“Stay here, woman” Cordelia mimicked Angel issuing orders twisting her expression into a stern mask and curling her fingers up into fangs. “My obsession with blondes forces me to do stupid things.”
She rolled her eyes.
If Angel thought he was going to get any information out of Kate Lockley, he had another thing coming. She blamed him for her father’s death. Hated him for what he was, hated herself more for helping him. Angel was the last person Kate would want to see.
Cordelia wasn’t even sure Kate knew that they had moved into the Hyperion. They’d had no contact with her in several weeks. The fact that Angel was probably right about tracking down Richard Waterhouse using Police Department resources was the only thing that helped stifle the rampant irritation she felt at the idea of him seeing Kate again.
The cop was trouble. And Cordelia didn’t want her anywhere near Angel.
Los Angeles contained a labyrinth of tunnels connecting almost every major building. The route to the downtown precinct of the LAPD was one Angel had traveled before. It smelled foul and rank just as a sewer should, hardly pleasant, but it was better than risking the sun.
He tried to use the time to think of ways to convince Kate to get him the information he wanted. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get Cordy out of his head. Angel arrived in the lowest section of the LAPD parking garage twenty minutes later, no closer to concocting a plan.
It wasn’t difficult to make his way into the depths of the station where the detectives had their desks. He’d done it before. Even after the incident with the talking stick. No one bothered to stop him to ask questions. There were new faces amongst the few he recognized.
It wasn’t until Angel reached Kate’s desk and found a brass name plate with “Det. Jack Couser” emblazoned on it that he realized she wasn’t around. The mustached man sitting behind the desk was someone he’d seen before, but never met.
“You here looking for Detective Lockley?”
Angel gave a curt nod and watched his face turn grim.
“Thought so. I’ve seen you before.” Angel had seen him, too, but never spoken to the man. “I think she mentioned you’re a P.I.?” The detective seemed to know a lot.
“Yes.” Brevity had its virtues. But he wanted answers, too. Angel got the feeling that Couser was reluctant to talk about her. “Is Detective Lockley okay?”
“That’s the kicker, isn’t it?” He rubbed his fingers along the length of his mustache looking disturbed by the query. “Since you’ve worked with Kate before, I’m gonna trust you.”
Calling Kate by her first name suggested Couser considered her a friend. “Just tell me where to find her.”
“Kate won’t be much help to you. She’s taking a little sabbatical. Been assigned to another precinct, but hasn’t reported for duty.”
The news was troubling. Since her father’s death, and her discovery that the LAPD didn’t know the half of what went on in their own city, Kate hadn’t been herself. It was a bad sign. Angel might’ve considered going after her, checking in to see if she was alright, but Kate Lockley was too hard-nosed and stubborn to accept any shred of concern he might offer.
Best to leave her alone, give her time to lick her wounds and heal. Maybe someday she would recognize the fact that he wasn’t the sum of all evil.
Angel decided to head back to the hotel. He was about to leave when Jack Couser held out a hand motioning for him to stop. “Hold up, buddy. You came here for something. Was it just to see Kate or were you looking for information?”
Seeing that he might not have wasted his time, Angel described the nature of his request.
His arms laden with a box of books, Wesley pushed open the door and entered the Hyperion lobby. Having decided to cross-reference with some of Angel’s resources, he’d brought several key compendiums and spell books.
A fresh set of sharpened pencils and some new legal pads were also packed in the box.
“Cordelia?” Stopping short, he saw her standing in the center of the lobby gaze transfixed on the mirror. A hesitant glance in that direction showed her lying on a bed of cash frolicking whilst covered only in a sea of $100 bills. “Oh my!” his jaw dropped open.
Taking care not to look again, Wes shouted her name snapping Cordelia out of the trance. “What are you doing back?” she asked as if he’d been gone only minutes instead of an hour.
“How long have you been standing there?”
Cordelia glanced around, eyes widening, seeming to realize that she was standing in the center of the lobby directly in the mirror’s path. “Omigod!” She grabbed Wesley by the elbow and tugged him back toward Angel’s office nearly causing him to lose his grip on the cardboard container.
She let go when he slowed her progress darting inside and waving her hands for him to hurry. Wes calmly set the books down on the front counter before following. “I don’t suppose you care to explain that little romp,” he chuckled lightly. “That was quite a show.”
“Very funny,” Cordelia plopped down in a chair looking anything but amused. “It’s not my fault if that mirror turns everything into some lewd display.”
“Our tug-of-war game wasn’t lewd,” Wes popped the bubble on that theory. “You did make an adorable five-year-old.”
Cordelia conceded that part wasn’t quite as depraved as everything else they’d seen so far. “That mirror is evil.”
When he asked why she was in the lobby instead of staying in the office as planned, Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I had to pee,” she admitted. “I think it caught me on the way back from the bathroom.”
She would’ve had to cross part of the lobby to get back to the office, Wes realized. “And where did the money come in?”
A shrug followed as Cordelia’s normally straight-forward responses became a series of vague grunts and gestures. Instead of making direct eye contact, she evasively let her gaze wandered. Finally, Wesley stomped his foot down and demanded answers. “Pay attention. Please try to be more succinct. This could be important.”
