It was him! It had to be. No one else could look like that – with the cheekbones and the hair and those half-lidded predator's eyes. And that must be the legendary duster he was wearing – the one he'd taken from the body of a dead Slayer.
Billy fairly bounced with excitement. No one had seen him – not for years - and yet here he was, large as unlife – well, not that large but the coat made him look bigger –and twice as real, right here in this bar. It was the scoop of the year.
His fingers all seemed to turn to thumbs in his excitement as he fished a wadded up roll of dog-eared bills – the remainder of his paycheck - out of his jeans pocket and leaned across the counter.
"That white-haired dude in the corner, what's he drinking?"
The bartender – a huge bald-headed guy covered in tattoos – gave Billy a sour look. He leaned both meaty elbows on the chipped counter top with its sticky array of dubious stains and wagged a finger at him.
"Stay away from him, kid –if you value your worthless hide, that is. He's trouble. Find some other poor sucker to play sugar daddy."
Billy gaped at him in shock.
"Oh my God! You think I wanna hit on him, don't you?" He managed to laugh, but he could hear the slight edge of hysteria in his voice and so could the bartender judging by his gold-toothed grin.
Annoyed, Billy dug in his pocket again. "No way, man. I'm a reporter –" and he flashed his press accreditation card under the bartender's nose –"See? I wanna do a story on him, that's all."
"Yeah?" The bartender took the press card in his huge hand and sniffed at it suspiciously. Then he shrugged and handed it back. "Your funeral, kid. He's drinking Jack, and if you wanna get him talking, my advice is, buy the whole bottle."
Billy was frowning as he walked away from the counter, the bottle and glasses in his hand. He'd just been insulted and then ripped off but there was no point dwelling on it – not when he had the story of a lifetime sitting right in front of him.
His steps slowed as he neared the corner table where he was sitting. What if he wouldn't talk? Even worse, what if he got mad and– no, Billy told himself. If he started thinking that way he'd be better off giving up on the whole idea and hightailing it out of here right now.
"Eh- sir?" Billy's mouth was dry. He swallowed. Forcing himself to go on was the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life. "Mr Bloody – sir? Mind if I buy you a drink?"
The focus of his interest had been sitting smoking a cigarette and nursing along a miserly shot of JD. He looked relaxed – a sleepy leopard in a tree – but Billy noticed that his eyes were never still, scanning the crowd constantly. Only good sense, Billy supposed. The guy was famous – no, make that notorious. He must have a lot of enemies.
At Billy's words, the restless eyes swung round in his direction. A surprisingly soft pale blue, the half-closed eyelids somehow cat-like, they regarded him with astonishment, tinged with irritation. Billy felt sweat break out on his forehead
"Why the sodding hell would you want to do that?"
At the words – at the sound of that deep lazy voice with its cool British accent – Billy's knees seemed to go weak and he heard himself beginning to gush.
"Please – I am, like, your biggest fan? I've followed your career- read all the books, even that one written by the Watcher lady– and I think she was way unfair about your Slayer kills, of course they were fair fights – and I would just be so honoured if you'd let me buy you a drink."
"Would you now?" Abruptly, all the contemplative softness was gone from the blue eyes. Instead, they were hard and bright, like knives that had just been sharpened. But at least the irritation in them had given way to amusement.
"Yeah – yeah, I would," Billy hurried on before his courage failed him. "Also, if it's all right with you, I would love to interview you. I'm a reporter, see?" And he held out his press card again. "L.A. Underground Times."
A well-formed hand with long, blunt-tipped fingers took the card and examined it. Then there was a shrug of leather-clad shoulders and the card was flung on the table.
"Never sodding heard of it."
The dismissive tone wasn't good and nor was the shrug. Hurriedly, Billy put the bottle and glasses on the table next to his discarded press card and at once the blue gaze grew more interested.
"L.A. Underground Times, 'ey?" One hand reached for the bottle and poured a generous shot into one of the glasses. "This gonna be read by anyone much? What're your circulation numbers?"
Billy hadn't been invited to sit down but then he hadn't been told to get lost either. Greatly daring, he perched himself on the edge of the seat, avoiding the hole in the faux leather cover from which the interior stuffing oozed like dirty foam. He took out his notebook. It was too noisy in here to attempt any other form of recording.
"Circulation's growing all the time," he enthused. "And if you'll allow me to interview you, it'll boost our sales exponentially, I know it will, Mr Bloody."
