Potential Problem IV
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel / CSI crossover. This story is the fourth in a series, the earlier parts are Should Have Gone To Vegas..., Manhunters, and Slayer, Las Vegas. They should ideally be read in that order, since the events of previous stories are mentioned. This story is set immediately after the Angel season 4 story "Orpheus", and contains spoilers for BtVS up to "Lies My Parents Told Me" and Angel up to "Orpheus". I've no idea where it fits in CSI continuity, if there is such a thing.
All characters are the intellectual property of their respective creators, film companies, etc.; this story may not be sold or distributed on a profit-making basis.
I'm British, so's my spelling. Live with it.
By Marcus L. Rowland
"Something I've noticed," said Nick, "we've got two bodies but neither has any possessions apart from the robes and that one knife. No keys, no wallets, nothing."
"They're demons," said Catherine, "Why would they have any of those things?"
"We know they use money," said Nick, spraying part of the window with fluorescent powder, "the bartender mentioned they've bought bottled water. Come to think of it, he said they've been in more than once, which implies that they're staying somewhere in Vegas, and probably in this neighbourhood. That's a break, the windows have been cleaned recently. Here's a hand print, looks reasonably fresh."
Catherine photographed the print, then Nick carefully transfered it to a print lifter. "Looks like we have palm, first and second fingers and thumb there, right hand. May tell us who we're trying to help." They moved to the wall, and Nick began to spray there.
"Most demons live in human society to some extent," said Willow, "but I've always thought of the Bringers as the exceptions. They just seem to appear out of nowhere, we've only ever found them on the streets and in caves."
"Not many caves in the middle of Vegas," said Catherine. "Maybe they have the same problem that you did?"
"Which one?" asked Willow.
"Too much magic. From what you've told us they just appear, attack someone, then vanish again, but maybe they can't do that so easily here. If they've come in from out of town they'd somewhere to stay, maybe a rented apartment or some sort of abandoned building, and probably transport. They'd also need to buy food and drink, normally I assume they get it wherever they live."
"It probably is something like that, there's still a lot we don't know about them. They might not even live in this dimension normally."
"So where are they getting the money?" asked Nick.
"Probably stealing it," said Joyce. "Or killing people to get it."
"Wouldn't we be finding bodies?"
"Depends. Might have them stashed away somewhere, might be eating them. Willow?"
"They haven't eaten the Potentials they've killed. We've found bodies." She paled for a moment as she remembered.
"Catherine," said Nick, "I don't think we're going to get useful prints here, all I'm seeing is smudges."
"Let's move on to the fire exit and the alarm."
"Okay. Willow, what happens if your girl manages to kill all the Bringers that are after her?"
"More would go after her, but it might be a while. This has been going on for months, and we're still finding occasional Potentials that they've missed. One turned up in Sunnydale a couple of months ago, she was actually in the same class as Buffy's sister."
"Sister?" said Joyce, for a moment confused, then "Oh yeah, Dawn."
"I don't think you knew her very well, did you?" said Willow. There was an odd note in her voice, and Catherine wondered what she was missing.
"No, she was like ten or eleven then, wasn't she? A real brat."
"She was here earlier this year with Buffy," said Catherine, "she seemed to be a very resourceful girl."
"With Buffy for her sister she'd have to be," said Joyce, "or a total doormat. Guess she chose not to be Buffy's doormat."
"Here we are," said Nick, "a very pretty print on the alarm sensor, even though I say it myself. Get pictures then I'll lift it."
Catherine got the photos, then her phone began to beep. She listened, then said "Officer down, about a mile from here. Looks like a Bringer attack, Grissom's at the crime scene. Wants us there when we've finished here."
* * * * *
"What's the story?" asked Catherine twenty minutes later. The new crime scene was a used car lot a few blocks from the strip, now surrounded by police cars with two helicopters circling the area.
"Officer Ralph Dugan, twelve years on the force," said Grissom. "Multiple stab wounds to the thorax and throat cut, within the last couple of hours. A car salesman found the body, pushed underneath the red Cadillac. There's a Bringer corpse over here by the dumpster, still oozing ichor, also with multiple stab wounds."
"Any shots fired?"
"No, and Dugan's gun is missing."
Nick looked the scene over. "There doesn't seem to be any blood on the Bringer."
"So what are you thinking?" asked Nick, "The Bringers chased the girl here, Dugan saw what was going on and came to help and was jumped by one of them? She killed a Bringer and ran while the others were fighting Dugan?"
"Could be. See anything wrong with that idea?"
Catherine looked around, then said "Why didn't Dugan shoot the Bringers, or call for backup? Not like they're human, there's been a warning out all day, and he must have seen they were trying to kill her. And what happened to the gun? Bringers don't use them, from what Willow says."
"Good question. Especially since it looks like Dugan was attacked from the front only. That presumably means no more than two Bringers, one fighting the girl and one on Dugan."
"Maybe he was trying to be a hero?" suggested Willow.
"Maybe, but he was an experienced officer, it just doesn't feel right."
"Anyone checked the security cameras?" asked Nick.
"I was just about to ask you."
"On it." Nick went off to the sales office. Catherine and Grissom turned their attention to the area around the Cadillac.
"I could try that spell again," said Willow, "not sure how well it would work out in the open, but..."
"Leave it, Will," said Joyce, in a low voice. "They've got forensics and the cameras, they don't need you yet. Keep the magic for when it's really needed. I hope I'm wrong, but I've got a bad feeling that we're gonna want it eventually."
