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Predators and Prey

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Summary: Buffy has been hunting for years. Now something is hunting her.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralAesopFR13111,343021,32014 Jul 0614 Jul 06Yes
PREDATORS AND PREY

 

AUTHOR:  Aesop  

DISCLAIMER:  All of the standard disclaimers apply.  I'm just borrowing the characters from Joss Whedon and I don't gain anything by writing this.  This is just for fun.

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: What might have happened had the series continued?  Its unlikely Sunnydale would have been destroyed.   So what would we have to look forward to?

 

 

She moved through the darkened park as silent as a shadow, avoiding the few patches of moonlight and artificial light that found their way into the wooded area.  Her prey was close; she could feel it.  Within the deepest pools of shadow the one she sought waited, like a spider in its web.  She hated having to play this part in the game.  Her quarry knew she was in the park, if not precisely where.  It should have been she who waited in ambush, not the other way around.  This one demonstrated animal cunning but otherwise didn't seem too bright.  She should be able to outthink the quarry.  She chided herself for her over confidence.  Again and again she had been told that overconfidence led to mistakes, sometimes, fatal mistakes, she knew this by now, having seen it first hand.

 

She sensed rather than heard the attack coming and dove to the side of the path.  The vamp landed where she had been only a second before and was after her so fast it seemed to have springs for legs.  It made not a single sound as they struggled, which did more to spook her than any amount of snarling and growling it could have done.  It didn't even make a sound when she drove a knee into its crotch, catapulting it over her head.  She was up in under a second and moving to intercept the creature. 

 

It was gone.  She quickly turned a full 360 degrees looking for any sign of it.  The blow was swift and vicious, but she managed to roll with it.  The wind had been knocked out of her though.  She came to her feet ready to fight before noticing she had lost her stake.  A moment later it appeared, slightly tenting her blouse from the inside.

 

"Looking for this?" purred the vampire.  Curiously, she felt no pain as she sank to her knees, impaled on her own stake.  She only felt anger at being so sloppy.  "Thank you," the vampire said cordially, "for a most enjoyable hunt."  His taunting words seemed to chase Colleen, down into the darkness. 

 

***

 

Her stake found its mark even as the vampire rose to rush her again.  It didn't make a sound as it crumbled to dust before her. 

 

"Creepsville," Buffy muttered as she dusted her hands and put up her stake. 

 

"Creepsville?" her Watcher asked from the tree he was standing behind.  "There was something unusual in this?"  Giles was paying one of his, these days rare, visits to Sunnydale.  Since starting the Academy with Wesley and what few surviving Watchers he could find, Giles had been extremely busy, first with establishing the school and then with finding the new Slayers and bringing them to the Hellmouth in Cleveland. 

 

They had promised each other though, that they would try.  Getting back to what they had been though, regaining that relationship, was proving difficult.  They remained awkward with each other, and all of the time apart didn’t help.  So she relished the time they could spend together, even when that time was spent sorting out the latest evil to hit town.

 

"Not really, but I think I'm seeing a pattern in these last three attacks."  Buffy thought hard for a moment, but shook her head.  "Something odd here, but I can't put my finger on it.  Each attack is a little different, but they feel the same somehow…" Again, she shook her head.  "My spider sense is tingling."

 

Giles sighed.  After so many years of working together he should be used to the pop culture references she seemed so fond of.  He had made a point of looking into the ‘spider sense’ reference shortly after they started working together, and knew that she was referring to her instincts but why couldn't she just say so?  He smiled fondly.  It was Buffy, and it was ‘of the norm’ as she would say.

 

"Yes, well you may be right, but there is little we can do without more solid information.  I suggest that we return home for tonight and get some rest.  I'll see what I can turn up.  Maybe something in the Watcher diaries will pop out at me."  Buffy nodded in silent agreement and they turned and exited the park.

 

Neither noticed the silent figure watching them from a tree almost a dozen yards away.  He had to strain, but he could make out their words.  The slayer was suspicious, or at least was becoming so.  He wasn't ready to confront her yet.  There was still much to learn.

 

He trailed her for a time, making note of the route she used to get home and the address.  This slayer, he decided, was a creature of habit.  That would make it easier to kill her.  Pity.

 

***

 

Sam Burgess had been a beat cop in Sunnydale for ten years.  In spite of the town's troubles over the years he loved Sunnydale and wouldn't leave it.  It was here that he had met his wife and where their children had been born.  It was, he thought, a good place to live despite the often bizarre problems that plagued the town.  It had gotten better over the past few years as the number of murders dropped, and Sam had bright hopes for the future.  In spite of everything life threw at him, Sam always had bright hopes and a cheery outlook.  Walking a beat was one of the most important things in his life.  He loved mixing with people and working with the community directly, so much so that he turned down a promotion that would have tied him to a desk. 

 

At age 43 he was one of the best known cops on the force.  His size and obvious strength made most perps think twice before resisting arrest, and his carefully cultivated reputation on the streets reinforced the image.  Sam was someone you didn't want angry with you.  His friends and family knew better, but the last thing a cop needed was a reputation as a nice guy.  Some of his colleagues had even joked about his "split personality".  Sam took it all in stride.  At the moment, however, he was rather regretting his image. 

 

"Come out where I can see you," the voice taunted.  "You hardly seem the type to run and hide.  Don't disappoint me."  There was a curious quality to the voice that Sam couldn't quite place.  It sounded as if his pursuer were more suited to animalistic growls and snarls than to human speech.  The voice also had a peculiar echoing quality that made it almost impossible to tell where it was coming from.  He looked about frantically for some way out or for some weapon to use.  He wasn’t sure where his revolver had gotten to, but he suspected the man stalking him had it.

 

Almost as if in answer to his unspoken wish, there was a solid thud as something hit the ground by the tree.  Sam looked down at the weapon, barely believing in its existence.  Who was this guy?  Why was he playing games like this? 

 

Sam was strongly tempted to dive for the weapon and come up shooting, but he resisted.  Resistance became easier when he realized that the gun was a trap.  The man must have a gun of his own, Sam realized.  He had no desire to step into this maniac's sights.  Instead, he went the other way, as quietly as he could.  He rustled the bushes with his passage a few yards away and started to circle back toward his gun as quietly as he could.  It worked.  The man followed him, tracking him with an almost preternatural skill.

 

Listening closely he was able to hear the occasional sound.  A bush would move, or a stone would shift.  Some small noise would give away his enemy's position.  The man trailed him at a discreet distance.  Sam finally reached his gun and there was no sign of the other.  He moved deeper into the shadows and waited.  It wasn't a long wait. 

 

A twig snapped behind him.

 

In one smooth motion Sam pivoted, raised his gun, and fired.  Even as he pulled the trigger he noticed, for the first time, the condition of the gun.  There was no time for conscious thought, just a purely emotional stab of disbelief at the sight of the pinched barrel of the weapon. 

 

Sam screamed as the shrapnel from the exploding weapon tore through his hands.  He barely noticed when he was lifted off his feet and slammed against a tree.  The shock allowed him to focus past the pain for a moment as the face of his enemy became visible for the first time.  He almost forgot his pain at the sight of the twisted, ugly, demonic face that moved in swiftly and sank its fangs into his throat. 

