Alicia Witt as Tamara, Jeffrey Combs as Jack, Indigo as Rona, Felicia Day as Vi, Stephanie March as Bonnie and Carly Schroeder as Marsha.
Watchers Council – Night
Andrew munched on popcorn, his eyes riveted on the show before him.
On one side, Rowena moved her pawn one square. Across from her, Willow grinned.
“Aha,” Willow said as her opponent finished moving. “You see… you’ve fallen into my trap. Observe!” Then she moved her own bishop into position. “Check!”
“Wow,” said Andrew. “I never saw that coming.”
“I’ve been studying,” said Willow.
“So I see,” said Rowena quietly. She didn’t hesitate in reaching for her queen.
“Oh! Oh!” said Andrew suddenly. “Don’t!”
“Hey!” was Willow’s response. “No coaching from the sidelines!”
“If you do that,” Andrew insisted, “Willow will take your queen! See!”
Rowena calmly completed her move.
“I don’t have any choice,” she said to Andrew.
He didn’t get a chance to say anything else as Willow triumphantly used her rook exactly as he had foreseen. Rowena’s queen joined an assembly of pawns on the opposite side of the chessboard. Willow, meanwhile, smiled broadly and leaned back in her chair.
“I told you,” muttered Andrew.
Rowena moved her knight.
Willow’s smile vanished.
“Check,” said Rowena.
This time Andrew and Willow had the same look of surprise on their faces. Both of them swept their eyes over the positions of all the chessmen, recognizing a new pattern neither had seen before. But while Andrew began to grin, Willow frowned. In fact, she almost looked as if someone had just threatened to kill a puppy. Then they both looked at Rowena, whose small smile was quite serene.
“Do you concede?” she asked.
“No!” Willow answered. “Not yet. No! Maybe…wait a minute…” She stared at the chessboard.
“I think,” offered Andrew, “that’s mate in three moves.”
“You be quiet!” hissed Willow. “I can still get out of this…I think.”
“No,” said Rowena. “I really don’t think so.”
While Willow continued to study the board, Andrew nudged his chair closer to Rowena. “That was really good,” he offered. “To bait your trap like that with the queen… Gutsy.”
Rowena blinked. “Thank you,” she said finally.
After a few more moments of watching Willow fret over the game without moving, Andrew cocked his head. “But…you know, if she hadn’t taken your queen, you’d be in a lot of trouble right now.”
“Exactly,” said Rowena. “That’s why it had to be the queen.”
Suddenly Willow looked up at her opponent, eyes full of suspicion. Rowena simply raised an eyebrow.
“You’ve been talking to Giles,” the redhead accused her. “Getting tips on how I play chess! He knows I always try to take the queen!”
Rowena began to smirk.
“Cheater!” Willow put on her resolve face and studied the board. Rowena’s smile grew just a little.
“Remember the first rule of watcherhood, Will? ‘Know thy enemy’,” Rowena proclaimed.
“Thought the first rule was ‘Don’t get killed’,” Willow retorted in a threatening tone.
“Well, yeah, that too.”
Willow narrowed her eyes, but Rowena continued to smirk victoriously.
“Uh…Willow?” asked Andrew “What’s the rule she broke? Cause you said she was a cheater and that would mean she actually broke a rule, right? So I was wondering…”
“Andrew,” said Rowena, voice low. When he looked in her direction, she put her finger to her lips. He nodded and was quiet. Willow, meanwhile, continued to peer at the chessboard with increasing attention and decreasing hope.
Watchers Council – Front Door – Same Time
Out of breath, Kennedy finally came to a stop at the door of the Council headquarters.
She looked behind her, but the street was pretty much empty. Some cars, mostly parked. A few streetlamps. No pedestrians. No hint of any supernatural mist or of any pursuit. She continued to watch, though, leaning against the doorframe until her breathing returned to normal.
Then she opened the door and stepped inside.
Watchers Council – Same Time
“You sure you don’t want to concede?” Rowena managed to ask without gloating. That didn’t stop Willow from glaring at her. Andrew even recoiled slightly.
“There’s a way out.” Willow insisted, in a very low voice, eyes returning to the chessboard.
