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There's Always Another Way

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Facing Tom across the interrogation table, trying to figure out how to describe what had happened without either implicating his daughter or using Detective Morales as a scapegoat, Frank had only been able to come up with the word 'evil'.

Listening to Cynthia panic hours later while Tom talked about the DNA found on Father Boland's neck and the need to screen everyone who'd been at the murder site, a few other more colorful references came to mind... not a few of which were acronyms. SNAFU, for example: ever since the Headless Horseman had inaugurated Frank's tenure in Sleepy Hollow with a series of similarly decapitated victims, pretty much his entire life had become situation normal, all fucked up. FUBAR, too, in this case: fucked up beyond all recognition. And at least one more: the one the priest had mentioned to Frank just before he died, tucking a just-in-case business card into the pocket of his suit.

He wasn't sure he necessarily believed everything the good Father had told him. Too many of the stories that had come with the card didn't match anything in Frank's experience, not even what he'd seen since being assigned to that demon-haunted town. But it was probably arrogant of him to think that the supernatural only ever attacked in the one specific way that had targeted Lieutenant Mills and her partner, and by extension, him... and he didn't see that he had all that many options regardless. Not with the tech already swabbing Macey's cheek and that desperate, pleading look on his wife's face.

He turned and walked out of the interrogation room, holding up a finger to ask Tom to wait, then pulled his cell phone and the business card from his pocket.

If they were already testing his daughter, just because they apparently had no better leads than a thirteen-year-old quadriplegic girl and an otherwise-exemplary detective with gaps in his memory, never mind that the demon Ancitif actually had used both of their hands to kill the victims in this case... then Frank's choices pretty much boiled down to either throwing himself on his sword, or trusting to the Father's word about calling in some unusual assistance.

He looked down at the card, then dialed the 1-800 number on its face, grimacing at the amateurish and too-familiar logo. Which had come first, the group from the cheesy teenage horror show, or the esoteric cleanup company currently using its name? Whichever, he didn't care, as long as they lived up to their billing.

"Supernatural Creatures and Other Odd Beasties Investigation and Extermination," a cheerful, absent-minded, and oddly young-sounding voice announced on the other end. "What seems to be your apocalypse today?"

Well, at least he knew he'd reached the right place. "Funny you should ask that question. You see, there was this demon...."

“Which kind?” the kid asked, voice perking up noticeably with the question. “Red guy with horns? A possessing dark spirit? Or do you mean one of the ones who happen to look non-human because they’re from another dimension, but might or might not actually be capital-E evil?”

There were more kinds than just the ones like Moloch and its lieutenants? Frank shuddered, but didn’t ask, about ninety percent certain he didn’t want the answer. “The spirit one,” he replied grimly, then glanced up through the window at his daughter again and began to explain.

Abbie hadn’t been sure what to think when Irving suddenly turned up with ‘supernatural consultants’, claiming they’d been a recommendation from his dead priest. Seemed awfully late in the game to be bringing in a new player, and that’s if they were actually legit. Abbie couldn’t rule it out-- not with decapitated mentors, a two hundred and fifty year old partner who looked younger than she did, and a sister who’d apparently dealt with demon possession for years and never told her. The company name, though… if it wasn’t a fake, someone had a real unfunny sense of humor.

At least the one in the tweed had promised to help the Captain; if nothing else, saving Macey from the kind of fate that had dogged Abbie's sister would have been worth the call. The rest of it, though… well, she would believe it when she saw it. She strode into the Archives with the second consultant-- a short blonde woman-- at her side, hoping against hope that Crane and Parrish had actually found something useful while she’d been away.

“Lieutenant, perfect timing!” Henry Parrish announced, turning from the table where Crane bent over a big rectangular piece of paper too heavy to be printer stock. “You’re going to like… ah. Who’s your friend?”

The older man went oddly still as he looked at the consultant standing next to Abbie, eyes narrowing as he scanned her from head to toe. Ms. Summers was just about Abbie’s height-- a full foot shorter than Crane, and several inches shorter than Henry-- and even leaner, all dye-blond hair and designer gear; Abbie knew very well what she looked like, and Henry's reaction was interestingly out of proportion.

“Irving’s consultant,” she shrugged, nonchalantly. “So, you guys found something?”

“Don’t get excited; you haven’t heard the plan yet,” Jenny interjected, looking up from a laptop across the room. She sounded decidedly less excited than Henry-- but then her eyes landed on the consultant, and she sucked in a sharp, pleased breath.

“Buffy? How the hell did you get drawn into this?”

“The usual way,” the blonde replied, eyes lighting up for the first time since Abbie had met her. “What about you, though? I thought you were out of circulation for a few more months?”

“Extenuating circumstances,” Jenny said dryly, with a significant glance toward Abbie. “I thought you didn’t operate out here, or I'd have called sooner. Good thing you are here, though; maybe you can talk some sense into these idiots!”

“What do you mean?” Abbie frowned, glancing between the other four in the room. “Do you guys have a plan to stop the Second Horseman, or not?”

