Watchers Council – Computer Room -– Late Afternoon
Giles strode into the computer room and looked over Willow’s shoulder. “Any progress?” he asked.
Willow sighed and shook her head. “It’s bad, Giles,” she said.
Andrew looked up from his terminal. “This is worse than 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Hal the computer took over the ship and Dave had to pull all the memory chips. Except someone has already pulled our chips and we can’t get them back in!”
Giles stared blankly at Willow. “And that’s bad?” he asked.
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” she said looking at Andrew who was once again concentrating on his terminal. “Someone…someone really good…broke through my firewall and uploaded a program, so now I can’t get back into the system. No matter what I try, it throws another countermeasure up against me. I can’t even get through to the basic operating system!”
“So this is just not some random virus like those that caused all the troubles last summer?” Giles asked, but it was clear he still didn’t understand.
“No,” she said. “Oh no. This was directed specifically at us.”
“Which computers is it affecting?” Giles asked.
“What are your options?” Giles asked. “Can you eliminate the program?”
“At this point, not without losing everything,” Willow sighed. “And that is NOT an option. Giles, it would take us weeks to get back to where we were. Yeah, I’ve burned most of the information on CD, but not all of it.”
The look on his face was grim. “Tyrell,” he spat out the word as if it were a curse.
“”Yeah,” Willow agreed. “Looks like we’re guilty of a little underestimating, Mister. What else can we expect?”
“James Tyrell was headmaster of the Watchers Academy for fifteen years, before briefly leading the Council itself,” Giles explained. “He might not be as ruthless as Quentin Travers was, but no one leads the Council without fighting their way to the top.”
“Now see,” Willow said, standing up and waving her arms. “It’s that macho, world-domination, ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ mentality that really ticks me off, Giles! I got news for you and Tyrell and little Ms. Cold Fish, as Faith likes to call her…this is the 21st century! If we don’t change that stupid parochial attitude, evil’s gonna win. And as long as I’m breathing, I’m not gonna let it. Got it?”
“Willow, calm down,” Giles soothed. “I’m on your side, remember?”
Willow sighed and slumped into her seat. “I know, Giles,” she said, her voice back to normal. “It’s just…what’s next?”
“Hey guys,” Faith said. Both Willow and Giles looked at the slayer as she poked her head into the room, worried anticipation on their faces. “More trouble. We need you outfront.”
Willow sighed and stood up again. “Andrew,” she said, looking at the young man. “Keep trying to get that information from online.”
“It’s not working, Willow!” Andrew whined, pulling at his hair. “Every time I access a new site, I get that stupid ‘ha ha’ message.”
“Use the force Luke. Use the force,” Willow said, patting him on the shoulder, before she and Giles followed Faith out the door.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Faith moved to the side and joined Rowena, Kennedy and Robin as Giles and Willow approached a smartly dressed woman holding a brown leather briefcase in the Council lobby.
“May I help you?” Giles asked cordially.
“Mr. Giles?” the woman asked.
“Yes,” Giles replied.
“And you are Ms. Rosenberg, I presume?” she turned to the redhead standing next to Giles.
“That’s right,” Willow nodded.
“Thank you,” the woman said and handed each of them a card. “Millicent Franklin, Internal Revenue Service. I would like to inspect your books, please.”
“Our books?” Giles said, the lines on his face hardening. “I don’t understand. We’re a non-profit organization, Ms. Franklin. We don’t pay taxes.”
“Nevertheless, I will examine them,” she said. “We’ve reviewed your 1023 filing application, and although you were granted tax-exempt status under the 501-3-c section of the tax code, certain discrepancies have been called into question which require further examination.”
“Specifically, what are you looking for?” Willow asked.
The woman turned to Willow. “An examination of the rather large monetary contributions you have listed as anonymous. With the size of the funds required to set up and run your school, the IRS is concerned that there may be groups or individuals who are using you as an umbrella to shelter their income or possibly to fund other…shall we say…not-so-innocent activities. Especially since your application seemed to indicate many of your ‘anonymous’ donors were overseas.”
“You’re taking about money laundering and terrorism,” Giles stated, his jaw clenching tightly.
“Yes,” the woman said drolly, her expression never changing. “I feel it would be in your best interests if you compiled with our simple request, Mr. Giles. If not, then perhaps it would be best if I contacted the Department of Homeland Security?”
