“You know, until the captain confirms your position with British police you’re technically a civilian.” The case file firmly wedged between her splayed palm and the conference table, Kate threw LA’s visiting detective a cautious glance.
“A mere formality I assure you Detective Lockley.” Wesley quickly assured, silently threatening to skewer Reggie if his cover wasn’t properly set up.
Having grown up the daughter of a beat cop, the British gentleman was more reserved than the men Kate was accustomed to. His slim, lanky form stretched up well over six feet, making her own stature seem demure in comparison. Looking into steel blue eyes, warm and kind, she wondered if her small social circle might have room to grow.
“Call me Kate,” blurted out before she had time to consider unprofessional behavior, and Kate flashed a small smile hoping to conceal her discomfort.
Had pressing obligations afforded him time to look sooner, Wesley would have realized the young woman was quite beautiful. Her features were slightly angular, but soft. High cheekbones and green eyes, large and inviting; they reminded a man of the little things that deserved appreciation.
“Alright…Kate.” Thin lips stretched into a boyish grin; and clearing his throat, Wesley gave his head a mental slap. “And please, call me Wesley.”
Kate slowly opened the folder and peering inside lifted the top photo. “Jessica Halpren was the first victim. Well as far as we know. Jenny Markem just started high school.” Her lower lip slightly pushed out, she blew a hard puff against the strands of hair falling into her face and slid the folder to Wesley. “Emily Stiles was found early last night. We’re still gathering background.”
Wesley’s attention remained fixed on the evidence in front of him; and not sensing a reaction, Kate continued, a creased brow displaying her confusion. “So far there haven’t been signs of sexual assault.”
“There won’t be. This isn’t about sexual domination, or even women for that matter.”
Wesley studied the photos more intently. Perhaps it was mere coincidence the victims had been female. Angelus’ history dictated gender was unimportant when selecting his prey. Only youth and innocence were crucial elements in his criteria.
“The tabloids are calling him The Pope. Why would this guy think he’s doing God’s work?” Taking a sip of coffee, her face twisted into a grimace. “Coffee?” Kate asked, heading off in search of a fresher pot.
On the contrary, this is about mocking God. “Ah yes, thank you. Coffee would be nice.”
“This is exactly why I didn’t tell you.”
“And that’s exactly why I’m mad.” Cordelia spun around, her anger shooting through Angel with the charge of a lightning bolt. She might be prepared to rethink her plans of fame and fortune, but she refused to make decisions based on half-truths. “You’ve been dreaming about these killings and you didn’t tell me.”
Angel stopped in his tracks, the heat of Cordelia’s glare as enticing as it was warning. “I didn’t want to scare you.”
“So you thought it’d be better for me to think you might be a homicidal monster?”
“No.” Angel defended for what felt like the hundredth time. Patience wearing thin, he briefly considered showing Cordelia a more pleasurable way to pass the time; but that would only lead to another debate over rash decisions. “I thought it was better not to give you a reason to think I was a homicidal monster.”
“Just so you know, it didn’t work.” Cordelia grabbed her purse, furiously digging inside for an evasive tube of lip-gloss. Her search not nearly the therapeutic distraction needed; she gave up, and instead, whacked the secret-keeping vampire with her small, over-priced bag. “I thought we already had this policy in the company handbook, but obviously I was wrong. So new rule, we don’t keep secrets.”
“You’re right.” Angel threw his arms up in feigned surrendered. “I’m sorry.”
His smile, Cordelia noticed, taunted just a little too much. Angel was an expert at concealing his emotions. It was irritatingly obvious, he wasn’t trying to hide his enjoyment of her anger.
Even more aggravated than before, Cordelia turned her attention to their only upstairs mirror and began a diligent scrutiny of her make-up. Concentration focused only on her, and with Angle’s lack of reflection, she never saw him coming. His arms slipped around her waist, hands pressing against her stomach and bringing her backside flush with his form.
“What are you doing?”
“Look Angel, you need to understand I need a little normalcy in my personal life; at least once in a while. If you’re looking for a weird imitation of you know who, then look somewhere else. Because normal means when I’m pissed you don’t touch without permission. Besides, until we’ve figured out what’s going on with these dreams, we should keep touching to a minimum.” Twisting around inside the arms banded tightly around her, Cordelia jabbed a menacing finger into his chest. “And that includes you plastering me to the wall of your choice.”
Cordelia was probably right, Angel inwardly conceded, purposely ignoring her reference to his previous failed attempt of a relationship. Caution and slow would ensure that control remained in the forefront, but control was both an ally and an adversary. He had spent decades cultivating discipline into a fine-tuned art form. Cordelia had slept in his arms, innocent and unsuspecting, and control had protected her from the demon that wanted to ravish her. Discipline was always within Angel’s reach, and always under his command.