Andrew shot a glance at Rowena, who shook her head ever so slightly. She didn’t even look smug.
“Heads up, people!” Kennedy’s raised voice changed the atmosphere of the room instantly. She strode in at a quick pace, her face deadly serious. “There’s some kind of new monster thingee in town. Oh, and I found out the hard way, a wooden stake in the chest? Yeah, it slows it down, but it just pisses it off. Where’s Giles?”
“Out with Becca,” answered Rowena.
“What happened?” asked Andrew.
“Got jumped by a tall guy in a dark coat. Thought he was a mugger until the superhuman strength registered. One stake in the heart later, I knew he wasn’t a vampire ’cause he didn’t go poof. Worse, he kept on coming. Started doing some mumbo jumbo, making fog come out of nowhere and his eyes started to glow.”
“What did you do?” Rowena asked.
“What any brave slayer alone would do – I ran.”
“Good, that was a smart move,” said Willow, face serious.
“Yeah, I manage to do that from time to time.” The acidity in Kennedy’s voice was heard by everyone around her.
The room immediately fell silent and everyone seemed to feel the tension.
“Okay, research mode everybody,” Rowena said, breaking the small reserve. She headed for the computers, followed by Willow and Andrew. Kennedy brought up the rear. “What we need are details. Kennedy?”
“Like I said, he looked human.”
“Lots of demons look human,” noted Andrew.
“His eyes glowed, you say?” asked Rowena.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Later that Night
At her computer console, Willow watched a very, very long list appear on screen.
“We really need to find a way to narrow the search,” she sighed. “Superhuman strength and glowing yellow eyes isn’t a lot to go on.”
Kennedy sat in a nearby chair. “Sorry. Wasn’t much chance to get him to fill out a census sheet.”
Andrew looked up from the newspapers he was reading. “Just as well.” His voice shifted, taking on a fake British accent. “He might have eaten your liver with some fava beans and a nice chee-antee!” He then wilted from the look the other three gave him. “Just trying to lighten the mood,” he muttered, returning to the newspapers.
Rowena, with over a dozen reference books in front of her, turned to Kennedy. “Willow is right. Let’s look at more details about the attack. You say he was armed?”
“With some kind of knife,” nodded Kennedy. “Didn’t get a good look at it, though. After that I was too busy ducking from the blows that put holes into the brick wall behind me.”
“But if he had a forged weapon, that means he probably doesn’t have any natural ones like claws.”
“Claws? No,” Kennedy told her. “Fists like a wrecking ball? Most definitely.”
“That helps,” noted Willow, fingers flying over her keyboard.
“And he attacked you,” continued Rowena, “which might imply his victim of choice is female.”
“Uh…” said Willow. “That’s not exactly true. I mean, maybe, but without hard evidence to back it up, it’s just speculation.”
Rowena shrugged. “We have to go with what we’ve got right now.”
“Actually,” said Kennedy, “that’s a pretty good guess, considering.” She paused, and then continued. “Considering where I was. I mean, there weren’t many guys in the vicinity, if you know what I mean. None, actually.”
“That could be significant,” said Rowena. “Where were you?”
She didn’t answer for a moment. “The Alcove.”
“Oh,” said Willow after a beat.
Rowena looked at Willow and Kennedy not looking at each other. “The Alcove?”
“A lesbian bar,” said Willow in a deadpan voice, eyes on her computer screen. “Sooo…that probably narrows the victim choice to women. Probably, anyway. No natural weapons. Yellow glowing eyes.” Her fingers worked the keyboard.
“He used magic, also,” noted Kennedy in a too-neutral voice.
“Got that. Thanks.”
“And,” offered Rowena, eyeing them both, “his hunting grounds include cities. Not very much, but it narrows the field a little bit. Every little bit might help.”
Willow pressed the last key and watched her screen. “Not enough, though. There’re still over a hundred possibilities.”
Everybody looked in the direction of Andrew. He did a little take at the six eyes on him, and then gave a cough before continuing. “According to the local news,” he indicated the newspapers, “two other women were killed recently here in Cleveland. They were…well, cut up. A lot. And according to this, some sources think it might be a serial killer, but the police aren’t rushing to judgment just yet.”
