"And you have no idea what went wrong?"
Willow shook her head at the older woman whose voice, while
measured and calm, also betrayed her concern for Giles in
no uncertain terms.
"I've checked it a hundred times. Everything is exactly
right... better than right. I-I don't understand. I'm
better now... stuff just doesn't go kablooey on me anymore.
It just doesn't," she repeated, crestfallen.
"I believe you," Jo told her gently. "In the
last few weeks there have been several... incidents... all
out of the ordinary. They seem like coincidences, but there
are too many now for me to accept as possible without some
The other woman nodded. "A simple incantation to invoke
healthy growth in Lessa's tomatoes produced fruit the size
of softballs overnight. We checked and, like your spell, there
appeared to be nothing amiss, except, obviously, that the
power of the spell seems to have been amplified. Then, not
long after, a ward to deter some persistent ants in the pantry
resulted in not only an explosion of ant activity but a cockroach
invasion as well... and, well, we'd never had a cockroach
in the house until then.
"... And now your spell. Something is definitely amiss
and I'm not at all sure it has anything to do with your magick.
It may even be related to Rupert's disappearance, for all
we know. In the meantime we've got to find a way to find him."
"Do you want to try the location spell again?"
"No," Jo said slowly, thoughtfully. "The magicks
are trying to tell us something. Until we know what it is,
I don't think we should provoke them again."
Willow wilted a little. "Maybe, but I think we definitely
have to research all that weirdness when this is all over."
Her eyes grew bleak. "Giles loves that kind of stuff."
Buffy stopped at the drinking fountain as she walked through
Harker Park, and took a long drink, trying to calm her thoughts
and think rationally about where she might search next. When
she finally straightened, she spied a couple lit by the halo
of a nearby streetlight and apparently enjoying the view of
the rising moon. The woman was only a little older than she,
herself, was, and the man perhaps the same age as Wesley.
He said something that made the woman laugh, her whole face
lighting as she looked at him. A moment later his head bent.
Buffy looked away, shutting out the still too-raw memories
of her own love life, including the most recent ones, before
the sadness could overwhelm her.
She was about to head for the warehouse district, simply
because it was the warehouse district, despite having done
a full sweep of it twice already, when a huge, greenish-grey
demon broke into the open from a thicket near the couple.
The creature knocked the man flying and seized the woman
by the arm, dragging her, screaming, to her feet. By then
Buffy was there, in its face, hitting it hard in the mouth.
It roared in pain and let go of the girl.
Buffy was aware that the man hadn't moved since hitting the
ground hard, and that the woman was running to him as she
grappled with the creature. She managed to land a sickening,
crunching blow to the point of one of its shoulders just as
the woman began to sob and cry out: 'No!'
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Damn!" The demon reeled
and then regrouped. As it lunged again, she kicked it where
it would hurt the most, then tore back to the couple.
"What is it?" she demanded, sucking in great breaths
of air and resigned to the fact that the creature was already
"He's not breathing."
Buffy wet the tips of her fingers and held them under the
man's nostrils. He definitely wasn't breathing. It took the
two of them several minutes of concerted CPR to get him going
again. Reluctantly, she told the woman to wait with him while
she went to get an ambulance. She could carry the guy easily,
if slowly, but she figured the couple had already seen too
much... and a display of superhero strength from her at this
point wasn't going to help anything.
Besides, she had to get clear before she had to answer any
difficult questions, or be delayed any further in her search
for Giles. As soon as she was out of sight of the others,
she pulled out her cell phone with a shaking hand and called
The warehouse district wasn't giving up any secrets. Trying
not to think about the couple in the park, Buffy wandered
between the huge buildings, some new, some broken down, some
clean and many with half-full dumpsters next to them and trash
here and there against the walls. Only the sparse security
lighting and a little moonlight lit the area.
Her spidey sense was picking up precious little in the way
of vampire activity, but she was getting used to that now.
Whispering Pines wasn't exactly the vampire capital of North
America. It had its fair share of things that went bump in
the night, not least of which being their own Hedwig, but
when it came down to it, a good percentage of the demons in
or around the town were either benign forest creatures or
equally benign refugees from the cities, trying to lead quiet
lives away from persecution by their own or any other kind.
In a way she was kind of sorry that the latest demon had
hi-tailed it so fast. It would have been good to have a real
workout... not to mention how edgy it was making her not to
have completed the kill.
A familiar prickling made her stop. She backtracked about
ten feet and tried a small door. When it didn't open right
off she helped it along with a well-aimed boot. It was darkish
inside, but she was able to make out most of it. There were
rows of shelves with boxes on them, all set far enough apart
for someone to be able to walk between them, but not much
There was definitely a vampire somewhere inside. Directed
by the sensation now growing in the pit of her stomach, she
moved toward the centre of the building, peering between the
rows. When the sensation was at its strongest, she stopped
again. The row in question was darker, being farthest away
from the few sources of light in the building, but as far
as she could see it was clear.
