Acknowledgements: Faith is the creation of Joss Whedon. Marge Gunderson is the creation of the Coen Brothers.
This is a response to the TTH To Boldly Go challenge, crossover with the movie Fargo.--------
Faith hated the fucking cold.
After her six month (or six hour, depending on your point of view) sojourn into another world, she’d thought it would be nice to ditch the Cleveland winter, and head south until spring, but other events had conspired to thwart that plan.
She’d spent days in her debriefing, telling Robin and the other Cleveland Watchers about most of her adventure in that other world, which had included months of hunting demon wolves across a winter wilderness.
Telling them about that turned out to be a mistake, because it seemed that there was something killing livestock in rural Minnesota, in January, and their best intelligence pointed to it being demonic, and it was only a matter of time before it graduated to killing people. Suddenly it seemed that Faith had acquired just the skill set they needed in a Slayer to send after it.
So instead of getting on her bike and heading south, she had boarded a plane (she hated flying commercial) for Minneapolis. The Council didn’t stock anything like the sort of equipment she’d need, so she spent a day in the city shopping. Her Council supplied platinum card paid for a good set of back-country touring skis; suitable for wilderness use, not the things that were only useable on groomed trails; a full set of winter clothing: parka, snow pants, hat, mittens, scarf and goggles; and a full kit of winter camping gear.
She loaded everything into her rental car, and headed north for Brainerd.
Brainerd was a small town, about a third the size of Sunnydale. Its primary tourist attraction seemed to be twelve foot high statue of Paul Bunyan. Faith checked herself into the Rodeway Inn, before setting out to start hunting the demon.
It was nocturnal, so she went out at night, in Minnesota, in January, when the temperature regularly dropped to below -20. She drove out into the countryside, and quartered an area until morning, looking for any sign. She carried her camping gear with her, in case she came across its trail. She didn’t find any trace of it on her first two nights, so she’d returned to the hotel to spend the day in warmth, and comfort, before setting out to spend another night in the cold.
She finally found its trail on the third night, and followed it through the night. She wasn’t a great tracker, but you didn’t have to be one to see the path the creature had taken through the snow. It was near dawn when its trail led her to a fence surrounding a cattle barn. She’d learned enough about tracking from Glorfindel to know that the tracks were still very fresh, so she took off her skis, leaned her pack of camping supplies against the fence, and hopped over it. She heard the panicked calls of cattle coming from inside the barn, followed by a double blast of a gun being fired.
Faith entered the barn through a side door, just in time to see the bear-like creature swat a shotgun out of a man’s hands, followed by a swipe of its other paw across his chest. Faith drew her sword, Magor Raugin
, and charged at the creature’s back before it could finish the farmer off.
Her first strike wasn’t meant to be fatal. Faith wanted to draw the creature’s attention away from the farmer, and onto her, and it worked. It let out an unearthly snarl, and it whirled around to face her. It really did look like a giant bear, even bigger than Beorn, but its eyes glowed red, and she could feel the demonic force that inhabited it. It lunged at her, leaving its throat exposed to a strike from her sword that removed its head. She managed to avoid most of the spray of red blood that came from its suddenly headless neck as it collapsed to the barn floor. The blood was followed by a black mist, that Faith watched carefully, looking to see if it sought out any particular target, but it just seemed to dissipate and fade away, and the feeling of evil faded with it.
And then the cops showed up.
At least the interrogation room was warm.
Faith had been taken to the small police station in Brainerd, after being relieved of her sword, a couple of knives, and a stake or two. (Vamps loved northern climates in winter: long nights, short days, and no one looked twice at anyone out in daylight who was completely covered from head to toe.) She’d also been allowed to make her phone call, so the folks back in Cleveland knew that the demon situation had been dealt with, and that the local authorities had involved themselves. She’d gotten the usual instructions from them.
Faith heard the sound of someone outside the room, and then the door opened. A middle aged woman with dirty blonde hair entered, carrying a couple of cardboard coffee cups, with a manila folder stuck under her arm, and a paper bag clutched in her teeth. She awkwardly manoeuvred herself to put down the coffee cups, without dropping the folder, and then took the bag from her mouth, and set the folder down on the table. She smiled at Faith. “Hi. I’m Chief of Police Marge Gunderson.” She spoke with a thick Minnesotan accent.
