Watchers Council – Lobby – Night
Rowena was talking. “Spring Heel Jack was believed to be little more than a rumor in occult circles. Some kind of demon, perhaps, but certainly a killer of women. We believe he, or it, now hunts the streets of Cleveland.”
Listening was an assembly of people. Rona and Vi stood next to Faith, who in turn had Robin directly behind her. They made up one end of a half circle. On the other end, with arms folded and jaw set, stood Kennedy. Every single slayer and watcher the Council had recruited, in fact their entire staff, listened as Rowena spoke. Giles, Willow and Andrew were at the rear.
“Kennedy gave us a description. Tall. Dark hair. Caucasian. Wears a long dark coat. Clean-shaven. As of last evening, wielded a knife, probably a Bowie-type based on what Ken said. Other than that, he seems very ordinary looking. Yes?” Marsha had raised her hand and Rowena nodded.
“Do we engage if we find him?” Marsha asked.
“You’ll not be engaging,” Willow told her. “In fact, as far as you’re concerned, it doesn’t matter,” Willow added. “This guy is super strong, so only the senior slayers will be going out on patrol. You’ll be staying home, Marsha, with the other junior slayers.”
The younger slayers all frowned and voiced their disapproval.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” one said.
“We proved our chops on Halloween, right?” another one added.
“Andrew needs your help, ladies,” Willow told them. She did a double take when she noticed Marsha’s expression change from frustration to a slight grin. Not commenting on it, she turned to the others. “You’ll all be doing research with us.”
The girls began to groan again, but that’s when Giles spoke up, overcoming the complaints.
“Well, Jack doesn’t seem to target the very young. His victim of choice appears to be full adults. Chances are he wouldn’t make a move on any of you.”
“So they get to have fun while we’re stuck in the library?” said Tabitha, a fourteen-year-old Asian girl.
Willow stepped forward.
“Hey! Listen up, ladies!” Reaching the front of the assembly, she turned and spoke quickly. “It’s not like they’re going out cruising bars for a good time! They’re not looking to scor…make some new special friends – that isn’t what this is about! So no fun and games here. Faith and, well, everyone, they’re going out as bait to catch a killer, so realize how serious this is right now and cut the chatter!” The resolve face she donned wasn’t as intense as her usual, but it did the trick. Most of the junior slayers at least quieted down.
“Okay,” said Vi, “what’s the plan for us, then?”
Giles and Willow looked at each other for a moment, and the former opened his mouth. It was Rowena who answered before he could. “Bar-hop in pairs, pretend to have a good time. Andrew will give you your IDs on the way out.”
“Cool!” Rona said, rubbing her hands together.
“Which will be returned at the end of the evening,” Rowena added firmly.
“Damn it,” Rona muttered.
A new chorus of murmurs began among the tide of junior slayers.
Rowena raised one eyebrow, and said cuttingly. “Remember, you’re trying to get a super-powered murderer to choose you as his next victim to disembowel.”
The chorus quieted down.
“Yep, that does sound like fun,” added Rona, winking at Vi. “Yee hah.”
“You and Rona will be one pair,” Giles instructed. “Faith and Kennedy another. Becky and Suzanne, you’re one more. Svetlana, you go with Robin. Everybody stay in contact with each other and check in with us at least once an hour. If our speculations are correct, Spring Heel Jack has been killing for over two hundred years without being caught. He’s crafty, and probably very old and experienced, so be alert at all times.”
“How’re we supposed to stop him?” asked Faith.
“There’s an element of experimentation, I fear, involved in tonight’s activities,” answered Giles. Faith almost laughed. Vi rolled her eyes.
“Personally,” added Rowena, “I’d try cutting his head off.”
Her suggestion met with some approving nods.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Later that night
Andrew was in the lead, chatting with Marsha, who listened intensely. Directly behind them were all the junior slayers. Bringing up the rear were Rowena, Willow and Giles.