At last Giles smiled. “That certainly won’t be necessary. Robin?”
Robin glanced at Rowena and Faith, then approached the watcher.
“This is Robin Wood, our financial officer,” Giles said by way of introduction.
“I am?” Robin questioned Giles. Then he turned quickly to the agent, noticing the arch of Ms. Franklin’s eyebrow. “I am!” he said again with much more confidence.
“He will be more than happy to assist you however you require.”
“Ms. Franklin,” Robin said, shaking the woman’s hand. “If you’ll be so kind…?” He led the woman to the main offices.
“Red, that didn’t sound very good,” Faith remarked.
“Which part? The IRS inquiry or Robin’s shock at his sudden job promotion,” Willow asked.
Faith smirked. “Both actually.”
“No, not good at all,” Giles said distractedly. His hands were in his pockets and he looked very much like a trapped animal.
Willow looked at Rowena. “You’re still here?” she asked, antagonism in her voice.
Rowena’s eyebrows rose questioningly. “I was waiting to see if you needed my help with the body problem.”
“Body problem?” Willow said, blinking. “We have a body problem, too?”
“We found a body in an alley behind an old occult store,” Kennedy explained. “Something had turned it to salt.”
“Oh,” Willow said. “Normal Hellmouth problems…heh…what a relief!”
“I understand you’re busy,” Rowena said. “But we shouldn’t ignore this.”
“No, of course not,” Willow said. “I can’t get online, but maybe there’s a book with a reference to people turning into salt.”
“I’d start with the Bible, Old Testament, story of Lot’s wife,” Kennedy offered. When no one said anything Kennedy offered. “Come on! Twelve years of Catholic boarding schools okay? I learned a little bit during my incarceration. Y’know, besides the fact I had original sin and there was little I could do to get rid of it.”
“I can use my laptop from the hotel,” Rowena offered after rolling her eyes. “I might also have another avenue of information.”
“Great!” Faith said, nodding. “Why don’t you go do that?” Faith said, shooing her away with her hands.
Rowena looked first at Faith and then even longer at Willow, as if expecting the redhead to comment. “Alright,” she finally said, when no one added more. “I’ll come back with any progress I’ve made.”
“Thank you,” Willow said coldly. She watched as Rowena gathered her belongings and then left the building.
“Want me to go kick some old watcher ass?” Faith asked.
“Me too!” Kennedy piped in.
“There will be no ass kicking,” Willow declared. “We’ve got bigger problems right now. Giles?”
The Watcher finally looked up at the redhead as if seeing her for the first time. Striding forward, he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the stairs. “Come with me,” he said, ignoring her protests. “We need to talk. Now!”
Regency Hotel – Moments Later
Rowena walked briskly into the lobby of her hotel and glanced around the deserted area. Approaching the desk, she presented a sturdy brass key to the clerk. He glanced at it for a moment, then handed it back to her.
Rowena took another look around the lobby as the clerk disappeared into the back office. He then returned a minute later carrying a large metal box. He placed the box on the counter and handed her a card. She signed the card and he carefully compared it to a similar card taped to the box. Satisfied, he turned the box around and allowed her to open it with the key.
She took a final look around the lobby, then quickly opened the box and pulled out a leather messenger bag. Swinging the bag over her shoulder, she locked the box again.
“Thank you,” she told the clerk, retrieving her laptop case from the counter.
“You’re welcome, Ms. Allister,” he replied. “Enjoy your evening.”
Rowena quickly headed to the elevators.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Study – Moments Later
Willow smiled at the warmth of Giles’s sitting room. An abandoned tea cozy rested next to an old novel. Glancing at the cover, she saw that he was reading Great Expectations.
“Giles,” she sighed. “I really should be getting back to the computer room. I’m sure Andrew’s bald by now from pulling out his hair.”
“Willow,” he said. “Please sit down.”
“Uh…” she said nervously, reacting to his edginess.
“Please,” he urged.
“Okay,” she said and plopped down in his plush armchair.
She watched him for a moment as he paced back and forth in front of her.
“Willow,” he finally said. “I always told myself, if I was going to do this, then I would do it right.”