This earned him a frown.
"Name's Spike," the other man said. "None of this Mr Bloody crap or you can piss off right now, all right?"
Billy grinned. This was like a dream come true. "Sure – whatever you say, man. So – er, Spike, may I ask you some questions?"
Spike emptied his glass and poured himself another shot – and this time he poured Billy one as well. He'd relaxed again, slouched lazily in his corner, watching the passing drinkers.
"Why the hell not," he said, at last. "I've got nothing better to do for the next hour. Go for it, mate."
"Thank you! Thank you so much!" Billy couldn't help bouncing a little in his seat and Spike rolled his eyes indulgently. "You don't know how much this means to me!"
"I'm beginning to get the idea." Spike waved an expansive hand. "Fire away, kiddo."
Billy tried to quell the fluttery feeling in his belly – to remember that he was an investigative reporter from a serious newspaper on the trail of an important story – but it was hard when his instinct was still to gush like a fanboy and ask for his idol's autograph.
He tried taking some deep breaths and when that didn't work, he downed the contents of his own glass, choking as the fiery liquid hit the back of his throat.
"Okay," he managed, eyes watering. "First of all, maybe we could go over your early history? You were sired by Angelus, the great Scourge of Europe, exactly two hundred years ago, is that correct?"
To his astonishment, Spike looked furious suddenly – so furious that his eyes flashed yellow and the ridges and bumps of his true face appeared for a moment and then were gone again, like a weird trick of the light. He took a deep drag on his cigarette.
"No, it bloody isn't," he said, crossly. "That's total bollocks. Where the sodding hell did you read it?"
"Erm – in that Watcher lady's book?" Billy found he'd flattened himself against the seatback. So far, this wasn't going too well.
"Well, she doesn't know what she's talking about!" Spike fumed for a moment. Then he shrugged and drained his glass again. "Looked like a right dozy cow, though, so I s'pose it's not surprising."
Billy was about to exclaim over Spike having actually met Lydia Montfitchett, but since it was kind of obvious, he bit his tongue and ploughed on. "Well, if Angelus didn't sire you, do you mind telling me who did?"
"'Course not." Spike sounded determined now. "Might as well set the record straight, yeah? I was sired in 1880 – so that makes me 127, not bloody 200 – I mean, do I look that decrepit to you? – by Drusilla. She was sired by Angelus, not me, for all the good it did her."
"Drusilla?" Well, at least that name tallied with the facts as Billy'd thought he knew them. "She was, like, your muse, right? It's, like, so awesome that your sire was your muse, man. You guys were together for a hundred years, weren't you?"
"118 years." Spike sighed nostalgically, a faraway expression on his face as if contemplating happy memories. "And wonderful years they were." His face fell. "That is, once we got rid of the ponce."
"Ponce?" Billy had no idea what the word meant.
Spike waved an impatient hand. "The enormous great wanker – you know - Angelus. For twenty years he kept us apart as much as he could – kept Dru all to himself, whenever Darla wasn't around. Bastard!"
"His sire. Bloody pay attention, can't you? Mind you, sometimes if Darla was out of sorts with him, she'd be free of her favours if you know what I mean –" and now he was smirking –"not something you forget in a hurry, mate, I assure you."
All the sex talk was making Billy feel slightly uncomfortable – like he had when Dad left Mom and took up with the much younger girlfriend and started wearing that leather jacket he was way too old for- and it was Sheryl this and Sheryl that and Sheryl's always right and Sheryl's soo fucking hot. God, it had been embarrassing.
"So the four of you lived together," he cut in, "like a family?"
Spike was still smirking at him, he realised. He must be giving off embarrassment pheromones or something because he couldn't be blushing.
"Oh yeah," Spike said. "S'pose you could call us a family. After all, the family that shags together stays together, right?"
"Shags?" Billy knew what the word meant of course. He'd seen the Austin Powers movies same as everyone else, but he had the feeling Spike was being all cryptic and British on purpose so maybe it was best to stroke his ego and play along. The guy might be more forthcoming that way.
He tried to look clueless. "Is that something dirty in British?"