 

***

 

Xander Harris leaned down and stared at the headline on the article.  "Well, it looks like things are back to abnormal."  Willow gave him a sympathetic look.  “Who woulda believed it?  After the entire population was driven out of town by the hellmouth, everyone has just come back and picked up where they left off.”  Buffy nodded from her place by the stove where she was busily flipping pancakes for their breakfast.

 

"This is becoming a running gag.  Its like a TV show; the new season has started and everyone is back to square one.  Nothing really changes."  Xander frowned at Buffy and sighed.  Whatever response he had planned was interrupted by the arrival of Buffy's rather flustered Watcher carrying, to no one's great surprise, a stack of books. 

 

"G-man what's up?"  Xander latched on the first opportunity to change the subject. 

 

"Um, we have a rather serious problem I'm afraid.  Did any of you see the paper this morning?"

 

"Just getting to it,” Xander said, holding up the periodical, “why?"

 

"It would seem there was a rather vicious murder last night.  It has me worried."

 

Buffy perked up.  "New vamp in town?  Just what I need to take my mind off of the Bringers and ubervamps we haven’t accounted for."  She looked abashed at the stern look her Watcher threw her.

 

"This is hardly something you should be cheerful about Buffy.  The victim was a well respected police officer with a wife and two children."  Buffy looked down at the table feeling like a heel.

 

"Sorry.  What can you tell me about him?  The vamp I mean."

 

"Not much as yet," Giles said, relenting.  "The indications are though that he likes to ah… play with his victims first.  The fact that the victim was an armed police officer is especially worrisome to me."  He set the books down on the table and began to clean his glasses, a sure sign that he was upset.  "It all seems familiar somehow.  I was hoping that you could help me review the Watcher diaries in an attempt to find a precedent, try to identify this new arrival."

 

"Sure Giles," Willow enthusiastically reached for a volume.  This was like old times, she reflected.  Slayer, Watcher, and Scoobies all pitching in.  Dawn was off to school already and Kennedy was the only one of the Slayers still in the house.  Willow knew her girl friend would be happy to pitch in when she awoke.  Kennedy had taken the late patrol the night before and had dragged herself in shortly after sunrise.  "Any idea where to start?"

 

"W-within the last two centuries I think.  I hope something will pop out at me as I read.  It would also help if you could access the police computer and find anything not released to the press.  A-any details that might jog my memory."  Willow nodded and moved to the computer. 

 

Xander picked up the book she had left behind and started thumbing through it.  Buffy selected another and began looking.

 

***

 

The taxi dropped him off at the local precinct and he walked into the building heading for the office of the chief of police.  He found it without much difficulty. 

 

"Excuse me, Chief Sanderson?" the rather harried looking man in his early forties looked up from a pile of paperwork that was threatening to overwhelm him. 

 

"Yes?"

 

"George Burgess, FBI."

 

"FBI?"  What were they doing here?  Then the name registered.  "Ah.  You must be Sam's big brother.   He talked about you all the time."  He gestured for his guest to sit.  "I'm sorry about your brother.  It was a blow to all of us.  Sam was well liked."  Burgess nodded, acknowledging the sympathy.



"Has any progress been made toward finding his killer?"  Sanderson shook his head.

 

"We're doing what we can, but there isn't much to go on."

 

"Well perhaps I can-"  Sanderson raised a hand to forestall what he knew was coming.

 

"Now wait a minute.  I wouldn't mind a little help from Washington, for a change," he added under his breath.  "But Sam was your brother.  I hope I don't have to tell you about family members and investigations."

 

"I understand your position, but this is not personal.  Well," he amended, "not entirely personal.  From what I've seen of the crime scene reports this killing is a perfect match for several similar killings in other cities and states.  That brings this into federal jurisdiction.  Now don't get all official on me."  Sanderson had started to look indignant.  "I don't want to take the investigation out of your hands.  I want to lend my expertise and my knowledge of this killer to your department.  I have resources you don't.  I'm willing to put it all at your disposal."

 

Chief Sanderson considered this for a moment.  "What do your superiors say about this?"

 

"They don't know I'm here actually.  I'm on vacation."  Sanderson frowned at this.  It was against several rules he could think of off the top of his head, and probably several more besides, but…

 

"And you'll take your lead from us?  I don't need any family vendetta muddying the waters here, especially given your unofficial involvement."

 

"You have my word."

 

Sanderson considered carefully for a moment.  "Alright then.  Thank you for the offer.  I'll arrange to have all the evidence we've gathered so far shown to you."  His look softened after a moment.  "Have you been to see Sue and the boys yet?"  Burgess shook his head.  "I'll get one of my men to drive you over.  I know they'll want to see you."  They both rose and left the office. 

 

***

 

It had been a busy three days for Buffy.  She had killed two vampires and tangled with another who got away.  The fourth night after the murder of Sam Burgess she was still no closer to finding the killer, and there had been another similar murder.  A weight lifter and professional bodyguard for one of the town's wealthier and more paranoid inhabitants had been stalked and killed just as Burgess had been.  As she moved through the park near midnight, she had the distinct feeling she was being watched, but no attack was forth coming.  She was about to call it a night when she heard a disturbance off to her right. 

 

She moved toward the sounds of the struggle.  A vampire was attacking a jogger, and the jogger was putting up a good fight.  Buffy launched herself at the vamp and knocked him away.  The vamp staggered and looked at her, its eyes widening in recognition.  It bolted, and Buffy took off after it.  She paid no attention to the jogger who stared after them a moment before pulling out a walkie-talkie. 

 

The vampire chose a secluded clearing to turn and fight.  They traded blows for a moment before the vampire broke and ran again.  Buffy pursued, not noticing the men who entered the clearing a few seconds after she left.

 

As fast as the vampire was, Buffy caught up to it quickly and tackled it to the ground.  After only a moment's struggle she managed to drive her stake through its heart.  She began to rise, breathing heavily.  It was then that she heard the others rapidly approaching and surrounding her.  She jumped up ready to fight.

 

"FREEZE! Police!"  Uh-oh.

 

They moved in rapidly, five of them, all pointing guns at her.  She dropped her stake and raised her hands, not seeing any way out.  She was forced to the ground and her hands were cuffed behind her as a man in a dark suit read her her rights. 

 

"What am I being arrested for?"

 

"How about murder?" the man in the suit asked.  Then he stopped and looked around.

 

"Sir?" one of the uniforms said, also looking around, "There's no body." 

 

George Burgess stooped to examine the place where he had seen the girl and her victim go down.  There was nothing there but a pile of ashes.  "Where is he?" he wondered aloud.

 

"Where is who? The girl asked.

 

"Don't give me that.  Where is the man you were chasing?" 

 

"I wasn't-"

 

"You were.  The jogger attacked on the path back there was an undercover cop.  He saw you attack the man and take off after him.  I saw you chase him into this clearing and tackle him.  Where is he?"  The girl only shrugged and looked sullen.  "Take her back to the precinct and book her."

 

"On what charge sir?"

 

"I'll think of something.  Just go."  They bustled her into a squad car just outside the park.