“Do what…” she asked. Then her eyes widened in shock as he dropped to one knee at her feet and took her hand in both of his own.
“Willow Rosenberg,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Will you marry me?”
“What?” she cried. “Giles! You’re really starting to freak me out!”
“Willow –” he began.
“I mean, I appreciate the offer and I really don’t mean to be insulting, but where the heck did this come from! You’re, well, Giles! I can’t even call you Rupert yet. Plus, not exactly my type you know, being male and all a-and oh! Speaking of which, I really don’t think my girlfriend would approve.”
“Willow,” he interrupted sharply. “We’ve seen what Tyrell is capable of. How long before the INS walks through the door?”
“INS?” Willow said, confused, but then her face cleared. “Oh! Your green card!”
“Exactly,” he said.
“But Giles,” she protested. “They really don’t go in for that instant marriage stuff.”
“We can prove that we’ve been together for over seven years now.”
“Seven?” she questioned. “But that would mean I was still in – Oh! Oh! Giles! Eww!”
Giles sighed. “I know I can’t be as unappealing as you make me sound,” he countered.
“It’s not that, Giles. I might be gay but I’m not blind. You’ve got that suavey British thing going on, yes, a-and women love that. A-and when you play guitar you look really se…” Willow began to grin with a far off look in her eyes, but quickly shook it off. “I just mean, in high school? You and me? Makes us sound like a trashy, made-for-TV movie.”
Giles rubbed his temple in frustration. “We can say we consummated our relationship after you graduated.”
“Okay! You’re approaching double eww status now! I’m starting to get mental images here.”
“Listen. Here’s the story,” he said patiently. “We met in high school and we began dating your Freshman year in college. Now we are pursuing our dream with the school here and, since your graduation from university, we have decided to legally and ethically marry.”
“Oh! I get it,” she smiled, but it soon turned into a scowl again. “It’s still creeping me out, though.”
“So,” he smiled warmly at her. “Will you marry me, Willow?”
“Oh boy,” she sighed. “I love you, Giles, but this is going way above and beyond the call of duty. Do I get a raise?”
He waited patiently.
“Okay, fine! Yes! I’ll marry you,” Willow said. “Kennedy’s gonna slay me and to be honest I think you might be overreacting.”
At that moment, Willow’s raven-haired lover peeked her head inside the closed door. “Uh, Giles?” Kennedy said cautiously. “INS is here.”
Giles didn’t say anything, but made an exaggerated gesture toward Kennedy.
“Okay, okay,” Willow conceded to him. “You were right. I was wrong.”
Kennedy walked further into the room, shutting the door behind her. “Right about what?”
Willow looked nervously at her girlfriend, then smiled awkwardly. “Sweetie? Honey?” she began through her grin.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Kennedy asked with a look of concern growing on her face.
Willow took a deep breath before rapidly shooting off, “Giles-and-I-are-getting-married, okay?”
“Wha –? Huh?…Uh, no,” Kennedy said, shaking her head. “Not okay. Willow –?”
“It’s the only way he might be able to stay in the country,” Willow told her in a hushed tone. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“Again, I’ll say I’m not that bad,” Giles added.
She glared at him a moment, but took his hand and addressed her lover. “For INS purposes, you’re looking at Mr. and Mrs. Giles.” Willow erupted into a fit of giggles. “Mrs. Giles,” she snorted. “Sorry that just sounds funny.”
“Not as funny as Willow Giles,” he sighed.
A look of discomfort passed over her face. “Oh God, you’re right! That sounds horrible!”
“So this is like a sham marriage right?” Kennedy asked. “I mean you’re not gonna…” Kennedy gestured incomprehensibly with her hands, unable to finish the sentence.
For a moment Willow and Giles considered just what Kennedy was asking, then they both realized at the same moment.
“No!” they both answered immediately.
“In name only,” Giles assured her.
Kennedy smirked. “Well, dating a married woman could be kinky, I guess. Added sense of danger and all that.”
Willow just smiled and pulled Giles toward the door, still holding his hand. “Come on,” she said, “Let’s go pass the ‘test’.”
“Oh god, the test!” Giles said. “They’re going to question us separately.”
“Your favorites. My favorites. Where we went on our first date. Things of that nature.”
“Relax, Giles,” Willow told him. “Remember my telepathy skill. I’ll hear everything you tell them.”