“So,” Andrew was saying, “Captain Kirk and Mister Spock figured out that all the murders, not just the ones on that planet, but hundreds, going back centuries, were all the work of one being. A kind of intelligent cloud that preyed on the terror of the fairer sex, possessing people so it could hunt and kill over and over again. When they realized it was in the police inspector, the entity fled into the Enterprise‘s computer!”
“Data find a way to take care of it?” asked Tabitha.
“No!” Andrew gasped. “Data wasn’t even there!”
“But wasn’t he the Science Officer?”
“I thought that was Seven of Nine,” added another junior slayer.
“No, that’s Jadzia Dax,” said another.
Each of these suggestions literally made Andrew twitch. “No, no, no! You’re getting it all wrong and mixing your series!”
Before he could get worked up, Giles intervened.
“Might I suggest,” he said simply, “our research goals focus on the actual manifestations of this murderer, rather than television programs? From what little we know, he seems quite difficult to wound, so any clues would be of immense help. They might, in fact, save innocent lives.” With those words, he herded Andrew and the junior slayers into the Library.
Willow and Rowena continued in another direction and entered the computer room.
“If only I had something from this guy,” Willow was saying, “then I could perform a locator spell. But I guess Kennedy was too busy trying to stay alive and all. Can’t blame her for that. Not that I’ve got any business blaming her –”
“Willow?” Rowena interrupted.
“Are you okay?”
“I…uh…got a case of the sniffles earlier. But some hot tea seemed to take care of it…”
“No, emotionally. I don’t mean to intrude, but earlier you were… how should I put it? You seemed to be babbling.”
“Did I?” Willow’s voice rose an octave. “I didn’t mean to. Just stress is all. Like I said,” she turned to her computer station and sat down, “there’s no way to do a locator spell, but I came across this the other day and it might be the next best thing!”
“Really?” Rowena sat beside her fellow Watcher, glancing at the screen while also keeping Willow under slight surveillance. “Tell me about it.”
“Okay,” said Willow, not looking up, “some FBI profilers started working with software people on this. The idea is geographical behavioral patterns, that where criminals go can be used to try and predict where they’ve been, and where they’ll go. What makes it tricky is you really need a lot of detailed information to make it work, even stuff like the species of trees in parks can be a factor, plus the weather of course, and general traffic patterns. With a little bit of luck, the sheer amount of data on Jack’s previous crimes should help offset that.” She said all of this with one breath.
“I think you’re still babbling.”
“Oh!” Willow’s eyes went huge. She looked at Rowena. Then back at the computer. Then at Rowena again. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s alright. Just do what you need to.” Rowena gestured at the keyboard.
Willow began typing, and as she did, her shoulders began to relax slightly. Rowena, meanwhile, watched. After a few moments, she took a deep breath. “Have you heard from your friend Xander?”
Cleveland Streets – Moments Later
Faith hung up the payphone in the parking lot. She turned to Kennedy. “Nothing yet, but Red thinks she might have something we can use soon.”
“Yeah, okay,” was the mumbled reply.
“So,” said Faith, “shall we be off?”
The two slayers made their way for nearly another block, past darkened storefronts and barred windows, before either spoke again. During that time, Faith kept glancing at Kennedy, who in turn stared ahead.
“Sucks, don’t it, Brat?”
Kennedy said nothing immediately. Faith spoke again.
“I said –”
“Okay!” snapped Kennedy. “I heard you. Yeah, it sucks Willow dumped me.”
“Not used to it, am I right?”
“Hey, I’ve got news for you. Willow wasn’t exactly my first, if you know what I mean.”
“Got that, but I’ll bet money she’s your first in one way,” Faith remarked.
“My first witch? Good for you. Hip hip hoo-friggin-ray. Pass Go and collect your two hundred dollars. My last witch, too. All right? Are we done now?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Kennedy sighed. “Anyway I can manage not to hear what you did mean?”
After another few seconds, Kennedy said, “Go for it.”
