Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Elijah Wood as Jeffrey Lindquist, Laura Pyper as Casey, Rachel Hurt-Wood as Lorinda Sheparton, Steffani Brass as Shannon Matthewson, Helen Shaver as Becca Giles and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix, Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Cameron Kreswell and Kyle Gallner as Zachary Kreswell
Bureau Nine – Jason Felix’s Office – Early Morning
“You – you wanted to see me, Jason?”
Jason Felix looked up from his stack of paperwork to see Zachary Kreswell standing half-inside his door. He set his fountain pen down atop a stack of official looking papers and sat back in his chair.
“Ah, Zach, yes! Please come in,” he smiled at the boy.
Zachary gave a short and breathy snort – a little, nervous laugh – and nodded, entering the room and shutting the door behind him.
“Zach, sit down,” Felix motioned to an upholstered French provincial chair in front of his large desk. Zachary awkwardly took a seat and blushed.
Felix chuckled at him. “You seem a bit flummoxed,” he said gently. “Care for some tea?” He lifted a fine porcelain tea kettle and held it aloft.
Zachary shook his head no.
Felix poured himself another cup of Rooibos tea, adding two cubes of sugar with miniature sterling silver tongs.
Zachary fidgeted in his seat. “J-Jason…I-I hope I haven’t messed something up…”
Felix looked up quickly, but kindly. “Don’t be silly, Zach. I asked you here because I’d like to speak with you, one on – man to man.”
Zachary bit his lower lip then set himself. “If it’s about me being down in the tunnels the night that Ethan was attacked by that Raiden beast, I can assure you, it was not to disobey you, Jason, but to help Ethan, because I–I just knew he might be in trouble…”
“Yes, yes, that’s fine, Zach,” Felix smiled at him. “You did well, to help Ethan out. In fact, that’s the reason I’ve called you here, in a sense.” Seeing the boy’s confused look, Felix continued. “Your mother, she’s always been an indispensable member of the Bureau, you know. Loyal to a fault, thorough – perfectionist, even – and completely without motive other than providing full and forthright service to the organization and its philosophies. She’s not someone I ever thought I could replace once she retires.”
Zachary nodded. “I–I guess I’m pretty proud of her…” he stammered, genuinely pleased. “I don’t suppose you ever will find another like her.”
“Ah. Yes, well, that’s where we’re both wrong. You see, Zach, I’ve had my eye on you ever since you graduated high school. Well, honestly, long before then. I’ve been noting how hard you try and how much you put yourself into a task, how much you persevere – until you’ve got it just right or have taken it farther than anyone would have expected. You’re very like your mother, that way. And by God, you’re a bright boy for your age. It’s a shame you chose not to pursue university.”
“My grades were never that good.”
“Neither were those of many powerful and influential people, when they were your age,” Felix laughed. “The point is, Zach, that you can still pursue your education whenever you like. When you’re ready to do so, you will.”
Zachary huffed at him. “Not without a job,” he said frankly. “Mother doesn’t make enough to send me to market, let alone school,” he groused. “Oh! I-I – mother makes fine money, no offense!”
“What I meant is that I-I’d need to pay my own way and, well, I-I don’t make that much money myself, working as a research assistant.”
Zachary looked blankly at Felix.
“What I’m saying, son, is this: I’d like you to work full time for Bureau Nine. Starting right now.”
The boy looked away.
“Why do you hesitate?”
“J-Jason I – it’s not that I don’t want full time work, but…research is so very – it’s rather tedious. It-it’s all very – that is it doesn’t excite – I mean it’s – to do it longer hours is –”
“Now what on earth would make you think I want you to research all day long? I’ve got professional researchers to do that. But isn’t it interesting? All this time – two years – I’ve paid you to do research part time for the Bureau. And for two years, your work has been utterly excellent, putting some of my full-timers to shame. You’re always thorough and accurate. Your findings are complete and tersely presented. Never any fat and never too lean. And to see you at work, one would never know that you find it tedious. In fact, I’m a bit surprised to hear you say it now. And also quite pleased.”
Zachary looked up, completely lost.
