June 22, 2003
“She was in this town,” Faith said. “She was here and the townspeople did something to her.” Emotions were a real bitch. Times like this, Faith almost wished she were still a sociopath.
“I think so,” Cordelia agreed. “I snooped around back of the garage. God, Faith, you should have seen how many cars were there. If they are doing something, then they’ve done it several times before.”
“I know,” Faith said. “At least six times if my research is accurate.”
“What do you mean?”
“I dug around in local newspapers some more. In the last thirty months, I found cases of six women disappearing within a few mile radius of Serenity. None have been found.”
Cordelia slid against the door as she contemplated that knowledge. Something bad was happening in this town.
“What do you think they did to Andrea?” Faith asked. The fear and sorrow in her voice wasn’t lost on Cordelia. The same emotions were playing in her own mind.
“I don’t know. But we sure as hell are going to find out.” Cordelia stood up and went over to her closet. She grabbed some clean clothes and headed to the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower. Afterwards, we’ll go get some food at the diner. We’ll make conversation, maybe get somebody to tip his or her hand.”
“Cordy, if we go around and start asking questions, how is that going to look? Wouldn’t that put us in danger? I mean, we can’t figure out what happened to these girls, what happened to Andrea, if the people suspect we know something.”
“I don’t know if we really have a choice,” Cordelia said.
“What about calling the FBI or something? If there are murders going on, wouldn’t they respond to it?”
“Murder’s not federal jurisdiction,” Cordelia explained. “Besides, who knows how long it would take to get them here, if at all. The only solid evidence we have is a photo in a car. The rest is just conjecture.”
Cordelia could easily see that Faith was frustrated by the lack of options. So was she, but they had to play the hand they were dealt. It would have to be them to uncover the mystery surrounding this town.
“I’ll just be a second, then we’ll go eat. Faith, I promise, we will figure out what is going on.”
“I still think we should call Angel,” Faith said.
“I tell you what. If something weird happens tonight, we’ll call him. I’ll have him send backup. Until then, I think we can handle this. Remember, we’re a demon and a Slayer.”
“We kick ass,” Faith smiled slightly.
Sitting at the diner’s counter, Cordelia and Faith surveyed the scene. A decent crowd was gathering for dinner. Maybe one of these poor saps would be the one to slip up.
After deciding on what they wanted, both girls handed the waitress back the menus. They had a very simple game plan. Cordelia would take the lead in any conversations. Faith would follow her example and try to reiterate key questions.
Faith sipped on her Coke as she watched Cordelia try to decide whom she would talk to. Faith knew it would be best if she kept as silent as possible. She could admit her temper had a tendency to be short. It would be far too easy for her to make a mistake. Although Cordelia wasn’t exactly the most rational mind around, she was the more experienced investigator.
“This is a pretty nice town,” Cordelia commented. “You get many visitors around these parts?”
The waitress, Dorothy, set the food down before the girls. Chicken for Cordelia, roast beef for Faith. The slayer dipped a biscuit into her mashed potatoes as Cordelia made with the conversation.
“We get a few,” Dorothy replied. “And this is a nice town. Maybe a little small for some people, but we like it.”
“I can see why,” Cordelia said. “You’re away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like LA. It must be nice to not have to deal with the noise and pollution.”
“It is indeed,” Dorothy agreed. “It makes life a lot easier when you don’t have to put up with millions of other people.”
“I’ll second that.”
Faith spoke for the first time. “We were wondering something. We had a friend that came through town not too long ago. Haven’t spoken to her in a while, her name is Carol Emerson. Did you happen to see her? Pretty, red hair?”
Dorothy’s face went blank, her eyes lost all humor and benevolence. “I don’t think so. We normally remember all our visitors. When would she have come through?”
“About two weeks ago,” Cordelia said. “Would have been driving a black Pontiac?”
“No,” Dorothy said again. “Like I said, we normally remember our visitors. And I don’t remember anyone like that coming through. Do you boys remember someone coming through a couple weeks ago?”
A couple of men in their early twenties shook their heads in the negative. Neither Faith nor Cordelia liked the way they were looking at them.
“Our mistake then,” Cordelia said. “She told us she would be heading through here. Must have taken the interstate then.”
“Must have,” Dorothy said with a fake smile.
Cordelia and Faith then began to eat their meals in silence, but now they knew. Dorothy was lying out her ass. The relative peace of the diner was broken when a woman rushed in. She looked to be in her early thirties, and she was very scared.
“Does anyone know where Doctor Johnson is?” she asked in a desperate voice.
“He’s visiting family in Oakland,” someone called out.
“What’s wrong Henrietta?” Dorothy asked
“Annabeth is running a 103 degree fever. I can’t get her to keep anything in her stomach either.”
The woman seemed quite stricken. Faith elbowed Cordelia to get her attention. “Maybe you should say something,” she whispered.
“Say what?” Cordy whispered back.
“Well, you got all those cool demon powers, maybe you could do something for her kid. It couldn’t hurt to try.”
Cordelia considered for a moment. It was finally the pleading look Faith gave her that broke Cordelia’s resolve. “Okay.” Cordelia stood to get the woman’s attention. “Maybe I could take a look at your daughter. I used to be a nurse,” Cordelia lied.
The woman rushed over to Cordelia, the relief evident on her face. “Could you? Please, I need someone to help my daughter!”
Cordelia gave Faith a quick glance before saying, “Sure. Lead the way.”
Cordelia and Faith followed Henrietta to a small two-story house on Railroad Street. Henrietta quickly showed the pair to her daughter’s room. Cordy and Faith both gasped at the sight.
The child only looked to be about six years old. Sweat matted the young girl’s hair to her forehead. Annabeth’s skin could hardly be contrasted against the white sheets she was so pale. The only color the child seemed to have was red around the eyes.
“Could you please leave for a moment?” Cordelia asked politely. “I’d like to examine her privately.”
Henrietta quickly agreed. If she could help her child, she would do as the woman asked. Faith shut the door behind the worried mother as Cordelia moved closer to the child.
“I don’t know what it is you think I can do,” Cordelia said. “I received a lot of market extras with the demon package, but I don’t think the Florence Nightingale thing came with.”
“Cordelia, you see this girl. The doctor’s not here and she needs help. The least we can do is take a look.”
Cordelia once more marveled at the mental changes that Faith seemed to have undergone. She never expected the rogue slayer to give a crap about other people, but here she was, worried sick over a missing friend and a sick child.
“Okay. Maybe I got some mojo that could work here.”
Cordelia took a deep breath and placed her left hand on the child’s forehead, and her right hand on the child’s chest. She continued to breath deeply and concentrate. For several minutes, nothing happened. Faith was about to lose hope when Cordelia began to glow.
In the short time Faith had worked at AI, she had never seen Cordelia do this. She had heard about it, but damn was it amazing. The room was lit brightly for a period of time Faith couldn’t even remember. She was so caught in the fact that it was her friend that was doing this.
When the glowing finally stopped, Cordelia slumped against the small table next to the bed. Faith rushed to Cordy’s side. “Are you okay?” Faith asked.
“I think so,” a dazed Cordelia answered. “Is Annabeth okay?”
Faith quickly turned to the small child and placed her hand on Annabeth’s forehead. The smile that lit Faith’s face gave Cordelia her answer. “I think her fever broke,” Faith grinned. “You did it, Cordelia.”
Cordelia smiled tiredly at her friend. “All in a day’s work.”
Neither woman noticed that the bedroom door was opened a crack. Nor did they notice the shocked look that Henrietta wore after witnessing the incident.
“Josiah,” she whispered. “She’s The One.”