“Oh, right,” Giles grinned slightly. “Good then. Let’s go.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – moments later
“Mr. Giles, I presume?” a man said as Willow, Giles and Kennedy approached him in the Council lobby. “Agents Ford and Walters,” he said, pointing to himself and then his partner. “Seems there’s a problem with your green card status. You’re employed as a librarian, it says,” he waving a folder. “However, there’s no indication of your being employed during any of your time here since 1999.”
“Well, I’ve recently started working with my fiancée,” he said, motioning to Willow. “Overseeing the library of the school she’s starting. I’m sure the paperwork is in process now, so perhaps your colleagues haven’t gotten to it yet.”
“Your fiancée?” he questioned. “And just how long have you known your fiancée?” He let his sarcasm slip into the last word.
“Seven years,” he answered.
“When’s the wedding?”
Giles paused and looked at Willow.
“June,” she answered.
“December,” Giles replied at the same time.
Both of them tried to hold down their moment of panic.
“Giles, er-Giles, Giles, Giles! I call him Giles when he annoys me. You know how it is when you’ve been with someone for seven years…You’ll have to forgive Rupert. We can’t seem to agree on a date. I say summer. He says winter. Maybe we’ll compromise and go with fall.”
“Is that so?” the agent replied, not convinced. “Let’s see the ring.”
“She hasn’t got it,” Giles said quickly as Willow began to mumble. “Been doing renovations here. Didn’t want to damage it.”
“Well, actually,” Willow said, showing them that her left hand was graced by a stunning diamond. “I put it on this morning and forgot to take it off. Thanks for reminding me, Hon.”
“No problem, Sweetheart,” Giles answered with a grin, knowing Willow had just secretly conjured it.
“Spared no expense, I see,” the agent remarked.
“Well, nothing’s too much for my girl,” Giles remarked, awkwardly putting his arm around Willow.
The agents paused a moment, taking it all in. “Mind if we ask you a few questions in private, Mr. Giles?”
“Certainly,” he nodded.
“Oh and Ms…?”
“Rosenberg,” Willow answered.
“Don’t go too far. We’d like to speak with you as well.”
“Not a problem. You can go to the lounge and I’ll wait out here.”
“It won’t take too long,” the agent said politely. The two agents followed Giles out of the lobby.
Kennedy, who had been quietly watching, crept up to Willow. “That was great,” she grinned. “Not the least bit awkward or alarming.”
Regency Hotel – Next Morning
Rowena sat at the desk, taking some notes down from the book in front of her. After she finished she closed it, running her fingers over the title: Opus Obscurum. She reached under the desk and grabbed her computer case and the messenger bag, putting the book back inside. Just as she was heading for the door, the phone began to ring.
“Hello?” she said. “Oh, hello Mom. Yes, I’m fine.” She put her belongings down and took a seat on the bed. “How’s Dad? What? What are you talking about? How did that happen?”
Rowena paused as she listened to her mother, the expression on her face turning from scared to confused and then finally to anger. “Oh my god. No, of course I’ll be able to help. I’ll contact the bank right away. No, I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. I’m just glad that no one was hurt. No, I won’t say anything about the money to Dad, of course not. Alright. I’ll be in touch soon, Mom. Bye.”
She hung up the phone, the anger on her face growing. After a moment she picked up the phone again and dialed a number.
“Hello? Rowena Allister calling for James Tyrell,” she said. After a brief pause she heard his voice.
“Hello Rowena.” The voice on the other end of the phone was cold.
“James,” she began. “Look. I need the Council’s help. Someone vandalized my father’s fishing boat in Nova Scotia. I want to find out who’s responsible.”
“Well, why not call those renegades you seem to fancy so much,” he offered sarcastically. “I’m sure they have loads of contacts to help you.”
Rowena pulled the phone back from her ear slightly and shook her head in disbelief. “What did you just say? James, you sent me on this mission to observe Mr. Giles and act as a liaison. Why are you –?”
“Rowena, remember something my dear. The true Council is very powerful, and no one is untouchable…no one. It’s best if you fall in line, my dear.”
Rowena pursed her lips. She took a deep breath and tried to speak. When no words came, she slammed the phone down and left her room with both bags in hand.
Fade to Black
End of Act Two