Chapter Twenty Eight
Disclaimer. The Buffy and Da Vinci Code characters are owned by other people. Other people who are not me.
Authors Notes. A lot of the events in this chapter take place simultaneously or overlap. Please read carefully
Chapter Twenty Eight.
The Ghost Roads (Tempus Interuptus)
They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. Dan Carter couldn’t remember having that experience after he’d been hit in the chest by the snipers bullet. What he was experiencing was the other thing he’d heard about. A white light, and he was moving towards it. Or, was it moving towards him? He couldn’t be sure. With his luck, it would be a train on a collision course. He didn’t feel any pain, heat or cold. In fact he didn’t feel anything; but he could hear. There were sounds, whispers. Incoherent, but they were there. The light became a glow, the surrounding area lightened to become more of a greyish colour, not overly appealing, but not harsh either. Then there was a distinct voice in all the whispers calling his name.
“Hey kid. ….Daniel….. Over here.”
He felt himself pulled towards the sound of the distinct Bronx accent to see a short man, maybe five-four; five-five, standing as though he was leaning against a bar. He was wearing a pork pie hat and one of the loudest Hawaiian shirts Dan had ever seen. Couple that with his, out of date, sloppy grey green suit and Dan could instantly tell that the man was a fashion disaster.
“Great, more bloody strangers. Who are you? What are you? Where am I? Am I dead?” Dan asked. Hopefully he was going to get some answers.
“Heyyy. Direct with the questions. I like that. Names Whistler. I’m a connection to the PTB. You’re on the Ghost Roads, the netherworld; and technically, yep, you’re dead, but not for long. Help is coming. You gotta go back. You‘re part of the greater plan.”
“Who, What’s the PTB? Greater plan?” Dan was more confused now he had the answers.
Look kid. Time moves kinda slower here, but I still aint gotta lot of it, ask the slayer ‘bout me an‘ them. Lets just say this is the only way I can talk to you and keep my ribs attached to my spine.” He chuckled.
Dan’s hands and eyes went to his own ribs, he expected to see a bullet hole in his chest. Instead he just saw the red hand mark there.
“Was I shot? Or not?” He asked.
“Yeah, you were. But the mark protected you. You hit your head a little hard when you fell. Put you in a place where we could connect to you”
“Did you give me this?” Said Dan, pointing to the mark.
Heck no. Slayer did. She protected you. She’s got access to more power than she knows. She’s the Momma slayer now, and with what the First is trying to do, she’s gonna need it.
“Where do I fit into this ‘Greater Plan’ then.”
“We been watchin’ you for a while now Daniel. It’s taken a little longer to get you into the game because our girl out there doesn’t always play by the rules… Personally, sometimes I can‘t blame her. That an’ the fact we aint supposed to interfere. So this is the only way we could contact you.”
“What about Mandy? We were engaged, getting married. We loved each other!” Said Dan, slightly shocked.
“Sorry kiddo wasn’t meant to be. If your first love was always the one you were meant to be with, lets just say that Angel wouldn’t have lost his soul. Your first love chose her path when she started getting on Maguire’s case.” Said Whistler, sympathetically.
“You knew what was going to happen and you didn’t stop it!” There was anger in Dan’s voice.
Whistler held up his hands in truce. “Not didn’t, couldn’t. Free will an’ all. We did all we could in that we sent her the dreams and the signs. She chose to ignore ‘em.”
Dan couldn’t believe that he was hearing all this. “You’re what made her scared of the dark, aren’t you.“ Said Dan, starting to work things through.
“Sorry Kid, again not me personally, she interpreted ‘em wrong. If it‘s any consolation, she‘s in a happy place.”
Dan ran his hands though his hair. “So what happens now? Why are we having this conversation?””
“Coz you’re new to the game, kind of a one off deal.”
“Game. Is this some kind of game to you?” Said Dan, his anger building again.
“No. Can I help my metaphors.” Said Whistler, disdainfully.
“Sorry. Do I get wishes or questions?” Dan asked, hopefully.
