Kate Lockley stepped out of the police car and flattened her hair in an absent-minded gesture as she surveyed the familiar chaos of the crime scene.
"Detective," said a young paramedic with his thumbs hooked inside his waistband, "over here."
She joined him and hunkered down over the corpse.
"It's definitely another one," Kate said, shaking her head. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her coat, trying to ward off the chill of the predawn air, and sighed. "Same M.O. ... that makes three of them. Damn. I want an absolutely exhaustive autopsy on this one and as few spectators as possible."
"Got it, Detective." The young man grinned ironically at her with the usual brisk humor of those who were around dead bodies a little more than was healthy. Kate knew exactly what he was thinking. The weird ones were the worst. The news writers were on them like vultures to a fresh kill, and the publicity was exactly what the sick freaks were looking for... the recognition of their superiority, the acknowledgment that no one would ever catch them. Serial killers.
I'm getting inside your head, Mr. Pope, Kate thought. And when I do, you're going to lead me right to you.
"Think we've got a cultist or something, Lockley?" asked one of the other officers.
Kate frowned. "I don't think so. I'll get you guys a profile on this guy as soon as I can. In the meantime, we don't know anything and neither do the newspapers, right?"
Kate stared down at the lifeless body of the young woman. Her skin was so pale in death, the ugly red cross carved into the flesh of her cheek the only sign that there had been any blood in her veins at all. It reminded her of something ... besides the gruesome spectacles the other Pope killings had made. Something was nibbling at her attention, but she couldn't think what it was.
She shook her head. "This guy is just getting started," she said. "Let's get back to the precinct. We've got work to do."
"You mean besides coming up with another spin on 'no comment'?"
"'The investigation is proceeding'," Kate said wryly. "Let's go, boys."
It was amazing how swiftly things melted back into the "status quo". There were differences, of course, but some things stayed the same.
Cordelia was sitting behind her desk in the main office, looking her most solemn. "I believe in Los Angeles," she said. "It's the city of dreams, a mystical oasis, built from a desert." She got up and walked across the room to fiddle significantly with the window's blinds. "But even sunny blond L.A. has its trashy dark roots, and...."
"Cordelia," Doyle interrupted, "it's a good metaphor. Really. But you're selling assistance to the downtrodden, not hair care products."
She turned sharply on her heel and scowled at him. "Look, I'm an actress, not a writer! If you don't like what I come up with, why don't you make something up on your own?"
Doyle spread his arms wide, his expression indignant. "I was just offering a little constructive criticism!" he said. He got out of the chair where he'd been serving as a warm body on which she could practice her salesmanship, and joined her at the window. "Do you think...."
But before he could continue, the office door opened to admit a tall, lean man in a beige suit and a very bright yellow tie. "Good morning, fellow warriors against the forces of evil," chirruped Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.
Doyle turned away from the door to roll his eyes pointedly at Cordelia, torn between a desire to burst out laughing and an equally strong desire to punch the rogue demon hunter in the face.
"Hello, Wesley," Cordelia said, closing her eyes.
"Just thought I'd pop round," Wesley said, "so that we could compare battle plans on our respective fronts."
"Oh, of course," Doyle said. "Battle plans. Right." He slid into the chair in front of Cordelia's desk and leaned his cheek against the palm of his hand, patiently awaiting Wesley's departure, since he didn't actually have a valid reason for being here.
Wesley shot him an irritated glance. "Oh, and I brought in your mail and newspaper." He proffered them to Cordelia, like an offering.
"Oh... thanks," she said, taking them and sitting at her desk.
Wesley frowned at Doyle for a moment.
"So what've you got?" Cordelia prompted eventually.
"Got?" The Englishman blinked at her.
"You wanted to compare skinnies on current evil happenings," she reminded him, in a tone of remarkable patience.
"Oh. Yes. Skinnies. Precisely." He cleared his throat. "Right... well... everything seems quiet."
Doyle reached up and massaged his temples, muffling a groan. Cordelia looked concerned, and he quickly gave her a weak smile to show that since he wasn't actually writhing in pain, his headache was only mild and Wesley-induced rather than a brain-splitting migraine accompanying a vision from the Powers That Be. An expression of understanding flashed across her face, and she came to his rescue by dropping an unsubtle hint the ex-Watcher's way.
"Okay. Right. Well, thanks for stopping by," she said brightly.
Wesley, however, seemed utterly impervious to hints. "And you?" he asked, hovering over the desk. "How go things on your end of the good fight?"
"Nothing doing," Doyle said, looking up at him with forced complacence. "I guess the forces of darkness are quailing before us."
The irony was, apparently, lost on Wesley; either that, or he chose not to acknowledge it. "Yes," he said. "Well, I'll keep myself available then. The situation can only escalate, with things quiet all around. I felt we made a most effective team... vanquishing that empathy demon in short order."
Cordelia smiled slightly. "Well, we got Doyle back safe and sound, anyway," she said.
Doyle felt as though something was required of him here. "Uh, well," he started to say, but before any words could form, he was interrupted.
"Yes, a most effective team," Wesley rattled on. "Doyle's cryptic visions, Angel's brawn, your--"
"This isn't our mail," Cordelia interrupted.
Wesley's train of thought was derailed mid-babble. "Sorry?"
"Not our mail," Cordelia repeated. "It belongs to the dentist's office next door. See?" She leaned forward across the desk to hand it to him.
"Oh, I see," Wesley said, taking it from her and glancing at it. "I didn't ... realize--" He stopped, staring at the front page of the newspaper.
Doyle looked up. "What happened?" he said. "It's awfully quiet in here all of a sudden."
"Wesley stopped yammering." Cordelia peered at him. "Is something wrong?"
"What?" Wesley started and looked up at them, and then blinked. "Uh - I guess I'd - no, I'll just bring these items back to their rightful owner." He turned and left quickly, his expression troubled.
Doyle and Cordelia exchanged bewildered looks, but before either of them could follow up on it, the elevator grate rattled open and their boss trudged into the room.
"What was that all about?" Angel asked, staring at the office door.
"Nothing. Wesley," Cordelia said, gesturing dismissively.
Doyle snorted, appreciating that.
"Um, Angel? You remember that license plate we got on the runaway case?" Cordelia asked.
Angel didn't turn to look at her as he poured himself a mug of black coffee. "The one you said you were going to follow up on?" he asked.
"No go," she said. "The BMV is totally stalker-phobic. Wow, Angel, you look half-dead."
He turned and looked at her.
"Which, for someone who's completely dead, would be kind of neat?" Cordelia finished, wincing at her own gaffe.
"License plate, Cordelia," Angel grunted, holding out his hand.
"Here you go. I thought you could have Police Woman run it on the Q.T.?"
"Kate," Angel replied, taking the piece of paper Cordelia offered him and shoving it haphazardly into a pocket.
"Angel," Doyle said, "are you all right? You look like you haven't slept in--"
"Doyle, I'm fine," Angel snapped. "All right?"
Doyle raised his hands in symbolic surrender. "All right," he said.
Angel stalked out the office door... straight into a patch of sunlight. He jumped back, hissing in surprise and pain. "I'll, I'll take the tunnels," he said, avoiding the shocked gazes of Doyle and Cordelia as he headed for the stairs.
"What's the matter with him?" Cordelia asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Doyle shook his head, crossing the office to shut the door Angel had left open. "I don't know."
Images haunted Angel, dredged up from memory by his subconscious, as he stalked through the tunnels beneath Los Angeles towards the precinct. The scent of prey, the feel of flesh giving way beneath metal, watching the sanctified patterns in blood ripping into the skin of his victims' faces... but he had to shake them off, had to keep going. There was still work to be done; the good fight to be fought, as Doyle had said. So he would do his duty, nothing more, and hope against vain hope that the dreams were nothing more than shreds of memory.
