Chapter 8: Public Service
Cleveland - OH
Eight days later.
One good thing of dying and being buried in a shallow grave in a backyard, and then coming back alive: almost no one knew about it. So Xander had managed to keep his 'special circumstances' under wraps most of the time. If someone looked around, he or she, if paying enough attention, would probably see a large crow flying high over the sky, following the man around. Aside from that, using jeans and a t-shirt, helmet and a backpack, Xander was the typical young man on the way to his mundane job.
Changing jobs from Sunnydale to Cleveland was easier than he expected, his old boss had a good old friend in construction business as well, and with a phone call and a recommendation letter later, Xander was re-employed faster than a vampire went 'poof'. And even better, he got a promotion over it, and a good raise.
He arrived in the construction area, a new shopping center, and parked his bike in the usual spot, nodding to whomever he crossed paths with, trading the usual banter with the closest acquaintances and friends. He stopped over the main shed, and grabbed his helmet and tools, going to his designed area, after talking with his crew and setting the plans for the day.
The day passed quicker than he expected and he was punching his card with a small smile over his face. He grabbed his cell phone and hit a number on speed dial. The phone rang twice and a silky voice answered him.
"We Do Sexual Fantasies, Faith speaking."
Xander laughed, and got into the fun.
"Hello," he said, holding his nose and making an irritating nasal voice, "I was wondering if you would have a 'Slayer Covered in Chantilly for Dessert' on your menu?"
Faith gave him a wicked laugh, and continued. "We do, sir, but the Slayer in question only does this fantasy if provided with a decent dinner before the fantasy begins."
"Would Italian be adequate as dinner for this Slayer?"
"It would," she said, a thousand-watt smile present in her face.
"The Slayer would be free in about forty-five minutes?" he continued, still holding his nose.
"Yes, sir, she would. Thank you for using We Do Sexual Fantasies."
"Pleasure is all mine, I can guarantee," he said, and folded his phone, while smiling like a maniac. He wondered if Blackie would be too pissed in searching for a good place to buy two cans of chantilly.
Or perhaps three.
Three cans of chantilly later and an order of pasta for later pick-up and Xander was en route to their flat. It was closer to the STCA HQ since the Crow's job was pretty much mobile, in a better neighborhood than the Agency's, but to get home from the actual construction site he had to pass through the neighborhood, matter of fact, his route passed just three blocks from the building itself. He could meet Faith and they could go pick up dinner together.
Before he could make the necessary turn, his bird showed him an image that chilled him to the bones. A young girl was being attacked, and from the looks of it, it wasn't a robbery or vampires.
He opened the throttle to full, hatred consuming his entire being. He arrived in the scene some seconds later. Bad neighborhood, at night, a young girl and three guys. With heartbeats, two holding her, one was lowering his pants.
He jumped off the bike, not even worrying with setting the stand. Rapist #1 watched him approaching, and stupidly confided in strength through numbers. Wrong decision.
Without speaking a single word, he threw a haymaker that Xander saw coming two weeks ago. Not even bothering to dodge, he grabbed the hand. His tactile telepathy flashed and in less than a second his mind painted the entire scenario, and the trio's past. Without stopping, he twisted, hard, and pulled the arm in a way it wasn't supposed to go, breaking all the ligaments in the wrist, dislocating a shoulder and breaking both the radius and the ulna. The rapist started screaming, and Xander decided to be really nasty. He back stepped enough to be in perfect range, and kicked the man as strongly as he could in the groin, with his steel-capped boot. The man lifted four feet in the air, propelled by the mystical strength of the Crow, and before he was in the apex of his unwanted flight, his brain short-circuited with the pain and he went unconscious, landing hard on the dirt ground of the alley, a puddle of blood, sperm and piss forming in his hastily closed pants.
The remaining duo was stuck between running to the back of the alley, a dead end, or facing the enraged man. Being that option-less, they decided to use their smarts, one of them opened a pocketknife and the other grabbed the girl, drawing a gun and pointing to her head.
"Let us go, or she gets it!" Rapist #2 yelled.
