ANGEL OF THE NIGHT
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters from Gargoyles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Angel. I don't make any profit by this. I just write for my own entertainment. I also didn’t create the characters from Gargoyle Saga, a fanfic series that ran until a few years ago.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The beginnings of the idea for this story were in the Gargoyles Chronicles story "Broadway Goes to Hollywood." It was a good way to get this story going anyway. I know the title is a blatant rip off, but it suits the story. The only major change to either shows plot is that ‘Hero’ didn’t happen, so Doyle is still around. I loveit when a plan comes together.
Fox winced when that thought crossed her mind. Corny, but accurate
, she admitted as she checked off the last item on the list that she could while they were still in the air.
So far everything had gone according to plan, just like clockwork. The trip had been a tough sell, especially to Brooklyn and Sata. Eventually, though, they had seen the sense in Fox's plan. With all of the misinformation floating around courtesy of the Quarrymen, months after being officially disbanded they were still causing problems, it was past time that the gargoyles got some good publicity and a chance to set the record straight. The idea of going public had appealed to some members of the clan, and eventually the rest had come around. Even when all of them had agreed, though, the how of it was still a source of contention. That had been the biggest obstacle.
For Fox, choosing the venue had been relatively easy once she had decided a national audience would be best. A serious news show was out of the question. Too many questions would be asked that simply couldn’t be answered. At the same time, it couldn’t be a show that was given over entirely to sensationalism. No one would take them seriously if they showed up on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and there were certain ‘news’ shows which would be nearly as bad, but Shana was ideal, and eventually the gargoyles had bowed to her superior experience in dealing with the media.
Shana was used to handling celebrities, personalities, not hard news. She tended toward scandal but didn't specialize in it, and with a little effort, Fox could control her, which was very important. There were questions that none of them could afford to have asked. Plus, Fox really didn't want the excitable, gossip mongering blonde asking Broadway about his love life. Although he does turn an interesting color when he blushes
, a wicked little voice at the back of her mind snickered.
Fox shoved the thought aside. There was still a lot to do, and a lot that could go wrong. It was no time to play with the big shy gargoyle. Keeping Shana from becoming playful was one of the main reasons for bringing the twins. Graeme and Ariana had loved the idea, and eventually, Brooklyn and Sata had agreed that it would be good for the clan for people to see that gargoyles had families and children just as humans did. In two days, everyone would see that gargoyles weren't the monsters their detractors would have everyone believe. In the meantime…
She looked over her checklist one more time. Everything was ready for their arrival. The ground crew would be waiting to unload the crates and get them off to their hotel. Fox had arranged for them to have an entire floor to themselves. They should arrive at the hotel and have everyone unpacked just before sunset. Everything was going perfectly.
The expensive private jet landed at 5:20 P.M. PST, only 40 minutes before sundown and taxied to a rented hangar maintained for planes belonging to Xanatos Enterprises. Right on time, a truck pulled up next to the plane, and four workers jumped out to begin unloading the cargo and transferring it to the truck. Hugo Renert, who headed the security detail that had arrived with Fox, checked their IDs. They hovered about him expectantly as he looked over their security badges, briefly frowning in concentration. Then he nodded, apparently satisfied.
"Okay guys. You get the dollies out of your truck and get ready to move, but don't start yet. I need to call the hotel to make sure everything is ready there." With that, he turned and walked briskly into the hangar's small office. They watched him go, the leader’s eyes narrowing in suspicion. He nodded to his men and they set to work, while he followed Hugo into the office.
In the cockpit, Fox Xanatos spoke to airport security, making a last minute check to ensure that all of the precautions she had arranged were in place. It had not been easy to balance secrecy with security. The number of people who knew their business in L.A. had to be kept small while still ensuring that there was enough muscle on hand if something went wrong. Only the security detail on the plane knew what was in the crates. The pilot didn’t know, and neither did anyone in the work crew or the airport’s security detail. The hotel staff was likewise in the dark.
She had briefly considered making a big show of their arrival in L.A., a flashy entrance to get Hollywood’s attention as it were, but some fairly odd happenings in the town of late had convinced her not to introduce them into a situation she couldn’t entirely control.
A recent spree by a serial killer had a lot of people spooked, especially after it leaked to the media that the suspect had performed some rather amazing feats. One witness had even claimed that the suspect had taken to the air when cornered by the cops. Fox wasn’t sure what to make of it, but she was sure that it wasn’t a gargoyle. He had busted up a police station the next day, and the suspect was definitely human. Or perhaps had been at one time. Fox shuddered as she considered the possibilities.
It didn’t matter. Whatever the killer might have been, its activities had left her certain that the unannounced appearance of a gargoyle could easily cause a panic. Not the reaction she wanted. She shook off those thoughts and concentrated instead on the matter at hand, which was getting everything arranged by sunset.
She thanked the security guard she was speaking to and clicked off her cell phone. Everything was in place at the hotel. The work crew to move the crates had arrived and was being cleared by Hugo personally. The truck that was to move the gargoyles had arrived on schedule. Satisfied, she then hurried toward the back of the plane to see to the 'cargo.'