“I’m pleased to know that pulling you off research may agree with you. Zach, I want you to work for the Bureau full time, but in a very special capacity. There will be some research, to be sure, but I think I can assure you that your work will be rather varied and infinitely more interesting than anything you’ve done to date. With me so far?”
The boy nodded as Felix took a sip of tea.
“I’d like to offer you the job of full time assistant…”
Zachary blinked at him.
“…to Ethan Rayne.”
There was silence in the office as Zachary sat, lips slightly parted and breathing shallowly.
“You would be paid a full assistant’s salary, including benefits – at the third level. You’ve worked here for two years and I don’t see the need to start you at rock bottom. I am giving you a challenge with a third level position, but I think you can handle it. Do you?” Felix smiled at him, his eyes twinkling at the boy’s shocked look.
“But…but that would mean I’d be earning more than mother does at her –”
“Your mother is a wonderful employee. But she’s a secretary. She doesn’t have your creative mind. That you inherited from your father. But…if you think it’ll be a problem for you to earn more than your mother, I can always lower your pay and raise hers…”
Zachary blinked at Felix, who smiled playfully at him. He thought for a moment and answered, “Well, maybe you could pay me as a third level assistant…and raise my mother’s wages…”
Felix laughed heartily. “And so I may! Then you’ll take the job?”
“Y-yes! I-I – thank you – I –”
“You’re quite welcome, Zach, but honestly, you’ve earned it. As for your mother, she’s earned a bit more in her pocketbook as well.”
“You’d really do that?”
“Is there any reason I shouldn’t?”
Zachary just shook his head, grinning broadly.
Felix grinned back. “So it’s settled. But please, listen – you will be Ethan’s assistant, but you’ll also be a liaison between him and me. Do you understand? You will let me know how things are progressing with his work and your work for him, and you will be a…a bridge between us. So you’ll be kept quite busy going back and forth, as well as doing whatever Ethan needs you to do. Is that agreeable?”
“Yes! Yes, that’s – that’s great!”
“Good. Shall we ‘seal the deal’?” He held his hand out to Zachary. The boy looked at him blankly, then suddenly smiled and shook Felix’s hand.
“Now then, go off to Mrs. Saunders. She’s got some paperwork for you to fill out. You can take the afternoon off to sort things out and prepare for the first of many busy and productive days.”
“Jason…I – thank you. I – I –”
“Please, Zach, don’t be so serious. You’re a bright young man with a very promising future. I want to see that future fully realized. Anything I can do to help you achieve it, I’m more than happy to do.” Then, with a softer tone, Felix added, “You’re like a second son to me, Zach. That’s no small thing.”
Zachary blinked and blushed. Felix smiled easily at him. “I’d best be going,” he said. “Shall I report to Ethan tomorrow morning?”
“No. Come here first. I’ll have some information for you to deliver to him. And come to me at the end of the day. That’s how it will be for a while – reporting to me at the start and end of each day and anytime I call in between. All other times, you will be in the service and presence of Ethan Rayne. Alright?”
“Good,” Felix said, pleased. “Well…off with you…”
Zachary got up awkwardly, nearly tipping the chair over. He blushed again and nodded, then quickly left the office.
Felix chuckled as he sat back down to work.
Bureau Nine – Kreswell Apartment – Minutes Later
Ethan Rayne sat nursing a hangover in the living room of the Kreswell apartment. He squinted his eyes shut as Cameron Kreswell approached with a glass of water and two aspirin.
“If I thought you were going to take up drinking in place of doing magic, I’d have –” Cameron stopped in mid-sentence, her mouth twisted in a half-frown.
Ethan opened one eye a crack and looked at her. She was beautiful in her yellow silk bathrobe, her hair tumbling in a tangled mess over her shoulders and her mouth in that twisted frown. He grinned at her, though it looked more like a grimace through the pain of a throbbing headache.
“You’d have what?” he prompted, hoarsely.
Her expression softened, and she smiled. “I’d have still asked you to give up magic.”
Ethan crinkled his nose in pain as she handed him the aspirin and the water glass. He downed the two pills and made a face at the taste.
The door to the apartment swung open and thumped against the wall. “Ethan! Mother! Ethan! Ethan!” Zachary rushed excitedly into the room.
