OUT AND ABOUT
It was late evening and Cordy was finishing the day with a quick trip to the bank; having arrived so late she was using the automatic teller to deposit a cheque from a client. She was deep in thought when she heard his voice and nearly jumped out of her skin, she jerking around to find him standing behind her. “Stop with the stalking will you, it’s bad enough with the others you’ve got watching me night and day”, she snapped at him, glowering.
“Why did you ditch them if all you were doing was going to the bank”? He asked enquiringly, one brow raised in mild amusement. In the evening darkness he was just a tall dark figure looming over her, blocking the street light behind him.
She tossed her hair out of her face, wishing it was even darker to hide the blush that stained her cheeks, images of the dream from the other night filling her mind, it was the first time she’d seen him since.
“I don’t like being watched” She finally got out and then arched a brow of her own, making it clear she didn’t appreciate having to go to the trouble of losing her ‘guards’. He just lifted his chin in acknowledgement and turned to walk with her, calming down she asked him, “How did you find me”?
“I picked up your scent from the where they’d last seen you, care to tell me how you do it”? He asked not really expecting her to answer. She stopped walking and so he stopped too, smiling at her exaggerated ‘grossed out’ expression.
“OK enough with the supernatural sense of smell. Are you telling me I need a bath or just letting me know that I wouldn’t be able to ‘ditch’ you as easily as I did your crack team”? She smiled at him then entranced by the idea of pitting her wits against his and seeing if she could beat the ‘master’ stalker, “don’t go there Cordy”.
“You smell great and you know it”. Better than great actually, he had to suppress an urge to lean down and nibble, in a good way he hastily assured himself and cursed his photographic memory among other things.
“As for the watching, I want to offer you a compromise” he finished, moving his head to hold her gaze when she would have started walking again.
“Compromise”? That sounded promising but she could hardly concentrate on what he was saying. They were standing so close she had to look up to see his starkly masculine face and her eyes kept get getting caught by his full lips and remembering how they felt kissing their way down her body.
“Yeah, I’ll stop the surveillance if you agree to ring me anytime you take on a dangerous case so that I can, you know help you”. He was completely serious now, face almost stern in the half light. She didn’t say anything straight away, appearing to mull it over.
He didn’t like her hesitation, “It’s either that or I baby-sit you myself and believe me I’ll be all over you like you wouldn’t believe” He warned his jaw set stubbornly, dark eyes fiercely determined.
Thinking about it later she thought she should have objected to being given an ultimatum like that, but right then she was too busy fighting yet another blush and the tingles that raced through her body at the ideas that ‘threat’ gave her overactive imagination, “get a grip” she told herself.
“OK you have a deal”, she didn’t know if it would work but what the hell if it got rid of prying eyes and besides that she wasn’t so stubborn she would refuse some backup if things got rough.
“Promise me” He said stubbornly moving to block her path, wanting to cement the deal and at the same time use it as an excuse to make sure he would see her again soon. She wasn’t too happy with his apparent lack of trust but just gave him an annoyed look as she said “I promise OK”.
He was satisfied with that and walked her back to her car, wincing as she drove off at what he considered to be a dangerous speed. “Women drivers” he muttered and then was glad she couldn’t hear him or his head would have been bitten off at the neck.
THE HYPERION HOTEL
The next morning Cordy was in the basement, practising with a light-weight broadsword, specially designed for women said the store owner, yeah right, it felt like a lead weight, ah well she’d get used to the weight soon enough.
She ignored the footsteps on the stairs coming down, thinking it was just Cathy but it wasn’t it. When she turned around and saw Lilah, she nearly dropped the sword in shock but managed to swing it safely to the side. “What are you doing here” she whispered, remembering their last face to face.
“I’ve come to make you an offer” said Lilah with a broad smile, “Think of it as thanks for killing me before Angelus could do his worst”; she finished with a smirk and a depreciating shake of her head. Lilah watched as Cordelia turned even paler, her hazel eyes wide and yet watchful.
Cordelia recovered her wits and said with brutal frankness “I’m not sorry you’re dead Lilah, I’m just sorry it was me that did it, there are so many other people who deserved the pleasure”, it was just her opinion.
“Don’t you want to hear the offer, it’s a good one” Asked Lilah leaning against the bars of the steel cell that was still taking up a fair amount of floor space. The cell was something Cordy wanted to get rid off; although right then it was looking like it might come in handy.
“Not interested” said Cordy shortly, her face relaxed now, this was familiar territory, sparring with Lilah, one bitch to another.