His head tilted down, cool lips brushing across her collarbone. “I think we should keep denial to a minimum. You like me grabbing you.”
“You’re impossible!” Cordelia snatched the second of lax in the steel bands holding her in place and pushed her way free. Heels clickety-clacking double time, she scurried across the floor, stopping only when the flimsy barrier of her desk stood between them. “Where’s my introverted vampire that broods in a dark corner every chance he gets?”
Angel leaned against the wall, seemingly content to allow Cordelia her coveted space. Dark brown eyes held a glint of playfulness, and the wicked smirk contradicted his hands slipping casually into his pockets. “You won’t be seeing him anymore.”
“I’m not sure what to make of that. And in a creepy sort of way, I’m not bothered by it either.” Her finger resumed its menacing poke, slicing through the air as it jabbed in Angel’s direction. “Still… keep your extroverted hands to yourself.”
Brown faded under a black hue, flecks of amber glinting through the dark clouds in his eyes. Angel had spent most of his souled existence in a chokehold. Cordelia’s safety didn’t require shackled restraints, which meant the demon no longer needed a watchdog.
“You’re virtue is still intact.”
“That’s because we slept when we slept together, as in no fondling.”
“Cordelia, there was fondling.”
It was a simple admission, matter-of-fact even, and held just enough tease to make Cordelia’s blood boil. “Excuse me?”
“Ahem. Am I interrupting?”
Cordelia whipped around, her glare landing on the source of interruption. Wesley’s eyes were stretched wide, a finger awkwardly tugging at his snug collar. Cordelia seethed, a heated breath sizzling through lips locked in two thin lines. How much had Wesley overheard? Does he know Angel fondled her in her sleep? Does he know she enjoyed it?
“Wesley! Angel, Wesley’s here!”
“I see that.” The Watcher had a knack for inconvenient timing. A habit Angel would have to help him break. Folding his arms across his chest, Angel nodded, and offered a slightly growled greeting. “Wesley.”
“Angel.” Approaching the same chair as his last visit, Wesley deposited his briefcase on the desk. “Cordelia, I must say, I was most pleased to receive your call.”
“You’re happy now, but lets see how you feel after Angel drops his bomb.” Her arms flailed out, panicky hands flapping at one man and then the other. Cordelia was embarrassed and her best recourse was pointing an accusing finger at someone else. “And it’s a big one too-bigger than anything else you might have heard.”
“Bomb?” Wesley gulped, raw nerves heedless of his efforts to appear calm. “Then I suggest we get down to business.”
“I’ve been having dreams.” Angel deadpanned, enjoying Wesley’s discomfort more than he should.
“The victims.” Angel paused when Cordelia cringed at the cold and barren delivery of his confession. Only moments ago she had insisted on total honesty. He could either protect Cordelia from his dark past or trust her with the truth. “I stalk them, toy with them, mark them while they’re still alive. And before they can die from their fear, I feed on them.”
Wesley cawed against the dry, hard lump blocking his air supply, determined to stop the squeamish reflex threatening to rise up. “Your knowledge of the victims may be more than just dreams. You could be committing these crimes while in some sort of hypnologic state.”
“That’s not possible!” Cordelia yelled in protest and marched across the room to stand by Angel’s side. Angel was quick to share because he wanted to scare Wesley, and she would deal with her homicidal-acting vampire later. Her anger would first be directed to their guest, because no one had the right to accuse her friend. “Tell him Angel.”
“I’m not sure that Wes is wrong.” Denying Cordelia the reassurance she deserved was harder than accepting he might be killing again, but nothing was worse than the fear piercing his soul. He could lose her.
Cordelia’s response was immediate, shock and anger over Angel’s easy acceptance of Wesley’s assumption compelling her to stand firm. “Then you getsure damn it! Because I am.”
The squad room was abuzz with activity. Emily Stiles, The Pope’s latest victim had a message carved into her back. According to the lab report, the coroner believed the woman had been alive when her tormenter penned his sadistic tribute.
“Hey!” Kate called out. “What’s this about unidentifiable DNA, and where’s the evidence sheet on the perp?”
“That’s all there is.” The lab technician answered back. “Just like the others, all the identifiable DNA collected belongs to the victim.”
“That’s not possible. Not this time. No one can be that careful.” Kate insisted, staring down the young man as he shifted from foot to foot. “Check again, and if you don’t find anything check again. Not even this guy can wipe clean a crime scene after this kind of brutality.”
