Soulripper 11

Part 11: Answers

Angel had a stake pressed against his heart in a matter of moments.

Gunn was up instantly and jammed a stake across the threshold at Angel’s chest. “Give me proof right now that you’re not Angelus, otherwise I stick this in,” Gunn threatened.

“Gunn!” Lorne called from behind. “Cool it, I can feel the guilt coming off him. It worked.”

Gunn never took his eyes off the vampire. Angel avoided his gaze, preferring to concentrate on the raindrops falling on his head. “Can I come in?” he asked again. Gunn had to strain to hear him.

Gunn slowly lowered the stake away from the vampire’s chest. “Yeah, come in.” Angel had barely stepped into the room before Fred barreled into him. The small girl held on for dear life.

“Angel! We missed you so much! I’m glad you’re back!”

Angel slowly wrapped his arms around Fred. “I’m glad to be back,” Angel said.

Fred looked into the eyes of her first Hero. He was so sad, so guilt ridden. This certainly wasn’t the monster they had been afraid of. But it wasn’t really the man she had come to know over the past months. This was a man she had never seen before. It was a man no one save Willow had ever seen. Someone whose soul is tortured to the point of total hopelessness.

Angel gently pried himself away from Fred and began to drift toward a far corner. The individuals in the room gave him a wide berth, not from fear, but from respect. Once settled in a chair in the darkest corner, Angel finally noticed the man bound against the wall.

“Who is he?” Angel asked.

“That is the guy responsible for the whole ‘no soul’ thing,” Willow answered. “We sorta kidnapped him outside Wolfram and Hart.” No one missed the painful wince Angel gave at the mention of the law firm.

“Angel?” Willow asked. “Do you know what happened there today?” Willow slowly approached the vampire and kneeled in front of the chair. Angel nodded slowly, his eyes trying to find anything to look at besides her. “Angel? What happened?”

“Something happened to Cordy,” he whispered. “I thought that Wolfram and Hart would know what happened.”

Millions of questions started to fly at the mention of Cordelia. Angel grimaced and pressed himself deeper into the chair. Willow waved frantically at everyone to shut up. When they finally settled, Willow resumed.

“What do you mean something happened to Cordy?”

Angel had finally found a flaw in the wallpaper near his chair. That was a good place to focus. He couldn’t see everyone’s stares then. “Angel?” Willow asked again.

“I was talking to her, then she drifted off. I couldn’t smell her soul anymore.” Angel finally focused on the woman who saved his soul so many years ago. “Her soul smells like peaches,” he said in a melancholy voice. “I like peaches.”

Willow rested her hand on Angel’s, only to have him jerk away. She apologized before asking, “Angel? Do you know where Cordelia is?”

“She’s in danger,” Angel replied. He turned away from Willow and focused once more on the wallpaper.

“Have you found anything?” Kelemoke demanded of Luke.

“The men swept throughout the city, but were unable to locate Angelus,” Luke answered. “However, I did go to the woman’s apartment. I couldn’t enter, but I could smell his presence. He had been there recently.”

“He went to find her friends,” Kelemoke mused.

“Master, there is something else.” Kelemoke looked upon the minion with a questioning glance. “When I was at the apartment, the scent was Angelus’, I have no doubt of that. But, I swear it was different somehow, like there was also…”

“A soul?” Kelemoke supplied. The minion nodded the affirmative. “Then Angelus is no more. It is merely Angel now. However, I still want him dead.”

“It may be difficult to find him, Master. The rain prevented me from tracking him outside. I could not tell where he went after visiting the apartment.”

“You are right,” Kelemoke acknowledged. “He will be difficult to find. But then again, here in these halls lays an item that Angel and Angels held most dear. There is no reason to believe he won’t return for it.”

Now would be a great time to develop ESP as a demon attribute, Cordelia mused. Then she could shoot a message to Gunn, the Pope, Santa Claus, or any other person who could get her out of this hellhole.

“Damn handcuffs are chaffing my wrists,” Cordy muttered. The clank of the cuffs against the pole was the only sound in the room. “At least Noriega got to listen to Van Halen. I’d settle for some fucking Yanni.”

