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"Andrew!"

Archie's greeting was both enthusiastic and uneasy. Andrew was a welcome guest at The Palace, but Archie always worried when he turned up in person. It usually meant nothing good. And it also wasn't too good for business. Many of the less regular demons tended to shy away when someone from Angel Investigations turned up. Despite this, Archie welcomed Andrew with a smile and the offer of a drink.

"One for your..." Archie hesitated, "...date?"

Andrew laughed loudly at Xander's surprised cough and splutter.

"Friend," he corrected, "and yes, please. The same."

Archie reached behind him for 2 glasses into which he poured from three different bottles, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Xander.

"Don't worry." Andrew reassured him, passing one of the glasses across, "This is the good stuff."

Xander raised his glass, sniffing at the green-ish blue-ish liquid and frowning at what looked like tendrils of orange smoke that rose from the rim. After a few seconds, he looked at Andrew and, seeing that his friend was about ready to down his concoction, Xander shrugged and raised his own.

"Bottoms up then." he quipped as he tipped back and drank.

As the mysterious cocktail slipped down his throat, Xander inhaled a long, gasping breath.

"Holy fuck!" he exclaimed, "You weren't kidding."

Andrew chuckled. The drink was a particular favourite of his. It was a demon cocktail, obviously, but one which Andrew had found earned him a certain amount of respect from the locals in the bar. Always a good thing when he came in seeking just that little bit more information than was usually freely given.

"So," said Archie, gathering up the glasses and replacing them with two, more normal-looking pints, "I presume you are here for information?"

Xander opened his mouth to speak, giving his head a quick shake to clear it as he did.

"No, no." Archie held a hand up, "Don't tell me. The Reacher demon?"

Xander closed his mouth again, sideways glancing at Andrew who nodded.

"They have Spike."

Archie set down the glasses he was polishing and turned to give Andrew his full attention.

"They? The Reacher?"

Andrew shrugged.

"Not sure about the Reacher, but we do know that 3 humans with a Garchen's knife have him. I don't suppose you or any of your patrons..." Andrew cast his eyes about the bar, noting about eighteen different kinds of demon in various locations, at least half of which would betray a rival breed in a heartbeat. "I don't suppose anybody would know anything about this Reacher?"

Archie eyed his customers studiously, wondering which of the current crowd might know something.

"There's Bella. She's a half-witch. She was here when the Reacher came in. She has special..." he paused a moment, unsure how to explain, "she has a gift... she can see thoughts. She might remember something from the other night."

Andrew and Xander followed Archie's gaze over to a booth where a lady sat alone. She was tall, elegant, dark and mysterious. Pretty stereotypical, Xander thought until she raised her head to meet the six eyes on her. Four of them looked away abruptly, Xander's remained fixed on what could well have been the most incredible face he had ever seen.

"She can read minds?" He could barely form the question in his head, let alone say it.

"Not read minds, see thoughts." The calm, melodious voice whispered from behind him, breath so close to his ear that he almost felt as if it were his own. Xander turned around and blinked before his face transformed into a confused frown as he looked from Bella to Archie.

"How did...?" The question went unfinished. Archie returned to serving customers, and Andrew just smiled and shrugged.

"You have questions for me?" Bella's voice was like honey, smooth and sweet, it almost sang. "About the Reacher? And the knife?"

Xander began to wonder if he needed to say anything at all, and he almost hoped not, given that he was having trouble forming any words whatsoever.

"Our friend is in danger." Andrew helpfully filled in, clearly unaffected by Bella's presence.

"William?" Bella nodded and moved to stand between the two men.

She remembered the Reacher in the bar. He had asked about a Garchen's knife and had been referred to Boris' place in the South quarter. Bella knew of both Boris and the knife. She'd never used or seen the knife in the flesh, but legend told her all she needed to know. As soon as she had seen the knife in the Reacher's mind, her senses had remained alert. Anybody looking for a Garchen's knife was, for sure, also looking for trouble. She'd politely dismissed her table companion and seated herself at the bar with the excuse of another drink. What she'd seen from the Reacher after that, she remembered very clearly.

"Spike." Andrew confirmed, "Yes. He's a friend."

"A vampire friend?" Bella's look was questioning, but she didn't wait for a response before she continued herself. "Ahhhh." She smiled warmly at Andrew. "Right, I see."

Xander looked from one to the other and cleared his throat as if trying to break in to some moment between the two.

"Errr," he stammered, still scrabbling for words. "What exactly do you see?"

Andrew looked momentarily embarrassed, but Bella reassured him with a glance and a smile.

"Your Reacher was working with 3 humans. He quite clearly showed me a warehouse, but I confess that I did not recognise its name. Machins or Marchins or something? The signage was old and unclear, and I have no idea where it might be. Looked like an old storage warehouse or something, with smaller rooms and dark corridors. Perhaps it means something to you?"

Xander shook his head absently, the effects of Bella still addling his mind. Andrew looked thoughtful as he turned to Archie.

"Hey Archie," he began, cutting through the bar noise to shout across to the bartender, "Machin's old warehouse. That's in Dervish, isn't it?"

"Reckon so, yeah." Archie wandered over, pouring out three shots of something dark and purple as he came. "Dervish used to be popular with the demon types. Particularly the empaths wanting some quiet from human noise. The whole quarter is pretty deserted nowadays though."

He pushed the drinks out towards Xander, Andrew and Bella.

"On the house." he said, smiling as he drifted along to the other end of the bar to serve.

Xander eyed the new drink cautiously, noticing Bella's broad grin out of corner of his eye.

"One of my favourites." she winked at him, downing her shot in one and turning to returning to her booth. "You boys take care, ok? Dervish is no place for humans."

Andrew nodded vacantly and lifted his glass to clink against Xander's before both men raised, drained and downed the drink swiftly.

"Wow!" Andrew wheezed as the hot liquid swam through his body, seemingly filling every vein, every nerve and every muscle.

Xander hmmed his approval and placed his glass back on the bar decisively as he stood.

"So," he said hoarsely, his throat tight from the potent brew, "We're gonna need weapons."