Kate stared at the letters sliced into the girl’s flesh, unable to comprehend the depth of perverse depravity required for such an act. For You Father.
“So we’re agreed.” Wesley offered, gathering the scattered material and nitpicking over each piece until perfectly aligned at a right angle before sliding them back into his briefcase. “Until the culprit is identified, Angel will be chained to his bed from sundown to sunrise.”
“No, we’re not.” Angel’s dissent snarled across the metal surface, making its way up Wesley’s spine until his body recoiled from its slant against the desk.
Her face twisted into a scowl, Cordelia jerked her head toward Angel. Wesley had apologized for jumping to conclusions and had appropriately begged for her forgiveness. He didn’t deserve the growls that were rattling his nerves, unlike the intimidating vampire that deserved to be punished.
“Stop growling at the poor man,” flared from angry lips as her small fist smacked against Angel’s shoulder blade. “He’s only trying to help.” Cordelia leaned in until her lips whispered against Angel’s ear, the move causing her breasts to brush across his arm. “Keep it up and next time I’ll punch you where it’ll really hurt. Got it?” Cordelia finished as she straightened in her chair. Then turned to Wesley and flashed a comforting smile.
The brief intimacy might have been unintentional, but it was the first time she had touched him since Wesley’s arrival. Angel sucked the air into his lungs, revelling in the scent wafting between them. Cordelia wore anger like rare perfume. A sweet ambrosia that roused Angel’s passion, daring him to taste.
“Got it.” Angel answered, and leaning in, followed Cordelia’s retreat until his lips brushed against her neck. “Do it and I’ll make you kiss it better.”
Cordelia’s breath hitched, the loud gasp sounding into the room. Her back stiffened, each vertebrae snapping into a straight line and bringing her head up with a jerk. A dark, reddish hue spread across her cheeks, flowing down her throat until it disappeared behind her blouse. Ignoring Angel’s hulking presence as well as the warm flush of heat simmering through her body, trembling fingers fidgeted, pressing out imaginary wrinkles in her skirt.
“So Wesley, any other bright ideas.”
“You have to make it tight.”
“Thanks for the tip Wesley; but working for a vampire, I’ve learned more than how to make bad coffee.” Cordelia huffed, then yanked on her end of the chain and flashed a satisfied smirk.
“He’s right, Cordelia. You have to make sure I can’t get loose.”
“Oh goody, more bondage tips. Good grief, I feel like we’re getting ready for an M & M threesome. Thank God, I’ll be in charge.”
“M & M?” Wesley asked, his brow rumpled in confusion. “Like the chocolate?”
Angel squirmed within the confines of his chains. Now wasn’t the time for erotic fantasies, especially with Wesley in the room. However, the demon didn’t seem concerned about The Watcher watching. He was a vampire after all, and the object of his obsession was chaining him to the bed.
“She means S & M.”
It was a dry, raspy husk; and Angel’s eyes gleaming with what Wesley could only assume to be demon passion, he tactfully ignored the sensual but vulgar reference. “Ah, too bad. I was feeling a bit peckish.” Recalling Angelus’ bestial activities was sufficient reason to employ aversion, but envisioning Cordelia as a participant was enough to send him running back to boring council duties.
“Well if you’re hungry, you should have said something before we shackled the cook.” Her pursuit of fame, fortune and worshiping fans was quickly being replaced by less glamorous but more personal and important aspirations. Acceptance would be easier, Cordelia mused, if it came in smaller doses. “Come on, we’ll order Chinese.”
“What about me?”
“What! You’re hungry too? Why am I mommy all of a sudden?” Cordelia barked at the two men who were more or less useless at the moment. “Fine, I’ll warm some blood; but we’re not redoing those chains so you’ll have to suck it through a straw.”
The kink in her neck was tightening into a hard knot, and since proving Angel’s innocence required his hands to be tied, she wasn’t expecting a pampering massage anytime soon. Cordelia hoped they caught the sadistic serial killer before the police. That way she could make sure Angel gave him the punishment he deserved.
The scissors sliced into the newspaper with meticulous care and accuracy; every edge a perfect, straight line. He admired his latest work, basking in the fear he had infused throughout the city. Angelus had taught him well. The pleasure is in the hunt. Only then can one experience pure joy in the kill.
“It’s been a lifetime Angelus, but soon that will change.” Penn whispered as he taped the third newspaper clipping onto the wall.
It hung in perfect alignment with the first two, a space to the right lovingly prepared for the fourth. The letters scrawled across the dingy plaster, written in his own blood.