“How can you know unless you hear me out” Said Lilah with a deep sigh, as if practising patience. She’d known Cordy wouldn’t be interested but then it was only an excuse for being here, not the real reason for the visit.
“You’re dead, you’re evil and you’ve come here for the Senior Partners to make me an offer, oh sure I’ll just sign on with the law firm from hell, gimme a break” Replied Cordy without a moment’s hesitation.
“The others all did, they seem to be enjoying the perks, especially Angel”, Lilah prodded, deliberately.
“Don’t kid yourself Lilah, he’d be gone in an instant if you didn’t have a hold over him”, Cordy narrowed her eyes at the dead woman, knowing there was something else that Lilah was waiting to reveal.
“Oh I think I’m not the one kidding myself Cordelia, but that’s another story. So tell me how’s life after the visions; what with there being no messages about people in trouble for you now. How much can you do alone”?
“I do OK and I don’t need any help from you, I can take care of myself just ask Eve”, Said Cordy coldly.
“I would except she’s no longer available for consultation, thanks for that by the way, she was getting on my nerves. Nice to know I can still bank on you to get someone killed for me” Smirked Lilah watching for Cordy’s reaction avidly.
“I didn’t kill her”, snapped Cordy
“You might as well have, she’s got a contract out on her and will be dead before morning”.
“Just like you there’s no-one I can think of who deserves it more” replied Cordy with sarcasm.
“No doubt, shame about the young teenage girl who was taken too”, said Lilah her face carefully composed into one of mock sorrow.
“What the hell are you talking about” snapped Cordy stalking towards Lilah, the sword raised now.
“Take it easy wonder girl, I’m dead remember. Eve was running for her life and stopped to beg some girl for help. The girl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and they both got taken”. Lilah shrugged unconcerned.
“Of course that means that’s two to add to your body count -but not to worry you’re still nowhere near your lovers numbers yet, but I have faith in you”, Lilah taunted in a low smiling voice.
Cordy ignored Lilah’s taunting; she knew this was not her fault, but still. She turned away to think, her mind working the angles furiously. She shot a suspicious look at the dead woman “How do I know you’re speaking the truth”?
Lilah took some photographs out of the leather case she been holding and dropped them on the cement floor of the basement. Cordelia leaned down to pick them up, keeping a careful watch on Lilah.
They were taken in a darkened street and by the quality were taken from a CCTV camera or something similar. They showed large unidentifiable cloaked figures attacking Eve and a young teenage girl. The last one showed them both being dragged away, Eve by her hair, the girl by the waist like a sack of potatoes.
“Why show these to me? Eve worked for Wolfram & Hart, so get Angel to rescue the girl”
“The demons work for us; this is Eve getting her comeuppance for failing so miserably; the Senior Partners are touchy about that kind of thing. As for the other girl, well sometimes you just can’t control subcontractors”, she said it in a kind of fatalistic, ‘what the hell’ kind of way making Cordy wanted to slap her.
“Make them release the girl, it’s not fair, she’s an innocent”, Cordy said to her, the words slow and carefully pronounced, this was no longer a verbal game of cat and mouse.
“Life is never fair haven’t you realised that yet and anyway I can’t do it, they consider her part of the spoils and so theirs”. Lilah shrugged again.
Cordy studied the pictures again, she found an address on the back of one of them, “What kind of demons are they and ..”? She looked up but Lilah was gone and she was alone again.
WOLFRAM & HART BUILDING
The phone on the desk rang, diverted from Angel’s direct line as he was out of the office. The woman at the desk answered the phone with professional crispness.
“Good morning, Wolfram & Hart, how can I help you”?
“Hi can I speak to Angel please, this is Cordelia Chase” asked Cordy hurriedly, c’mon put me through she wanted to say, life and death stuff here.
“I’m sorry Ms Chase but Mr Angel is not in his office, can anyone else help you”? Still crisp and impersonal but the woman’s eyes had sharpened on hearing who was calling.
“When will he be available it’s an emergency and I need to speak to him now” demanded Cordelia sharply.
“I have no idea Ms Chase, maybe later tonight or early in the morning”.
“Does he still have the same cell phone as before”? Asked Cordy frustrated.
“I’m sorry I don’t know” Said the woman unhelpfully.
Cordelia rang off after insisting that a message be given to him to ring her immediately. Annoyed she picked up the phone again and rang the cell phone number Angel’s used to have from way back.