He met Kate and explained what he needed, barely concentrating on his words; a license plate looked up, he was after a runaway, just a bit of business for the client, could she do him a favor...
"You know I'm not supposed to release that kind of information to a civilian, Angel," Kate said. They wove their way through the officers and desks that littered the police station.
He wasn't expecting her not to protest. She had her own duty to attend to. But he also knew that she would help, probably. It was really a small favor, and she knew that they were on the same side.
"I know," he said.
"If this were anyone else..." Kate trailed off, letting the admission hang. He was getting privileged information. He suspected that if she knew what his subconscious had flung at him last night she would not be so willing to bend regulations.
"I appreciate it, Kate," he said sincerely.
She sat down at her desk, the corners of her mouth turning up just a little. "I know you do," she said briskly, "so I don't mind. I'll run it myself, have it for you by morning."
"No rush," he said. "Late afternoon, evening will be fine, actually." He'd probably be sleeping.
Kate grimaced. "To be honest, I won't mind getting my head out of this case, even just for a minute." She glared at papers littering her desk.
"Tough one?" Angel asked, following her gaze.
She picked up a photograph of an older man. "Reggie Sparks, first victim," she said. "Volunteered as a crossing guard." She tossed it away and picked up another photo. Angel peered over her shoulder at an image of a young girl. "Jinny Markem, just started the tenth grade... and here, Jessica Halpren, 25, worked as a waitress. And you know what they have in common?" She looked up at him, raising her eyebrows. "What he did to them. That's all."
Angel looked back at her. "That's not all," he said earnestly. "They have you."
Kate smiled self-consciously and looked as though she was about to answer, but then she was interrupted by an officer handing her a folder. "Here are those crime scene photos you asked for, Detective."
"Thanks," Kate said, flipping open the folder and glancing down at the photographs. Her gaze flicked back to Angel's face. "Look, why don't you stop by tomorrow," she said. "I'll have finished invading some citizen's right to privacy for you, and..." But Angel's attention was rapt on the image in Kate's folder. Frozen in time, a blood-red cross, carved into the flesh of the corpse's cheek... the feel of it, yielding beneath his touch, the spicy tang of fear in his mouth... but not his own. The memory came to his mind as fresh as if it were new, in a dream-like flash; a young woman, his prey... so familiar and yet...
"Pretty grim, huh?" Kate was saying. "I've spent the last forty-eight hours putting together a suspect profile and believe me, being inside this guy's head hasn't been a whole lot of fun... tabloids are calling him 'the pope'. Probably thinks he's doing God's work."
"No," Angel said unthinkingly, his gaze still transfixed by the photos, only half paying attention to anything she was saying. "Just the opposite. This is about mocking God."
She had gone quiet. He glanced up from the photos to see her staring at him, her gaze registering confusion.
"That's my guess," he added, aware that he'd been a touch too certain, but that there was nothing to be done about it now. Well, let her be amazed by his criminological instincts; he had other things to do.
Kate's attention was drawn away by an officer letting her know that it was time for a briefing of some kind or another. Angel left while she was talking, too lost in introspection to bother about courtesy.
He didn't know what other explanation there was, but he didn't want it to be true. Had Angelus found a way out? Was he stalking the streets at night? But why them? Why that pattern...?
He'd talk to Cordelia and Doyle. They deserved to know what was going on, and maybe they'd come up with a solution. If worst came to worst, he could talk to Wesley; the ex-Watcher had all kinds of resources for research that weren't as available to a vampire.
He headed through the tunnels beneath L.A., back towards Angel Investigations and his friends.
Kate was grimly confident as she faced a group of her fellow officers at the briefing. "Our suspect will be a white male. To the observer he will not seem a monster; his victims put up little to no struggle, so it's likely that he's charming... attractive." She hesitated, just a little, before continuing. "But at his core he is a loner. He will not view his victims as subhuman; instead it is himself that he looks at as something other than human. More than human, a superior species. Stalking his prey, getting to know them."
"It's unlikely that he'll be married, although he may have recently come off a long-term relationship, one that ended badly. We look for a precipitating event in such cases, and a painful breakup is always at the top of the list. Prior to failing this relationship may have marked an inactive period in our suspect's life. He would have regarded it as a lifeline, his salvation, but once it ended it resulted in his recidivism."
"What is not in question is his experience. He's been doing this for a very long time, and he will do it again."
Cordelia crossed the office, slinging her bag over her shoulder. "I'm on break," she said to Doyle. "Coming?"
"I think I'm actually going to stay here and finish this," Doyle said. "And maybe answer the phone if it rings. I'll take mine in a few."
Cordelia scowled, just a little, and swung open the door, almost walking straight into a rogue demon hunter, who yelped.
"Jeez, Wesley!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Hover much?"
Wesley swept into the room and closed the door tightly behind him, glancing around as though he expected something dangerous to jump out at any moment. "Where is he?" he asked dramatically, although not without genuine worry in his voice. "Where is Angel?"
"Out," Doyle said, glaring at the Englishman from behind Cordelia's desk.
Wesley seemed to deflate a little, and dropped his hands to his sides. "Is that a stake?" Doyle asked suddenly, his gaze focused on the former Watcher's hands.
"Kind of rude coming into a vampire's place with one of those things, don't you think?" Cordelia said, pointing at it. "Could be misinterpreted."
Doyle stared at him. "What are you doing with that?" he asked. "Angel fights for the Powers. You're not planning on...."
Wesley was digging through his bag. "Wait a moment," he said. "Don't execute me yet."
"And I was looking forward to that," Doyle murmured. He got out of Cordelia's chair and went around to the front of the desk to lean against it.
"You recall earlier this morning that mix-up with the dentist's mail and newspaper?" Wesley pulled a newspaper clipping from the innards of his bag and held it up in front of Cordelia. "That's when I saw this."
"Oh my God," Cordelia said.
Doyle glanced at her, beginning to be concerned.
"You cut up Dr. Folger's newspaper!" Cordelia said. "You're going to get us kicked out of this building."
Wesley looked at her in an attitude approaching despair. "What? No! Cordelia, the clipping!"
"Let me see that," Doyle said, snatching it easily out of Wesley's fingers. He scanned over it. "Third body found in alley, mutilated, police inquiries are proceeding..."
"So? Not exactly front page news," Cordelia said.
"Actually, that is the front page," Wesley said, "but that's not the point. Note the modus operandi? The mutilation of the corpse with a religious icon?"
From the expression on her face, it was obvious to the two men that she was confused. "I'm against it?"
Doyle looked up from the paper, glowering at Wesley. "You're not saying you think Angel did these killings... are you?"
Wesley stood up a little straighter. "While executing my duties as Watcher in Sunnydale," he said heavily, "I did extensive research. Oh..." And he reached into his bag again, pulling out a folder marked 'Angel'. "Specifically on Angel. Given his uncomfortable proximity to the Slayer..."
"He looked pretty comfortable to me," Cordelia remarked.
"This is ridiculous," Doyle stated. "You're not going to come in here and base an accusation..."
"But see, look!" Wesley said desperately, flipping open the folder and paging swiftly through its contents. "The story in the newspaper was chillingly familiar, so I immediately reacquainted myself with the facts. In the late 1700's it was Angelus' custom to sign his victims by carving a Christian cross into their left cheek." He handed the folder to Cordelia, who was the less infuriated of his audience. She flipped through the information, frowning. "He liked to let people know he'd been there," Wesley finished quietly, apparently a little relieved that at least he was getting through.