 

***

 

Rupert Giles had decided on an early evening in.  Willow and Kennedy had gone out dancing and Dawn was making good use of the quiet to pursue her studies.  They had eaten a quiet meal earlier and she had asked about some of the more obscure passages of an old demonology text.  Now Dawn was in her room doing homework of a more conventional variety, and he was enjoying a quiet evening of contemplation.

 

He had been pleased when she asked about training as a Watcher, but wondered if she would stick with it.  Dawn would make a fine watcher, he was certain.  She already knew more of demons and magic than he had at age 17.  There were some things, of course, that he hoped she would never learn, or ever want to learn. 

 

Talented though she was, Giles forced himself to recall, she was barely 17.  He certainly hadn’t known what he wanted to do with his life at that age.  Then again, he hadn’t led the life that she had led.  There was hope for her, and talented Watchers would certainly be needed.  He had already considered how to discuss her life after graduation with Buffy. 

 

If Dawn still wished to pursue a career as a Watcher when she was done with high school then the best place for her would be the Academy they had established in Cleveland.  He wasn’t sure how Buffy might react to that, given how attached she was to her little sister.  It would be wonderful, he thought, if Buffy came along.  Then they might-.

 

The insistent ringing of the telephone brought him out of his mental wanderings.  With bleary eyes he tried to focus on the source of the annoying sound.  He blinked rapidly a few times, not certain when he had fallen asleep, before finding it and lifting the receiver.  "Hello?  Summers residence."

 

"Giles?  I've got a small problem."

 

"Buffy?"  He straightened in his chair, fully alert now.  "What's wrong?  Are you alright?"

 

"I'm in jail.  I um, kinda got myself arrested."  All lingering traces of sleep vanished from his mind.

 

"What happened?  What were you arrested for?"

 

"The guy who brought me in says assault, possibly murder, but they seem to lack a body."

 

"Oh good lord!  Buffy you don't mean this officer saw you-"

 

"Not all of it, and he wouldn't believe it if he had seen it."

 

"W-w-well, um, ah, I'll be right down there.  I'm on my way.  Although, I admit I'm at something of a loss as to what to do.  I-I'm on my way."  He hung up the phone and called up to Dawn.

 

***

 

"Mr. Giles."  A man in a dark suit met him at the entrance to the holding cell where Buffy was being kept. 

 

"I'm special agent Burgess, FBI.  I have some questions for Miss Summers, are you her attorney?  Be-."

 

"And I'm sure," Giles interrupted, "your superiors will have some questions for you.  Is it true you've arrested her on a murder charge with no evidence?"  Giles’ tone was incredulous and outraged at the same time.  Dawn, who had insisted on coming along, settled for glaring at the agent.

 

"Ah.  We believe," he started carefully, "that she can answer questions for us regarding a number of recent violent crimes.  At this point we're only holding her for questioning.  She hasn't been formally charged with anything yet."

 

"Who jumped down your throat?"  Buffy asked, trying to hide a smirk and not succeeding.  Burgess glared at her.

 

"Come with us please."  He opened the door and led them out of the cell, down a hall, and into an interrogation room.  There were several people already there including Chief Sanderson, wearing an expression like an oncoming storm. 

 

I should have realized something like this might happen, he fumed silently.  There was no way of really warning Burgess about Sunnydale’s more unusual residents or why they were largely ignored and left to the young woman sitting across the table from them.

 

When he had assumed his current role, shortly after Mayor Wilkins’ death, he had sworn that things would be different, but had quickly learned how little authority he actually had.  First it had been the military playing war games in his town, and then a string of disasters culminating in the evacuation of the entire population a few months ago.  His efforts to keep the peace and protect the population, he had learned, were best served by allowing Buffy Summers a latitude which would have shocked most men in his position.  No.  This wasn’t a good situation for anyone.

 

"Now, agent Burgess."  Giles glared at the man as they sat down at the table.  "I trust you have an explanation for this evening's idiocy."  His voice was dangerously quiet.  Chief Sanderson glanced at him.  He was none too pleased himself, but he didn't like the man's tone.

 

"Mr. Giles?  What are you doing here?"  Sanderson cocked an eyebrow curiously at the man.

 

"Um, I called him."  Buffy said.  Sanderson looked back and forth between the two, confused.

 

"He's a friend."  This was the only explanation she could offer, inadequate as it sounded.  "I had to call someone after all, and he knows a few things about the law," she finished lamely as she tried to improvise.

 

"Do you now?"  The chief looked at Giles with an unreadable expression.

 

"I know enough to recognize a false arrest when I see one.  I've been given to understand that she was arrested without a specific charge being filed.  Noises were made about assault or even murder, but there seems to be something lacking, like a victim." 

 

Agent Burgess was not fazed, either by Giles or by the glare the chief shot him.  "I'm going to get some answers tonight one way or another."  He put down an intimidatingly thick file folder on the table.  It had Buffy's name on it.  The girl swallowed audibly.  Giles just stared.

 

"What is this?"

 

"This is a file full of incidents in which Miss Summers has been involved.  Mostly she is listed as a witness, someone to question later.  I've checked.  She's rarely been questioned.  A few times she is listed as the victim of some violent crime, assault, attempted murder, etc.  Only twice is she listed as a suspect.  Most of these cases are unrelated, but they all have one thing in common."  He looked straight at Buffy.  "You were involved."

 

Giles snorted.  "You are evidently new to town.  There is a violent incident here at least twice a week.  You could fill this room with incident reports.  If you are approaching a point, make it.  Right now it seems you have no facts.  You have no reason to detain her and less to arrest her on any grounds."

 

"Might I suggest," chief Sanderson put in acidly, "that you confine yourself to what happened tonight?"  He really didn’t want Burgess digging into Sunnydale’s history.  I should have sent him packing the moment he arrived, he fumed.  What was I thinking?

 

"Alright.  We will come back to this."  His tone made it clear that he wasn't going to let it drop.  Sanderson sighed.  This, he thought, is going to get complicated.  "Let's start with officer Liddell."  Burgess turned to the uniform standing near the door.  "What did you see?"

 

Liddell cleared his throat a bit nervously.  "I was on decoy duty in the park, trying to lure the killer out of hiding.  It seemed to work.  Unfortunately, I had gotten a bit ahead of my back up.  They had to move carefully and I didn't realize how far ahead I was.  An unidentified white male jumped me from behind.  We struggled, but he was much stronger than me.  He would have overpowered me in a few more seconds."  He glanced at Buffy and smiled.  "She probably saved my life.  I didn't hear her coming.  She just was there. "  He paused self-consciously and then proceeded in more formal tone.  "Miss Summers attacked the suspect.  I saw her hit him twice, hard.  The suspect staggered back and turned towards her."  He paused.  "The next part is a bit strange, and um, somewhat subjective sir."

 

"Continue, please."  The chief nodded.

 

"Well when he saw her he seemed to recognize her, and, strange as it sounds, he looked scared… scratch that, he looked terrified.  The suspect bolted and Miss Summers gave chase.  That was the last I saw of them until Miss Summers was brought back in handcuffs.  They said there was no sign of the suspect who had attacked me."