After a moment, Cordelia let out a sigh, slumping in her chair and resting her cheek on her hand. “I dunno,” she shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe I was thinking about the fact that this is like a case we aren’t gonna get paid for.”
Wes started connecting the dots. It was Cordelia’s self-appointed job to worry about the money that was collected for their cases. Not that they’d seen much thus far. So it was not much of a stretch to believe that she had been concerned about it.
“I also might’ve been thinking about the fact that we’re not exactly rolling in money,” she pointed out unnecessarily. Wes had made that leap himself. “And that’s when Robert Redford came in with his Indecent Proposal.”
“The actor?” His tone dripped with disgust. Wes leaned back toward the office door to glance into the lobby area. They were the only ones there. “What did he say to you? Good heavens, Angel will have his head.”
Cordelia laughed like mad. “Sheesh! And I thought Angel was bad about that kind of stuff.”
Clearly confused, Wesley asked for clarification, blushing furiously when he learned that Cordelia was merely referencing one of the actor’s films. “I am not exactly a film buff.”
“Movie buff,” she corrected him, still chuckling lightly.
“Back to Robert Redford,” he waved his hand to prompt her to continue. “You were saying…”
The laughter died quickly as Cordelia got back on track. “Oh, yeah, right. Indecent Proposal. I was thinking about us not rolling in money and that led to me thinking about the scene where Robert Redford tells Demi Moore that he’ll give her a million dollars to sleep with him.”
Wes was starting to get the picture as to why Cordelia thought the mirror produced lewd effects. “You imagined yourself taking him up on it.”
“Eew! No, he’s not my type.”
“But you were rolling in cash,” Wes had seen that much. He was just curious to know if there had been anything else to what she’d seen. “Did someone issue you a similar proposal?”
Cordelia shrugged. “I can’t remember,” she lied badly. “One minute I was thinking about money and the next thing I knew the mirror was doing its thing.”
Trying to overlook the potentially embarrassing details, Wesley focused on the fact that the mirror had produced images of something Cordelia had been thinking. “Is it possible that the earlier aberrations were induced by something you or Angel—”
“No!” Cordelia cut him off so fast he leaned away from it. “Shouldn’t you be looking through those books of yours? I’ve got a few more police reports to research.”
There was only one way to take that response: as positive proof that Cordelia might have thought something that led to one or all of the previous manifestations. Though it was quite disturbing to think about considering what he’d seen. Further questions would get him nowhere. For now, he decided to begin sorting his books and to start organizing a plan of attack where the research was concerned.
“Find anything?” he asked before heading out in to the outer office.
Cordelia had already scooted forward in her chair and was browsing through an old document. “Yes, but we should wait for Angel to get back. I’ll finish these first.”
They didn’t have to wait long. Angel turned up before either of them expected. He informed them that Richard Waterhouse had died in 1983.
Not long after revealing the news they heard crying coming from the direction of the lobby.
Bent over on the lobby floor, a vaporous figure swirled in a foggy green mist, cries echoing softly and tears dripping at a hundred times the norm. The lights were low barely illuminating the area despite that all of the other hotel lights were set to full brightness.
In the mirror, the seemingly solid form of Alice Waterhouse held out her arms in supplication to whisper her same mournful words.
I am lost. Help me.
White light beamed from the mirror and the mist swirled toward it as if a vortex pulled it in. When the last echo of her crying filled their ears the lobby chandelier flickered back on.
The three of them high-tailed it back into Angel’s office.
Angel had seen a lot in his time, but nothing quite like this. He took a seat at his desk, leaning back and propping his feet up. Upon seeing the book he was reading earlier, he allowed himself a wry smile. It seemed like ages instead of only a few hours that he’d been relaxing with that book.
If Cordelia hadn’t barged into his office wanting to redecorate the hotel, they might never have discovered the mirror. Naturally, she blamed him for taking her up there even though he’d wanted her to choose a room on the second floor. Hell, truthfully, he never wanted her to pick a room of her own.
The images produced by the mirror were plain proof that having a room far away from his was probably a good idea. He dared to glance over to see what she was doing. She’d abandoned the police files in favor of the phone book.
Flicking through it page by page, she walked over and plonked it down on top of his once-tidy desk now covered with an array of scattered swatches, old newspaper clippings and Xeroxed police cases. “There are only 16 entries for the Waterhouse name in the Los Angeles area. Assuming the family doesn’t have an unlisted number, maybe we could track them down by making a few calls.”
“Better than asking Detective Blondie,” she snorted softly. “I’ll handle the phone calls and try to convince folks we’ve found their long lost cousin—or aunt. Maybe Richard had kids.”
At this point, Angel was open to anything.
Before getting on with the phone calls, Cordelia showed them the articles and police reports she’d found. “There are five other reports of spooky stuff in the Helios Suite. One even mentions the mirror. I found one newspaper clipping from the 1960s that listed haunted places in the Los Angeles area.”
