“Angel…” Wesley stopped. There was nothing he could say. Angel was right. Cordelia was missing. She hadn’t shown up at the audition, she wasn’t at her apartment; she wasn’t answering her cell phone. Cordelia always answered her cell phone.
“Angel, there was no sign of a struggle in her apartment.”
“So, all that means was that she wasn’t attacked there. Where is she?” Angel growled, pacing. Cordelia had vanished. Fear, rage boiled through out his body.
This was unbearable. More frustrating than when Cordy was sucked into Pylea, at least then they knew where she had gone and had a starting point at which to find her. But, now nothing. Angel’s strong fist slammed into the counter, shattering the wood.
Gunn walked back into the lobby, glanced at the counter then at Angel. He gave an apologetic smile at the vampire’s glare and tone.
“Cops still haven’t seen nothing on my truck.”
“You gave them the address of the studio.”
“Yeah, before we went there, but no sign of it in the blocks around the place or anywhere else. Shit, Angel, the cops aren’t looking, they arent’t going to find it, unless it was illegally parked.”
Angel’s fist rose again.
Angel ignored Wesley and stared at his fist as it unclenched. “Nails, Cordelia said she was going to get her nail fixed before the audition. Where does she get her nails done?” Angel growled.
Wesley and Gunn looked sheepish again.
“The Hair & Nail Gallery. I go there too, well actually Cordy took me there first.” Fred fidgeted, wiggling her nails towards her hair. She gulped as Angel’s gaze focused in on her. “Um, it’s on tenth near the Boulevard.”
Angel was out the door before Fred finished.
Cordelia sniffed the coarse wool around her shoulders and grimaced. She was just going to have to accept the fact that she was not going to stay clean in this dimension. Cordelia halted the ‘eww’ that was threatening to explode out of her mouth as her foot stepped into a foul mixture.
She gagged as she lifted her foot, the slime oozed through the straps of her sandals. Cordelia just knew that she had stepped into raw sewage. Her shoes were ruined and she was probably going to catch some nasty disease. Oh, she was in hell all right, and Lilah was dead. Cordelia seriously hopped that the Wolfram & Hart lawyer played difficult with Angel when he figured out that the bitch had kidnapped her.
Okay, so, Angel wouldn’t actually kill her, but he could scare her plenty. Cordelia hopped the bitch pissed in her expensive designer pants. Cordelia looked down at her feet again, her sandals were ruined. She sighed. Oh well, she would’ve had to get rid of them soon enough, anyway. Strappy red sling backs that exposed her bright red pedicure toes weren’t at all the norm in this place.
Cordelia continued down the street, careful to avoid mucky puddles and eye contact with the passersby. She glanced up now and again to study the wooden signs hanging above the doors. Her eyes widen as she saw three circles hanging from a bar painted on the sign in front of her. Not neon but definitely the universal symbol of a pawnshop. Damn this dimension copied well, if not on the dirty side. Cordelia hurriedly unclasped her necklace and opened the door into the dark shop. Her eyes peered into the dimness.
“What ya selling?”
Cordelia jumped at the deep voice. She handed the beefy man behind the counter her pearls. The man squinted an eye at the necklace, and then rubbed them against his teeth. He blinked looked at the necklace then at Cordelia. He thrust the necklace back at her.
“I run a respectable place. I’ve no plans to end up in Newgate.”
“Excuse me,” Cordelia pushed the necklace back at the man. “They’re real.”
“Aye, there are. You napped ‘em, to be sure.”
“Napped…Oh, I didn’t steal them I swear. They were a gift.”
“Who would be given the likes of you such finery.” The man looked at Cordelia’s dirty cloak.
Cordelia scowled and choked her retort at the man’s derogatory tone. “I didn’t steal it, you big oaf.” Okay, may be she didn’t choke down all of her retort.
“Where do you come from?’
“The colonies, you’re a Yank. What’s a Yank doing in the East End?”
Cordelia’s eyes widened. The dimension copied the founding of the colonies and the American Revolution? And the East End of where? “The United States, right.” She nodded.
“Thought so, ungodly land”
“Look are you going to buy this or what? They’re real, I didn’t steal them….” Cordelia paused trying to calm down. More flies with honey, more flies with honey, she repeated to herself and started again. “Sir, I’m sorry to be so rude, but I pretty much was abandoned here with only the clothes on my back and these. I need some money. They were a gift. Please.”
The man looked again at Cordelia’s cloak, then up to her face. “Come to the light, girl.”
