Twist of Fate: Chapter 2
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.O o O o O o O
Opening the door to the bustling precinct, Jarod stepped in as if he owned the place. With a direct gaze that didn't stray to the odd assortment of criminals and officers, he moved across the vast sea of linoleum and stepped up to the scarred wooden counter, dropping his heavy satchel before him with a resounding thud.
Startled, the portly desk sergeant looked up from his computer screen, his bushy white brows arching up beneath a receding hairline as he took the man in. From his neatly pressed black trousers to the starchly ironed white shirt and black tie, the man all but screamed Fed. Biting back his sigh, the sergeant watched as the man flipped open a badge while smoothly tucking his sunglasses into his pocket with the other.
"Special Agent Jarod Ness," the man introduced, his smile oddly bright and friendly.
"Let me guess," the sergeant drawled, ignoring the man's charm, his eyes narrowing slightly, "you're here about the bombing," he continued, making it more of a statement than a question.
"Yes," Jarod affirmed as he took in the man's open hostility. After playing an FBI Agent on several previous occasions, he had almost come to expect the hostility that local law enforcement agents directed towards other areas of law enforcement - especially when those areas were Federal and when they were encroaching upon somebody else's case. Then again, he couldn't help but hope each time that it would be different. "Who's in charge?" he asked, meeting the man's gaze briefly before turning away to survey the empty area behind the desk.
"Detective Jackson," came a curt reply from behind Jarod, causing him to swivel quickly to face the tall man who eyed him with the same detachment as the desk sergeant.
"Detective Jackson? Special Agent-"
"Ness," the man replied for Jarod, waving away his extended hand as he turned to lead him back into the bull pen of the precinct. "I know. We received notification from your offices this morning. We've been expecting you," he added as he led Jarod into a small, darkly cramped office. Waving off-handedly towards a pitted chair, the Detective quickly sunk into his swivel chair, his hands leafing through a pile of loose papers. Then, apparently finding what he was looking for, he scooped up a thick folder and tossed it to Jarod. "That's what we have so far."
Noting the man's apathy and taking it as a better sign than open hostility, Jarod smiled his thanks before flipping open the folder and perusing the contents. "So the school was definitely bombed?" he asked, his eyes quickly scanning the information.
"Yeah, among the confirmed dead were one parent, two teachers, four students, and the principal..." the Detective agreed, slowly leaning back in his chair as a grimace contorted his face. "Well, parts of principal."
"Parts?" Jarod asked, glancing up to meet the man's eyes.
"Yeah," the Detective continued, obviously warming up to his subject, "it looked like he was eaten or something."
"Eaten?" Jarod reaffirmed, his mind quickly running through the possibilities as he stumbled across a crime scene photo of what appeared to be an arm. "And a bomb did this?" he asked, trying to add up all of the facts and quickly coming up short.
"Most of it," the cop sighed, his obvious weariness beginning to show. "We're still working on the rest of the story."
Noting this, Jarod nodded in understanding. After all, in the years that he had been running from the Centre, he had played this man's part more times than he wanted to count. "And the missing?" he asked, bringing his attention back to the matter at hand.
"Twelve - mainly students and Mayor Wilkins," the detective replied.
"And he's the Chief Suspect?" Jarod continued, glancing away from the notes and recalling the tidbit he had learned from the news reports on the way over - the news reports and the glaring headline that helped to bring him to this sleepy California town.
At this, the detective paused for the briefest of moments as he glanced away to the small window that afforded a slatted view of the late afternoon. Idly, he reached up to adjust the striped tie that was knotted tightly at his throat, almost nervously loosening it before tightening it once more. "Officially," was his final reply as his eyes slowly dragged back to focus on Jarod's curious face.
"Officially?" Jarod questioned, his attention shifting from the bland reports to the man that was seated across from him, taking in his evident hesitation and nervous gestures. "I don't understand - the newspaper said that there was evidence-"
"Evidence that the Mayor was up to something, yes," the detective interrupted as his eyes narrowed on Jarod, shrewdly taking him in for the first time, from the spiked brown hair to his highly shined black loafers. "We found some documents in the Mayor's office alluding to some... cult practices," he finished slowly, obviously waiting for Jarod's reaction. A reaction that he never received.
Filing away the new information, Jarod merely nodded his head as he waited for the detective to continue. When he offered nothing else, Jarod once more shifted his attention back to the folder perched in his lap. "So then he's being wanted for questioning," he guessed.
"No - presumed dead," the detective admitted, shifting his gaze away from Jarod's questioning glance. "Among the wreckage we found his clothing... torn apart."
