Step 1 - Blackmail
I do not own Angel the Series. That's all Joss, WB, ME and whoever else.
I would like to thank Starway Man, my Beta.Exit Strategy
Chapter 1: Step 1 - Blackmail Wolfram and Hart, Los Angeles
11:15 am, April 27th, 2001
When you work at Wolfram and Hart for long enough, you reach a point where almost nothing bothers you anymore, and even less will make you lose your composure. Sure, the law was a cut-throat field to work in, at even the best of times. But at Wolfram and Hart, that cliché, like so many others, was a literal warning. You kept your composure, because sometimes keeping that composure was the only thing between winning and losing. And at this firm, losing was, most of the time, a sure-fire recipe for death.
Unfortunately, right now, Lilah Morgan's composure was sitting on a knife-edge, and even that was provisional. A composed lawyer doesn't play with their hair.Of course, I'm not exactly composed right now.
Facing her potential death wasn't good for composure.
Lindsey, by contrast, was a cool and collected as anyone could be when facing his own potential death. Of course, he knows the score as well as I do.
Lilah knew that Lindsey wasn't better than her. Not even a little. But with his lucky break in the Lycor case, coming up with the offshore tin manufacturing company idea...his success was freshest in everyone's minds. Those stupid idiots aren't thinking about everything – they see a resolved case. That kind of work has nothing to do with what Special Projects is designed to handle, and it's going to see him land the job of being vice-president of the division. God damn it!
Lindsey wasn't the man for that job. He was still fired up about Angel, couldn't see the big picture when it came to the vampire. Never could, never would.
Lilah forced herself to lower her hand from her hair as Nathan Reed started to talk. “These re-evaluations are always something of a mixed blessing,” He smiled broadly as he looked around the table. “Sad, as we lose one of our own.” He looked at one side of the table. “But also hopeful, as we turn towards the future and promote one of our own.” He looked at the other side of the table. Lilah looked to Lindsey. This was it. The moment of truth, as it were. His new hand was twitching, and he seemed...deliberative...like he was deciding something. Lilah knew something of how Lindsey's mind worked.
“Lilah,” Nathan looked at her. The false paternalism in his expression, his voice. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the guard – Allen? - place his hand over his weapon. “You've made a lot of great contributions, and I know you've tried your very
Heart racing, a word of protest escaped her lips unbidden. “No!” Lilah grabbed at her purse, the guard drawing closer. Lindsey almost twitched, almost
reached out to stop her, but then didn't; and Lilah pulled her purse open, just as the guard's gun cleared its holster.
Oddly, Lilah held up her phone as she glared at Reed. “You tell Allen to back off, or all of you can kiss your asses goodbye!”
“Be reasonable, Lilah. There's no reason to make a scene.” Nathan said in that same soft, polite voice. “You've made a good effort, but unfortunately you just don't have what it takes make it at Wolfram and Hart. It's better for everyone this way.”
“I don't have what it takes?” Lilah laughed, her desperation making it seem almost hysterical. “You
don't even have what it takes to hide those offshore bank accounts of yours, Nathan! I found them in less three hours of work.” Lilah held up the phone. “If I don't make the right call to the right person within the next two hours, that information goes straight to the Senior Partners. And you know how they feel about someone not giving the firm its cut. How much do you have squirreled away in the Caymans? Seven million, eight? Nine? That's a lot
to be held accountable for. And the less I say about your accounts in Switzerland, the better for you.”
“Nathan, what's she talking about?” Ronald Jayhew looked from Nathan to Lilah then back again.
“Oh, don't give me that, Ronald!” Lilah countered, barking at him. “Not with your investment habits. Or is it just coincidence
that you always sell your stock in our clients' companies just before they get hit with major fines, or get taken to court?” Lilah shot a glare at Lindsey, who just had a smirk on his face. “The fact of the matter is, if I don't stop it, in two hours the Senior Partners will have enough information so that each and every one of you will be put into some pretty nasty punishment dimensions, if just that.” As she spoke, she pointed to exactly who she meant – Nathan, Charlie, Ronald, Leon. The four members of the review board.
“Lilah, look, there's – there's no reason to be unreasonable. You should know by now that we can't give you the job. It's already been decided that Lindsey will get the promotion, the paperwork has already been submitted.” Ronald explained. “And you can't threaten us -”
“Oh, it's not a threat; it's a promise. Namely, if I go down, I'm taking the rest of you with me!” She nodded to Nathan. “Make a call to HR. I want my contract voided immediately. That includes
the perpetuity clause. If you don't want me working for the firm, then fine; I'm done with Wolfram & Hart.”
“Lilah, you know I can't-”
“Yes, you can.” She brandished the phone, raising her voice once more. “You can either do what I say, or you can talk about your indiscretions with the Senior Partners. Those are your choices, Nathan, deal with it. I get freedom from any obligation to the firm, and I walk out of here alive, and all four of you get to keep your lives and your careers. Or else I'll see you all
“The firm won't let you get away with this, Lilah.” Reed said, trying to sound reasonable. “You know that. You have
to know that! Wolfram & Hart won't let this stand.”
