Watchers Council – Library – Evening
“Oh. My. God.”
Those words, breaking the silence that had been uninterrupted for nearly an hour, seemed louder than they actually were. Honestly, though, the speaker clearly didn’t intend for them to be quiet. She inched the book and its illustration away from her. Eyes huge, mouth twisted, Priscilla followed up her words with one more, “Ew!”
All the other slayers immediately got up from their chairs and went over to see.
“Hey, people,” said Andrew, “we’re supposed to be doing research here.” He almost managed to sound as if he weren’t whining. Almost. There was a little catch in his voice at the end, but at least he got everyone’s attention. “What are you all ‘ew-ing’ about?”
“That,” muttered Priscilla, pointing to her book.
It took Andrew almost two seconds to reach Priscilla and look over her shoulder. Before he got there, a chorus of junior slayers offered their comments.
“What IS that?”
“Oh, jeez! How gross!”
“I know, I mean… LOOK!”
Marsha made room for Andrew and he stared at the photographs. They were very old, black and white, lacking practically any of the sharp detailing modern cameras produced. He nodded in recognition. “Well,” he said, “that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to help prevent.”
“But what is it?”
Priscilla chimed in. “These pics are of Mary Ann Kelly, last victim of Jack the Ripper. Or what was left of her, anyway.”
One junior Slayer still looked puzzled. “I don’t see anybody.”
“She…uh…” Andrew coughed delicately. “She isn’t exactly intact.”
The junior slayer, who couldn’t see anything, suddenly paled. “Oh,” she said in a small voice.
“Okay, that’s what’s at stake, people!” Andrew shifted modes and stood tall. The effect was slightly less than he’d probably hoped, because he really wasn’t that much taller than his charges. Still, it got their attention. “Let’s do our bit to try and catch the killer. Okay? I mean… let’s do it!”
Marsha nodded and smiled at him, heading directly back to her own stack of books. The others followed suit with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Priscilla pulled the book back and resumed reading. All the while, Andrew stood in a pose remarkably like that of Giles. When no one was watching, he took another peek at Mary Ann Kelly’s crime scene photos. He shuddered and went back to his seat.
Alleyway – Night
Jack methodically wiped his Bowie knife clean. The rag he was using soaked up the blood and wiped off the gore quite effectively. Once its job was finished, the rag went into Jack’s bag. He then put away his knife, slipping it back into a sheathe under his long dark coat.
Before closing the bag, he gazed inside with a pleased expression on his face. “Good,” he said to himself in a low, conversational tone. “The whore must not have smoked at all. Fortune smiles.” And then he smiled. He closed the bag, fastening it with a snap. Then he rose.
He looked around. Just enough light from the street beyond the alleyway poured in to make his appearance clear to anyone looking. Closing his eyes, he began to mutter.
“Pordague istellvey varudree mordath!”
Now his eyes opened, and they were solid black. All around him, mist began to form, as if someone had turned on a nearby smoke machine and slowly turned it up to full blast. Less than two minutes were all that were needed to create a suitable fog bank. His face became invisible. Soon, only his footsteps gave any evidence he was there. The footsteps themselves soon faded.
“What the hell…” another man muttered.
“Is it a fire? Jacob, is it a fire?” a feminine voice asked.
“Naw. Don’t smell smoke.”
The two were senior citizens, wearing several layers of rags. Sniffing the air, the toothless man held on to the old woman’s hand as they walked in the fog.
“Jacob, fog don’t come like that. Do it?”
He shrugged. “Dunno. Maybe.”
Inching along the street, they came to the alleyway and turned inside.
“This the right place?”
“Woman, I know the way. Don’t I always know the way? Do I ever get us lost?”
“Just wanted to be sure is all…”
“I know the way!”
“Okay, Jacob, I just wanted to be sure.” They stopped. Or, more accurately, Jacob stopped and the woman stopped because he did. “Jacob?”
“There’s something here.”
By now the fog was starting to dissipate. Jacob could see some kind of shape that his foot had struck on the ground. Not a box, or a pile of junk, or anything like that. He knelt to see what it was, reaching his hand out.
“Be careful, Jacob! Careful now!”
Jacob pulled back his hand, and the fog lifted just enough for both of them to see his hand was now coated in blood. It actually dripped from his fingers. Jacob’s eyes went huge. The two of them screamed at the same time.
The Paint Factory Bar – Night
Faith looked at her fellow slayer. Kennedy downed her drink but never stopped looking around the room, a speculative glint in her eye.
“Hey!” Kennedy did a take as Faith took her drink away. “That’s mine!”
“You’ve had enough. I’m cutting you off.”
“You gotta learn that life’s not fair.” Faith looked around and sighed. “I think tonight’s a bust.” Kennedy began to giggle. Faith sighed, then continued, pretending to not know what her partner was thinking. “Jack ain’t here. Willow’s software thingee didn’t work. So let’s get you home.”
“I don’t wanna go home yet.”
“No, really?” Faith said in mock surprise.
“Just wanna…have some fun tonight. Besides,” she said, suddenly shifting mood, “there’s some…stuff I…gotta get out of my system.”