The girl, in panic and getting into shock, did what came naturally, and fainted, going limp. The thug wasn't expecting it, so he let her drop, losing both the momentary focus he had on Xander and the aim he had on the girl. The Crow decided to use the distraction to his benefit, and with his preternatural speed and copying a move from a comic book, he took the lid of a trashcan and threw it with all his strength, straight into the guy's head. The impact was so great that the lid bent almost in half, and he heard the sound of breaking bones, and a huge spray of blood coming from what remained from the guy's face.
Rapist #3 was so scared now that he pissed his pants, his entire body shaking like an earthquake in Tokyo. Xander approached, his rage reflecting on his eyes. The man let the knife drop to the ground, and did as he would if being arrested, dropping on his knees, with his hands entwined behind his head.
"Don't kill me, man! Please, I'll tell you all that you want to know! Don't kill me! I'll do whatever you want! Please!"
The Crow approached him in silence, and grabbed both sides of his head, the telepathy engaging once again. With all he had seen in the last minutes, if he were another kind of man, he would have puked his guts out. Being who he was and what he was, he only got more enraged. He spoke, in nothing more than a whisper.
"Don't worry, you'll get off easy," he said, and with a pull, he broke the last rapist's neck as if it was a twig.
He would draw his calling card on the alley's wall, but the girl needed assistance, fast. He grabbed her from the ground, finally noticing her looks. She was around ten, if that, and from the clothes, living on the streets. Dirty blond hair, and some freckles gave her a cute appearance. Xander removed a small strand of hair from her face, and his telepathy showed him the girl's recent past, making him finally assemble all the pieces from the info he gathered from the thugs.
It wasn't a random act, and it wouldn't be the first time they did something like that. They would rape and kill her to set an example. The Crow stood up, leaving the girl leaning against the wall for a moment. In her current state, he wouldn't be able to take her in his bike, so he grabbed it and put it a couple meters ahead of the alley, chained to a lamppost, right in front of a building. It looked as if it belonged to one of the tenants. He returned to the alley, while fishing his cell phone from his pocket, speed dialing another number.
"Chase," Cordelia answered on the other side, probably not worrying in checking the caller's ID.
"Cor, I need a favor. Medical emergency. Young girl, around ten, almost raped. Going into shock, from the looks and her memory, she barely eaten in the last days."
"Bring her in, front entrance. The team will be waiting. What happened?" she asked, while her other hand grabbed the intercom in her desk.
"I'll explain when I get there. See ya in a few," he said, shutting the phone. He gently grabbed the young girl, and ran to the mouth of the alley. He thought on running to the STCA HQ on foot, but luckily, a taxi appeared. Xander managed to make it stop, and he gave the surprised driver, a woman, the address. In a couple minutes they were parking in front of the decrepit-looking building. Xander passed a ten-dollar bill to the lady, and ran out, being intercepted midway by the medical team and Cordelia. He gently laid the girl in the stretcher, and the team ran inside, already checking her stats.
"What happened, Xander?" Cordelia asked, all professional.
"I was coming here to pick Faith up, Blackie showed me the girl being attacked by this trio of . . .," Xander thought on a lot of names and descriptions to describe those animals, but changed his mind. "Anyway, I got there on time," he said, and explained all that he did, sans the extreme actions he took. "I think it's better for you to clean up my mess, the Cleveland PD might ask a few questions."
Cordelia bristled. "Why don't you clean you own mess? I might agree on what you did, but we ain't your cleaning service. You do your job, I do mine."
Xander didn't bother in complaining. "I would, only problem is that I ain't finished. I have bigger game to hunt."
"Tactile telepathy is quite useful to wake up old girlfriends from a coma, and to learn all the shit a guy did in the past. I have three sets of memories now showing me a very big fish to fry."
"Need any help?" Cordelia asked.
"No, this isn't a demon-related crime. Normal humans did it. So, it's my job, not yours."
Before Cordelia could proceed, Faith appeared running.
"I heard from security that you were here. What happened, Boytoy? Who's the girl?" the Slayer asked. Xander gave her a brief rundown on what had happened.
"Need any help to bash some heads, Xan?"