"Okay," Cordelia said, "you get to leave now."
Doyle couldn't keep the proud grin off his face.
Wesley looked panicked. "What? Cordelia...."
She advanced on him, her attitude ferocious. "I don't care how many files you have on what he did back in the powdered wig days...."
"But Angel's not like that now. He fights on the side of good, Wesley. For the Powers That Be," Doyle said softly, coming up to stand beside Cordelia. "He's not going out at night and drinking the innocent. As far as I can tell he's not going out at night and drinking anything at all."
"That's right," Cordy said. "He's a good vampire. I thought you knew that. But apparently you don't. He's good, and he's my friend. And nothing you can say will make me turn on a friend."
Angel had entered quietly without anyone noticing. When he spoke Cordelia's name, he arrested the attention of all three of them.
"He's right," Angel said gravely.
Cordelia turned to Wesley. "You stake him and I'll cut his head off!"
"Come no closer!" Wesley admonished, brandishing a cross at Angel.
"Angel... ?" Doyle could barely believe what he was hearing. "You've... ?"
The vampire looked away from the cross, a grimace crossing his features. "I'm not going to hurt you," he stated blandly.
"Why should we believe a word you say?" Wesley growled.
Angel gave a snorting laugh. Then he grabbed Wesley by the arm and spun him round to hold him by the neck. "Because that's how fast I could take you if I wanted to," he said, matter-of-factly.
"All right," Wesley said. "We're listening."
Angel shoved him away. "I have no memory of doing any of these things," he said.
"Not exactly the confidence-inspiring denial I was hoping for," Cordelia said, making a face.
"I've been having ..." Angel hesitated, looking at all of them in turn before finishing the sentence. "Dreams."
"Dreams?" Doyle repeated. "What kind of dreams?"
Angel moistened his lips. "Killing dreams," he said. "Always the same." He swallowed. "I stalk them. Toy with them. Mark them... while they're still alive. And then, before they can die from their fear, I feed on them."
Silence descended heavily until Cordelia, as bold as ever, said dismissively, "Okay, so you've been having nightmares, that doesn't mean...."
"They're not nightmares," Angel broke in. "I've enjoyed them."
"Oh," said Cordelia, in a very small voice.
He was still a vampire. He was good, but he wore his goodness like a mantle. Underneath, he still had the desires, the urges to be an evil creature. Doyle understood the self-serving impulse pretty well himself, and he wasn't about to condemn Angel for having the strength to overcome the darkness just because the darkness was still there... but still... not exactly reassuring.
"Dreams can be messages, messages from yourself," Doyle pointed out. As a seer, he also had some experience with messages not being what they seemed like they ought to be. "They don't always mean what they seem like they do."
Wesley glanced at him. "I think what Angel fears," he said delicately, "is that he may be acting out these dreams in some sort of... hypnogogic state. That he might have only the memories of dreams but that his body has been out indulging his subconscious..."
Doyle bit back a sharp retort. It was a reasonable suggestion. No need to bite Wesley's head off just because it was Wesley's head. "Maybe," he said.
Angel looked thoughtful.
"Back up," Cordelia said. "Hypnowhatic?"
"What?" Wesley blinked, startled. "Oh... sleepwalking."
She snorted. "Vampires can't sleep-walk," she said, rolling her eyes a little. "He'd take one step out the front door and his PJ's would burst into flame!"
Wesley shook his head. "Unless it was happening in the pre-dawn hours," he said in a tone of gentle correction. "Which is when all these murders took place."
"I hate to poke holes in your pet theory," Doyle said, in a tone that said quite clearly that he wanted to poke very large holes in Wesley's pet theory, "but isn't that kind of a big logical leap? Considering that there are other vampires out there that aren't Angel? These dreams could mean anything."
"Not necessarily," Wesley said. "Why would another vampire be using Angelus' old methods?"
"Why not? It's distinctive, but it's not that distinctive. Think he's the only bloodsucker that could have invented something like a cross in the cheek?" Doyle shook his head. Then he glanced at his employer. "Uh... no offense."
"None taken," Angel said briskly. "But..." And he held up his hands. "Before you kids descend to violence, there's one way that we can be sure."
"You have to make it tight," Wesley informed Cordelia fussily.
"Like I need instructions from you," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes at him. "Ugh. My glamorous L.A. life... I get to make the coffee and chain the boss to the bed. I have got to join a union."
Doyle snickered quietly as he finished chaining Angel's feet. "Right you are, princess," he murmured. He didn't think anyone heard him.
"Cordelia, I think that's tight enough," Angel said querulously.
She yanked heavily on the chain one more time. "And if it turns out we're back on the liquid lunch? Better safe than cocktails."
"Well," Wesley said, "all we can do now is wait."
"Yeah," said Cordelia. "And uh, no offense to you, Angel? Maybe you are committing those horrible crimes just in your dreams... but even so, I don't want to stick around for your nocturnal..." She made a fluttering gesture with her hands.
"I understand," Angel said.
"Okay. Well, pleasant dr-- I mean, sleep tight."
Angel allowed himself the tiniest of half-smiles. "That's pretty much a given," he said.
Doyle smiled a bit himself as Angel shut his eyes and attempted to summon sleep. He knew that it would take some time for the vampire to fall asleep though, seeing as being shackled to the bed was not the most comfortable position. Eventually it came, however, and as he drifted off into dreamland, Cordelia gave Doyle and Wesley a thumbs-up sign and quickly left for the night.
Doyle and Wesley both pulled chairs into the bedroom and sat vigil over Angel that night. Doyle had planned on getting a little bit of sleep sometime in between sunset and sunrise, but damned if he was going to let that stuffy English ponce have the satisfaction of pulling an all-nighter by himself.
They didn't speak a word to each other all night, each pretending the other wasn't there.
He watched almost impassively as a cross was carved into the girl's cheek with metal-tipped fingers, watched as her blood was drained and her body fell to the ground in a heap.
The dream felt very strange, like shreds of dream and waking, but very clearly, he saw himself... and he heard his own voice, with the old Irish lilt, before he'd Americanized himself. Angelus' voice.
"There now," Angelus said, smirking slightly. "Isn't that better?"
Wakefulness poured over him like ice-water. He gasped and tried to sit up sharply, but was hampered by the shackles that bound him to his bed.
Doyle and Wesley were sitting in chairs at the foot of his bed.
"Morning," Doyle said. He was sprawled in the seat in a position that didn't look like it could be all that comfortable, slouching with his knees extended and his head propped up in the palm of his hand.
Wesley got out of his chair and started unbinding Angel, and after a moment in which the half-demon discreetly hid a yawn behind his fist, Doyle joined him.
"Wakey wakey," Cordelia said brightly, traipsing into the room with a newspaper in her hands.
"We made it," Wesley said.
"Great news for his fans!" Cordelia said. "There has been another killing! Well, maybe not so great news for the, you know, dead person, but at least now we know that Mr. 'I'm-so-tortured' here didn't do it." She beamed at them.
Angel shook his head as Doyle finished with the shackles at his wrists.
"Yes," he said quietly, "I did."
He could remember it so clearly, like all the events that surrounded his newly-made fledglings over the years. The girl lay dead on the ground.
"There now," Angelus said, "isn't that better?"
His blond companion straightened up. "Much better," he breathed, as the demonic influence melted from his face and left it young and beautiful again.
"First kill," Angelus said. "Aptly done." It was high praise, although perhaps Penn didn't know that yet. Angelus himself had always been a neat eater, except on those occasions when it pleased him to be otherwise.