Cordelia didn’t like the quiet. It was a proven fact that bad shit always happened when it went silent. She’d seen enough slasher movies to know that was true. Hell, she’d been raised in Sunnydale. She knew vampires didn’t often wears bells around their necks. And here she was, in some building with a shitload of them. Including one that seemed really pissed off at Angelus.

Cordelia’s nose twitched as her ears picked up on the sound of footsteps approaching the door. “Speaking of the devil,” Cordy mumbled.

“You don’t seem surprised to see me,” Kelemoke observed.

“I smelled you coming,” Cordy answered.

“Do I really smell that bad?” Kelemoke asked amused.

“No,” Cordy said honestly. “In fact, I may have to ask where you got the bath soap you use.”

“Coverdale’s,” Kelemoke supplied. “It’s down on Sunset. I normally get a spicy blend, but you seem more the peaches and cream type of woman.”

“You’re right, I am. But thanks for the info. I also think that bath soaps aren’t what you were wanting to discuss.”

“They aren’t, but it’s always nice to have a woman appreciate my efforts to smell good. I just came to tell you that Angelus seems to have betrayed us. He possibly has his soul back. We’re having difficulty locating him, so we thought we’d just use you as bait.”

“Good plan, because I honestly think Angel likes me.”

“Well, I’m not the Master because of my good looks. Although I could be. But you could just tell me where he is. I’d forget about the bait idea.”

“Sorry, don’t know where he’d be. But if he’s really Angel again, I couldn’t really tell you. No offence to you or your hospitality, but I kinda want to be saved now. Unless of course you want to set me free.”

“No offence taken, but I can’t set you free. I want to kill Angel quite badly, and you’re my best bet to get at him.”

“Then I guess I wait here then. Anything else on your mind?”

“Not really. I’ll leave you to your attempts to break out of the handcuffs.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Cordelia called as he left. She had the weirdest conversations with people sometimes.

It took several hours before Diaz woke from his drug-induced haze. When he finally woke, the vampire greeted him.

“I’d like to know why,” Angel said quietly. The vampire removed the tape from the soul stealer’s mouth with a quick jerk. “Why did Wolfram and Hart do it?”

Diaz gasped in pain. It felt like his lips and just been jerked off. He kept his eyes transfixed on the vampire. “Because they were idiots,” he said in a Spanish accent. “They saw it as the perfect time to destroy your little group. With the Watcher gone, they decided to finally remove the thorn from their side.”

“But why Cordelia? Why not just me?”

“A couple years ago, it would have been just you. But Wolfram and Hart felt the Seer had become too key a player. They began to view her as a threat. Don’t look so shocked,” Diaz said, noting Angel’s look. “Remember Billy? That was just a much about screwing with her as it was freeing him. They hired a psychologist to implant false memories into her head. The hope was that they would incapacitate her. But for some reason, they didn’t.”

“Because she is half demon,” Lorne supplied.

Diaz looked at Lorne in surprise. “Well, that would explain it. Demons aren’t as susceptible to mind altering as humans are. Guess Wolfram and Hart didn’t know that she was a half-breed now.”

“But why take away my soul?”

“Because they thought you would destroy the people you cared about. They should have known you’d play mind games with everyone, kill a few people you didn’t like, and generally screw up their plans. They actually thought they could control you.”

“Silly them,” Gunn said, unamused.

“Very,” Diaz said seriously. “But then, all I cared about was the money.”

“How much?”

“For you? A quarter million dollars. I received half that for your Seer.”

“So you’re the reason Cordy didn’t have her soul.”

“Yes,” Diaz said without much remorse. “So, uh, any chance now that I’ve spilled my secrets that you’ll let me go?”

“Not a chance in hell.”

Diaz shrugged. “Thought so.”

“Um, Angel?” Tara asked. “I think I have something here that might be of use to us.” Everyone turned to face the young Wicca holding a magic book. “But, I’m not sure if it’s something he should be hearing.”

Willow removed another vial from her bag. Filling a syringe, she plunge the needle into Diaz’s arm.

“Hey!” he protested. “Can you at least use rubbing alcohol? I could get an infection!” In moments Diaz succumbed to the drug.

“You were saying?” she asked Tara.

“I think I found a way to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone again.”


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