maybe he was trying to wear her down and drudge up her guilt. He didn’t have to bother with it if that was the case: she felt the guilt every day.
“His name, by the way, was George Lamont, and he was found in the ocean. You claimed to be a mercenary in the employ of Mayor Richard Wilkins III, which does seem rather suspect given that you killed his deputy. But unfortunately, we can’t question Mayor Wilkins himself since he died in a gas explosion while giving a commencement address at Sunnydale High School. You’d probably be under investigation for terrorism charges if you hadn’t been in a coma at the time. It does make for a good alibi if nothing else.”
Faith decided that she’d had enough. “You goin’ anywhere with this, gramps? I know what I did, and I’m payin’ for it. You got something to say to me, just say it already.”
The bald agent smiled a humorless grin. “Straight to business. I can appreciate that. All right, then. I think we’re both familiar enough with your own case file, so let me show you another.”
The black man closed her file, slid it to the side, and opened another file to reveal a series of photographs sitting atop a number of papers. “Doctor Franklin Caldwell. He specialized in helping wounded veterans until he was found dead in his apartment two weeks ago. His body was found in the bathroom next to a bath tub full of blood. Dr. Caldwell appears to have died of asphyxiation. After his death, someone cut out his eyeballs and made off with them.”
“Why?” Faith asked without thinking.
“I’m sorry?” the agent asked.
Faith looked up, realizing that she had actually spoken. “Why would someone want his eyeballs? Do you have any other cases like this one?” Once upon a time, Faith would have just passed off the detail as the work of a psychopath, but now she couldn’t help but ask. Eyes were key ingredients to certain dark rituals, or so Willow had told her in passing. Usually the witch or warlock needed to harvest ingredients from multiple people with similar qualities. Astrological birth signs, birth dates, virgins, etc. Ignoring something like this just wasn’t something Faith could do anymore.
But the as-yet-unnamed agent put those fears to rest. “We don’t know why, but we have no other similar victims. Dr. Caldwell’s file, however, isn’t the last one that relates here.” The agent slid the still-open file to the side to sit on top of her own, and then he opened another file. This one showed a man in a lab coat dead on the floor of what looked like an exam room. “Dr. David Lyman: plastic surgeon. Found dead in one of his clinic rooms. Cameras caught someone entering, but didn’t catch his face. Dr. Lyman was alive at that point, and the only other person in the office. By the time someone left, Lyman was dead. Records say that Lyman performed extensive cosmetic alteration on the guy without anesthesia. The pain should have been too much for him to bear, and yet he walked out of there like nothing was wrong.
“The important thing that we’ve taken from this case is that the same blood that was in Dr. Caldwell’s bathtub was on the floor of Dr. Lyman’s exam room. Similar blood was also found here,” the agent said, opening a fourth file to show her a photo of a crime scene in a run-down apartment. Three bodies were on the floor. “And here.” He showed her a fifth file, this one of a nice home that reminded Faith of the Summers’s house, only a bit more luxurious. One elderly man was dead on the carpeted floor.
Faith looked up at the bald, black agent and tried not to show anything on her face. “Sounds like you’ve got this case all wrapped up. You got the same blood at all these crime scenes, right? Should be a cinch to figure out who it is.”
The agent scratched the back of his head and scrunched up his face. The effect was astounding. In place of the cocky bastard who’d been listing off random info at her was a guy trying to solve a puzzle, and he looked to be stumped. “Well, that’s where we run into a bit of a problem. We don’t have a match for the blood, since it isn’t really blood at all. It looks like blood, works like blood, only it works a bit better than regular blood since the red blood cells are artificial. Lets whoever’s walking around with that inside him heal a lot quicker than anyone has a right to heal. Only way someone could be under a plastic surgeon’s knife without anesthetics and walk out none the worse for wear. This is all theory, of course. Never tested or proven.
“We do have one suspect, however.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “Well, why’re you wasting your time sitting here and talkin’ to me? Go get this guy!”
“We have one suspect,” the agent repeated, “but her alibi is airtight, having been locked away when all these crimes were committed.”
That got Faith’s attention, and she couldn’t help but snarl at the balls this guy had. “You think I killed these people?”
“No, Faith. I don’t. But someone out there is walking around with blood that gives them a certain feeling of invincibility, which is something I read in your psych profile. And before you cut me off, that same profile also tells me that despite all your past crimes, you’ve had people speak on your behalf after you turned yourself back in after your escape. The fact that you even bothered to turn yourself in at all – twice – speaks to your character. I think you really do want to make up for your sins, and that’s what I’m asking you to do. Help me catch whoever’s killing these people.”
Faith thought about his words for a second or two before making up her mind. “All right. I’m in.”
The agent looked puzzled. “Usually, in a case like this, the party sitting in cuffs asks what’s in it for them. You’ll be offered time off your sentence if you show good faith – no pun intended.”
“Don’t want time off,” Faith said, her estimation of the agent rising as he finally got down to business. “Just want to catch this guy. Whatever this is, it’s not random. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll help you stop whoever’s doing this. You got my word on that for whatever it’s worth. And do I get a name out of you, or do I just have to make up a nickname or something?”
The agent smiled thinly. “Call me Agent Ellison for now. Have you eaten yet? Probably not, it’s still early. Let’s get you some breakfast, a change of clothes, and we can go over these files in greater depth together.”
“You really trust me enough to let me run free in an FBI building, Agent Ellison?” Faith asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Most here wouldn’t, but I think you’re not the soulless killer the prosecution tried to paint you as. Or if you were that person, you’re not anymore. It’s rare to find someone who’s done what you have and who truly wants to repent. You’re the kind of person who brightens my day.”
Faith laughed. “Gonna try to save my soul, Agent Ellison? I’m pretty sure I’ve long since been headed for Hell.”
“Don’t joke about things like that, Lehane,” Ellison said sternly.
“Wasn’t joking,” Faith said, matching his glare.
Ellison sighed. “Whatever our souls are in store for, we’ve got lives to save. Now come with me and we’ll get you something proper to wear and to eat. And then we’ll go catch a killer.”
Faith stood up and stretched, feeling just a bit better about herself for the first time in four years. “Saving lives on the right side of the law while you try to save my soul, huh?” Faith looked upwards and directed her thoughts towards the Powers That Be. “Thanks for the direct approach. From what I gather, you don’t always lay things out so straightforward.”
Ellison’s eyebrows shot up as he gathered his case files. “You believe in God, Faith?”
“Don’t know about God, Agent. Just know that there is a Hell, and I don’t want anyone to suffer like that. Let’s just say I’m paying back another friend who helps the hopeless. So long as we’re clear on that and a few other things, Agent Ellison, you and I’ll be five-by-five.”
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