“What the point of offering help and then not being around to give it you big dumbass”? She waited impatiently for someone to pick up at the other end.
A cell phone started to ring on the woman’s desk, she smiled and ignored it, when it finally stopped ringing she picked it up and then deleted the message Cordelia had left.
The address turned out to be an old suburban estate, only the houses were not well kept up and one or two actually looked abandoned, or so she thought. In some cases roof tiles were missing and most had windows yellowed and grained with old dirt, but no matter what, they still looked better than the house whose address she had.
She stood outside it and looked down the path, overgrown with weeds and grass that looked like it had never see a mower since being sown, but that was just the best part. The worst was the fact that the house was a burnt out wreck. Blackened and cracked windows with soot and smoke from a much earlier fire staining the walls on both levels, lovely.
“This can’t be right”? She asked herself, reluctant to even go near in case she breathed too hard and the whole structure came tumbling down.
“Dammit Eve you’ve been a pain in the ass since I got back to LA, don’t stop now will ya”. She said with all the snark she could muster, just to cheer herself up.
She checked her cell phone again, still no signal, what was up with the damn thing she’d bought the best package just to avoid this situation. So no messages from Angel and no chance of getting hold of Cathy or anyone else, she was truly on her own with this one. Was that what Lilah had wanted, her alone and defenceless, maybe but could she really back away now?
She got the photographs out again and studied the young and terrified face of the teenage girl, she was blonde too but the difference from Eve was stark, even in the grainy pictures, she reminded Cordy of a much younger Buffy, only without the superpowers. For that reason alone she could not back out of this, she had to try.
“It’s just a house Cor c’mon, get a grip and get in there”, she told herself forcefully, pep talking herself was not her strong point but regardless she took and deep breathe and started down the path toward the old rickety porch.
ANGEL – WOLFRAM & HART BUILDING
“Are there any messages for me”? Angel asked of the woman who was manning the desk outside of his office, he didn’t think of her as his receptionist because they changed so often, Most were afraid of him and none stayed for long, he tried not to let it bother him.
“No sir” She answered with a sigh, not surprising since he’d asked that question at least once an hour since he’d gotten up. Despondent he walked away and then turned and hurried back.
“Did you find my cell phone”? He asked her, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his black pants. He hated to appear like he was bothering the woman but she just smiled and handed it back to him, he took it off her full of gratitude.
“Yes sir, I found it on the floor of your office” She told him archly.
“Oh I thought I’d checked my office” He said surprised and embarrassed.
“Obviously not very thoroughly Sir” She said without inflection, he looked at her and then walked away again, his shoulders slumping when he saw there were no messages. He missed her small and satisfied smile.
They’d chased her from the bus station where she’d been waiting in the dark and cold of pre dawn. The place had been deserted except for a single teller who had looked at her as if she was crazy. She’d been expecting something to happen, you just can’t do what she had done and expect to live, failure was not an option. When she’d seen the weird cloaked creatures she’d known they were there for her so she’d abandoned her stuff and just run.
But there had been more of them than expected and she nearly ran headlong into more, she’d gotten away that time but still she didn’t get far. She’d come across a girl and begged for help, though god only knows what she’d thought the girl could do, call the cops?
Now they were both here, chained to single metal frame beds, the mattresses had been removed and wooden boards put on top, both of them lay on the hard unyielding surface. The girl was crying, great gulping tears of pain and fear, Eve didn’t cry and had nothing to say that would be of any comfort, they were both going to die, soon.
She didn’t bother knocking, hello did she really want to give advance warning that she was here, NOT!
She’d checked out the downstairs windows but couldn’t see much past the several years’ worth of grime and soot. The screen door was surprising silent when she opened it, obviously well oiled and the front door was unlocked, all she had to do was push it open.
“Why am I suddenly reminded of all the horror movies I’ve watched where some idiot woman goes into the monsters den”? Cordy asked herself. She paused before entering, it was noon and hot as hell but she shivered anyway. She pulled her cell phone out again, still no signal, damn.
She walked inside, clutching a small throwing axe in her right hand and slightly behind her back. Her trainers made no sound on the floor and she avoided the more obviously rotten parts of the floor. She’d come dressed to fight in long pants and a t-shirt, nothing too loose or baggy to give an opponent something to hold onto in a fight. She had a feeling she was going to need every advantage she could get.
After ten minutes and finding nothing inside the house to indicate anyone had been there recently and feeling oppressed by the blackened walls and huge gaping holes in the floors, she decided to leave before she fell through a floor somewhere, like that hadn’t happened before. “Been there done that” she thought.