"It's strange," the fledgling said, glancing disinterestedly down at the dead woman. "She was my sister."
"And yet, you feel nothing," Angelus observed softly.
"No," Penn said. He grinned. "I feel ... hungry."
"Ah," Angelus said, letting the corners of his own mouth turn up as well. "You do learn very quickly."
"My father would disagree," Penn said darkly.
"Then perhaps it's time you shared with him just what a fine student you've become," Angelus suggested.
"My father, yes," Penn said thoughtfully. "They'll all be sitting down to dinner now."
"A feast. Excellent," Angelus said. "When they invite you in, savor it, Penn," he advised. "You'll not recapture the moment. Family blood is always the sweetest."
He'd done this, as surely as if he'd gone out there and killed those innocent people himself. He'd created their murderer. Perhaps he couldn't hold himself directly responsible for their deaths, but he had to put a stop to it. End Penn's rampage. Destroy what he had created. It was the only way.
Penn carefully looked over the latest newspaper article as he walked across the room. His short blond hair was spiked in a manner that was similar to his sire's, and a goatee covered his chin.
As he stepped in front of one of the room's walls, a variety of newspaper clippings covering it, not a sound escaped his lips. He merely added the newest clipping to the collection, his face expressionless as he peered at it through a pair of unneeded glasses.
Angel slowly sat down on a chair, his gaze never quite focusing on his friends. "I taught him well."
Cordelia gave him an unimpressed look as she leaned forward slightly in her seat. "A real psycho-wan-kenobi."
As she spoke, Doyle's eyes moved around the room... his attention focusing mainly on the three chairs in it. The three occupied chairs. With a tired sigh, he sat down on the floor, his back resting against Cordelia's chair. "And like they say... practice makes perfect."
Wesley nodded, his eyes widening slightly as what Doyle meant sunk into his mind. "Two hundred years practice. I imagine he has it down by now."
Cordelia nodded in agreement, her gaze suddenly focusing on Wesley. "No lie. Gallagher's changed his act more often than this dude has in the last two centuries. Why do you think he's still doing the same old shtick?"
Wesley's attention seemed to wander for a moment, a slight smile appearing on his face. "Well, I mean, it's a classic, isn't it? Every time he smashes that watermelon with a sledgehammer I just--" His voice trailed off as he realized what she was referring to.
Angel and Cordelia stared at him for a moment, incredulous expressions on their faces. Doyle, on the other hand, didn't even attempt to hide his amusement as he rolled his eyes in the Englishman's direction. For his part, Wesley looked sheepishly away from everyone, though his eyes flashed slightly as his gaze briefly moved in Doyle's direction.
Before anything could get out of hand, Angel quickly broke in. His voice sounded tired, however, as he answered Cordelia's question. "I don't know why."
"You don't suppose it's his way of trying to draw you out?" Wesley asked as he glanced back at Angel. "That he knows you're here? That might explain the dreams."
At his words, Cordelia quickly looked over at Angel. There was a hopeful expression on her face, but it faded as the vampire ruefully shook his head. "No. I used to have a connection with those I sired. It just means he's close, that's all."
"Neat," Cordelia said sarcastically as she leaned back in her chair again. "We can't find him, and the cops stand absolutely zero chance of stopping him."
Doyle glanced at her, exasperation on his face. "You make it sound as if it's completely hopeless, Cordy. I mean, we have--" He trailed off for a moment before glancing at Angel. "What do we have?"
Angel's eyes had suddenly gone wide, however, and he was halfway across the room before he said a word. "Kate."
Doyle nodded seriously, but confusion flitted across his face after a second or two. Before either he or Cordelia could react, though, Wesley was already on his feet. "What are you doing?"
Angel turned around for a moment, the worry he was feeling evident by the expression on his face. "She doesn't know what she's dealing with, what she's up against."
Wesley stared at him disbelievingly for a moment before speaking. "And you're not going to tell her. Think about it. You can't walk into a police precinct with intimate knowledge about these murders and claim a two hundred-year-old Puritan is responsible."
"You'd be locked up without a second thought," Doyle cut in, his gaze focused intently on Angel.
As if neither of them had spoken, Angel continued on. "She's a good cop. She has resources we don't. Eventually she will find him."
Cordelia slowly shook her head. "Bad for her then."
There was utter silence for a moment, and then Angel's eyes widened slightly. "Or good for us." Wesley, Cordelia, and Doyle shared a confused look as he hurriedly turned and pushed past them.
As Angel walked into the police station, his gaze quickly drifted around the crowed room. His hands nervously played with a piece of paper in his hands as he caught sight of Kate standing beside a filing cabinet.
After a second, Kate noticed him. There was a smile on her face as he made her way toward him. "Hey. I have the info on your license plate." Angel swallowed quietly and anxiously looked around, drawing a worried glance from her. "Angel, are you okay? Not that the 'brooding man of mystery' thing isn't working for you. I mean it is. A lot."
Angel's gaze drifted around the room once more as he attempted to avoid looking Kate in the eye. "Can we talk somewhere in private?"
A concerned expression on her face, Kate slowly nodded. "Sure, of course."
Cordelia leaned back against one of office's walls, a cup of coffee in her hand. Her gaze was focused on Doyle, who was once again sitting in front of the computer. His attention, however, was focused entirely on the article that covered the screen. "Man, this is gruesome."
She shot him a curious look but didn't say a word. After a few moments, he seemed to notice that she was watching him expectantly. With a sheepish grin, he nodded toward the screen. "The most recent murders. This Penn really is a sadistic bastard."
With a tired sigh, Cordelia slowly shook her head. Her voice was barely above a whisper as she spoke, but Doyle still heard it clearly. "He learned from the best."
There was an uncomfortable silence between them for a moment before Cordelia suddenly smiled. "Well, that was depressing. So..." She paused for a moment, obviously trying to think of a different subject matter to discuss. After a few seconds, her eyes lit up. "When are we going out to dinner?"
An uncomfortable expression suddenly appeared on Doyle's face, and he quickly pushed his chair away from the desk. "I think... um, that is... maybe we should-- I think I need a drink, do you want something?"
He turned away from her so that she couldn't see the suddenly disheartened expression that had appeared on his face, but she caught a glimpse of it anyway. Cordelia stared at him for a moment, a slightly confused expression appearing on her face. "No, I'm not thirsty."
Doyle nodded, his head still turned away from her. As he slowly walked from the room, Cordelia's gaze followed him. She sighed quietly in disappointment as she sank down into his now abandoned chair. "Maybe he didn't mean it after all."
Kate led Angel into the empty briefing room, a curious tone in her voice as she questioned him. "What is it?"
Angel carefully closed the door before walking over to look at the crime photos pinned on a cork board. "How's the investigation?"
Kate shook her head. "It's nowhere." She unconsciously pulled her necklace out from under her shirt and began playing with the cross on it. "Some of your more inconsiderate serial killers often fail to leave us any clues."
There was silence for a moment as Angel continued to stare at the pictures.
"Angel?" Kate prompted him softly.
Angel looked from picture to picture, the faces of Penn's past victims flashing in his mind as he did so. When he spoke, it was more to himself than to the woman standing behind him. "He's reliving it."
"What's going on?" Kate asked, her tone of voice telling Angel that she was more than a little confused.
Angel turned around, barely hiding his discomfort as he caught sight of the cross held between her fingers. "It's complicated."
Kate met his gaze, and when she spoke it was in a no-nonsense voice. "So make it simple."
Angel looked into her eyes. "Kate, do you trust me?"
She stared at him for a moment in bafflement. "You know I do."
