Running For Our Lives

                           

 

 

Chapter 14: Threes

Carter had to give Tony credit, it had been good. And disturbing. So disturbing he had felt that he needed answers to the multitude of questions that had arisen during his brief visit to the Coroner's Office. And there was only one place he was going to get them at.

Angel Investigations, run from the lobby of an old hotel, was impressive. At least Detective Carter thought it was as he had walked up the plant lined walkway and entered through the double doors. Soft greens and dark reds and yellows made the place seem cozy despite its size and he'd looked around, thoroughly impressed. Peering into the darkened corners, he'd caught the site of head of brown hair resting on a desk.

"Ma'am?" He'd called, approaching the front desk and peering down at the sleeping young woman, her face resting against the keyboard of a black laptop. Shadows were thick under her eyes and he felt a pang of sympathy for her; she looked like hell. Which meant she'd probably known what happened to her boss. "Ma'am?"

He'd stepped behind the desk and reached out a hand to touch the sleeping girl, but a strong black hand grabbed his wrist and tore him away from her. He'd looked up into the bloodshot eyes of a tall, bald black man and winced as pressure was put on his wrist.

"Don't touch her." Was all the man choked out, his voice gravel and glass. "Who are you?"

The girl's head had risen off the desk at the sound of his voice, her big brown eyes blinking rapidly in the dim light. "Charles? What's going on?"

"Detective Carter, LAPD." He'd said, reaching for his badge and flipping it open so the taller man could see it. Recognition, but still he wouldn't let go of his wrist.

"What do you want?"

"I need to ask you some questions about a Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. He was employed here, was he not?" Carter had squeezed out, wondering what the hell he'd been thinking not coming with backup when the two in front of him looked ready to kill at a moment's notice.

"He was. He's....dead." The girl said, lilting, drawling voice soft but steady.

"His apartment building was blown up and we found something in the wreckage. We were hoping you'd be able to shed some light on the investigation." He'd said, finally wrenching his wrist from the black man's grip.

The girl's brow had furrowed slightly and she glanced over at the flickering computer screen and then back up at him. "What do you mean?"

"The body we found at the scene in Mr. Wyndham-Pryce's residence wasn't Mr. Wyndham-Pryce. The Coroner said it was female by looking at the pelvic bones. I was wondering if you could tell me who it might be and where Mr. Wyndham-Pryce is." He knew his words were going to get a mixed reaction, but he didn't expect the question she asked.

"What do you mean a female? You mean Wesley isn't dead?" The girl had captured that piece of information, shadowed eyes sparkling as she reached for the black man's hand.

"I take it you don't know where Mr. Wyndham-Pryce is then?"

"No. We thought...well....do you know who the female is?" The black man had asked, jaw tightening as his mind moved in circles. Carter could see hope mixed with the same questions he had. Only Carter knew the whole story and this young man didn't. He didn't know that the body was....deformed. No mouth whatsoever and the DNA, while not fully tested, was abnormal. But he wouldn't tell them that.

"No. And we're having trouble identifying her." He'd said in an offhand manner. He obviously wasn't going to get any answers from these two; at least not the answers to the questions he'd wanted answered. "Well, call this number if you hear from Mr. Wyndham-Pryce. I want to talk to him."

And with that he'd handed them his card and walked out. Now here he was, driving back to the Precinct, far more on his mind than he liked. He had a feeling that if Mr. Wyndham-Pryce didn't show up, this was going to go into the unsolved cases files, along with a lot of the crimes he'd been head detective on lately. L.A.
was a strange town; it had just gotten stranger.

*****

Gunn hung up the phone and looked over at Fred, her pinched, pale face holding a smile for the first time in days. He knew she was happy and he didn't begrudge her that feeling, but he couldn't -quite- celebrate yet. There were still too many questions to answer.

"Lorne says he's alive too." Gunn told her shortly, rubbing his chin wearily. "And Cordelia. They say deaths come in three's...but I never heard of lives doing the same."

"Did you tell her where Lorne said they were heading?" Fred asked him, her gaze going back to the computer screen. She looked like a cat just waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting mouse in the corner as she refreshed the screen, hoping to see some activity on Angel's credit card.

