Not mine, none of them. *pouts*
My attempt at comedy, for the Fic-A-Thon. I wasn't about to put all this work into this and then not post it. Sorry it's so late.
Council Headquarters - London, England
The intercom on Dawn Summers‘ desk beeped, then the voice of Rupert Giles, head of the new Watchers Council came from the speaker.
She pressed the button to respond, and replied, “Sure, Giles. Be right up.” She put the ancient text she was translating into it’s case, and locked it in the cabinet where it belonged. Shouldering on her purse, she activated the wards on her own office and headed for the elevator. Three minutes later, she strolled through the Giles’ door. “What’s up?”
Giles looked at her, adjusting his glasses on his nose, and waved to the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat, Dawn.”
She arched an eyebrow, and joked, “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”
He gave her a slight smile, and said, “Quite. I have a field assignment for you. I need you to retrieve an artifact from Edge City, New Jersey. It seems the Mask of Loki has been found.”
“The mask of… Edge City is where that weird news about that guy…what’s his name…Ipkiss, wasn’t it? That nut in the green rubber mask who robbed the bank, right? Are you going to tell me that he did that using an ancient Viking artifact?”
“I see you’ve been keeping track of current events. Good. I need you to retrieve the Mask of Loki, before it falls into dangerous hands. It needs to be contained. I did a background check on the apparent possessor of the Mask, and he appears to be fairly harmless. No criminal record, no bad driving records… he’s never so much as bounced a check. It appears to be out of character for him to commit such a large scale crime as bank robbery, which increases my certainty that he is in possession of this particular Mask. I’m sure you’re familiar with its history?”
“Story is it’s the prison of the Norse god of mischief - Loki - himself. Odin trapped him there to keep him from making anymore trouble in Midgard (here on Earth), or in Valhalla. Supposedly, the Vikings then took the mask, and by Odin’s instructions, locked it in a chest, chained the chest to a weight, and threw it into the sea. Loki can only be active if someone wears the mask. And then only at night. So we think this guy in Jersey has it, then?”
“Exactly. Which is why it’s imperative that we get it from him, before it falls into more dangerous hands. There is a rather high level of organized criminal activity in that city, and if one of them would chance to gain possession of the mask, there could well be international scale fallout. The players in this case are all human, which is why I’m not sending any Slayers in after it. Your expertise in archaic antiquities and law enforcement are precisely what we need. I’ve arranged for you to be on a flight tomorrow at 1pm, and you will be staying at the Edge City Four Seasons Hotel. All of your expenses will be covered out of the Research Department’s Recovery Budget. You can requisition what you need for this venture, just be sure to properly file all expenditures.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Right. No shopping sprees with Council money. Got it.” Rising, she picked up the file laying between Giles’ hands. Opening it, she flipped through a few pages. She whistled. “Wow, this guy is a real saint, huh? What’s my cover story here?”
“Befriend him. From his background check, he seems rather reclusive. Be careful, however. There is absolutely no other supernatural activity in Edge City. Do not -”
“ - give away the secret of the Slayers for any reason except demonic activity. I KNOW, Giles.”
“Right. Well, then. Take that file. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with it. And be certain to catch that flight. You need to acquire that Mask as quickly as possible. It is to be considered highly dangerous.”
Edge City, New Jersey
Dawn shaded her eyes as she walked out of the airport, the afternoon sun creating an overpowering glare due to the pollution in the air. “Ugh! This is worse than LA!”
A man walking past her laughed. “That’s cause this miserable little burg is downwind of New York.”
The brunette Watcher shook her head. “Geez, if there were any more minerals in this air, we’d have to chew before we inhaled it!” She sighed and marched briskly to the bank of waiting taxicabs and climbed into one. “The Four Seasons, please.”
Dawn checked into her room, unpacked, and ate a light dinner before she decided to do some exploring. Sunset wasn’t for another few hours and she wanted to do a little recon of the places where “The Mask”, as local papers had dubbed him, had made appearances. Her first stop was the bank where her target worked.
She stopped just inside the doors of the Edge City Savings and Loan to allow her eyes to adjust to the light difference. Ipkiss worked in New Account, so she crossed the lobby to the enclosure, which contained four desks. One was empty. Two of the employees were on the phone, apparently talking with clients, and the third was sitting there, looking at his hands. She approached him. “Excuse me?”
He looked up, and smirked flirtatiously at her. “Hello. Looking to open an account, Miss…?”
“Summers. Actually, I was looking for someone.”
“You found someone. What can I do for you?”
“That depends. Mind if I ask your name?”
“I’m Charlie. Charlie Schumaker.”