 

"What happened to the man you were chasing?"  Burgess looked at Buffy.

 

"I lost him.  He was too fast."

 

"So fast he got past five officers between him and the nearest road without anyone seeing or hearing him?"

 

"How should I know?  I lost him.  Not my fault if you didn't catch him."

 

Burgess leaned forward eyeing her intently.  "I saw you catch him.  I saw you tackle him.  You both went down and when we entered the clearing a moment later, you were the only one there."

 

"So I guess I must have eaten him all up before you got there?"  Buffy spread her hands.  "What do you want me to say?" she grimaced, trying to look embarrassed.  "I tripped, I was clumsy, he ran off."

 

Before Burgess could respond, Giles interrupted.  "That's enough.  I don't know what you're accusing her of, and its clear you don't know either.  Charge her with something or we're leaving."  Burgess ignored him.

 

"Tell me Miss Summers were you also out late four nights ago?  In the park perhaps?"  Chief Sanderson's jaw dropped.

 

"That's enough."  He stood and looked at the FBI agent.

 

"Were you out as you were tonight, as you were the night before?  Were you hunting that night?"

 

"Hunting?"  Giles looked confused and a bit worried. 

 

"Mr. Giles can you account for her whereabouts the night of the third at 11:00 p.m.?"

 

"No,” he said reluctantly

 

"So she could have been in the park?"

 

Chief Sanderson pounded his fist on the table.  "Enough Burgess!  This girl did not kill your brother, and asking her these questions without a lawyer present is completely against procedure.  If this is the way you conduct investigations, then clearly I've made a mistake in allowing you to be any part of it."

 

Buffy looked at the man sympathetically for the first time since they'd met.  "Your brother?  The cop who was killed a few nights ago?  Is that what this is about?"

 

"The killer fancies himself a hunter.  He kills people who are strong or armed or both.  When I first spotted you out hunting, and don't bother to deny that's what you were doing.  I began to suspect a link between you.  Now you attack a man almost twice your size.  He runs away, frightened of you and then disappears.  I want an explanation."

 

"Want all you like."  Giles rose to his feet.  "She can't answer your questions.  Come on Buffy, its time to go.  What ever it is that's going on here it is none of our concern."

 

"Oh but it is."  Sanderson started to object, but Burgess cut him off.  "Last I heard, vigilante behavior was frowned on by the most law enforcement agencies."  He glared at the chief.  "You wouldn't have this file if you didn't know or at least suspect what was going on."

 

Buffy sighed dramatically.  "First I'm a killer who can make her victims disappear in the blink of an eye.  Now I'm a vigilante.  Make up your mind."

 

"Do let us know when you decide.  In the mean time this fishing expedition is over."  Giles rose to leave and motioned Buffy to do the same.  Burgess continued to look at the chief for answers.  Finally the chief looked at Buffy and sighed, seeming to come to a very difficult decision.

 

"Despite his lapse in judgment, he's a very well regarded agent.  He could make things very difficult for all of us.  It might be simpler," he moved his gaze back and forth between Buffy and Giles, "to tell him the truth of it."

 

"What truth?"  Giles demanded.  Buffy looked suddenly worried.  She glanced at Giles for help, but he was as surprised as she.  Sanderson turned back to the agent who was now watching him suspiciously. 

 

"Sunnydale isn't like most towns.  A certain, flexibility is called for.  Especially in the case of people like Miss Summers."  He looked at her directly.  "I don't particularly want him to know about you and your nocturnal activities.  And I really didn't want you to know that I was aware of you."

 

"What are you talking about?"  Buffy was becoming very worried now.  Burgess was giving the chief his full attention.  Sanderson sighed at the girl's stubbornness.

 

"Tell me something Miss Summers.  On a scale of one to ten, how stupid do you think we are?"  Buffy only blinked.  "You aren't the first Slayer to settle in this town and you probably won't be the last.  I try to give you people a certain latitude, but I'll only go so far to accommodate the… unconventional methods you use."  The reactions to the chief's announcement were mixed.  Buffy and Giles sat down, stunned.  Burgess looked around from one person to another, hoping that someone would start making sense.

 

"What is this business about a slayer?  Is she the town's official vigilante or something?"

 

"In a way.  If you'll bother to check that file closely you'll find other documents in there.  You'll see that the murder rate has gone down since she came to town.  I don't like vigilantes anymore than you do."  He turned to Burgess angrily.  "But we're not equipped to deal with the ones doing the killing.  She is. Miss Summers has saved this town several times in the seven years she’s lived here, and quite apart from the almost routine apocalypse, she's done an excellent job of reducing the vampire population in Sunnydale."

 

Until the V word came out Buffy had maintained some hope that this could all be explained away. Agent Burgess stared open mouthed at the chief.  "Vampires."  He said unbelievingly.  "What the hell are you talking about?"

 

"Read your brother's autopsy report.  For that matter read any randomly selected file at the coroner's office.  Death by exsanguination is so common in Sunnydale that odds are you'll find an autopsy listing that as cause of death on your first try."  Everyone was staring at him now.  Gradually, eyes began to move to Buffy. 

 

"Miss Summers?" Agent Burgess looked at her for an explanation.  "Is any or all of this…" he hunted for a word but finally, gave up.  "Is it true?" Buffy looked at Giles who was completely at a loss for words.  She nodded mutely. 

 

"Its true.  I kill vampires.  It's kind of my job as the Slayer."  Any attempt to make light of the situation was stillborn.  "I didn't ask for it, and I don't really want it, but I also don't have a choice.  If I don't do my job, people die.  I'm one of the few people who can do it."  She saw no point in going into detail about the activation of all of the new Slayers.  As it was, Burgess was staring in disbelief.

 

"How many people know?" he asked.  "About you being a Slayer?"   Buffy shook her head.

 

"Not many, and I'd like to keep it that way." Buffy decided it was time to get some answers of her own.  "It's a long story," she said.  "Right now," she looked coolly at the chief, "I want to know how you know about Slayers."

 

Sanderson looked back and forth between Buffy and her Watcher.  "Does the name Colleen Pruett ring a bell for either of you?"

 

"Yes actually.  She was a Slayer who was killed in 85."  He looked at the chief closely.  "You knew her?"

 

"We were engaged."

 

"Oh.  I'm dreadfully sorry.  I assume she told you about her calling."  Sanderson nodded.  "And how dangerous it was."  Again, Sanderson nodded.

 

"It didn't make it any easier losing her."

 

"Why her?"  Burgess made an effort to suspend disbelief for a moment.  "Can't someone else do this job?"  He wasn’t sure how much of this to believe, but he saw no harm in playing along for a time, until he could get some real answers.

 

"I'm afraid not."  Giles said.  "A Slayer has certain advantages in dealing with vampires.  It is not a decision one makes.  It is a duty that one must carry out."

 

"I can't just quit.  I've tried, and it doesn't work that way.  It's not a job.  It's what I am," she shrugged and looked down.