“Questions, yes. Answers, yes Wishes, no. I’m a balance demon not a fairy godmother. Wishin’ aint always good for ya anyways. Too many vengeance demons out there.”
“Buffy and me, are we together in the plan?” Asked Dan.
“Oooh, straight in with the toughie. Lets just say you got great potential, an’ it took some doin’ gettin’ you in place yesterday.
“What, how? Never mind. Don‘t tell me who else you‘re mucking about with.” Said Dan. “So what am I supposed to do? Help her. What?”
“Be there for her, balance her, rescue her. She aint never had anybody who can handle her strength. Sure, she’s had Angel and Spike, but they were demons, strong, but not the right sorta balance. Her watcher is like a dad to her, he can’t give her all the support she needs. She needs to walk in the light, not in the dark all the time.”
“I can’t match her strength, or speed.” Said Dan.
“True, but it don‘t bother you, do it.”
Dan shook his head. “Not in the least. Mandy was always quicker than me.”
“There. That’s the difference. That’s what you got that the other ‘normals’ didn’t have. That’s what she needs. Somebody normal who don’t care about how strong or fast she is, just to want her for the woman she is.”
“I think I know what you mean.” Said Dan. “How will I know what to do and when?”
“Watch for the signs and follow your heart kid.” He looked behind him. “Times up. You gotta go back now.” He added.
“One more thing.“ Said Dan. “Maguire, will he get his come-uppance?”
“Can’t say for certain. Too many variables. But with what you got your hands on tonight, he’ll get what’s due, if it plays out right.”
“Well at least that’s one good thing. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it, see y’ kid. Nice talkin’ with ya‘. Good luck.”
With that he faded out. The grey became darker, he heard a familiar Californian accent in the distance getting closer.
Stag Inn. Windsor 22:05 hrs. Earthly Plane
Buffy took her seat at the table, took a sip of her coffee and bit into the complimentary mint. After a minute she and looked around for Dan. Spotting a waiter she beckoned him over.
“Is everything alright Miss?” He asked.
“Did you happen to see where my date went?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t, perhaps he’s had a call of nature.” He said, pointing to the ‘gentlemen’ sign with an arrow indicating the direction of the men’s restroom.
“Thanks.” She said.
The waiter nodded and left.
She took another sip of her coffee. Another waiter came into the area from the kitchen and approached her.
“Sorry. I missed you returning. Mr Carter asked me to tell you……”
Her heart started sinking rapidly, an icy feeling gripping her spine. Her brain ran through all the permutations and possibilities at the speed of light. “Oh God he’s bailed on me.” Came the conclusion, as the waiter continued.
“…That he would return momentarily. He had to meet with a man who came over to speak to him from the bar. Is everything alright miss?” He said as he saw the briefly changing emotions on her face going from shock to fear and then to relief. Then to perplexity, as she didn’t understand why he hadn’t waited and told her himself.
“Yeah, I’m good. How long ago was this?” She asked.
“No more than a couple of minutes miss.”
"Did he go outside with the guy?"
"Thanks. I’ll go check, see if he’s Ok."
The waiter smiled and turned to attend to another table. She surreptitiously pulled a small dagger from her bag, got up, and went to the exit.
She entered the car park, her slayer senses on full alert. Her nose picked up the taint of blood in the air. Quickly scanning the car park for the location of the smell she noticed movement. A man with a sniper rifle was bending over two bodies on the ground and tugging at a large envelope that was underneath one of the bodies.
“HEY!” She shouted, and ran at the man. He looked up and let go of the envelope, swinging the rifle into position for firing and pulling the trigger in a fluid motion.
The man with the rifle felt a pain in his arm as he pulled the trigger, it knocked his aim and the shot went wide of it’s mark A crash and a scream was heard from inside the restaurant. He glanced at his arm he saw the hilt of a small dagger sticking out of it and the pain got suddenly worse as he realised what had hit him. His hand came up to try and pull it out as he glimpsed a sudden movement, a blonde blur approaching. His fleeting thoughts were confused. Take another shot or pull the dagger out. Shoo……
The right hook ended his line of thought. Buffy pulled the punch just enough to knock him out. Even so his head snapped around as he spun into the car behind, landing in a heap alongside the other two on the floor.
