Deerfield – Outside Small Cabin – Night
Two black Council vans rolled to a stop at the end of a long, winding dirt driveway. Nearby, surrounded by dozens of tall, leafless birch trees, stood the cabin. It was a small, ugly, square building, with a couple of satellite-dishes jury-rigged to the roof. The front window was lit from the inside.
Lead Council Van – Same Time
Kennedy pulled her head down from the window and tightened her grip on her rifle. “She’s got a light on. She’s still here.” Kennedy cracked a grin at the other girls in her van. “Okay, we’re doing this quick and clean. Take your shot if you have to, but I want her alive. I know you’ve got your gloves, but…don’t touch anything if you don’t have to.”
She touched a button on her headset to open a channel. “Ready, Amira?”
The heavily accented voice of the Black Ops Leader crackled over the speaker. “We are ready.”
“Meet you inside,” Kennedy said. “Okay, one, two, three…”
Outside Small Cabin – Continuous
The back doors of both vans burst open, and slayers spilled out. While Amira led her team around the back of the cabin, Kennedy led a group of four Black Ops Slayers to the front door. Hearing a noise from the other side, Kennedy held up a hand for quiet.
“What is it?” whispered one of the girls.
Kennedy pressed an ear to the rough wood and listened for half a second. “Crazy bitch is talking to herself.”
Front Room of Cabin – Moments Later
Kennedy kicked the door open easily and entered the cabin gun-first, followed closely by the other girls.
“Watchers Council!” she yelled. “Put your hands up.”
But the front room of the cabin was empty, and a little too clean. A lone lamp shone with a feeble yellow light on a nearby end table. From somewhere, the muffled sounds of a female voice could still be heard.
At the sound of Amira’s team slamming through the cabin’s back door, Kennedy motioned for her team to follow her into the back room of the cabin.
Back Room of Cabin – Moments Later
The door from the front room flew open and hit the wall behind it with a crash, revealing Kennedy in the doorway. Her eyes widened at what was in front of her.
“And so you see, things are not as simple as they might appear.” It was Heli’s voice.
Very slowly, Kennedy lowered her weapon and stepped forward into the room. In sharp contrast to the first room, the walls were completely lined with shelves, and those shelves were completely covered with a wide array of electronic equipment, various and sundry glass jars that might have held magic supplies and a few fearsome-looking weapons. In the center of the floor, someone had piled the utterly destroyed remains of what might have once been two or three computers. Amira’s group was clustered in the far corner.
Kennedy pushed through the slayers. “Out of my way,” she ordered.
When she reached the front of the group, she found a small television set sitting on one of the shelves.
Heli smirked at her from the screen.
“She knew of our coming,” Amira said quietly.
“No, really?” Kennedy grated. She turned her back on the television. “Leave the stuff. We’ll get a hazmat team out –”
Slowly, Kennedy turned around.
“By now you have probably figured out that this wasn’t a trap,” Heli said from the television. “The information you received about my location was correct. Unfortunately, it took the Council several hours to act on that information, meaning I am very likely no longer within the borders of the United States.”
Kennedy flexed and unflexed a gloved hand.
“Before I left, however, I wanted to do you a favor. I have already sent this tape to all of the major news outlets, and I think you’ll find it online as well. I figured it was only fair to give the Watchers Council a…you would say…’head’s up,’ I think.”
Heli leaned towards the camera, and one might have been able to observe a slight hitch in Kennedy’s breathing.
“You want to know why I did it?” Heli asked. “Rewind the tape.”
Bureau Nine – Felix’s Office – Night
James Tyrell’s eyes blazed. His lips, stiff with tension, barely moved as he spoke. “You helped them? You gave them valuable information?”
Felix had a copy of Time magazine on his desk. From the cover, Vi’s picture seemed to smile at him. The headline “America’s Newest Martyr” was a banner filling up one corner of the page.
“Mr. Tyrell,” he said mildly, “there are those to whom I must answer. You are not one of them. Quite the opposite, as evidently, I must keep reminding you.”
“And what do your superiors think of this…this…folly?”
Now Felix stopped looking into the eyes on the magazine cover, lifting his head to look at Tyrell. His gaze sharpened, more than a match for the older man’s glower.