"I see," came Jarod's slow response as he tried to digest this newest bit of information. So all in all, he had just landed himself in a case where a high school was bombed during their graduation commencement, where parents, students, and even the principal were killed and many more came up missing... and the lead suspect was a Mayor who dealt in the occult and who didn't even survive the bombing. Sighing, Jarod allowed a small grim smile as he snapped the file shut. "Would you mind if I borrow this for a bit?" he asked, indicating the file as climbed to his feet.
"Be my guest," came the detective's indifferent response, and Jarod stuffed the folder into his already bulging satchel. "And where are you staying while here in Sunnydale?"
"The Sunnydale Motel - just checked in this morning," Jarod explained. "Why do you ask?" he asked, slipping out his sunglasses once again.
"No reason," the detective smirked, a glint of amusement entering his eyes, "just watch out for the cockroaches," he laughed as he attempted his first smile, finally offering his hand.
Smiling, Jarod accepted and shook firmly. "Don't worry, I've seen worse," he murmured, his eyes turning away to unpleasant memories. Shaking the troubling thoughts away, he went to pull his hand back as the other man tightened his grip, his eyes turning serious once more.
"You seem like a decent guy," the detective began again, squeezing slightly to ensure that he had Jarod's attention. "Just be sure to stick to the populated areas after dark and you'll do alright here in Sunnydale. We may be a small town, but we have a history with... gangs on PCP," he finished lamely before finally releasing his hand to turn and stare out his small window, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
"Yes well, thanks again," Jarod murmured, more out of courtesy than anything else, knowing the detective hadn't heard him. As a deep uneasiness settled over him, Jarod let himself out of the office and then found his way from the precinct. As he stepped into the hot California sunshine, the unease only seemed to grow. There was something off about this town. Something that just set his nerves on end and caused the fine hairs on the back of his neck to prickle...
And then, like a spell that was broken, Jarod grinned and laughed at himself, no doubt catching the attention of the odd pedestrian or two as he strolled to his rental and threw his satchel within. He had one more stop to make before returning to the motel for the night.O o O o O o O
"Are you sure that there's nothing
going on?" Buffy asked from her sprawled spot on his frumpy couch for what seemed to Giles to be the hundredth time since she and the others had dropped in earlier that day.
"Yes, Buffy, as much as I am able to be, I can assure you that I haven't been able to find anything amiss," he answered once again as he placed another, newly dusted tome, back onto his shelves. "And if you all are really that
bored, you can surely get off of that couch, turn off that accursed television, and help me with these books," he continued, tipping his head to glare at the trio over his glasses.
"Ah, but Giles," Xander broke in, his eyes never straying from the small console, "we didn't even know that you owned
a TV - the poor thing has probably suffered long enough already from misuse. How can we condone such a thing?"
"Of course," Giles sighed, knowing a losing battle when he saw one. "Well if you must know, I have been tracking the vampiric activity and-"
"And you've found a pattern of some sort?" Willow asked quickly, visibly perking as she hurried over to turn off the television. "Anything you need us to research? Cause you know, research girl and all!" she quipped as Buffy and Xander both protested weakly at her words.
"I never said I was that
bored!" Buffy quickly added as her nose crinkled in disgust. Then, as if reevaluating her boredom, she resignedly shook her head. "Okay, not there yet but quickly leading towards that doom," she allowed.
Shaking his head, Giles continued as though his slayer hadn't interrupted. "Well, no," he countered as Willow slumped back to the couch in defeat, "but what I was going to say was that if anything, the vampiric activity in Sunnydale has actually been on a noticeable decline since Graduation Day."
"Really?" Buffy drawled, rolling her eyes at her Watcher as she shifted on his couch. "I hadn't noticed," she dead-panned as Willow elbowed her sharply in reply.
"Yeah, Dead Boy hasn't even made a reappearance," Xander quipped, instantly wishing he hadn't as Buffy flinched as though she had been struck.
Sighing, Giles slowly turned away from his books to gaze at his ward with undisguised pity. Ever since Angel had changed, he had had no obvious love for the vampire. But that didn't mean that he didn't see the love that his Slayer still held for him - a love that would never work for either. "Then, you haven't heard from him?" he asked gently, watching as she seemed to withdraw into herself even further. And as a thick, uncomfortable silence fell upon the room, Giles had his answer. "Well then," he cut in, breaking the silence as he hazarded a glance to his shuttered window. "It's getting dark now. Why don't you patrol and see if you can find something to entertain you?" he suggested as he heard a flurry of movement behind him. Confused, he turned to watch as all three made a run for the door.
"Great idea, Giles, see you later!" Buffy cried as the trio disappeared into the waning afternoon sunlight.
Sighing at the blessed silence that once more reigned over his apartment, Giles turned once more back to his dusty book collection. "Thank heavens," he whispered as he became lost in his beloved domain.