           

Liddell had been silent throughout this.  "It doesn't have to be that way."  They looked at him.  "Well, I mean it isn't fair that she should be working alone and it doesn't seem natural for us, the police, I mean, to be just running around cleaning up after her."  He looked apologetically at her.  "Sorry, but it comes to that sometimes."  He continued, addressing the chief.  "Why can't the police take a more active role in dealing with the vampires?  With the proper weapons…"

 

"What proper weapons?"  Burgess scoffed.  "Stakes and crosses?  You sound as if you're taking this nonsense seriously."  He looked at the chief incredulously.  "Vampires?  What kind of garbage are you pedaling?  Buffy the vampire Slayer.  What's next Sid the demon hunter?"  Buffy winced at this.

 

"Actually, we lost Sid a few years ago."  Everyone stared at her.  "Never mind," she said meekly.

 

"Do you have Scooby-doo on retainer as a consultant?"

 

"I resent that."  Buffy felt a flash of annoyance at being mocked with that particular reference.  Burgess glanced at her.  "This is serious business."  She took a moment to marshal her defenses.  "Look.  I know this is hard to believe.  When I was first called, I didn't believe it either."  She stopped, shuddering at the memory, before she could continue.  "People died because I stuck my head in the sand and told myself it wasn't happening.  It took the death of… of my first Watcher, the man who found me, before I got my act together."  She had to stop a moment, the memory of Merrick and how she had failed him was still a painful one.  Giles was by her side in a second.

 

"Buffy, Merrick's death was a tragedy, but not your fault.  You weren't ready, weren't fully trained when Lothos attacked.  There was nothing you could have done."

 

"I let him down.  I-"

 

"No.  No should-haves or could-haves.  I will not have you indulging in self-pity.  It is a useless and destructive emotion."

 

"He's right."  Sanderson put in.  "Concentrate on what you can do now."

 

"Alright," Buffy nodded shoving the memory away.  The power of it, even after all this time and all she’d seen, surprised her.  She looked at Burgess.  "You want proof and you want revenge for your brother.  I can get you both."  Giles looked uncertain.  "If you have a better idea, speak up."  Her Watcher shook his head.  "Alright then, maybe what's needed is a ride along."

 

"Ride along?"  Sanderson looked skeptical.  "What do you mean?"

 

"Simple, Burgess can come with me while I try to track down this Hunter vampire."  Giles stiffened.  Buffy, highly attuned to her mentor's moods after years of working together, noticed immediately.  "What's up Giles?"

 

"Hunter vampire?"  He mused for a moment.  "Oh dear.  I-I um have to consult my books.  That's it.  I-I wasn't even thinking a-about it, and there it is."

 

"Giles, what are you talking about?"

 

"The vampire that killed officer Burgess.  I know who it is.  He isn't mentioned in my usual references."

 

"You keep tabs on vampire activity?"  Burgess asked incredulously.

 

"Of course."  Sanderson nodded.  "As her Watcher it would be part of his job."

 

"Watcher?"  Burgess looked questioningly at the Englishman.

 

Giles considered the question.  "Each Slayer is assigned a Watcher.  I trained Buffy, and I do my best to keep her out of trouble, as much as possible given her calling." He threw Buffy a look that was one part exasperation and two parts affection.  "It isn't easy."  Burgess silently digested this.

 

"One thing I don't understand.  Well, one out of many, why someone so young?  Why not someone older, better able to cope?  Is there another Slayer that could do this job?"

 

"Um," Buffy looked down. 

 

"There's only one at a time,” Sanderson answered.  “A new Slayer is only activated when the old one dies.  Not quite sure how that works."  Buffy saw no reason to mention the spell Willow had cast.  The situation was confusing enough.  "There is no one else with her abilities at the moment.”

 

Buffy and Giles shared a look and silently agreed.  “How do you know so much about Slayers?”  Giles asked to cover their silent communication.

 

"That's what Colleen's Watcher told me when I asked the same question."  He took a breath and focused on Buffy and Giles again.  "Consult whatever books you need to and meet us here tomorrow at noon.  Agent Burgess," he turned to the man next to him, "will review the profile of the serial killer he's looking for and we'll confirm that we have a match.  At that point we'll discuss what to do about it."  He silenced the multiple objections he saw starting up around the table with a look.  "Summers, you are going to coordinate with us this time.  Burgess, you will have your evidence soon enough.  Mr. Giles, the secret is out, make the best of it."  When no one spoke up he nodded.  "Now, everyone get out."

 

 

NEXT DAY, SUNNYDALE POLICE DEPT., 12:00 A.M.

 

Sanderson looked at the odd gathering in the conference room they were using.  "What are they doing here?"  He nodded at Willow, Xander, and Kennedy. 

 

"They're my friends.  They help me in my work, research, moral support, that sort of thing."  Kennedy had objected to the deception at first, but had finally yielded when it was pointed out to her that it could cause problems if an FBI agent were to suddenly learn that a virtual army of superhumans had suddenly sprung into existence.

 

"Hacking into police files?"  Sanderson asked mildly.  None of them flinched not even Willow who, even a year before, would have blushed a bright red at being found out.  "Hm," Sanderson grunted, but decided not to pursue it, at least not now, Sanderson thought.  He turned to Giles.  "Well? What have you found?"

 

"His name was Gregory Montrose," said Giles slipping into full lecture mode.  "He was famous, in some circles, as a big game hunter.  He traveled all over the world, hunting anything capable of killing a man.  He was obsessed with pushing himself to the limit, challenging himself.  After a time, he became bored though.  It seems that not even hunting lions held his interest.  One day, or rather one night, he was attacked by a vampire.  He fought well, and killed it as soon as he realized what he was fighting.  Most people would have been grateful to survive such an encounter."  Giles frowned and paused a moment in thought.  "Montrose was excited.  He had discovered a new prey."

 

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Xander interrupted.  "Are you going to tell us that this guy started hunting vampires for sport?"  Giles nodded.

 

"That's exactly what he did.  I know it sounds bizarre.  A Slayer’s calling is one thing, but such a hobby would be considered…"

 

"B-b-b-b-b-b" Xander moved an index finger up and down across his lips.

 

"Yes Xander, well put."

 

"Can we continue please?"  Sanderson interrupted, irritated at the young man's interruption.

 

"Ah, well, he began to hunt vampires.  He did quite well too it seems.  So well, that he attracted the attention of the Master."  He saw the question coming.  "The Master was a vampire king of sorts, a very powerful demon.  He ordered that Montrose be captured and brought to him.  He personally brought Montrose across, made him a vampire.  It had been a long time, it seems, since a human had impressed the Master."

 

"So he's been at loose ends since Buffy killed the Master?"  Kennedy asked.

 

"Well, not exactly.  You see," he turned to Sanderson and Burgess, "it isn't exactly correct to say that a person becomes a vampire.  When a vampire kills a person that person is dead.  A demon inhabits the body and uses it.  It has all of the person's memories, but it is not the same person.  Nevertheless, the demon's behavior is affected, guided by the memories of the person whose body it inhabits.  It takes on certain aspects of the person's personality.  Montrose the vampire craved challenge every bit as much as the real Montrose.  He quickly discovered that hunting and killing humans was not a challenge.  So he returned to old habits."

 

"Old habits?" the chief asked.  Giles nodded.

