Subcontractor - X
This is an Angel / Veronica Mars crossover. No major spoilers for Veronica Mars, spoilers for some of Angel S5. All characters belong to their respective creators and are used without any intention of damaging copyright; this story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis. I'm British, as is my spelling; live with it.Subcontractor
by Marcus L. Rowland
Harris, if that's who he really was, came in and looked around warily. I tried to recognise him from my memory of Cordelia's pictures, and I suppose I could just about see it.. very distantly. He looked like someone out of a Hemingway book, tough and weather-beaten. Of course the eye was the big difference, but it wasn't something I could casually ask about.
"Do you have some identification?" asked Dad.
"Do you?" He asked, reaching into a pocket.
"Keith Mars," said Dad, and I said "Veronica Mars."
He eventually found a battered US passport and tossed it to Dad. His aim was a little off, I suppose because of the eye.
"Can I get you some coffee?" I asked.
"Could you make two cups? Both black, no sugar. I've got a friend with me, she's just parking the car."
"Sure." I made sure that the pot was full and poured him a cup.
"Okay," said Dad. "You're Alexander Harris."
"Call me Xander."
"Take a seat. What can I do for you?"
"That's a good question," said Xander, sitting so that he could see both of us. I got an impression that he wasn't the trusting sort. "You've been taking an interest in my movements, I was kinda wondering why."
"What makes you think we're interested in your movements?" asked Dad.
"I could tell you," said Xander, "but then I'd have to shoot you." We both stared at him. He sighed and said "Nobody appreciates my sense of humour. Look, you've been sending messages about me all over Africa, and I've got friends there who watch out for that kinda thing. Admittedly they're mostly watching to see if there's a way to make a fast buck from it, but they let me know you were looking for me. By the way, if you get any emails from Nigeria saying I've died and left you forty million dollars just ignore them."
There was a knock then a woman came in. She was black, gorgeous, about eighteen, and said something to Harris in a language I didn't recognise. He smiled and said something back, she looked a little confused until he repeated it, then she smiled and sat down. I gave her a cup of coffee and she smiled again, said "Ngiyabonga," which I guessed meant "thank you," and sipped it.
"This is Harriet Nyembe," said Harris, "She's going to be a student in the USA for a few months, I'm escorting her to the school. Which is a fancy way to say that I do the talking for both of us and she pretends to understand me when I try to speak Zulu." He said something to her, and I could hear our names in it, she nodded politely and smiled again.
"I hope I just introduced you and told her this'll take a while," said Harris, "but I may have just told her you're going to marry us or something." He smiled again, then said "So why were you looking for me?"
"One of our clients asked us to locate you," said Dad.
"And that client would be?"
"I'm sorry, that's confidential."
"Why you?" asked Xander. "It's not like I've ever lived or worked here, or have any family in the area. Is it someone from Sunnydale looking for me? Not my parents, I hope."
"I don't believe so," said Dad.
"Are we going to sit here playing twenty questions?" asked Xander, "or should I be threatening you or something?"
"You could try," said Dad.
"Naah, I'm too tired. I suppose I could ask Harriet to beat you up," she looked up as he said her name, while Xander watched our faces, "but I think that you're almost as much in the dark as I am."
"What gives you that idea?" asked Dad.
"The fact that you aren't taking me seriously." He had us both confused now. "Whatever this is about, you haven't been told much."
"Perhaps not. Would you like to enlighten us?"
"Let me make this simple. I know that you've been hired to find me and some of my friends. What I don't understand is why."
"Some of your friends?" said Dad, raising his eyebrows.
Xander held up a hand and counted on his fingers as he said "Buffy and Dawn, Willow and Kennedy, Faith and Robin, Giles, and me. Did I miss anyone?"
"Andrew Wells," I said distractedly. I was still trying to work out who Kennedy was. I already knew that Robin was the guy Faith Lehene lived with.
"Someone wants Andrew
followed?" he asked incredulously. I nodded.
"Okay... and nobody told you why?"
"It sounds like you have a better idea than we do," said Dad.
"You must have made some guesses."
"The name that comes to mind is Warren Meers."
"Warren Meers. He murdered Tara Maclay and shot Buffy Summers, crimes witnessed by you and Willow Rosenberg. Andrew Wells was one of his accomplices."
"Well yeah," said Xander, looking slightly stunned, "I suppose you could make that connection, maybe, but I'm pretty sure that Warren's long gone. He took off after he killed Tara, nobody's heard of him in a couple of years. What made you think he might be involved?"
"It seems rather odd that you should be friends with Wells after all that happened. We were wondering if there was more to it than met the eye."
"You know," Xander said slowly, "I can't really give you a good reason why we ended up even talking to Andrew. He's an idiot, and he's easily led, but... you know, I can't give you a reason at all, it just kinda happened."
"What happened to the money Meers stole?" I asked.
"I think the police recovered it and accounted for the rest. Look, I'm sure you've got some sort of elaborate theory you're just dying to explain, but Warren's gone and Andrew's clean these days. He's still an idiot, but he's clean. Believe me we've checked. Now, what's this really about?"
"Someone hired us to watch you and report your movements," said Dad. "That's really all that I can tell you."
"Okay... so... Wolfram and Hart?"
"We don't believe so," said Dad, "but they do seem to be interested."
"I'll bet," said Xander. "Has to be Angel then."
"Used to run Angel Investigations, now he's CEO of Wolfram and Hart. What the hell are they up to?"
