Originally broadcasted 10/10/06
Watchers Council – Press Room – Day
“…the Council’s website,” said Robin, reading from a text as he stood at the podium. Behind him was a simple blue curtain. In front of him, on the podium itself, was the elaborate arms of the Watchers Council. “I cannot make this point forcefully enough,” he continued, “that many of the species that are generically known as demons are in fact harmless. Most of them have radically non-human appearances, but over half of them are no more a threat to their neighbors than the average immigrant or minority. If you have any questions at all, please either contact the Council or visit the Council’s website.” He paused, looking out over the room. It was filled to capacity, including at least ten camera crews.
“Questions. Yes, you.” He pointed.
“Is the Council specifically denying the beliefs of several major religions? That demons are in fact by definition evil?”
Every reporter in the room, several dozen at least, watched and listened.
He cleared his throat. “No, we are taking no sides as per anyone’s religion. Our position is that the word ‘demon’ has more than one meaning and has been used to describe some species somewhat loosely. Some of these species are very dangerous indeed. Others are only dangerous under certain circumstances. Still others are no more dangerous than anyone in this room.”
The next reporter pointed at rose. “Is it true that some of the Council’s highest ranking members are, as some public figures have suggested, genuine Satanists?”
“Absolutely not. Satanism is the deliberate worship of evil. While not as rare as any of us would like, it is far from common –”
Mr. Felix’s Office – Later that Day
“No member of the Council,” the figure of Robin Wood on the monitor was saying, “is in any sense a Satanist. Not one.”
A middle-aged man watched the screen. He did not even react as a woman knocked, then entered his office, file folder in hand.
“Mr. Felix? You asked for…”
She stopped as he put up one finger, eyes still on the monitor.
“…official Council position on the legal status of these demon species you speak of? Vampires, for example. Are these people? If not, why not? If yes, aren’t you in fact committing mass murder?” The reporter paused, waiting for an answer.
“We managed to plant that question,” Mr. Felix murmured.
“Legal questions of this sort are best handled by legislatures and the courts,” said Robin. “We act only in terms of self-defense or defending others from death or severe bodily harm, which makes our actions legal under any circumstances. As for vampires, legally the persons that these beings once were are already deceased in the eyes of the law. We are not killing individuals, but rather un-animating their corpses to prevent them from harming the living.”
Felix reached to click something with his mouse. The image on the monitor froze. “Nice evasion, that,” he said, nodding at the screen. “Sounds good, but doesn’t address the real question at all.” He sighed and looked at the woman with the file. “What do you have for me?”
“A report from New York. It seems that mundane criminal organizations have begun a disturbing pattern – hiring demonic muscle.”
He nodded, taking the folder from her hand. “Quite a few of the – what was it the government called them? Hostile some-things?”
“H.S.T.s, sir. Hostile Sub-Terrestrials.”
“Ah. Well, they’d probably make really good muscle. Or hit men. And unfortunately, that is likely to give some of them ideas.” His eyes skimmed over the pages of the report. “I’m sure law enforcement will be anything but pleased once some Mafia Godfathers begin to sport fangs.”
“I imagine not, sir.”
Abandoned Store – Night
New York City
The wallpaper, what remained of it, broke up the dull gray of the concrete walls with splashes of almost-red. Dust obscured the effect, but it remained just noticeable to the naked eye. Four bare light bulbs illuminated the room, making not only the walls, but also the boarded-up windows, perfectly visible.
Visible also were four hulking figures with sloped foreheads and feral, yellow eyes. All wore clothes halfway between rags and gang colors. The leader, a slim black man wearing a cap, flashed his fangs and grinned at a teenage girl who was tied to a chair in the far end of the store. Not only was she breathing hard, but sweat poured off her face like a fountain.
“Don’t you go worrying, girl,” the leader crooned. “Mommy and Daddy are smart, and they want you back. They’ll cough up the dollars to get you back.”
“Are…” she began, her voice catching. She tried again. “Are…are you going to give me back?”