“You betcha,” Cordelia confirmed. “The Helios Suite at the Hyperion was on that list. The article mentioned that it hadn’t been used since the mid fifties and that the hotel never bothered to refurbish it when they renovated the rest of the hotel.”
Wesley, who had been deep in thought and only half-listening to their conversation, admitted that he might have been wrong. “Originally, I believed that we were not dealing with a ghost, phantom or any other kind of supernatural phenomenon. After this latest experience, I may have to reassess the situation.”
“Hah! Told you,” Cordelia felt a spark of triumph. Then she realized what that meant. Sobering, she quietly asked, “So you think Alice is dead?”
Answering the only way he could, Wes shook his head. “I cannot say with any degree of certainty. There are certain tests. Perhaps I can find a spell to communicate with her. She might be able to tell us what happened.”
Cordelia suggested, “Ask her if the mirror has an off switch. I’ve had enough of those ridiculous look-alikes of mine behaving like raving nymphomaniacs.”
The fact that Cordelia seemed to get more and more upset about this made Angel irrationally angry about it. He knew he shouldn’t feel that way because he didn’t like it any more than she did—his secret desire for her visible for everyone to see. But it wasn’t exactly flattering that she was so disgusted about it.
Demanding, “Why is it so ridiculous?” Angel suddenly didn’t care if Cordy found out that he had been the direct cause of the manifestations, and that the mirror picked up on his sub-conscious thoughts.
Wes raised a brow, sitting on the edge of his seat frozen to the spot as he awaited Cordelia’s response. Considering what information he had already garnered from her description of her last individual encounter with whomever replaced Robert Redford, he was beginning to form a rudimentary idea of some of the mirror’s functions.
It might be helpful to hear what Cordelia had to say about this—not to mention bloody fascinating.
“Hello!” Cordelia raised her hands up in the air as if waving for attention and nearly shouting, “You cursed vampire, me non-nympho seer,” as if that made any sense at all in the scheme of things.
A crash sounded as Angel’s chair hit the back wall. He was on his feet and leaning toward her across the desk. He was damn tired of being filed away under Unfeeling Eunuch in the Cordelia Chase classification system. “Just because I have a curse doesn’t mean I’m incapable of—”
Cordelia reached across the space between them to clamp a hand over his mouth. “I really, really don’t want to know if things are still fully functional. Really, I don’t. It’s not like you can do anything about it anyway.”
He dragged her hand away, but kept a firm grip on her wrist tugging just enough to stretch her closer across the desktop, forcing her to stand on her tiptoes. “I’m not incapable of feeling,” Angel finished what he’d intended to say and watched the resulting tint of red creep up her throat.
“I-I know that,” Cordelia shivered as Angel moved in closer brushing his cheek up against hers to whisper in her ear.
“Don’t think I can’t tell that you want me.”
She jerked back and yanked at his hold on her. “That’s a big fat lie.” Cordelia wanted to crawl into the nearest hole. Geez, how embarrassing and totally unfair considering Angel had preternatural senses. She rubbed at her wrist glaring hostilely as he took his seat again.
Inwardly panicking, Cordelia’s mental litany of OhGodOhGodOhGod broke off into scattered thoughts of self-blame and mortification. He knew. Damn vampire senses. He blamed her for those manifestations.
Somehow he had figured out that she was the cause. That somewhere in the depths of her brain she thought he was really hot and wanted them to have wild monkey sex.
There was a dark smirk on Angel’s face, a smug, satisfied look that Cordelia wanted to wipe off. He looked like he’d just rid himself of a heavy burden and was too caught up in the idea to realize that it was pissing her off.
Wesley tucked a finger into his suddenly too-tight collar. It was definitely getting hot and hard to breathe in here.
He had no idea what Angel had whispered to Cordelia, but it was clear that it upset her. And he wasn’t so out of touch that he couldn’t recognize rampant sexual tension when he saw it. Angel and Cordy were practically smoldering with it. He cleared his throat to get their attention.
“Perhaps it would be best to get on with the research as quickly as possible. Cordy, I suggest that you ring the Waterhouse listings from your desk,” he nodded toward the outer office.
“No way,” Cordelia stubbornly sat down in the seat she had vacated and yanked the phone book onto her lap. “I’m not going out there again. I’ll use Angel’s phone.”
That wasn’t helpful in trying to separate them before someone got hurt and Wesley wasn’t counting Cordelia out in that respect.
“Then perhaps, Angel, you could give me a hand by going through this book,” he walked over to pick out a particular leather-bound volume: Meader’s Guide to Incantations and Enchantments. “There is an entire section dedicated to the use of mirrors.”
Angel took the book from Wesley’s hand, but turned around to walk back into his office. “Where are you going?”
“It’s my office, my desk and my chair,” Angel growled unreasonably. “If Cordelia is uncomfortable about being around me, then she can find another place to make her calls.”
Stubbornly, Cordelia didn’t budge.
“Fine,” Wesley gave in deciding that it would be simpler just to get on with the work. He needed to figure out a way to contact Alice Waterhouse either in the spirit world or upon whatever dimensional plane she existed.