Dad looked at me, and I tried to guess what he was thinking. Xander seemed to be watching both of us. Eventually Dad said "The situation is a little confused. There seems to be some doubt as to the identity of our client, but we aren't yet sure what's going on. If it turns out that we've been lied to I'll consider answering your questions."
"When will you know?" asked Xander.
"When the client contacts us again we'll request clarification. If we don't get it I'll answer your questions."
"Are you expecting to be contacted in the next... oh... twenty-four hours?"
"Okay.. does this town run to a decent hotel?"
"The Sunset Regent is good," I said, "but it's kinda expensive."
"That's okay," said Xander. "I'm getting expenses." Cordelia's dossier had described him as a construction worker, I wondered how he'd paid for his African vacation, and who was paying expenses. "Call me if you want to tell me anything." He said something to Harriet and she nodded to us and followed him out.
"What did you make of that?" Dad asked once we were sure they'd gone.
"He's hard to read, with the eye patch and everything, but..." I hesitated, trying to sort my impressions.
"He mentioned someone called Kennedy. First I've heard of him."
"Her. Willow Rosenberg's friend." There was something about the way he said 'friend' that made me realise I'd missed something pretty obvious. They'd spent a lot of time on the beach, but maybe they hadn't been looking for guys.
"Oh... right. Where did you get that?"
"Lopez faxed us a copy of the hotel register, remember? Her signature was immediately after Rosenberg's, her writing isn't clear but it's the same room number if you looked closely."
"Oh, I saw they were sharing a room, I just read the name as Ramsey."
"He immediately thought of Wolfram and Hart, then of Angel Investigations. They've got some sort of history. On the other hand he was genuinely surprised when we mentioned Meers, and immediately denied he could be involved. I think that was sincere."
"Very good. I think you're right on both counts, especially since we already know that there's some sort of connection between Angel Investigations and Sunnydale. Cordelia Chase came from Sunnydale, and your mystery man Spike had friends there."
"I think he knows more about Meers than he says. He seemed certain that he couldn't be involved, and the only reason for that certainty would be knowledge."
"You think he knows where Meers is?"
"It's possible. Or he knows where he's buried."
"Do you think he killed him?"
"It's a theory. He's strong, he works construction which means he probably had access to digging machinery, and Meers shot two of his friends then dropped out of sight the same day. Someone like Meers doesn't just vanish, he leaves a trail. Of course, if the body was in Sunnydale there's probably no hope of proving anything."
"I don't think I'll lose any sleep over it," I said, "it sounds like we're well rid of him."
"I don't like vigilantes, no matter how good the reason," said Dad.
"Did you spot anything else I missed?"
"Only the obvious. He never mentioned Cordelia Chase, never even suggested she might be our client, unless he was including her with Angel Investigations. He thinks she's dead."
"And for all we know he's right." I shivered, even though it was a warm evening. If she wasn't Cordelia, who the hell was she?
"I wonder how he lost the eye," said Dad. "It's on his passport photograph and mentioned in the description, but that's less than a year old. And you don't see many one-eyed construction workers, it's a job that needs depth perception."
"It was normal on the picture Cordelia sent me, but he looked a lot younger. Maybe it was an industrial accident. Did you get anything else from the passport? A US address? Next of kin?"
"I was wondering when you'd ask. No next of kin listed, and the address is care of an apartment in Cleveland."
"Cleveland? Near Faith Lehene?"
"Same address. She's probably holding mail for him, or forwarding it to wherever he really lives."
"She couldn't be involved in the Meers case," I pointed out, "she was still in jail then, didn't break out for nearly a year. So whatever's going on is about more than that."
"Or she joined some sort of conspiracy later," said Dad. "I don't think we'll get the answer by guesswork. Isn't it about time that Miss Chase called?"
"Past time," I said. And right on cue the 'phone rang. I picked it up and said "Mars Investigations, how may I help you?"
"Hi, it's Cordelia. Any news for me?"
"Yeah, quite a bit. But I think Dad wants a word, I'll put you onto the speaker."
"Miss Chase," said Dad, "Are you familiar with a Warren Meers?"
"No, don't think so..." said Cordelia / whoever, then "...oh, wasn't he the guy that shot Buffy and killed Willow's girlfriend?" Okay, scratch one 'maybe'.
"That's right, Willow's girlfriend. What about him?"
"Someone hacked our computers, it occurred to us to wonder if he might have been responsible."
"He's a computer hacker, a known associate of Andrew Wells, and most of the other people you asked us to watch were witnesses to the shooting."
"Andrew knew him?" asked Cordelia
"Didn't you know?"
"No. Why should I?"
"Then why ask us to watch him?" asked Dad.
"Because he's kinda important right now. But it doesn't have anything to do with Warren Meers."
"Very well. Would you have any idea who might have hacked us?"
"Oh yeah." She sounded amused.
"One of the people you've asked us to watch?" We waited, but she didn't reply. Eventually Dad said "Leaving that for the moment, we've been visited by Alexander Harris..."
"Xander?" she interrupted, "How is he?"
"He seemed well. Were you aware that he has lost an eye?"
"Yeah, word gets around."
"Mister Harris wants some answers," said Dad, "and from what he's told me I'd imagine that the other subjects are also aware of our interest. What are your instructions?"
"Yeah," said a voice from the doorway. "I'm kinda curious about that too." Without either of us noticing the door had opened again - and I was pretty sure I'd locked the outer office - and Xander was standing there, with Harriet and another girl. They came forward into the light and I recognised Willow Rosenberg.TBC