"No, Faith. You're the Slayer, demons are your calling, not humans. As I said to Cordy here, this one's all mine, I don't want you falling into this."
Fatih gave him a small nod, both pissed and relieved at the same time. If possible, she would never harm another human being. Ever.
"Sorry about cutting our fun time short, hon. I'll make it up to you," he said, hugging her.
"Don't worry about that. Just do what you have to do, and come back to me," she said, returning the hug, and kissing him fiercely. Cordelia, surprisingly, remained silent in all that.
"I will," he said, and ran away, going back to fetch his bike.
"Good hunting," Faith said as he disappeared from view. She could still listen to his feet hitting the ground at an impressive rate.
"Ditto," Cordelia said, and looked to her. "So, what did you two horny bugs had planned?" she asked, changing the mood completely.
"Wouldn't you want to know?" Faith said, with a smirk in her face.
Xander grabbed his bike and ran back home, not even bothering to check the alley. A few minutes inside, and another man, dressed entirely in black, walked out of the door, face painted in a pattern that reminded a clown, only darker, more evil, and carrying a sheathed Japanese sword in his right hand. He went to the roof of the building, a man walking with so many guns strapped to his body and the sword would definitely call all sorts of unwanted attention on the streets below. Once he reached the roof, the black bird was already there waiting for him.
The bird flew away, and he ran to the edge of the roof, at the last moment his legs propelled him to the other side of the street, the flaps of his coat making him look like an even larger bird of prey.
The Crow was on the hunt.
Almost an hour later, Xander arrived at the place he had on his stolen memories. From what he could gather from the girl and the two rapists, she was a runaway, and until some time ago she worked as a slave in the place in front of him, on the other side of the street, a dope house. She managed to run away one day, and the three thugs were sent to get her back and teach her a 'lesson', until Xander intervened.
The roof he was in had a straight view from the warehouse, a three-story building with a front entrance on top of a small set of stairs, and a side entrance big enough for a small truck to park in. To the right side of the warehouse was an old building, only two stories, full of graffiti paintings and a small gang of thugs sitting on the front steps. To the left, another warehouse, apparently empty. He knew that he had four spots to attack before the main event, so he got to business straight away.
Xander could simply walk trough the front door and deal his own type of lesson, but he knew that there were other kids inside, being used to mix and turn the raw materials into street merchandise, so he had to be a little subtle. First, the guards.
He broke the stairway's door with a single kick, and walked down, the crow staying behind checking the street. Top floor, apartment 4-C. The door was open, a thug was standing there, away from the other occupant's view, smoking a joint, a shotgun almost forgotten at his side. He noticed Xander too late, a dagger hit him straight in the neck, silencing him and killing him at the same time. Before he fell to the ground, the Crow grabbed him, depositing him silently to a side, and he removed the dagger, cleaning it in a clear piece of his blood-stained sweatshirt. He left the shotgun where it stood, and glued himself to the side of the door, removing a small mirror from one of the pockets of his coat. Using the mirror, he managed to spot two other men inside, one sitting on a couch watching TV, the other checking the warehouse over the window to the living room. He couldn't let them sound the alarm and put the kids in danger, so he had to do it silently. Storing the mirror again, he stepped to the door, arms extended. A crossbow quarrel shot from each one of his arms, one hitting couch-guy in the neck, the other in window-guy's right eye. Window-guy stood as he were, the window holding his body in almost the same position. In the dark, no one would notice a thing until it was too late. Good.
Xander then noticed movement with the corner of his eye, hand instantly flying to the insides of his coat. With a single motion, he unsheathed the ancient katana, and in a continuous motion, he struck upward, making a hand holding a gun detach itself from the rest of the body of the last thug. He moved one step forward before the downward stroke, and with the added reach, he struck, effectively cutting the guy in /half/. He flung the sword expertly, cleaning it of the blood with the movement, and sheathed it again.
One point dealt with. Three to go.
