Watchers Council – Library – Later that Morning
Rowena dabbed at Xander’s bruised brow with a spit-wet Kleenex, but he brushed her hand away with a wince.
“That wasn’t smart, you know,” she said.
“It was worth a shot,” he replied.
Buffy’s eyes were fixed on one of the masked men as he stalked the perimeter of the room, gun in hand.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
In another part of the building, Willow was watching her own pair of gunmen, standing on either side of the main door. The loudest sound was Skye, rhythmically drumming her nails on the floor.
Jeff forced a smile. “That was some look on his face, huh? You know when you…woke up?”
Dawn barely dignified that with an eye-roll.
“You couldn’t even see their faces,” she told him.
“Yeah,” Jeff said, “but I could…y’know…imagine them.”
“Shut up, Lindquist,” Skye ordered flatly. She went back to drumming her nails on the floor.
In one corner of the room, Jocelyn struggled futilely with her bonds. She stopped after a few seconds, a pout on her face.
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
A small gasping noise escaped Lorinda’s lips, and her eyelids began to flutter. Casey tapped her lightly on the cheek.
“C’mon, stay with me,” she implored. “Stay with me.”
“Sorry,” Lorinda told her blearily, “I can’t. Thursday’s a bad day for me.”
Across the room, Faith and Marie knelt a few feet apart. They were making sure not to look directly at each other, so as not to draw the attention of the guards. They spoke only in whispers.
“Are you sure?” Marie asked.
“We need to wait for our moment,” Faith told her. “No sense getting our asses shot for nothing.”
“We’re slayers,” Marie replied. “Sitting tight’s not our strong point.”
“Good morning, Watchers Council.”
The voice that came over the intercom did not have nearly the accent of the others they had heard. It was the same voice that had spoken on the broadcast with Xander. Faith and Marie were immediately silent.
“I wanted to make the situation very clear to all of you.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Andrew sat up and looked at the spot on the wall where the intercom box hung.
“We have captured the Coven, the slayers and the watchers, and we are holding them all in separate areas. If we meet any resistance, we will begin executions.”
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Rowena looked up from Xander in order to listen.
“We are all connected via radio, so even if the slayers manage to overwhelm their captors, for example, the Coven will already be dead. And vice versa.”
Watchers Council – Computer Lab – Same Time
Kennedy, Mia and Marissa listened to the intercom as they huddled behind one of the desks in the computer lab. Their faces were framed by wires and computer hardware.
“If you resist, those you care about will suffer the consequences. As an example, if Miss Rosenberg misbehaves, we will make sure Miss Allister pays the price. That goes for the rest of you, as well.”
The three women tensed as one of the gunmen poked his head into the room. Seeing nothing, he pulled back and continued on his way. Marissa slowly peeked above the desk, checking to see if he was gone.
Watchers Council – Command Center – Same Time
“We know who you are. We know the roles of importance you play. So all we require from you is your cooperation, and everyone will get to stay alive. If not, you will be responsible for the consequences.”
The man who had been speaking took his hand off the “talk” button on the intercom, and the connection cut off. He had removed his ski-mask, and his well-kempt mustache and goatee were now visible, as well as his medium-length dark hair.
He turned to look at a bank of TV screens, most of which showed only static since the invaders had cut the security cameras. One of his lieutenants entered. The leader spoke in Arabic.
Subtitle: “Have you found Kennedy or Nakata?”
The other man shook his head negatively.
Subtitle: “No, Sir.”
The leader sat down in one of the swivel chairs and spun around to face the other man.
Subtitle: “We continue as planned for now. Keep up the patrols. Soon they will make a mistake. Then they will die. In the meantime, there’s someone I want to meet.”
The other man nodded swiftly and exited.
Tenth Street Outside Watchers Council – Moments Later
An incredibly clean-cut man in a suit and dark sunglasses looked dispassionately at Robin’s Watcher’s Council badge.
“Come with me,” he said quickly, as he handed the badge back to its owner.