Willow and Rowena looked at each other.
“Yeah, Andrew,” said Kennedy, “but I’m pretty sure we’re looking for a demon.”
“Unless…” began Rowena.
“…he’s been taken for a serial killer,” finished Willow.
“That’s what I was thinking!” Andrew bobbed his head up and down. “And there’s even speculation here,” he pointed to a newspaper, “about another Cleveland mass murderer. Icky name. The Torso Killer.” He did a little shiver of disgust.
Not losing a second, Willow logged onto the Internet and began a search.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Next Day
Sunlight poured through the windows of the Council HQ. Kennedy was pacing back and forth behind the sofa where her fellow slayers sat watching the local news. On the other side of her was Giles. His voice was very low, but insistent.
“You should have told me.”
“Not my decision,” said Kennedy.
“How difficult,” asked Giles, “would it have been to simply leave a note on my door?”
“Why shouldn’t you get some extra sleep? Jeez, you should be thanking us!” She walked away from him and took a seat watching the news.
Giles stared after her, then simply took off his glasses to give them a clean. The TV news was all about local sports at the moment and Kennedy watched it fixedly.
That was when Rowena and Willow came in from the direction of the library.
“Hi Giles,” said Willow. “How was your date?”
“It was…well…never mind. You should have left me a note!”
“None of us can do everything,” Rowena replied. “If the Council needs one specific person to function, then it’s doomed to fail. Besides,” she shrugged, “you needed the sleep.”
Giles took this comment without lifting his eyebrow too far. “What have you learned?” he asked after a moment.
“Well,” began Willow, “we looked up some stuff about the Torso Killer, also known as the Butcher of Kingsbury Run, an area which is not very far from here. He was kinda like Jack the Ripper or maybe the Black Dahlia murderer. Hacked up his victims from 1935 through ’38 and was never caught. Even Elliot Ness tried and never came close.”
Vi, who’d begun listening as Willow and Rowena entered, spoke up. “Ness? Is that the guy who arrested Al Capone?”
“The Untouchables,” said Rona. “I remember. Good movie.”
Willow shook her head in frustration.
“Anyway, on a hunch I expanded my search. What I was looking for was mysterious multiple murders with body parts missing, especially those that went suspiciously unsolved – like for a long time or where there should have been plenty of witnesses, things like that. Of course, I also eliminated cases where some other cause seemed likely.”
“Like puncture marks and all the blood gone?” suggested Rona.
Giles, who was watching the expressions on both young researchers, spoke. “How many?” He said it as if he dreaded the answer.
Willow hesitated. “A lot.”
Rowena continued, consulting a printout. “There was the so-called Axeman of New Orleans in 1918. The Phantom of Texarkana, 1946. Over a dozen Stripper killings in 1960s London. The prostitute murders in Vancouver, 1975 through 1985. The Highway murders in New Bedford, from 1988 through 2002. The BTK murders in Wichita, Kansas.”
“What’s BTK stand for?” asked Vi.
“You don’t wanna know,” said Willow with a grimace.
“Bind, Torture, Kill,” answered Rowena. “He sent letters to the authorities. That’s how he signed them. About half the killers on this list did the same. Along those lines, the body count might easily be as much as fifty-nine. Maybe more the authorities never knew about.”
Everyone was silent. Vi and Rona looked at each other, eyes huge. Kennedy simply stared into space, the space where the TV happened to occupy at the moment. Sports was wrapping up.
Giles took a deep breath. “Anything else?”
“Isn’t that enough?” murmured Vi.
Rowena said, “Some victims might have been mistakenly assigned to other, rather prolific killers. Like Peter Kurten, the Butcher of Düsseldorf in the 1920s, or Andrei Chicatillo, or John Wayne Gacy…”
“The clown guy?” squeaked Rona.
“Yes,” said Giles, “I recall he did sometimes masquerade as a clown. Xander, in particular, always seemed to find that idea quite disturbing on some level.”
“He’s not the only one!” Vi added.