Without saying another word, Angel unfolded the paper in his hands and pinned it on top of several photos. A sketch of Penn's face looked down at them from the wall, and Angel slowly turned back toward Kate. "Trust me when I tell you... this is the man you're looking for."
Kate suddenly stepped toward him, a shocked look on her face. "Where did you get that? How could you possibly..."
"Do you trust me?" Angel repeated, cutting in before she could even finish her question.
"I don't understand," Kate said in bewilderment. "Are you protecting a source?" Angel merely stared at her, and she slowly nodded her head. "Yes, I trust you."
Angel nodded slightly and began speaking once more. "His next victim will be a white male, adolescent. He'll take him off the streets in a low rent neighborhood, probably near a bar or liquor store and he'll kill him just like he did these others."
He paused for barely a moment, his gaze meeting hers. "Unless you use every resource this department has to make sure he is not successful this time."
Wesley sat in the passenger seat of Angel's car, watching as the vampire hurriedly made his way through the police garage. As he opened the door and climbed in, Wesley glanced down at his watch. "So, I take it you told her everything."
"Just enough to get her killed," Angel said quietly as he looked in the former Watcher's direction for a moment.
Wesley slowly let out a breath as he nodded. "Well, we'll just have to see that doesn't happen."
Angel's face was expressionless when he spoke again. "Exactly." He quickly handed Wesley a police scanner. "Once you hook this up, she finds something, we'll know about it."
Wesley turned the radio over in his hands a few times, and he couldn't help but sound a little curious as he stared at it. "Where did you get the police radio?"
Angel didn't even glance over at him as he answered. "Police car."
A startled expression appeared on Wesley's face as he quickly dropped the radio as if it was on fire. "Oh dear!"
Kate hurriedly briefed her officers, pointing out various locations on a large city map as she did so. "So let's set up patrols here and here. Anything matching the profile gets reported."
People around her nodded as they went off to do their jobs, but she barely noticed. She stood in front of the wall for a moment, her eyes locked on the handsome face drawn on the piece of paper pinned to the board.
Nick Jennings tried his best to seem older than seventeen as he stepped up to an African American man who was heading toward the door of the liquor store he stood in front of. "Excuse me, sir? Could you buy me some beer? I left my I.D. at home, and I can't..."
The man shook his head in annoyance as he continued into the store. "Take a hike, kid."
Nick slowly turned away from the door in aggravation. "Wipe."
He suddenly caught sight of a woman heading towards the store, and he quickly planted a smile on his face. "Ma'am? Ma'am? Could you possibly pick me up some beer? It's for my mother. She needs--"
The woman ignored him, and Nick turned away in frustration. As he did, he spotted a seemingly young man watching him from the shadows. He took a few steps forward, a hopeful glint in his eyes. "Hey dude, are you old enough to buy beer?"
Penn merely smiled at him.
Across the street, a cop car pulled up. The two men inside looked at each other before glancing down at the copy of Angel's drawing they held. The driver looked back up and watched as, across from them, Penn led the teenage boy away.
As Penn and Nick walked down a deserted street, there was quite a bit of disbelief in the teenager's tone when he spoke. "Are you sure about this man? I don't think there's any discount liquor store over here."
Penn smiled slightly as he sped up his walking so that he was right behind the boy. "You know, you remind me of a brother I once had."
"Yeah, whatever," Nick said, shaking his head in frustration. "I think we're going nowhere here."
Penn quietly vamped out, and as he let out a snarl Nick spun around to face him. A terrified expression appeared on the boy's face as Penn grabbed him and bit down on his neck... just as several police cars closed in on him from all sides.
Penn looked up, blood dripping from his mouth, as one of the police officers suddenly called out to him. "You right there, hold it!"
His yellow eyes shining with incredulity, Penn dropped Nick in an instant and began running. Without a thought, he jumped through the boarded up second story window of a warehouse... leaving the cops below staring in disbelief.
Angel pushed down on his gas pedal as the police scanner Wesley had installed blared once again. "All units. Backup requested at 3336 Channel Avenue. Use caution. Multiple homicide suspect believed to be on the location."
As he and Wesley pulled up to the scene, Angel let his gaze drift around until he caught sight of a familiar flash of blonde hair. Kate was walking with a uniformed officer, nodding her head as he talked. "Search teams are on their way now. He went in through there. The place is big, but we'll find him."
Kate nodded, and she looked toward one of the nearby ambulances. The teenager, Nick, was being wheeled toward it on a stretcher, shaken but alive. She stared at him for a moment before pulling her gun. "I'm going in."
Angel watched her for a few seconds, then caught sight of a drain pipe on the side of the building. He quickly backed the car up into a makeshift parking space and, as he and Wesley got out, he glanced over at the self-proclaimed demon hunter. "Meet you back here."
As he took hold of the pipe and began scaling it as if it were nothing, he heard Wesley say from below, "Do be careful. Doyle swore that he'd kill me if I let you do anything foolish... and I have the strangest feeling that he's merely looking for an excuse."
Kate slowly made her way up a rickety staircase, careful to keep her gun held out in front of her. As she gradually made her way across the floor of the room, the sound of footsteps suddenly reached her ears. Without even thinking, she spun around and aimed her gun at Penn, who was coming down some wooden steps.
"Don't move!" Kate's voice was firm and commanding, though a hint of hesitance could be detected in it as well. "Do not move, I will fire!"
Penn merely kept walking, and, after less than a second had passed, she shot him three times in the chest. As the bullets hit his flesh, he jerked from the impact and collapsed to the ground at the bottom of the stairs. Kate stared at his unmoving body for a few seconds before slowly walking forward.
When she reached him, she leaned down and quickly checked for a pulse. Not finding one, Kate holstered her gun and took out her radio in order to report in. Before she had a chance to say anything, however, Penn suddenly reached up and grabbed her by the front of the shirt. His voice was dry as he said only one word. "Ouch."
A smirk on his face, Penn suddenly threw her across the room. She landed on the floor heavily, her breath escaping in a loud gasp, but she still struggled to pull herself to her feet as he slowly sauntered toward her. Just as she stood up, however, a dark figure dropped through the floor above and landed between them in a cloud of dust.
As the dust cleared slightly, the figure turned toward Kate long enough for her to catch sight of Angel's familiar face before he turned away from her and back toward Penn. To her surprise though, the man she had been fighting was smiling in recognition as he stared at the dark-haired detective. "Angelus?" he asked with an incredulous laugh.
Penn walked forward a few steps and clapped Angel on the arms as though they were best friends. "Angelus! My God! It's been a lifetime!"
"At least," Angel said with a wry nod.
Still smiling, Penn merely shook his head. "We were to meet in Italy, remember?"
A half-smile on his own face, Angel nodded again. "I remember."
"Well, I waited," Penn said, his smile still not wavering. He didn't seem to notice Kate slowly crawling toward her discarded radio as he continued on. "Hell, I waited until the nineteenth century. What happened?"
Angel shifted his position slightly, not enough to be suspicious but enough so as to be in front of Kate if anything went wrong. As he moved, he answered Penn's question. "Got held up in Romania."
"Romania," Penn repeated, a slightly disbelieving tone in his voice. "What's in Romania?"
"Gypsies," Angel said matter-of-factly.
Behind him, Kate spoke quietly into her radio. "Request assistance. Full tactical units. Second floor, southwest corner."
Shaking his head, Penn clapped Angel on the shoulder and motioned toward Kate. "Join me for a drink."
"That's not why I'm here," Angel said softly.
"Yeah, why are you here?" Penn asked, his voice suddenly gaining a suspicious tone.