“Hey, I can relate,” Faith replied with a nod, “Poster child for slayage-induced lust here and all.”
Kennedy laughed. “You’re funny.”
“Thanks. But I still think we oughta get you home.”
As Faith put the drink on the table she noticed a new glint in Kennedy’s eye.
“You’re cute, too.”
That’s when Faith suddenly looked down to find Kennedy’s hand on her leg. “Oh boy,” Faith muttered.
“I think,” said Kennedy with a smile, “somebody here runs AC/DC. Me has lesbi-dar.” She paused the tiniest of moments, and then continued in a whisper. “And once a bad girl, always a bad girl. Wood never has to know.” She leaned in, bringing her face closer to Faith’s. “Tell me the truth, bad girl, you ever do it with another slayer?”
Faith took Kennedy by the upper arms and pushed her back – firm but not hard. “No pun intended, girlfriend, but I’m happy with Wood. And I fended off enough horny women in prison to last a lifetime, so thanks, but no thanks.”
Now Kennedy looked sullen, but still interested. “I’ve heard stories about you…you took Xander out for a spin. You might have even taken Buffy out for more than just a patrol,” Kennedy said with an inebriated giggle. “Willow’s told me quite a bit.”
Faith licked her lips. “Yeah, I kinda horned in on Red’s people once upon a time, but I don’t plan to do it again. Especially you, so let’s move it out.”
“I’m not hers anymore,” Kennedy said, the merriment totally gone from her face.
“Maybe not, but –”
Faith didn’t finish. Instead, Kennedy’s lips met hers for an instant and the older slayer snapped back and to her feet.
“That’s it, Brat! Time to go!” Faith stood up and dragged Kennedy from the bar.
Watchers Council – Front Living Room – Later that Night
Rowena had her laptop out. To one side of her were photocopies of some old text. Her fingers flew, transcribing the words. She barely looked up as Faith and Kennedy wandered inside.
“Nothing,” announced Faith as her fellow slayer collapsed into a chair. “Gotta tell Red her nifty new program’s got a few bugs. Where is she, anyway?”
Without looking up, Rowena said, “She and Andrew are doing an Esbat in her chambers.”
“She’s doing an Estee what-ee?” Faith asked.
“An Esbat. Kennedy can explain.”
Faith looked at Kennedy, who appeared totally clueless. Faith looked back at Rowena. “And she wonders why Red called it quits,” Faith sighed and rolled her eyes.
That got Rowena’s attention. She stopped typing, looked at Kennedy, then Faith.
“An Esbat. It’s a monthly ritual in Wicca to honor the feminine aspect of the divine. The tradition is for all Wiccans to gather at such times, a relatively new tradition but based on much older ones and not unlike, in social function, going to high mass in the Catholic Church. Another parallel would be the daily summoning to prayer in Islam, or perhaps Ramadan, the holy month of fasting followed by a day of celebration. The comparison with Islamic practice might work best if you think of it as a combination of the two –”
“Giles really is your dad, isn’t he?” Faith interrupted. “It’s gotta be in the blood. It’s just gotta. I’m gonna go check on the police band radio for news.” With a weary wave, Faith left the room.
In the silence that followed, Rowena and Kennedy looked at each other. Rowena’s face was almost expressionless. Kennedy, on the other hand, went from sullen to defensive to frankly curious. “Got something you wanna say?” the slayer asked.
“Shoot,” said Kennedy. She even smiled in a way that made Rowena blink.
“Well…” she continued after a moment “…how is it you were in a relationship with Willow for so long, but didn’t know about an Esbat?”
Kennedy shrugged. “More magic fairy tale stuff.”
Rowena’s eyebrow lifted, “That isn’t terribly accurate. But…I don’t understand…how can one share another’s life, yet partake of so little in that life?”
For a few moments Kennedy didn’t reply. “Guess your family was one of those storybook ones, huh?” Kennedy’s voice was low, but hard.
“Not particularly,” was Rowena’s instant reply.
Willow walked into the room. “Ken! You and Faith are both back? Both okay?”
“Almost everybody else already reported back in.” She said this to Kennedy, who didn’t look up at her. “Just waiting for Vi and Rona. Any luck?”
“Nope! Unlucky girl, that’s me.” Kennedy was barely audible.
Willow looked at Rowena, who with a glance to Kennedy said, “Faith is listening in on the police band right now, but she did say they had no luck.”
“Staked us a pair of vamps,” offered Kennedy, head still down.
Willow took a step closer and tilted her head at Kennedy.
“Are you drunk?” she asked Kennedy.
“Drunk, smunk,” Kennedy said with a shrug. “What do you care?”
Faith strode back into the room. “Hey Red!”
“You got her drunk?” Willow questioned angrily as she pointed to Kennedy.
“Nooo,” Faith drawled. “She got herself drunk. I’m not her babysitter, Will. She’s a big girl.”
“You were on patrol! What if something had happened?” Willow scolded Kennedy. “What the hell were you thinking?”