Robin followed the man towards a newly erected white tent, big enough for the several men who now sat beneath it. Several of them were typing on sleek laptop computers. One sat behind his own table, listening to reports and issuing orders. It was this man that Robin walked up to.
“Sir, my name is Robin Wood,” he said. “I work for the Council of Watchers. I’m the –”
“The Security Director, I know,” the man said. He removed his sunglasses to exhibit a slight look of surprise. “We thought you were inside, with the rest of ’em.”
“I was with a special ops unit in Pittsburgh,” Robin explained.
“Yeah, yeah, the bank,” the man said. “I’m Gareth McMahon. I work for the Bureau of Homeland Security.”
“I figured,” Robin said. “The Ray-Bans give it away.”
The man gave him a blank look. “I don’t do humor.”
Robin sighed. “Of course you don’t. So, Agent McMahon, you want to tell me what the situation is here?”
McMahon took a moment to size Robin up before replying.
“I assume you saw the broadcast. Seems the networks thought it was another one of your group’s special announcements. That was actually pretty clever.” He got to his feet. “We have the building surrounded. Our tactical specialists are currently discussing options.”
“Any assault will have to be carefully planned,” McMahon continued. “I don’t see the situation changing for a few hours at least. If you and your girls want, there’s a Subway down the street where I’m sure they’d be happy to…”
“Any military assault on that building would be incredibly risky,” Robin interrupted. “The people in there are more capable than anyone I know. Now, we just need to buy them some time. If we sent a team in to negotiate…”
“The United States government does not negotiate with terrorists,” McMahon stated flatly.
“I’m not asking you to,” Robin said. “All we have to do is –”
“Mr. Wood, we have this situation under control. Thank you for your input.” McMahon sat back behind his makeshift desk and replaced his sunglasses.
Robin put both hands on the table. “You listen to me. This whole thing is anything but under control. You’re scared to death right now, I get that. But you have to understand something else. That’s my family inside that building.”
“Mr. Wood, please don’t make me order your removal.”
“Fine.” Robin pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and began to dial.
“Who are you calling?” McMahon asked edgily.
Robin held up one finger, silencing McMahon.
CNN News Feed – Moments Later
A woman with blonde hair stood on Tenth Street, the Watchers Council headquarters behind her in the distance. She held a microphone inscribed with the CNN insignia.
“WATCHERS COUNCIL HELD HOSTAGE,” read the headline beneath her on the screen.
“The situation is incredibly dangerous right now,” the reporter said. “We believe that most of the Watchers Council leadership, as well as dozens of others, are being held hostage by Islamic terrorists, masked Islamic terrorists inside Council Headquarters itself. Um, information is thin at this point, but we believe that it was fairly early in the morning when the situation began, maybe around nine a.m.”
She glanced down at a spiral notebook she held in her hand. “I spoke briefly to Robin Wood, the Security Director at the Council. He was obviously very busy. He believes that he is the highest ranking American Council official who is not inside that building right now. Um… I’m going to read some names now, these are people who are ranked above Director Wood, which means they are most likely, and I have to emphasize that this is…we’re not entirely certain here, that they are most likely currently being held captive: Willow Rosenberg, the Coven High Priestess. Rowena Allister, who served as Council Chairwoman until Buffy Summers took over, who we also believe is inside at this hour. There’s also reason to believe that Head Slayer Faith Lehane is also being held captive.”
There was the briefest moment of silence. The reporter blinked a few times. She looked genuinely rattled.
“I asked Director Wood how something like this could have happened. He said he didn’t know enough yet to answer that question. Reporting live from Tenth Street here in Cleveland, I’m Tally Atwater.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
Denise’s face was covered in her own hands. She was sitting on the rug, a few feet away from where Faith leaned on a leg of the ping-pong table. Faith glared at one of the gunmen as he strode around the perimeter of the room.
“How could this have happened?” Denise asked. “How could this keep happening?”
“Don’t know ’bout you,” Faith said, “but I get itchy if I’m not taken hostage every couple months.”
Denise sat back on her hands. “There has to be something we could’ve done to stop this.”
