Chapter 16 – Piecing the Puzzle Together
Chapter 16 – Piecing the Puzzle Together
Tuesday, March 9, 1999, Morning
Miss Emily’s Bed and Breakfast
Daniel stretches languorously and rolls over reaching his left arm out. The other side of the bed is empty. With a grumpy frown, Daniel raises his head and calls out “Jack.” He gets no response. He looks at the bathroom door and plops onto his back to await Jack’s return to bed.
Several minutes pass and the bathroom door remains shut. Sighing, Daniel tosses off the covers and walks to the bathroom naked. Hearing no sounds, Daniel opens the door and finds the room empty as well.
Frowning, Daniel looks around the bedroom again. Still empty. He looks around for a note, then deciding glasses would probably come in handy right about now, he moves to the nightstand. Once he can see clearly, he makes another visual scan, examining each surface in the room. When this yields no results, he rechecks the bathroom as well. Again, nothing.
Daniel moves to his pants, which are haphazardly laying on the armchair by the window, fishing out his cell phone and is in the processing of dialing when Jack strolls in with coffee and a bag of pastries.
“Now, that’s the way to come home,” Jack smiles.
Daniel is clearly puzzled.
“You. Naked. I like.”
Daniel looks down at himself finally realizing that in his search for Jack he’s forgotten to get dressed. Blushing slightly, he puts on his pants.
“Don’t get dressed on my account,” Jack leers.
“I feel silly being naked, when you’re not. Mmm, coffee,” Daniel says as he reaches for a cup to hide his embarrassment.
“Before you latch on,” Jack says removing the coffee from Daniel’s hand, “how about a proper hello?”
“The things I do for caffeine,” Daniel playfully laments before kissing Jack thoroughly.
“So, can I have my coffee back now?” he asks, studiously ignoring the slightly desperate feel of Jack’s kiss.
Jack hands the younger man his fix and waits until he takes a sip before casually stating, “I spoke to Carter.”
“And?” Daniel asks.
“And, I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
“Daniel, breakfast first. Okay?”
Giving in, he replies, “Okay, so what’s for breakfast?” Jack hands him the bag of pastries and they sit at the small table in the room.
Ten minutes later, Daniel has finished his croissant and is working on his second cup of coffee, while Jack finishes crumbling his muffin, completely decimating it, leaving only dust. Jack’s about to grab another one when Daniel’s hand stops him.
“What did Sam say, Jack?”
Ignoring his question, Jack asks “You ever wonder if the whole world’s gone insane or if it’s just you?”
Hesitating a moment, Daniel admits “Frequently.”
Sighing, Jacks states “The hospital staff is clean for the most part, if incompetent.”
“They didn’t seem incompetent to me, particularly Dr. Russell.”
“Ah, that’s our first anomaly,” Jack says. “By all accounts, Dr. Russell is a brilliant doctor who had his pick of prestigious hospitals throughout the country.”
“So why is he at Sunnydale General Hospital?” Daniel asks.
“Exactly.” Grudgingly, Jack continues “Apparently he had a fiancee who was from here. About eight years ago, they came into town to take care of some last minute things before she moved back with him to L.A., where he was doing his residency. She was attacked by a wild animal, the description wasn’t clear on what kind. Anyway, she didn’t survive. He decided to stay in town after that.”
“Okay, well, while that probably wouldn’t have been my choice, it’s not really what I’d call anomalous – sad definitely, but…”
“After eight years, he’s still working the graveyard shift. Apparently by choice.”
“Jack,” Daniel begins gently.
“He’s also called in whenever Xander’s hurt. Whenever any of them are hurt, actually. Even when he’s not on call.”
Okay, that was strange. Thinking a moment, Daniel asks “Why did you say the hospital staff is incompetent?”
“This is where it gets fun,” Jack states sarcastically. “Xander, Willow and to a much lesser extent the others have all been in with…questionable, shall we say, injuries and other than routine inquiries, no one has looked any further into it. Aren’t hospital personnel supposed to be trained to look for obvious signs of abuse and aren’t they required to report it to the authorities when they find it? There are no reports. Their records are very vague as to the cause of the injuries. There are red flags all over the place and no one seems to give a damn!” After taking a moment to collect himself again, he goes on, “The only good thing, if you want to call it that, is that Giles has suffered as many or more injuries than the others. I’m hoping it’s because he was telling the truth about trying to protect them. I mean, I’ve heard of small town blindness, but this is ridiculous.”
“Okay, let’s think about this for a minute. Are we sure these kids are being abused?”
“Well, we know Xander was. If we hadn’t been there…” Jack quickly shuts that train of thought down, definitely not wanting to think about what might have happened.
“Is there anything else that could explain their injuries?” Daniel asks.
“Carter thinks it could be gang related.”
“They’re in a gang? I don’t know, Jack. They seem too…sweet to be in a gang. I mean can you seriously imagine Buffy, Cordelia or Willow being in a gang. If you don’t do what they say, they talk you to death…about shopping or school, in Willow’s case,” Daniel says with a grin.
“I know. They don’t exactly fit the profile. But there is something about them.” Jack pauses, considering his words. “Daniel, they kind of remind me of the Nox.”
“They remind you of the Nox?!”
“Kind of.” Seeing Daniel’s look, he hurries on, “No, seriously. Hear me out. You know, they seem all defenseless and weak, but really they have this great power they’re keeping hidden. Except I don’t think they’d just passively stand there if they were being threatened. These kids, and Giles, radiate a subtle menace. Or maybe it’s just me being paranoid,” Jack concedes.
“Well, we have seen the seemingly innocuous turn dangerously lethal,” Daniel allows. “So, a gang?” Daniel says trying to reconcile what he’s seen of the teens with the typical image of a street gang.
“Or something. I’d love to know what Buffy and Faith reacted to last night and why the others are so determined that we not know. I’m surprised Willow didn’t going to pass out from lack of oxygen, she was talking so fast.” Jack runs through his memories of the past few days, trying to find anything that will help make everything fall into place. “Forces of darkness.”
“What?” asks Daniel.
“Xander said he was fighting the forces of darkness. Maybe they’re not so much a gang as a vigilante group.” Excitedly, Jack informed Daniel, “When Carter realized the records were emitting a rather rank odor, she dug deeper. This town is crawling with unexplained deaths and disappearances and no one is saying a word about it.”
“So, if no one’s doing anything about it, maybe the kids decided to do something about it themselves.” Disturbed, Daniel asks “So what do we do about it? We obviously can’t let them continue, but if the local authorities aren’t willing to help-”
“Then we go beyond the local authorities. We bring in the feds. We shine a light so bright on this town, that someone, somewhere has to do something about it. We put this town under the biggest microscope we can and let the entire world know what’s been going on.”
Now that they’d solved the puzzle, the two men quickly began to formulate their plan of attack. Before long everyone was going to know about Sunnydale, California.