Click Here For Parts One, Three and Four
And then suddenly he's awake.
"Are you okay?" The voice sounded urgent. He opened his eyes carefully, aware of a dull pain in his head, and an ache that seemed to fill his whole body. Had he been hurt somehow? He tried to remember, but he couldn't seem to work out where he was, or what he was doing, or how he came to be lying down on a... He glanced around, taking in his surroundings before really noticing the people about him. On a couch. A long, white couch. Leather, and pleasantly soft. It was extremely comfortable, and it seemed like a remarkably good idea to stay lying on it for quite some considerable while. There were still the people to deal with, though. The people surrounding him, asking him their anxious questions in their urgent voices, and worrying about whether or not he was still in one piece. Was he still in one piece? And, if he wasn't, why wasn't he? He groaned to show that he was currently undecided one way or the other, then finally let his gaze rest properly on his interrogators. There were four of them, all in expensive grey suits, and all looking interested and concerned. One of them put a hand on his shoulder. He decided that he didn't much like that.
"Are you alright?" asked the man with the hand. It was asked with all apparent concern, and a smile that was just the wrong side of oily. He got a frown in answer, and withdrew the hand straight away. "David? We've been very worried about you."
"David?" The name seemed directed at him, but it didn't seem to click inside his mind. He frowned again then, and with real depth. Shouldn't he know what his name was? Shouldn't his name, his identity, his memory, be seeping back into his mind? And why should it need to seep back in anyway? Where had it gone? He rubbed his eyes, then with an effort that pushed aside the aches and pains and lingering nausea, he sat up on the couch and looked around more fully. He seemed to be in an office. A tastefully decorated, if somewhat sterile office, with one wall made entirely of glass. It looked out onto a city that was disturbingly unfamiliar, but that for some reason screamed 'America' at him. The buildings, perhaps - the architecture, the neon signs, the volume of traffic. He stood up and wandered over to the glass for a better look. Yes, America. That much went with the accent of the man who had asked him how he was. He rubbed his eyes again, and looked back at the four men in their matching grey suits.
"David?" he asked. Maybe one of them was David. Maybe that was why the name wasn't meaning anything to him. Barring the Biblical connotations of course. And a writer, whose name floated unbidden from nowhere, which was extremely annoying since his own seemed determined not to do the same thing. A writer named David... Murchison? He had written something about zombies. Rather a dry history of the art of zombie-making. Yes, David Murchison. An American historian who had disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean in 1922. Now why would he know that, and not his own name?
"David, I really think you should be sitting down." The man with the hand was beside him again, and once again his hand was being all touchy-feely. Once again it got a frown, or more precisely the beginnings of a glare. Once again it withdrew. "David..."
"I'm David?" It was a bloody silly question. Asking four complete strangers your name smacked of a night on the tiles with way more alcohol than was at all sensible, and it didn't seem likely that he would be waking up here after a night like that. Wasn't it traditional to wake up in the gutter? Or a flower bed? Or a police cell? Unless he worked with these people, and they had rescued him from a bar somewhere, and brought him up here to sleep things off.
"You're tired." One of the men stepped aside, and gestured towards the now extremely inviting white leather couch. "You've been through a lot. You were very badly hurt."
"I was?" He followed the gesture without real thought, going back to sit down on the couch. "Listen, I... I know it sounds a bit..." He rubbed his eyes, trying to clear his head. "I don't know who any of your people are, and I don't seem to know who I am either. What's going on?"
"The head injury." Another of the foursome, one who hadn't spoken before, sat down on the couch as well, and pulled a stethoscope from the pocket of his suit jacket. "Just a second, David. I should give you another check up. I might have missed something."
"I don't think I need another check up." He was getting touchy now. Did he always lose his temper so quickly? He should know whether or not he was the naturally prickly type, shouldn't he? Why did everything seemed so damned unfamiliar?
"I'm sorry." The one with the stethoscope - damn it, didn't any of them have names? You'd think one of them at least would perform some kind of introduction - stopped trying to poke and prod at him, and glanced around at his companions. They seemed to come to some kind of unspoken agreement - that or they were merely re-enacting some consensus already long reached. "Your name is David Holbrook. You're... well, we won't get into that just yet. How much do you remember?"
"I don't remember a bloody thing!" He was British. He was only just beginning to realise that. How could he know that the accent was British, when he didn't remember a damned thing about Britain? "David Holbrook? You're sure? It doesn't ring any bells."