“We weren’t counting on humans,” Faith told her. “That was the thing. We were hung up on demons and vampires and magic, and we forgot about the guns.”
“Heli was human,” Denise pointed out.
“This isn’t Heli!” Faith said, almost too loudly and angrily. She checked herself before continuing. “Look, we just need to work together here and…”
Faith trailed off when she saw Marie crawling around on her knees behind one of the gunmen. She swung her head around to look at one of the other gunmen, to find Chamique sitting just behind him. Her eyes widened as the African-American girl slowly reached out a hand for the man’s ankle…
Chamique stumbled backwards when the man turned on his heel. She covered well enough that he didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. Marie saw this and quickly slid away from her target. She and Faith locked eyes.
“What?” Marie mouthed. Faith gave her a very stern look.
Denise turned to Faith and said, “Y’know, while we’re waiting for the people outside to do something, has it occurred to you that they might be waiting for those of us in here to do something? I mean, we’re the ones with superpowers.”
Faith didn’t reply. Instead, she grabbed Marie by the arm as soon as she was close enough.
“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed. “Do you want to get the whole Coven shot?”
“We can take them,” Marie angrily whispered back. “Fear is how they operate. We can’t let it get to us.”
“I’m not going to be responsible for any more deaths,” Faith said firmly. “Not anymore.”
Faith’s eyes drifted across the room, where Shannon was tapping Casey on the shoulder. Casey had been hunched over Lorinda as the younger girl lay on the floor.
“How’s she doing?” Shannon asked. She looked down at Lorinda, whose eyes were unfocused and whose lips were moving silently.
Casey wiped her bangs out of her eyes. “I dunno. Not so good.”
“Is she gonna…?” Shannon hesitated.
“Um…maybe,” Casey said. She sounded very tired. “I don’t really know what I’m doing here. If we don’t get ‘er to a real doctor soon…”
Shannon jumped when Lorinda suddenly grabbed her wrist, her eyes now focused directly on Shannon’s face. The two of them stared directly at each other for a long moment.
“You…you…what the hell?” Lorinda stammered.
“I don’t understand,” Shannon said. She swallowed and glanced down uneasily at where Lorinda was touching her.
Lorinda managed a ghost of a smile. “Welcome to…the club…dumbass.”
Tenth Street Outside Watchers Council – Same Time
Agent McMahon’s face did not betray any emotion as he listened to the voice on the other end of his cell phone. It was muddled, but it sounded angry, with a hint of a southern drawl. Robin waited patiently for him to finish. Both men stood in the center of the tent that Homeland Security had set up across the street from the Council.
“I don’t think that’s –” McMahon was cut off. “Yes, sir. Of course. Yes. I understand. Thank you, Mr. President.”
He flipped the phone shut and handed it back to Robin.
“What did he say?” Robin asked.
“You know what he said,” McMahon replied coolly. “So, Director Wood, what’s your next move?”
“I’ll need to talk to my slayer commander,” Robin told him.
Tenth Street – Subway Restaurant – Same Time
A girl with dyed blonde hair stared out the front window of the fast food place where she and the rest of the Black Ops squad were waiting. The front lawn of the Watchers Council was across the street cater-corner from the restaurant. The girl touched a finger to her lips briefly and began to shake her head back and forth. After a few seconds she had to look away, breathing hard.
Nearby, Carli was holding court in a beige-painted booth. “It was only a matter of time before something like this was going to happen. I mean, you’d think 9/11 would have woken us up, but…it’s those people. It’s hard to wrap your mind around ’em.”
“What people?” Amira was suddenly standing at the end of the table. The conversation cut off immediately. She nodded to Carli. “Go on, Slayer Petronelli. What people?”
“The people in Council headquarters,” Carli explained. “The terrorists.” She got quieter. “The Muslims.”
“Those words are not the same,” Amira said. “Am I a terrorist?”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.
“No, I am not!” she snapped.