“What?” Cordelia just knew she was going to lose it.
“To the light, girl.”
Cordelia moved to the weak light on the counter. She stared at the man as he studied. The Man leaned back on his heels and raised a brow. “Let me see your hands.”
“Uh,” Cordelia lifted her hands at the man’s insistence.
The man studied the long delicate fingers. His eyes widened at the red polish. A sign of a whore. He looked again at Cordelia’s face. But if the girl was a whore, she hadn’t been one for long; either that or the colonies treated their women of trade kinder than England.
There were no signs of drink, disease, or hardness to her eyes and she had all of her teeth, in fact, she was quite pretty. “Not one for an hard honest day of work are ya. Maybe you did nap it. Or sold yourself for them.” He watched her expression.
Cordelia’s eyes flashed daggers. Cordelia wanted to hit some thing, mainly the man standing between her and her means to get food.
A small smile formed on the man’s face. Aye, she was a proud one. And if she was a whore by trade, then he was the Queen’s paramour.
“Abandoned, said he was a gentleman did he?”
Cordelia’s frustration turned to hope as she heard the sympathetic tone.
Cordelia thought quickly. “It’s all so horrifying,” Cordelia let a small tear trickle down her cheek. “He said he would be there, take me to his family, marry me. What am I to do?” Thank god for romance novels.
“There, there girl. Had me daughter of me own. Men can be bastards that for sure.” The man took the necklace. “At least, he gave you some valuable treats. Sad, how many times that tossed aside skirts come in with paste or a death shroud. Sad.”
Cordelia decided to let that comment slide and accepted the coins gratefully. She glanced at the heavy gold coins; she brought them under the light, studying them. A monarch’s head was engraved in the coin, as well as the words, ‘God Save the Queen’. She wasn’t sure, but they looked real, too real in fact. With some trepidation, she looked up. “Not to sound to crazy, but what year is it?”
The man stared. “1889.”
Cordelia shot him a big smile. “Thought so, that sea voyage and all made me start to think that I fell off the world. But no, I’m here in England…in …”
“London. Whitechappel. Don’t you know where you are girl?”
“The Sea air, I’m from the States, feeling really not myself, right now. Whitechappel, the home of Jack the Ripper, wonderful.” Cordelia’s stomach clenched.
A dark scowl descended on the man’s face. “The bastard wasn’t an East Ender, some say he was a society doctor playing games, some say a Jew, I say he was Satan personified. “
Cordelia’s stomach clenched. She was getting the horrible suspicion that this wasn’t just some dimensions copy of 19th century England, but the real thing. How in the hell, did Wolfram & Hart send her back in time and why? Cordelia couldn’t think about it.
Dimension, time it made no difference, between Angel’s powers of persuasion and Wesley’s smarts, they would figure out how to save her. She just needed to remain calm, inconspicuous and unfortunately stay in Whitechappel, until they could. Her thoughts were interrupted by the man’s last words.
“Satan he was, spreading his evil, then returning to hell where he belonged, but not before he took me Mary.” The man’s eyes were filled with anger and sorrow.
“Aye, me daughter.”
Cordelia closed her eyes. Cordelia wasn’t one to study serial killers; she got enough blood and terror through her visions. But she knew about Jack the Ripper, everyone knew about the first serial killer, or at least the first reported one, famous for his brutality and elusiveness from detection.
Wesley had told her once that some in the Watcher’s Council believed the Ripper to be a demon, possibly a vampire, but they didn’t even know. It was just speculation. Cordelia thought it just a bunch of humans expounding excuses, humans that couldn’t accept that another human could be so evil.
Which was stupid considering all of the glorious examples of evil that the human race could boast of. Cordelia held up a hand and caressed the gruff’ man’s face. “I’m truly sorry for you. She didn’t deserve that horror, no one does”
The big man blinked and jerked away, clearing his throat. “Aye.”
Cordelia smiled. “Thank you.”
Cordelia turned to go.
The man watched her. A thrown away fancy piece, maybe, but a lady definitely. His Mary would’ve never been considered a lady, but she was- before the streets and the devil took her. He would not let it happen to another, not if he could help it.
“Hmm,” Cordelia paused. She didn’t know why but the man’s attitude had done a complete 360 towards her.
The man saw the question in her big eyes. He smiled. She really did remind him of his lost Mary.
“You will need a place to stay and a job. Those coins will get you only so far, then the streets will be your only option.”
