Barlow College – Old Hospital – Corridor – Same Time
The shape – the Creeper, presumably – snarled at them.
Angie began to hyperventilate. “Oh God,” she whispered, “oh God…”
Robin looked around. Off in the corner was a staircase. He gestured with a nod of his head. “There. Run when I say. Ready?”
Angie seemed to fight to get her breathing under control. “Oh, yeah.”
The Creeper, its unblinking red eyes riveted on them, began to step forward.
Angie wasted not one second. She sprinted for the stairs. The Creeper turned to her instantly, but Robin distracted the creature by waving his arms. “Hey! Over here! Here!” The Creeper looked his way, giving Angie more time to head up the steps.
Robin followed behind her.
Robin‘s Car – Same Time
In the car, almost exactly below the driver’s seat, a cell phone lay on the floor. It was ringing.
The name “Robin Wood” was stenciled in tiny letters on the side of the device.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Vi paced, the phone to her ear. She looked up at Faith, who was watching.
Faith nodded, grabbed her discarded jacket from the sofa, then headed for the door. “Good enough for me. You coming?”
“Try and stop me.”
Both slayers left the library very, very fast.
Barlow College – Old Hospital – Staircase – Same Time
Robin easily caught up with the much-smaller Angie. Neither looked back, trying to ignore the echoing sounds behind them – the scurrying of limbs, coupled with a hungry panting.
They didn’t stop at the first landing, but kept going. Behind, the sounds of pursuit followed. Both redoubled their efforts. At the second landing, Angie looked back and gaped at what she saw.
The Creeper was running on all fours like an animal, despite having the manlike shape of a biped. It was making a sound halfway between a growl and a cackle. And it leapt up suddenly, covering several steps at a time. Before Angie could do more than begin to react, the Creeper was on the landing with her. It leapt again. The impact knocked Angie to the floor, and with a howl of snarls and pants, the Creeper made for her.
Nova Scotia – Allister Home – Same Time
Looking anything but happy, Rowena and Willow approached the house. All the windows were closed and the curtains were drawn. No one came out to greet them.
“Just what do you think will happen?” asked Willow.
With a sigh, Rowena answered, “On about a dozen or more things. Mary’s mood. Mom’s mood. What else has been going on today.”
“In other words…”
“No way to tell.”
Willow nodded. “Ready?”
“As much as I can be.”
Together, they walked to the front door.
Barlow College – Old Hospital – Staircase – Same Time
Robin grabbed a half-collapsed chair. He reared it back as much as he could, then swung at the Creeper. It connected, and the Creeper staggered, hissing.
Angie squirmed away across the floor faster than seemed possible.
The broken chair came swinging again, once more connecting with the metal cage around the Creeper’s head. It made a sound like a vibrating tuning fork, and the Creeper howled in response.
With one hand, Robin pulled Angie to her feet. They ran a short ways before they both slammed into a door. Pushing it open, they wasted no time stepping inside and shutting the door behind them.
Robin and Angie grabbed a nearby wooden filing cabinet and braced it against the door. The blows of powerful fists began raining on the other side of the door, accompanied by sounds combining animalistic growling with human screams of frustration.
Both held the cabinet against the door as the pounding continued. After the first dozen or so blows, it became clear that the creature simply would not be able to overcome this particular barrier – not anytime soon, anyway. The snarls gave way to howls and then to a series of blows that were clearly intended to vent. They were too feeble and too numerous to be anything other than a tantrum.
Moments later, the scuttling sound of the Creeper’s exit was audible through the door.
“Don’t know about you,” said Angie in a shaky voice, “but I’m not willing to just go out there.”
“Right with you,” agreed Robin. “It may be uncivilized, but that doesn’t mean it’s stupid. Apart from anything else, we’re talking about the cunning of a hunter – a hunter that’s likely been successfully tracking humans for decades. Plus, we’re in its home. It must know this building a thousand times better than we ever could.”