She did a last sweep of downstairs, which looked the safest floor wise and found a door that she’d missed before; it opened easily just like the front doors had. It led to some stairs going down to the basement. Gripping the axe tighter she made her way down them, keeping to the left and making sure her right side was clear to defend and attack. At the bottom she found a light switch and snapped it on.
She’d found them, Eve and the girl were chained to beds in the middle of the room, blinking in the sudden light. OK so far so good, so where were the demons and why the hell had this been so easy. Cordy wasn’t happy with this set-up, because that’s exactly what it felt like, a set-up. She’d found the bait so where was the reel?
“Get us out of here” hissed Eve, suddenly wild with hope, why was the dumb bitch just standing there looking around?
Cordy had to admit Eve was right, why waste time -maybe she’d just hit lucky and caught the bad guys napping or something, no use wasting the opportunity. She moved to the beds and checked out the chains, solid but not impossibly thick; glad she’d brought the axe she started to whack away at the chains binding the girl.
She’d just finished with the girl and moved over to free Eve when there was a hissing sound, followed by a thunk. Cordy whipped her head up and around and saw a figure at the bottom of the stairs, blocking the only escape route. She stood up and briefly glanced at Eve, now dead with an arrow sticking grotesquely out of her chest, her mouth open as she’d been about to scream a warning just when it hit her. She looked back at the killer, but still couldn’t tell what it looked like, it wore a concealing cloak.
ANGEL – THE HYPERION HOTEL
She was definitely going to accuse him of stalking now, but he couldn’t shake a bad feeling about her and so here he was. At least this time he had a good excuse, he’d hunted out a case to offer her, not too dangerous and hopefully a good earner.
He felt like an interloper when he walked up the stairs from the basement and then crossed the lobby floor, which was strange considering this had been his home not too long ago.
“Hello, anyone here”? He had raised his voice, just in case.
No answer, he frowned it was the middle of the day and they could be on a case, but the bad feeling increased and made his stomach feel like it was full of knots. Deciding to forget being polite he bounded up the stairs to the upper floor, heading for the rooms and hoping he was just being oversensitive.
He found Cordy’s rooms empty but they looked OK, no signs of trouble and his senses were telling him she’d been there only a few hours ago at most. He walked back out and along the corridor to another room a few doors down, this room had been Fred’s. He knocked and waited, there was no answer and as far as he could detect there was no heartbeat but something made him open the door anyway.
She was lying on the floor, her legs twisted in an awkward angle which have been uncomfortable if she wasn’t already dead, her neck broken by the looks of it. He knelt down beside her and checked for a pulse, nothing. He sat back and looked down at her, if Cordy was right and the other week seemed proof enough, she would recover.
He picked her up and laid her on the bed, arranging her limbs and head in natural positions and then turned to leave. He didn’t notice that he’d left behind the wallet containing the details of the ‘case’. His bad feeling had escalated to almost downright panic and he patched through a call to the office as he ran back downstairs.
CORDY – HOUSE
The cloaked figure dropped the old fashioned bow it had used on Eve and drew back the hood of the cloak, its face was oddly human which should have been reassuring but it wasn’t. The head was entirely bald with a high brow and widely spaced entirely black eyes. The skin looked thick and pasty white, the mouth was lipless and the nostrils little more than slits.
“Well hey there handsome, do you come here often” Said Cordy sarcastically, lifting the axe up to her shoulder in an aggressive stance, designed to at least impress on it that she wasn’t going to be intimidated just because it was ugly, I mean weren’t they all?
It obviously didn’t like her response and lack of fear because the next thing it did was open the rest of the cloak to reveal, “Ewwww” an entirely naked, all pasty white body. It bent down and clenched its fists, staring at her and then it opened its mouth and howled.
“Oh gross, yuck and Eww again, you are one disgusting creep do you know that”? Said Cordy truly disgusted, then it charged her and she shrieked, she couldn’t help it. Give her a scaly monster any-day of the week and she’d have preferred that to this thing. She raised the axe and using a two handed grip swung it at the body.
It bounced off the thick skin and she ended up with a sore arm from the rebound. Its hands reached for her and she only just managed to bring a knee up and get it where it hurts, it howled again and backed away. Cordy could only be glad it was similar to humans in being sensitive in that area as well.