Cordelia looked at the coins in her hand. She didn’t even know how far they would get her. An overwhelming, helplessness washed over her. She was lost, really lost. Please, Angel, she begged.
“Gerty runs an Inn down the road, on the edge of the East End. It’s as respectable as you’re going to get in the Stews. Tell her Pa Kelly sent you, she’ll put you up in a real room with a real bed, and give you a job, but lass, don’t be going upstairs, that’s where the light o skirts ply their trade. You don’t need to be doing that.”
Pa’s eyes widened as Cordelia filled the room with a bright smile. Lordy, the child could take the wind out of any man’s sails.
“Don’t be letting them drag you up those stairs.” He warned. “And the Ripper as been silent for almost a year, but don’t you be going out after dark.”
Cordelia giggled and smiled. “Don’t worry, I don’t go anywhere I don’t want to…unless I’m drugged, tied up or enchanted, and the after sundown thing, I got that one covered.”
She laughed at Pa’s expression. “I’ll be fine,” she smiled, running up a placing a kiss on the man’s cheek. “Thank you, Pa.”
Tears threatened to run down Pa’s reddening cheeks. He was going to have to visits Gerty’s real soon. He would make sure that the beautiful child didn’t end up like his Mary.
Angel scanned the city street.
Wesley stopped Gunn, as the black man was about to comment. “Let him be.”
Angel searched the night air for Cordelia’s scent.
They had reached the salon moments ago. Long enough to find out that Cordelia had been there, that she had been talking about the commercial and how she had been debating to drive there are just walk.
It wasn’t that far from the salon to the studios and parking in LA could be a bitch. She had decided to walk; it had been a pretty day. The smog was less oppressive than usual.
They found Gunn’s truck quickly. There had been no sign’s of a struggle. So, now Wesley and Gunn were visually scanning the area, while Angel utilizes his more discerning senses to find something, anything that would lead to Cordelia.
Fred watched the men and vampire, impressive, but not very effective. The young woman’s eyes went to a newsstand across the street. She started to cross. Tires screeched as she jumped back. The noise brought Angel, Wesley, and Gunn’s attention to her.
“Fred what are you doing,” Wesley lectured.
“I was thinking that instead of standing here looking and smelling, that maybe we should ask him,” she pointed to the newsstand’s vendor, “if he saw Cordy.” She blinked, nervously. “I mean who doesn’t notice Cordy.”
Angel was across the street in an instant. Wesley and Gunn followed slower dodging the traffic.
Fred pouted for a moment. It was her idea. She shrugged and tentatively crossed the street. She reached the other side in time to hear Wesley tell Angel to put the man down.
There were times that Fred was envious of Cordelia’s beauty, confidence and relationship with Angel, that was until things like this happened. Fred had to give credit where credit was due, sure, Fred knew that Angel wasn’t a beast, but sometimes he could be rather difficult.
And Cordelia definitely had the ability to tame the beast. Fred winced at her choice of thoughts. She hadn’t meant the beast part, honest.
“Angel,” Wesley repeated. “Gunn.”
“Right. Angel, not productive, scary. Put the man down.”
Angel growled, but let the man loose.
The old man’s eyes were wide and his body shaking. “What’s the matter with him.”
“He’s a little excitable, not dangerous, just a bit high strung.” Wesley explained.
The wrinkled black man squinted his eyes suspiciously. “High strung, sure.”
“Yes, well, we were wondering, whether you here this afternoon.”
“24-7, that’s what the sign says.”
Wesley nodded at the cardboard sign that proclaimed the newsstand opened 24 hours. “Yes, well then you were here this afternoon.”
“Yeah,” the man narrowed his eyes.
“Did you happen to see a young woman, early 20’s, dark hair, red dress, beautiful?”
“This is LA, come on,”
“She is…” Wesley stalled, how did you describe Cordelia. There was the obvious, but the old man was right, this was LA, beautiful woman were a dime a dozen. So how do you explain that Cordelia was something more, something special?
“She makes time stand still, the breath stops in your throat.” Angel said.
“You saw her.”
“I don’t know. What kind of description is that, except a love sick one. But I did see a very beautiful young girl in a red dress, but she was an actress.”
“An actress,” Wesley asked.
“Yeah, they were filming, the man said it was for a new movie.”
“See it was all exciting, at first. Most of the time, you can see the film crews; you know streets blocked off, yellow tape, police telling you to stay away. But this time, none of that. I thought it was real.”
“What was real,” Angel’s voice was low, the growl vibrated in his throat.
