64: The Summers’ House, 1630 Revello Drive, Central Sunnydale
“We’ll meet you there,” Buffy promised quietly. Stunned by Giles’ news, she held the phone to her ear even when the line went dead only half aware of its irascible buzzing.
Willow and Xander sat on the living room couch staring expectantly, with a large ceramic bowl of popcorn balanced between them. Their movie was paused in freeze frame, the blonde heroine captured in an eternal silent scream as they waited to hear the outcome of Buffy’s conversation with her Watcher.
When Buffy had pointed at the phone and mimed Giles’ name, they’d groaned at the interruption taking bets on whether it was more research or the unearthing of a new clue about the prophecy.
“Giles translated the rest of the rubbings from the obelisk,” Willow made a wild guess preferring that to the alternative.
They had only caught a brief portion of the one-sided conversation. Buffy turned, now clutching the phone to her chest. Her expression drew immediate concern from her two friends.
“No,” she swallowed down the bile rising in her throat. Her eyes were large circles of remorse in a ghostly pale face. “Something happened.”
“Told ya it was too good to be true,” Xander nudged her with his elbow before reaching in for another fistful of popcorn. “Just tell me we don’t need to bring a bazooka to the mall again.”
Buffy slammed down the phone causing them to jerk in surprise. “It’s bad. Let’s go.”
“You okay, Buffster?”
Hesitating only for a moment, she told them, “Angel called Giles who called me.”
“Dead Boy called Giles?” Xander picked up the popcorn bowl dropping it on the couch cushion beside him as he bounded off the couch. There was only one reason he could think of for Angel to pick up a phone.
Willow was slower to move, but her brain caught his line of thinking lickety-split. “Angel wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. This has to be about—”
Xander blurted the name first, “Cordelia.”
“C’mon,” Buffy urged as she opened the front door. “I’ll tell you everything on the way.”
Speeding Eastward on Oak Park Street, Central Sunnydale
After securing his passenger side seatbelt a notch tighter, Wesley braced himself on the dashboard. Giles appeared to be trying out for the British Grand Prix. The tires actually screeched at the last turn; it was a wonder they did not fall off in the process.
“Perhaps arriving in one piece would be more productive,” he yelped as the angry driver of the blue car they passed repeatedly sounded the klaxon. “Is it quite necessary to drive this fast?”
Giles barely spared him a glance, which was probably for the best considering their current speed. “Yes,” the clipped answer preceded a tense reminder, “we need to sort things out before the local authorities get involved.”
Wesley had not been privy to either telephone call having been engrossed in a particular passage of the prophecy scroll at the time. There was only a cursory explanation given when the elder Watcher hauled him out of his seat telling him, “There’s been a murder.”
“A murder!” His raised voice had reverberated around the empty library. Then he asked with a whisper, “A murder?”
“I just received a call from Angel,” Giles had said. “He’s at the scene. Your girl is there.”
“My g— oh, my Slayer,” Wesley finally clued in. “Faith actually witnessed this atrocity?”
Giles’ jaw tightened, “Apparently, she tried to put up a fight.”
He had seen Faith last night at the Bronze dancing with a passion and energy that matched the music. From a carefully chosen vantage point, he spent an hour in silent observation. He watched her dance, flirt and skillfully fend off would-be suitors.
Everything he had read in her profile suggested this would be a worthy challenge. One he hoped would gain him some respect in the eyes of his father. Wesley had thought himself prepared for meeting Faith face to face, but felt that the Bronze was an inappropriate setting. Now it appeared his prepared words for such an auspicious moment would have to be revised.
“Did Angelus provide any specifics?”
Giles corrected him, “Angel.”
“Yes, of course,” Wes’ eyes narrowed behind the rims of his dark-rimmed glasses. He had read everything available in the Council texts about the Scourge of Europe before making the journey to Sunnydale.
The thought of meeting the infamous ensouled vampire was quite overwhelming. He felt a bit giddy, though that might be due to being flung forward and jerked to a halt by his seatbelt as the car stopped in front of their destination.