“Unlike you, they bear no grudge against the Council or its members. Their judgment is unimpaired by a lust for vengeance against those who have, after all, saved the world many times over. They – and I – are inclined to feel some measure of gratitude, in fact.”
At this, Tyrell almost growled. He looked very nearly prepared to spit. But he did not. Instead, he said, in clipped tones, “We shall see. Events will eventually show precisely what kind of people lead this so-called Council.”
“Speaking of events, Tyrell – your son.”
“What of him?”
“I’ve received complaints.”
“From whom?” He pulled himself up, if anything, even straighter.
“His security clearance is hereby lowered to the minimum level.”
“You should also be informed, your son is now under surveillance. The complaints I’ve had are extremely worrisome. They hint at tendencies that will not be tolerated in this organization. Do I make myself clear?” After several moments of silence, he repeated himself. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Very much so.”
“Good.” Felix looked again at the Time cover, his eyes meeting those of the slayer there. He didn’t even blink as Tyrell slammed the door behind him on his way out.
Ronda – Ortiz Residence – Late Afternoon
Willow watched the front door close before pulling out her phone. Heading towards the van, she hopped in the passenger seat and dialed. Staring at the house through the windshield, she waited.
“Willow? That was fast. I didn’t expect to hear from you until…”
“Buffy, I think it’s Isabel.” The words came out louder than she intended.
There was a moment of silence before Buffy replied, “What did you find?”
“Well, nothing tangible yet,” the redhead admitted. “Just a feeling. We got to Isabel’s house and…and there is this energy flowing off of her in waves. It’s draining. I’m in the car now, and I can still feel it.” She paused. “Buffy, I’ve been around deactivated slayers before, but this was different. It was like…Goddess, I don’t even know how to describe it. The energy, it felt wrong somehow.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Magic,” Willow replied immediately. “It’s definitely magic. What kind? I don’t know yet, but whatever it is, it is very dangerous. Isabel is dangerous.”
“Is Faith with you?”
“No, I made her stay at the hotel,” Willow replied.
Buffy snorted through the phone. “You made Faith stay at the hotel? How’d you swing that?”
“Easy, I threatened to teleport her back to America if she tried to sneak out.” Willow suppressed a smile. “Kind of an empty threat, but hopefully enough to keep her out of trouble. I think she’s probably safe, as long as she stays in the city. I didn’t feel anything from Isabel until I was standing at her doorstep.”
“Okay, so what do you want to do?”
“Well, first I’m going to talk with her. Anything she can remember about when she lost her powers could be helpful in identifying what we’re dealing with.”
“Be careful, Will. If she‘s as dangerous as you say, it’s also possible that she’s directly involved.” Buffy paused. “Is there anything magically that you can do from there?”
“Well, I can try and pinpoint the type of magic, but it’ll take some time, and I’ll need help. Can you send Jeff?”
“Well, with you and Robin both in Europe, we’re kind of out of jets at the moment.” Buffy was quiet for a moment. “I’ll have to make some calls, but I can probably get him out there by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Thanks, Buffy. Make sure you tell him everything that I told you. He’ll know what to bring.” Willow continued to stare at the house. “Until we know more, we can’t let her leave this town.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed quietly, as if she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about that. “Okay, let me set this up. I’ll call you when he’s in the air. Keep me posted.”
Willow shut the phone as the line went dead. Drawing in a deep breath, she exited the vehicle and headed back towards the house.
Ronda – El Tajo – Cliff’s Edge – Same Time
The sun was now beginning to make its descent on the horizon, giving the landscape an ethereal pink glow. From their place at the edge of the cliff, Faith and Gabrielle stood motionless, surveying the gorge. Both seemed lost in thought.
After nearly a minute of silence, Gabrielle shifted to face Faith. “You know, this might work better if you actually say something.”
Faith didn’t reply right away, her gaze still far off in the distance. “It’s funny,” she finally said. “Over the last six months I’ve had this running dialogue going through my head of all the conversations I’ve wanted to have with you.” She laughed. “Like one day you would just pop up during breakfast, and you’d…I don’t know…steal my cornflakes and tell me to unite humanity. Pretty stupid, I know.” Pausing for a moment, she looked thoughtful. “I probably came up with a couple hundred questions to ask you…”
“…and now I can’t remember any of them.” Faith still looked straight ahead, unable to meet the archangel’s eye.