When she arrived, the cargo transfer was already underway. Two of the crates had already been placed on the truck, and the other was almost there.
"Where's Hugo?" She asked looking about. For that matter, where were the other two men who had arrived with her? They should be overseeing this. Something was wrong.
"Where are they?" Fox shifted unconsciously into a fighting stance, turning abruptly as a footstep directly behind her alerted her that someone was getting much too close for comfort. She never completed the turn. A pistol butt connected solidly with the side of her head, and she fell. The group's leader hit her again on the way down.
"Come on. Get the other one and let's go." His men turned to obey, but the sound of a siren stopped them. A patrol car was heading their way at speed, its lights flashing. They piled into the truck, abandoning the last crate, and sped off.
Detective Kate Lockely looked over the crime scene and sighed in exasperation before turning back to the uniform. "Are you telling me no one here saw anything?"
"No one alive or conscious detective," the man confirmed. "We've got two dead private security guards. One badly wounded security guard currently on his way to the hospital and their employer, Fox Xanatos, also on her way to the hospital.
"It was the security guard who called it in after being shot in the back and left for dead. Mrs. Xanatos might be able to ID the men, but the medics were in too much of a hurry to even give us a hint as to her condition. Usually, that's not a good sign." Kate nodded distractedly as she looked over the scene.
"So a private plane lands carrying cargo. Any idea what?" The uniform shook his head.
"The pilot doesn't know." Kate nodded absently while she began to work through it in her head. She was barely aware that she was speaking aloud.
"An unknown group of people, it had to be a group if they were moving crates like that," she nodded toward the one remaining crate. "They come up in a truck, probably expected since the tower wasn't notified of any problem. They shoot the guards, attack the owner, probably when they were discovered, take the cargo and drive off. What about airport security? Someone had to see the truck arrive and leave." The uniform flipped through a notebook.
"The head of security is getting tapes from cameras, but we don't even know what the truck looked like. It could take a while to narrow it down." Kate sighed in frustration.
"Excuse me?" They both turned to see a nervous looking man approaching them. "I'm Wilson Kaiser, Xanatos Enterprises. I handle the cargo and flight operations here." Kate nodded. Maybe now we’ll get some answers.
"Any idea what happened here Mr. Kaiser?" He shook his head.
"I’ve just arrived. You probably know as much as I do at this point. The plane was to be unloaded and the cargo moved out immediately."
"What is the cargo?"
"I don’t know. I was only told that it is fragile and very valuable. I’ve been in contact with my superiors, and I’ve got orders to move the crate back onto the plane. It’s going back to-"
"I'm afraid that's not possible right now," Lockely interrupted. "The crate and its contents are evidence. What ever is in there might give us a lead to who took the others and why. Especially since no one here can tell me anything except that they're fragile." She snorted. "Your employer could be a little more forthcoming Mr. Kaiser. The contents could turn up on the home shopping network tomorrow and we wouldn't know about it." Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Are there 'legal' concerns about what's in them?" The man's nervous look grew almost frantic.
"I-I honestly don't know. I wasn't told what was in them, just to get the remaining crate back to New York. I'm sure there's nothing illegal about-" Kate waved him to silence.
"It's all right. I get the idea." A low level flunky. Mrs. Xanatos business in L.A. was obviously kept on a need to know basis, and this guy didn't need to know. It was also obvious that his employers had something to hide, possibly the motive for the robbery. "Unfortunately, I can't release evidence in a murder investigation. Your employers will simply have to wait to get the contents back." She turned to the uniform. "For now, lets get it into the hangar. It'll be sundown in a few minutes and we're going to have a lot of people coming and going." She nodded to a crime scene photographer who indicated that he was done, then turned to another officer who was just finishing up with a dusting kit. "Any prints?"
"Some detective. A full forensics team will be here in a bit." Lockely nodded.
"All right then, lets get the crate out of the road." She turned to the still nervous Xanatos Enterprises’ employee. "Can you get some people to move the crate? Off to the side where it won't get in the way? A truck will take it down to evidence when we're done here."
"I-I have orders that the only place that crate is to move is back on board the pla-."
"That's not going to happen. The crate and its contents are evidence. Now you can have your company's lawyers take it up with us in the morning. Until then…" The man nodded, looking resigned. Or possibly fired. Lockely winced at that thought as the man walked away to gather some cargo handlers. That hadn't occurred to her. It would certainly explain why he was so nervous.
Kaiser returned a moment later with two handlers and a dolly. They lifted the crate and carefully moved it into the hangar, emerging a moment later just as the last rays of the sun were disappearing. The medical examiner arrived at that point with the full forensics team, and for a brief time the crate was forgotten.
Stone skin cracked and splintered, and the occupant of the crate tried to stretch and shake it off. What? Still in the crate?
That didn't make sense. Fox had told them they would be at the hotel by sunset and uncrated. After listening carefully for a couple of minutes and deciding that there was no one around, impatience got the better of the 'cargo'. The packing stuff was smothering and the pieces of stone skin were starting to itch horribly.