“Right,” Angie nodded. “So, in other words, we’re doomed. I feel better. Thanks.”
“Don’t worry too much,” said Robin, checking his pockets. “We’ve got slayers and witches and lots of firepower just a phone call away.” He started double-checking the pockets he’d already searched. “All we have to do is…is…uh, we’ve got a problem.”
“No, not that one.”
She stared at him. “What now?”
“Did you bring a cell phone by any chance?”
Angie blinked. Then she said, “Oh, sh –”
Nova Scotia – Allister Home – Living Room – Minutes Later
Mary Grace Allister sat in the corner of the room, watching the scene with a smirk but saying nothing. Willow and Rowena were in the center, with Mrs. Allister circling angrily, her voice barely managing to stay a few decibels below actual shouting.
“And to think, when you got that scholarship, I was happy for you! Happy you’d be able to make something of your life!”
“Which is exactly what I have done,” answered Rowena steadily.
“Oh? Is it really?” Mrs. Allister’s eyes were laser-like, and her mouth had become a thin line of lipstick across the bottom of her face. “You’ve made yourself a pervert, is that what you mean? And a liar!” She made a stabbing gesture at Willow. “A friend, you said! God forgive me, I was actually happy to hear about you bringing a friend home. Even if she was a Jew! What did that matter if my little girl had finally made a friend! HA!” She trembled, looking ready to spit in Willow’s face as she turned to the witch. “Friend! I know now what you are and what kind of so-called ‘friends’ Rowena has fallen in with!”
“Mrs. Allister, whatever you…” began Willow.
“Shut up! How dare you speak to me, you evil corrupter!” Mrs. Allister’s voice sank an octave.
“Hey, don’t talk-!” Rowena tried to defend but got cut off as her mother continued to ramble.
“You probably couldn’t believe your luck, could you?” Mrs. Allister addressed Willow, talking over Rowena. “A lovely girl, lonely, naïve, right where you could get your claws into her. Where you could lure her into the kind of filth you enjoy!”
Willow stared, dumbstruck, at the woman’s tirade.
“How dare you come here, among decent people…” Mrs. Allister started.
“How dare you!” Rowena’s voice cut like ice.
Mrs. Allister stopped, staring at her daughter.
“Willow is a magnificent person,” Rowena continued. “You have no right to treat her this way.”
“This is my house, young lady!”
“I don’t care if this was your palace,” said Rowena, her voice still low, but powerful. “Do you have any idea how horrible the world really can be, Mom? How vicious and cruel and dangerous? There is real evil, Mom, horrible things that happen every day, crimes that destroy human lives and wreck childhoods and torture families. Monsters, real monsters. And what gets you angry? What gets you so upset you want to scream?” For a moment, no one said anything. “I’ll tell you what. The shape of my lover’s genitals.”
Another long silence. A very long one. Then Mrs. Allister sat down and spoke. “I don’t want either one of you polluting my home one more hour.”
“Works out well. I don’t like to hang out with hypocrites,” Rowena told her mother. “Come on, Will,” she said, motioning the witch to follow.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Mrs. Allister asked.
“I sat through catechism, Mom. I sat through church. I’ve even read the bible cover to cover, many times. It’s not our place to judge our fellow man. Our job’s to love them. God will be the one to judge. So why don’t you shut your trap and practice what Father Paul tells you?”
With Mrs. Allister’s jaw slacked in shock, Rowena took Willow’s hand and marched her from the living room.
Barlow College – Old Hospital – Corridors – Later
“Tell me again why we’re heading up, not down?” Even though she whispered, Angie managed to keep an edge of panic in her voice.
“Basic tactics,” Robin whispered back. “It’ll expect us to try and leave that way. If something hunting you expects you somewhere, be somewhere else.” He took a few more steps, eyes scanning the space around – an action Angie copied. “Of course, I did forget one other important tactic.”
“Never go anywhere without lots and lots of weapons.”
“In hindsight, that does seem like a mistake.”