The largest of the vampires chortled. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “Maybe a little different, if you know what I mean!”
Two of the other vampires laughed, while the girl paled. But the leader raised his hand. “Hell, no!” he told his minions. “Blood we can get anytime! Money, real money, is what we get for giving the girl back without a scratch. That way, our next customers know to do the same.”
“But boss,” the largest vampire began.
“I said no! Plenty of juicebags out there! Juicebags that don’t have rich mommies and daddies!”
One of the other vampires, a scrawny one wearing a baseball cap backwards, opened his mouth to protest, then stopped. All four undead simply cocked their heads, as if hearing something.
“What the –?” began the largest of them. He never got a chance to finish.
An automobile crashed through the boarded-up window going at least sixty miles per hour. Wood, glass and pieces of plaster flew in every direction as the machine came to a sputtering halt, the front end obviously ruined now. Fender, headlights, one of the two front wheels – all were obviously damaged beyond easy repair. But before even the echo of the crash began to fade, a female form jumped out of the driver’s seat and reached the fourth vampire.
She was slender and dark. She also moved nearly too fast for words. In each hand, oriental-style sais rose up, her arms forming an “X” before crossing them in one swift move. The blades sliced through the air. More importantly, they sliced through the vampire’s neck.
He became dust, barely able to register the attack.
Next, she spun around and met the baseball bat wielded by the largest of the three remaining, her face hidden in the shadows. He swung it with inhuman strength, easily enough to break or even shatter bone. She caught the baseball bat with both her blades and pushed back, causing him to stumble.
She moved into a spinning kick, hitting him square in the chest.
He was propelled back directly into a broken beam from where the car had plowed through the storefront. It wasn’t a pretty weapon, nothing more than a large splintered piece of rotten wood. But when it entered the vampire’s heart, it was fatal. Another man-shaped cloud of dust dissipated.
The next vampire to attack took out a pair of bowie knives from either side of his belt. Grinning, he snarled as he approached her. Her blades and his began to dance, the sound of metal hitting metal echoing in the small space. Actual sparks flew as each increased the power of their blows. This vampire continued grinning during the fight.
“You’d think,” he said, amid cuts and parries and feints, “a slayer’d know better than to take one of us on with metal!” He almost laughed as he said it.
Maybe that bravura was what gave her the chance. Certainly, right after he’d mocked her with those words, she pierced his defenses and drove both her blades right into his heart, then out again.
His grin faded. He looked puzzled.
She grinned and held up her blades. “Blessed,” was all she said.
“Oh.” He went poof without more ado.
The young woman turned now in the direction of the tied-up girl. Said girl was missing.
“Over here, slayer,” said the leader of the vampires. He was at the exit in the back of the store. The exit sign was dark, but still readable. The girl was in his arms, her throat exposed as he grabbed her hair and shoulder. “Good play,” said the leader. “But hey, minions. That’s what they’re for, right? You gotta get through them first, giving me the chance to grab the hostage.”
“Quit monologue-ing,” the young woman replied. She seemed to relax, just watching the vampire and hostage inch towards the door.
“Just don’t do anything stupid and –” he began.
He never finished his sentence. Lightning fast, the young woman threw her dagger with pinpoint accuracy. It impaled him directly between the eyes – eyes that had just enough time to cross before they turned to dust, along with the rest of him.
The girl waited a few moments as the fact of her total rescue made its way to her entire brain. Eyes huge, she tried to look at her rescuer through the shadows. She then looked around at the room, empty now save for the two of them. Then she shuddered.
“Ew! His…whatever it is…it’s all over me!” She wiped the dust from her clothes as if she’d been infected with cooties.
“Just for the record,” said the rescuer, “you are Florence Wiggins, right? Otherwise, I’m gonna have to go through all this again.”
New York – Wiggins’ Home – Foyer – Later
The second the former hostage entered the foyer of her father’s brownstone mansion, she called out, “Daddeeeee!”