Not hesitating she took a step forward and raised the axe as high as she could and then brought it down on its unprotected head, thankfully it sunk in and it collapsed to the floor.
“There that wasn’t so bad”, she said smiling at the girl cowering under cover of the bed she’d been chained to. “There are more of them” the girl whispered back her pale and sweaty face filled with terror and shock.
“There are”? Asked Cordy feeling a lot less cocky. “Well let’s get the hell out of dodge before they come back too”. She grabbed the girl’s hand and pulled her out, but it was too late; they both heard the door bang shut at the top of the stairs.
Shoving the girl behind her Cordelia assumed a battle ready stance with both feet planted firmly apart for better balance. They both waited in silence as the footsteps came down the stairs and closer to them. When the figure reached the bottom and came into the light it was all Cordy could do to stare in utter confusion, “What the hell are doing here”?
“I’m here to save you” Said the man, stepping closer to reveal the familiar face of the Groosalugg.
ANGEL – WOLFRAM & HART BUILDING
“I hate this” he snarled as he stormed around his office, frustration at being able to do nothing eating at him. “Where the hell is she”?
Lorne was leaning against the desk watching as the vampire paced back and forth like a caged animal, “Wesley and the others are all out looking for her, there’s nothing you can do that they can’t”, then he winced, “except for the supernatural abilities of course, duh”.
“If she hadn’t kept evading the surveillance teams, we might have a better idea of what she’s been doing”, still with the snarling, in fact that last one was a good imitation of a growl.
“I can’t just wait here. I’m going back to the hotel; tell the guys to meet me there unless they come across a lead and then I want to know immediately, clear”?
“Sure thing boss, you want some company for the ride”? Angel didn’t answer but he took it as a yes anyway.
CORDY & GROO
“I can’t believe you found the message I left for Cathy and just turned up, not that I wasn’t glad to see you” Said Cordy with an uncomfortable smile. She just wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have rather just left before he turned up, “stop being a bitch” she told herself.
They’d just dropped the poor shell shocked girl off at home and where on their way to Groo’s motel room. He’d offered to accompany her back to the hotel but for some reason she hadn’t wanted him there and that made her feel bad too.
“I wanted to see you straight away, princess” for some reason his use of the name he’d always called her sounded odd, as if it was purely by rote. Her unease increased, call it women’s intuition, whatever, she just knew that Groo had changed since she’d last seen him and she didn’t think it was for the better.
“Look I appreciate that, really but I’m fine and sooo tired why don’t I see you tomorrow and we can catch up then over a nice mug of latte”? She gave him a bright smile, “please just say OK”.
“I need to talk with you now and then we may see each other tomorrow”, he said insistently. She silenced a deep sigh and turned back to give her attention to the road now that the stop light had changed to green.
His motel was part of a large chain and so she was able to park outside his room as directed. When she would have just said ‘bye’, he reached over and lifted her hand in his, pointing to his room. She looked into his eyes and remembered how much he’d given up for her and how she’d let him down. “OK but just for a few minutes and then I have to go back home”.
“I understand” he said quietly, smiling his gentle smile making her wonder why she’d felt such uneasiness about him, he was still her Groo.
Cordy entered the room first and wondered why the curtains were drawn tightly closed. It couldn’t be to keep the heat out as there was air conditioning in each room but then she felt a cloth being pressed over her nose and mouth and understood. She tried to fight him off but his arms were steel bands around her, she lost consciousness within seconds.
THE HYPERION HOTEL
They all gathered in the lobby getting ready for another sweep of the city and Cordy’s known haunts over the last few weeks, Intel gathered from the surveillance, meagre at best was laid out on the desk that had been Angel’s then Wesley’s and was now Cordy’s.
Dusk was only a half hour away and they were all glad of it, Angel was getting past unbearable at being cooped up still and moving location hadn’t helped at all.
“We’ll find her” Said Fred to Angel as he stood broodingly surveying the mess of papers, looking for anything that leapt out as the best place to start.
He didn’t bother to answer her, but cocked his head to one side, listening. They all noticed and looked askance at him, what had he heard? As one they all left the office and followed him out to the lobby. He watched the doors his body tense as sprung wire.
One of the glass doors opened to admit a man they all recognised. Tall, dark and muscular although this time not in animal skins. “Groo”? They chorused in unison.
He stood at the top of the stairs, “Be at ease about Cordelia, she is with me and has agreed to leave with me” he announced to them all, but he was looking at Angel. All five stared at him in shock, and then Angel growled savagely.
“The hell she is”.