“I wasn’t talking about you,” Carli said, sitting up in her booth. “But look, when was the last time somebody who wasn’t a Muslim took a bunch of people hostage?”
Amira blinked a few times, thrown by Carli’s petulance. “That does not…”
“All I’m saying,” Carli interrupted, “is that we’re in some serious crap here. We don’t have time for political correctness.”
Amira shifted her weight uncomfortably as most of the girls nodded in agreement.
Watchers Council – Library – Day
Xander had propped himself up on the end of one of the bookshelves. Though he had developed a black eye, he now looked mostly undamaged. Buffy, Rowena, Jim, and Grace were all sitting in the same general area, some splayed out on the floor, some with legs folded beneath them. One of the masked men stood nearby, watching them particularly closely.
“I feel like I should be doing something,” Xander said.
“As do I,” Jim agreed, and much to everyone’s surprise, he began to rise to his feet.
Buffy tugged at his pant-leg. “Jim!” she hissed. “What are you doing?”
Jim ignored her and instead called out to the closest hostage-taker.
“Sir! Yes, you sir. Excuse me, but might I ask how your mother is?”
“Sit!” was all the man said.
“Ah, yes, well,” Jim said, putting on his best understated British guy act, “the thing is, it’s been a few weeks since she and I fornicated together. She’s quite the lover, but I can’t help but wonder if she’s been feeling any ill effects as a result of our encounter. In the heat of the moment I always seem to forget that nasty herpes infection…”
The masked man raised his weapon. “Sit,” he repeated, his voice darker.
“Yes, of course,” Jim said and sat back in his place. All four of the gunmen in the room eyed him suspiciously, as did most of the watchers.
Xander looked around to see if anyone would speak up. “Okay, let me say it. What the hell, Jim?”
“That one doesn’t speak English,” Jim replied, “At least not well enough to understand it conversationally.”
“So we can talk near him,” Rowena said, realization in her voice. “Nice work, Jim…I really just said that?”
“Indeed, you did,” Jim nodded proudly. “Thank you. And we should use as many long words as possible, just to be on the safe side.”
“Oh, indubitably,” Grace nodded.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, fine, but what if you were wrong, Jim? You’d be dead, and we’d have a really hard time getting the stain out of the carpet. So, you know, bad all around and not worth it in general.”
No one said anything for several seconds.
“So, do you really have…?” Buffy began.
“No!” Jim told her emphatically.
“Right,” Buffy nodded, looking quickly in the opposite direction. “Just curious.”
Watchers Council – Computer Lab – Same Time
Kennedy, still in her pajamas, glanced out through a crack in the door, watching one of the gunmen as he passed by the end of the hallway. She quietly closed the door the rest of the way and leaned back on it. Mia and Marissa kneeled nearby, looking at her expectantly.
“We have to find a way outside,” Kennedy said. “I think we’ve got their general positions down as well as we can. One of us needs to go and tell whoever’s out there where they are, what they’re packing and what the sitch is. Otherwise, things are gonna get real ugly, real fast.”
“They’re guarding the exits,” Marissa noted.
“And most of the windows don’t open,” Mia said, shaking her head ruefully. “Security reasons.”
“And they’re bullet-proof, too,” Kennedy sighed.
“So we go through the guards,” Marissa said.
“Is that all you think about,” Mia said reproachfully. “Killing things?”
“It’s my –” Marissa began to shoot back, but then she hesitated. “It was my job.”
“It’s risky,” Kennedy said. “Really risky. We don’t have any weapons, for one thing, and they’re in control of the armory.”
“There’s a side entrance in the classroom wing,” Mia exclaimed excitedly, as if she had just now realized it. The other girls both looked at her.
“Since when?” Marissa asked skeptically.
“Mostly the little kids use it,” Mia explained. “I only found out about it when I went back to school. The bad guys might not be guarding it.”
Kennedy nodded. “Let’s check it out.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Dawn edged over to where Willow leaned against several shelves full of magic supplies. Glowing green handcuffs were still fixed around both their wrists.
“How are you holding up?” Dawn asked.