Second spot was easier, only one guy, in the building right to the side of the one Xander was in. The Crow jumped from one roof straight to the fire escape ladder attached to the building's side. He climbed at a quick pace and stopped at the edge of the roof, ordering Blackie to do a quick sweep of it. The large bird saw the man sitting at a chair, eyes checking a Playboy magazine, an M-16 at his side, and headphones stuck to his head. Xander shook his head, what the fuck did the guy he was guarding? If someone decided to strike the factory, he would only notice it if the place exploded with an atom bomb. He climbed the rest of the steps, and approached the sitting duck from the back. He grabbed the guy's head, and twisted.
He spared a moment to check the centerfold dead guy was looking, and climbed down to street level.
Spots three and four were the hardest, but if he did it right, he would only need to strike one of them, and the other one he could bother after he freed the kids.
So, he ran back, away from the warehouse, and did a wide circle, going through side streets until he had managed to appear right on the side of the rightmost building, where the street gang made their spot, right on the building's steps.
Blackie once again took flight, checking the gang. Eight members, some automatics clearly on display. The space in between buildings was dark. The only illumination was provided by a single lamp. Xander looked around, and finding the right spot, he hid himself, and with a small rock and some good aim, the lamp shattered, making some noise.
As predicted, gang leader sent two members to check it out. With a lot of cursing and bravado, they entered the alley, guns on their hands. But, as almost any gang, the foot soldiers were just older kids, that banded together to do stupid things. So, the bravado died as soon as they entered the darkness, and knuckles went white with fear. Xander, dressed all in black, was virtually invisible, hidden behind a dumpster, katana drawn and resting over his bent legs. The thugs passed him, walking to the back of the building. Xander stood up and walked to their backs, and in a swift motion, two heads rolled. He hid the bodies inside the dumpster, leaving the heads on display right in the middle of the alley.
It didn't take long, gang leader, seeing the delay, sent four thugs this time, leaving just him and his lieutenant to 'guard' the factory. The thugs entered the alley, guns pointed. But this time, one of them was smarter than average, and decided to check Xander's hiding spot.
He saw the white face and froze for a moment, and the last thing he saw was the moon reflecting on something metallic, and his world went black.
The three remaining ones were close enough, so Xander sprung out from his spot like a coiled tiger, sword flashing in two figures eight. Heads and hands holding guns fell to the ground, no sound being emitted.
Now the clock was ticking, the plan wouldn't work for a third time. Xander sheathed the sword once again and ran to the mouth of the alley, checking his wrist crossbows. Blackie showed the two last thugs looking worried, hands on the triggers. The Crow formulated a plan, it would be risky both to him and the bird, but he had to distract those two for a few seconds.
The bird made a low pass on the other side of the street, calling the attention of the thugs, and then he made a wide curve, coming back in their direction. The duo pointed their guns at him, and he passed a couple feet in front of them, going the other direction, away from where Xander was. The heads followed, and that was their mistake.
The Crow jumped from the alley, wrist crossbows pointed, and with two silent motions, two heads now sprouted two long appendages from the back.
Xander ran past them and went straight to the front door of the warehouse, the sword in his hand once again. He kicked the door in, and not even the reinforced framework held under his supernatural strength. The guard sitting right behind the door took a foot of steel through his heart even before he managed to lift his gun halfway. With the map of the place on his head, he ran to the back room where the slaves mixed the dope, one hand with the sword and the other now holding one of his automatics. Another thug guarded the door, armed with an Uzi, and as soon as he saw Xander appear in the corridor, he pressed the trigger, discharging a lethal volley of 9 mm slugs on the crammed space, almost all of them hitting the Crow dead on.
It had absolutely no effect, except to piss him off. Xander lifted his own gun, shooting the guy twice, once in the head, once center mass, splattering blood and brains all over the steel door on his back. The supernatural warrior searched the dead weight, finding a keychain with two keys in it, and he used them to open the door. What he saw inside made his blood boil.
Children, ten of them, around seven to twelve from the looks of it, some of them sporting huge bruises and others had some burn marks, but the distant looks from them pictured an even worse story. They were mixing cocaine, and none were using masks. They were being doped and poisoned at the same time.