Ethan groaned at the boisterous entrance.
“Zach!” his mother admonished. “Ethan has a bad headache.”
“Headache?” Zachary asked with a grin. “Here, let me make you more comfortable!” He quickly reached down and, in one smooth move, reached behind Ethan’s ankles, pulling the mage’s legs up and, with his own right foot, pushing the hassock underneath Ethan’s feet. He lowered them onto the tufted surface.
“Anything else I can do for you, boss?” he asked, grinning even more widely than before.
“What in bloody blazes has gotten into you?” Ethan croaked out.
“Not what’s gotten in me, but what I’ve been put into!” Zachary replied happily.
“Zachary!” Cameron Kreswell half-laughed at her son. “Please tell us what you’re going on about.”
The boy took a breath and opened his mouth. His mother folded her arms in front of her. “The point, Zach,” she said.
Zachary held for moment, then hugged her, kissed her cheek, and held her at arms length. “Thanks, Mum. Thanks for…for everything!” He turned quickly to a pained and perplexed Ethan. “I wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for her, you know. She’s made it all possible. And just by being –”
“Zach! Out with it. What’s going on!” Cameron demanded.
“Well, Mother…Ethan…you are now both looking at the newest full-time employee of Bureau Nine!”
“Full-time? You’re working full-time now? Well, that’s wonder –”
“Not just full time. Full time and…a full assistant.”
“What?” Cameron said softly, a smile spreading across her face.
“At the third level.”
Cameron’s mouth dropped open and she let out a delighted gasp.
“And full benefits,” Zachary finished, beaming.
“Mmmmm…well-well,” Ethan said. “Well done. Congratulations. Whose the lucky person gleaning the fruits of your labor?”
Zachary turned back around, slowly, his smile and expression turning slightly serious. “You.”
Ethan stared back at the boy and then shot a quick glance at Cameron.
“Oh Ethan, why do you always look at Mother whenever I say something you don’t know how to react to? And why don’t you know how to react?” Zach said petulantly. “One would think you’d be…at least a little pleased.”
“Zachary,” his mother called quietly.
“I am pleased,” Ethan said, smiling. “In fact, I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve been in need of someone to fully assist me and I’ve been asking for someone for a number of weeks. I have to say, it’s more than worth the wait.”
Zachary frowned dubiously at Ethan. “Then why do you look like it hurts?”
Ethan rolled his eyes.
“Zach, I told you Ethan isn’t feeling well. He’s got a bad headache.”
“Well…here then, maybe this will help.” He sat down on the couch beside Ethan, reached around and began to knead the tops of his shoulders.
“Y-yes, well…” Ethan said, moving as quickly as the headache pain would allow him. He stood, stiffly, his hand to his forehead. “I think I’ll just go and take a nice hot shower and put on some clean clothes.”
Zach looked stricken, but said nothing. He watched as Ethan nodded at Cameron. “Missus,” Ethan acknowledged, before he walked out of the living room and into the bathroom.
Zachary sat, crestfallen, on the couch. Cameron sat down beside him. “Zach,” she began gently. “You…I know you think you’re doing something nice for Ethan when you – do that sort of thing. But…a thing that isn’t wanted by the other person –”
“Mother,” he cut her off. “It’s wonderful news, isn’t it?” His tone seemed happy, but his face was angry. “The new position I’ve earned…” he said, immediately smiling at her. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
Cameron Kreswell caught her breath at her son’s ability to change his expression so suddenly. But she could still see the anger in his eyes.
“Yes, Zachary. It’s…”
“I’m to be the liaison between Jason and Ethan…”
Kreswell Apartment – Bathroom – Same time
Ethan stopped just as he touched the faucet to run the bath. He squinted on the word “liaison” and listened more intently to the conversation in the living room. As the boy went on, Ethan walked to the bathroom door and opened it slightly. Zachary’s voice carried more strongly as he told his mother the particulars of his new role.
Ethan listened until he had heard enough, then shut the door quietly. He closed his mouth tightly and squinted at nothing. “Bloody hell…” he breathed softly.