"You seem to be suffering from some form of amnesia. It's quite natural under the circumstances. The trauma..." The man with the stethoscope smiled, in some way that was obviously meant to be encouraging, but managed to be even more oily than the previous man's attempt. "Your memory will return in time. A few minutes perhaps. A day. Perhaps a brandy...?"
"No thankyou." He didn't feel like a brandy man, somehow. For a second the echo of some sharp taste lingered on his tongue, but it was gone too quickly for him to think of it as any kind of memory. "Trauma, you said? Have I been in an accident?"
"No, you were attacked." Another man, one who had never learned that it was impolite to loom, stood far too close to the couch, arms folded, his bulky shoulders doing a good job of limiting the light from the glass wall. Somehow 'window' seemed such an inadequate term. "You don't remember?"
"Obviously." He didn't like this man, with his casually threatening stance, and his obvious liking for using his size against others. "Attacked by whom?"
"Vampires. A whole crowd of them. It's amazing you're still alive." The man with the stethoscope was edging closer again, as though unable to resist the temptation to be annoyingly medical. "We tested you with Holy water while you were asleep, though. Tried the crucifix test, and practically everything else bar driving a stake through your heart. You've not been turned." He smiled. "Well, you know that of course. But we had to be sure before you woke up."
"Yes. I understand." The words came slowly, halting, tangled up with the fireworks in his brain. Vampires. It rang inside his skull like sound resonating inside a bell - disjointed words and ideas. Pictures that didn't quite connect. Blood son monster demon book destiny prophecy hotel loyalty betrayal alone. He rubbed his eyes again, and wondered why the image of a sixteenth century Murshan Dynasty dagger lingered in his mind. "I was... alone?"
"It was a trap. You were set up." Stethoscope Man edged closer again, and this time met with no resistance as he did a few tests and counted to himself under his breath. "Well, you seem alright now. Your heart rate is back to normal."
"Good." It was hard to care. "The vampires. Did you kill them?"
"They were contained, I think, for the most part." Stethoscope Man tried out another of his less-than-friendly smiles, which had less than its desired effect. "And you've survived. So all in all, rather better than we thought." He clapped his unwilling patient on the shoulder. "Don't worry about your memory. It'll return to you in time. You'll see."
"I suppose I shall have to." He frowned. "David." The name still didn't click, but then presumably that was all part and parcel of the amnesia. If he didn't remember, he didn't remember. "So... I fight vampires?"
"We all do." One of his companions beamed a smile that was no more reassuring than anybody else's had been. "This is Wolfram & Hart, the largest vampire fighting organisation in America. Surely you remember that?"
"I..." The name did seem to strike a chord. Wolfram & Hart. He ran it around his head a few times, trying to see if it sparked off anything else, but all that it really seemed to inspire was thoughts of demons. That made sense, probably, if they were an organisation dedicated to fighting vampires. They undoubtedly fought their share of demons as well. Stethoscope Man looked concerned by his tailed off speech and apparent confusion.
"We're overdoing it," he announced, rising smartly to his feet. "You should rest. Lie down again. Get some sleep. We'll leave you alone for a while."
"Are you sure that's wise?" The man with the hand didn't seem to like the idea of going away, but Stethoscope Man shot him a sharp look.
"It'll be fine. He needs to rest. Don't you, David."
"Er... yes." He didn't, but he did like the idea of being alone. Apparently solitude came naturally to him, or perhaps he just didn't like these particular companions. It seemed unfair to jump to conclusions about people that he didn't know - or didn't remember, at any rate - but he certainly wasn't especially eager to extend his audience with them. Stethoscope Man nodded.
"Take as long as you need. This is a complicated building, though. If you can't remember it, you'll easily get lost, so don't go wandering around on your own. Stay here, and we'll be back later." He frowned. "You're sure you're alright?"
"Yes. Fine." No memory, no recollection of who he was, of where he was, of who these people were, or where and how he had come to be in this current predicament - but, essentially, alright. He wondered if there was some reason why he wasn't in a hospital, and decided that it might be rude to ask. He had no idea what company policy was in these situations. Whatever these situations were. Around him the others were making farewell noises, and filing in an untidy line towards the door. He made a few farewell noises of his own, but ignored the men as they left. For all he knew they might be his greatest friends - though he doubted it. He hadn't taken to them, and they made his senses prickle. Damn it, what was he? Some kind of paranoid maniac? He couldn't bring himself to trust the only four people he knew in the entire world, and what did that say about him? But perhaps he had reason to be paranoid. Given that he didn't remember one way or the other, that was far from reassuring.