 

"He began to hunt vampires again.  He killed some of the Master's strongest and most prized servants, as they were the most able fighters.  The Master found out and ordered his death, but Montrose escaped.  He has wandered ever since, seeking a worthy challenge.  I believe he came to Sunnydale to hunt Buffy." 

 

Buffy leaned back and let out a long breath.  "This is going to get ugly isn't it?"

 

"Yes, yes, I'm afraid it is.  Unfortunately, there isn't much beyond that.  Nothing about specific hunting patterns.  Very little about his movements.  It's possible that he doesn't always feed off his victims.  That's usually how vampire activity is spotted."  She looked at Burgess.  "You may actually have more information about him than we do on that score.  If he's been marked as a serial killer with a psychological profile…"

 

Burgess nodded.  "What you've said about his history makes sense.  The serial killer I've tracked across five states always attacks people that are either armed or dangerous in some other way.  There is evidence that he studies his prey for days or even weeks before he actually makes a move.  What's curious is that none of the other victims that we're sure are his were," he grimaced, "fed on."  He considered a moment.  "I can run a few checks and see if there were any deaths of that sort around the dates and places where they were killed."

 

Giles nodded; glad to see the FBI agent had gotten over his disbelief.  "That might be helpful, but bear in mind that that, by itself, doesn't point to the activities of a particular vampire."

 

"Background checks are all well and good," Xander put in, "but they have a tendency to turn to dust when they're killed.  I mean, when you get this guy your case is going to go 'poof', literally."

 

"Yeah," Willow agreed.  "Background checks are gonna be kinda mootsville.  Unless you think that it might be two different guys.  Y'know, one human psycho and a completely different vamp."  Giles shook his head.

 

"I am all but certain they are the same.  One of the few references to him states that he is difficult to track, because he does not always feed.  This serves to make him almost indistinguishable from a human ah, psycho."

 

"I have to agree," Burgess added, looking over the notes Giles had handed him.  “The pattern is a near perfect match.  The only question I have is why did he feed off of the two victims here that we know about?  It would only serve to advertise his presence." 

 

"Maybe that’s the point," Willow suggested.  "Maybe he wants us to know he's here.  You know, like he's, he's challenging Buffy."  She looked back and forth between Giles and Burgess.  "That would kind of fit his pattern."  Sanderson looked thoughtful and then nodded.

 

"Yes, it would.  There was evidence at both scenes that the victims knew they were being stalked.  It increases the risk to him.  That would appeal to him."

 

"So let us move on then.  Xander and Willow make a valid point.  You won't be able to bring him in for trial."  Burgess looked annoyed, but Giles silenced his objection.  "Think about what would happen if it became common knowledge that vampires are more than just stories.  Barring death they are, to the best of our knowledge, immortal.  That would be tempting to many people, and even being told that it wouldn't be them, just a demon walking around in their bodies wouldn't deter many.  Most simply wouldn’t believe it.  No.  This has to remain a closely guarded secret."   His eyes never left Burgess as he spoke.  He continued to stare until Burgess agreed.

 

"Alright.  I see your point."  He gritted his teeth for a moment in frustration.  Three years he had spent tracking this bastard and it was going to come to nothing, at least officially.  "How do we find him then?"  He looked around the table.  "You have more experience tracking vampires than I do."

 

"Well, in some respects we're not all that different."  Buffy leaned forward, speaking earnestly.  "The methods you used to track him here should help us find him.  So," she smiled.  "Let's get busy."

 

            THE NIGHT BEFORE, 11:24

 

Willie wiped the bar down as he watched his new customer nervously.  "Can I get you another?" he asked.

 

"Yes, please.  This is quite good."  Willie smiled his most ingratiating smile and poured another glass of blood for his customer.

 

"Only the best.  I keep experimenting, mixing different spices into it.  I found out a while back that blood and whisky make a pretty good mix.  Would you like-?"  The stranger shook his head and accepted another glass.  This one seemed friendly enough, Willie thought, but he scared Willie on a level that even Spike never had.  While vamps like Spike and Angelus had about them an air of casual violence both of them were predictable.  He knew how to handle them.  This guy was something different. 

 

The stranger had first come in two nights before.  There had been two other vamps in the bar at the time.  Normally two of his rowdier customers, they suddenly became subdued, as if they didn't want to be noticed.  The stranger didn't seem to do anything to warrant this caution, but Willie didn't particularly care.  At the time, he was just grateful that they had settled down.  The strangeness of their behavior didn't sink in until later.  The stranger hadn't threatened them or shown any interest in them.  What most disturbed Willie though, was the way in which the man carried himself.  His manner was casual, even friendly at times, but always there was an undercurrent, the sense that there was purpose behind everything he did.  No gesture or remark, no matter how it first appeared, was in anyway casual.  Then there was what had just happened.

 

THREE MINUTES EARLIER

 

Montrose eyed the concoction dubiously.  It appeared to be ordinary blood, but the proprietor, an odd little rodent of a human, had claimed that it was something special, his own mix.  Montrose doubted he meant that literally, but-, he took a sip.  There was a flavor present that he had not tasted in decades.  How?  He took another sip.

 

"I've been looking for you."  Montrose didn't even turn at the soft growl.  "You have a lot to answer for."  Montrose continued to ignore the angry vampire approaching him from the door.  He drained the glass and motioned for another.  The bartender didn't move, clearly terrified of whoever it was behind him.  Montrose sighed, with a somewhat put-upon air.  When the other vampire grabbed his shoulder Montrose seemed to barely move.  The only evidence that he had done anything more than signal for another drink was the cloud of dust that slowly settled to the floor behind him.

 

 

 

Willie watched the stranger carefully.  He wasn’t sure how he had killed the other vamp, but he was sure that he didn't want a personal demonstration.  The bar's few patrons carried on as if they hadn't seen anything.  It happened so fast, thought Willie, maybe they hadn't. 

 

"I'm curious," Montrose said in a conversational tone.  "Your position, while not unique, is still rare enough.  How did you come to run a bar for vampires?"

 

"Just lucky I guess.  I'm a people person.  Place I grew up you had to be a people person to get any business done.  You wouldn't think it to look at me, but I speak three human languages and four demonic ones.  I do business with people from all walks of life."  He shrugged.  "And, I never passed up the opportunity to do a favor for someone who might do me one later.  I make myself useful to the community and they leave me alone, and throw some business my way."  He grinned.  "You might say one thing kind of led to another, and" he gestured expansively.  The gesture was far grander than the surroundings warranted.  "Here I am."

 

"Ah, a remora.  I understand."  The word sounded vaguely familiar, and Willie was fairly certain it wasn't a compliment.  “Must be difficult at times.  You may benefit from the community's largess, but you also share some of its problems do you not?  The Slayer for instance."  It was a statement, not a question.

 

"Well, yeah, she gives me a hard time occasionally.  I make it a point not to be here when I see her coming."

 

"No doubt wise, for a variety of reasons."  Willie took the hint and nodded.

 

"She definitely does not go along with my live and let live philosophy.  That kind of hostility is bad for business, y'know?  So I don't have nothin' to do with her."  The stranger nodded and smiled.