Ethan’s cell phone began to vibrate on the nightstand in the guestroom. Then its ring tone started to chirp sharply, drowning out the conversation in the living room.
With a grudging sigh, Ethan came out of the bathroom, undressed and shivering slightly. He picked up the cell phone, his annoyance vanishing when he saw the number on the display.
“Gwen,” he said quietly.
“Ethan, I…” she answered anxiously.
“…What, what is it? Are you alright? What happened?”
“No Ethan, I’m not alright.”
“…Ar-are you hurt? Where are you?”
Warehouse – Same Time
Gwen leaned back against the brick wall, looking up at the cobweb-riddled ceiling. She took a deep breath before speaking again. “No, I’m not hurt. Nothing broken…couple of cuts, mostly bruises. I’m in some crusty old warehouse down on the docks.”
“Gwen, what happened?”
“Slayers are what happened.”
Bureau Nine – Kreswell Apartment – Bedroom – Same Time
“Slayers? They weren’t on the security detail manifest.”
“Well they manifested themselves outta the jeeps.”
“That can only mean…”
Warehouse – Same Time
“…that Felix really is a cautious man. Granted, I’m not a slayer, but I gave as good as I got. I’d like to think I gave a little more, but my Rudolph-esque nose says otherwise.”
“But I don’t understand. If there had been an amendment to the manifest, then it would have been on the server. And I checked, there wasn’t.”
“Not looking to place blame, Ethan. We’ve got bigger things to worry about than that.”
“What do you mean? Don’t tell me Jason’s ‘err on the side of caution’ extended to the convoy being a decoy.”
Gwen sighed, “The convoy was transporting the Sphere. I saw it, but…”
“I got hit. I fell and I…my hand was uncovered ’cause I had to fry the locks…”
Bureau Nine – Kreswell Apartment – Bedroom – Same Time
“…I accidentally touched it.”
Ethan closed his eyes.
“Touch isn’t even the right word,” Gwen continued. “It was more like a brush…a-a…I don’t know.”
Warehouse – Same Time
“It started to change.”
“The Sphere started to glow, and the bronze started to turn gold. And there were these markings that started to appear on the Sphere’s face. I couldn’t make out what they were. Then there was this really loud crackling sound.”
Bureau Nine – Kreswell Apartment – Bedroom – Same Time
“Have you got it with you?”
There was a momentary silence.
“No. I went to grab it, but those bitches started to shoot at me again. I only just managed to escape by melting the truck’s side door. Then I just started running…” her voice trailed off.
“The main thing is that you’re safe.”
“No, Ethan, the main thing is that I royally screwed up.”
“It was an accident.”
“I should have grabbed it.”
“Marvelous idea, and gotten shot in the process. What good would that have done?” he snapped back. He sighed.”I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”
“You really are a sweet man.”
Ethan grinned, but it turned into a grimace. He grabbed his head again due to the stabbing headache. “I’ll try and find out where they’re keeping the Sphere,” he told her. “I’ll try and nab it.”
“No, you won’t. This is my mess, and I’m going to make things right. I’m big enough to know when to admit I need help.”
“Then let me help, by trying to get the sphere.”
“Bureau Nine’s security is going to be heightened more than ever now, and we can’t risk them getting suspicious of you. I’ve got an idea. I’ll get back to you.”
“Gw – ”
Warehouse – Same Time
“ – en. Stay safe.”
She smiled. “You too.” Then she ended the call.
Bureau Nine – Kreswell Apartment – Bedroom – Same Time
Ethan shut his cell phone and placed it back down on the bedside table, then sulked back into the bathroom.
Bureau Nine – Mr. Felix’s Office – Later that Day
“So, I take it everything went to plan?” Dianna asked, putting her cup of tea down on the clear glass desk.
Jason Felix sat back in his chair, his hands clasped as though in prayer, fingertips resting under his nose. “No, not exactly,” he replied. “There was one fatality…massive electrical trauma. She was dead the moment Miss Raiden laid a hand on her.”
“And what of Miss Raiden?”
“She escaped. Melted a hole through the truck and ran.”
“Well, that’s a shame. I would have very much liked to have talked to her again.”
