Because she'd been living there, Faith had a key to the front door of Mrs. Burnand's townhouse. When she'd finally accepted that she was a Slayer, she'd thought it would be like those spy movies guys used to drag her to: beautiful people; exotic locations. Instead it had been work, work, and more work in her hometown. Mrs. Burnand had gone on for ages about stability, security, and an environment she knew. Whatever, not like Boston had ever been that stable for her. On the other hand, first trip out of town and... She nipped that thought in the bud.
If I were smart, I'd go for food first and then sleep, she thought but she could hear Mrs. Burnand in the back of her mind. “A Slayer must always be prepared for an attack.” That and, “Secure your weapons first.”
“Weapons it is,” she said as she looked over the room Mrs. Burnand had converted into a library. To her right was a window, letting in enough of the afternoon sun that it warmed the wooden floor. Next wall over had a doorway whose hall led both to the kitchen and a staircase that went up to the second floor. Faith thought longingly of food for a moment before walking towards the bookcases that covered most of the remaining two walls. The dark shelves were alleviated by a pale track that provided a runner for the ladder to travel on. It ended on the fourth wall, past the end of the bookcase, where weapons had been hung: a crossbow, two swords, and even a spear although Faith had never used it.
As she pulled books off of a shelf on the far wall, the one furthest from the window and doorways, and laid them out onto the table, Faith thought that the books, when not regimented to their shelves, at least made a bit of distraction. While they weren't brightly colored, some of them were at least leather bound in dark rusts and shades of green. She had about a dozen books piled up when she heard a noise from the back hallway.
Damn, he's found me, she thought. Her weapons as well as escape were on the other side of the room. The vamp would be sure to see her before she could get to them. “When a Master is uncertain of his enemy's location, he'll send minions out as scouts,” Faith heard her Watcher say. Let's hope your right, she thought, pulling out her stake.
She hugged the wall as she made her way towards the door. If the vamp didn't scan the room, she'd have more of a chance to sneak up on him. If he does, she thought, I'm screwed anyway. When he came in, he was blowing on a hot cup of tea. Faith breathed a sigh of relief, certain the vamp was alone, although the incongruity of a vampire cooling off his tea held her still for a moment, long enough for him to look up. He frowned as he saw the books piled up on the table. “What, don't like to read?” she asked, feeling more confident since he didn't appear to be much of a threat.
His tea cup went flying as he backed away, tripping over his own feet, and fell, with a thud, to the floor. She'd barely had a chance to register that the vamp was in sunlight, and not burning, when he finished fumbling in his jacket and pulled out a cross. Holding it towards her in a shaking hand, he said, “Back, creature of darkness.”
Faith looked at him more closely as she put her stake away: dark blue suit with light pinstripes; a tie so horrifically ugly that it was almost a weapon in and of itself; glasses; bad haircut. As he pulled out a vial of holy water, he added, “I mean it. I am prepared for you.”
“Relax, I'm not a vamp,” she said.
As she walked over, to help him up, he held the cross out more firmly and said, “I'm onto your wicked ways, evil temptress.”
“You always talk like someone out of a bad horror flick?” When he didn't respond, she pulled out her stake and asked, “You used to vamps attacking you with stakes?”
“Oh thank goodness” he said, looking relieved. As he stood up, he put the cross and holy water away. Are you always that gullible, Faith thought. If I were a vamp, you'd be dead now.
He stood as tall as he could, as if the extra height gave him added importance, and said, with a smug self-confidence, “Wesley Wyndham-Price at your service. Your new Watcher.” He said the last line almost confidentially, as if she hadn't already figured that out for herself.
“Yeah, don't think so, Bambi.”
“That's Wesley, I mean, Mr. Wyndham-Price, to you.” He gave her what he obviously thought was a stern look, which she ignored as she went back to pulling books off the shelves.
“Just what do you think you're doing?” he asked, snatching a book from her. “Mrs. Burnand's shelving system, while very impressive, is also quite complex. Do you know how long it will take me to reshelve these books correctly?”
“What do you care?” she asked, almost as an afterthought, as she pulled a box off the shelves.
“As your new Watcher it is, of course, my responsibility to care for the library. Although,” he added in an almost begging tone, “if you do know where they're supposed to go, I don't suppose you could help me put them back?”
“Wait a sec.” Faith put the box down on the table, past where the books were piled up, and turned to stare at Wesley. “You're just going to move into her home and take it over?”
“Well, of course Mrs. Burnand's personal belongings will be sent back to her relatives in London and naturally arrangements will be made to ship her body back for burial.”
“Body?” Faith asked warily.
“Yes. I'm sure her family will want that taken care of as quickly as possible. Umm,” he asked as if the question had just occurred to him. “What did you do with it?”
Faith jerked her head away before turning towards the box. Opening it, she pulled out the r'cal, ignoring Wesley by carefully examining the blade.
He stared at her for a few moments before understanding dawned. “You don't have it. Do you know nothing of your responsibilities? Mrs. Burnand risked her life, quite literally, for you and you... what? Abandon her body in a vampire's lair?”
Stepping onto the ladder, whose track was worked into the wall above the bookcase, Faith gave it a shove that sent her rolling away from Wesley. The ladder turned the corner, slowed, and stopped at the crossbow. “Whatever,” she finally replied as Wesley scurried after. “Do yourself a favor and skip town.”