“Willow was the first time somebody dumped you, am I right?” Silence. Faith continued. “Up ’til now, you got to do all the choosing. Who you were with, who you left, when it ended, all that. First time somebody dumps you, says ‘Don’t want this anymore, adios muchacha’ and leaves… that sucks. Always does. But the first time sucks really hard. I oughta know.”
“You got dumped?”
The surprise in Kennedy’s voice made Faith do a take. “Hell, yeah! But… thanks for the implied compliment.”
“Ooooh! Look precious!” The new voice coming from behind belonged to a girl. Both slayers turned around and saw that girl. She looked all of nineteen, maybe less. On her arm was a boy the same age. Their outfits, black shirts with lace at the throat, leather jackets and torn jeans, matched. So did their furrowed brows, yellow eyes and fangs. “Aren’t they just luscious-looking!” the girl vampire cooed.
“You bet,” hummed her boyfriend. “The perfect wedding feast for us!”
She giggled. “You mean it?” Her eyes met his adoringly.
“Course I do! Like I’d refuse my sweetheart anything she’d want.” He rubbed his nose against hers.
“Gimme a break,” snarled Kennedy.
The two vampires looked up at her, frowning. “Somebody just doesn’t understand true love,” sniffed the boy vampire.
Kennedy charged. One good backhand strike was enough to send the boy reeling. He fought back, even landing a couple of blows, but Kennedy gave a lot more than she got. Mere seconds passed before she had the boy against the wall of a building and began pummeling him. Fists to the chest, the stomach, the face – she rained blows on him without let-up. Teeth clenched, she poured all the strength she could into each blow!
“Hey –!” He tried to say before taking another hit to the nose. “Ouch!”
“Shut up!” hissed Kennedy, punching him again in the belly.
“But…” he tried to gasp “…what’s..” PUNCH!! “…your…” POW!! “…problem…” BAM!! “…any…” SLAM!! “…way…” POW!!
“I said shut up!”
Kennedy suddenly felt someone grab her by the back of her collar and pull. She was thrown back and staggered. She barely had time to register that it was Faith who’d pulled her back. Faith then rammed her wooden stake into the boy’s heart. He had just enough time to blink before turning into dust.
“He was mine!” Kennedy shouted.
“Hey, take it down a notch or two.” Faith told her
“Mind your own business!”
Kennedy began to stomp away, but Faith grabbed her by the arm.
“Yo, Brat! Case you didn’t notice, slaying is my business. Been at it a lot longer than you, and I’ve got some news about procedure! Stake ’em, then help your fellow Slayer!”
“Why? You’ve been at this longer than I have. You don’t need my help,” Kennedy challenged.
“What if I’d been in trouble? What if I did need your help, but you were too busy using Mister Cow-Eyes as an undead punching bag?”
For a moment, Kennedy said nothing. “You were fine,” she finally answered.
“Yeah, well, as it happens, little twit didn’t even try to block the first blow. Got turned into a dust bunny in record time. But that’s not the point…”
“Look, the vamps are dead.” Kennedy was already walking away. “We did our jobs.”
With a long, weary sigh, Faith followed.
“Deja-friggin-vu,” she muttered, shaking her head.
Watchers Council Computer Room – Same Time
Giles had his glasses off and was pinching his nose as he entered the computer room.
“A few of the younger slayers,” he was saying, “do show some promise as researchers. Some of them, anyway. Of course, their lack of a second language does lead to some misunderstandings, a bit of time wastage, rather a lot of explaining minutia, and they do seem to be distracted rather…well, easily.”
“Poor Giles,” said Willow. “Like having a dozen younger, less mature Xanders?”
“Not quite that efficient, I’m sorry to say.” He noticed the printer was working. “Oh! Something?”
“Yeppers,” answered Willow. “The FBI program I found…well, borrowed…kinda permanently…it’s turning out what should be Jack’s most likely hunting grounds. If this works, we should be able to use this software to track down all kinds of other threats – vampire hunting patterns, likely spots for demons to build nests, the possibilities are way up there!” She smiled at him with everything but her eyes.