She opened the bag, and dumped out some paper napkins, stir-sticks, packets of sugar, and little plastic cream and milk containers. “I don’t know how ya like your coffee, so…” She waved her hand over the items on the table. “…fix it the way ya like.” She picked up her own cup, took off the plastic top, and took a sip.
Faith ripped open one of the paper sugar packets, and dumped it into the cup in front of her. She took one of the stir-sticks and swirled it around in the cup. She picked it up, and sipped. It wasn’t great coffee, but it was better than a lot she’d had.
“So, what were ya doin’ there in that barn?” asked the cop.
Faith considered things for a moment. Her street kid history, and her later training as a Slayer — reinforced by her phone call — had always emphasized never telling the cops anything. Her training had also emphasized that if you had
to talk to a cop, you should always be polite, and tell them the truth (but not necessarily all
of the truth.)
“I was doing some winter camping, when I heard some noise coming from that barn. I ran in, and I saw that thing over that guy, and I just went at it,” said Faith. “What was that thing, anyway?”
“Reports are gonna say ‘rabid bear,’ but I think you know better.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Faith.
“You were out camping…with a sword!
“A girl’s gotta be able to protect herself,” said Faith. “The second amendment says I can keep and bear arms.”
“That’s guns,” said the cop.
“At the time the second amendment was written, swords were still a part of a regular soldier’s arms. A hundred years later, they were being issued to cavalry soldiers, for use in combat. A sword is still part of the ceremonial uniforms of serving military officers. I have a constitutional right to carry my sword.”
“Why not a gun?” asked Chief Gunderson.
Faith shrugged. “Less chance of collateral damage. I’ve known people who were killed by stray bullets. It’s a lot harder to kill someone by accident with a sword.”
“But you’ve killed people on purpose?” asked the chief.
“You got any unsolved sword homicides?” asked Faith. She knew that she really shouldn’t be engaging this cop, in any way, but there was something about her that elicited a response.
“I don’t,” said Chief Gunderson. “The only thing killed recently by a sword in my jurisdiction was your ‘bear’.”
“Are you saying it wasn’t a bear?” Faith took another sip from her coffee.
The Chief frowned, and opened the folder she had brought in with her. “You have killed people, before.”
Faith could see the top page contained a summary of her convictions, including her old mug shots. “Never liked those pictures,” she said. “I don’t think they’re very flattering. And if you read down the page, you’ll see that I served my time for one of those convictions, and the other one was overturned.”
“And then, just to put the icing on the cake, you got a pardon, too. How’d that happen?”
“You’d have to ask the Governator.”
Chief Gunderson dropped that line of questioning. “So, you were out camping, at night. Your motel says you were coming back there to spend the days.”
“I’m a night person,” said Faith. “I like being able to see the stars. You can hardly see them at all from a city.”
“We found your pack, and your skis. One of my officers backtracked your trail for over a mile. You were following the bear’s tracks.”
“I was hoping to get a look at it. You don’t see many bears in the city, either.”
“So ya just tracked this bear across a few miles of open fields, hoping to get a look at it?” asked Chief Gunderson.
“Pretty much,” said Faith.
There was a knock at the door, and the Chief got up to answer it. One of her officers called her outside. Faith strained to hear what was being said, but only caught a few words, including “hospital,” “CDC” and “Attorney General.”
The Chief came back into the room with a frown on her face.
“Any word from the hospital on how that guy’s doing?” asked Faith.
“They say he should recover,” said Chief Gunderson. “He’s going to have some interesting scars.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” said Faith. “Is there anything else? Can I go? I don’t think I’ve broken any laws…even if that bear was some sort of endangered species, I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of ‘imminent threat to human life’ exception in those laws.”
Chief Gunderson didn’t look happy. “You can go,” she said.
“Great!” Faith wasn’t the least bit surprised by the news. Her phone call would have put the wheels in motion, and from what she’d overheard, it seemed that word had been passed down from the state Attorney General to have her cut loose. “Say, you don’t suppose I could get that head as a trophy, do you? Half the places I’ve been into in this town seem to have some sort of animal head mounted in them.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Lehane,” said the Chief. “But the CDC has ordered that the remains be cremated. They don’t want risk the rabies being spread any farther.”
