Angel slowed his approach as he neared the block where Machin's was located. He stood for a while, surveying the area for look-outs and dangers.
His vampire senses located two men outside, both watching the warehouse entrance. Perhaps, if he disabled these two first, he could handle a one-on-one inside. Feeling for the pistol in his pocket, he weighed up his alternatives.
If these were demons, this would be much easier. He could kill them, removing the danger, and move inside.
But these weren't demons. These were humans, and Angel didn't kill humans lightly. Despite the danger to Spike and himself, he refused to go in shooting randomly.
He felt around to another pocket and removed a tranquilliser dart. Usually pretty ineffective on demons, but on humans, it was a better option.
Approaching the closest man to him, Angel slipped into stealth mode, vamping out to ensure his senses were at their most alert. He slowly crept behind his target and, when a suitable distance away, deployed the dart. The man cried out and fell to the ground in an instant, and Angel was immediately on guard for a counter-attack from the second man.
When it didn't come, he was immediately suspicious. Surely, he'd heard the first guy shout out? Angel vamped out his human senses again, detecting a faint rustle from the rusted metal stairs behind him. He couldn't dart someone behind him but maybe he could avoid attack and fight another way... without killing them? It was seeming less and less likely that the whole incident would go without fatalities.
Footsteps approached, muffled but audible to vampire hearing, and Angel prepared himself. As the steps came close, he swung around, planting a tough left hook on the would-be assailant. It was enough to floor the man, after which Angel could and did dart him.
Right, he thought. Now it's just me against one.
Angel located the main door to Machin's and pushed it open, securing the pistol in his right hand as he did so.
"Is it much further?"
Andrew rolled his eyes at Xander's question. Maybe it would have been simpler to have got a cab at least partway, but Andrew wanted to keep his bearings, to ensure that, when the time came to run, they headed out of and not deeper into demon territory.
"Couple of minutes." Andrew's reply was gruff and impatient, and he wrapped his fingers around the rifle stock, reassuring himself.
Xander straightened his shoulders and nodded. He wasn't usually so lacking in stamina but recent months of inactivity and excess had left him unfit and out of practise. If it weren't so important, he would probably have sat this one out, resumed the training that he had been accustomed to doing while in Africa and jumped in on the next case, but well, this was Spike.
Xander nearly walked into Andrew who had stopped suddenly in front of him, holding his arm up in a silent "Stop and shush" command. He turned and looked over his shoulder at Xander.
"You see that?" he asked in a whisper, motioning his head towards the bodies of two men lying about 10 metres ahead of them. Xander nodded mutely.
"Looks like Angel is already here. We need to be careful. There's one more guy inside and possibly the Reacher."
Xander pulled out a knife, suddenly feeling woefully unprepared and inadequate as they began walking towards the main warehouse door. Andrew pushed it open and the two men began slowly and silently creeping along a dimly lit corridor. They could see light coming from a room around 20 metres ahead, and as they approached, a sudden noise made both men stop dead in their tracks.
Angel followed the light along the corridor, slowing and extending his vampire senses as he got closer. He could make out one set of pacing footsteps but nothing else. Spike, he assumed, must be unconscious, because he doubted very much that an awake Spike would be a quiet one. He furrowed his ridged face into a concentrated frown. There was something else he could sense. Something different. It wasn't the human, and it wasn't Spike. He took a few steps closer to the half-open doorway in an effort to get a clearer sense of what it was, and, in a split second, the door opened fully and Angel found himself face to face with two men and a gun. One man, who he recognised from the video and someone... something else.
The instruction was firm and determined, and Angel, seeing Spike bound to the table behind the men, nodded mutely and took the remaining steps into the room.
"Don't do anything stupid, Vampire." Jeff growled, pushing the door closed slightly and flicking his gun towards the far side of the room, indicating for Angel to move.
Angel followed the direction, without taking his eyes from the second man, finding himself positioned on the far side of the table to the two men. Even in his vamped out form, he could not work out what it was about this man. Was it a man? He tried to sense demon from him but, the harder he tried, the more he was struggling to sense anything at all.
The man turned from Angel, crossed to where Jeff was standing and whispered something to the larger man. Jeff nodded and lowered his gun as the strange man walked over to Spike's side.
Angel was watching the actions of the men closely and was slightly startled when the second man spoke for the first time.
"Angelus." he began, his eyes focussed intently on Spike's face as he spoke, "I can feel you... sensing me." His face transformed into something Angel could only describe as a smirk. The Reacher tipped his head, sideways looking at the elder vampire.
"Reacher demon." He helpfully answered the unasked question, giving Angel a look as he waited to see if that meant anything to him.
Angel frowned and let his vampire mask recede. A Reacher demon. Reachers were not a common breed of demon, and he had only ever come across a Reacher once. In fact, Angelus had hired one during his early days of training and breaking Drusilla. The effects of the Reacher, on the fragile mind of the young Dru, had been astonishing. It had amplified the damage that Angelus was able to do almost hundredfold.
Angel lifted his head and studied the Reacher closely. Could it be?
As he stared, the penny dropped, and he found himself looking at a face that he only barely recognised from almost 150 years ago.