Fred nodded, because this was expected. It was zippy, it was zingy, and it was the Lilah that Fred knew from afar. The only thing new was that Lilah didn’t wear high heels twenty-four seven, or nylons, or business suits. In front of Fred was a Lilah who wore a built-in bra tank (gray), and a pair of loose cotton-type yoga pants (black), as well as a ponytail (loose, wispy, pretty) and bare feet (messily applied lavender toenail polish).
“Can I come in?”
“I think the answer I’m looking for is hell no,” Lilah said, leaning against her doorway looking vaguely confused, and Fred could hear the girl-rock of the mid-90s in full, loud effect. “Why would you want to come in? To drink white wine spritzers, chat about all the things we have in common and order a pizza?”
“Oh, shut up,” Fred said, shaking her head. “Though I bet most of your minions, bootlickers, and various one-night stands don’t recognize Kate Bush.”
Lilah paused, smiled, and shrugged. “Point,” she said. “The original answer stands, because you have no reason to speak to me. In fact, given whom you work for — sorry, whom you worked for — I’m thinking that I could call LAPD and get a restraining order slapped on you and the boy blunders if you don’t give me a reason not to. Now.”
“I have information about Angel,” Fred said, taking a deep breath. Charles would kill her if he knew she was doing this, but after looking at Connor this morning, after looking at herself in the mirror, she knew how desperate they were. “I’ll give it to you.”
The lawyer blinked. “Ohhhhh-kay,” she said. “You have my attention. Hands atop your head and I’ll let you in.” She smirked at Fred. “After all, evil. Not stupid.”
Fred, annoyed that Lilah would even think she’d bring a weapon, mutely put her hands atop her head and let Lilah pat her down, which she did quickly, efficiently, and without comment besides the raised eyebrow at Fred’s lack of…chest endowment.
“Can I come in now?” Fred asked.
“Sure,” Lilah said, waving her in before sitting down on the couch, cross-legged as she packed a carry-on. “I have a flight to Salt Lake City in the morning. I’m going to go put the fear of God into a local office, give ’em a thrill, the usual. So don’t mind me if I keep packing.”
Fred shrugged. Wasn’t as though there was anything Fred could do even if she minded, which she really didn’t. In fact, Fred was too busy looking around the apartment, which was really nice. Nicer than the hotel, but not in a gaudy way. Lots of clean lines, bright neutrals, air and light and a marked tendency toward the love of old movies and the color green.
“You have a very nice apartment,” Fred heard herself saying.
“Evil pays,” Lilah said with the lightest sarcasm in her voice as she brushed down a crisp white blouse. “I believe you were saying you had some information about Angel’s disappearance that you’d like me to know. Which leads me to believe you would also like me to find Big Broody, yes?”
“Don’t you need him?” asked Fred. “Champion, big-time apocalypse player. You can’t tell me Wolfram and Hart isn’t bending their resources to find him.”
A shrug from Lilah, and the faintest hint of irritation in her smoothly pretty face. Fred realized she was far too interested in the way Lilah looked, and had been ever since she’d met the woman, if you could count seeing a long-legged dark-haired hoochie mama bent over a desk as meeting. It didn’t help that Fred had often pictured that make-out session afterwards…but not from Lilah’s point of view.
“Wolfram and Hart, as a matter of fact, is playing it safe,” Lilah said. “No Angel means no trouble for our evil schemes. My bosses think the quiet is a good thing.”
“And you?” Fred asked, not buying for a minute that Lilah wasn’t looking for Angel, on her own if not through the law firm. “You’re not stupid, even if you are a hateful bitch.”
Lilah thumped her chest. “Ow,” she said. “Right to the heart there, honey. So maybe I do have my own methods of keeping tabs on the finding Angel efforts. What do you know that’ll help them?”
Fred took a deep breath. Time to venture into the world of intuition, unsupported speculation, and hopes that this was worthwhile information. “Angel went to the beach to meet Cordelia.”
“And to declare undying love,” Lilah said, unimpressed. “Of course, Cordelia never showed, and they found her car, emptied as though by divine intervention. No signs of struggle, nothing. All of that’s in the police report you filed.”
Fred nodded. “Fair enough,” she said. “I think it was related to Holtz and that girl…that girl Justine. Because if you’ve seen the police report, you also know there are some peculiarities about Holtz’s death, even from the lack of autopsy.”
Lilah blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s a little convenient, isn’t it? Holtz disappears one night…the same night LAPD gets a call about a dead man in a Skid Row motel with no blood left in him, and the next day, a homeless woman brought in bloody sheets ten blocks from the motel, but no one saw anything else?”
Lilah’s expression got thoughtful, and she stopped her methodical packing. “It’s a little bit of a leap to think that was our old friend Holtz,” she said. “But let’s say I believe you. Why off himself like that?”
“To implicate Angel in his murder,” Fred said.
“But why hide the body?” Lilah asked, leaning forward. She had a fascinating expression in her eyes, and Fred was surprised to realize she was kind of sort of enjoying this. “That doesn’t make sense. Are you thirsty? I need a glass of water.”
“Water’s fine,” Fred said, surprised as the other woman rose and headed for the kitchen. “Why doesn’t Wolfram and Hart want to find Angel?”
“Oh, because Linwood’s got no balls,” Lilah said from the kitchen. “Why aren’t you sharing your conspiracy theory with your boyfriend and Angel’s kid?”
“Oh, um,” and Fred thought about it. Just for a second. “Because I think Connor might know and I don’t think Charles and I could pull together the resources to salvage Angel without him. Or with him, for that matter. Why haven’t you come after Connor?”