“Of course,” said Faith. “How about my sword? Can I have that back?” She really tried to make that sound like a question, but she could see that the Chief got the message that she would make a real stink if they tried to hold onto it.
“You can have your sword,” said the Chief, “along with all of your other gear.”
“The sword’s the only thing I really care about,” said Faith. “It was a present from some friends. So if you can return it to me, and have someone give me a ride back to where I left my car, that would be great.”
“Your car is here, in our parking lot,” said Chief Gunderson. “I’ll have one of my officers help carry your stuff out to it.”
Faith smiled at her. “Thanks a bunch! That’s real nice of you!”
Faith managed to restrain herself from drawing her sword back out of its scabbard until she was back in her motel room. She wasn’t completely surprised to see that it had been very thoroughly cleaned by someone, before they had put it back into the scabbard. She expected that most of the cops around here knew something about the care and maintenance of hunting knives, and such, and the cops would have wanted to collect as much forensic evidence from the blade as they could. She still unpacked her polishing kit, and gave the blade a thorough going over of her own, to make sure that none of the demon bear’s blood remained on it, and to assure herself that the cops hadn’t damaged it.
She left her hotel room that evening, after sleeping the afternoon away, planning to drive back to Minneapolis to catch a red-eye flight back to Cleveland. She was a bit surprised to see Chief Gunderson waiting in the lobby.
“You’re not here to tell me not to leave town?” she asked.
“Not unless you think there’s some other reason for you to stick around,” said the Chief.
“What do you mean, ‘other reason’?”
“I’ve been a cop for a long time,” said Chief Gunderson. “I’ve seen a lot of weird things. I’ve seen a murderer try to dispose of a frozen corpse by putting it through a wood chipper. And I’ve seen some things that are even stranger: bodies drained of blood through neck wounds, but when I report them to State officials those reports just vanish. Other cops swap similar stories over a beer, but it’s something that we only talk to each other about. But lately I’ve been picking up stories about girls coming to town after strange things happen. And after the girl shows up, the strange things stop happening.”
“Interesting stories,” said Faith.
“Yes, they are,” said Chief Gunderson. “And I think that you could shed some light on them.”
“Suppose I could,” said Faith. “Do you really want to know?”
“I’ve always believed that it was better to know, than to not.”
“You’re right,” said Faith, “but there’s still a lot of people who hear the truth, and then go right back to sticking their heads in the sand.”
“I want to know,” said Chief Gunderson, so Faith told her. They spent a couple of hours there in the Rodeway Inn lobby. At some point Chief Gunderson told Faith to call her ‘Marge.’ Faith told Marge all about the things that went bump in the night. She even told her the truth about how she had killed Allan Finch, and Lester Worth.
“And your pardon?” asked Marge.
“Someone decided that I could do more good out of jail helping people than I could in prison draining the public purse,” said Faith. “I can’t say that I disagree with them. I have done horrible things in the past. I can’t undo them. I can only hope to do better in the future, but I couldn’t do much of that sitting in jail.”
“Do you think you can do enough good to balance out the bad you have done?”
“I don’t know,” said Faith, “but if there is some cosmic scale-keepker, staying in jail wouldn’t have helped my balance much.
“A friend of mine once said ‘If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.’ I believe that. In the grand scheme of things, there is no grand scheme. There is no karma to balance. The bad of the past is done, it cannot be undone. You can no more justify the bad things you’ve done in past by citing the good things you do in the present, than you can justify present bad deeds by citing past good.
“I have done evil things. There is nothing that I can do to undo those things. All I can do is resolve that from now on, I will not do more evil.”
Marge looked at her for a few seconds, thinking about what Faith had said. “So, where to we go from here?” she asked, eventually.
“Me? I’m going to Minneapolis.” Faith checked her watch. “I’m going to have to catch a later flight than I planned.”
“Aren’t you worried about what I’m going to do with what you told me?”
“Nyah,” said Faith. “For most of it, I don’t take you for someone who wants to be fitted for a straitjacket, and for the personal stuff: double jeopardy. I could confess my crimes on 60 Minutes
, and there’s nothing the courts could do about it.”
“So, you’re just going to sail off into the sunset?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” said Faith. “I hear that Vegas is nice this time of year. Maybe this time, I’ll get there.”