Kennedy unsteadily shot to her feet. “You really wanna know?” Willow looked apprehensive, but Kennedy went on. “Well let me tell you –”
“Cool it, Brat,” Faith piped in, but found her comment totally ignored.
“I was thinking about having a few drinks and getting laid, since my girlfriend gave me the gift of break up for Christmas. Too bad it’s non-returnable. And since Ms. Virtue over here won’t give me the time of day,” she said, waving haphazardly toward Faith, “that means I’ll be bunking alone tonight.”
Willow looked at Faith, who immediately held up her hands in front of her. “She’s drunk, Willow. Nothing happened. Just…let her sleep it off.” With that, Faith gave Kennedy a gentle push back toward the chair and Kennedy promptly fell back down with a giggle.
When nobody said anything, Rowena cleared her throat. “Uh, Faith? You didn’t come across anything suspicious?”
“Not us, but the police say they found a girl about an hour ago. Throat slashed. Looks like the killer opened her up and took her lungs. Maybe some other parts too, from what I heard on the radio.”
At this detail Willow looked sick and shot a disapproving look at Kennedy. Rowena gave a sharp breath. Kennedy, for her part, suddenly ran out of the room. Fast. Very fast. In the direction of the bathroom.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
The bathroom door was shut and locked. All in all, that was for the best, although the heaving sounds coming from it were enough to warn anyone away. Certainly Willow and Faith both came to a halt as the gurgling echo of regurgitation became audible. Followed by a flush.
Willow looked at Faith. “You think she’s…finished?”
“I dunno. Never got drunk with her before. What’s your take?”
“It’s…not something we did.”
Faith shrugged. “Mighta helped.”
They waited for a few moments, listening to the sound of silence. Then Willow knocked on the bathroom door.
“Ken? You okay in there?” Silence. “Ken?”
“Go away, bitch!” The words, muffled as they were by the door, were still clear and cut Willow to the bone. Willow gave Faith a concerned look and mouthed Will-You-Talk-To-Her? The slayer nodded and patted the witch’s arm in support. And Willow, after hesitating only a few seconds, went back down the hall.
For a few more moments, Faith did nothing but lean on the wall, looking at the bathroom door.
“Yo, Brat!” Faith called eventually, with a slight grin on her face. “Listen, I know you’re in there, and there’s something we gotta discuss. Something serious. Beer, margaritas, martinis… never in the same night, okay? Pay attention to the voice of experience here, it’s a really bad combo. My bad, I shoulda been watching your back, but hey, I kinda figured you didn’t wanna hear! Well, oops on us both! Right?” No other sound came from behind the door, hinting to Faith that her attempt at levity wasn’t going to work. “The point is…I been where you are. Woulda liked to have someone to talk to, ya know?” Silence. “Hey if you’re alive in there, say something, okay? Otherwise, I’m coming in.”
When a few more moments passed, Faith easily kicked the door down. She found Kennedy leaning against the wall near the commode.
“You broke the door,” Kennedy said, trying to raise her hand to point but not quite making it.
“Yeah, well, the Council’s got lots of money to replace it…can you stand up?” Faith asked as she walked over.
“Bitch got the point and left, huh?”
Faith let out a ragged sigh and moved to her knees before putting Kennedy’s arm over her shoulder and lifting her up. “Yeah, she’s gone, Kid. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
With that, the pair gingerly left the bathroom.
Weird Old House – Night
It was an old house. Two stories, with peeling paint that at one time appeared to be either gray or white. A gable made up roughly half the front of the second floor and weeds clogged the tiny front yard.
Not that Jack seemed to mind. He made his way down the sidewalk towards the house. Getting there, he simply turned onto the cracked walkway up to the front porch. Turning a key to open the door, he jauntily entered.
All along, he swung the leather handbag he carried as he hummed an absent tune.
He didn’t notice, or at least react, as Vi and Rona carefully followed him from across the street, then took cover behind a vacant car. They watched him go inside the dilapidated building.
“What do you think?” asked Vi.
“I think it’s got lair written all over it, myself.”
“Me, too. Let’s go get the others.”
Weird Old House – Moments Later
Inside the room where he’d been before, Jack carefully poured a set of lungs into his machine. In the green glow from it, his smile was quite visible.
“Some interesting news,” he said to the figure behind the curtain behind him, “I found out that whore I told you about, she’s the Slayer. Do you know what that means? Extraordinary strength and healing powers. How nice!” Now he turned towards the curtain. “Tomorrow night I think some extra special effort is called for. Yes, and even better news, the little whore seems to have some whore friends!”
He stepped beyond the curtain and took a seat on the bed. Smiling, he spoke to the frail creature lying there. “Of course, I know the Presidium will get us all the whores we need, but I still think her parts will be…well, special. And after all, right now they’re going to waste, aren’t they?”
“Evil…abomination…” came a muttered response. It was almost impossible to make out, so raspy and weak was the voice.
“They are going to win,” he insisted. “Didn’t I say they would?”
“…foulness…” was the reply.
“Go to sleep,” said Jack, “you’ll need your strength for the trip back home, Mother.”
End of Act Three