Lilah emerged with two glasses and a plate of raw vegetables, moving with the simple grace of a ballerina or a panther. She looked a little disgusted. “See above answer on Linwood having no balls,” she said, setting the food down. “The kid’s in on this?”
“I don’t know,” Fred said. “It could just be Justine, you know? Who’s gone to ground. I tried to find her, but it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t want to be found.”
“You’d be surprised,” Lilah replied, taking a tomato and biting down. “People who don’t want to be found dust up a lot of trail trying to erase themselves. And Justine annoys fuck out of everyone. I’m sure I can find someone who’d like to see her dead.”
The heavily sensual smile that crossed Lilah’s face at that thought surprised Fred, who was finding herself already hypnotized by the woman’s throat. She didn’t quite like Lilah’s sort of woman, but there was the way she used her limbs, and her neck, and all of that was beautiful and distracting. Which Fred imagined was one of Lilah’s most potent weapons; all eyes on her breasts and none on her hands.
“I guess you believe me, then,” Fred said.
“It makes sense,” Lilah said. “Holtz and Justine stage Holtz’s murder, so the kid wrestles Angel to the ground for them, and then they get rid of him. Sweet sweet revenge. I’m just fuzzy on why little Connor didn’t kill him.”
Fred shrugged, taking a drink of water and then grabbing a celery stalk. It would have been better if there was ranch, but not everyone was blessed with Fred’s natural metabolism. “Maybe he thought of a way to make him suffer,” she said. “I like Connor, but he’s not exactly, you know, stable.”
“Well, parentage is not in his favor,” Lilah pointed out as Fred finished the celery and went after the broccoli. “So, what now, Miss Burkle? Where do we go from here?”
The air was charged with some subtle kind of electricity, and Fred felt a very small private glee at how easy it had been. Easier than anything she could imagine. Maybe Lilah wasn’t as heartless as the guys had painted her. Maybe Lilah just needed a friend. Someone like her. Someone not too busy to looking at her pretty face and pretty ways to miss the person she was inside.
“Aren’t you going to help me?” Fred asked cheerfully, heart pounding in her chest.
“Not a chance,” Lilah said with a curved smile and a diffident shrug. With perfect emphasis, the kind that was so perfect that Fred was pretty sure Lilah had majored in drama in college. “I’ve got my own skin to think about and running around asking about Holtz and Justine isn’t the way to keep it intact.”
Fred hissed. “You bitch!” she said, suddenly feeling a bit woozy. Then a lot woozy. “You evil…conniving…little cockroach!”
“What did you think this was, redeem-a-lawyer night?” Lilah asked, looming over Fred. Fred, who suddenly found herself heavy-limbed and thick-witted. “It’s been fun and all, listening to you give it up like a virgin on prom night, but I did not get to where I was by finding big-eyed skinny do-gooders irresistible. Though I have to admit, in one respect…”
Lilah leaned over and brushed her lips against Fred’s forehead. Fred tried to head-butt the bitch, but instead Lilah used the opening to tilt Fred’s chin up, to force Fred to look at her and Fred hated her so much that it burned in her stomach like nausea.
Maybe that was whatever Lilah had seasoned the water and vegetables with. The stuff that didn’t have a flavor, a hint of aftertaste, and worked in less than five minutes. Powerful magic, the kind that suggested that perhaps there was more to the Wolfram and Hart lawyer than long legs and short skirts.
“That’s a very simple spell, you know,” Lilah said conversationally. “It occasionally goes wrong, but most of the time, human perception’s so unreliable that it takes a real idiot to screw it up.”
She leaned forward, and gave Fred the kind of kiss that melted knees, launched ships, and even Fred, hating this woman in a way that she hadn’t hated anyone before, found herself twisting her tongue into Lilah’s mouth, shuddering and gasping and desiring. Wondering how it was that nobody had ever made her feel like this, like if Lilah would just give her a little more, Fred would absolutely surrender even though she knew how wrong it was.
It had to be some sort of magic, but it was a magic beyond Fred’s ken.
And then Lilah pulled away, the faintest glint of blood at the corner of her mouth. “You’ve been very helpful, though,” she said as Fred’s head swum and her vision began to go dark. “Now I know why Wesley’s got Justine in his closet and that is very useful indeed…”
Before Fred could make her mouth form a sound, she was out cold, lost somewhere no one else could follow.
“Ow,” Fred said, parking her car in front of Lilah Morgan’s trendy apartment building. Her head hurt something fierce, and all of the sudden, she couldn’t remember what had sent her tear-assing across town in traffic to see the woman. “Migraine.”
Nausea, headache, dark spots across her vision. Fred really wasn’t in any condition to make appeals to her enemy, especially when she didn’t remember what it was. Something about helping in the search for Angel.
Of course, the problem with that is that they didn’t know anything. Fred frowned. Nope. They were just gone, and Lilah would laugh her out of the building if she marched up and demanded the evil lawyer bitch help them.
Her phone rang, and Fred picked it up, surprised. “Hello?”
“Hey, babe, it’s me,” Charles said in that comforting voice of his. “Can you get back to the office? We’ve got a surprise case and I think we’re going to need you, Fred.”
“Of course!” Fred said, turning the key in the ignition. “I’ll be there in twenty.”
It bothered her until she turned the corner, what exactly had driven Fred to the doorstep of that overbusty witch, but then she saw the traffic on 110, and she forgot. Promptly.
Meanwhile, watching out a window, Lilah smiled, and then turned back to packing. If she got it done now, maybe there would be time for a surprise trip to Wesley’s.
And with that newly-discovered denizen in his apartment to give a show to, Lilah was feeling like giving quite a noisy performance.