According to the info in the file, one Charles Philip Schumaker was Stanley David Ipkiss’ best friend. Dawn smiled. “Could we go somewhere to talk? It’s about your friend, Stanley.”
His expression closed instantly. “If you’re from the police department, I don’t know anything, so don’t bother. That jerk Calloway was in here earlier asking me questions.”
“Police? No, I’m not with the police. Do you have a private meeting room where we can talk? I’m here to help him, if I can.”
“You a lawyer, then? Stan got arrested last night, and he needs a good lawyer. That mask…”
“Not out here, Charlie.”
“Oh, right. Come on. We have offices down this way where we handle business accounts. We can talk in there.”
Half an hour later, Dawn walked out of the bank with the promise from Charlie that he would help her get the mask, and a date for the following night, Saturday Apparently, Charlie had tickets for some charity function at a local nightclub, called the Coco Bongo. He made her accompanying him to the party a condition of his helping her get the mask. She didn’t mind, though. He was interesting to talk to, and kinda funny. She also knew that the club was one of the places where Ipkiss had gone, as The Mask.
From the bank, Dawn went back to her room, changed, and caught another cab to the Coco Bongo Club, to do some more checking around. The mask Ipkiss had been arrested with was made from green rubber. This, to her profiler’s mind, spelled setup, which meant that someone had acquired the Mask of Loki from Ipkiss already. It was time to check out the other newsworthy people in Edge City. The night of the robbery, The Mask had had an altercation with the owner of the Coco Bongo, and had, apparently, danced with the man’s girlfriend, who sang there. The owner, Dorian Tyrell, was an almost clichéd 30’s style gangster. Acted like he owned everything he touched, and was an all around jerk. The girlfriend, Tina Carlisle, was your typical blonde bombshell - young, sexy, with aspirations to being a famous professional singer. Tyrell usually kept hired muscle with guns at the front door and in the club, and apparently, the man who “owned” Edge City was not happy with the thug.
Dawn bypassed the line at the front door, and approached the bouncer. He looked her over, and grinned. Taking a perfunctory glance at the guest list in his hand, he said, “Name?”
“Welcome to the Coco Bongo, Miss Winters.” Making a checkmark on the top page on the clipboard as if marking off her name, he admitted her into the club. She smirked as she walked through the door. You didn’t spend a lifetime with Buffy Summers without learning the tricks to looking amazing for clubbing. And she was armed to the teeth under her clothes.
She wandered through the nightclub, charting escape routes and possible hiding places. She made covert observations of everyone who looked at home in the place. None of Tyrell’s men, whose photos had been in her file on this case, were in the club. Tyrell himself was conspicuous by his absence. As she mentally compiled and analyzed, she developed a theory about what had happened. If she were right, Tyrell had gained possession of the Mask of Loki, and would likely be making a move on his former employer. If he held true to his stereotypical mobster image, he’d most likely be doing something flashy, like crashing the charity ball the following night. She carefully mapped the floor plan of the public portions of the building, noted the locations of the private areas, and catalogued the potential weapons available. All this she did while dancing, and having a few ”drinks”. Fortunately, plain cola looked like rum and cola to anyone who looked her way. When she was finally satisfied with her work, Dawn returned to her hotel and wrote down all of the mental notes she’d made that night, and sent an email to Giles, giving him a detailed report. Then she went to bed.
The Coco Bongo Club
Dawn and Charlie walked through the front doors of the Coco Bongo Club together, and Dawn looked around, impressed. The Club had been redecorated to look like a Depression Era casino. It looked like something from an old Humphrey Bogart movie. It was pretty cool. Dawn smiled at Charlie as he wandered off to flirt with one of the girls peddling cigarettes. He was such a Romeo. He reminded her a little bit of a cross between Xander, with his offbeat sense of humor, and Andrew, who tried so hard to be suave. It was cute, but he was so not her type. He disappeared around a corner, and she started scouting.
She’d made her way to the back of the main room and identified eight thugs carrying guns when the front doors were blown off their hinges. “Shit!” she gasped, as she hit the floor behind a booth. She heard a man start making threats and peeked over the top of the seat. “Oh my God!” The man had a green face, and he was flanked by four gunmen, two with machine guns. Dawn had no doubt the freaky thug was wearing the Mask she was in Edge City to collect. Well, this was just great. Her job just got that much harder.
Very carefully, Dawn slipped across the room to the far right corner, well away from the scene unfolding in the middle of the room. She got into a position where she could see the rest of the bar in the mirrored wall, and crouched as close to the floor as possible. She focused on the tense tableau just in time to see both groups open fire on each other. She flattened herself to the floor as the glass above her shattered, raining down around her.