"Call it a hunch."
* * * * *
"I think you're all going to want to see this," said Nick, about fifteen minutes later, and started the tape playing in the car lot office. "It's a slow-scan system, one picture from each camera every second or so. I'm playing back the recording from the camera that covers that part of the lot in real time. The entrance to the lot is on the left, there's a side gate to the right."
A young woman ran from right to left, recorded as a series of blurry images, then ducked behind a car. "That's the green BMW saloon near the Cadillac, she may have left prints on it."
"Freeze it a second," said Grissom. "Can you zoom in to get a better view of her face?"
"Not with this recorder, but no problem back at the lab. She stays still for about thirty seconds now, so we should be able to enhance it reasonably well."
"Start it playing again."
"Watch what happens to the right." After thirty seconds a Bringer came into view, bent forward and apparently sniffing the air. It moved forward slowly, drawing its knife as it seemed to catch the scent of the girl, then went round the front of the car. As it did so she leaped into view, vaulting the hood of the car and landing behind it. It started to turn, knife in hand, but she stabbed it first, cutting deep into its chest, then cut its throat and wiped the knife on its robe.
"Good moves," said Joyce tautly, "reminds me of me."
"Keep watching," said Nick.
"What's happened to the other Bringers?" asked Willow.
A uniformed beat cop came into view as the girl started to move away from the body, gun in hand. She turned to face him, apparently listening to something he was saying, then dropped the dagger and pointed at the corpse. Dugan stepped closer, moving the Bringer's robe slightly so that he could see its face. As he did so the girl seemed to fall forward, rolling on the ground and coming up with another dagger in her hand. She stabbed Dugan as efficiently as she had stabbed the Bringer, cut his throat and took the gun as he dropped it, then quickly went through his pockets and rolled his body under the Cadillac. She pulled the Bringer into trash beside the dumpster, and walked off towards the street.
"I don't believe it," said Willow. "There has to be something wrong with her, a spell or something, or maybe she saw something that made her realise that he was in league with the Bringers, or..."
"Forget it, Will," Joyce said bitterly. The CSI team turned to listen. "There was no spell, and nothing wrong with him, and even if there was she didn't have time to notice it. She was ready to kill anyone that got in her way, period. Let's face it, our potential is a psycho, and from the moves she was making I'm guessing that the Watchers spent at least two or three years training her to be a better killer."
"Are you sure?" asked Willow.
"Is anyone else surprised?" asked Joyce. The others were silent. "The way the Watchers work, they find the Potentials as young as they can, try to separate them from their familes and friends, and persuade them that they've been chosen by God, or some sort of higher power, that the mission is all that's important, and that if they're really lucky they'll be Chosen and get to have a really short life fighting monsters. You know who else works like that? Religious cults and terrorists. Of course you're gonna end up with a few whackos."
"I know that you had it hard, F.. Joyce," said Willow, "but I always kinda hoped you'd been the exception."
"Dream on, girl. You've met Watchers, you know what they're like. Buffy was the exception, and that's because they didn't get her hands on her until she was already the Slayer, because her mom and Angel and the gang were there, and because Giles is one of the few Watchers that're half-way to a decent human being. And Giles is one mean SOB when he wants to be. Remember what happened on Buffy's eighteenth birthday? Remember Wesley trying to ship me back to England for re-programming when I decided to think for myself? Did Buffy tell you about the hit squad they sent to LA?"
Willow shook her head and said "Most of the Potentials seem normal enough."
"Most of the Potentials are dead, Will. From what you've told me the ones in Sunnydale are the survivors, and untrained kids the First didn't find because the Watchers didn't know about them. What do you know about the ones that didn't make it? What do any of us know? The Watchers didn't exactly produce newsletters."
"It sounds plausible," said Grissom. "As soon as I heard about Slayers and saw Buffy in action I began to wonder what would happen if someone unstable had those abilities. I was thinking of Buffy's strength and speed, I should have paid more attention to the training and indoctrination, and its possible effects."
"Believe me," said Joyce, "I've been there, did things... Wasn't for Angel I'd be dead or in the psycho ward. I've seen killers, and that girl's one of them. I'm not saying the Watchers made her that way, but they sure as hell helped. The one good thing that the First has done is to kill most of them and smash their organisation. Sooner or later someone will probably replace them, if we live through the next few months, but with luck we won't end up with another bunch of old men that treat teenage girls as expendable cannon fodder."
"But Buffy..." began Willow.
"Maybe you're too close to her to see it," said Catherine, "and too used to the way things are, but it's different looking in from the outside. Buffy's been killed twice, she fights monsters on a daily basis, and her sister thinks it's a good day if she comes home alive. Sara and I compared notes after her last visit. We both had the impression that she'd been badly hurt, physically and emotionally, over and over again. Am I wrong?"
"No... I guess you're right. She was at the end of her rope before she died, and I'm still not sure she's over that, or all the problems she had after she came back, or the grief I gave her."
"I can't see any way these Watchers could prepare anyone for that sort of work, and the world you live in, that wouldn't risk putting them over the edge. As Joyce said, some just won't be able to handle it."
"Joyce," Grissom repeated reflectively, "is that your real name?"
"Two or three times now Willow has started to call you something else, and what you've just told us doesn't match what you originally said. Is there something I should know?"
Willow looked guiltily at Joyce, who shrugged and said "Guess we're just not very good liars. Okay, my name's Faith and I'm not just another Potential..."
Willow tuned out her story and began to prepare the suggestibility spell again.
To Be Continued