Spike leaned over and patted him on the shoulder. "Got it in one, kiddo. It means 'screw' and yeah, we all shagged each other every chance we got – 'cept Angelus wouldn't let me shag him, which is fucking weird when you think about it considering he was such an arsehole. You'd've thought it'd be right up his street. "
Billy's ears were burning – way too much information! But he reminded himself sternly that this was the sort of thing his readers would want to know – the hard facts, laced with a nice helping of titillation, the racier the better. Time to ask a tough question.
"So, when you say you all – er, shagged with that one exception – does that mean Angelus was in the habit of-" God, this was embarrassing! – "shagging you?"
There was a long silence, during which Spike's face set like stone, eyes narrowed against the smoke, regarding Billy like lunch. Then he said, "What if it does? Told you he was an arsehole."
"So he forced you? You weren't a willing - er, participant?"
There was another silence, which gave Billy plenty of time to wonder whether he had any hope of getting away if he ran for it.
"Depends," was all Spike said, eventually. Then, "Can we change the subject?"
"Sure, sure!" Billy wiped sweat from his forehead with his hand and then wiped his hand on his jeans, leaving quite a damp patch. Spike watched this performance with one eyebrow raised – the eyebrow with the scar slicing through it.
Of course, Billy thought. The scar! Surely talking about that would take him onto safer ground?
"So –" he took a deep breath to steady himself–"you killed your first Slayer in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion. Is that right?"
Spike relaxed again. In fact, he almost smiled. At least, he kind of pursed his lips.
"Yeah, that's right. Pretty little thing she was – all silk and ribbons, until she drew that sword." He ran a finger over the scar. "Was enchanted – the sword, that is. Cut me here and scarred me for life. Time was, I thought of it as a badge of honour."
"And now?" Billy was curious. The guy had killed a Slayer, surely that was something to be proud of for, like, ever?
"Now," Spike's face was sombre again, "it's a reminder."
"Of what?" Billy leaned forward eagerly, captivated by the story. It'd be so cool if Spike would describe the battle in detail. But Spike leaned away from him. He stubbed out his cigarette in the overflowing ashtray and took another sip of his drink.
"Forget it," he said. "You wouldn't understand."
Disappointed, Billy gestured at the black leather coat Spike was wearing. It fit him perfectly and yet, if the story was true, it had been made for a woman.
"And the coat? Is that just a reminder too now?"
Spike took his pack of cigarettes from his duster pocket and tapped out another one. Then, after a moment's hesitation, he offered the packet to Billy. Billy shook his head.
"I don't smoke, man. At least," he said, hurriedly, "not those things." He didn't want Spike thinking he didn't even smoke dope, because how lame would that be? The guy had probably tried every illicit substance going.
Spike just gave him the raised eyebrow and smirk again. "Suit yourself," he said. Then, "In answer to your question, mate – yes, the coat's a reminder too – and maybe a way of honouring the dead, because I dunno how else to do it."
Billy stared at him with his mouth open. He had no idea what Spike was talking about. Which dead did he mean? However, his subject's expression made it pretty plain that going any further down that road might not be a good idea.
"So," he said, quickly. "You and Drusilla – care to expand on that theme, maybe?"
"All right." And just like that, Spike had the dreamy look on his face again.
"Wish you could've seen her! Long black hair, blue eyes, skin like moonlight. God, she was beautiful. When I first set eyes on her, I thought I'd never seen anything so perfect, and I carried on thinking that until the day she left me."
He heaved a deep sigh and then his expression grew morose.
"Mind you, she was stark raving bonkers so she could be a right pain in the arse to live with."
"She left you?" Billy was completely captivated again. The guy had painted a way cool picture –kind of poetic - well, until he'd called his old flame a wacko. "Why was that?"
"Because of the Slayer of course." Spike took an impatient drag on his cigarette. "You bloody listening or what?"
"Slayer?" Billy looked at his notes. Had he missed something? "You mean one of the ones you killed?"
"No, you twat! I mean the one I didn't kill." Spike was frowning at him. Then he sighed again. "End of an era, it was. Dru and me, we danced our way through a whole century of history – I mean, literally danced, and we wore the clothes to match – we partied, we killed -and then it ended. Just like that."
"I'm sorry." Billy didn't know quite what else to say. He tried to recall what he'd read in Lydia Montfitchett's book. "Okay, would that be before or after you settled in Sunnydale?"
At the mention of that name, Spike's face turned sour. "Sunnyhell, you mean. Fucking awful place, mate. Believe me, the world's better off without it."