Gabrielle smiled. “Why don’t I get us started then?” She paused for a second, allowing Faith to respond, but when the slayer remained quiet, she asked, “How are you?”
“I’ve been better,” Faith answered. She crossed her arms over her chest, her posture visibly tense. “Lately, everything’s been…I keep having these dreams.” Her eyes drifted downward, and she took a step back from the edge. She pulled her arms tightly against her chest. “No matter where they start out, they always end the same way. It’s dark and there’s…nothing.” For the first time, Faith turned to face Gabrielle. “W-W-What happened to me, after I died?”
“Your friends found you and brought you back to the Council,” Gabrielle responded, with a slight smile.
“That’s not what I meant,” Faith clarified.
“You want to know why you can’t remember.” The archangel’s eyes dropped sadly, and Faith nodded. Gabrielle took a moment before she answered. “Because I didn’t want you to remember. Not after what you’d sacrificed.”
Faith could only stare as the meaning behind the words hit her.
“I was in Hell,” she finally stated.
Ronda – Ortiz Residence – Same Time
“Isabel, I’m sorry to have to put you through this again,” Willow said sympathetically. She sat in a comfortable-looking wooden rocking chair, while Tomás hovered behind her, not willing to sit down. Across from Willow, Isabel sat perched on the very edge of an old moth-eaten sofa. She looked incredibly nervous and uncomfortable as the witch continued. “I know you’ve been through a lot, and Mr. Vargas has probably already asked you most of these questions, but they’ll help me figure out what happened to you.”
Willow glanced back to where Tomás stood, as if looking for a reassuring nod. The older man simply stood, stone-faced, as he stared at Isabel. Quickly, Willow regrouped and faced the younger girl again. “Okay, can you tell me everything you remember about the night Elisa returned?”
Isabel tensed her posture. her eyes darting to where Tomás stood. She quickly shrunk under his glare, looking very much like a petulant child.
Spotting the wordless exchange, Willow spoke. “Tomás, do you think you could wait for me outside?”
He didn’t respond right away.
“Tomás, please.” Her voice was much harder this time.
Grudgingly, he nodded and headed for the exit. Once the door had closed fully behind him, Willow repeated her question. “Isabel, please, whatever you can remember about that night might help.”
Sitting up a little straighter, she managed to look Willow directly in the eye. “Elisa never told me she was coming back. I didn’t find out until I saw her outside my church. My grandmother and I go to mass most evenings, since I was little.”
“Did she say anything to you?”
Isabel nodded. “She found me afterward and asked to talk to me. I thought she’d be mad, but she wasn’t. She just wanted to talk. So I asked Father Manuel to drive my grandmother home, and Elisa and I stayed at the church.”
“How long did you stay there?”
“Not long,” Isabel replied quietly. “The sun was starting to set, and my grandmother doesn’t like it when I’m out after dark. I told her I had to leave.”
“Was that the last night you saw her?” Willow asked.
Isabel’s eyes dropped slightly and she bobbed her head in agreement. Once again, she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
Willow watched the girl for a moment. “Did you notice if Elisa was feeling okay? Did she ever complain about being tired, or sick, maybe?”
Without looking up, Isabel shook her head in the negative.
“What about you?” Willow continued. “Did you feel anything unusual? Maybe even some magic, like the disorientation of a spell?”
The slayer repeated her previous action, apparently unable to make eye contact.
For a moment, Willow just observed her, as if she were trying to piece together a challenging puzzle that needed to be solved. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when an old wooden door creaked open behind her.
Both Willow and Isabel looked over to find an elderly woman standing in an open door frame near the small kitchen. The woman spoke quickly in a thick Spanish dialect, her eyes darting from Isabel to Willow and back again. Immediately, the young slayer rose from the couch and moved to meet the older women, speaking just quickly. From her seat in the den, Willow watched the exchange curiously, frowning slightly when the woman shot her a disdainful look.
Before the scene became too uncomfortable, Isabel gently ushered the woman back into the unseen room, her tone soft and apologetic. Once the door was shut, she sighed softly and turned back to face Willow.
“I’m sorry. My grandmother isn’t used to visitors.”
