Chapter 13: Alive?
Detective Carter was a busy man. Far too busy to
babysit some crime scene down on the
northside. But here he was, steaming
hot mug of coffee pressed into his palm, licking foam from his heavy
mustache and scowling at the charred remains of the apartment building.
Yellow police tape caught the streetlight, flashing in his eyes and
reminding him that someone had died here last night.
Thankfully, only one fatality though; the rest of the inhabitants of the
building had been burned and hit with debris, but otherwise fine, which
was a miracle. The only body they'd found was down at the Coroner's
Office, waiting to be identified. Carter already had a good idea who the
body belonged to, but he needed confirmation.
A stray puff of acrid smoke wafted in his direction and his eyes
teared. Whoever this Wyndham-Pryce had been,
he must have had one powerful enemy. His stomach churned as he caught the
scent of burnt flesh that was still clinging to the air and permeating the
area. He took another sip of his coffee and watched his fellow officers
scurrying around like ants, picking carefully through the debris and
looking for evidence.
"Carter?" He turned at the sound of his name and scowled when he saw
Janssen standing at his elbow, fresh face pale in the darkness.
"Yeah?" He asked in his gruff voice, setting
his styrofoam cup
down on the hood of his car.
"It’s the Coroner. He says you better come down there
quick." Janssen said, light blue eyes
puzzled as he handed the cell phone over to him.
"Carter! There's something you have to see. That body you brought in last
night...it's...you just have to come. See you in a few." With that Tony
hung up and he flipped the phone shut.
"Janssen, I gotta go. Try not to fuck things
up while I'm gone." He tossed the phone back at the rookie and jumped into
his unmarked car. As he pulled away from the curb, forgotten cup of coffee
spilling all over the hood, he muttered, "Tony, this had better be good."
"Gone." Angel said, kicking at the clothes-strewn bed and growling, his
face shifting into vamp mode. Cordelia
clenched her hands into fists at her side and felt like screaming. How the
hell had she gotten away? Again!
"This is re-goddamn-diculous. How do we beat
the shit of her if she isn't even here?" She spat, wanting to do nothing
more than rip out a certain Slayer's hair, strand by strand. Angel looked
at her sharply again, that half-scared, half-worried look in his eyes
"Cordy." He whispered before he wrapped her up
in his arms, like he could keep the world at bay with his muscle against
hers. She was ridged with pain and anger, her eyes hooded. What was
happening to her? "I think...we need to stop and think for a moment."
"Think about what? All I can imagine is that little bi--" He interrupted
her, pulling away from her and staring into the deadly glint of her eyes.
"Talk about that right there. I want to get Faith as badly as you
do....but...I'm beginning to rethink this "kill her dead" thing."
"Why? It’s the only humane thing to do. Put her down like a rapid dog and
the world is safe from her again." Cordelia
pulled out of his grip and her shoulders shook with the force of her
"When did you get so much hatred in you?" The words stung like bees
against the fabric of her heart.
"When I left you and everything went to hell." She whispered back softly,
wrapping her arms around her middle and feeling that old, familiar
gut-wrenching ache of guilt. Now it was coming out.
"You didn't...it’s not your fault. Wesley---" He stammered, his hands
descending on her shoulders and sending sparks dancing across her flesh.
"Wesley only played a part in what happened. The blame can't all rest on
him. I wasn't there to kick you all in the ass and to....I just should
have been there. For you."
"I don't blame you. I know you had...you needed to be with
Groo." He turned her to face him, fingertips
sweeping across her forehead to wipe away the strand of streaked hair that
fallen across her skin. There was hurt, understanding and something else
in his eyes that she didn't quite grasp the meaning of yet. But she was
"But I didn't need to be with him. I needed to be with you....and the
others. I'm sorry." She wanted to tell him what she had been thinking for
the past month, thinking about him and guilt she'd been building up in her
system. Guilt that was slowly turning to red-hot
"No apologies." He laid a feather-soft kiss against her forehead, eyes
softened and hands surprisingly warm against her shoulders. "We've got too
much going on in our lives to dwell on the little things. Right now we
need to find Faith. And you need to calm down. We'll find her."
"I am calm." She muttered, feeling the anger ebb slightly. He was right.
She was covering her hurts with anger; not that she was pissed beyond
recall at the rogue Slayer for taking one of the only people in her life
that mattered. She still wanted her dead for what she'd done.
"No you're....." Angel's voice trailed off and his head snapped up,
nostrils flaring open and his eyes rolling around in their sockets.
"What? You pick up something?" Cordy
whispered, looking around the room as if she could see the errant scent
he'd picked up. A growl escaped his lips and he fisted his hands to his
His gaze turned to her and she felt a tendril of fear curl up her spine.
Lorne, footsore and parched from his long walk, stopped and checked the
address on the card Aggie had given him. He would have gotten a ride if
the cabbie's hadn't
had a prejudice toward green people. Why can't we all just get along? He
dismissed the thought and looked up at the unassuming cottage before him.
Here he was, standing outside Stan Evan's House of Lost Souls with all his
hopes riding on his shoulders. A knock on the door and he was beckoned in
by a withered hand.
"Aggie sent me." He whispered to the short, gray-haired man before him. If
his appearance was alarming to him, it didn't register. Lorne followed him
through the house, eyes glued to the back of Stan Evan's head.
"Sit." Stan croaked, sitting down at a little round table. Lorne did as he
was told, sitting down across from the soul-finder, his curiosity eating
him alive. "Who?"
Lorne told him who he wanted to find, his knuckles turning pink as he
clenched them on the arms of the chair. A crystal in the center of the
table rose up off the surface and floated before him as he watched.
Stan shook his head and nodded several times, his eyes going blank and
pupilless as his frail body vibrated with
power. "Watch the crystal." Stan croaked, his
voice a million miles away.
Lorne did as he was told, peering into the imperfect prism of the crystal
until he could see the flickering image inside. The ends of his hair
crackled with energy as the soul-finder worked his
"The Slayer is leaving Las Vegas,
heading east along Interstate 15." Stan said, and with his words came a
picture of the dark haired girl, her face wreathed in a smile. Lorne felt
red-hot anger curling through him as he watched her smile, obviously
oblivious to what she'd done and the hurt she'd caused.
"The man you think is dead is with her." Stan said suddenly, his voice
catching. Lorne's mouth fell open and his gaze was captured by the
floating crystal. Wesley's face stared back him, smile wide as he sat
behind the wheel of a car.
"How?" Lorne whispered, turning his gaze from
the crystal to Stan's wizened face. The mage collapsed, his energy
spiraling back into his body and the crystal dimming as it settled back
onto the table. Stan looked up at him with milky eyes.
"I do not know. I only find. Payment." He held
out his hand and Lorne pulled out his wallet. Minutes later Lorne was
outside, his cell phone in his hand.
"Fred?" He asked as someone picked up on the other side.
"Gunn." He corrected,
his voice strange and dreamlike. "What is it?"
"I...Gunn…Wesley's not dead."
Silence and then a choked reply.