Buffy kicked the rifle away from him and knelt down next to Dan.
“No, no …..Dan……Danny…… Daniel,…..N-not now. Please don’t be dead.” She whimpered as she checked his pulse. A wave of panic swept over her when she couldn’t locate one. She gently lifted his head and cradled it in her hands ready to try CPR. A noise behind distracted her.
A figure had appeared at the door of the restaurant. A man’s voice shouted. “What’s going on out here.”
“Somebody Help!” She screamed. “Call 911. Get an ambulance. Help!”
He shouted an acknowledgement, then dashed back inside.
Buffy turned her attention back to Dan and started performing CPR. As she parted his jacket to gain better access to his chest she noticed the hole in his shirt. There was no blood anywhere!
Tearing open his shirt she spotted the handprint in the middle of his chest. In the centre of it was a small flattened item. The bullet. Why hadn’t it penetrated his chest? Puzzled she suddenly realised that the blood she could smell wasn’t coming from Dan; it was from the other victim. What was going on? Shifting her attention back to the CPR she redoubled her efforts. A few moments later she was rewarded by Dan’s spluttered cough as he came back to her.
M4 Westbound. 22:25 hrs
The unmarked Police Volvo hurtled along the outside lane of the carriageway. High beam lights and blue beacons flashing synchronously. Edward Clewley was using the hands free communications to gain information from his Thames Valley counterpart, Chief Superintendent James Millar, on the situation.
“Look James. All I’m saying is don’t ask too many questions of Carter or the young lady, until I get there, and don’t annoy her either. The consequences could be bad.”
“Who the bloody hell is she Edward. She isn’t CIA or something, is she? Christ, she took the gunman out with a knife!”
“I cant’ say. Just hold the media off and keep your officers away until I get there.” Said Edward, protectively.
“Paramedics have just turned up, they want to treat the gunman. Can they at least do that?”
Yes, but no questions. OK.”
“Alright Edward, it’s your call, and your neck. How long until you get here?”
Ten minutes. See you then.” He disconnected and glanced at Giles. “If they spot that Carter was shot, they’re going to want to know how he survived a bullet in the chest. Any ideas how he did Rupert?
Giles shook his head. “Absolutely none at the moment. When I see the mark Buffy described I may know more.”
OK; here’s an idea. I’ve managed to keep the Thames Valley officers away from them both at the moment. I’ve got two hi-vis police jackets and a Kevlar vest in the boot. Hide the vest under a jacket and give it to Carter to produce if needed. It should stop any awkward questions on that front. How does that sound?”
“Feasible.” Said Giles. “What about Buffy, how do we explain her involvement?”
“James has just offered me the solution. Say nothing and let him think she’s CIA, on an undercover mission. The investigation probably won’t go any further than that, and if anyone asks any questions to the Americans, they won’t confirm or deny her identity anyway. At least she didn’t kill the gunman, so we’ll be able to find out who hired him. My money’s on Maguire.”
What about the dead man? Asked Giles.
“No identity as yet; but we have the body, the evidence in the envelope; the gunman and the weapon. It should be watertight.” Said Edward. He pushed the car harder and turned on the twin tone horns.
Stag Inn Windsor.
Dan came around slowly after his initial coughing fit. Buffy helped him into a sitting position and although she just wanted to hug him she recognised his need to breathe. Tears welled in her eyes as she watched him recover. He saw her sadness and looked puzzled, then he remembered.
“Oh god, you found your mum didn’t you. I’m sorry, I should have been more alert. I should have waited for you to come back, I’m sorry.”
“Shhh, it’s OK, you’re alive and you’re Ok, that’s all that matters. I-I thought I’d lost you too.” She leaned in and they kissed.
Dan pulled back after a moment and put his hand to the back of his head. “Oww. I think we have competition for the Millennium Dome back here.” He said. "Whistler was right, he said you’d rescue me. Thank you."
Buffy smiled, it wasn’t often she got thanks for saving someone’s life. it was usually an oh god what was that sort of deal and them running for their lives.