“Not one I’m likely to repeat.”
“Yeah…’cause we’ll be dead!” Angie complained.
They peeked into a room whose door was missing. At the far end, past piles of junk, was a window. Outside the window were the branches of a tree.
“Bingo,” said Robin.
They tried crossing the room as quietly as possible. Given the amount of debris cluttering the space, it proved a daunting task.
“Oh god,” whispered Angie.
She pointed. Next to a box of papers and a wheelchair rusted into immobility lay a pile of bones. Mostly, the bones were small, probably those of rats. Some were even smaller. Others, though, were bigger.
“All the more reason to hurry,” Robin whispered.
“Right behind you.”
They reached the window slowly, but making very little noise.
“I wish I knew where that thing was right now,” murmured Angie. “Then again, I really don’t want to find out.”
Robin tried to open the window but failed. “Looks painted shut.”
“Wait. I’ve got an idea.” At this, Robin began to look around. Spotting what he wanted, he reached down to pick up a paint can, rusted, with the label long-gone. He carefully positioned himself to the side of the window. Then he looked at Angie. “Step back.”
Grasping the wire handle, he swung the paint can into the glass. The first blow, although monstrous in sound, only opened large cracks in the glass. Robin swung the can even harder, then again, and again. Soon, big chunks of glass were breaking free.
From elsewhere in the building, a muffled howling could be heard.
“I think it knows where we are!”
“I think you’re right,” said Robin, giving the window one more strike. Finally, an opening appeared, one large enough for a human being, albeit surrounded by jagged pieces of broken glass. “We need to move. Now!”
From the interior of the hospital, more sounds were becoming audible. Like scuttling, but louder.
Angie was sweating, but began to make her way through the broken glass of the window.
“Come on,” Robin urged, “you can do it.”
Sounds from the hallway grew in volume as well as clarity. Then came a howl, much louder and closer than before.
More than a few shards cut into Angie as she moved shakily through the broken glass. At each cut, she winced. Once, she even cried out. But she did not stop. Soon, her foot was the last body part to exit through the window and make it onto the branch of the tree outside. She scrambled over to allow room for Robin.
Robin started through, ignoring the sounds of the Creeper closing in.
Nova Scotia – Thornkirk Ferry – Same Time
Rowena took a seat on the bench outside the ferry building. Willow sat beside her, slipping an arm through hers and then entwining their gloved hands.
Mr. Allister came from the car, carrying their luggage. He set it on the sidewalk beside his daughter, then quietly sat on the bench beside her.
“You should let her redesign your apartment.” The words seemed to come out of nowhere. “Your mother, I mean.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Rowena breathed, sounding very tired.
“She really wanted to stay in college, you know,” he replied, almost conversationally. Oblivious to the stare Willow aimed at him, he continued. “But the scholarship to keep going ran out. She had so many plans.” He sighed. “I let her make every single decision about the wedding. That suit I wore looked stupid. And I didn’t even know the priest back then. But it made her feel better.” He paused again. “Just let her redesign your apartment. Or buy all your clothes. Both would be good.”
Willow shot a look at Rowena, who was looking at her father with great tenderness. “Thanks, Da.”
“Do wonders. I’m telling you.”
“I’ll think about it,” she told him. “After she’s had a chance to calm down, though…Okay, after we’ve both had a chance to calm down,” she admitted.
He leaned over to look at Willow. “She’s her mother’s daughter. You ready for that temper?”
“I can handle it,” Willow said with a bashful grin.
“You better be,” he said, shaking his finger. “Of course, the up side to that temper is her passionate side when it comes to what she loves.” He turned back to Rowena. “And your Mom does love you, Blanche. She just wants what’s best for you.”
“Willow is what’s best for me,” Rowena answered.
Mr. Allister looked at the two women and their locked hands.
“I see that…Just give her time, and she will too. She should be okay by Easter. Well, then again, that depends. Does Easter fall early this year?” A ghost of a smile played across his lips, and Rowena slapped his leg, making him give her a slight grin.