Angel's face shifted suddenly, his features melting and reforming into a different shape, something like a horrible Halloween mask, and Kate was aware that she was staring at him in stunned silence.
"To kill you," Angel said, throwing himself at the other man.
Within seconds, Penn's face had changed too. As Kate watched in shock, they began tearing each other apart... figuratively and slightly literally. She slowly backed up as their fight intensified, her eyes wide with alarm.
Penn suddenly went flying through a brick wall, and Angel turned toward Kate for just an instant. "Go, Kate! Get out of here! Go, Kate, go!"
Before Angel had a chance to turn around , Penn came shooting back through the wall. He tackled the older man - monster, whatever they were - sending them both to the floor for an instant before each of them quickly rolled to his feet. Penn's face wore a surprised expression as his eyes darted toward the blonde woman behind Angel. "You know its name? Angelus, what happened to you?"
Angel swung at Penn, but the younger man grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. "People change," Angel said through clenched teeth.
"We're not people!" Penn spat back at him.
His eyes darted toward Kate once more, or - more precisely - the gun she had aimed at both of them. Without saying another word, he flung Angel at the woman. By the time Angel was able to get back up, however, Penn had disappeared, and the only other person in the room was Kate... who was staring up into the face of someone she'd thought she knew.
In the background, Kate's radio lay forgotten. "Lockley. Lockley, where are you?"
As police officers combed the warehouse, Angel - who was once more wearing his human face - stood facing Kate. The blonde-haired detective was slightly paler than usual, and her voice sounded somewhat shaky as she spoke. "I shot him three times. I know I did. And he got up." Angel took a step toward her, and she immediately drew her gun. Aiming it pointblank at his chest, she met his gaze. "If I pull this trigger, are you going to get up too?"
Angel merely stared at her, and Kate quietly spoke again. "What are you?"
"You already know the answer," he said softly.
Kate slowly brought her gun down, and Angel walked past her. "Details have been left out of the press reports. Something you held back. Isn't that right?"
She looked straight at him, a glint in her eyes that was impossible to read. "What do you know about it?"
"Puncture wounds," Angel replied. "The victims have all been drained of their blood, haven't they?"
"And should I trust you more, or less, because you happen to know that?" Kate asked bitterly.
Angel stared at her. "You're not going to stop him, Kate. Not like this."
"What do you mean?" she asked firmly.
Angel shook his head, knowing that she needed to hear it. "It's going to take direct sunlight, decapitation," he paused for just an instant, then finished, "or a stake through the heart."
"You're telling me children's stories," Kate said, her expression troubled before she turned away.
Angel shook his head. "I'm telling you the truth."
"No," Kate said angrily as she spun back towards him. "I don't believe you."
"I know you don't," Angel said, his eyes holding hers in their gaze. "Even after what you saw you won't let yourself, which is why you'll lose."
Kate's eyes flashed. "I've heard enough."
Angel suddenly reached out and closed his fist around the cross dangling from her necklace, and Kate let out a gasp as the sound of his flesh sizzling became audible even to her. "No, you haven't heard a word, and you won't. Not now, not yet." Kate looked down at the smoke rising from his fist as he continued speaking. "Because there are some things in this world you're just not ready to face."
Without saying anything else, Angel turned and walked off, aware that he was leaving Kate to stare after him in confusion and denial.
Kate sat in the briefing room, her attention focused entirely on the sketch of Penn hanging on the wall. She barely even glanced over at the officer who had just walked in the door, his arms loaded with old files.
"Here's everything with that MO dating back as far as I could find," he said. "So, you think this guy is a copycat and a history buff?"
"Something like that," Kate said dryly, as she glanced down at one of the old newspaper headlines, the words 'Vampire Killer Strikes Again in Garment District' practically jumping off of the page.
Cordelia slowly pulled herself to her feet, though she didn't move from behind her desk for a few moments. Her gaze was focused on the client that sat across from her, and she was careful to keep a smile on her face. "So, you've discovered the seamy underbelly of the candy coated America, have you? Well, you've come to the right place! Here at Angel Investigations we won't judge, but we will charge. Now, if you only tell me how you heard of us."
"From the police actually," the man said with a smile.
Cordelia's eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Yeah," he said with a nod. "The detective I spoke with was very enthusiastic." Still smiling, he slowly stood up himself. "For the truly human touch, she said I should come to you."
"Oh good," Cordelia said, but she frowned slightly as she caught sight of a dark overcoat hanging over the back of his chair. "Is it cold out there?"
"I'm trying to remember her name," the man continued on, completely ignoring the young woman's question. "What was it? She's about yea tall, attractive... natural blonde?"
Cordelia nodded in understanding. "Oh yeah, Kate! Detective Lockley."
"Lockley," he said softly. "Yes, that's it."
Cordy nodded again, her smile growing even broader. "Yeah, she and Angel are totally tight."
"So, she is more than just a professional relationship then?" he asked carefully. "He cares for her?"
She continued on, nodding her head slightly as she did. "Oh, yeah. More than he knows. But that's our Angel." Sue smiled. "Dour, sure, but not afraid to get personally involved in his work." The door to the room opened suddenly, and Doyle walked in, freezing instantly as he caught sight of the visitor. Cordelia immediately noticed the half-demon's reaction, however, as she continued... and her eyes widened slightly in sudden comprehension. "And you're totally pumping me for information, aren't you?"
The man glanced at both her and Doyle, the latter of whom was slowly edging his way toward Cordelia. "Yeah. And I wouldn't try it if I were you, half-breed."
Cordelia's eyes widened even more as her gaze met Doyle's. "Oh crap. You're him. He. The guy. Apt pupil boy."
Still smiling a bit, the guy - Penn - took a step toward her. "You realize you'll never make it to the exit before I--"
"Go up like a match?" Cordelia asked innocently, yanking up the blinds on the window and forcing Penn to dodge away from the direct sunlight streaming in.
Penn started to say something, but his attention was drawn toward the doorway as Angel walked in. They were separated from each other by the swath of sun shining in through the window though.
"Well," Penn said with a laugh, "look who's back from his 'up with people' meeting."
Angel kept his gaze focused entirely on Penn, though he gestured toward Cordelia. "Give me a stake."
"It's like eight in the morning," Cordelia said, a slightly puzzled tone in her voice.
Doyle glanced over at her in exasperation. "Cordy!"
She made a stabbing motion with her hand as she realized what they were talking about. "Okay." Glancing quickly at Penn one more time, she darted off to find a stake.
"What?" Penn asked. "You don't drink, so now no one gets to?"
"Something like that," Doyle mumbled under his breath, just loudly enough for Cordy to hear.
"I don't expect you to understand," Angel said.
"Oh, I understand," Penn replied. "I was a Puritan, remember?"
"It's gotta end," Angel said forcefully.
"Why?" questioned Penn. "Because you say so? And how does that work exactly? You just wake up one morning and decide 'Okay, now I'm good!'" Penn laughed, the cruel sound echoing throughout the room. "No, Angelus, it doesn't end. It never, ever ends. It just goes on and on."
"That's not the only thing that goes on and on," Cordelia griped as she finally found a stake and quickly went over to give it to Angel. "Here, dust him."
Angel nodded at Cordelia before turning his attention completely back toward Penn. "I'm sorry for what I did to you, Penn... for what I turned you into."
"First class killer?" Penn asked, smirking. "An artist? A bold re-interpreter of the form?"
"Try cheesy hack," Angel said grimly. "Look at you. You've been getting back at your father for over two hundred years. It's pathetic and cliched. Probably got a killer shrine on your wall, huh? News clippings, magazine articles, maybe a few candles? Oh, you are so prosaic."