 

***

 

"So where do we begin?"  Burgess cruised down the street about midway between the park and the place where the bodyguard had been killed.  Buffy had recognized the area on the map and had a good idea of where to start.  She looked up at the bright clear sky and sighed.  It was really too nice a Saturday to be thinking of killing anything, even vamps. 

 

"Turn right at the next corner and pull into the lot of the third building."  He did so.

 

"What a dive.  You frequent this place?"  Buffy shuddered at the thought.

 

"No.  I can't stand this place, but the owner, Willie, has worked for the vamps before.  He might know something about a new arrival in town."

 

Burgess raised an eyebrow at her.  "A snitch?"   She nodded.  "And he works for vampires?"  Again, she nodded.  "Takes all kinds I suppose." 

 

"Why don't you go in first?"  Buffy suggested.  "Give him the line about a serial killer, official investigation and such.  If he sees me, he might bolt."  Burgess looked at her oddly.

 

"Why?  Have you given him reason to be afraid of you?"  Buffy didn't look at him directly and didn't answer.  Burgess entered the bar.  It was empty at mid-day.        

 

"Excuse me.  Are you Willie?"  The small balding man looked up from the glasses he was washing.

 

"Depends on who wants to know.  Does he owe you money?"  Burgess scowled, and Willie smiled to let him know it was a joke.  Burgess flashed his FBI credentials.  "Oh.  What can I do for you?"

 

"I need some information on a man who may have been a customer here within the last week or two.  I would appreciate you looking at some sketches and telling me if you recognize any of them."  He took out a sheaf of sketches.  There was only a vague description of Montrose available, but the station sketch artist had done his best. 

 

"Well sure, always happy to cooperate with the police."  He looked over the sketches while Burgess watched his reaction closely.  The third picture stopped him dead for a moment.  It was Montrose.  So well done the vamp could have posed for it.  He moved on, looking at the other pictures.  Finally, he shook his head.  "Sorry, none of 'em look familiar."

 

"You seemed to recognize the third one."

 

"Oh," Willie flipped through the pictures.  "This guy?  Yeah, he kind of looks like a guy who was a contestant on Price is Right a week or so ago."  Willie shook his head.  "I never met him."

 

"Are you sure of that Willie?"  The sweet voice made Willie's skin crawl.  He turned to the door and then toward the back room with its entrance into the sewers.  She was standing so as to catch him no matter which way he bolted.  "Take another look Willie.  I know he's in town, think hard.  I'm sure we can shake something loose."  That, Willie thought frantically, is what I'm afraid of.  He tried to tough it out.

 

"Well, well what a pleasant surprise.  Where's your red-headed friend, the wicked witch of the west coast?"

 

"Out and about."  Buffy shrugged casually as she moved closer to the bar.  "I'll tell her you asked."

 

"Ah, look, I'm kind of busy right now…"

 

"I know.  We're after the same thing, though.  Why not save time and just tell us what you know?"  Willie looked to the agent for help.  He expected Burgess to tell her to get lost, but he was disappointed. 

 

"What do you know?"  Burgess asked.  "When was he in here?"

 

"He knows?"  Willie nodded towards the FBI agent.

 

"I know."  Burgess confirmed.  "Now tell me about this man."

 

"You're putting me in a difficult position here," Willie said, resignedly.  "Do you know what could happen to me if he even suspects I talked to you?  And don't bother threatening me," he added hastily.  "Whatever you might say, I know you won't kill me, but he wouldn't think twice about it."  Buffy scowled.  Willie might be slime, but he was right.  She wouldn't actually kill him, or even seriously hurt him.

 

"You don't have to worry about him.  The police can protect you."  Willie laughed, but there was no trace of humor in the sound.

 

"Did you tell him what he was getting into?" he asked the Slayer.  "He obviously doesn't have a clue."

 

"Tell me what you know.  Montrose won't bother you again.  That, I can promise."  Her tone left no doubt that she meant what she said.  Willie still hesitated.  "Come on Willie.  If you talk to me now, no one will be the wiser, and like I said, I'll take care of Montrose.  If you clam up though, word will get out about what good friends you and I are, that you tell me everything."  Willie blanched at the idea.

 

"B-but, I don't, I-I mean I… we…  You wouldn't.  They'd kill me."  The last came out in a terrified squeak."  Burgess maintained a professional air, but the girl's threat made him nervous.  She might not physically attack James in front of him, but he thought she just might carry out this threat.  Willie came to a decision.  "Alright, okay, I'll tell you."  He took a deep breath.  "He's been in here the last couple of nights.  He actually seemed like a fairly easygoing guy, y'know?  At first, anyway.  Then he kills another vamp, right in front of everyone, y'know?  He kills him for being annoying, like he's an inconvenience."

 

Buffy nodded.  "Go on."

 

"He asked about you, hinted about what would happen if I talked to you."  Willie's eyes narrowed.  "Actually that's kind of strange isn't it?  Like he brought you up and was casual about it and then…"

 

"He wanted you to talk to me," Buffy arrived at the answer that was just occurring to Willie.

 

"Yeah, I think he did."  A puzzled frown crossed his face.  "Why?"

 

"Never mind that.  What else did he say?"

 

"Nothing really.  He was being chatty, y'know?  Kinda strange for a vamp, but he didn't really say anything that would tell you what he had planned or anything.  He asked if you ever caused me trouble."  Buffy nodded.

 

"I see."  If she does, thought Willie, she's the only one.  "I don't suppose you know where we could find him?" she asked sweetly.  Willie shook his head.  "No, I suppose that would be too obvious."  She considered a moment.  "What have you heard about him from the others?"  When Willie hesitated Buffy coaxed.  "Come one Willie.  You knew when the Order of Taraka was called out to kill me.  You know a lot about what happens in the community.  The more I know, the less chance he'll be back to bother you."  Willie nodded.

 

"All I really know is that the regulars are scared of him."  He backed off a step when Buffy's face grew angry, but she nodded for him to continue.  "I-I heard some of them talking, y’know about things he’s done, seems he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to killing; demons, humans, doesn’t matter.  I could tell they were scared," he finished warily.  "After what I saw the other night I can see why." 

 

She smiled.  "Thanks Willie."  With that, Buffy and Burgess turned and left. 

 

"Okay, what did we learn about Montrose?"

 

"You're the FBI guy and the expert on serial killers; you tell me."  Burgess considered a moment.

 

"He wants you to know he's here.  He knows that a prey that knows it's being threatened is more dangerous.  Montrose' pattern clearly shows that he thrives on challenge.  He's trying to make this hunt his most difficult and dangerous yet."  He pursed his lips and thought hard for a moment.  "He'll force a confrontation at a time and place of his choosing.  It's liable to work too, unless we can figure out where he is and beard him in his den as it were."  Buffy nodded.

 

"Sounds reasonable.  How do we proceed?"

 

"Stake-out."  Buffy raised an eyebrow curiously.  "We know he's come here before.  He may again.  At this point he doesn't know you have help.  I can set people to watch for him coming and going.  We can follow him back to wherever he's hiding."  Buffy considered and then smiled.

 

"I like it.  Can you have everything you need ready by sunset?"  Burgess nodded. 