“Interesting as all this may be,” Giles went on, “I’m not sure this points to any particular threat. Conspiracy theories aside, coincidence is a pervasive, albeit meaningless, phenomenon. Can we be sure these admittedly gruesome crimes are, in fact, related? Even if they are, how can we be sure Kennedy’s attacker is responsible?”
“It’s not solid, I agree, but the fact is, Kennedy was attacked,” said Rowena. “Who or whatever he was, he possessed super-human abilities. Then,” she hesitated, glanced at Willow, “there was the expletive he used.”
Giles looked at Willow. “Expletive?”
“He…” Willow paused. “He called Kennedy a whore.”
Vi and Rona crinkled their noses. Giles merely blinked. “Well, that is an expletive, and unpleasant to be sure, but I’m not sure…”
“The pattern,” interrupted Willow, indicating the printout in Rowena’s hand, “shows a high preponderance of prostitutes as victims. One can argue the point that’s because most prostitutes are women, and thereby easier to subdue. But it also points to the fact that these women work in a profession directly linked to the act of sex.”
“True,” Rowena added. “Now not all serial killers are rapists but usually when psychological profiling is done with captured killers something sexual comes into play, be it abuse at some point or Oedipal complexes.”
“Oh god,” Kennedy muttered from the sofa, making everyone turn.
She was leaning forward and listening to, not just staring at, the TV. A grim-faced reporter had a picture projected behind him.
“The Cleveland P.D. is now confirming the identity of last night’s murder victim.” A picture of an attractive red-haired woman filled the screen. “Tamara Lewis, age 26 was found by some sanitation workers around four A.M. this morning. One witness described the body as ‘horribly mutilated’.”
The rest of the report seemed to fade away as Kennedy continued to watch the screen, pale as a ghost.
Dining Room – Later that day
Andrew was carrying a full plate of sandwiches, but had trouble figuring out where to put it. The dining room table was crammed with books and laptops. Willow, Rowena, Giles and Robin hardly had any room. They didn’t even seem to notice his arrival with lunch. Kennedy, though, was different.
“Food! Great!” She grabbed one of the sandwiches and started eating with gusto.
“You’re welcome, Kennedy,” said Andrew. He looked at the others. “Anybody else want some tasty but nutritious edibles?”
“Thank you, Andrew,” from Rowena was the only answer he got. She took one of the sandwiches.
“Hmmm?” Giles looked up from his book. “Oh! No, thank you.” He turned to Kennedy. “We have a problem.”
“Well, duh,” said Kennedy between bites.
“No, I mean we need to know more about what we’re dealing with. What we have so far, it is simply far too general. Can you recall any further details? Any at all?”
From the way Kennedy rolled her eyes, it was obvious she’d been asked this several times already. “Again, no. I’ve told you everything I saw.”
“Maybe if you were hypnotized?” offered Andrew.
Giles looked at Andrew with pleasant surprise. Kennedy’s surprise was anything but.
“Hell no!” she exclaimed.
“Actually, that might well prove effective…” Giles prodded.
“No!” Kennedy insisted.
“I can understand you’d rather not undergo the process, but the potential benefits surely far outweigh any possible discomfort or inconvenience on…well, on anyone’s part.”
“Well,” said Kennedy, “in that case… no.”
“Uh…Giles?” It was Robin. He barely looked up from his laptop. “That kind of thing is actually pretty unreliable. Creates false memories. The subject tends to pick up signals about what the hypnotist wants – or expects – to hear, and gives it to him.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. That’s why criminal trials won’t go near it.”
“Oh. Well.” He sighed, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, plainly disappointed. “The problem still remains. We don’t have nearly enough to go on. Short of waiting for another victim, hoping that will reveal something, I don’t see any way to narrow the search.”
Rowena slammed shut one of her books. “There’s something this reminds me of.”
Giles looked at her. “What?”
“I don’t remember!”
“We could always hypnotize her,” murmured Kennedy, earning a small glare from Giles.
“You know what this reminds me of?” ventured Andrew, hopefully. The typing on laptops ceased. Heads turned in his direction. For a moment, he paused, unsure what to do. “Well, the fact is, you know in The X-Men, the book not the movies, although they’re cool, but in the book there’s this secret society of mutants who don’t want to save humanity but enslave it. They call themselves the Hellfire Club. Anyway, somebody told me the Hellfire Club was real, or kinda real, there used to be one anyway.”