“I must say, I’m surprised by what you told me of Ethan’s new allegiance. Granted. we’re not chaos worshiping, or, indeed, working toward chaos – but perhaps he’s had a change of heart about the outcome of Project Roland.” She arched a brow and sighed.
“Perhaps…and though I’m not in the game of exploiting people as a means to an end, under the circumstances, and considering how near we are to our goal, I believe that in this case exploitation might prove useful, if not essential.”
“I’m right with you there. So, we continue the charade and make him believe everything’s cushty.”
“Cushty?” Felix asked with a smirk.
“Means alright in Cockney,” she replied with a giggle.
“Yes,” he continued, “of course we keep tabs, and limit his access without him becoming suspicious.”
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I’ve known Ethan a long while, and he’s a shadow of the man I once knew. Again, advantage to us.”
“Anyway, we got what we wanted then?” Dianna said, picking up her cup and taking a sip.
Mr. Felix slowly nodded. “Yes, I suppose.”
Bureau Nine – Hallway – Same Time
Ethan walked up the stairs into the corridor heading for the employee lounge. He stopped and turned his head towards Mr. Felix’s office. He could see Felix speaking with another person through the wrap-around glass wall. The faintest sound of the conversation floated out to him from the room. Quietly, he crept towards the door and stood just alongside it, listening intently.
Mr. Felix’s Office – Same Time
Dianna looked at Felix and put her cup down. “Jason, we knew that there would be casualties. It’s gravely unfortunate, but the point of fact is that a goal – our goal – cannot be reached without sacrifices. The slayer knew that her life would be on the line, and fought valiantly. She did her best. No one can ever ask more than that.”
Ethan frowned at the word “slayer.” He inclined his head closer to the edge of the doorway.
“Her name was Sophie,” Felix said, glancing up with a bleak smile at Dianna. He sat forward. “And you’re right, she did her best. She was a wonderful person, and I’m fortunate to have known her. Her sacrifice was not in vain. Because of her, a split second window of opportunity arose, and it enabled Louise to get the better of Miss Raiden, and caused the Sphere to be activated.”
“Yes. I haven’t had a chance to see the Sphere yet.”
Outside the office door, Ethan stiffened as he heard what sounded like Gwen’s last name.
“You’ll have all the time in the world,” Felix told her. Dianna frowned. “I’m assigning you to investigate the activated Sphere.”
“Thank you,” she said sincerely.
“I trust you implicitly, and besides, you’re the best watcher for the job…”
Bureau Nine – Hallway – Same Time
Ethan blinked on the word “watcher.” He held still and raised his hand, as though about to cast a charm. But he frowned and lowered it again.
Bureau Nine – Mr. Felix’s Office – Continuous
“…the Sphere is a map, that much we know, but as to where it leads?” He trailed off and raised his hands in the air.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find out where it leads. From what research I have done already, the map is encoded with no recognizable cipher.”
“I agree. There are markings on its face, and its chemical make-up has changed from bronze to gold.”
“Some sort of alchemical reaction? Umm…I’ll look into it, but I can’t think of any reason why its color change would be significant in deciphering the map. Though perhaps there’s some unique property in the gold indigenous to a particular region?”
A smile widened on Felix’s face. “That’s why I chose you.”
“Not like you need another pretty face around here,” Dianna chuckled. “Let me get another cup of tea and I’ll get onto it.”
“Thank you. I’ll have Mr. Murray bring the Sphere up to your office, along with the Codex. I know I don’t have to tell you, Dianna, but you’ve got free reign over this. Anything you need, some obscure text from the end of the Earth, you’ve got it, and you don’t need my permission, you just run with it.”
She smiled again. “Thank you.”
“We’re nearly there. Everything is coming to a head and down to the wire. One battle at a time, as you say,” Felix said with a grin.
Bureau Nine – Hallway – Continuous
Ethan realized, almost too late, that the conversation in Felix’s office was ending. He quickly stepped away from the door and moved swiftly down the corridor. He ducked into a cut-out doorway leading to a small employee lounge. No one was in the lounge and ,as he heard Felix open the office door, he quickly ducked inside and scooted into an open, U-shaped pantry space.