The crate came open slowly; the nails holding it shut giving way only reluctantly. It would have been easy enough break the boards, shatter the crate, but there was no way of knowing who might be nearby. Detection was better than suffocation, though. Once free of the crate with as little noise as was possible though, it became clear that something was very wrong.
They were still at the airport, and there were cops everywhere. There was no sign of Fox or the others that had been on the plane with them. So what now? Lost in a strange city with no one familiar in sight. What now?!
Lockely finally remembered the crate as the forensics crew was wrapping up. It was time to get it loaded and down to the precinct evidence room. She turned and moved into the hangar. It had been placed in a corner, just out of the way of the officers working the scene. The crate was still there, but something was different. There was a gap that hadn't been there before. Someone had tried to get into the crate. A noise caught her attention and she turned quickly, drawing her gun. Someone was hiding in the shadows. The hangar was empty. There were only a few places to hide.
"I know you're there," she said facing the most obvious hiding place, a low counter that ran about half the length of the hangar, marking off a narrow office area. "Come out with your hands up." Whoever was hiding behind the counter wasn't eager to comply. "There's nowhere to go."
"No kidding." Kate blinked. That sounded like a kid.
"What are you doing in here?"
"Hiding." Uh-huh. Definitely a kid.
"I won't hurt you. Come on out." She lowered the gun. "Why were you trying to get into the crate?"
"Someone pried it open. You telling me it wasn't you?"
"Yes, er, no. I mean, it was me, but I wasn't trying to get in. I was getting out."
"What?" Slowly the owner of the voice started to come out. Kate's gun came up again when she saw… what was she seeing? Whatever it was ducked down again.
"Hey! Put that away. I'm harmless, really."
"Who… what are you?"
"My name is Ariana. I'm a gargoyle." Gargoyle?
Kate had seen the news reports from New York but hadn't really believed them anymore than she believed in alligators in the sewers. Apparently, though, it wasn't all hype and hoaxes.
"Come out. I won't hurt you. My name's Kate." It was just a kid, whatever else it was. Slowly, Ariana rose from behind the counter and came out from behind it. For a moment, Kate could only stare at her.
"May I ask a question?" Kate blinked, startled. She nodded.
"What happened? Where are the others?"
"Others? There were others like you?"
"My brother and our uncle. Where are they? And where's Fox?"
Two more gargoyles, two stolen crates. Things were coming together. "All right. Give me a minute." She heard footsteps approaching. Whatever else the girl might be, she didn't seem to be a threat. Kate really didn't want to see her hurt if someone overreacted. "Thompson?"
"Yeah, detective. We're ready to load that crate. Everything okay?"
"Yeah, just having a look around, to see if we missed anything. Load it up." Thompson and another uniform loaded the crate into a van and drove off. Kate watched the others leave and went back into the hangar.
"Here." The girl came out from behind the counter, a little more trusting now since Kate hadn't tried to lock her up. "Where are they?" Kate took her to a bench along the wall and they sat down. Kate told her what little was known. Ariana was obviously frightened, but tried to reason it out.
"An inside job. A few people here had to know we were coming. That should make it easy to get a lead on them, right?"
"It would if Xanatos Enterprises was being more cooperative. They made a real fuss about that crate being taken to evidence, although I guess I see why now," she admitted. "Do you have any idea who knew you were coming in, where and when?" Ariana considered this and slowly shook her head.
"Shana would have known and a few people at the TV station, but I don’t know that many details."
"That’s why we were here." The young gargoyle quickly explained the purpose for the their trip and the reasons behind it. Kate felt herself slightly overwhelmed at the idea. Gargoyles doing talk shows. Only in L.A.
"What am I gonna do? I don't know anyone in L.A. Anyone from Xanatos Enterprises who lives or works out here might have been in on it. I-" She was getting frantic. Kate put a hand on her shoulder, thinking how strange it was that she was treating this creature like a lost child. Well, that's what she is,
one part of her mind argued. But she's not even remotely human,
another part reminded her. She shoved these thoughts aside for a moment.
"The first thing to do is to find you a place to stay for a while. As it happens, I think I know someone who can help."
"Angel Investigations, we help the helpless."
"Is Angel there? It's Kate Lockely."
"One moment detective," the overly cheery voice answered. She overdoes the cheery phone bit
, Kate thought, especially considering that lame line she answers the phone with
. Lame or not though, she had to admit it was accurate. Angel tended to take on clients who literally had nowhere else to go. Ariana certainly qualified. "Detective Lockely?"
"I'm afraid Angel's stepped out for a bit. He'll be back before eight if you want to leave a message."
"Actually, I've got a client for you. She's got a big problem, and I don't think I can be of much help to her." As she said this she looked at Ariana apologetically, but the gargoyle nodded understandingly and mouthed the words 'I know.' "I'd like to bring her by. You can stay with her until Angel gets back. I've got to get to the station, but I'll do what I can to help sort this out."
"Sure. Bring her by."