A middle-aged man in a gray suit appeared from the other end of the main hallway. “Princess?”
The two ran to each other, and the father kneeled as they exchanged a huge hug. Florence’s rescuer stepped inside and watched the scene. She just leaned against the wall and waited. She seemed to take in every single detail of the father-daughter embrace, although her face couldn’t be seen.
“It was horrible, Daddy! They were all so low, so common! And they were betting on who would get to bite me and drain all my blood! I think they wanted to make me a vampire too! And they were dirty!”
Father and daughter looked back to the young woman reclining against the wall.
“I’m really glad for the family reunion and everything,” she said. “Really. But, there’s the little matter of my fee?”
Mr. Wiggins gave a relieved chuckle. “I’d say you’ve earned every nickel, Miss Lehane.” He looked back at his daughter. “Princess? Do you want anything? Anything at all?”
She nodded. “A shower. A long, long, really long hot shower.”
“Well, you go ahead. Daddy’s got some business to attend to.”
The girl smiled, kissed her father on the cheek, then headed to the main staircase. She stopped long enough to give a long gaze at the young woman who rescued her. “You’re not…gay, are you?” she asked suddenly. “I saw on the news that a lot of slayers are gay. You’re not going to want to take me to dinner or something?”
“Straight as an arrow,” came the reply.
“Oh.” She sounded just a little disappointed. “Well, good.” Then she went upstairs.
“This way, Miss Lehane,” the father gestured to a door. “You did say a personal check would be okay?”
“Five by five.”
New York – Wiggins’ Home – Study – Moments Later
Mr. Wiggins led the way into the study, heading straight to his desk. The checkbook was already out, and he began to write in it using the desk’s fountain pen.
“You know,” he said to the young woman who stood in the doorway, face unseen. “I would have paid any amount to save my little girl.”
“I’m not greedy,” was her answer. “Just gotta live is all.”
“Well, you’d’ve been a bargain at a hundred times this price.” He signed the check with a flourish. “And I’ll be sure to let everyone I know of that fact.”
She took the check and folded it, slipping it into her pocket. “Thanks.”
A gentle knock on the door interrupted anything either one of them would have said next. The door opened, and a Black gentleman with a white beard, wearing a tuxedo, stepped inside the office from a side entrance. “Mr. Wiggins, sir?”
“Two individuals are here, claiming to be representatives of the Watchers Council.”
“Really?” The father smiled. “Show them in!”
“Very good sir,” the butler stepped out.
“I’ll tell you, Miss Lehane,” the father said, “I’m looking forward to telling your Council just what a bang-up job you did here in Staten Island. First rate! Absolutely prime grade A plus work!”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “About that…” Her voice faded off.
“Something the matter?”
“Kinda.” She paused. “The fact is, I’m not exactly with the Council.”
“More like…not at all, not really.”
He took this in for a moment. “So you’re more a freelance slayer now, is that right?”
“That’s a good explanation.”
“Well,” he said after a moment, “I’m still going to sing your praises. Do them good to have some old-fashioned competition!”
The butler reappeared at that moment. He had the faintest of puzzled looks on his face, but when he spoke, it was as smooth and as calm as his profession excelled in.
“From the Watchers Council, sir. Mr. Jeff Lindquist and Miss Faith…” He paused ever so slightly. “…Lehane.”
Jeff and Faith entered the room. The latter, the second she crossed the threshold, did a take.
“What the hell?” Faith said.
Jeff looked at Faith and at the other young woman in the room. Mr. Wiggins did likewise. Both, of course, were slender, with dark hair. They were approximately the same height and build, as well.
“You know each other, I take it?” Wiggins said finally.
“That is Faith,” said the first young woman.
“And,” said Jeff politely, “you are?”
“That,” said Faith, “is Hope. My sister.”
For a moment, no one said anything else. Then, both Jeff and Wiggins said, “Oh,” quietly and simultaneously.
End of Teaser