“It’s Okay, I wasn’t doing anything else…Wait….Whistler! You saw Whistler! You spoke to Whistler! Ohmigod, they’re gonna screw you around as well now. This is just great! I can’t go on a date now without them arranging a little death to make the evening go just peachy!”
Her voice got louder and angrier as she spoke; her head turning to the stars as though she knew where ‘they’ were and could see them. The few people who had come out of the restaurant to see what was going on shrank back in surprise.
“Buffy, calm down.” He said soothingly. “People are staring, and that‘s not good. It‘s not as bad as it sounds. If you‘ll calm down and listen, I‘ll tell you what he said.”
She took a breath. “You’re right but….Not here. To many people, and they’ve called 911.… I mean 999, for an ambulance. I guess the cops will show too huh.”
“Yes but it’s a different division here. You’ll have to call the guv’nor or Mr Giles, otherwise we’ll be here all night with Thames Valley, and lots of awkward questions.” He said quietly.
Buffy pulled out her phone and called Ed. Discovering that Giles was with him made the task simpler. Giles instructed her not to say too much if questioned, which he knew she was just rolling her eyes at, because of the tone of her answer.
The police arrived a few minutes later. Dan identified himself and surrendered his gun for examination. When they checked it and found it hadn’t been fired they returned it. The sniper rifle was taken away and the gunman, who was still out cold, was checked over for other weapons. As the two officers were about to question them about the knife sticking out of the mans arm a senior officer arrived and dismissed the other two.
“Constable Carter. er, I‘m terribly sorry, Miss, I don’t know your name.” He said.
“That’s Okay, you don’t need to.” Said Buffy, with an internal smile. She was beginning to enjoy this anonymous status.
He continued. “I’m Chief Superintendent Millar. I’ve just spoken with your guv’nor Carter, and he’s asked me to keep you separated from the media and the squad for now. Is there anything you can tell me or is it all hush, hush.”
“All I can say at the moment is that it’s to do with Amanda Manning’s death, Sir.” Said Dan.
“Alright Carter. Miss….. Just stay available until Chief Superintendent Clewley gets here. He walked back to his officers and spoke with them. The paramedics were ushered over to attend to the gunman. He woke up with a scream and started struggling when they removed the knife from his arm. Buffy was there quicker than the two officers and grabbed the man and pinned him back down onto the gurney. She plucked the knife from the paramedic’s hand and snarled at the hit man.
“You lowlife, you tried to kill my boyfriend! Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t end you!” She said, holding the knife at his throat.
“He-he’s not dead? Gasped the man. I know I hit him, I checked. I never miss.” He snarled back.
“Well you lost your touch, coz you missed me as well.” Said Buffy, with an evil grin.
“You threw the knife. How the hell did you do that? Who are you? A throw like that would have been near enough impossible in daylight, let alone in the dark.” He winced from the pain in his arm as he tried to move it.
A hand on Buffy’s shoulder and Dan’s voice stopped her taking it further.
“Let it go. If you want, we can go elsewhere to find something for you to beat up and kill. He‘s not worth it.” He said, glaring pointedly at the gunman. The man looked shocked. Buffy pulled away and secreted the knife up the sleeve of her jacket. Hopefully she wouldn’t have to surrender it as evidence. The paramedics resumed their treatment.
A car swept into the car park and Giles and Edward got out. They exchanged a few words with Millar and came over. Edward crouched down beside Weasel’s body to try and identify him. He grimaced as he took in the man’s injury He then took a look at the gunman’s face. Satisfied, he came over to where the three were standing.
“The dead man is Johnny Smitt. He was a runner for Maguire a while back. Went solo. Always suspected he was up for a bit of B & E. The other bloke; I’ve no idea, but he’s obviously a pro. Might have to run his prints and mug shot through Interpol.”
“All we wanted was a nice quiet meal.” Said Dan.
“Next time, I choose the restaurant. OK.” aid Buffy, pointedly.
“Never mind.” Said Giles. “Lets get a quiet corner inside, have a coffee and you tell us what happened.”
End of Chapter Twenty Eight