“Yes,” Felix could be heard to say as he and Dianna approached the lounge. “Please let me know of your progress as soon as you’ve got it. Oh, and do let me know how the opera is. I’d love to take you up on your invitation, but…this man’s work is never quite done…”
“No, and this woman’s work is only just beginning,” Dianna and Felix’s laughter carried into the lounge.
Ethan held his breath. Felix was standing right in the lounge entrance. He heard Felix bid Dianna goodbye and then Felix entered the lounge. Ethan watched from where he stood, sideways, in the pantry as Felix, porcelain tea kettle in hand, began to make himself a fresh brew.
Felix hummed as he filled the porcelain kettle and set it on the stove, opened an overhead cabinet and rummaged for a tea that suited him, and then switched to a tuneless whistle while he waited for the water to boil. He moved to the table and leafed through a day-old newspaper laying across it, then walked to the window and peered out at the bright mid-morning. Then, still whistling, he turned in Ethan’s direction.
Ethan sidled away and backed up against the shelves in the little alcove as much as he could, holding his breath. He began to raise his hand, ready to throw a glamour over himself, then stopped. Felix moved forward, passing by the pantry, neither seeing nor sensing Ethan. He continued to whistle, and as he reached the stove, the kettle joined him with it’s own shrill, steam-powered whistle.
Felix lifted the kettle and the tea he’d selected, then quickly exited the lounge and walked back to his office. Ethan heard his footfalls fade, then heard the office door open and then close. He let his breath out.
Then he lowered his hand.
Bureau Nine – Headquarters – Kreswell Apartment – Minutes Later
Cameron Kreswell was busily typing a report on her laptop computer when Ethan entered the apartment. The warmth of the apartment, aglow with curtain-filtered sunlight, made his muscles immediately relax. He stood quietly for a long moment, drinking in the feel of the apartment and the staccato sound of Cameron’s efficient typing.
“Are you going to stand there until lunch then?” she asked, her eyes fixed on her work, her fingers not missing a keystroke.
Ethan closed the door behind him and frowned as he made his way to the dining table. He took a seat along its right side and stared seriously at Cameron as she continued to type.
“Even when you work at home,” he said quietly, “you’re dressed for success.”
Cameron abruptly stopped typing, sat back and put her hand to her neatly pinned hair. She looked down at her outfit, a business-blue skirt and pinstriped blazer, along with a plain, button down blouse with a simple lace collar clasped with a cameo brooch. She smiled a bit, and so did Ethan as he leaned over to his left to look down at her legs and her shoes.
“Stockings and pumps,” he noted.
Her smile widened and she began to chuckle. “Well,” she said, “it’s what the well-dressed mother of the newly promoted prodigy wears these days.”
“Ah yes…the boy wonder. Where is Zach, anyway? I thought he was supposed to be working for me.”
“He’s gone to Personnel to take care of some paperwork.”
Ethan raised an eyebrow. “I see…And he’ll be gone how long…?”
Cameron turned her head aside and smiled knowingly at him. “Not long enough,” she cautioned him.
They sat for a moment, each lost in thought and enjoying a quiet moment together. Ethan’s smile faded slowly. “C.K…”
“How well do you know Jason Felix?”
“How well? I suppose I know him about as well as I know anyone.”
“How do you mean?”
She shrugged. “Ethan, the man saved me and Zach from complete and utter financial ruin. You see, when Robert died – especially the way he died – the Bureau was very reluctant to have anything more to do with us. Oh, no one said as much. Everyone was quite nice and sympathetic, and even supportive on the surface. But due to Robert’s fast play with magic or sorcerers or…well, we never did find out who or what ultimately caused his death…Zach and I found ourselves suddenly apart from the B9 family.”
“The B9 family…”
“Ethan, you’ve seen how everyone here works together and-and supports one another. Like a family. Why do you think so many of us have families and live here with them? Our children attend the same classes and functions. Our friends are our co-workers. You’ve been here quite long enough to know that everyone cares about and helps everyone else, regardless of whether there’s work issues or life iss –”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“Why would it bother me?”
“Sounds a bit like a cult,” Ethan replied.