"Yeah. They're leaving Vegas now."

"Charles, do you think he's okay?" Fred asked, worrying her lower lip between her teeth.

"Honestly, I don't know. He's alive, but he hasn't contacted us, knowing damn well that we'd know his building blew up. What's his game?"

"Maybe he doesn't know about the explosion. Maybe Faith kidnapped him and she's torturing him to death slowly and he's just waiting for us to come rescue him! And we're just sitting here!!" Fred's pitch got higher and higher as she let her imagination run wild, her eyes bulging like a fat frog's.

"Calm down baby!" Gunn said, kissing her forehead before settling back down in his chair. She sighed and her shoulders relaxed a bit, but her eyes still held that worried glint. "And we're not just sitting here, we're helping. Well...you're helping; I'm just a backseat surfer."

"Oh Charles..." Her voice petered out as she leaned her head against his arm, fingers clasped around the mouse.

"Besides," Gunn said, striking on an idea, his brow furrowed as he thought. "If Wesley was in trouble, wouldn't the PTB want Angel to help his friend? Cordelia would have had a vision of it, wouldn't she?"

"Maybe." Fred muttered, curling a hand against the soft cotton of his shirt. "So what do we do now?"

"We do what we've been doing." Gunn answered, motioning to the computer screen again. "We wait."

*****

The Next Day

Saris took a sip of champagne, her long legs stretched out as she tried to clear her head of the death-energy her sister's passing had induced. Another one dead. Three left. And since the crescent moon tattoo on the side of her face was burning like a brand, she knew she was activated; which meant she was the closest to the Slayer.

Belatedly she wondered where her two remaining sisters were and smiled. Knowing Orin and Lian, they were hundreds of miles from her and still struggling to think of a plan of action. At least Orin would be; Lian was another story. Not even Saris could match her lightning quick mind.

With a sigh, her thoughts turned to Mateo and the recently deceased Uriah. Uriah she'd expected failure from; too hot-headed for her own good and too attached to the human shell and its weapons of metal she like to use. Mateo though, that had been a surprise to her. Mateo was usually the last to fall in a fight; and the last of the sisters she'd expected to succumb to death.

So now it was her turn and she knew she would not fail where her sisters had. She closed her milky eyes and felt power surging through her, emotion swirling around her and lifting the mental recesses of her mind to new heights as she caught tendrils of feeling from all around her. With a gut-wrenching jerk, she centered on her target's emotions, feeling her empathic gifts stretch like a rubber band until it snapped and she was locked on the Slayer.

Power coursed through her and she fed off the raw emotion the Slayer fed her through the line. And with the emotions came images. Saris smiled and looked through the girl's eyes at the man behind the wheel of the vehicle. Emotion surged, spiked, as the Slayer looked at him.

Saris smiled. She'd found a weakness. Slowly, she disengaged herself from the Slayer's mind, but kept the empathic link intact. A tap on the window of the limo with her spiked heel and the window rolled down.

"Yes Mistress?" Elliot asked in his deep, rumbling voice, eyes gazing at her from the rearview mirror.

"Turn the car around. We're heading southeast now. Toward the
Grand Canyon I believe." She said in her tinkling bell voice and watched as Elliot's eyes hungered for the glimpses he caught of her through the mirror.

"Yes Mistress." He said in a monotone voice. "Is there anything I can do for you?" She ignored him and rolled the window up, leaning back against the plush cushions of the limousine. Three left and she was sure that Orin and Lian wouldn't have a chance at the prize.

Arrogance was an emotion she knew all too well.

*****

It was too damned hot in here. Her skin itched with sweat and she shifted position on the leather seat, realizing her back was sticking to it. An unpleasant squelching sound made her stop in mid-motion, a blush coloring her already flushed cheeks. Wesley glanced over at her, his eyes slightly amused.

"Shut up." She said crankily and settled back down on the seat, one bare foot flung out the window, where dry air was rushing over her skin. She felt little pinpricks that were barely registered as windborne sand hit along her foot. It tickled a bit. "I'm hot."

Wesley looked over at her, his tongue flicking out to lick away the sweat that had beaded on his upper lip, his eyes roving over her sprawled form. Yes, she was.