Willow stood up, shaking her head sympathetically. “It’s fine. I-I-I just have one more question. When did you first notice that your powers were missing?”
For the briefest of seconds, Isabel flinched. Looking up slowly, she managed to meet Willow’s eyes, though her head was still low and her posture very tense.
“I first noticed when I woke up in the hospital.”
“Okay,” Willow replied dejectedly. “Thanks.” Without another word, Willow headed for the door.
Ronda – El Tajo – Cliff’s Edge – Later
Faith’s expression was blank. She sat at the edge of the bluff, her knees pulled up against her chest. Behind her, Gabrielle passed back and forth, her steps so faint, they did not even churn the gravel.
“Faith, do you remember the question you asked me right before you died?” the archangel asked, causing the slayer to stir.
“Yeah,” Faith replied, as she shifted a handful of stones with her fingertips. “I asked if you thought I’d make a good archangel.” She paused. “But you already answered that.”
“Did I?” Gabrielle challenged.
Faith pivoted around to face her. “Yeah, you said yes.” When Gabrielle didn’t reply, the brunette prodded further. “Didn’t you?”
“I said, ‘you still might’,” Gabrielle answered as she continued to pace.
Faith watched the redhead for a moment, considering her words. “Okay, so you dangled the carrot. But why?”
Gabrielle stopped, a pained expression on her face. “Because I couldn’t bear to tell you the truth.” She paused, struggling to meet the brunette’s eyes. “Faith, for some crimes, there can be no second chance.”
“Why are you telling me this? Why here? Why now?”
The archangel considered her response. She took a seat a few feet to Faith’s left and began to speak.
“The Battle was supposed to be humanity’s fight. It was scripted, Faith. All of it. Your role. Mine. Every birth, death and fender bender leading up…everything was planned eons before either one of us was born. Humanity’s time to stand together. Its first test.” She paused, taking a deep breath. Her voice dropped considerably. “My part was simple. I was to be the messenger and nothing more. I was supposed to stay away, but…when Wagner started breaking the rules, I couldn’t turn my back. I-I-I broke a few of my own.”
“Kennedy said you fought alongside her,” Faith added, looking to Gabrielle for validation.
The archangel nodded. “I did. But that’s not all.”
A wave of understanding flooded across Faith’s face. “Me,” she stated.
Gabrielle didn’t look at her. “I was never allowed to bring you back, Faith.” She dropped her head a little. “I did it because I thought you deserved a second chance. Even if He didn’t.”
Faith didn’t reply, and for a while neither of them spoke, both content to stare out over the gorge as the sun finally disappeared on the horizon.
“Faith, you need to know that my actions have had consequences. There can be no gain without loss. You came here because one slayer is dead and another is powerless. That is my fault. I traded your life for theirs. But it won’t stop there.” She paused, glancing over at Faith. The brunette’s eyes were filled with guilt and pain. Delicately, Gabrielle went on. “There are more that you don’t know about. Some are already dead.” She stood behind Faith, speaking directly into the slayer’s ear. “It will continue until there are no slayers left, unless the imbalance is corrected.”
“How?” Faith managed to ask.
The archangel’s eyes fell upon the canyon. “I’m sorry, Faith, but for the second time, I have to ask you to give up your life.”
The slayer’s features were filled with confusion as she followed the redhead’s gaze. “What?”
Gabrielle’s lips barely moved as she spoke in a low, but commanding tone. “Jump.”
“That’s suicide,” Faith replied, utterly bewildered.
“No more than it was to order your slayers to safety while you fought ten demons at once.” Gabrielle’s tone was both challenging and comforting. “I’m sorry, Faith, but there is no other way.”
“I…No,” Faith said, shooting to her feet. She took an unconscious step away from the ledge. “No, you can’t ask me that. Not now.” She was angry now. “You can’t ignore me for six months and then show up and just drop something like that on me.”
“I understand that you’re upset.” Gabrielle’s voice and posture defined caution. She stood up and turned to face Faith. “This is not what you came here to hear.” Faith’s scoff could be heard clearly through the dark night air. The archangel went on, unfazed. “But none of that matters now.”
“It does to me,” Faith began to pace nervously, kicking gravel audibly. Moving her hand into her pocket, she reached for her cell phone.
“Yes!” Gabrielle nearly yelled, startling Faith.
