Los Angeles, California
June 30, 2003
Cordelia and Faith stepped lightly down the hotel’s stairs as they listened to Angel talking on the phone. It had been one week since that night in Serenity. The night where they killed Josiah.
It hadn’t taken long for the FBI to arrive at the small California town. To say the least, the agents had been shocked. They tried to compare it to Ruby Ridge or Waco. Cordelia imagine that if they could categorize it, list it along side other incidents, that they could deal with it easier. It didn’t work.
“Thank you, Agent Wilkins,” Angel said. “Yes, I’ll be sure to relay that information. Thank you. Good day.” Angel replaced the phone and sighed heavily. It just went to show: you didn’t have to be a demon to be evil.
“Who was that?” Cordelia asked.
Angel turned slightly towards his Seer. “That was Lela Wilkins of the FBI. She called to let us know what was going on.”
“What is happening?” Faith asked.
Angel hated this. When they arrived home that night a week ago, the girls told him about Andrea Ballinger. How they became friends with a girl that was stranded in that small town.
“They found Andrea,” he said. “They found her in a fresh grave behind the auto shop. The FBI’s forensic unit has been working day and night. They’ve unearthed over ninety bodies so far, and they think there still might be more.” Angel paused a second before continuing. “They say that some of the bones they found date back to the 1930’s.”
“Oh God,” Faith whispered. Both girls sat gingerly on stools next to the counter. They had been doing that to women for seventy years.
“What about the townspeople?” Cordelia asked.
Angel sighed again. This just kept getting tougher. “Agent Wilkins told me it’d be next to impossible to prosecute everyone. So they’ve indicted some of the town leaders. Sheriff Brady is one. The town banker is another. The entire town council, too. They’re going for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit. With all the bodies they’ve found, they say it won’t be a problem to get life imprisonment, maybe even the death penalty for a few of them. Brady in particular. They’ve also found other things.”
“Like what?” Cordelia almost didn’t want to know.
“They’ve searched the homes of the indicted parishioners. The FBI has found letters and manuscripts detailing some of the work they’ve done. It’s the main reason they believe there to be more bodies. Some of the documents date back to the late 1800’s.
“They’ve determined that the people of Serenity belonged to a divergent Christian sect. That the people believed if they found the right sacrifice, a woman deemed worthy, that they could bring forth God in human form.”
“That is such bullshit!” Faith exclaimed. “They wanted some demon to knock up Cordy! It’s sacrilegious to even call them Christian.”
“I know that, Faith,” Angel said calmly. “But this is the FBI we’re talking about. They don’t know about demons and all that. They have to work within the realm that they understand. Demons and vampires and witches are outside conventional wisdom.”
Faith was frustrated as hell. She pushed away from the counter angrily and stormed downstairs to the training room. Angel and Cordelia waited a few moments before following. They found her beating the stuffing from a punching bag.
“Faith,” Cordelia said softly. The slayer flinched at her name but continued to assault the bag.
“Faith,” Angel said louder. He approached her cautiously and spoke again. “Faith. Talk to us.”
Faith kicked the bag so hard it came off the hook. Panting from the exertion, she faced the vampire. “What do you want to talk about?” she yelled. “That a bunch of wackos killed a friend? That some town has been killing women for a century, all in the name of some demon? Well, I don’t want to talk about it. I want to beat the shit out of something.”
“Then beat me, Faith,” Angel told her. “But don’t walk away.” The vampire returned Faith’s glare until the young slayer broke down in tears. Faith slumped to the floor crying. Angel knelt down and wrapped an arm around her.
“I understand that you feel guilty for what happened to Andrea. That you could have done something to save her. But Faith, you didn’t know. You had no idea what they were doing. But in the end, you did something good. You helped stop these people from ever hurting anyone else. You helped families find some closer by returning their daughters to them.”
“Angel, I know that,” Faith said.
“Then what sweetie?”
Faith wiped the tears from her eyes and took whatever comfort she could from Angel’s embrace. “It’s just that Andrea was the first friend I ever made outside this group. You guys have been there for me, and I’m thankful for that. But she was someone new. Somebody else who could be my friend. The rational part of me says there was nothing I could do, but my soul says I could have done something.”
“I understand that,” Angel told her. “For so long you pretended you didn’t care. But now you feel guilt. For so long I didn’t have a soul. I caused so much pain and anguish. But then I received my soul. I felt guilt for all my crimes, but I also felt guilt for the people around me. That as atonement I should save everyone. But Faith, we can’t save everyone. It just isn’t possible. You just have to hope, that in the end, the victims didn’t die in vain.”
Faith cracked a small smile and gave a strangled laugh. “Having a conscience sucks.”
Angel smiled slightly as well. “Yes, it does.” Angel helped Faith to her feet. “Let’s go upstairs and clean up. And if it helps, the offer to beat me up still stands.”
The three walked back up to the lobby in silence. Faith then headed off to the bathroom to clean up, but Angel and Cordelia stayed behind.
“Are you okay?” Angel asked. “I know Andrea was important to you, too.”
“I’m fine,” she said. Off Angel’s look she continued. “Well, not exactly fine. But I’m dealing. I’m not quite as new to the whole feelings thing as Faith is. I feel sad for Andrea, but I’ll be okay.”
“Good,” Angel smiled slightly. “I’m glad.” The vampire pulled Cordelia close and kissed her softly. “I’m glad you’ll be okay.”
Faith came back, the tears washed away. “Ooh,” she teased lightly. “Am I missing the orgy?”
Cordelia laughed despite herself. “Shut up, Faith.”
Fred and Gunn burst through the Hyperion’s front doors in a hurry. “We got trouble,” Gunn said.
“What’s up?” Angel asked. Gunn made a beeline for the weapons cabinet and the gang followed.
“I just got a call on my cell about a gang of vampires squatting in an apartment downtown. Dude says there might be ten of them.”
“Then let’s grab some stakes and go.”
Angel tossed Cordelia her favorite sword, and handed Faith his spring-loaded wrist holsters. Faith quickly popped a stake in each one and strapped them on. “I could really go for whooping some ass.”
“You got it, Sweetie,” Angel told her. Loaded up, the gang strode out of the Hyperion, ready for action.