Sunnydale. The slightly battered sign whipped past with a swirl of dust and battered plastic shopping bags. Richie gunned his engine, zipping around a scarred brown Pinto limping along the two-lane highway. Behind him Presence flared again as the Immortal in a grey Saab finally weaseled around the 18-wheeler two cars back and surged forward in pursuit.
There was a straight stretch of open road ahead, faded asphalt framed with brown dirt, tan strips of dry grass and speckles of the dusty green of live oak that peppered the hillsides in the distance. The setting sun slashed down on the landscape, leaching color from the hills and shadows. The drabness of a fading California spring was broken only by the oasis of green quickly appearing on the horizon. It spoke of shade, a town, and sprinkling systems.
Richie opened the throttle wide and felt the motorcycle beneath him shudder with effort. The nagging itch to run had been circling in the back of his head since he'd first crossed paths with the Saab on the eastern edge of the LA sprawl. He didn't know how much time had passed, just that the majority of a tank of gas was gone and a building ache from the vibration of the motorcycle was beginning to make itself known.
The itch was fading now. The Saab would catch him in the long run without any more traffic to dodge and he was running out of gas only a little slower than he was running out of road. With any luck, there would be something in town - more traffic in which to loose him, some sort of holy ground, or at the very least, a secluded spot where he could finally lop the bastard's head off and be done with it.
Behind him, the Saab decreased his lead. The haven of Sunnydale couldn't come any quicker.
A motorcycle whipped past Andy Vasilevskis' patrol car, and he looked up at the radar gun. 96. He cast a quick glance to the oak and rowan pendant hanging from his rearview mirror. The silver wire twisted around the carved wooden knot winked back at him and, reassured, reached for the gearshift. A grey Saab swerved around a Dodge Dart at 98 as he put it in gear. He looked again at the pendant, and paused.
The silver had gone black. Andy glanced at the dashboard clock. 46 minutes until sundown. He took his hand off the gear shift and leaned back into his seat. Quota or no, he wasn't stupid. His lucky pendant had gotten him all the way through Sunnydale High.
He opened up the Mack Bolan novel he'd been reading before the motorcycle had tripped his radar gun. Page 83 - Mack was just about to hook up with the hottie who was sheltering him from the Mafia. Blonde and kick-ass - just the way chicks should be.
There was a quick flare of light from the Zippo. The flame briefly illuminated sharp cheekbones and moonlight-pale hair. The sullen glow of the lit cigarette did nothing to chase away the shadows near the cemetery gate, and Spike settled on top of a tombstone to wait for the evening show: Scoobies versus Adam's goons versus, well, whatever poor sod of a demon who decided to run around the Slayer's hunting grounds.
The two blokes who roared up to the gates weren't the typical fare, and Spike leaned forward to watch with interest. Motorcycle bloke ditched his ride with a quick tumble, and came up with - oh, this was bloody good - a rapier in his hand. Fancy-dancy Saab bloke crunched his car into the solid stone pile framing the ironwork gates, and the whiff of fresh blood riveted Spike's attention faster than the Slayer could chip a nail whilst dusting vamps.
Saab bloke staggered from the car with a nasty-looking cutlass and blood streaming from his forehead. Swords? They weren't vamps, not with the rich scent of blood filling his nostrils and making his fangs ache. Motorcycle bloke made an abortive move for the cemetery gates, checked himself, and charged Saab bloke with a snarl.
Spike wished briefly for blood-drenched popcorn. Those sword guys were really going at it, sparks flying and everything. Motorcycle bloke didn't look much older than the Scoobies, but handled his sword with the air of someone who'd had some serious training. Saab bloke looked a little older, and he got the same impression of training from him.
A slice to motorcycle bloke's leg looked pretty deep, but a few moments of wary circling, and then they were back in the thick of it. Spike lit another fag. Their blood smelled human, at least from this distance, but Saab bloke's head had stopped bleeding already. Warlocks tended to throw spells when they dueled, and though the tension in the air was certainly reminiscent of the last warlock duel he'd witnessed (and interrupted - very tasty encounter it had been), neither of the duelists seemed inclined to be hurling the powers of darkness at each other.
Whoops - there went Saab bloke's sword hand. Lopped off, clean as could be. He'd missed the stroke, but the hand bounced, and the clatter of the cutlass was hard to miss. Dramatic pause, of course, and motorcycle bloke sent his opponent's head tumbling after the hand.
Spike grinned to himself, and just then noticed the Scoobies rounding the corner of one of the mausoleums, Buffy in the lead. A sharp crack yanked his attention back to the surviving sword bloke, and he almost tumbled off his tombstone at the sight of motorcycle bloke kneeling on the ground, surrounded by a swirling, sparkling mist. His sword was raised, and rather predictably, acting like a lightning rod seemed to be paying off for him, judging by the zaps of electricity coming from the cloud surrounding him. The last streetlight in the area gave up the ghost with a crack, and motorcycle bloke slumped to the ground with a rather pained groan.
"Hey!" Buffy vaulted over a tombstone and sprinted for the gates. Spike turned his head to watch - she was quite the picture, bouncing up and down the long slope near the entrance, up and down and...