As quietly as she could, she brushed the broken glass off and shook it from her head. She crept around the end of the bar where she could see just in time to watch the green-faced guy take a chest full of bullets. When the older man with the ponytail ran out his clip, the masked one took a deep, closemouthed breath, and you could hear a faint popping sound as each of the bullet holes in his shirt disappeared. A second later, he opened his mouth and started blowing bullets like a cartoon. It was freaky. Ponytail fell like a tree, and Greenie announced himself as the new “host” for the evening.
From her earlier sleuthing, Dawn realized that she was looking at none other than Mr. Dorian Tyrell. And apparently, he had plans for the evening. His goons carried in a wooden box with the word “Explosives” clearly printed on the side. She recognized the blond woman they were strong-arming as Tina Carlisle, Tyrell’s erstwhile girlfriend. The goons duct taped her to one of the fake palms in the middle of the club, and planted a large bundle of dynamite at her feet.
“Great. Just great. I’d rather be dealing with demons. At least they don’t use bombs. Or guns,” she grumbled to herself, edging toward the side doors. She’d nearly made it when one of the goons spotted her and grabbed her.
Yanking her forward, he called, “Hey boss, look what I found.”
Tyrell turned. “What have we here. What’s your name, beautiful?”
“Well, Aurora Winters, we can’t have you leaving yet, can we. The party’s not over and it’s rude to leave before the main event.”
“Well, I never was much of a party girl.”
Tyrell laughed, a deep and sinister rumble. “Oh, really? Then what were you doing at a by invitation only ball?”
“I was invited.”
Just then one of the goons pointed at Dawn and commented, “She was here, poking around last night, boss.”
“Is that so. And what could you have been looking for then?”
“Nothing special. Just taking in the sights. You know, touristy stuff. I’m from out of town, and I heard this was the best club in town. So far, it seems kinda sleazy to me, though. Must be the off season.”
By this time, Tyrell was getting bored with matching words with ‘Aurora’. He barked a sharp command at his goons, and before she could fight back, Dawn found herself taped to the mock palm by the fake pool beside the blond Miss Carlisle. To her indignation, one of the morons taped her mouth shut, so all she could do was fume silently and watch as what had to be the weirdest battle in history happened.
Not more than thirty seconds after Tyrell had Dawn tied up next to Tina, none other than Stanley Ipkiss himself made an appearance, gallantly being hauled out from under a table and relieved of his gun. Tyrell threatened. Tina made with the vamping (of the sexy female type, not the actual, you know, vampire type), and got Tyrell to remove the mask, which she kicked out of his hand with a leg that would have been useful on a place kicker. Ipkiss and Tyrell began to scuffle around on the floor as Ipkiss DOG retrieved the Mask, and, in an act of abnormal intelligence, got his head into the mask as one of Tyrell’s thugs tried to get him. The result was a spectacularly ugly dog with a very twisted sense of humor. Dawn, ever focused on her job, watched that dog frighten off the thug, then a few minutes later, pee on him from an upper level of the floor before scampering. With the help of a friendly slot machine, meanwhile, Ipkiss managed to knock Tyrell unconscious. The dog ran for Ipkiss, and he pulled the mask from his pet’s head. He stood there for a few seconds, staring at it, and then it was shot out of his hand. He followed it over the bar, which the goons shot full of holes. When they ran out of ammo, they stood still for a moment, as if waiting.
Ipkiss popped up from behind the bar wearing the mask, made some cartoony comments, and backed off the goon squad. Then, somewhat to Dawn’s disbelief, he SWALLOWED the bomb at their feet, which had only a couple of seconds left on the timer, made a joke after it exploded in his stomach, making him expand and deflate like some weird kind of rubber man, and then untaped the two women with a simple flick of the wrist. Just then, Tyrell started running across the bar, holding a switchblade. Ipkiss made a pithy comment, and painted a toilet handle on the tree. As Tyrell tried to reach them by crossing the fake pond, Ipkiss pulled the handle downward, flushing the pond down the drain, idiot gangster and all. Finally, he made one more wisecrack, and took the mask off so he could kiss Tina. Dawn rolled her eyes.
Once the kiss ended, Dawn introduced herself. “Hello. My name is Dawn Summers. You’re Stanley Ipkiss, right? I need to speak with you about your mask.”
Instantly, Stanley was guarded. “What do you want with it?”
“I doubt you’ll believe me, but I’m going to take a bash at the truth anyway. I work for a private organization that is dedicated to the protection of mankind from dangerous supernatural phenomena and that mask is an ancient artifact with a pretty wicked curse on it. I’ve been sent to retrieve it so that it can be properly catalogued and stored. You would be well compensated for it, of course.”