 

The next few hours were ones of frantic preparation.  Five plainclothes officers were set up at various points around the building.  They were told who to watch for, but nothing about the suspect beyond the fact that he was armed and extremely dangerous.  They were simply to watch and report if Montrose showed up.  While agent Burgess prepared for the stake-out, Buffy made preparations of her own.

 

Montrose made his appearance two hours after sunset, and only stayed at the bar a short time.  Less than half an hour after arriving, he left and walked down the street towards the park.  His manner was casual, and his demeanor untroubled.  Buffy watched closely from the delivery van parked down the street from the bar.  She frowned in concentration.  "Something's wrong."

 

"What do you mean?"  The uniform watching with her wasn't happy about having a young civilian in on the operation, but his superiors had assured him that she was necessary.  She watched Montrose closely as he moved along the road, making no effort to conceal himself or to reach his destination quickly.  Buffy frowned, not certain herself what had prompted the words.  Her instinct had never led her wrong though.

 

“It’s too easy,” the words came unexpectedly, but she knew they were true as soon as they had left her mouth.  “He knows we’re on to him.”

 

“Ridiculous,” the officer asserted.  “He doesn’t have a clue, following him will be easy.”

 

“That’s just the problem,” Buffy countered.  “He wants us to follow him, he’s picking the spot.”

 

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

“Not to you maybe, but you’re not nuts.”  They were going, for the benefit of the police, with the serial killer story.  She picked up the radio Burgess had left her.  “Burgess, you there?”

 

“Yes.  There a problem?”

 

“I think so.  He’s just left Willie’s Place and is headed north.  I’m pretty sure he knows he’s being watched.  It’s just way too easy.  If he’s trying to lead us to a spot he’s picked…”

 

“I get the idea.  Recommendation?”

 

“Hmm.”  Buffy didn’t like the idea of rushing things, they still knew so little about this vampire, but she liked even less the idea of walking into a trap.  “I think we should take him now.”

 

“That’s too risky” Burgess began.

 

“Riskier than following him into a trap?” she countered.

 

“Point taken.  My people are in position.”

 

“So are mine,” Buffy answered with a smile.

 

“Meaning?”  Burgess was instantly wary.  He knew that the Slayers friends had more experience with vampires than the local police, but he had serious reservations about involving ordinary people.  “I’d rather not put civilians at risk if we can avoid it.”

 

“They can take care of themselves.”  Better than you realize, she added silently.

 

At Burgess instructions the van drove up the street, passing Montrose and turning three blocks up.  At the end of the block Buffy got out and headed back up the street to wait for the vampire.  A word with the officers still watching him directly told her that he was still making his way down the street.  “He should reach your position in about a minute at his current pace.”

 

“Got it.”  She switched off and raised her eyes, apparently addressing the air.  “Is everyone in position?”

 

“We’re ready Buffy,” Willow’s disembodied voice replied, directly to her mind.  “I see him now.  He’ll be about ten feet form the corner in three, two, one…”

 

Buffy stepped around the corner and confronted the hunter.  She was surprised by how ordinary he looked.  Montrose had been a man of ordinary height and plain features.  He wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd, having neatly trimmed dark blonde hair, mud brown eyes, and a completely unsurprised look on his face.

 

“Hello Miss Summers.”

 

“Mr. Montrose,” she answered politely.  “You’ve been looking for me?”

 

“Actually, I’ve known exactly where to find you some time, but drawing you out was much more fun.”

 

“Fun’s over.”  She moved toward him purposefully.

 

“Oh no,” he disagreed.  “The fun is just starting.”  He met her attacks without hesitation, easily blocking each punch and kick casually.  The sirens interrupted their fight, drawing the attention of both combatants.

 

“I’m not a performer by nature,” he took a step back and made a high jump that would have made any Olympian jealous.  “Another time,” he called as two patrol cars and the sedan carrying Burgess arrived. 

 

“He’s getting away!” the FBI agent shouted, looking after the fleeing vampire.  Buffy didn’t look concerned.  “Aren’t you going to-”

 

She held up a hand, she seemed to be listening to something.  “Three, two, one,” there was a loud crash and Burgess turned to find Montrose rolling off the hood of one of the patrol cars.  “I told you agent Burgess, my people are in position too.”  She glanced up in time to see Rona drop to the sidewalk beside her.  She nodded to the other side of the street and Buffy glanced over in time to see Kennedy and Willow coming out of the shadows.

 

“Heard you might be needin’ a hand,” Rona grinned.

 

Montrose had made it to his feet.  He backhanded a uniformed officer who tried to arrest him.  The man hit the ground several feet away and didn’t get up.  Montrose ignored the bullets that struck him, barely flinching and turned his attention to the young women closing in on him.  “You came to hunt Slayers?”  Buffy asked sweetly as the gunfire tapered off and the officers backed away at Burgess direction.

 

 “Well, you got three right here,” Rona smirked. 

 

“Very convenient,” he agreed before knocking Rona into the two closest uniforms.  Buffy and Kennedy moved to engage while Willow checked on Rona.

 

Buffy and Kennedy worked well together, taking advantage of openings provided by the other flawlessly.  Drawing his attention in one direction, Buffy would pummel him relentlessly; keep him busy blocking while Kennedy struck from behind or the side.  At least, that’s how it should have worked.  Montrose was fast, easily slipping out from between them and absorbing two or three blows at most.  It was a standoff at best until Rona joined the fight again.  An attempt to slip out from between his two attackers and reposition himself was met with a right cross that cracked his jaw.  Three quick jabs staggered him, and he was seized by the other two, each one grabbing an arm and tugging, attempting to immobilize him for Rona to stake.  They pulled hard, nearly dislocating his arm, and he used the unintentional support to pick both feet off the ground deliver a kick to the oncoming Slayer that she couldn’t entirely avoid.

 

When his feet touched ground again, he took advantage of the loss of balance he’d momentarily created in the other two and pulled.  Buffy and Kennedy staggered into each other.  Easily breaking their grips, he seized each by the throat and lifted them off their feet.  A sharp pain stopped him in his tracks before he could snap their necks.  He glanced down to see the sharpened end of a broom handle tenting his shirt.

 

Buffy and Kennedy, the arms holding them off the ground having suddenly turned to dust, landed on their respective butts with stunned looks on their faces.  Rona came to their side, moving carefully to avoid aggravating a cracked rib.

 

“You girls alright?” George Burgess asked, offering Buffy and Kennedy a hand up.

 

“Nice work agent Burgess,” Willow complimented, before the three Slayers could gather their wits.  “Although I’m curious to know how you’ll put that in your report.”

 

“That makes two of us,” he smiled ruefully, then glanced at the three panting girls.  “Three Slayers?” 

 

Buffy nodded.  “Long story.”

 

“Perhaps you can tell it to me some time, for now I think you should clear out and let the police handle…” he glanced at his ‘collar’ with an unreadable expression, “whatever’s left.”  All four women nodded and made their way down the street favoring the various injuries they had picked up during the fight.

 

“So…” Rona ventured, “why were we here again?”

 

Buffy just shrugged.  “I dunno.”

The End

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