Billy remembered hearing about the town's sudden destruction. Of course, the TV news and the newspapers had said it happened because of an earthquake but word on the demon side of the street was it had been something much more sinister.
"You were still there when the town was destroyed?"
Spike gave him a sombre look. "Yeah, I was still there. Had to be, didn't I? Owed the Slayer." His mouth tightened at the corners. "Owed her everything."
This was weird, Billy thought – the way he kept harping on about Slayers, like he was obsessed with them. It seemed kind of unhealthy for a vampire.
"So," he said, carefully, "let's just backtrack a bit. Drusilla and you split up. Why was that again?"
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" Spike downed the remainder of his drink and poured a third. He offered Billy the bottle but Billy put his hand over his glass.
"No thanks." He had to stay focused, he thought, or this guy was going to eat him for breakfast – and even if Spike didn't, if Billy messed up this assignment, his editor would. Literally.
"Suit yourself," Spike said, again. Suddenly, he tilted his head on one side and something inside Billy seemed to go all weak at the knees. He wished he could look at someone like that. The chicks must love it.
Spike was talking again but after the Look, it took Billy a moment to take in what he was saying, which was, "Dunno how you can call yourself a reporter. No smoking, no drinking – sure you’re not a bloody Mormon?"
"No!" Billy glared at him indignantly. Then he remembered to whom he was talking and tried to smile in a cool professional manner. "Just wanna keep my head clear, that's all. Um – where were we?" Suddenly, he felt all confused.
Spike smirked again. "You were asking me why me and Dru split up. Like I told you, 'cept you weren't bloody listening, it was because I made a pact with the Slayer to get Dru back from Angelus – tosser! – and Dru never quite got over it. Accused me of being in love with the Slayer – which was prophetic, as it turned out."
He sighed and blew out more smoke through his nostrils, while Billy stared at him in shock. In fact, he didn't think he'd ever felt so shocked in his life – at least, not recently.
"In love? With a Slayer?"
Spike sighed. "Yeah, bloody stupid, I know, but you can't help these things." An odd, yearning look appeared on his face. "And she was something – she really was. Still is, in fact."
Then he shrugged and knocked back his third drink. "'Course, was in denial about it as you Yanks say, for quite a while. Persuaded myself that any blonde would do. Can't explain Harmony any other way."
"Harmony?" Billy couldn't remember the name being mentioned in any of the books – but then, Spike's story tended to kind of peter out at the point where he settled in Sunnydale – and no wonder. In love with a Slayer? The guy couldn't have wanted anyone to know about that.
"Don't ask." Spike rolled his eyes. "Nice girl in her way but the mouth on her!" He shook his head. "Anyway, we split up before I got the chip in my head. You ask her, she'll say we got back together later but that's just bollocks – wishful thinking."
"Okay, yeah – the chip." This was mentioned in the Watcher lady's book. Some secret government military operation had been kidnapping vampires and demons, messing with their heads – doing something to them so they couldn't harm humans. Of course, the Watcher lady had approved but from what Billy had heard, it had been a total bust.
"Do you still have it?" he asked.
Spike shook his head. "No, thank fuck. Got rid of it before it fried my brain for good. Didn't need it any more by then anyway."
"Need it?" What a weird thing to say. This interview wasn't going at all as Billy had expected.
Spike was staring at him. Suddenly, he laughed. "You don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" Billy realized his mouth was hanging open. Somehow or other, he managed to shut it.
There was a short silence, during which some kind of fight started up near the bar, two vampires rolling on the floor pounding at each other while the onlookers shouted and yelled and urged them on. Momentarily distracted by it, Billy turned back to find that Spike had moved across the bench and was sitting right next to him. A shiver of fear ran down his spine as the other man leaned close and spoke right in his ear.
"I have a soul," Spike said.
Billy could only gape at him. "A what?"
Spike laughed and clapped him on the back. "Was a shock to me too, mate, I don’t mind telling you."
Meanwhile, there was the familiar implosion of air as one of the brawlers met the pointy end of something made of wood while the victor climbed to his feet with a muttered, "Asshole!"
It took Billy a moment or two to gather his wits. He wished Spike wasn't sitting quite so close to him.
"Erm –" he managed, "that's not in the books."
Spike raised a cynical eyebrow. "You surprise me," he said, as if it didn't at all. Then suddenly, he looked annoyed. "Bet those books of yours go on and on about Angelus's soul, don't they? Ponce!"