“What?” Faith asked, now completely off-balance.
“The answer to your question is yes,” Gabrielle replied, a sweet smile spreading across her face. “Yes. I think you will make a good archangel.”
“I-I-I…” Faith couldn’t help but stammer as she lowered her cell phone. “You said ‘will’.”
The archangel took several steps forward, “If you do this, Faith, then you get your wish. You can join us, all your sins forgiven.” Her grin spread wider. “I think it’s more than a fair trade.”
Before Faith could reply, the sound of a generic cell phone ring filled the air.
Ronda – Hotel Montelirio – Same Time
A series of moderately loud bangs sounded through the hotel hallway as Willow knocked on the door of room 42. She held her cell phone to her ear and yelled in a worried tone. “Faith? Are you in there? I need to talk to you!”
When the cell went to voicemail, Willow stopped banging and began to redial. After the second ring, she swore silently under her breath.
Ronda – El Tajo – Cliff’s Edge – Same Time
Faith and Gabrielle both eyed the cell phone that rested in the slayer’s palm. The bright display flashed the name “Willow.”
“She wouldn’t understand,” Gabrielle said sternly.
Quickly, Faith shut off the phone and looked up at the archangel. “I have to go.”
“Faith, we don’t have much time here.”
“Right.” Faith nodded and stepped toward the grassy hill on her way back to the road. When she reached the caution sign, she stopped, faced Gabrielle, and called, “I’ll be back. I promise.”
Without reply, the archangel watched Faith disappear from sight, a soft frown forming on her face.
Ronda – Dirt Road – Moments Later
Faith squinted as she slid over the wooden barrier and back onto the dirt road. The moon had not yet risen, and there was very little visible light. Leaning back against the rail, Faith looked at the cell phone that was still in her right hand. She pondered the device for nearly a minute until something caught her attention.
At first, it was almost inaudible. A faint crunching sound that echoed against the thick rock walls of the mountain. Gradually the amplitude of the noise increased as the source grew closer.
Quickly, Faith pocketed her phone. Then she waited, her senses on high alert. She scanned the darkness that enveloped the road as the noise grew louder, moving in the direction of the town. Slowly, she slid a thin wooden stake from her hip pocket and palmed it in her left hand.
At the first sign of motion, Faith shot off the rail and opened the phone casting a blue-white light, dim but stark in the darkness, over a clearly startled dark-haired young woman. Halting her approach, Faith could only stare wide-eyed. Several seconds of awkwardness passed before Faith finally spoke. “Uh sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s probably because it’s pitch black out here,” the girl shot back in a thick Spanish accent, her expression no longer that of a deer caught in the headlights. She gave Faith a disgruntled look before continuing up the road.
Faith watched her go, her mouth hanging open slightly. Quickly, she willed her feet forward and fell into pace beside the other girl. “Um, this is probably going to sound strange, but you seem really familiar. Do we know each other?”
“I can barely see you, but I doubt it. I mostly avoid the tourists.” The girl bit her lip and sighed. “I’m sorry, that was rude. I live away from the city. I don’t think we’ve met.” She paused, eyeing Faith curiously. “How did you end up down here? It’s not very safe this time of night. Did you get lost?”
“No, I was just sightseeing,” Faith replied. “I guess I lost track of time.”
The girl nodded. “The path can be tricky this time of night. I’ll take you up to The Old City. You can call a cab from there.”
Faith nodded. “Thanks.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Faith.”
“Isabel,” the girl replied as she took Faith’s hand. “It’s good to –”
Neither one of them moved. It was as if some sort of electrical shock had surged between them. They stood like that for almost a minute before Faith released her grip and dropped her hand to her side. Isabel’s hand fell as well, though not as quickly as Faith’s.
“Isabel Ortiz,” Faith said knowingly.
The girl nodded. “I was wrong. I do know who you are.” She quickly made the sign of the cross.
“Don’t!” Faith commanded, stopping her. “Don’t do that.”
“Dios,” Isabel stared helplessly at Faith for a moment, then, without further warning, broke into a sprint. She rushed up the road, churning the gravel violently beneath her feet.
Faith swore under her breath and chased after Isabel. A few seconds later, she caught the younger girl’s arm and pulled her back. “Stop!”
