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It’s smaller than he remembers.

Procedurally, of course, the Council should have come in after any serious magical threat had been eliminated, to investigate and catalogue, and ensure that nothing this powerful fell into the wrong hands. Which was a polite euphemism for ensuring nothing powerful slipped out of their own sticky hands. But he had been fired from the Council by then, not to mention the weeks and months of medical treatment while his spine slowly healed, and when he emerged into the brave, lonely world of his new life he hadn’t the energy to care about what might have happened to the Mayor’s effects.

But lawyers would have cared, of course, and here it is on a metal mesh shelf, between an over-ornamented sword and a Miasmian conjuring-vase, with Gavrock, Box Of, printed precisely on a small card above a twenty-digit reference number. And there is a bright strip of yellow plastic tape slapped across the lid declaring ‘hazardous magical’ punctuated with the familiar warning triangle and cartoon wand.

Smaller than he remembers, and the carvings that had seemed filled with menace back then are now shallow scratchings in a rather commonplace design. He can still remember the crunch when the lid slammed shut cutting one of the spiders in two, as clearly as he can remember the feeling of relief when the rest of them overruled him and refused to sacrifice Willow.

Not that he let it show, of course, or ever told anyone. Even if he could have found the words, who did he have to talk to back then? But he remembers making a hard decision that day, and growing up more than a little as he did so. To sacrifice a young girl’s life for the greater good. A hard decision he should have been proud of. And he remembers that pride, just as he remembers the relief at it being refused.

Carefully he peels back the gaudy yellow strip and cracks the lid. From deep within there are stirrings, and the chittering of things best left locked in the dark. Would he still feel relief, he wonders?

Then he lets the lid fall shut and replaces the tape neatly, exactly square, covering the little dried smear of black blood. He picks up his clipboard.

‘So, a Miasmian conjuring-vase, how did Wolfram and Hart come to have one of these?’