Penn slowly retreated toward the front of the office, his gaze locked on Angel the whole time.
Just as he reached the door, it opened and Wesley walked in. "Nothing on the streets about a new vampire in town."
Both Cordelia and Doyle started to warn him, but Penn had already taken advantage of the former Watcher's unexpected entrance. Before Wesley could realize what was happening, the vampire had grabbed him from behind. Angel stepped forward immediately but was once again stopped by the sunlight streaming in through the window.
As Penn's grip tightened around Wesley's throat, the man choked out the rest of his thoughts. "Which is maybe because he's here... and has me by the throat."
"Well, this is just terrific," Doyle muttered softly.
Angel glared at Penn, a threatening glint in his eyes. "Let him go!"
"You're right Angelus, my work was getting stale," Penn said with a smirk. "I appreciate the critique. So look for something new, innovative—something shockingly original. Just think of the worst possible thing you can imagine, and I'll see you there."
With that, Penn shoved Wesley in Angel's direction and tried to take advantage of the moment to grab his coat and retreat just as Doyle flung himself at the vampire. Unfortunately for the half-demon, the move was obviously expected, and Penn stepped aside and grabbed Doyle by the throat. A violent push sent the Irishman sprawling to the floor before Penn pulled his coat over his head and ran out.
Inside of a bookstore called the "Ancient Eye," Kate looked carefully through the shelves. She grabbed a few books every now and then. Most of them looked older than she was.
She glanced around the room and whispered to herself, "Let's see what this is all about."
At the sound of a knock on her door, Kate looked up from the notes she had been taking for the last few hours. Almost certain as to who was at her door, she slowly walked over and opened it.
"Hi," Angel said softly. "Can I come in?"
"Oh, that's right," Kate said in sudden remembrance. "You have to be invited in, don't you?"
"You've been doing your homework," Angel stated with a smile.
"Want to quiz me?" Kate asked cynically. "I'm just full of fun facts. For instance, I learned that your friend has been in L.A. before, did you know that? Yeah, at least twice. Once in 1929 and again in 1963. Oh, and there was something in Boston in 1908. I think he was there, too."
"So you believe me?" Angel asked.
Kate nodded slightly, keeping her face as expressionless as possible. "Yes, I believe you."
Angel let out a relieved sigh. "Good, because he's planning something."
Kate broke in, her voice icy. "Angelus. Isn't that what he called you? Angelus? I looked it up. It's all right there. The demon with the face of an angel. A particularly brutal bastard by all accounts. Oh, and no, you can't come in."
"I can't make up for the past, Kate. I know that," Angel said, his voice even softer than before.
"No, you can't," Kate said, angry despite her attempts to repress it. "In fact, all of this, what's happening, is really because of you. You made him, didn't you?"
There was an almost pleading tone in Angel's voice when he spoke again. "Let me help end it. Please."
"Please," Kate said with an embittered laugh. "Now there's a word you heard quite a lot in your time. Please... no... don't? Thanks for the offer, but I don't need your help. I know what to do. Drive a stake right through the son of a bitch's heart. And when that happens I suggest you're not there. Because the next time we meet I'll do the same to you."
She slammed the door in Angel's face with a sense of twisted satisfaction, leaving him standing there in the hallway.
Cordelia stood watching over Doyle's shoulder as he scrolled down the computer screen. It felt like they'd been at this for a long time, though Doyle knew they really hadn't.
"Ha, there it is!" Cordy said suddenly. "Los Angeles Globe, 1929."
Doyle scanned the article quickly, his brow furrowing slightly as he read it aloud. "'The Regent Gardens Hotel manager said that he seemed like a quiet, normal type. The search is ongoing.' Well, that was... helpful."
"Huh, no kidding," Cordy said derisively as she glanced over at Angel. "What are we looking for exactly?"
"I don't know yet," he replied tersely.
Wesley looked up from an old newspaper book he was reading. "Here's something... in 1963 the police tracked the killer to a residential hotel called the Clover Wood Apartments. By the time they made their move, he'd already fled." He walked over to where the others were, showing them the picture in the newspaper. "They never caught him."
Doyle glanced from the picture on the computer to the picture in the book as realization swept over him. "Regent Gardens Hotel, Clover Wood Apartments... it's the same building."
"New name and a face lift," Cordelia said comprehendingly. "Not the first time that's happened in this town."
Angel nodded slightly. "Huh, good old predictable Penn."
As he cautiously entered Penn's apartment, Doyle's eyes darted in all directions. Wesley followed him seconds later, a stake in his hand as he jumped into the room. The half-demon shook his head in exasperation, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth as Angel walked in. Wesley quickly glanced at the vampire. "Oh, I invite you in."
Doyle muttered a few unintelligible words under his breath, drawing a warning glance from Angel. Then the vampire turned back toward Wesley. "Relax. That's only for humans. Breaking and entering another vampire's lair isn't a problem."
"Oh," Wesley said sheepishly. "Right. I knew that."
Doyle snorted, earning a dirty look from Wesley.
Angel glanced around. "He's not here."
"So what then, we wait?" Wesley asked with a sigh. "Raid the icebox and try to think of the worst possible thing we can imagine?"
Angel picked up some photos of a school bus from the table. "Stop imagining."
Wesley and Doyle walked over, their gazes moving over the photos, the bus route traced on a map, and a Parker Middle School fall bus schedule laying on the table.
Doyle's eyes widened in comprehension, and he was aware of a horrified expression on his face as he glanced in Angel's direction. "Sweet Jesus."
His own face wearing a similar expression, Wesley's voice sounded strained as he spoke. "Good Lord. All those school children."
"He's finally changing his act," Angel said weakly.
"All right, listen up." In the precinct's briefing room, Kate held up a copy of Angel's sketch of Penn. "You've all received one of these in your briefing packets. This is the man that we're looking for."
She held up two pictures of Angel taken by the security cameras earlier in the year. "And this man is how we're going to find him. He's the way to our killer. His name is Angel, and he's a local private detective. We have reason to believe that our suspect will make an attempt to contact Angel, possibly as his next target."
"So we're going to stake out Angel's place?" one of the detectives asked. "How many men do you want?"
"Lots," Kate answered. "We'll be working in rotating teams..."
"This is a terrible likeness of me," a voice said, and Kate looked up to see Penn stroll into the room, shaking his head. "Uh, the mouth, it's all wrong!"
Two detective suddenly jumped him as Kate yelled out loudly, "No!" Penn merely threw the two men across the room as if they were puppets. Kate scrambled to get a stake out of her purse as Penn swept through the room, easily taking out one cop after another.
Kate's stake dropped uselessly to the floor as he grabbed her and dragged her from the room.
Angel drove into the underground police garage, his gaze moving over the bustle of activity that filled it.
"We're in," Doyle stated. "Though I'm not exactly sure why."
"I agree," Wesley said, drawing a look from Doyle. "What about the school children?"
A cop suddenly stopped them. "Hold it right there!" Doyle and Wesley exchanged worried glances, but he merely waved on some police cars that were leaving.
"He's here," Angel said confidently as he quickly climbed out of the car. He stood there for a moment, listening to a nearby police scanner.
"Dragnet in progress. Suspect is believed to be in the vicinity of the twelfth street station area."
Angel darted between the police cars to a sewer cover that was partially open, leaving a mystified Wesley and Doyle behind him.
"What are you going to do?" Kate asked, as Penn dragged her through the sewer tunnels.
"Well, first I thought I'd stop everything and tell you my plan," Penn said sarcastically. "Or better yet..." He suddenly threw her against a wall. "... why don't I just show you?