“Was Xander really so poor at research?” asked Rowena, next to the printer. Though her eyes were on the printout, her body language indicated she was also genuinely listening.
“He…his interests were not particularly academic. Still, in time he became quite skilled,” Giles answered.
Rowena gathered the printed sheets and read them. “As the teams call in, I’ll give them portions of this list. With a little bit of luck, one of them should track down Jack from this.”
Giles cocked his head. “Truly?”
“If the software works as advertised,” nodded Rowena.
“That might be a really big IF,” said Willow.
Rowena shrugged. “Better a working hypothesis than counting on random chance. I’ll go wait by the phones.” Taking the printed sheets, she left the room.
“It’s called,” Willow began, indicating her computer, “BLP, which stands for Behavioral Location Profiling. It takes all the factors of environment involved in criminal patterns, then uses that to create a matrix for predicting –”
“Huh?” She didn’t look at Giles.
Sitting next to her, Giles spoke in a low voice. “Willow. I appreciate all the work you’ve been doing lately, sometimes twenty-four hours a day. And before you argue, I have been counting some of the days…so…I-I can’t help but wonder if…”
At that, Willow put her hands in her lap. She sighed and looked at Giles. “It hurts,” she said.
“I know,” he said sympathetically. “But working yourself to death isn’t going to change anything.”
Willow licked her lips and then cleared her throat. “The fact is, I do love her, Giles. Kennedy’s important to me, you know? Even though we can’t be together, a part of me really wishes things were different. That maybe, with more time, we could find a common ground but…it’s just when she said she was at the Alcove…it was like…”
“It hurt you that she was out looking?”
Willow nodded and began to play with her fingernails. “I thought I meant more than that, ya know? Not that I don’t want her to be happy, cause I do. It’s just…”
“Sooner than you expected?”
Again Willow nodded. “I didn’t think I was that expendable, I guess. But I also know it was my choice, a-and I made the right choice…for both of us, right? I mean, did I make the right choice here?” she babbled.
“What, precisely, is it that is hurting you? Regret over breaking up with Kennedy? Second thoughts about your decision? Or,” he paused before going further, “is your ego bruised because Kennedy seems to be moving on sooner than you’d like?”
Several seconds later, Willow answered. “Can I say all of the above?”
Giles gave her a comforting smile.
City Park – Moments Later
It was Kennedy using the phone this time, but Faith was very close to her. She had a notepad out and was writing.
“And the Paint Factory at Kenmore and First. Is that really the name of a bar?” Kennedy asked. Whatever answer she got must have satisfied her, because she nodded. “Thanks, Ro.” She shot a look at Faith.
Faith finished writing. “Got it.”
“We’ve got the whole list then. Thanks. Okay.” Then Kennedy hung up. “You think this is anything other than a wild goose chase?”
With a shrug, Faith answered. “Hey, it’s something to check out. Nice to have a specific target.”
Kennedy nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. Which is closest?”
“All of them are west of here, but the nearest is O’Banyan’s Irish Pub. Three blocks that way.” She pointed.
“I could use a visit to an Irish Pub,” pondered Kennedy.
“Me, too,” added Faith. “Darts. Beer. Maybe a sandwich. God knows I crawled my quota of Irish pubs back in Beantown.”
“And beer. Don’t forget beer.”
“I said beer.”
“We can mention it twice.” Kennedy rubbed her hands together in anticipation.
The two Slayers headed west without any delay.
As they left the public phone, a shadowy figure emerged from behind a nearby tree. Tall, clean-shaven, with a long dark coat, he looked in the direction the two women had gone and whispered to himself.
“Soooo,” he said, barely audible, “the little whore has strong friends. All the better. But no rush. No rush at all. Best to make plans, I think. Yes. Plans. Very careful plans. Then I’ll harvest them both. Won’t that be fun? Yes, very much so.”
Then he turned and headed east.
End of Act Two