In the meantime, motorcycle bloke had recovered his wits and his bike at least, and the roar of the engine cut off any witty commentary from the Slayer. He roared off just as Buffy burst through the gates, and the Slayer looked rather disgruntled with a body on the ground and no one to stake. Spike sniffed. Fresh blood and a dead body. No vamp that, though he could have told anyone that in the first two seconds. With luck, the Slayer and her kiddies would take off after the head-lopper and leave him with the headless loppee and he could have a quick snack before the corpse bled dry.
"Spike! Did you see what happened?" Or maybe not. Spike sighed internally, flicked his fag into the bushes, and climbed down off his tombstone. Time to play happy little informant.
March 5th, 2000
Sunnydale, CA USA
Solly's finally bit it. Weirdest thing, too. Boy's got his routine down to an art, and up in the middle of the day, on the way to some lunch meeting or another, he tears off after this motorcycle. Some freaky high-speed chase later (nearly fucking killed myself a few times trying to keep up) and we're in Sunnydale. The kid on the motorcycle leads him around town and they end up in front of a cemetery - almost made it to Holy Ground. Solly'd been pissed if that'd happened, I bet.
Well, if he'd lived. Kid chopped off his head and rabbited - some sort of group of kids came out of the graveyard (probably necking in the shrubs. Creepy little fuckers.) I managed to follow him to this little motel just off of the college campus. He's holed up for the night. I'll email in my report and then see if I can get some food. I think there's a pizza place a couple of blocks over.
Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2000 21:45:32
Subject: Interim Report 05-03-00
Amos White, aka Solomon Granger, died his permanent death today at 7:35pm, PDT. In the middle of his workday in Los Angeles, he interrupted his routine by instigating a high-speed car chase that led to Sunnydale, where he cornered and challenged the Immortal who took his head.
The Immortal is a white male, approximately six feet tall, with short curly hair of indeterminate color. He is driving a Washington license plate RFH 486. At last sighting, he was wearing worn, dark jeans, dark boots, a red and white leather racing jacket. His weapon of choice is a long, swept-hilt rapier.
I've enclosed some pictures of the Immortal, I'd like to ID the unknown before I close the Chronicle of Solomon Granger.
Watcher, Solomon Granger
From the Diary of Rupert Giles
5th March, 2000
An otherwise ordinary Wednesday night has proven rather exciting. The sun had barely set when Buffy came across a rather interesting scene: two men dueling with swords just outside the Kimble Memorial Cemetery. One cut the other's head off, and Buffy reports that a mist swirled around him, 'zapped' him with lightning, and then he got on a motorcycle and escaped her.
The dead man seemed to be a normal human, if one trusts the rather dubious testimony of Spike, and the cutlass with which he'd been dueling his opponent bears no trace of the occult, though its provenance is at least a century or two out of the modern era. I'm none too sure, but I'd place its manufacture in Northern India sometime during the Occupation. None of this behavior truly smacks of the typical mystical hijinks that are part of life on the Hellmouth. Instead I am reminded of some of the truly horrid action films that Buffy and her friends sometimes gather to watch and mock. I find them educational for her in that they do show her what not to do in most situations.
Something about the situation seems vaguely familiar, and I shall have to consult my books, perhaps with the assistance of Willow and her friend Tara.
So this was Sunnydale. Richie scratched a hand through his damp curls and sauntered into the Espresso Pump. Not quite up to Seacouver's standards of latte lairs, but as long as they had a little bit of morning's black ambrosia, he was happy enough. Ambrosia. Heh, if he could think that word before noon, he'd been hanging with Methos and Joe too long.
Hands finally wrapped around the bringer of his morning consciousness, Richie sipped and looked around the shop. Habit had fetched him up against the wall nearest the back exit, facing out the store windows. Passing people whose youth and heavy backpacks pegged them as college students filled the sidewalk for a few minutes and disappeared again a few minutes before the top of the hour. A few remained, lined up for coffee or slumped over books at a table.
College. Well, he hadn't tried it in a while, and he thought he might as well make a go if it - nothing else to do in a town as small as Sunnydale seemed. Richie scratched at the back of his head, a tiny itch that hovered some inch or so inside his skull. Methos would laugh his ass off to see him cracking the books.
Presence whip-cracked along his spine, and his coffee cup rattled in its saucer as Richie scanned the coffee shop and the street outside. No one looked up. No one was scanning the crowd with squinted eyes and an itchy sword hand. Soon enough, the Presence faded, but the itch of adrenaline was still there. With a last, regretful look at his unfinished coffee in its ceramic mug, Richie abandoned the cafe for his motorcycle.
Date: Thursday, March 6, 2000 21:45:32
Joe - I've got a junior Watcher from LA running around a little place in California called Sunnydale. I'm a little worried about him - I assigned him a fairly safe Immortal to start out on, and now that Granger's dead, he's wandering around in a kill zone. He hasn't reported back since his initial report last night, and besides the Immortal that killed his boy, there are reports of at least three, possibly five more Immortals inbound.
Something funky is going down, and I don't have nearly the manpower to look after it all. Can you free up some of your people to come and help me keep an eye on things?
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2000 21:50:19
Subject: Status: Sunnydale
Solomon Granger has met his Final Death.
Two unknown Immortals have turned up.
Garrison Keller has arrived from Santa Barbara.
Eric Jordan has arrived from Bakersfield.
Aloyisius Magnuson is inbound from Los Angeles.
Jesus Ramirez is inbound from Tiajuana.
Alison Garrett is inbound from Las Vegas.