He morphed into his vamp face and slowly sauntered up to her. Grinning, he grabbed her by the neck and sniffed her cheek. "Hah, smell that fear. Makes the blood sweeter. You know who taught me that?"
"I'm not afraid to die," Kate told him resolutely.
"Oh, I'm not going to kill you," Penn said, his grin growing broader. "But when I'm finished, Angel will."
A familiar figure stepped out of the shadows. "Bus full of school children, Penn? You really thought I was gonna fall for that?"
Penn's attention immediately focused on Angel, and he didn't even notice as Kate reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a glass bottle. "Well, you could have."
"Nah," Angel said with a shake of his head, "too original."
Kate splashed the holy water she'd been carrying around with her onto Penn's face with a sudden movement, and he screamed.
"Well, you were right about one thing, Angelus," Penn spat out. "The last two hundred years has been about me sticking it to my father. But I've come to realize something..." He jumped up and kicked Angel in the stomach. "...it's you! You made me!"
Penn kicked him in the face, then double fisted him a few times. "You taught me!" Angel fell to the floor, and Penn jumped on his back. "You approved of me in ways my mortal father never did! You are my real father, Angelus."
"Fine," Angel shot back at him. He got up, holding Penn up above his head before slamming him into the ground. "You're grounded."
As they fought, Kate quickly looked around for a weapon to use. After a moment, she picked up a broken board, but her movement caught Penn's attention. He kicked it out of her hand, then hit her in the face. Before he could do more, however, Angel pulled him off Kate.
As they continued fighting, Kate reclaimed her piece of wood. In the meantime, Penn walked up one wall with Angel holding him from behind, flipped over Angel's head, and landed behind him. The moment his feet hit the ground, he grabbed Angel's arms and pinned them firmly behind his back.
"You forget your own lessons, old teacher," Penn said with a smirk. "Never give up the advantage, remember?"
Angel looked at Kate standing in front of them, the long piece of wood held firmly in her hands.
"Living among them has made you weak!" Penn continued on, as Angel kept staring at Kate. It didn't seem like he was even trying to break free. "It sickens me to think that there was a time where you would have done whatever was necessary."
Seeing her chance, Kate suddenly moved forward, ramming the piece of wood through Angel's stomach and up into Penn's heart. Angel gasped in pain while Penn turned to dust. Her face was expressionless as she stared at the vampire that still stood before her.
Angel gasped as he glanced down at the half of the board still sticking out of his stomach. He looked up at Kate, his voice weak as he said, "You missed."
Kate gave her head the tiniest shake. "No," she said in a strangled voice, "I didn't."
She grabbed the board and pulled it back out, sending Angel collapsing to the ground. He cradled his stomach, unable to stop his gasps of pain. Kate sank down to the floor a few feet away from him.
As Cordelia walked into the office, Doyle didn't even look up from where he was slumped in one of the chairs. He gingerly rubbed his temples - barely stifling a moan - causing her to shoot him a sympathetic look before walking over and collapsing in one of the other chairs. "Wesley's been around?"
Doyle smirked slightly, but he managed to keep his tongue as he regretfully shook his head. "This time it was one of those mind-splitting visions."
Cordelia quickly sat up, a worry shining in her eyes. "Do you need some aspirin or something?" she asked anxiously. "Or do I need to just go get Angel?"
"I'm fine," Doyle replied, with the barest hint of a smile. "And I've already written everything down." He gestured to a piece of paper held tightly in his hand. "I'll take it up to Angel as soon as--"
"You can stand up without collapsing?" Cordelia put in helpfully.
Doyle shook his head slightly, but he stopped almost immediately as a grimace appeared on his face. Grinning sheepishly, he leaned back against his chair. His eyes closed for a moment as he quietly spoke. "Something like that."
Silence settled over the room for a few seconds, before Cordelia asked, "What's going on between us, Doyle?"
His eyes opened almost immediately. "What do you mean?"
Cordelia sat up, her eyes flashing slightly. "What do I mean? I mean that it's been almost a month since you almost died. A month since you asked me out to dinner. A month since you kis--" She trailed off as her voice started to break, and she closed her eyes for just a moment. "Did you mean it or not?"
Doyle couldn't meet her gaze as Barney's face suddenly flashed in his mind, the demon's words echoing through his head. "Cordy, it's been a long day. Why don't we just... put this aside for tomorrow?"
She stood up suddenly, her hand reaching out and grabbing the paper from his hand. "We've been putting it aside for too long, Doyle. If you're going to act, then go ahead and do it. If not..." She trailed off again, doing her best to keep her face expressionless. "It's your call. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to take this up to Angel."
Cordelia stomped toward the door, but she was careful not to turn her face back toward Doyle. Her body shook slightly with silent sobs, and it was obvious to half-demon that she was waiting for him to say something. Anything.
But there was nothing but silence.
Biting her lip, Cordelia sighed and walked out of the room... and, as she did so, Doyle sank back against his chair. Doubts ran rampant through his mind, but there was one thing that he knew for certain. He regretfully closed his eyes as he whispered, "What the hell is the matter with you, Francis? You're going to lose her."
And a quiet voice in his mind just laughed. What makes you think you ever had her to begin with?
Up on the roof of the building, Angel looked out over the lights of the city. Cordy walked up to him, a wool poncho now covering her, and leaned on the embrasure next to him. She handed him the piece of paper she had grabbed from Doyle. "New job."
Angel sighed softly. "Doyle had a vision?"
"Yeah," she answered with a gentle smile. "He's still collapsed in a chair downstairs."
Barely holding back a smile of his own, Angel let his gaze drift back over the view below them. "I was just thinking about how much this place is like where I grew up."
Cordy looked out on the city as well, the expression on her face one of incredibility. "Right. Yeah. I could see that, except for the cars, and the buildings and the, you know, everything else."
"It's not so different," Angel continued. "People moving through their lives. I wonder if anything ever really changes."
"Sure it does," Cordelia said firmly. "They do. You have." She looked over at him, understanding suddenly dawning in her eyes. "They were just dreams, Angel. They weren't even your dreams. They didn't mean anything."
"But I enjoyed it," Angel put in with a pained sigh.
Cordelia paused. "It'd probably be okay if you never mentioned that part ever again."
"It's still in me, Cordelia," Angel said quietly, the pain in his voice obvious even to himself.
"Sure it's in you," Cordelia said, sounding exasperated. "We all have something. But it's not the only thing that's in you. You're not him, Angel. Not anymore."
"That's right," a familiar voice said from behind them. Doyle walked up unsteadily, apparently ignoring the glare that Cordelia sent in his direction. "The message I got from the Powers That Be didn't come for Angelus. It came for Angel."
Angel shrugged slightly. "If you say so."
"I do," Doyle said firmly, just as he started to sway on his feet.
Before he had time to even think, Angel reached over and laid a steadying hand on Doyle's shoulder.
The half-demon glanced over at his gratefully, his eyes twinkling slightly. "See."
"People really do change," Cordelia said pointedly. "It just takes time when it involves stubborn Irishmen who don't listen when someone tells them not to walk until they know they won't collapse."
Shaking his head slightly, Angel carefully moved his hand from Doyle's shoulder. "Yes, Cordelia, people do change." He paused for a moment as he considered his next words. "And sometimes they change back. If the day ever comes that I--"
Cordelia quickly broke in. "Oh, I'll kill you dead!"
Both Angel and Doyle blinked, and the vampire gave her a hesitant smile. "Thanks?"
Cordelia turned to go, though her gaze drifted toward Doyle for just an instant. "What are friends for?"
As Angel once again firmly placed his hand on Doyle's shoulder, the two of them slowly followed her back toward the staircase.