“I’m just saying that if someone has say, written their name atop a particular item in the refrigerator, it is that person’s item,” Wesley said.
He had ‘just said’ the same thing three times already and Cordelia was getting a pretty bad headache. She flicked her pen back and forth, hoping that somehow her checkbook would balance in her favor or that her math skills were so crappy that the next time she ran the numbers she would magically have about ten thousand more dollars, but no. Sometime after high school graduation she had finally managed to pick up the skills necessary to keep her accounts. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean she had enough money to pay all these damn bills.
Wesley bitching about the loss of his yogurt was not helping. He paced the lobby of the hotel, obviously in need of something to do, and continued anyway.
While she was happy that they had moved operations out of her apartment (though she had made Angel pay her a slight fee for the inconvenience and now she wouldn’t be getting that anymore), she wasn’t liking the amount of dust in their new digs. Or the spiders. Or that chilling after effect of getting rid of a fear demon. Or that she could hear the echo of every step on tile off the walls. The hotel had been past its prime for a while and the sheer rundown nature should have prevented echoing.
Wesley leaned on the former check in counter and stared over at her. “I know it was you.”
Cordelia flashed him a broad, sparkling smile—the one that should have gotten her an acting award already, damn it—and said, “You’re wrong.”
“But Angel doesn’t eat yogurt. He has no need.”
“I’ve seen him chowing down on ice cream, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he loved other dairy products. And besides him, there’s Gunn. He could have eaten it.”
“I suppose I haven’t thought of that.” Wesley went back to pacing. “I’ll have to have a word with them.”
Wesley would chicken out from that. He was far too intimidated by both men to attempt to scold them. If he did, he might discover that Cordelia had lied to him. He’d get angry about that, but he deserved it for putting her head through this much stress.
If the splitting headache would just go away, she’d be a far more pleasant person. Okay, maybe not to Wesley, but then she’d at least feel like she could try. She took in a deep breath.
The vision slammed into her head, making the headache seem like a tickle. Her vision went black, then white. Then—
A man swung shut the door of his truck and walked across the dusty yard. He was tall, with dark hair, dark eyes too. Stubble. And he walked like someone who was expecting trouble but didn’t have a defined enemy at the moment. He climbed the steps of the short porch and knocked on the door. It swung open on its own. “Hello?”
He never saw the vampire waiting on the other side, the one that lunged and ripped out his throat. He fell to his knees, trying to hold his throat and failing to keep the blood inside.
Cordelia groaned as she came back to her own body. The after vision hurt worse than the before and she’d probably have a headache for a few days. Great. Just what she didn’t need. She wrote down as many details about the vision as she could, getting a partial on the truck’s license plate, writing down a few more bits about the house. She had a sense that the home belonged to someone who hunted. A hunter. Maybe a Hunter? She scratched her forehead.
Wesley set a bottle of water and one of aspirin next to her. Thankfully, he spoke with a soft voice. “Is that it?”
“I keep getting ‘Winchester.’” Cordelia made a funny frown up at him. “That’s a kind of gun, right?”
Cordelia wrote that down and scowled at the name. “I don’t think it was about the gun. I think that might have been his name. Otherwise, I think this is it.”
Wesley took the note. “Well, the Powers That Be aren’t very forthcoming sometimes, are they?”
“Suppose we should begin our research. Any idea how long we have?”
“It was night. What time is the moon up?”
“I think it was setting, so we have until then.”
“Best we get to work.”
Cordelia booted up her laptop. Some days were just made to suck.
John couldn’t stop hearing the message left on his phone playing back in his head. Elkins had sounded more than petrified and in this business that meant he was more likely to find a corpse than his former acquaintance. The drive back to California would be worth it if he swung by Sunnydale before his next case. The boys might not need him or want him around, but he could check on them all the same. Word was from Bobby that they were doing well. That would be bittersweet if true.
John turned on the dirt road and continued up the mountain. Elkins always preferred isolation. Made it easier to see the bad guys coming. He pulled the truck into the house’s yard beside the old sedan. Seemed like hunters always had old rust buckets. Damn, he hoped Dean was taking care of the Impala. He’d tan his hide if he wasn’t. He stepped out of the truck and swung the door shut. There was noise coming off the road behind him. Odd. Elkins place was the last one up here, but it was possible the valleys of the mountain were echoing the sound up this far. He ignored it and headed for the door.