Isabel pulled against Faith’s grasp, but could not free herself. “Let me go. I’ll infect you too.”
“You felt…something. Didn’t you?” Faith demanded.
Isabel stopped struggling, nodding at Faith’s assertion.
“Where were you going before I stopped you?”
“T-To pray,” Isabel replied, fumbling her words a bit. “At the church. My church.”
“Can you take me there?” Faith asked.
Ronda – Hotel Montelirio – Same Time
“Buffy! I’ve, uh, I’ve got a problem,” Willow, still standing in the hotel hallway, said tensely into her cell phone. “Faith’s MIA. She’s not answering her phone.”
Willow could hear the blonde slayer sigh through the phone, “Can you do a locator spell?”
Willow shook her head, even though Buffy couldn’t see her. “No, I don’t have the right supplies. I’d call Althenea, but I don’t think she has anything of Faith’s.” Willow thought for a moment. “Do you think Robin would? He’s not far from Al’s coven.”
“Robin’s on a plane heading to Spain as we speak. Apparently Faith’s screening her calls.” Buffy sighed again. “He’s worried.”
Willow ran her fingers through her hair. “For good reason. You know Faith, if she doesn’t want to be found, she won’t be.”
“You’re the last one who saw her, Will…do you think she’d try to find Isabel?”
“Maybe, I…No. She may be stubborn, but she’s not stupid.” The line went silent for a few seconds. “I’ll go back,” Willow said finally.
“Call me when you find her.”
“Yeah.” Willow closed the phone and moved down the hall.
Ronda, La Ciudad – Side Street – Later
For the most part, the street was dark. A single lamppost stood at the head of the row, casting barely enough light to distinguish the buildings.
Isabel hurried through the street, her hands tucked into her gray sweatshirt. Faith followed closely behind her, casting cautious glances up and down the street.
“Vampires a big problem here?” she asked.
“Yes,” Isabel answered without looking back. “They follow the tourists.”
“How many are there? Rough guess?” Faith asked, her hands gripping tightly around the spike of wood she still carried.
“Many,” the younger girl answered. “They live in El Tajo‘s caves, under the city. A team of us would come here every few months to clean out the city.”
“But not anymore?”
“They don’t have the slayers to spare,” Isabel said, as they reached the front steps of the church. They climbed side by side and stopped at the heavy wooden door.
Faith turned to face Isabel. “I can probably arrange for one of my teams to come out here and help.”
Isabel shook her head. “No. I appreciate it, but as long as I’m here, no other slayer should be.”
“Fair enough,” Faith replied. She reached for the door handle. Pulling it open, she shot Isabel a questioning glance. “It’s not locked?”
Isabel shook her head and moved through the doorway. “Father Manuel says that he will not accept a world where you are not safe in the Lord’s house.”
Faith let Isabel’s words sink in as she watched the younger girl disappear into the church. Giving the street one final sweep, Faith ducked into the church, allowing the door to close behind her.
At the top of the street, a pair of bright headlights appeared, and a dark van pulled onto the street.
With both hands on the wheel, Willow drove down an empty street. Clicking on the high beams, she slowed when the headlights reflected against a massive stained glass window that decorated the face of a large gray building. She watched the building through the driver’s side window as she passed by, but did not stop.
Willow continued until she reached the end of the street, where she turned onto an old dirt road.
Ronda – The Church of The Most Holy Redeemer – Same Time
The church had a gothic feel to it, with a high, arched ceiling. Faith led Isabel up to a long aisle of pews and took a seat a few rows from the back of the church. Isabel hesitated at first, but then made the sign of the cross and slid into the pew behind Faith. She lowered her head a bit and did not look at the older girl.
They sat for a moment in complete silence. Glancing back, Faith finally spoke. “Let’s settle this right now.” She stood up and stepped to the end of the pew. Isabel looked up and watched her. “I don’t feel any different,” Faith continued, flexing the muscles in her arms.
In a blur of dark denim, Faith’s feet left the ground as she executed a flawless back hand-spring, landing on just her right hand. She held the position, balancing all of her body weight on her fingertips. “Okay,” she said, as she lowered her feet back to the ground. “I think it’s safe to say I’m still a slayer.”
Isabel looked both confused and relieved as Faith slid back into her pew. “I don’t understand. It’s me. It has to be me.”