The old black man jumped at the sound. “Why does he do that?”
“Nervous condition, please ignore him and continue.” Wesley urged.
“That’s it, I saw a dark van pull up and snatch the pretty actress from the street. Then whoosh, off. It looked real, I was about to call the cops, when the man came up and told me it was all for a movie.
The cameras were up there in the windows, he said they wanted to experiment with the shots. “ The old man looked up to where he had pointed. “ Funny, I never saw the cameras go up or down for that matter. Weird.”
“Got it.” Gunn answered, dragging at Angel’s arm pulling the vampire away from the old man. “Angel, he is not who you want to kill. Okay.”
Angel grunted. “Let me go.”
“Gunn,” Angel’s voice was low and deadly.
Gunn shrugged and gave up.
Angel went to the old man. “The person that explained that what you saw was a movie, did he have a name.” Angel said calmly.
“No, but he gave me a card.”
“Really, may I see it?”
The old man’s eyes narrowed again, he didn’t like the dark man’s calm approach either. The calmness was just, if not more scary than the craziness. But, if giving him the card would get rid of him, then it was his.
“Okay.” The old man gave Angel the business card.
Angel looked at it; with a fierce growl, he crumbled up the small card and took off across the street.
“English,” Gunn asked torn between following the vampire and finding out what set him off.
Wesley picked up the crumbled card. “No.” Wesley shook his head. “No.” He repeated. “Wolfram & Hart.” The damaged card fluttered to the ground.
“Let’s go. It has to be trap.”
“We aren’t going to catch him.”
Wesley’s words were muted by the sound of Angel’s tires squealing against the curb as the black convertible rolled to a stop.
“Angel…” Wesley started and stopped as the car’s engine started to rev up again. “Of course, you’re in a hurry,” Wesley mumbled as he vaulted over the passenger door.
“Fred, take care of my truck.” Gunn tossed his keys as he jumped into the back seat of the now moving vehicle.
Fred stared as the black car sped off. It wasn’t fair; it had been her idea to talk to the newsvendor in the first place. Oh well. Fred gave a nervous smile to the old black man. “Thank you.”
The old man’s nod and look clearly showed that he was glad to be rid of all of them.
“Angel, you know this has to be a trap.”
Angel remained silent as he gripped the steering wheel. He would level Wolfram & Hart with bodies, blood and stone if he didn’t find Cordelia.
“Angel, the prophecy, Wolfram & Hart may have found it. And they took Cordelia to bring you to them. They may have found a drug or gas or something that could release Angelus.”
“Yeah, then they could just feed Cordelia to you, I mean to him. the evil guy, not to you. Then you’re damned and Cordy is dead. Maybe you better let English and I check things out first.”
“I won’t lose my soul by some drug or gas.”
“Angel, I beg to differ, it has happened before.”
“It won’t now.”
“Angel, I know you want to find Cordelia, we all do. But, you can’t let that blind you to the risks. Drugs can create that feeling..”
“My soul is permanent.”
“That simulates the euphoria….What? Your soul is permanent, since when, how, why don’t I know?”
“You never said that your epiphany included soul permanency, did he Gunn.”
“Hell, no. I ‘d have remembered.”
“Are you sure? I mean have you…” Wesley’s eyes widened. “You and Cordelia haven’t…no, she seemed pretty positive that Buffy was your soul mate, and I can’t imagine….I don’t want to imagine it…Did you?”
“Cordelia doesn’t know and no, I haven’t tested it, by any means. Like it would’ve worked without Cordelia.”
“Stop, the mental images…” Gunn winced in the backseat. “You’re talking about Cordy, hey like you’re talking about my sister. She ain’t having sex.”
“What was that Angel?”
“Oh, I thought you mumbled or rather growled something.” Wesley shook his head, trying not to laugh. He shouldn’t laugh, this was very serious. But Angel’s growl at the idea that Cordelia wouldn’t be having sex was funny and a bit disturbing when he thought about it some more. Gunn was right; those were not the mental pictures he wished to have.
“I said Lorne verified it. My soul is permanent.”
“That’s good. But the prophecy calls for the demon within to kill Cordelia. That’s Angelus. Good lord, have Wolfram & Hart found a way to take away your permanent soul. Angel, you really should allow Gunn and I to check things out before you walk into a trap.”
“And if they have?”
“Then you kill Angelus and save Cordelia.”
“Oh. That sounds like a plan.” Wesley shot a look at Gunn.
Gunn shrugged. “The tranq guns are in the trunk right?”