"Sorry love. No helping that."

"You couldn't have stolen a car with a working air-conditioner? " She spat, clawed fingers dragging through her tangled mass of hair, little frizzed curls laying along her cheek as she fanned herself with her other hand. She looked around at the Chevy Malibu he'd stolen, a little bit impressed, but annoyed at the lack of a/c.

"There really wasn't time to check each car individually." He said, glancing down at the gas gauge and sighing. At least it had been on full when he'd stolen it and it wasn't a gas guzzler like the new SUV Justine had stolen from him. His hand lifted to his throat and he rubbed the sweaty, puckered scar.

"Does it hurt?" Faith asked unexpectedly, turning chocolate-brown eyes to him, her fingers resting on his thigh. He felt the heat of her fingers through the fabric of his jeans and he mentally shooed her away. It was too hot to touch and yet that's all he wanted her to do to him.

"Not really." Was all he said and then he fell silent, his eyes turned inward as his thoughts seized him and took him places she couldn't go. But she was there, resting nestled in his thoughts, laughing and pushing against his mental walls.

Her fingers were still on his thigh and they burned like fire, fire that leaked up his thigh to his crotch and tingled through his gut. He briefly recalled the way they'd slept last night and half the morning through at the rest stop just past the Arizona state line. Her in the back, him in the front. He still had a bump on his head from the steering wheel.

He shifted slightly, dislodging her hand. Faith's eyes flickered a bit and she stared back at the road, her own thoughts making themselves known. Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she thought about the way they'd slept together after her nightmare; the memory of it was still cozy and warm in her mind.

The dream had been a bad one, filled with Buffy's flashing smile and Angel's dark eyes. They hurt her over and over again with just a smile and she shrank away from them. There was no one there to save her and she knew she couldn't save herself. And then, like a shot in the dark, she saw Wesley's piercing blue eyes and his warm, soft hands reaching for her.

She'd woken with a start and rolled over to peer down at his sleeping form. Before she'd known she was moving, she'd curled up against him like a cat and draped his arm protectively over her own. He'd been so warm and like a wall of protection against the world. What he'd thought when he'd woken up was still a mystery, although she'd felt something hard and supple against her leg and wondered if he'd known she was still awake for that.

She wasn't going to say anything.

Now here she was, sweating and wishing she was sweating even harder. It had been too long for her and she was just reaching out to the only male around, wasn't she? Rationalizing had never been her strong point and she decided to go with the flow. Whatever was making her feel this....stomach tingling sensation when her skin brushed his was okay with her.

"Map check?" Wesley broke the tension, his voice a lot cheerier than was strictly necessary. She picked up the Rand McNally book from the floorboard and flipped through the pages to Arizona.

"Okay...we turned off of 15 awhile back....those should be the Hurricane Mountains....and that is the Diamond Butt." She said, peering down at the map and tracing the little gray line with her pinky. She looked back up at the peak directly in front of them.

"Butte." He corrected, a grin stretching across his lips.

"Huh?"

"Butte. Itís pronounced
Butte, not butt."

"Oh."
She said, putting the map back down on the floor. "Well anyway...the Grand Canyon is up ahead. You ever seen it?"

"No." He answered crisply, wondering when this had turned into a family vacation and why the girl was smiling like she'd never been anywhere in her life. "How're the graze wounds?"

She frowned and pulled up the sleeve of her shirt to show him the identical graze wounds on her shoulder, one right above the other. Both weren't any deeper than the already healing sword wound she'd received from Mateo on her other arm. "Got lucky." She shrugged and pulled her sleeves back up, enjoying the way his eyes trailed hungrily over the mound of her breasts.

"Wish I could heal like you. My face still aches from the explosion." He tenderly lifted his hand to his face and pressed his thumb against the tender muscles. Maybe he'd get another scar there. Great.

"Wish I could give you some of what I got..." Her voice trailed off as she realized how that had sounded. "Some of my power....uh...pretty day isn't it?"

"Yeah, pretty day." He echoed, tearing his eyes away from the body draped across the seat next to him. It was going to be a long day. And an even longer night.

Chapter 15

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