Crane cleared his throat as if to answer-- but his attention was obviously still on the woman at her side, and not the book open on the table in front of him. “Indeed, but… forgive me. Your name is Buffy? Not, perhaps, Buffy Summers?”

Abbie winced. She'd wondered how much pop culture he'd already got through when he'd mentioned seeing the finale of Glee; she ought to have expected he'd at least get the greatest hits of the supernaturally-focused shows while he was at it. Great.

“You know my name, and you dress like that?” Ms. Summers arched an eyebrow, fortunately more amused than anything else. “I’ll have to introduce you to Angel and Spike sometime. Yes, it's really my name; yes, I'm really from Sunnydale; and no, you're not gonna find it on any map. Think of the TV show as a government-sanctioned disinformation campaign, only most of it's actually true.”

“Indeed?” Crane replied, visibly taken aback. “Then, to return to the Lieutenant’s question-- according to hidden messages encoded within Washington’s Bible, a binding spell cast upon the soil from which the Second Horseman will emerge may prevent him from entering this realm.”

“Witchcraft,” Abbie sighed. “When am I gonna ever stop being surprised?”

“Unfortunately,” Crane replied, “all the witches we’ve encountered are now deceased.”

“With the exception, of course,” Henry added his oddly pointed two cents as usual, “of Ichabod’s wife....”

“Who’s in Purgatory, and therefore out of reach,” Abbie interrupted, narrowing her eyes at the man again. First his pause at meeting Ms. Summers, and now this? She'd have some questions for him, later. “Luckily, we’re not the only ones with magical friends anymore.”

“Yeah, I’d like to take not opening up a demon realm and risking setting off the apocalypse today for $200, Xander,” Ms. Summers agreed dryly, taking a touchscreen phone out of her pocket. She dialed a number from memory, then said something indecipherable into the speaker—

--and a extra person faded abruptly into view in the center of the room. “Another apocalypse this month? Seriously? We’re going to have to figure out something else to call them sooner rather than later, or the word’s going to lose all meaning. You know, like decimate versus destroy?”

“It’s good to see you, too, Wills,” Ms. Summers interrupted her redheaded friend's babble with a smile. “We actually got called in early for once, if you can believe it. You up for binding a demon on behalf of the local One Girl in All the World?”

"Binding, casting out, it's all good," Willow Rosenberg grinned back at the woman half the supernatural communities on the continent apparently knew as the Slayer-- then raised her hands and turned toward the corner where Henry stood, hair blowing back from her face in some invisible wind as she began reciting what sounded like an exorcism.

Before Abbie could even begin to ask what the fuck, or correct the woman on what she was supposed to be there for, Henry stumbled backward out of his chair, a black film flooding over his eyes. So apparently, that was a thing?

Horror flooded her as she suddenly realized just how much of their quest he'd been a part of the last few months, and they'd never even suspected him. Suddenly, that whole speech about nuclear bombs ending wars when in the right hands seemed even more ominous than it had just a few days before.

Willow stumbled backward, too, then doubled down on the chanting and suddenly began bleeding color like a photo negative; Crane tried to step between them and gasped, flying back against the heavy archive table as if he'd been thrown by some vast invisible blow. Abbie shook off the shock, then swept her sidearm out of its holster; she still couldn't bring herself to just shoot Henry, but she squared her stance and followed Crane's lead in stepping between him and the witch, hoping to buy the woman enough time to do what she was trying to do--

--but if the exorcism was supposed to save him, it seemed to come up a little short. Abbie got a good look at the black film lifting from Henry's eyes, but then he gestured and sent almost everyone not already on the floor sprawling, including Jenny, who'd been trying to sneak up behind him. The only one still upright enough to try to intercept him was Ms. Summers, but he outright vanished before she could reach him.

"Well," Abbie said, sitting up and wincing at the fresh bruises. "Not the kind of help we invited you here for, but-- thanks. I think we need to do some reassessment of our plans."

Crane had already picked himself up off the floor; he stared for a moment at the parchment he'd been looking at when they'd arrived, then tore it in half with an emphatic gesture, then in quarters, then in eighths.

"Indeed, lieutenant," he said, gravely. "It was a maxim even in my day that what seems too good to be true very often is. I'm afraid I lost sight of that fact in my eagerness to rescue Katrina. Yet-- we must not assume that merely because he was apparently not on our side, Henry's purported vision about the events to come contains no element of truth."

"Solar eclipse is easy enough to verify," Abbie nodded.

"And considering what happened the last time...." Jenny added, frowning.

"'There will be a time of crisis, of worlds hanging in the balance'," Ms. Summers quoted wryly. "Seems like that's always the story. So, you want to fill us in on what's the what?"

Abbie met gazes with Crane, then nodded. The more, the merrier; and considering the term Witnesses technically only implied watchers, maybe they were always supposed to be working with others? Couldn't hurt to try.

"This particular story starts in 1781, when a soldier met a horseman on a battlefield and cut off his head...."