The room was quiet now that he was alone. Very quiet - was this office isolated somehow? Or was it soundproofed? The latter idea did little to improve his sense of growing paranoia. He stood up and paced about for a bit, trying to marshal his thoughts. David. His name was David. Except that his brain was refusing to accept that, and his instincts didn't know what to believe. If the mention of vampires sounded so familiar, why didn't his name? Why did this office make him feel so uneasy? The couch was comfortable, the carpet luxurious, the desk impressive. It had his name on it, he noticed - or the name that they had said was his, anyway. So this was his office. He worked here. The desk drawers were locked, and he couldn't seem to find a key anywhere on his person. The only thing in his pockets turned out to be a wallet containing about fifty dollars and a driver's licence. He studied the photograph on it, then wandered over to the window to look at his reflection, and compare the two. It was a strange looking face that stared back at him - the details far more obvious than they were in the smaller photograph. He looked haggard, unshaven - haunted almost. Bright blue eyes stared back at him from the window, almost as though his own reflection were challenging him. His hair was black, and faintly shaggy. Uncombed, certainly. The stubble was uneven, as though it came more from not bothering to shave than from any kind of stylistic intent. Wordless, he stared back into those strange blue eyes. What kind of a man was he, then, that he looked so gaunt, so wearied with the world? Perhaps it wasn't fair to judge after he had just been - apparently - injured in some terrible battle with the undead. Except that somehow those haunted eyes seemed to carry the woes of years, not just the trauma of some incident barely finished with. He rubbed the rough jawline, feeling the stubble; tried out a smile that somehow didn't feel natural. He wasn't the cheery type then. That was no surprise, after seeing those eyes. A little shaken, he turned away from the window, and put his thoughts to the room instead.
It was so empty - that was the first thing that struck him. No personal mementoes, no decorative touches. All that there was to suggest that the office was his was that unfamiliar name on the desk. There were no bookshelves, none of the things that seemed to belong in an office. No computer, and not even a telephone on the desk. He set about hunting for a safe, and found one on the wall, behind an entirely character-less painting of some overly-romanticised shepherd boy. It insulted his artistic tastes, he decided, and wondered why the hell he would have it on the wall of his office. Surely there were better ways to disguise a safe? He dropped it on the floor, and regarded the safe curiously. An electronic keypad, demanding a combination that he couldn't begin to remember - a gleaming steel door with a curious blue sheen. Magical protection, something deep inside him said. A safe that had more than a combination to secure it. He had no idea where the thought had come from, but he knew that he was right without having to look closer at the little door. He could feel the magic coming off it, like a vibration deep inside his soul. It made his pulse quicken for a fraction of a second, and for the first time since waking up inside this strange, alien room, he felt a sense of true familiarity. Magic meant something to him. Magic was something that he understood. Raising one, cautious hand, as interested to see where his instincts took him as he was to see what was inside the safe, he flexed his fingers, frowned at the blank canvas that was all he had to guide him, then closed his eyes and thought of open doors. There was a jolt within him, like the myoclonic jerk that came on the brink of sleep, and for a second his closed eyes saw bright, bright blue light. Then his eyes were open again, and he was looking at an open safe. He grinned then, quite spontaneously, and in spite of all his many confusions. Was he a magician? Perhaps he could rely upon his instincts to help him find that out. For now, though, there was the safe to consider.
