June 23, 2003
“Are you certain, Henrietta?” Sheriff Brady asked. “Josiah would be displeased if we showed poor judgment.”
“I’m certain, Sheriff,” Henrietta. “She healed Annabeth with her power. She touched my daughter and began to glow. Annabeth’s fever broke.”
“It’s true,” Henrietta’s sister, Mary, said. “I saw her yesterday evening. Annabeth was very sick. But this morning she was playing in the yard as if nothing were wrong.”
The group murmured in excitement. After all these years, had they finally found The One? It was almost too good to be true. But after so much prayer, Josiah was bound to eventually show them The One.
“Should we begin to make the arrangements?” a man in the back asked.
“Yes!” the crowd shouted. “We should take her before Josiah! He will certainly be pleased!”
Brady couldn’t help but become caught up in the enthusiasm. If what Henrietta said was true, then their search was finally over. All their hard work would finally be rewarded.
“Yes,” Brady said, much to the delight of the group. “We shall take her before Josiah tonight. We must be ready to perform the ceremony. He will certainly be pleased with this girl.”
Faith yawned as she threw back the sheets. She propped herself against the headboard and stretched, trying to work the sleep out of her limbs. As she wiped the sleep from her eyes, she noticed the other bed was empty.
The Seer chose that moment to step through the front door, cell phone in hand. “Hey,” she smiled slightly. “About time you woke up.”
“What time is it?” Faith asked.
“Almost noon,” Cordelia said. Cordy smiled as that information sunk into the dazed head of Faith.
“Fuck. Why didn’t you wake me?”
“No reason to. I went by the garage. They’re saying they should get our radiator tomorrow.”
“Kick ass. That mean we’ll be gone tomorrow?”
“Or maybe tonight.” Faith looked on in confusion. “I called Angel. He, Fred, and Gunn are going to leave around sunset. They think they can be here around eleven or so.”
“Kick ass,” Faith yawned. “Maybe then we can figure out what the hell is going on here.”
“Do you want to take this?” Fred asked. She held up a hurling axe for Angel’s inspection.
“Yes, I do,” Angel answered as he loaded his crossbow. “Gunn?” he called out. “You ready?”
Gunn walked through the courtyard doors. “Yeah. I got the swords we wanted all loaded up. Just a matter of waiting for the sun to go down now.”
“Which is still two hours away,” a frustrated Angel said. He didn’t like the idea of Faith and HIS Cordelia being all alone in a bad situation. He loved Cordelia more than anyone, and he had come to see Faith as a daughter or little sister. He didn’t like it when his girls were in trouble.
“Dude, remember what I said. Faith and Cordy are big girls. They can handle themselves in a fight.”
“I know, I know. But make sure you’re ready. Because as soon as the sun goes down, we better be on the highway.”
Just before sunset
“Are you sure we should be doing this?” Faith asked. “I mean, with Angel coming, shouldn’t we wait for him?”
Faith trailed a few steps behind Cordelia as they waded through the brush leading to the clearing behind the garage. Faith had spent most of the afternoon researching, and had come up with more disturbing bits of information.
The body count had risen to eighteen in the past six years. None of the missing girls had ever been found. According to Faith’s research, somebody finally raised an eyebrow and a pair of FBI agents came out in early 2000. From what Faith could find, they stayed about a week before growing frustrated with the locals. The official report spoke of the possibility of transients being responsible for the disappearances.
“We’re just going to do a little recon,” Cordelia assured her. “Since you pulled the information regarding what cars these women drove off the Internet, we might as well see if any of them are here.”
“Fine,” Faith said. This place was freaking her out more than she cared to admit. And with backup coming, she didn’t want to make some stupid mistake that would get them both killed.
Both women flipped on their flashlights as the sun dipped below the horizon. Faith pulled out her copy of the car list as the girls split up. Faith’s blood began to run cold as she found four matching car makes. After several minutes of searching, Faith and Cordelia made their way back to each other.
“How many you got?” Cordy asked.
The girls sighed as they stared at each other. They had seven possible matches. Seven girls that were possible victims of the town of Serenity.
“Okay,” Cordy said. “Let’s go back and wait for the others. We got some evidence now. Maybe we can run with it.”
“What’s that?” Faith questioned.
Cordelia was confused by the question until she realized Faith was pointing her flashlight at the brush in the opposite direction that they had arrived. The girls stepped closer until they realized it was a path leading away from the highway. Cordelia took the lead as they cautiously stepped along the dusty trail.
They followed the path for thirty yards until they reached another clearing. They shined their flashlights around. Both were horrified at what they saw.
“Oh God,” Faith whispered “Cordelia. Are those…”
“I think so,” Cordelia said, equally shocked.
They stepped forward slowly, both trying to avoid stepping on the mounds littering the clearing.
“These are graves, aren’t they?”
“I think so,” Cordelia said softly.
Dozens of mounds covered the open area. And all about the size needed to bury a full-grown woman.
“This is where they put them,” Faith said. “After they’ve…” She couldn’t even say the word aloud. “There has to be sixty, maybe seventy graves here. My God, Cordelia, what the hell are these bastards doing?”
Tens of bright lamps suddenly lit around the area, blinding them both momentarily. “We have been searching,” a voice called out. “We have been searching for The One.”
The voice stepped forward, a rifle in hand. Both recognized him as the sheriff. “And now our search may be over.” Brady turned away from the girls and spoke to the crowd. “Grab them.”
Several men rushed forward from all directions, catching both girls flat-footed. In moments, both were bound in handcuffs. “Now you both shall be judged,” Brady told them.
“Cordy?” Faith said.
“Yeah?” Cordelia answered.
“I wish we were home.”
Cordelia glared at the sheriff in contempt. “What? And miss all this? This is supposed to be the fun part of the job.”