“Wolfram & Hart? The only thing that matters about Wolfram & Hart is its Senior Partners, and you can't threaten me with them anymore. So like it or not, you'll have
to let it stand, Nathan. And even if you can't, I haven't come to this meeting with just half a plan. Now stop stalling, and make the damn call to HR! Or else you get exposed to everyone, right here, right now!
Nathan brought out a cell phone and started to dial. Lindsey leaned back in his chair, turning it so he could look at her directly, fingers steepled. “Lilah, like the man said - you have to know that you can't run from the firm and live. As the new deputy head of Special Projects, we both know Nathan is going to order me
to come after you...”
“Give it your best shot, Lindsey. And what the hell, the day you do catch me is the day that I deserve to be caught and killed. You couldn't beat me at this game under any circumstances!”
Lindsey spread his hands wide. “I got the job instead of you, didn't I?”
“Lucky break.” Lilah sneered.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetheart.” Lindsey's smirk was still sitting there on his smug face.
“Give me your gun, Allen.” Lilah abruptly turned around and ordered the guard. Allen started to obey – lawyers beat security guards in the firm's food chain, the reflex was automatic – but then stopped, as he suddenly remembered the situation. That moment though, was all Lilah needed. No great pugilist by any stretch of the imagination, Lilah could nonetheless handle herself against this rent-a-cop executioner any day of the week. Her foot impacted directly between his legs and the gun was in her hand, before he was even on the ground. “Ouch. That's going to hurt in the morning.”
Nathan lowered his phone. “Really, Lilah-”
“Shut up!” Lilah barked at him. “My contract?”
“I've made the call, and the wheels are in motion. In just a few minutes, the Senior Partners will approve its dissolution on my recommendation. Really, there's no need for this-”
“Oh, of course there is, you impotent ass. I work
here! I know all of you. I trust you as far as I could throw Lindsey, and I trust Lindsey even less than that!” Lilah leveled a glare at Nathan.
“Hey!” Lilah ignored Lindsey's indignant protest.
“You've made the call, but since I don't trust you, I want proof
before I walk out of this room. Have Files & Records send my original contract up, complete with its void page addition.” Nathan didn't do anything. She brandished the gun, pointing it at his head. “Now!
” Nathan still did nothing.
“If my opinion counts for anything, you should either pull the fucking trigger or stop posturing.” Lindsey cut in. “It's not like the world won't be a less slimy one without him.”
“Lindsey, watch your words.” Nathan reproached.
“Why should I?” Lindsey spread his hands again. “I don't like you any more than Lilah does, I'm just less desperate and homicidal about it. And everyone in this room has witnessed just how easily you gave in to her attempt at blackmail! Still, I have an appointment with a client in half an hour, and since I'm the new vice-president of Special Projects, being punctual seems like a good way to start the job. Give her the voided contract, Nathan. May as well get this over with; she's got you bent over a barrel, and you know it.”
Nathan's neck ticked, his head moving left for just a moment. Immediately, Lilah started to dial her phone. “I don't have to wait the full two hours, you know. I can send those files to the Senior Partners right now, if you'd like!”
Nathan's phone flew open faster than was absolutely necessary, the top slapping onto the table with a soft thud. Human Resources was dialed again. “Have Files & Records send the original of Miss Morgan's contract up to the West Conference room on the 9th floor. Now. With
proof that it's been declared null and void.” He closed his phone. “Five minutes.”
“Good.” Lilah, who had had her thumb hovering over the 'call' button, pulled it away, lowering the phone. She kept the gun ready, but turned to Leon. “Give me your lighter.” Leon didn't protest, taking it out of his jacket and sliding across the conference table. “If the contract really is voided, then it'll burn...and you'll all be witness to it.”
The next five minutes passed in tense silence, Lilah still standing, still holding the phone and the gun, everyone else sitting. Well, Allen wasn't sitting – Lilah had made clear he was supposed to stay down. Only Lindsey wasn't nervous – Lilah's composure was completely shot, and it was showing.
The door opened and the interoffice courier entered – one look at the room and he dropped the contract on the table and ran out the door, a squeak of shoes his only noise. Lilah beckoned to Ronald, who pushed it across the table at her. Lilah looked it over with care, checking her signature, and the paper. It was the original, she knew the smell of her own blood anywhere.
“Good. It wouldn't have ended well for you, any of you, if Nathan had tried to pull something funny.” Lilah clicked the lighter on, the flames touching the contract's corner. As fire spread over it, the table caught too. Nathan watched, his face growing redder and redder as his peers and underling bore witness to something utterly unprecedented
at this branch of the firm.