"Thanks. I'll be there in about twenty minutes." She hung up and looked at Ariana. "You don't have to worry. Angel's a good person. He'll do whatever he can to help you." Ariana nodded, putting on a brave face, but Kate could tell she was frightened. Frightened for herself and for her brother and uncle. When the coast was clear she led Ariana out to her car and let her into the back seat. Angel's office was fairly close. It wouldn't take long.
"What do you mean you don't know what happened?!" Xanatos came as close to yelling as he ever did. He listened to the explanation, growing more worried by the moment.
"One crate wasn't taken? Where is it now?" He slammed his fist on his desk upon hearing the answer. "Why do the police have it?… All right. I see. Contact Mr. Oliver. He's the head of the legal department in L.A. Tell him I want action immediately… Good. What hospital did you say Fox was at?… Right." He hung up, and stopped to think. Sata was going to kill him. If she didn't, Brooklyn would. "Owen."
"A flight to Los Angeles has been booked. It leaves at 6:00 in the morning."
"The only other Xanatos Enterprises jet in New York is currently undergoing maintenance. It is the earliest that could be arranged. Shall I make arrangements for one of the clan to go as well? They would have to travel by a different plane."
"Let me talk to them and we'll see who wants to go. More important, though, is finding out what happened. We barely know anything."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Where are our children?"
"We don't have many details, yet. The guards were killed and Fox is in the hospital. They were the only ones who would have seen what happened. I'm going to be on a plane at 6:00 headed out to Los Angeles. I'll get to the bottom of it and I'll get them back. I promise."
"We're coming with you," Brooklyn told him. "No argument." Xanatos nodded.
"Arrangements are already being made."
The corridor was deserted. It was after 6:30 and most people had gone home. It was a good thing Angel and his employees kept strange hours. She knocked on the door and heard a voice from inside.
"Come in." Kate went in first. "Hello, detective." Cordelia Chase gave her best paste on smile. Kate knew that she made the younger woman a bit nervous, especially after that weird business with Little Tony, but she did her best to hide it. And this girl thinks she's an actress?
Kate approached the desk.
"Angel call in?"
"'Fraid not. He's working a case, didn't think it would take long, though. You said you had a client?" She looked past Kate toward the door.
"Um, yeah, before I bring her in, you should know though, she's a bit unusual. However she may look though, she's just a little kid." Cordelia nodded.
"After hanging around with Angel for so long, nothing surprises me."
"Ariana?" The young gargoyle poked her beak around the edge of the door and shyly entered the room. Cordelia's eyes widened.
"Well, maybe a few things." She shook off her surprise and rose to her feet. "Hi, I'm Cordelia." She held out her hand without hesitation, something that genuinely surprised Kate. Ariana seemed surprised as well but more than willing to be friendly.
"I'm Ariana. I'm glad to meet you." Cordelia gestured toward a chair, and returned to hers.
"Well, like I said, Angel isn't here right now, but maybe I can get a few details. You can tell me what this is about over dinner if you like. Have you eaten?" Ariana shook her head, even as her stomach growled at the prospect of food. "There's a great Chinese place just down the road. What about you detective?"
"I can't stay. I'll learn what I can on my end, but…" She glanced at Ariana. "There are some things that might be better left out of my report." The others nodded. "I'll call as soon as I have something on your family." She nodded to Ariana and quickly left. Cordelia picked up the phone and started dialing. Suddenly she stopped, glancing at Ariana.
"Um, you don't have any odd… 'nutritional requirements' do you?" Ariana looked confused for a moment, but then dismissed it, shaking her head.
"No odder than yours, and I like Chinese food."
"Oh good. I only ask 'cause a recent client... Well, never mind." She ordered several different dishes and then turned back to Ariana. "It’ll be here in a bit. Meanwhile…"
"Oh. Okay." Ariana told Cordelia about her clan and the recent troubles. She also told about the trip and what little she knew about the robbery. She talked about her brother and uncle and their reasons for being in L.A. Cordelia had heard Buffy’s account of her trip to New York when she had run away the previous summer. She had also heard that the Slayer had tracked Faith there but had been decidedly skeptical about some of the details. Gargoyles? Flying creatures that looked kind of like demons but weren’t? It was a bit much to swallow. Nevertheless…
"Wow, Shana! I love her show." They were eating sweet and sour chicken and talking like old friends when Cordelia heard the sound of the outer door opening. Cordelia perked up. "That’s probably Angel. Wait here." She rose from Angel’s desk. They had moved into the back office on the off chance that a client would drop by only to have the wits scared out of them by the sight of a gargoyle. A client, yeah, like that’ll happen.
Cordelia smiled as she entered the office. It was the normal bright, cheery, paste on smile with which she greeted clients. Not that she was ever unhappy to see a paying customer, but for some of them she really had to struggle to maintain that cheerful, friendly demeanor. A true test of my acting ability
, she reflected.
The smile became genuine when she saw that it was Angel. "How’d it go?"
"Well enough. That’s one demon who won’t be asking for protection money again."
"Good to hear it." The paste on smile was back, but she knew not to press. Angel noticed anyway.
"They’ll pay when they can. Some of them were nearly driven out of business." He moved to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup. "Anything happen while I was out?"