“Can you prove that?”
Dawn smiled. “What part?”
Stanley huffed. “How about the part where you’re interested in the mask for a good reason. Do you have any kind of ID?”
The young Watcher pulled a slim leather folder out of her pocket and handed it to him. He opened it and read the ID card it contained.
Director - Research and Acquisitions
“London? England? You don’t sound English.”
She laughed. “I’m not. I’m from California. I just work in London. The Watchers Council is a worldwide organization. I’m in Edge City for the sole purpose of retrieving that mask. Do you know the history of it?”
“I’ve heard a little bit. It’s Norse, right? Something about the night god, Loki, right? Him being banished or something?”
Dawn was impressed. “Well, you know more than I thought you would.” She eyed him. “Where did you get your information?”
“I went to see that doctor that wrote that book, you know, “The Masks We Wear”? He thought I was nuts.”
She nodded. “I can imagine. According to the research I did, The Mask of Loki is the prison of the god himself. Loki was the Norse god of mischief, which often enough rolled over into malice, and he was dangerous. That’s WHY he was banished from Valhalla. Of course, Odin couldn’t very well banish him and just leave him running around loose. So he trapped his essence into the wood that was used to make that mask in your hand. The problem that Odin didn’t plan on turned out to be the Mask’s effect on mortals. Any mortal who wears it is imbued with the essence of Loki. You’ve seen firsthand how bad it can get in the wrong hands. And Tyrell was mild. Imagine that Masks power in the hands of someone with bigger plans. Put it on someone like, say Hitler…Napoleon…Stalin. It needs to be contained in a closed environment, where it can’t be stolen. That’s where the Council comes in. We specialize in the supernatural, so we’re fully prepared to handle it.”
Stanley looked at the blonde beside him. “Well? What do you think?”
She gave him a gentle smile. “I don’t care. I don’t need the Mask, Stanley.”
Dawn resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Sap. Joy. She carefully hid her thoughts behind her professional smile as they both looked at her, and Stanley asked, “So how much were you thinking about offering for it?”
“Mind if I ask you one question first? Just out of curiosity?”
“Where did you get it?”
“Long story. Short version, I found it while I was trying to save a guy floating in the river. Turned out that the guy was a floating bundle of trash, and a piece of old newspaper was wrapped around it, making it look like a head. That was a really bad night for me. Why?”
“I was just curious to know if you had bought it. If you had, I was going to ask who from. People who deal in unusual antiquities are often into darker activities.”
“Ah. Nope, I found it in the river.”
Dawn nodded. “The Watchers Council is prepared to offer you $50,000. For the sale of the Mask.”
“Fifty thousand. Are you joking?” Pause. “That’s how much that slime ball Dorian Tyrell offered all the petty thugs in this city for finding me. That’s how much I almost got killed for. I want twice that.”
Stanley blinked. “Wow. I didn’t see that coming. So, when will I get the money?”
“Get me to a computer with an uplink, and I’ll have it into your bank account in five minutes.” She smiled. “All nice and legal like. And no sticky government red tape either, so long as you sell it directly to the Watchers Council. We have permits to conduct business without government interference in the form of any kind of taxes.” A grin tugged at the corner of her mouth. “The Council has many friends in high places.”
“I GUESS! So why didn’t you just use those friends to make me give you the mask?”
“A couple reasons. One, we don’t like strong-arming honest people. Our goal is to protect. We start forcing honest people to give us our way and we’re no better than petty thugs ourselves. Two, you don’t keep friends in high places by abusing the privileges they give you. And three, our Intel told us you could be reasoned with if one were honest and direct. Of course, when I got to town and discovered that you had been arrested before I could get in touch with you, I had to do a bit of recon to see if I could find the mask, since it was then in the open. Which actually backfired a bit.” She grimaced.
The couple laughed with her over that. Further dialogue was cut off when a police officer approached them. Seemed that while they were busy with Tyrell and his cronies, Charlie had gone to sound the alarm with the law. Way to go Charlie. They left the building, and had a bit of fun at the expense of the police Lieutenant who’d been harassing Stanley ever since the first appearance of “The Mask“. After everything died down, Dawn, Charlie, Stanley, Tina, and Milo - the dog, got in Tina’s convertible and left. The group headed to the bank, where Dawn handled the transfer of funds, then Stanley handed her the Mask, and the Key smiled, and left Edge City as quickly as she could.
Six hours later, Dawn walked into Giles’ office again. Without preamble, she told him, “Next time, send the Slayers,”, dropped her expenditures report on his desk and went straight to her own office. And there really wasn’t much else to say.