Lilah tossed the lighter back to Leon, and picked up her phone again. It took only seconds for the fire to turn the paper to ash and burnt char. Hard as it was to believe...her contingency plan had worked. She was free
“Allen, you can get up now and put this out with the fire extinguisher.” Lilah backed towards the door. “Once I'm safely out of this building and away, I'll make the call. I have no reason not to, anymore. Your dirty little secrets will be safe from the Senior Partners...for now. But if anyone gets in my way before I get out...well, then, there's no call...and we'll all see each other in hell.”
Not waiting for any responses, Lilah left the conference room. There was nothing she needed from her office, hell there was nothing she needed in the entire building. Lingering wouldn't be safe, anyway.
Lindsey looked around at everyone else after Lilah had left. “Well, that went well, didn't it?” The lawyer stood up. “Gentlemen, I have a client to meet with, and unless I'm very much mistaken? You four have some work to do.” Out the door he went.Angel Investigations, Los Angeles
5:31 pm, April 27th, 2001
The lobby of the Hyperion Hotel was fairly normal for a Friday evening. Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia were sitting at the desk, eating takeout Chinese food, Angel was sitting in a chair and reading War and Peace
for the fifth time. The three eating were talking about small things – movies, music, whatever. Casual chat, friendly talk. Wesley, as usual, was trying to eat, talk and read a book in some arcane demonic language.
“You know, you could
just go back to your office and work on that while you eat, if you find it more interesting.” Cordelia said dryly, then popped a piece of orange chicken into her mouth.
Wesley looked up from the book. “Sorry.” He set his food down and closed the book, pushing it aside. “There's a few Arhkashzian-script scrolls I'd like to translate before the day is done. This,” He gestured to the closed book. “This is a guide to translating the various languages that use that script. I'm only familiar with a few of them, unfortunately.”
“Wes, anything actually important in those scrolls, or is you just tryin' to work yourself to death?” Gunn asked.
“Well, I won't know until I've translated them, but most likely no. From what I can gather, these scrolls are a set of ethnographies into various demon clans. And I believe that most of those clans are either extinct, or from rather distant dimensions.” He looked at Gunn and Cordelia. “Oh, don't look at me like that. You read comic books,” He nodded to Gunn, “and you like to shop for clothes. I happen to like translating obscure demonic languages. It's a good challenge.”
“Well, I suppose the world needs all kinds.” Angel set his book down.
“Angel, you've read War and Peace
. More than once. In the original Russian. Don't act like your hobby is any less strange than mine.”
“Hey, War and Peace
is a timeless-” He cut himself off and laughed a little. “Oh no, we're not having this argument again. You want to start arguing that Crime and Punishment
is better.” He turned and headed to the fridge, grabbing a mug for his blood, still talking as he walked. “I'm not having this conversation again.” He repeated.
“Crime and Punishment is
better.” Wesley countered. “The moral conflict-”
“Save the Russian literature talk for when I'm not
in the room.” Gunn protested, picking up his food again. “It's putting off my appetite.”
“Speaking of appetites, I've just lost mine.” Cordelia sighed. “I had a nasty thought.” She dropped her half-eaten food into the trash.
“Well, don't share it.” Gunn countered. It was no use.
“Too late. What is Wolfram and Hart gonna do for organs, now that you and Lindsey took their 'donor bank' out? No more new body parts for their employees?” Gunn rolled his eyes and put his own meal down.
In answer to her question, both Wesley and Angel shook their heads. “For now.” Angel noted. “But they'll get to work on creating a new one, sooner or later. And probably try and 'correct' the problems that led to Lindsey and I finding this one. Make sure amputated hands don't go around writing 'kill, kill, kill' and all that.”
“The problem with this thing is that it existed at all.” Gunn half-muttered. “Just when you thought Wolfram and Hart couldn't go any lower.”
“Oh, I'm sure we haven't even begun
to plumb the depths of Wolfram and Hart's depravities.” Wesley picked up the tome and opened it again. “Of course, there's a bigger issue to address: The question of Lindsey.”
“He's not going to quit Wolfram and Hart, obviously.” Cordelia scoffed. “He's been there and done that. He had his chance to be a good guy. He traded it for a six figure salary and a full benefits package.”
“And a corner office.” Angel added.
“Strictly speaking, redemption is never impossible.” Wesley countered, looking up from the book. “But yes, I too suspect that Lindsey won't be fundamentally changed by this experience, despite what he and Angel went through together.”
Angel shrugged. “I don't know.” He took his mug out of the microwave. “There's something about the way he was, last night. It's possible. Slim, yeah, but not impossible. At least enough for him to leave Wolfram and Hart. He was genuinely disgusted with the whole thing.”
“Hello? Are we talking about the same guitar-playing evil nemesis? Not a chance.” Cordelia disagreed. “Besides, it would only last as long as it was convenient to him for it to last. I wouldn't trust him to change in the least. Hell, if Lindsey really did quit Wolfram and Hart, and walked in through the front door saying he'd seen the light and needed our help to escape from L.A., I'd be the first in line to feed him back to the Senior Partners. Let him give them
“Well,” An all too familiar female voice said from the front doors. “I suppose it's a good thing that I'm not Lindsey, now, isn't it?”