"We have a new client," she said, nodding happily. "Kate brought her by. Her uncle and brother have been kidnapped, unfortunately the police are going to be treating it as a robbery. So…" She paused at the look on Angel’s face.
He had paused with the cup halfway to his lips, managing to look puzzled and irritated at the same time. "Okay, I’ll bite." Cordelia took an involuntary step back, and Angel winced at his own choice of words. "Sorry. Why are the police treating a kidnapping like a robbery?"
"Well, maybe you’d better meet her." Cordelia turned to face the door. "Ariana? It’s okay, you can come out." The office door opened, and the young gargoyle poked her beak out hesitantly.
"H-hello." Angel nodded.
"Hi." He glanced at Cordelia curiously. "A gargoyle?"
"You know about them?" Cordelia was surprised, although she supposed she shouldn’t have been. After all, her boss was over 200 years old. Angel looked back at their new client and gestured toward a chair. Ariana moved over to the chair and sat down, watching Angel warily.
"I know of them," he said in a noncommittal tone. "Never met one, though." He focused on Ariana and smiled as reassuringly as he could. "Don’t worry. We’ll help you. Why don’t you tell me the problem?"
Between them, Ariana and Cordelia told them what had happened. When they finished, Angel considered.
"Have you called your family? They must be worried, and they probably know by now." Ariana’s eyes widened in realization.
"I need to call mother and father!" Angel gestured toward the phone and Ariana quickly dialed the number in New York. She waited nervously as the phone rang.
"Owen Burnett speaking." He held the phone to his ear with his stone hand while continuing to type. It wasn’t easy making arrangements to ship two statues across the continent by commercial air on only a few hours notice. Even for someone with the resources of David Xanatos, arranging the particulars took an effort.
"Mr. Burnett I understand your employer has lost something important to him."
"Who is this?" He stopped typing.
"Two really weird statues, maybe?"
"Who is this?" The caller had Owen’s full attention now.
"Save your questions. If you want them back your boss will do exactly as I say." Owen listened.
The phone in the gargoyle’s suite rang. Angela, being closest, got to it first. Sata was only a step behind. She waited impatiently as Angela picked up the handset.
"Hello?" Her whole face lit up. "Ariana! Where are you? Are you okay?" She switched on the speakerphone as the others gathered around. Sata leaned closer
"Ariana? Are you all right?"
"I’m fine mother, but Graeme and uncle Broadway are in trouble. They’ve been kidnapped."
"We’ve heard." Brooklyn said. "Owen got a call about half an hour ago. They want a million each for their safe return."
"A million each? What does Xanatos say?"
"He’s getting it ready. They aren’t giving us much time. Whoever the kidnappers are they don’t want to give us any time to prepare a surprise. Where are you now?"
"A detective at the scene found me and brought me to a friend of hers. He’s a private investigator, like on TV."
"Let me talk to him," Brooklyn instructed.
Angel had retreated to a respectful distance while Ariana made her call. He moved back to the desk when she held up the receiver. "Father wants to speak to you."
"Hello? Yes. She’ll be well looked after until you arrive. I promise… Perhaps I can be of some help with that. How long did they give you?" Angel frowned and nodded. "I see. That’s not much time. Let me see what I can do. Don’t worry. I’m very discrete."
Angel hung up the phone and smiled at Ariana reassuringly, before turning to Cordelia. "Cordy. Where does Shana record her show?"
Angel moved through the studio like a man in a hurry; occasionally making stops to listen to a conversation while studiously examining the clipboard he carried. He looked like any of the dozen or so other production assistants running errands and doing chores.
He had been doing it for nearly half an hour and, as yet, no one had questioned him. He had quickly located Shana’s set, and then her dressing room, but there was always someone around, and no pretense for going in. He knew security was tight here and he would be escorted out before he could learn anything if someone thought to look at his borrowed credentials to closely.
The ransom was to be delivered by midnight L.A. time. That only gave him three hours. He was playing a long shot, but it was the only lead he had. Someone at the studio had to know when Shana’s special guests were going to arrive, perhaps someone no one noticed. Someone who was in a position to overhear details.
Bingo. A nervous looking man emerged from Shana’s dressing room looking as if he was running from something. On a hunch, Angel turned away from the dressing room and followed him.
The man’s first stop was the producer’s office, where he was yelled at some more for bringing bad news. The show for tomorrow night would need a new topic and quickly. That was the producer’s sole concern. The messenger was another matter. He was afraid, and not just of his boss’s wrath. Angel followed when he made his way to a pay phone in a little used corridor and made a call.
"Hello? Yeah, it’s me, Jimmy. Is Mr. Tolliver there?" Angel moved as close as he could without being noticed. The name Tolliver was familiar, but he couldn’t place it at the moment. Setting aside the question for the moment, he listened carefully.
"Yeah. It’s me. I heard you got what you wanted… Good. So we’re even right? I mean this clears my debt. You can get more for those things than I owed you... Okay. Good then... Of course I won’t say anything. I’d lose my job at least... Right. Bye." Jimmy hung up and sagged against the wall with relief. After a moment, his heart rate slowed and he pushed away from the wall. Jimmy turned to find himself face to chest with a tall angry looking man in black.
