June 22, 2003
Faith slipped on her shades as she held open the diner door for Cordelia. It was 8:30 in the morning, and also bright and hot as hell. As Cordelia appeared, she squinted a moment before finding her own shades.
“I wonder why Andrea didn’t come to breakfast?” Faith wondered.
“Maybe the garage got her car fixed sooner than expected,” Cordelia reasoned. Both were disappointed that their new friend may have already left. But she knew where they were from, and Andrea seemed eager to get together again sometime.
“That blows,” Faith commented earnestly. “Guess it’s just you, me, and the Andy Griffith Show rejects. I tempted to see if Floyd the Barber is running a special.”
“You have no couth,” Cordelia told her.
“And you have no tact.”
The pair soaked in the sun’s morning rays for a moment before deciding a course of action. They’d go to the garage and get a status report on their car. They could also see if Andrea had left.
They set out on the highway to walk the half-mile to Joe Bob Henry Carl’s repair shop. The morning was very hot, and neither looked forward to the afternoon in a hotel room with a shitty AC.
When they finally arrived at the repair shop, Henry sadly informed them it’d be another day or two before the new radiator would be coming in. When they asked if Andrea had left, Henry explained they had installed her carburetor the night before, and she had left early that morning.
“That sucks ass,” Faith said. Cordelia grunted in reply. The two turned back towards the hotel, both planning on sleeping the rest of the morning away. They had just about reached the highway when Faith spoke.
“What kind of car did Andrea say she drove?”
“A Mustang I think,” Cordelia said. “Why?”
“Does that look like a Mustang to you?”
From their spot, they could see the side of the garage. There was a car, mostly covered by a blue tarp. But the one part that wasn’t covered was the most telling. The Mustang emblem on the front grill was exposed.
Cordelia and Faith stared at each other for a few moments. Both tried to calmly rationalize the situation.
“It’s probably another person’s car,” Faith reasoned.
“Yeah,” Cordelia agreed. “Or maybe it belongs to a mechanic. He fixes it for a hobby or something.”
“Yeah,” Faith readily agreed. “That’s probably it. I mean, there are tons of Mustangs in the world, right?”
“Sure, probably millions of them in fact.”
They stared at each other for a few minutes longer. Faith was the first to speak. “I’m wigging big time. You?”
“Aw fuck,” Faith cursed. “This isn’t gonna be like that X-File where the townsfolk were cannibals, is it?”
“I sure as hell hope not.” Cordelia brushed back a few strands of hair before speaking. “Maybe we’re overreacting. It’s a small town. The folks are quirky. But they are NOT cannibals.”
“Right,” Faith agreed, trying to retain some composure. “And even if they are psychos, we are two young women, more than capable of taking care of ourselves in a fight.”
Cordelia puffed her chest up in pride, as did Faith. “Damn right. I’m a demon, you’re a Slayer. We kick ass.”
Both women deflated at the same instant. “Aw fuck.”
Faith certainly had to give her props to the Los Angeles County Penal System. She learned all kinds of useful things in jail. For instance, she was more than capable of making an oak cabinet, wicker furniture, and even sew a throw rug. Of course, the technological age hadn’t passed her by either.
Faith had booted up Cordelia’s laptop and used the phone line to get on the Internet. Cordelia found her searching the Web when she returned with lunch for the both of them.
“What are you doing?”
“Honestly?” Faith asked. “I’m starting to wig out. I’ve been looking around on the Internet at local newspapers. I found out two weeks ago, a woman named Carol Emerson went missing just outside of town.”
That freaked Cordelia out just a little bit. The rational side of her brain tried to assert some dominance. “That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. People go missing all the time. Law of probability says that a small town would have an unfortunate occurrence or two.”
Faith would have liked to agree with Cordelia. “About five months ago a woman named Teresa Newman disappeared. She was last spotted about three miles outside town.”
“Two women in the last five months? I’d say that screws up the bell curve.” Cordelia pulled a rickety wooden chair by the bed and plopped down on it. Faith looked on, hoping that Cordelia would come up with some plan. Faith might not be the wisest girl on the block, but she knew acting rashly wouldn’t be good. And acting rashly was something she had a habit of doing.
“Should we call Angel?” she asked.
Cordelia pondered for a moment. “No,” she finally decided. “I wouldn’t want to risk him being caught in daylight. Besides, LA needs him. If things start to get hairy, I’ll call and get Gunn and Fred to come back us up. Until then, we stay calm and keep from doing anything stupid. Keep researching newspapers. I’m going to put out feelers with the townsfolk. Maybe I can get them to tip their hand on what they know about this last girl, Carol Emerson.”
“Right,” Faith agreed. See? Cordelia came up with a plan. Now Faith had something to do.
“Did the newspapers make note of what kind of car Emerson drove?”
Faith flipped back to the page that detailed her case. “It says she drove a ’97 Grand Am. Black. What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking maybe I can snoop around the garage a bit.” Cordelia stood and peered at the computer screen. A picture of an attractive red head stared back at her.
“Do you think she has a family?” Faith asked softly. “Do you think anyone cares that she’s gone?”
Cordelia considered the question for a moment. “She must,” she decided. “If she didn’t have someone concerned for her, I doubt anyone would take note of her disappearance.”
Faith seemed to take some comfort in that. Cordelia marveled how different the slayer was from the girl she knew in high school. “Would you guys care if something happened to me?” Faith asked. “You and Angel, I mean?”
“Yes,” Cordelia assured her. “You’re apart of our family, whether you like it or not.” Faith was satisfied with that answer.
“I’ll see what more I can find,” Faith said. Cordelia smiled and nodded. Slipping on her shades, she opened the door and walked into the blazing afternoon sun. Faith had a job to do, and now, so did she.
Cordelia made sure to duck off the highway a few hundred yards before she got to the garage. Scampering into the brush, she kept low so she could approach the rear of the building without being detected. She finally reached a clearing behind the garage. She didn’t know what to feel when she saw nearly two-dozen cars parked there.
“Please, God, just let us be overreacting,” Cordelia prayed.
Cordelia slowly made a trip around the clearing, hoping to whoever was listening that she wouldn’t find a ’97 Grand Am. Her heart sank when she found one. Checking to make sure no one was nearby, she opened up the car to do her investigation.
There was quite a bit of dust inside the vehicle. The panel and seats were coated in a thin film of dirt. Cordelia knew this car had been sitting here for a while, but how long she couldn’t determine. She checked behind the sun visors and underneath the seats for some kind of identification. Finally, she popped open the glove box. At first glance it was empty but in the very back was a small rectangle. Reaching for it, Cordelia sighed heavily when she saw what it was.
The photograph showed and older man and woman smiling happily at the camera. They stood side by side as they rested their hands on the shoulders of a young woman. Carol Emerson smiled brightly at the camera. They looked like such a perfect family. Cordelia wondered where her parents were right now. She knew that they must miss their daughter.
The sound of voices made Cordelia startle. She quickly tucked the photo in her pocket and climbed out of the car. Quietly she shut the door and rushed back to the safety of the brush. Moments later one of the mechanics appeared to salvage a battery from Emerson’s car. He didn’t notice the dust that was swept away inside the car.
Faith was surprised when Cordelia rushed through the front door of their hotel room. Cordy looked like she had ran the entire distance back, which she had. Sweat covered her shirt and face as she took deep breaths to feed her lungs.
“Are you okay?” Faith asked.
“Not really,” Cordelia answered. “I got a big ass wiggins going on.”
“Why? What happened?”
Cordelia reached into her jeans pocket and withdrew the photo. She tossed it to Faith. The slayer glanced at it. Recognition set in instantly.