“And what if she’s not?” Rowena asked.
Her father shrugged. “Live your own life,” he said, turning serious again. “Truth is, Grandpa Morris didn’t much care for me, but your Mom did. That was all that mattered. After thirty plus years, it’s still all that matters.” The big-chested man then shifted to look Willow right in the eyes. “So, you’re my son-in-law? Or something like that? Is there a word I should use?”
“Uh…” Willow considered. “Partner is good.”
Mr. Allister nodded again. “Makes sense.”
And with those two words, he fell silent and sat back to wait for the ferry.
Rowena leaned against Willow.
Barlow College – Old Hospital – Upper Level Room – Same Time
Robin was halfway through the broken window when the snarling grew much louder. He turned to see the Creeper burst into the room. Robin braced himself. As the Creeper ran towards the window, Robin lashed out with one foot and managed to kick the creature in the side of his cage. The blow delayed its movements long enough for Robin to scurry out of the window and onto the branch.
Outside, Robin moved as fast as he could through the branches of the tree. “Head down!” he called out, noting that Angie was halfway to the tree base by now. He also looked behind him.
The Creeper was tearing the glass shards from the broken window with a furious abandon. Its snarls and howls were enraged.
Wasting no time, Robin climbed down. “Angie,” he called out. “Angie?”
She was frozen, balanced trickily upon a limb a couple of yards from the ground. Worse, she was staring up at the twisted figure of the Creeper as it scrambled into the tree branches.
Moving with more-than-human speed, the Creeper began to climb down. Like a lizard, it grasped the sides and toeholds of the tree as it headed towards her.
Robin yelled. “Hey! You! Ugly!”
The Creeper continued to scuttle towards Angie. She made a sound almost like a whimper.
Robin reached into his pocket and took out his keys. He threw them hard at the Creeper. They hit the cage around its head, making a jangling sound and succeeding in distracting the creature. Its baleful eyes now focused on Robin. Its mouth hissed. And it moved away from Angie, towards Robin.
Not willing to simply wait, Robin moved so that branches were in between him and the Creeper. The creature reacted to this with frustrated howls.
“Angie! Go down! Go down now, while you can!”
Shaking in fear, Angie managed to make her limbs act. She began to lower herself to the ground.
The Creeper, meanwhile, circled Robin’s position in the tree. It made a gurgling, hungry sound that had never come out of any natural beast. Robin continued to move as quickly as he could around the branches. He swung from a y-shaped tree limb to another, barely in time. The Creeper sniffed the branches Robin had vacated, seemingly attracted to the drops of blood from the nicks given by the broken window. At one point, it licked the bark and made a sound that was almost a giggle.
Finally, Angie reached the ground. She took several steps from the tree, then looked up to watch the weird chase above, with both horror and fascination.
By now, the Creeper was gaining ground. Robin was losing some of his speed, just when he needed every bit of it. The Creeper seemed to realize this on some level. It smiled in a hideous way, again making the almost-giggle sound.
Angie was so engrossed that she didn’t hear the car pull up or notice the two young women run to either side of her. When she did notice, she saw the brunette to her left throw something into the tree.
Angie grimaced when she saw the hatchet embed itself in the Creeper’s back. Screaming, it fell from the tree to the ground, a distance of at least twenty feet. Despite this, the Creeper still got up, unsteadily perhaps, but definitely up. With its eyes blazing, it looked directly at Angie and at those on either side of her. Then, it ran towards them. Angie gasped and started to back up, falling over her own feet in the process.
From Angie’s right, Vi ran forward. She met the Creeper with a running kick to its chest that sent it stumbling backwards. Vi then rolled down to the ground, and from that position used a scissor-cut to knock the Creeper down. It toppled with a snarling gasp. Vi swung herself back upright in one smooth move, then drove the short sword in her hand deeply into the chest of the Creeper, all the way through and into the ground.