"Erm –" Billy managed again, "kind of." He wiped a hand across his forehead, reminding himself, not for the first time, that he was a professional reporter – here to ask the hard questions. He had to keep his nerve. "So, was your soul forced on you by Gypsies too?"
Spike gave a little huff of annoyance. "No, it bloody wasn't! Why does everyone think that? I went to get it off my own bat – wanted it, didn't I? Was a stupid tosser of course, but that's neither here nor there."
"Isn't it?" Billy was feeling weird now – like there was a cold stone sitting in his belly. He felt suddenly depressed too and gave his glass a suspicious glare. He knew he shouldn't have drunk anything.
Spike laughed again. "Sorry to reveal your idol's feet of clay, mate, but those are the facts. I fell in love with the Slayer, did something bad that's none of your bloody business, felt horrible about it and went and got my soul back to try and make amends. The end." He began to drum his fingers impatiently on the tabletop.
"Oh yeah," he said, as if he'd just remembered. "There was that little matter of dying to save the world, being brought back as a ghost and then learning to be a team player because the ponce needed help and I felt sorry for the stupid old twat. Forgot that."
Billy thought he could quite see why but in spite of his discomfort at these shocking revelations, he had to carry on. Anyway, his readers were adults. They could cope with the horrible truth.
"Does this mean," he said, carefully, "that you're implicated in the destruction of the Black Thorn Circle – the greatest blow to the cause of evil since – well, the last one?"
Spike was lighting another cigarette. At the back of the room, karaoke night was starting up and the reflections of the karaoke machine's coloured lights shimmered on the smoke-stained ceiling. Spike winced as someone began an out-of-tune rendition of Lady Marmalade.
"Come back, Lorne," he muttered. "All is forgiven." Then he looked at Billy, feral eyes narrowed.
"Yeah, I'm implicated. Killed the Fell Brethren, didn't I? Every last one of them. Then there was that dragon. The ponce likes to pretend he did for it on his own, but if you hear anyone spout that bollocks, don't believe them."
He'd gone back to scanning the crowd now – and it occurred to Billy very belatedly that Spike had taken this particular seat for a very good reason. For one thing, it gave him a great view of the door. No one could come in or out without him seeing them.
"Oh my God!" Billy almost dropped his notebook. "Something's going down, isn't it? The White Hats are gonna torch this place or something!"
He tried to leap to his feet but Spike had hold of his arm and in spite of the fact that he really wasn't a big guy – in fact, quite the opposite –he was very, very strong. His face was bleak now, carved in stone, and sell-out he might be, burdened with a soul just like a human, but he looked way mean.
"You killed many people lately, mate?" he said, softly.
Billy swallowed hard. If he'd still had a heart that beat, it would've been beating nineteen to the dozen.
"No sir –" he began, then cleared his throat when his voice came out a frightened squeak. "No sir. I've only been a vampire a month or so. I just killed my dad and his girlfriend so far, that's all – erm, this week anyway."
"Girlfriend?" Spike did the head tilt again and this time it wasn't hot – well, hot for chicks – it was just scary.
"Yeah." Billy could feel himself beginning to babble, but he could also feel the tip of something very sharp indeed digging into his chest in a sensitive spot. "Her name was Sheryl. Self-righteous bitch!" He glared at Spike defiantly. "And no, I'm not sorry!"
Spike merely raised an eyebrow. "Didn't kill your mum, though?"
Billy shook his head vehemently. "No. I love my mom. Thought of siring her, but I dunno. It's kind of weird so I haven't done it yet."
Spike leaned forward to speak into his ear again. "Take my advice," he said. "Don't."
Then abruptly, he let go. "Get out of here, kid, while you still can."
Billy didn't need telling twice. He stuffed his notebook into his pocket and made to pick up the bottle but Spike put his hand in front of it.
"Ah –ah. Finders, keepers." But his eyes were on the crowd near the door and now he was sitting up straight – a leopard sighting its prey. Billy shivered. He was sure that if he lived for a thousand years he would never be that cool. For a moment, he wavered. Maybe it wasn't too late to ask for an autograph.
"Fuck off, then!" Spike pushed him suddenly and then he vamped out. "And keep your nose clean, or next time I see you, I will kill you."