"So tell me Jimmy," Angel scowled down at him. "Where can I find Sam Tolliver and his newest ‘acquisitions?’"
It had been a short conversation. Jimmy was not an overly brave person, and had quickly told the intimidating man in black everything he wanted to know and some things he didn’t.
Jimmy had a gambling problem. It didn’t matter what he placed a bet on. It could be horses, poker, football, or whatever. He had gotten himself deeply in debt to a man named Sam Tolliver, an associate, Angel now recalled, of Little Tony. Tolliver had threatened his life and Jimmy had given up something better than the ten thousand he owed.
He had learned at work that Shana was going to interview a gargoyle and reasoned that someone might pay a lot of money for a gargoyle. It hadn’t been an easy sell, but Tolliver had seen the advantage in what Jimmy offered and let Jimmy off the hook in exchange for the details, provided that the plan actually worked. Unfortunately for the gargoyles, it had.
Jimmy didn’t know where Tolliver had the gargoyles stashed, but he did know a few of the criminal’s hangouts. Angel didn’t have to threaten too much to get the information.
Barely half an hour later, he stood in the shadow of a tree at the edge of a small park and looked across at Tolliver’s HQ. It wasn’t what he had expected. Rather than the dingy warehouse or factory he had come to expect, he found himself on the edge of a fairly nice residential area. Tolliver’s headquarters was a small office complex, which, according to Jimmy, he owned. The place had an air of quiet, nondescript respectability that no one would have associated with a thug like Sam Tolliver.
Broadway fumed as he eyed the bars of his small cage. His first attempt to escape had taught him that there was way too much voltage running through them to risk trying to force them. The cage wasn’t large enough for him to build up sufficient momentum to break through them, not that that would have reduced the risk of electrocution, anyway. The worst part of it was that none of his captors would speak to him. He had only seen one man when he woke up in the cage. The stranger had waited and watched long enough to be sure the gargoyle couldn’t get out of his cage, then had left without saying a word. Thanks to the camera in the corner, no one had to be in the room.
This left Broadway with very few facts, fewer options, and far too many questions. Foremost among them, though, was: Where were the twins? They weren’t in the room with him, but that in itself didn’t tell him anything useful one way or another. They might be free. They might be in another room wondering where he was. He turned carefully to examine his surroundings again.
It appeared to be an office. There were no windows and only one door. The carpet was of an industrial type usually found in office buildings, meant to take a lot of wear. The walls were simple plaster and the door plain wood. They would be easy to smash through if he could get out of the cage. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem likely. The cage was the only thing in the office, even if the bars had left enough space for him to reach through and grab something. The floor of the cage had a rubber mat, fastened in place to the cage’s metal floor, but he had concocted and abandoned several plans which might allow him use it. Even if he could tear it up without touching the metal below, there was barely enough room to stand as it was, let alone kneel to get at the mat.
This left him with only one option. Wait and see what happened next.
Graeme examined his cage for flaws for what seemed the thousandth time. He growled in frustration when, yet again, no avenue of escape presented itself. He hadn’t seen anyone except the man who had watched him wake up, and that one hadn’t said a word. He had only watched as Graeme shocked himself trying to bend the bars and then left.
There was no sign of uncle Broadway or his sister. He tried not to worry. Ariana could take care of herself, and if anyone could find a way out, uncle Broadway could.
Cordelia handed her the bowl of popcorn and Ariana popped a handful into her mouth. "Yum. We don’t get much chance for junk food at home. Mother likes us to eat healthy." Cordelia looked vaguely offended.
"Popcorn is healthy. I mean, it’s a vegetable right?" Ariana nodded.
"Absolutely." She took another piece before passing the bowl back. "Do you think Angel will find them?" Her voice went from casual to worried and Cordelia answered without hesitation.
"I’m sure of it. Angel’s a really good detective. If anyone can do it, he can." The confidence in her voice calmed the young gargoyle and she perked up a bit.
"Uncle Broadway can take care of himself until Angel gets there, and so can Graeme, but don’t tell him I said that." Cordelia gave a small snort of amusement. It seemed sibling rivalry was the same in any species.
"It’s nice of you to stay here with me," Ariana said abruptly, needing something else to talk about. They had moved to Angel’s apartment after closing the office. Ariana had settled on the couch while Cordelia got some snacks for them. She had been careful to keep the gargoyle away from the refrigerator, not wanting to have to explain the bags of blood. She wasn’t sure she could.
"Oh don’t worry about it. It’s not the first time I’ve pulled an all-nighter for Angel or the first time I’ve spent the night here."
"Oh, he’s your mate?" Cordelia barely avoided dropping the popcorn bowl.
"Wha-?! Oh, um, no, we’re just friends."
"Be sure I’m glad to hear that," a cheerful voice with an Irish accent called from the bottom of the stairs. Cordelia turned and grinned at Doyle as he came in.