“Ethan,” she sighed. “B9 is all that Zach and I have known since – Actually, Zach’s known it all his life. And I was introduced to it when I first met Robert. And that was…twenty-fi– no…no…must be twenty…eight…years ago. The point is, that Zach and I nearly lost our ‘family’ when Robert had his ‘indiscretion.'”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am! You’d have thought that they’d have realized we weren’t involved –”
“Bloody hell! You’re calling what he did an ‘indiscretion?’ That’s sort of like calling a pregnant woman fat.”
“Ethan, Robert was a foolish man. He never took to Zach, and that has caused both of us more grief than you can imagine. And he experimented with magic to such a degree that it – or someone who wielded it – killed him. But it also nearly killed Zach and I’d relationship with B9. If Jason Felix had not stepped up and spoken for us, we’d have been out the door and in the streets.”
“I see. A humanitarian organization. But I seriously doubt you’d have been street urchins, C.K. Your secretarial skills are legend –”
“I had none when Robert died. I was rather unskilled. My resume was…lacking, shall we say.”
“So Jason Felix spoke up for you – stood up for you – and got the B9 family to rally round you, eh?”
“No. Not at first. At first, everyone except Jason was scared. Scared that whatever Robert was involved in, I was also involved in. Zach was just a little boy, but even he came under scrutiny. Finally, Jason suggested that he be allowed to take me into his employ and that, if anything happened, he would bear the full responsibility for it. It was not an easy thing to convince the others. But he did. He began showing me how to do the simplest of tasks. And patiently, too. When the months went by and nothing unseemly happened, Jason eventually was able to advocate for my being sent to a proper secretarial school through the Bureau’s worker development program. It took a little doing, but he got them to agree. They paid my way and I went for one and a half years, received a certificate and learned –”
“How to type and talk at the same time.”
“What cheek,” Cameron smiled.
“So, Jason Felix saved your life,” Ethan said, dourly.
Cameron laughed. “You’re jealous.”
“I’m worried. C.K…what do you know about B9’s interests?”
“Probably less than you do, Ethan. You see, one of the terms of the Bureau’s agreeing to let Jason hire me was that he tell me only as much as I needed to know in order to complete my tasks. Jason lived by that decision. And I never put him in any position to defy it. I suppose no one would give it a second thought today if he suddenly told me all of the Bureau’s deepest secrets and plans. But we’re both comfortable, he and I, with my knowing only what I need know. It’s become habit. And it makes for a professional work relationship. You probably do know much more than I do. And Zach certainly does.”
“But you must know what their overall plans are or what they –”
“Ethan…I don’t know what it is you’re fishing for, but I can tell you that, with the exception of being a bit more than leery of all things magical, B9’s interests and activities have always been above board. And no one, not one single person I have known here in twenty-eight years, is as fine a person as Jason.”
“Well, now I am jealous. And insulted.”
Cameron smiled at him. “Now it’s my turn. Why are you asking me all this?”
Ethan stared at her hard for a long moment. Finally he sighed. “No…I don’t want to burst your happy little bubble.”
“Ethan?” Cameron said, worriedly. “Ethan, what’s wrong?”
Infirmary – Watchers Council – Same time
Lorinda lay in bed in the infirmary, idly flipping through the pages of a paperback book with a yellow cover. The title was emblazoned on the front in bold, cartoonish letters: The Supernatural for Dummies.
She glanced up when Shannon rapped her knuckles on the wall next to the door. She was carrying a bulging blue plastic bag.
“Hey!” Shannon said brightly.
Lorinda forced a smile. “Hey.”
“How ya feeling?” Shannon asked, as she sat down in a chair next to Lorinda’s bed.
“Bored out of my mind,” Lorinda groused. “I tried to tell them I was fine, slayer healing, y’know, but they’re keeping me here for ‘observation.'” She made an air quote with her left hand on the final word. “All I have is this crappy reference book Jeff left me…you don’t think he’s trying to tell me something, do you?”
“Well, maybe I can help,” Shannon said. She rummaged through her plastic bag and pulled out more books. “I, um, I didn’t know what you liked, so I pretty much brought a bunch of different stuff.”