“Please, Andrew,” sighed Giles in tones of infinite weariness, “would you please get to the point?”
“Spring Heel Jack!” cried Rowena suddenly.
Andrew broke into a grin. “Yeah! That’s what I was getting to,” Andrew muttered.
While Andrew grinned, everyone else in the room watched Rowena sort through several big tomes on the dining room table, at last finding the one she needed. “Here,” she said, “the Hellfire Club. Of course!”
“If you say there really is a secret society of mutants…” began Kennedy.
“No!” answered Rowena. “A secret society of bored aristocrats in 18th century London. They prided themselves on trying every vice known to mankind.” She said this pouring over the book she’d been looking for. “Some of them started dabbling in the occult.”
“They sound like misfit high-schoolers,” remarked Robin.
Willow and Andrew both glanced nervously at each other and gave a slight shrug of agreement.
“In 1788,” continued Rowena, “several members of the Hellfire Club tried to raise some kind of specter they dubbed Spring Heel Jack. That autumn five women were attacked in London, and their killer was never found. One member of the club tried to warn the Watchers Council about what they’d done, but his fellows beat him to death before he could give any further details. Here!” She pointed to one particular page, and started reading aloud. “It says: ‘For Spring Heel Jack we have released, and the banishment we worked mefears shall prove no more effective than a hundred circles of the sun, then shall he again walk this earth and reap his gore-drenched harvest.’ That was the last anyone ever heard from him. His body turned up in the Thames a few weeks later.”
“I’ve got a disturbing question,” said Robin. “Could this Spring guy be linked to another well-known killer?”
“What do you mean?” said Giles.
“That ‘hundred circles of the sun’ comment. It sure sounds like a hundred years. Am I right?”
“One could certainly make that case,” answered Giles. “One hundred rotations of the earth around the sun, a century, which would mean…Oh Good Lord.” Every trace of color left Giles’s face.
Kennedy looked at Giles, then Rowena, then at Robin and finally at Willow. “What?”
“A hundred years after 1788 was the year 1888,” said Rowena, solemnly.
“Yeah, I got that! So what?”
“It was in that year,” explained Giles, “that another five women were attacked in London. The murderer’s modus operandi was precisely what we’ve been looking for. Body parts removed. A killer was never caught or seen, even while killing in the most densely populated areas. He sent at least one letter to the news agencies of the time, boasting of his efforts.”
“Yeah,” said Robin, “that’s exactly who I was thinking of.”
“Who?” Kennedy almost yelled.
It was Willow who answered. “Jack the Ripper.”
Creepy Old House – Day
The tall man with a long coat entered the room, humming. It wasn’t really much of a tune, more like a sound that had something like rhythm. In one hand was a battered leather bag. The other held a set of keys he was slipping back inside his pocket.
“Mother? I’m home.”
He didn’t wait for a reply, but made his way across the dimly lit room to a machine. It took up one entire corner, with tubes and spheres and various glowing filaments. He stopped in front of it and put down his bag. Then he smiled, looking fondly at the translucent green curtains next to the machine.
“A successful day,” he said. “Very successful.”
From behind the green curtain came a voice. It was little more than a gasp, and from the phlegmy tone of the throat producing it, it must have been awash with some kind of viscous fluid. Yet emotion still came through, unmistakably. Hatred.
“Who was the girl?” The voice quavered.
He hardly even looked in the voice’s direction. Instead, he began to remove plastic bags from the satchel. Each held something wet and red. With the flip of a switch, a small hatch opened up in the machine. A sickly yellow glow emerged from within. The man poured the contents of each bag into the open hatch. First was a human heart.
“There was another whore,” he said conversationally, pouring a pituitary gland inside. “Strong. Very strong. Still, just another whore. Last night she got away from me, but I’ve decided to go looking for her. That kind of strength would be useful. Don’t you think?” He smiled in the direction of the curtain while pouring in a kidney.
Beyond the curtain was the wet, weak sound of weeping.
End of Act One