The Creeper writhed, snarling. Then, it shuddered. Finally, it fell quiet and evaporated into a greenish mist.
Vi did a take. She looked at Robin, who was now approaching from the base of the tree. In a conversational tone, she said, “Wow. He went poof like a vamp.”
“I noticed,” Robin said, trying to catch his breath.
“Makes clean-up a snap.”
“Agreed,” Robin said. “Most of the time you’ve got this big weird carcass to dispose of.”
“Except with vampires,” Faith said as she moved away, towards Angie.
“Yeah, but then you’ve got all that dust,” Robin retorted.
Vi nodded, conceding the point. She then turned to Angie, who was staring at her. Faith was helping her stand, but her eyes were on Vi. “You okay, Angie?” Vi asked her sister.
“I…I think…I’d like to go home now,” was her twin’s reply. “Okay?”
“Sure.” Vi nodded.
“So,” said Faith suddenly. “You’re Vi’s twin sister?”
“The one who was flirting with my boyfriend?” Faith said this as ominously as she could, with a heavy tone and crossed arms. She looked very dangerous. “Believe me when I say, I’m scarier and harder to kill than that thing,” she said, pointing to the place the creature had vaporized.
Watchers Council – Next Day
A cab pulled up outside the Council entrance and Willow and Rowena disembarked, dragging their luggage with them. Rowena paid the fare, but looked surprised when a familiar-looking young redhead called out from the front door.
“Taxi! Can you take me to the airport?” The girl looked like Vi.
The driver looked up and nodded.
Willow, meanwhile, blinked. “Vi? You’re going somewhere?”
The girl looked at Willow as she dragged her bag towards the waiting vehicle. “No, and yes,” the girl answered. “No, I’m not Vi. But yes, I’m going home.” Without another word, she tossed her bag into the taxi, got in, and slammed the door. Within seconds, the taxi screeched away.
Willow and Rowena looked at each other and shrugged.
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Later
Rowena and Willow sat across from Jeff and Andrew. Elsewhere at the table were Giles and Becca, Dawn and Skye, Kennedy and Mia, Faith and Robin. Four other couples, each engaged in their own conversations.
“We were just wondering,” Jeff was saying to Willow, “if either of you were making any kinds of investments lately. You know, like juggling your funds?” He said this with an odd emphasis that made Willow blink.
“I think I avoided buying a boat. Maybe,” she offered.
Jeff and Andrew looked at each other, as if considering whether this might qualify for whatever-it-was they were thinking about regarding the recent Tarot card reading.
“Why?” asked Rowena.
Rather than answer directly, Andrew gave her an inquisitive glance. “Did you encounter any swords on your trip? Or some kind of cup? Maybe a wooden staff or wand?”
Rowena stared back at them. Then, a sound came from her pocket. “Excuse me,” she said as she took out her cell phone. “Hello?
Nova Scotia – Joseph Allister‘s Home – Dining Room – Same Time
Joseph Allister grinned at hearing his sister’s voice. “Hey Blanche!”
From hundreds of miles away, Rowena’s voice answered, “Hey yourself.” She had a very neutral tone to her voice.
“I…uh…I missed the fireworks. Don’t know exactly what happened either ’cause nobody’s giving too many details.”
“I’d really rather not go into that now…” Rowena sounded weary.
“No! I’m not asking about that! I just wanted to know…well, to ask…” He faltered.
“What?” she asked with a touch of dread in her voice.
“This girl. Willow. She treat you right? Because anyone with my sister needs to treat her right.”
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Same
Rowena, cell phone in hand, looked at Willow, who was grinning and trying to answer another mysterious question from Jeff and Andrew – something about spilled cups and knights. When Rowena spoke into the phone, her voice was soft, and a grin played on her lips.
“Yes. She does.”
Fade to Black
End of In the Dark
Next on Watchers…
A new kind of vampire arrives in Cleveland, and to fight it Kennedy is going to have to become more than just a slayer.
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