“A Watcher does not abandon his sacred duty.” The look that accompanied the words suggested he thought that Faith didn't live up to the same high standards.
Faith jumped down from the ladder. Wesley startled back as she landed mere inches away from him. While he was trying to regain his composure, she said, “I kinda have a problem with Watchers. They die.”
“Obviously your training has been mismanaged.” As he adjusted his tie, Wesley added, “Mrs. Burnand was old. Outdated. Lucky for you, training methods have improved since her day.”
“Listen Poindexter,” Faith shouted. “I don't need a keeper. You need a keeper? Call Taylor.”
“Taylor?” he asked, momentarily confused by the reference. “You mean Aidan Nelson Taylor? Nonsense,” Wesley said as he waved his hand dismissively. “He's no longer even part of the Council. Exiled to America over a decade ago. I'm your Watcher now and you will obey me.”
Faith didn't bother to respond as she took a half dozen stakes from a trunk, near the front door, and added them to the depleted weapon stash in her bag. She glanced back to the box on the table and decided that she wasn't about to go back for an empty box when she was that close to getting away. Unzipping a compartment in her bag, she carefully put the r'cal in before zipping the bag back up.
While Faith was busy gathering weapons, Wesley had kept up a steady stream of comments. “Now look here, young lady. Are you even listening to me at all? I can and will report this to the Council if you don't cooperate.”
He shut up as Faith stood and swung the bag over her shoulder. “Have a good life and all that. My advice? Get back to London where it's safe.”
“I'll call the Council. I will,” he shouted after her as Faith jogged out into the street and, after a couple of sharp turns, vanished into a neighbor's yard.
* * *
Got vamps on my trail. Need to know if the Council is gonna be after me as well, Faith thought after she'd left her Watcher's house for the last time. Before they'd left for Missouri, Faith had gotten sucked in by the neighborhood gossip, who was seventy if she was a day, and had nothing better to do than talk. Faith had cursed her luck at the time; she hadn't had an excuse ready and it had taken over an hour to get away but that bit of bad luck was proving itself useful. She knew that the Mitchell family, whose house was across the street and three down from Mrs. Burnand's, would be empty for a few weeks.
Chowing down on the second of three frozen dinners she'd found in the kitchen, Faith watched Mrs. Burnand's house from behind the blinds, figuring they'd protect her from being noticed. Nothing so far. She didn't know how long it would take Council goons to show up. While she wasn't worried about anything Wesley could do, she did know the Council could act, effectively, against Slayers. She wasn't supposed to. Mrs. Burnand had kept her Watcher diaries separate from the books she allowed Faith to read but Faith, figuring something hidden had to be important, had read them with careful attention. She knew Council Enforcers could be bad news for her.
About an hour before sunset, four men, each dressed in black, knocked at the door. Faith wasn't sure if she should laugh or not. Men in black? How clichéd was that? But they moved like a team. They were tight. They were good.
Wesley left about fifteen minutes after he'd let them in. Definitely Council. Faith didn't know the Watcher but she kinda figured nobody else could have gotten him out of that house. What, do they think I'm just going to stroll back in after I've already gotten what I came for, she wondered. She was hoping they were there to watch her back, to help her with the vamps that were after her, until one of them climbed out and settled himself on the gentle slope of the roof. He had a gun.
Not here to kill vamps then, she thought. She moved away from the window, out of line of sight, and sat on the floor with her back to the wall. Awfully close to sunset. I stay here, nobody to invite vamps in but those Enforcers wouldn't need an invite. On the other hand, they have no reason to think I'm still hanging around. So why are they waiting for me? I'd have been long gone if I hadn't read those Watcher diaries. Unless Mrs. B caught me reading them and told the Council. Shit, if they think I'm not big with obeying their rules... She thought back to what she'd read in the diaries. OK, I can't stay here, she was thinking when she heard it.
Her name echoed up and down the street. She knew that voice – from the swamp and from her nightmares. The one voice she'd hoped never to hear again. Kakistos. Shit. Shitshitshit.
“Faith. Did you really think you could hide from me?”
She peered cautiously out the window, just in time to see an Enforcer being thrown from the roof. The guy still on the roof snapped the gun in two; definitely a vamp.
Lovely. I'm in a cage for years if I do help but they're dead if I don't, she thought as her hand reached out for her weapons. Taking one last look to get a tactical view of the situation she was going into, she saw a flash from an open window and then drifting dust where a vamp had been.
Most of the vamps hid themselves at that but Kakistos didn't move from the sidewalk, as if a stake couldn't even hurt him. He pointed towards the shadows and a blonde vamp came out, looking around nervously as she ran to the front door and threw herself at it. She bounced off. Faith's jaw dropped as she thought that through. Someone else already owned Mrs. B's house. While they weren't expecting vamps to attack, or they wouldn't have left one of their guys exposed on the roof, those Enforcers were ready for almost anything.
At a sound from above, Faith looked up as a chopper flew into view. A searchlight left the ground as bright as day. “You've got to come out sometime,” Kakistos shouted before he slipped into the shadows. The light didn't follow him. The copter circled, as if looking for someone specific.
Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go, ran through Faith's head as she grabbed her bag and headed for the darkest corner of the attic. Once she'd hidden herself as well as she could, Faith started working out how she was going to get out of the city past people who could bring in a chopper on a moment's notice.