Just before he went to knock, the sound of a car kicking up rocks got closer. He frowned and turned to see a black 1967 Plymouth GTX—a long convertible with its roof down—roaring up the road. A man in a black trench coat was driving and he hardly seemed to get the car stopped before he literally hopped up and onto the hood of the car. “Duck!”
Usually, John would argue such an order, but the man was throwing something and instincts kicked in. He flattened in time to see a piece of wood go over his head.
When he hadn’t been looking, the door had opened. The stake hit the vampire in his heart and he hissed until he became a pile of ash.
The man in the trench coat continued towards the house. As John stood, the man tossed him a stake, which was good because suddenly he had three more vampires to deal with. Between the two of them, the three vamps went quick. John batted the dusty air a few times.
The house was a disaster. Whatever Elkins had been hiding in here, the vamps obviously wanted. John scowled at the mess and picked his way through the living room. Just as he expected, the poor bastard was dead. The vamps had torn out his throat and left him to bleed all over his study. “Damn it.”
“What is it?” the stranger said.
“Friend of mine’s dead.” John took out his cellphone and dialed. “Bobby. Elkins passed on. Let people know.” He snapped the phone shut.
“Yeah, well, hunter’s life. Guessing you’re one too.”
“Something like that,” the stranger replied. He picked up a chair. “I didn’t catch your name while I was busy saving your life.”
“John Winchester. You?”
John snorted. “What, one name, like Madonna?”
“Something like that too.” Angel was poking around the rest of the room.
“How’d you know Daniel?” John asked.
“I didn’t. I came up here for you.”
That rang a few alarms. John eased his hand back towards his gun. “That so.”
The tiny movement made Angel slow down and gently gesture with a hand like John was some kind of ramped up animal. “Relax. A friend of mine has these visions of people in trouble. She had one of you.”
“That’s not exactly calming.”
“Yeah, I guess I can see how it’s not. Still, you needed help, I was here.” Angel frowned, a deep line settling across his brow. “What would vampires want with your friend? They were obviously after something.”
“Seems that way.”
“Do you have any idea what it was?”
Long conversations about vengeance and weapons came to mind. Oh, he knew exactly why he’d be the one to get the call from Elkins instead of Bobby or Ellen. Elkins had been looking for him, not any help he could get his hands on. John shook his head. “No clue.”
Judging from the state of Elkins’s body, they’d tried to torture the info out of the poor bastard before killing him. Most likely, he hadn’t given it up. Daniel was good like that. John scratched at his jaw. Something about the stranger wasn’t adding up. Help never showed up so timely. Hunter’s instinct or outright paranoia. Either way, it was what had kept him alive this long in a game that brutalized so many.
A cross was on the floor under an end table, half-hidden by opened drawers. John squatted and feigned interest in the contents of the table. Angel was busying himself over by Elkins’s bookcase, squinting at the various tomes collected. Quiet as he could, John picked up the cross. “Hey.”
Angel half-spun. John hurled the cross at him and at the same time shouted, “Cristo.”
The cross did the trick. Only a flash, but that was a vampire’s face. Shit. John pulled his gun and grabbed the nearest piece of wood.
Angel got his human face back in the space of a heartbeat. “I’m not here to hurt—”
John got off three rounds, center mass, before another word was said. He hefted the—what was this, a chair leg?—in his other hand, ready to shoot and stab.
A crash of noise in the next room broke his concentration. John frowned. He hadn’t stopped to consider Angel wasn’t working alone. He put one more round in Angel’s kneecap for good measure and bolted out the door. Stupid to have wasted this much time, to have trusted Angel as long as he had. A hundred other hurried, angry insults festered while John got into his truck and made his way back down the mountain.
At the bottom of the trail, John stopped and slammed his hand against the steering wheel. Elkins dead and his place was in the hands of monsters. They had to be looking for it. Bastard had been holding out on him all this time. But if it had been up there, then the vamps would have found it, or would find it. John needed information and a chance to regroup. Nothing he was going to get out on the road. He turned back towards Los Angeles. It had to be close, and he was going to find it or tear this city apart trying.