Wes clutched his chest, an ache where the seatbelt held him in place, and turned his neck from side to side expecting to hear a crack. Over his right shoulder, he noticed the small house, quite modest by Sunnydale standards. Perhaps by anyone’s standards, Wes revised his opinion, as he looked closer at the aged appearance of the one-story building.
Reaching out, he grabbed Giles’ arm preventing him from leaving the car. Waiting to speak until the other man’s troubled gaze turned to meet his, Wes asked, “You never mentioned the name of the victim.”
Revello Drive near the Crossroads, Central Sunnydale
“It’s Cordelia, isn’t it?” Xander panted the question as he tried to keep up with the Slayer who was setting a mean pace up Revello Drive.
Buffy nodded and then blurted, “She’s…gone. I can’t believe the last thing I said to her today.”
“What did you say?” Willow asked. It was easier to focus on that than what Buffy said about Cordelia.
The pallor was gone from Buffy’s face. “Nothing,” she denied quickly. At the responding look of doubt, she added solemnly, “It’s not worth repeating.”
“When you say gone,” Xander cut in to steer the conversation where it needed to be, “do you mean Cordelia is on a shopping spree and forgot to leave a note? Because I can totally see her doing that.”
Stopping, Buffy placed her hands on Xander’s shoulders. She knew that he still cared about Cordelia. No matter how much of a bitch she could be and despite her suspicions about her status with Angel, Buffy would never really want any harm to come to her.
“Giles didn’t know all of the details,” Buffy hoped to soften the news because it was going to take them another fifteen minutes to get to Quincy Street. Causing Xander to fear the worst about his ex-girlfriend was not going to make getting there any easier, but he deserved the truth. “Angel told him that Cordelia is gone and Faith is down.”
Willow remembered, “It was Faith’s turn to guard her.”
“There was a fight,” Buffy explained. “S-someone is dead.”
“Not Cor.” Shaking his head, Xander denied the possibility. “Gone doesn’t mean— dead,” he whispered the word. “Could Faith be…” his voice dropped off as if he could not even say the word again. It was not exactly a more welcome option.
“I don’t know.” She hugged him tight and then let go. “Angel didn’t give Giles a chance to ask too many questions. We’ve got to get going.”
They followed along as fast as they could until Buffy rounded the corner at the end of the drive. “Buffy, wait. Wait!” Xander called out as he realized they were moving away from Cordelia’s normal hangouts. “Cor’s house is the other way.”
Buffy paused, glancing over her shoulder again. “That’s not where we’re headed. This happened at her grandmother’s house. According to what Angel told Giles, she’s living there now.”
After they caught up, Buffy started moving at a slow jog allowing them to pace her. Willow was panting for air as she shared her confusion. “I didn’t know there were any mansions on the Upper East Side.”
“There aren’t,” Xander answered instead. It was the poorest section of town. Now that he thought of it, Bev Quinn was not exactly dripping in diamonds when she came to the hospital. “When did Cor start living with her grandmother?”
“Beats me,” Buffy answered.
Willow was just as clueless, “I dunno. I didn’t even know she had a grandmother until she showed up at the hospital with Angel.”
Cor had seemed like an open book to Willow ever since the days of the We Hate Cordelia Club, a superficial, spoilt princess who got everything she ever wanted, the tactless bitchy girl who once ruled the school. Every run-in she had with Cordelia flashed through her head as they entered what was quaintly known as the eastside slums.
They cut through the motel parking lot toward an area containing the Sunnydale Trailer Park and a street of dilapidated old houses. Willow paused at the corner, catching her hands on her knees and panting for air. She saw that her friends were already off the sidewalk crossing the front lawn.
Giles’ car was parked out front. He had beaten them there, of course. She gulped as she reached the edge of the lawn seeing the screen door hanging on its hinges and a crowd gathered in the front hall. Not quite certain that she wanted to find out if it was Cordelia or Faith who was lying there, she prompted herself to move on, “Time to find out.”