“Well,” Willow said, her words coming out in a rush. “I’ve managed to get my entire Coven, and probably everybody else, taken hostage. I’m being held in a real bad boy of a binding field, and it’s starting to make my eyeballs itch. I had to watch someone I care about get shot in the forehead…” Dawn winced. “I’ve been feeling kinda gassy, probably those sausages I had with breakfast this morning. Oh, and also, they knew exactly what to do, where to attack and when, plus all of our personal stuff, so I’m starting to think maybe this was an inside job. So, y’know, overall, not that great.”
“Wait, what?” Dawn asked. “Who would do that?”
Willow sighed. “We’ve all said that before.”
Dawn shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. Hey, I kinda hate to be the one to say this, but what if it’s Heli?”
Willow shook her head. “It doesn’t make sense. These guys are goal oriented. Did you hear what they’re demanding? Why would Heli want us out of Jerusalem?”
Dawn shrugged. “Anyway, we can’t worry about that right now. It’s been a long time. I kinda thought the slayers would’ve come to rescue us by now.”
“Never a slayer around when you need one,” Skye commented from nearby.
“It can’t be long before they decide to start killing us off live on the Internet,” Dawn said.
Willow nodded. “Yep. Don’t suppose they’d pick you first again?” Dawn gave Willow a dirty look. “Oh come on, you’d get better, I wouldn’t.” She elbowed Dawn in the side. “You wanna take one for the team again?”
“You know I would,” Dawn said quietly, trying to catch on to Willow’s attempt at levity. “But I think they’ve learned from the last time.”
At that moment, two more of the masked gunmen entered the room, joining the two who were already there. Behind them, a third strode in. He scanned the members of the Coven arrayed against the far wall.
Extending his right arm, he pointed directly at Willow and spoke a few words in Arabic. His two companions strode forward and grabbed Willow by the arms, hauling the witch to her feet.
“Whoa, hey,” Dawn exclaimed. “Hey!”
“What are you doing?” Jeff asked. He tried to get to his feet, but one of the gunmen pushed him roughly to the floor again.
“Willow?” Andrew asked, fear in his voice.
“It’s okay, guys,” Willow managed, as she was led out of the room. “Everything’s gonna be okay. You hear me? It’ll be okay…”
Her voice faded as she was led down the hallway.
“They’re gonna kill her,” Jeff said. He didn’t sound as if he could quite wrap his mind around the concept.
“Shut up, Lindquist,” Skye ordered.
Dawn took a couple of deep breaths. Then she slammed a hand into the wall. “Crap!”
Tenth Street Outside Watchers Council – Same Time
“C’mon, let him through!” Robin called to the Homeland Security Agents who were protecting the perimeter of the scene. “He’s fine.”
The agents nodded stiffly, and Rupert Giles threaded his way through the maze of barriers without their interference.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you,” Robin told him when he made it through. The two of them began to walk quickly towards the headquarters in the tent.
“I came as soon as I could get away,” Giles said. “Becca’s looking after the children. What happened?”
“That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Robin replied.
“Some news reports are speculating it’s al-Qaeda.”
“Truth is, they haven’t said who they are. All I know is that they’re making demands I can’t meet, they’re threatening to kill everyone inside and if we storm the building, this will turn into Munich 1972 before you can say ‘unmitigated disaster’.”
“You believe the terrorists will follow through on their threat?” Giles asked.
“I do,” Robin said. “I just don’t know what to do about it.”
Giles stopped Robin with a hand on his shoulder. “Listen to me, Robin. You can handle this.”
Robin shook his head. “Rupert, no one can handle this.”
A cold wind blew between the two men, whipping a fast-food wrapper across the empty street.
“But we have to try,” Robin continued after a moment. “So I’m open to ideas.”
Giles sighed. “I must admit, I hadn’t prepared for this.” He slipped his glasses off his face and rubbed them on his sleeve. “If you’d told me the place was under attack by pus-spewing Firakis demons, I would have been full of helpful advice. But human evil…that’s another beast entirely.”