She crept slowly between the shelves, prepared, ready, hating
the dust she was disturbing, especially when it got up her
nose and into her lungs. The boxes weren't really labelled,
only numbered and colour-coded, so there was no way to know
what was in them without opening one.
Eventually, she reached the end of the row, then swung around
and swore when she realised, at the same moment that something
came crashing down on her, that the vamp must have been hiding
on the top shelves. It was strong, and the fight was bruising
and desperate. It went on for some time before Buffy finally
managed to get the creature into a headlock, the point of
the stake jabbing into the skin over its breastbone.
"What are you doing in here?"
"Who wants to know?"
"You're serious? You don't know who I am?"
"Aren't we little Miss 'Aren't I Special,'" it
"Does the word 'Slayer' help at all?" she demanded,
The vampire tensed. "Slayer? In Whispering Pines? You're
kidding me? I came here to get as far away from Slayers and
apocalypses, among other things, as possible and now you're
"I'm here," Buffy confirmed, resisting the temptation
to tell him his worst nightmare had come true, that they were
everywhere now. "And I'm staying. The question is what
are you doing here... in this building... and what do you
know about my Watcher disappearing today?"
"Depends?" she snarled.
"Yeah. If I'm gonna be dust anyway, why should I tell
'Damn. He actually had a point.'
"Fine." She ground the point of the stake in a
little harder. "You talk and maybe I don't dust you this
time. You don't talk and I make this place just
a le-e-etle little dirtier than it was before. Got it?"
He nodded nervously. "I was hiding in here. I came to
Whispering Pines to disappear. I get my blood from the Night
Owl, and I don't want any trouble."
"Some wimpy kinda vamp," Buffy muttered, ignoring
the fact that she'd known at least two others like him...
"Hey... whadaya want? I don't kill people anymore, and
you're still not satisfied?"
"Vampires are evil," she growled. "And you
haven't said anything I want to hear yet."
"You wanted to know why I was in here. I told you."
"I want to know where my Watcher is. And I want to know
what you were hiding from exactly, since you already said
you didn't know I was in town."
The vampire fell silent.
Buffy turned him around and pushed him back against the shelves,
stake still pressed against his chest. "Okay what aren't
you telling me?" A possibility made her blood run cold.
"Is he already dead?"
The vampire shrugged and gave in. "If you're talking
about a big guy with glasses... depends how hungry she was,
Something made her freeze on the spot. "She?
Which 'she'? Harmony isn't smart enough to... and
Darla's supposed to be... " She frowned. "Glory?"
The name failed to elicit a response. "Oh God, Drusilla?"
He cringed. "Drusilla? Drusilla is here, in Whispering
"Can I go now?"
"Not until you tell me where she is."
The vampire looked stricken. "Cross her? Are you nuts?
I've seen what she does to people she doesn't like. Why do
you think I was hiding?"
The next thing Buffy knew she had an armful of dust.
Olgen banged on the motel door. Nok peered out through the
small window then went to open it.
When the Belgar demon staggered in, it quickly became obvious
that Drusilla was going to be going hungry for a while longer.
"Where's my dinner?" she pouted.
The demon shrugged, wincing as his quite-obviously dislocated
shoulder moved. He was leaking green blood from between his
teeth and under his right eye, and he was shuffling with a
"Slayer," he grunted, not one for conversation.
"Took it away from me. Nice little morsel... stupid Slayer."
Drusilla's mood shifted from petulant to enraged. It wasn't
enough that she took everything else...
In one movement she swung around, swept up a pen lying on
the counter and slammed it into Olgen's eye socket.
The Belgar shrieked, then collapsed, his twitching ceasing
moments after he went down.
"Bad Olgen!" Drusilla scolded, like a six year
old at a doll's tea party, and grinned as his remains melted
into a green puddle, then faded away. Then she swung around
to face the remaining demon.
"I want something to eat and I want it now!" she
shrieked, causing the big Hakkoth to cringe in fear.
In a split second she went from red-faced temper to smirking
at Giles, her expression a combination of flirtatious girlishness
and smug satisfaction.
It was more than unnerving, but Giles prudently decided not
to say anything that might remind her of her earlier intentions
toward him. She'd already distracted herself once with a sudden
spate of eerie, but rambling and disjointed, memories of her
childhood, half of them probably little more than fantasy.
All of which had been set off by yet another reference to
something or someone called 'Miss Edith.' He was hoping she'd
"I wonder what Watcher tastes like," she speculated
in a coquettish voice. "Just a little snack. It's not
you're going to need it for much longer, is it?"