"Doyle! What are you doing here? The bars close early?" The smile and friendly tone took the sting out of her words, nevertheless he gave her a hurt look, and Cordelia instantly regretted the quip. She gave him an apologetic look. He smiled at her and took the seat beside her. She snuggled against him briefly then turned back to Ariana.
"This is Doyle. He works for Angel too." Doyle nodded in a friendly manner, completely unfazed by the gargoyle’s presence.
"Nice to meet you."
"You guys must have real strange clients." Both nodded in agreement.
Angel located the building’s equivalent of a fuse box without much difficulty. It was somewhat more complicated than it had been at Russell Winters’ mansion, but then, he didn’t need to understand it, to destroy it. He set the timer on the small explosive device, giving himself two minutes to get into position. It was actually more time than he needed, but he allowed for the possibility of running into guards.
There were none. Evidently, Tolliver had decided that being low profile was all the security he needed. The building was dark, and appeared to be deserted, everyone had gone home for the day, or so it was meant to appear. There were sure to be guards inside, though. The only real concern was that they would harm the hostages before he could deal with all of them.
He would have preferred the chance to do some recon, but the simple layout of the building and the lack of time made that difficult. The building was essentially a cookie cutter design. It was three stories tall with offices on the upper two. The offices were ‘wrapped’ around a central shaft containing the elevators and stairs. There was a main corridor surrounding the stairwell and elevators. It was a perfectly nondescript building, and the simple design would make it difficult to sneak around in.
He was positioned next to a service entrance when the power went out. Angel went through the door and made his way to the elevator shaft, having already discounted the first floor as a possible holding area. There were no large enclosed rooms. He opened the elevator doors and exited the car through the access hatch. Then he began to climb to the second floor. The stairs would have been easier, but it was almost impossible, even for him, to move quietly in a concrete stairwell with heavy metal doors.
The second floor was quiet, but he could hear the sounds of shouting and crashing from the third. Angel climbed more swiftly.
Broadway didn’t notice the change immediately. There was only a little indirect light coming in under the door, so it wasn’t immediately obvious when the light went out. He did notice that the slight electrical hum from the bars stopped. He looked at them suspiciously, then glanced over at the camera in the corner. The red light was off. He flipped a hand against the bars. Nothing.
A grin spread across Broadway’s face as the sound of raised voices began to reach him from outside the office. He grasped the simple lock and tore it off. The door to the office opened as he approached and Broadway kicked it shut again, catching the person coming in. There was a shout and muffled thud from the other side.
One punch splintered the door and he charged out immediately, taking advantage of their confusion. Two men were just picking themselves up when the door crashed open. Neither had his gun ready, and a quick sweep of his tail caught their arms as they began to rise, knocking the weapons from their hands. Another knocked the wind out of them, and a single punch to each rendered them unconscious.
"Time to find the kids," he said turning away.
"’Fraid not," a voice said from behind him. He turned to find a man holding a gun on him. The man made sure to stay well out of reach.
Prying open the doors quietly, Angel moved onto the third floor. It wasn’t a silent operation, but it attracted less attention than the stairway door would have, and was definitely quieter than his usual method of entry into places he wasn’t welcome. He still owed money for some of the windows he’d smashed.
Despite the situation, he smiled ruefully as he moved into the alcove across from the mirror fronted elevators as someone came to investigate the sound. Two men entered the short hallway. One of them stared down the shaft.
"What happened here?"
"We’d better check the kid. If he’s escaped Tolliver’ll be furious." The two turned and headed for an office down the hall. Angel followed carefully.
Graeme had been working at the lock ever since the lights went out. It wasn’t an especially good lock, but it was solid enough to keep him in the cage. He grunted as he strained at it again.
He broke off his efforts when the door opened and two men with flashlights entered. Graeme glared at them.
"He’s still here," the first said, clearly relieved.
"So who was messin’ with the elevator?" the other wanted to know.
"Me." The voice out of the shadows startled all three of them, but the men had barely begun to turn in reaction when they were seized in a vice like grip. Their heads met with an audible crack and both slumped to the floor without a sound. A tall human dressed in black stepped into the room.
"Are you Graeme?" The young gargoyle swallowed his amazement and nodded.
"Good. I’m Angel. Your sister sent me."
"Safe at my office. I’ll get you and your uncle back there safe. Come on." He searched the men until he found a key ring and had the door open a moment later.
Together they crept down the darkened hallway toward the room where they had heard the sounds of struggle a few moments earlier. Angel gestured to Graeme to stay back and poked his head carefully around the corner. Two hired thugs were unconscious on the floor and another was holding a gun on a large aquamarine colored gargoyle, being careful to maintain a safe distance. That distance put him within arms reach of Angel.
The first step, Angel decided, was to get the gun pointed elsewhere. Dispensing with subtlety, he stepped into the corridor behind the gunman and cleared his throat.
"Joey?" the man asked, not daring to look away from the angry gargoyle he was covering. "The other one secure?"
"He’s safe," Angel answered honestly. The man swung around at the sound of the unfamiliar voice and Angel punched him solidly in the jaw. Before the man could fall, Broadway caught the man’s gun arm in his left hand and his jacket’s collar in his right and slammed him face first against the wall.