Robin nodded and sat down on a bright green public bench. Giles did the same.
“I always thought they had something of a point, you know?” Robin said. “The Arabs, I mean. We were coming in, destroying their culture, way of life, taking their land. You ask me, Israel was a well-intended but very misguided idea.”
“And now?” Giles prompted.
“And now I’m finding out that whether someone has a point means exactly squat.”
Giles replaced his glasses. “Why don’t you take a break? You seem…well, I believe the term is ‘fried’.”
Robin ran a hand over his forehead. “No, no, I can’t. Not with things…”
“What’s going to change in the next ten minutes that hasn’t in the past several hours?” Giles reasoned.
“I hadn’t really thought that one through. And I don’t want to think about it, to be honest.”
“Everyone here is a professional.”
Robin looked directly at Giles. “Faith is in there, Rupert, with a gun to her head, maybe worse.” He stood up and walked over to the tent. “What’s the news?” he asked loudly.
Giles looked down at the sidewalk, a thoughtful expression on his face.
Tenth Street – Outside Subway Restaurant – Same Time
Carli and another of the Black Ops girls, the one with dyed blonde hair, stood outside the front door of the Subway, sharing a cigarette. Their gazes were fixed on Amira, who was sitting alone at a booth inside the restaurant. Carli blew out a cloud of smoke, letting it hang in the air in front of her face.
“We can’t trust her, you know,” she said.
“She’s one of us,” the blonde girl replied.
“She’s one of them,” Carli corrected. “Ever since she was born. The terrorists weren’t the ones who killed her family. The Council’s her job. But those people in that building? That’s her flesh and blood.”
Inside the restaurant, Amira nervously adjusted her hijab.
Watchers Council – Hallway of Classroom Wing – Same Time
Kennedy, Mia and Marissa slunk along a wall in the classroom wing of the Watchers Council. Kennedy silently raised a hand, and all three came to a halt.
Very slowly, Kennedy peered around the corner. She got a quick look at one of the gunmen, his mask removed, guarding a small set of double doors. She pulled back as fast as she could. She looked at Mia and Marissa and shook her head.
Watchers Council – Science Classroom – Moments Later
Kennedy quietly pulled the door shut behind her. The three girls were now in one of the science classrooms. Black tabletops were periodically interrupted by faucets. Small plastic chairs were lined up under the tables.
“Dammit, they thought of everything,” Mia hissed as soon as the door was closed.
“It was worth a shot,” Kennedy assured her.
“There’s only one of ’em,” Marissa said. “I say we go for it.”
“What if he radios for help before we knock him out?” Kennedy asked. “They’ll know I’m the one who did it, and they’ll start shooting.”
Marissa took a step forward. “We don’t have a choice.”
Kennedy leveled her gaze at the woman. “For someone who isn’t a slayer anymore, you’re awful eager to –”
“Someone’s coming!” Mia whispered from the door.
Kennedy glanced around the room, then ran over to a closet.
“Guys, in here.” The others rushed to do as she said. It was a cramped fit. There were several glass bottles of chemicals already in the bottom of the closet, as well as several white lab-coats hanging from a rack.
Just as Mia managed to get the door shut, Willow entered the room, hands cuffed behind her back. Behind her walked two of the masked gunmen, weapons pointed at her back. They pulled out one of the small, hard-backed plastic chairs and handcuffed Willow to it.
Kennedy peeked out through a crack in the door. Her eyes widened when she saw Willow.
Wisps of red hair hung in Willow’s eyes as she tried to control her breathing. One of the gunmen remained next to her, just in case.
Willow began to whisper an incantation under her breath. “Acquero, libero, sancti quelli canem –”
“Magic will not help you.”
The leader of the hostage-takers was standing in the doorway, arms crossed. His only weapon was a small sidearm holstered at his waist. When he spoke, his English was perfect.
Willow tried to smirk. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I were you. I’ve broken out of binding spells before.”