Billy made it out the door just as all hell broke loose. He looked back once, in time to see Spike make a standing leap from one of the tables onto the back of a huge Fyarl demon. He was laughing. Elsewhere in the crowd, there was a flash of blue, like some chick's hair swirling, and the answering swirl of another black leather coat. Then a huge battered looking axe, that looked kind of home-made, caught the light as it swung up and down. Apart from that, there was just a lot of shouting and screaming and glasses breaking.
Things hadn't quite worked out as he'd expected with his scoop either. Okay, Mr Grakthar the Appalling, his editor, had been pleased with the story but then it'd been taken out of Billy's hands and re-written completely so it bore no resemblance to what had really happened.
Still, Billy supposed he was lucky his name was still on the story at all, even if it was in tiny letters way down at the bottom where it wouldn't be noticed.
With a sigh, he unfolded his copy of the paper, which he'd looked at half a dozen times today already, and there was Spike's picture staring out at him from the front page. It was an old photograph taken from the Watcher lady's book of Spike some time in the 1970s. The dude looked way cool with his punked-up platinum hair and the chains and safety pins and the black eye-liner. He'd been caught on camera somewhere after killing his second Slayer and the black leather duster swirled around him like an integral part of him, supple as a second skin.
Idly, Billy ran his finger over the letters in the headline, which wasn't quite the one he'd envisaged either.
Notorious Renegade Spike, a.k.a. William the Bloody, and his cohorts torch last remaining demon bar in Downtown L.A.
Ensouling of vampires twice as common as previously thought.
Billy shook his head as he re-read it. It was a lurid pack of lies of course, but he had to admit it would sell papers. In fact, his main regret was that – soul or no soul – he hadn't managed to get Spike's autograph.
"Hey, kid!" It was Troy, the reporter next in seniority to Billy. "Package for you."
Billy turned, only to get said package full in the face as Troy threw it at him. Troy laughed nastily.
"Catch," he said.
"Asshole," Billy muttered under his breath, then wished he hadn't as Troy was across the room in full vamp-face, and shaking him like a rat.
"What did you say, kid? Don't think I heard you right."
Billy glared at him. "I said, thanks Troy. Real nice of you," he muttered sullenly.
A little mollified, Troy let go. Then he saw the outspread paper and he shook Billy again hard.
"You were just lucky," he hissed. "Don't let it go to your head or you'll lose it."
He let go again, snapped his fingers under Billy's nose and strolled off.
Billy gave him the finger. Troy was just jealous of his success, he knew – and round here, professional jealousy meant outright war. Well, Billy was determined that if anyone lost a head, it wouldn't be him.
Scowling, he picked up the fallen package. But when he saw the address on it, his hand holding the package began to shake.
The Kid Reporter, it said, L.A. Underground Times.
As fast as his trembling hands would let him, Billy tore the package open. Inside there was a note, a newspaper clipping and – more worryingly – a pointy wooden stake. Billy had to repress a girly scream when he saw it.
He opened the note, which was all in fancy writing that sort of curled and looped for no good reason. It took him a moment to make sense of it but when he did he had to repress another scream, this one of mingled delight and terror.
Dear Greatest Fan
Hope you escaped the fire okay? I am writing to thank you for the great write-up. I couldn’t have done it better myself. The Ponce is so pissed off he's been demoted to one of my 'cohorts' he's gone into a major brood about it – daft old twat. Great work, kid.
Am enclosing the stake as a reminder that if you misbehave yourself, the next time you see me coming you won't see me at all for dust. Your dust. Get it? Scarper kid, while you still can.
All the best
P.S. Since you said you were a fan, thought you might like my autograph.
Billy put the note down. He was still shaking as he picked up the newspaper clipping, to find it was the picture of punked-up Spike from his own article, with Spike scrawled across it in curly black letters.
He stared at it for a moment. Then he leapt to his feet, punching the air.
Everyone in the room turned and stared at him. Some of them vamped out and Mr Fl'krrnk, who was very bad-tempered like most Fyarl demons, flat out roared.
"Sorry." Billy held up his hands, grinning sheepishly. Then he sat down again, stuffing the note and the newspaper clipping into his jacket pocket.
For a while, he sat with his head down, unable to repress the goofy grin he knew was on his face. But at last his eye was caught by the stake again. He considered it for a long while. Then he frowned and opened the newspaper to the small ads at the back.
Who knew, he thought, maybe there was an opening for a vampire cub reporter in - say, Alaska? And better safe than dusty.