Vengeance screamed inside of him anew. He heard the crow caw in his mind. /They/ /will/ /PAY!/
He spared a moment to check if there was another entry point available for anyone, but aside from the door he has guarding, there was none. And lucky him, someone had soundproofed the room. So, the kids would be safe in there for the time being, and the room had enough evidence on it to make the cops extremely happy.
He walked out and locked the door, guarding the keys with him, and he started searching. He did not have to search much or wait too long, the gunfire brought all of the remaining dealers from their hideouts. First one to appear got two shots, one in his right knee, and other in his liver. Liver shots were deadly, if not treated on time, and with the extra loss from the destroyed knee, guy was fifteen minutes away from a painful death.
Second one, right behind him, got his gun arm severed at almost the shoulder, and another knee shot.
Xander could be merciful and end all of them quickly enough, but as soon as he had opened that door, all mercy had flown out of the window.
He would kill them all, oh yes, but it would be /painful/.
Twelve bastards later and Xander was approaching the last door on the warehouse, the screams of pain and mercy at his back creating a horrendous symphony of vengeance. One guard at the door, two shots from him, two from Xander, the first having no effect, the latter sending the guy to the ground without a knee and having blasted a large piece of muscle and severing the femoral artery.
The Crow kicked the door in, the boss was behind a turned desk with a double barreled shotgun. He unloaded both shots at the same time, hitting the Sunnydaler right in the middle of the chest, blowing away his heart, lungs, and creating a lot of collateral damage. Xander fell back a couple feet, his body shutting down to repair itself.
The boss was a man named Jeckle. He had a rap sheet longer than a soccer field, going from simple things like shoplifting to attempted murder, but the unsolved crimes that had his name attached to them would triple the size of the sheet. He was a sadistic bastard, but he was smart, and he had a lot of contacts. And he had seen a lot of shit during his years, but nothing like the clown who had decimated his entire gang in a single go.
Jeckle threw the emptied shotgun away, and grabbed his .45, walking slowly to where the guy had fell, weapon pointed to him the entire time. Step by step he approached, and now he had a clear view from the clown's painted face, his shirt destroyed from the shots, showing a lot of . . . clear skin?
Jeckle's mind forgot for a moment that he was armed and holding a gun in his hand. It was more than time enough for Xander. The katana flashed for the last time, cutting a low arc that hit the drug dealer in the hand holding the gun and stopped right in his spine.
Xander removed the sword and the boss fell down, bleeding profusely from his wrist and trying to hold his intestines in. The Crow grabbed his head, and the tact telepathy acted again.
Xander actually smiled with the info he got, and he sent back all the pain and fear he collected from the girl and the two thugs he killed in the alley. The guy wouldn't last long, but his last minutes alive would be triple hell.
Perhaps as a taste of what he would see in the afterlife.
Xander came down the stairs, after sparing some time collecting the cash they had stored in a vault and throwing it in a bag he found, and he was promptly intercepted by another five gang members, probably the guys from the other warehouse, point number four. He stopped right in the middle of the stairs, his torn and bloodstained clothes showing the fuckers that they weren't dealing with something normal, like cops.
"I will give you five seconds to run, and then I'm going to start hunting you. One . . ."
They didn't even stop to think, turning tails and running away. The Crow drew one of his automatics, and pointed.
"You know, I hate running," and he pulled the trigger five times, "and I hate hunting running vermin."
The Crow left the warehouse behind, his symbol painted in the front door in blood, and the kids still locked in the soundproofed room, but the key dangling from the one of the locks, and a telephone out of the cradle, with a police attendant on the other side, listening to the moans and screams of the dying men spread around the rest of the building.
He fished his still working cell phone from his pants' pocket and hit one of the speed dials.
"Wanna spend some of those taxpayers' money in something useful?"
"Meet me at this address," he said, and blurted out a place from his last stolen memories. "Bring Faith and a team with you."
"We don't deal with humans, dweeb," she said.
"Who said anything about humans?" he replied.
". . ."
"My thoughts exactly," Xander replied to the sudden silence. "And Cordy, could you please bring me a black t-shirt? Mine is somewhat torn," he said, while ripping the remaining pieces of cloth from him.
The reply made him shut the phone with a laugh.