“But that was before your temporary loss of magic,” the man replied. Noting the surprised look on Willow’s face, he said. “Oh, yes, I know about you. Persephone’s Knot is hard to come back from. Besides, the handcuffs are your own design. In case you ever lost control…again.”
The man stroked his goatee thoughtfully. He peered at Willow out of keen, intelligent brown eyes.
“It’s time to begin,” he said.
One of the men was filling up a large plastic bucket with water from one of the faucets. The other had set up a Bunsen burner and was using it to heat a long, thin piece of metal.
Willow tugged at her bindings, a little bit of panic entering her eyes. Mia pulled Kennedy back from the crack in the door.
“Don’t look,” she mouthed silently.
The two masked men placed the water-filled bucket on the floor.
“You are supposed to be a powerful woman,” the leader said, slowly walking in Willow’s direction. He knelt down in front of her, to bring his eyes on a level with hers. “Now you see where your precious American values have gotten you.”
The two other men grabbed Willow, unhooking her from the chair. The interrogator got out of the way as they dragged her toward the bucket.
“How does it feel, Miss Rosenberg?” the leader asked.
Willow was losing control of her breathing. “What?” she managed.
The leader gave a small nod to the two other men. They forced Willow’s head down into the water and held her face under. She struggled to raise her head, but the men wouldn’t let her. Her feet scraped futilely against the floor.
In the darkness of the closet, Kennedy couldn’t hold back any longer and moved to look, but Mia and Marissa held her back.
After maybe fifteen seconds, the leader made a small motion with his hand and his men pulled Willow out of the water. She collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath.
“How does it feel to know that this is the end result of your life?” her interrogator asked. “Your destination?” He paced part of the way back towards the door. “You are a lesbian, Willow. May I call you Willow?”
“No,” Willow said flatly. Even that much sent her into an uncontrollable coughing fit.
The man nodded again, and Willow found herself grabbed once again and dunked under the water. They held her under for another fifteen seconds, then brought her back up at a signal from the leader. Willow gulped at the air, her chest heaving.
The man almost smiled. “Fine then. You are a lesbian, but you don’t stop there. You are a witch. You do what you do publicly. You rub our faces in it. What sort of world is it when to call a woman a witch is no longer an insult?” He turned to look at her once again.
“And of course, you are a Jew. Your people have killed so many of mine, the blood runs –”
Willow’s voice came in quick gasps. “If you want to compare notes about being oppressed…I’m game. But if you’re going to kill me, just do it already.”
The leader nodded, and his companions dunked Willow again. This time, the leader didn’t give the signal to bring her back up. For a few, long moments, Willow continued to struggle, and then she went still.
In the closet, Kennedy sat up, looking panicked.
The leader waited for a few more seconds before motioning to the others. They pulled Willow back up, and she didn’t breathe for a few long moments. Then she coughed, and water spurted out of her mouth. She kept coughing, unable to control it.
“I’m not going to kill you,” the leader said. “Not yet. There are so many things I want to do first.” He knelt on the wet floor in front of Willow. “You can stop this, you know.”
Willow managed to look up at him. “How?” she wheezed.
“Denounce this,” he told her. “Denounce all of it. The witchcraft. The homosexuality. The Judaism. Admit your sin.”
Willow just looked at him, indecision in her eyes.
Marissa, Mia, and Kennedy held their breath in the closet to avoid disturbing the total silence.
Willow pulled herself together enough to set her jaw. She said nothing, but gave her interrogator the famous resolve face.
“So be it,” he said, and he looked up at one of his men and gave a quick nod. The man he had nodded to walked over to where the metal poker had been heating, while the other dragged the weakened Willow back to her chair and handcuffed her back into place. The masked man donned a protective glove and grabbed the poker, then carried it back over to where Willow was chained.
“Last chance,” the leader said. Willow glared back at him through locks of soaked, dripping hair. “Very well.”
The first horrible, painful scream tore through the room. Kennedy was ready to burst out of the closet, but Mia and Marissa held her back. Mia kept a finger of warning on Kennedy’s lips as the next of the screams sounded.
End of Act Two