Giles reminded himself not to fiddle with his signet ring. It didn’t take a newfangled, popularized American book to tell him that it showed he was nervous. He wished to appear powerful.
“I was sorry to hear about Marigold’s death,” he told the Council executive (not the director, Giles wasn’t important enough for that).
And before that, he had been sorry to hear about Hannelore. It couldn’t have been easy, operating behind the Iron Curtain. Giles had never met her, although he had been up at Oxford at more or less the same time as her Watcher, Siegmundt von Rheinau. They had occasionally gone to the pub (although the beer wasn’t up to von Rheinau’s standards), or competed amiably for whatever esoteric volumes and artifacts turned up in obscure shops.
But they hadn’t communicated since the war; Giles no longer felt comfortable with Germans. He didn’t think von Rheinau felt comfortable with defeat. Before Hannelore, there had been Marie-Ange, in Arles. It seemed that half the Resistance had consisted of Communists, vampires, or Communist vampires. But needs must, when the devil drives. There had been another Slayer between Marie-Ange and Hannelore, but Giles couldn’t remember her name or nationality.
Quentin Travers came in, put down the tea tray, glad that he hadn’t dropped it or precipitated scalding tea onto the executive’s Savile Row pinstripes or Giles’ country tweeds, and crept out again.
“I’ve read the file you gave me about her replacement, but, really, what has it to do with me?”
“Obviously, you’ll have to take her on. Right away.”
“But what about Marigold’s watcher? He’s Canadian, practically Johnny on the spot.”
“He *was* Canadian,” was the response.
“His wife’s enceinte. Our Seers even anticipate another family dynasty, as it were.”
Giles rotated the porcelain tea cup between his palms and looked down. Of course, he didn’t think that tea leaves predicted anything. That would be pure superstition. He couldn’t say that he had no intention of training a blonde American featherwit who would certainly be devoured within three months.
“But her…her age….her condition in life. It’s unprecedented.”
“The succession is quite clear.”
“It’s impossible. I’d have to uproot my whole family…”
“Nonsense. Rupert’s at school most of the year. At any rate, we don’t get to pick and choose, do we? I should think your mother-in-law would have taught you that.”
“I suppose it’s worth it, to have a novel reason to dislike one’s mother-in-law.”
After a thrilling plane ride, where Rupert made enough of a nuisance of himself that the stewardess gave him a set of pilot’s wings (biasing his decision; there was no such thing as grocer’s wings, after all), the senior and junior Gileses landed at Idlewild Airport. They left their luggage at the Council’s safe house in Turtle Bay, then took the Long Island Railroad to the newly called Slayer’s gracious suburban home.
“Yes, I know this is very difficult for you to take in,” Edmund Giles said.
Betty Draper twitched aside the kitchen café curtain. There was no noise emanating from the yard, which made her vigilant. Actually, she was quite comfortable with the revelation; she had always felt she was special.
“Why are you wearing shorts?” Sally asked the tall blond boy with floppy hair and scabby knees. “It’s not summer. It’s stupid.”
“It is not stupid. This is my SCHOOL UNIFORM,” Rupert said repressively. She thought he sounded like Illya Kuryakin, which made her like him a little better.
“We’d best begin your training right away,” Edmund said. Betty finished her gin and tonic, approached closely enough to the bathroom for the woman on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor to hear, and said, “I’m going out, Carla. Give the kids TV dinners. Take the brownie out of Sally’s—she’s getting a little porky. Oh, and defrost some of that wild rice casserole, in case Mr. Draper comes home for dinner.”
“Let’s go to the country club,” Betty said. Edmund soon discovered that, even with a cigarette dangling from her immaculately Cherries in the Snow lips, Betty was a crack shot with a rifle and an adequate pistol shot and rider. She said that she had been on the college fencing team, so that left only jiu-jitsu and crossbow.
Rupert looked up from his copy of “Murder Must Advertise” (which he had purchased for Research, for fourpence, from a barrow; he regretted having spent so much of his pocket money, now that he was in a place where the variety and inexhaustible supply of sweets was beyond his wildest imagination). “Isn’t it an awful coincidence that you’ve located the center of the infestation at the same advertising agency where your new Slayer’s husband works?”
“In the supernatural realm, there are no coincidences,” his father reminded him.
On nights that Don didn’t come home, Betty got a babysitter and telephoned Edmund. They patrolled Central Park, observing a number of interesting phenomena but none related to vampires. Edmund decided that Rupert ought to return to school, and he was quite old enough to travel as an unaccompanied minor. As a parting treat, he was permitted to join his father and the Slayer on patrol at Sterling Cooper.
Joan Holloway looked around the office: as usual, she was the last to leave. Well, maybe
Bert Cooper was still holed up in his office. She never went there if she could help it, it was too much trouble to ease out of and then back into her stiletto heels on the threshold. Until she could find a suitable and unmarried man to date, she was just as happy to work late as to go home and face another evening of the Grapefruit Diet and old movies on television.
Her plans were interrupted when Bert Cooper, gliding as lithely as a soft-shoe dancer, seized her and pulled back her head by the chignon.
“I’m sorry, Joan,” Bert said. “I always liked you. Well, not the way Roger did, of course. And you’ve worked hard for this agency. And I’m sure you’re sick and tired of men who only want you for your body. But at least I want something different from your body.”
Joan stared at him as his face shifted and his fangs emerged. They were so close that her eyes swam out of focus, but even after she blinked his familiar face didn’t return.
“Everyone knows what my captors during the War took from me. But no one knows what they *gave* me…a very special gift, although one that, at times, is difficult to maintain.”
Joan groped at the tabletop behind her and seized the huge pair of scissors that the Art kids used for paste-ups. Thinking of Grace Kelly, she plunged it into his back. Joan was astonished not only to see Betty Draper at the head of a triangle formation of some guy in a tweed suit and a young boy, but to see Bert’s body disappear even before he could collapse to the floor.
“’King ‘ell, Dad!” Rupert said.
“There’s no call for vulgar language,” Edmund said, brushing a bit of dust off his waistcoat.
“I thought we were supposed to use a stake,” Betty said, returning hers to her handbag.
“Protocol can be foregone in emergencies.”
“Hello, Mrs. Draper,” Joan said.
“Well, I hope you don’t think this means you can sleep with my husband too,” Betty said.
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Joan said, suiting the action to the word. Rupert had never seen *anything* like it. She looked at her hand, and saw that she was still holding the bloodstained shears.
“Atropos,” Edmund said softly.
Joan handed him the shears. “Well, it looks like you geniuses know what’s going on, so I’ll leave it up to you to clean it up.” She resumed her interrupted march toward the coat tree, and put on her coat, gloves, and hat and headed for the subway.
“I guess we’re done here?” Betty asked. “Good. I have to pay the babysitter an extra two dollars if I get home after nine.”