"Unfortunately, the police won’t have much to go on. They won’t even entertain the notion of putting gargoyles on the stand." Angel said as he poured coffee for his guests.
"There is forensic evidence of course," Kate put in, "as well as Mrs. Xanatos’ testimony and Mr. Renert’s." Angel shook his head.
"It won’t be enough. Both have already said that they didn’t see who attacked them. Their testimony can place the men at the scene, but they can’t prove they shot the guards or attacked Mrs. Xanatos."
"What about the production assistant?" Xanatos asked. He looked around Angel’s office, silently sizing up the man and his place of business. Everything in the office was functional. No particular fashion was evident. The desks, chairs, and cabinets were all strictly utilitarian. It didn’t look lived in, which was oddly appropriate if what Owen had dug up on the private investigator was accurate.
The only signs of decoration had clearly been added by his employees. They were, Xanatos decided, one of the oddest mixes he had ever seen, and that was saying something. They had managed to impress him, though.
"It won’t be hard to get him to testify if he’s offered the right deal and protection, but I don’t know if it’ll do any good, not with Tolliver retaining Wolfram and Hart to represent him." Kate made a face.
"Not them again? Is there anyone they won’t represent?" Angel didn’t bother to answer, but his habitual scowl deepened. Xanatos decided it was time to change the subject.
"I presume you would rather have your role in this matter downplayed as well?" he surmised. Angel looked surprised for a moment and then nodded.
"It may sound strange, but I don’t seek out publicity. I tend to attract a certain type of client."
"The kind who have nowhere else to go according to detective Lockely." Xanatos nodded toward the police officer. Angel nodded.
"That’s true, and because of that there are certain aspects of my business that would not stand too much scrutiny."
"I understand completely, which is why I have an offer for you Angel."
Brooklyn caught his children to him and hugged them fiercely. Sata was only slightly more reserved, but her tremendous relief was nonetheless evident to all. Broadway smiled as he watched the reunion. When they had assured themselves that the twins were unharmed, they turned to Cordelia and Doyle who had been having a whispered conference throughout.
"Cordelia, Doyle, come say hello." Ariana waved them over. The adult gargoyles had barely paused when they entered the apartment, and Cordelia had just managed to step aside. Now she stepped forward smiling. A genuine smile, Doyle noted, not the paste on she sometimes put on for clients, or for him when she was being sarcastic.
"We were glad we could help," she said sincerely. Then turned a mischievous eye toward the twins. "I’m looking forward to seeing the interview with Shana." She paused as if a thought had just occurred to her. Doyle cut her off.
"Don’t even think it princess. We get enough weirdness around here without the kind of publicity a mention on ‘that’ show would bring. You know what kind of people watch those celebrity shows." Cordelia’s face darkened and Doyle sincerely wished he could recall those words.
"What kind of people are those, Doyle?" She asked with deceptive mildness. Thinking quickly he shrugged.
"You know as well as I do that a lot of people just watch for the sensationalism, and the chance of picking up on a new scandal." He hurried on. "There are plenty of intelligent, discriminating people, of course, who like the human interest stories she does and the professional actors and actresses who watch for trade news." Cordelia watched him intently for several minutes while he tried desperately to get his foot out of his mouth. Brooklyn gave him a sympathetic look.
Finally, she let him off the hook. "Well, I suppose Angel wouldn’t approve of it anyway." She dismissed Doyle’s blunder and grumbled to herself. "Mr. Low-profile-stick-to-the-shadows has some pretty backwards ideas when it comes to PR."
"Well," Brooklyn put in, trying to change the subject. "Regardless of whether your agency gets any publicity out of this, we are grateful, and I’m sure Xanatos will make that clear." This made Cordelia smile.
"Indeed I will," came a voice from the door. Angel and Xanatos came into the room. "In fact that’s just what we’ve been discussing. After all, for people in our position, there always seems to be a shortage of people we can really trust. I’ve asked Angel here to coordinate security for some of our business on the west coast." Cordelia smiled winningly at the billionaire and even Doyle looked intrigued.
"We’re still working out the details, but what he’s been telling me about is more or less in our usual line." Cordelia’s smile faltered a bit.
"Bye-bye normal," she whispered, not quietly enough though. Doyle made a choking sound and Ariana giggled, drawing curious looks from both Xanatos and Angel.
"I’ve asked him to help coordinate security for the upcoming gargoyle conference in Japan. The meeting of the clans will require security people we can trust implicitly. Angel is, by the nature of the cases he takes on, very discrete, and that is what this will require. Gargoyles still have a great many enemies and the conference would be a perfect target."
"Japan?" Cordelia’s eyes lit up.
"It should be interesting," Angel remarked. "It’s been years since I’ve been there." Xanatos smiled.
"Excellent then. We still have details to work out, but I’ll be in touch when everything is arranged. I may have other jobs for you in the meantime."
"We’ll be happy to help." Cordelia assured him, while picturing the profits a billionaire could funnel into the small agency. Angel smiled indulgently.