She handed the stack to Lorinda. There was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, a Nancy Drew mystery, a vaguely trashy looking romance novel and several others.
Lorinda looked from the books back to her visitor. “Shannon…why are you doing this?”
Shannon hesitated, then shrugged. “Dunno. Just trying to be nice, I guess.”
Lorinda picked up one of the books and looked at it. She looked away from Shannon at the fluorescent lights in the ceiling, trying to put something into words. “But…but…I’ve never been nice to you. I’ve made fun of you, beaten you up…I don’t even know why I did it, y’know? I just…never did anything else.”
Shannon didn’t say anything for a few seconds. She sat back in her chair and crossed her legs.
“Do you feel bad about it? I mean…all the stuff you did?”
“I never did before…” Lorinda trailed off, then turned to look at Shannon. “But I think maybe I do now. It doesn’t make sense.”
You could almost see the lightbulb go off over Shannon’s head. She sat forward eagerly, her elbows resting on her knees. “What if…what if it’s like, getting shot, right, it gave you this whole new, like, perspective on stuff. Like you needed to almost die to figure out how to get your life straight?”
Lorinda thought about this. “Maybe.”
“Well,” Shannon said, “if you feel bad about it, maybe I should just forgive you, and then it can be like we’re starting over, like, from the beginning.”
Lorinda nodded brightly. “Okay.” She looked down at the books spread out on the blanket and picked up the Nancy Drew. “I like mysteries. I’m pretty good at figuring them out, too.”
Shannon smiled. “Mysteries. I’ll remember.”
Bureau Nine Headquarters – Kreswell Apartment – Same Time
“Ethan, I-I don’t know what to say.”
“Oh, well…that’s helpful.”
“Well what do you expect me to say? I told you I’ve never known Jason to do anything untoward or…Ethan, what do you expect from me?”
“I-I don’t expect anything. I just thought – I don’t know…C.K., what would you do? If you were me? What would you do with…with what you now know?”
Cameron Kreswell sighed heavily and looked toward the curtained windows. The small apartment suddenly seemed stuffy and close. “I can’t say what I’d do if I were you, Ethan. Only you can determine that. But I might try thinking about it hard for a while, before I did anything at all.”
Ethan gave Cameron a long look, then silently rose and walked off into the hallway and to the guest bedroom, silently shutting the door behind him.
Outside Watchers Council – Next Morning
The day began bitterly cold in Cleveland. The morning sun hung a pale yellow in in the gray-white sky.
A taxi pulled up in front of the Cleveland Watchers Council and a man paid the driver and got out. The hem of his long overcoat moved in graceful counterpoint to his steady strides as neared the main entrance. He entered the building, glancing up at the place where he knew the security camera would be, and smirked.
The day receptionist set her coffee mug down beside her half-eaten blueberry muffin and looked hard at Ethan as he entered the building. She recognized his face from the dossier of photos she had had to commit to memory. “Good morning, Mr. Rayne.”
Ethan stopped in front of her.
“How can I help you today?” she smiled, as she touched a green button just below her desk.
“You can start by calling Ms. Rowena Allister or Ms. Willow Rosenberg to the front…if you haven’t already,” he answered, mirroring her smile.
“And this is regarding…”
“I really don’t know,” he told her.
Something in his look caused her smile to fade. “Yes, sir,” she said, as an internal phone line buzzed. She picked up the receiver. “Yes, Ms. Allister. It’s Ethan Rayne to see you and Ms. Rosenberg…No, ma’am…Okay, I’ll tell him.” She hung up and motioned toward the waiting area. “Please have a seat, Mr. Rayne. Can I get you something to drink? Coffee, tea? Mineral water?”
He waved her off and took a seat in the waiting area, crossing his legs and frowning doubtfully.
“Oh my god,” Casey said to another slayer cutting through the main lobby on their way to class. “Do you know who that is?”
“No,” the girl answered. “Who –”
“C’mon!” Casey broke into a gleeful trot.
“Case! Wait up! Where are you going?”
“Hurry up, will ya? I gotta tell Shannon,” Casey grinned wickedly. “This is gonna be good!”
End of Act One