Faith put her hand on Isabel’s shoulder. “Hey, none of this is on you.
I have it on good authority that this was all some big mistake. What happened to Elisa isn’t your fault.”
Isabel shook her head, fighting to maintain her composure. “It is my fault. I could have done something…stayed away so it didn’t happen again.”
Faith froze. “What do you mean again?”
Several tears trailed down Isabel’s cheek. She dropped her gaze to the floor. “Elisa wasn’t the first. It’s why I left. I thought if I came home, no one else would die.” A painful sob escaped from her throat.
Faith removed her hand from Isabel’s shoulder and moved it to the back of her pew. Her expression was intense, as if she was puzzling over something in her head. Eventually, she looked back at the younger girl. “Can you tell me what happened to you? Start at the beginning.”
Isabel nodded and rubbed away her tears. She took a deep breath and began, “It was during the apocalypse. I…we were guarding the hospital.” Her gaze was distant as she lost herself in the memory. “I had a team of four – Ara, Flor, Reah and Maria.” She paused.” The demons…we fought in the street. And then…I fell.” Isabel caught Faith’s eye. “My strength was gone. I could barely lift my sword. I felt…different. I still do. Not like a slayer. But not human either.” Isabel stopped.
“What happened next?” Faith prodded in an even tone.
“Reah came to me,” Isabel continued. “She touched my arm, and I could feel it happen to her. I think it hurt her. She pulled away from me, afraid.” A few more tears streaked down from her eyes. “Ara, Maria and Flor saw us. They did not touch me. Being near was enough.”
“And they all died?” Faith asks softly.
Isabel nodded, her tears now flowing freely. “They couldn’t fight. I watched them, and then I ran until I was here.” She dropped her head and another sob wracked her body. “D-Dios me perdona.”
Faith’s hand found Isabel’s shoulder once more. “Isabel, I need you to tell me when this happened – the specific date, if you can remember.” The girl looked up, confused. Faith squeezed her shoulder. “Please. It’s important.”
Isabel struggled to control her emotions. She wiped her eyes again and tried to remember. “It was the first day of the attack.” She looked up at Faith. “The day that you…”
“…died.” Faith finished. She shot up out of her seat and began to pace in the aisle, anger radiating off her in nearly visible waves. “She lied to me,” Faith snarled. She looked up at the ceiling. “Gabby!”
There was no response.
From her seat, Isabel looked worried. She sat up a bit. “Faith?”
“Okay,” Faith said, shaking her head and ignoring Isabel. “Okay.” She pulled out her cell phone and dialed Willow.
Ronda – Council Van – Same Time
In the center console of the van, Willow’s cell phone vibrated loudly against the walls of the cup holder. The blue-green display flashed, “Faith calling.”
Through the windshield, Willow could be seen walking to the front door at the Ortiz residence. She did not hear the phone continuing to ring.
Ronda – The Church of The Most Holy Redeemer – Same Time
“Crap. She must be asleep,” Faith exclaimed, snapping shut her phone. She rubbed her eyes, then turned to Isabel. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to call you a cab to take you to my hotel. When you get there, I want you to call up to Willow’s room. Wake her up if you have to, but you need to tell her everything you just told me.”
Isabel dropped her head a bit.
“Trust me, Isabel,” Faith continued. “She’ll figure all this out. You’ll be safe.”
“What about you?” the younger girl asked. “You’re not coming with me?”
“I need to take care of something,” Faith answered, as she began to dial a new number.
“Just go then,” Isabel said, her emotions now well under control. “I can call the cab. Father Manuel has a phone in the back room. What’s your hotel?”
“Montelirio,” Faith replied, closing her phone. “I, uh, I can wait with you.”
Isabel shook her head. “No. If it’s that important, you should go. I’ll be fine here.”
Faith hesitated for a moment, but eventually nodded in agreement. “Okay. Stay safe.” She moved down the aisle, stopping at the church’s wooden doors. “Isabel, we’ll figure this out.”
The younger girl nodded, and Faith left.
Isabel sat in her pew for a while, looking at the crucifix that hung over the altar. She mumbled a prayer under her breath, made the sign of the cross, stood up and headed for the back of the church.
Fade to Black
End of Act Three