It was not high or wide, but it was deep. He found that out straight away. Two shelves, the top one with some basic paperwork. A bill to a sorcerer whose name he didn't recognise, for some kind of reanimation spell; a contract signed by somebody called Cyvus Vail, a name that he did recognise, though he hadn't a clue why. The contract was written in some language that was all spikes and jagged lines, but since it made perfect sense to him he never gave a thought as to what it might be. It didn't interest him especially, and he didn't bother to read through it, and all its complicated legal terms. He put it away again, and turned his thoughts instead to the bottom shelf; a long hole that reached far away into a thick wall. There was only one thing there, wrapped in a piece of soft black cloth; invisible under its covering, but as clear to him nonetheless as the hand he reached out to touch it. No amount of cloth could disguise the shape of it; no amount of camouflage could hide its length. It was a sword, and although, as he drew it, he felt no moment of recognition for this particular blade, every inch of him screamed at a familiarity for the weapon in general. It felt like an extension of his arm, and each swing that he gave it, each swoop of the gleaming blade, told him that swords belonged in his hand. Great. So apparently he was a magician with a thing for swordplay, a fondness for fighting vampires, and a nice sideline in powerful paranoia. Well, at least that filled in a few gaps. He tossed the sword onto the couch, closed the safe with a wave of his hand and a muttered word, then blinked, and wondered how he had known to do that. Apparently his instincts remembered a good deal more than he did.
All of which left him where exactly? With a building to explore, he supposed. An office block - quite a large one, if the height of the window was anything to go by. Even if Wolfram & Hart had only one floor of this building, there were still other floors that might have information for him. He had magic to help him, apparently, and a sword that looked as though it might appreciate the challenge. His right hand tingled faintly, and for a moment he could almost feel the touch of metal against it; feel his fingers closing around the memory of a familiar shape. He wanted a gun, he realised, but there had not been one in the safe. A gun was a familiar weight, a familiar weapon. Today though, he would just have to do without it. He would manage. Something told him that there were not many expensively suited businessmen in any office block who could stand in his way. With a thin smile he caught up the sword again, and strode to the door. Locked. For his own benefit, no doubt they would say. Not that it worried him now. He waved a hand at the door and it swung open, just as the safe had done before it. A corridor awaited him then; long and thin, carpeted in thick cream pile just like the office he had awoken within. He barely noticed. People. He needed people. People to interrogate, people to tell him what was going on here. Landmarks to tell him where he was. If he was David Holbrook, then so be it - but a name was not enough. He had to know what else there was, and where he fitted in. He had to see what lay outside these walls. Then, perhaps, this might all make some sense.
Lorne arrived at the hotel some time after Spike, head still full of the echoes of his vision, ears still ringing from the sound of Dega's song. He didn't know how he had got there so quickly, for he didn't remember a moment of the drive. He didn't remember getting into his car, and barely remembered stumbling out of it. He must have broken every speed limit, but somehow he hadn't been stopped. Just as well - being green took some explaining. Not that it mattered. Not now that he was standing in the lobby, looking around at the place he knew so well.
It didn't look broken. It didn't even look disturbed. A few sheets of paper had blown off the reception desk; one of Wesley's books was lying on the floor. A potted plant looked somehow crooked, as though it had been jolted slightly in its container. It hardly screamed trouble, danger, all the things that he had seen in his vision. It hardly screamed anything at all, until he saw the direction of Spike's eyes, and turned to look back at the door through which he had just walked. Then he saw again the strange glow and the bending glass; heard the noise and felt the icy cold. The windows of the lobby were bent and bulging; frozen into distorted shapes, like phantoms reaching blindly into the room. He could sense the long gone power that had done this; an echo that clung to the fabric of the building, and resonated faintly in the glass. He shivered.
"Wesley's not here. I've looked. Checked all over the place, and shouted myself bloody hoarse." Spike didn't sound quite right. There was an edge of unease in his voice, that Lorne didn't like. Spike was all bravura and cockiness most of the time. It was one of the things you could count on, like Gunn being tough, and Wesley being smart. Spike didn't get uneasy. "What the hell's going on? I can't make Cordy hear me, and I don't have a clue where Gunn is. I'm supposed to be able to find them all. Just think of one of them, and snap, I'm there. The only one I can find is Angel, and he's no bloody good helping Buffy out in England."
"Shouldn't worry Angel. He's got enough on his plate." Lorne spoke mechanically, not really having heard most of Spike's growling. If his vision had been anything to go by, Angel and Buffy had a big fight coming, against something he had not been able to see.
"Who needs Angel anyway." Spike sounded almost sulky. "We got problems of our own. Everything we've been doing here lately - all the fighting with the Broxx, and all those extra vampires on the streets - it's all been a distraction. Something to keep us busy."
"I know that." Lorne rubbed his eyes, worn out from the exhausting vision and the long night at the club. "I know all of that. Somebody's been keeping you dancing to a merry tune, buttercup, and I can't say who it was. It was all leading up to this, though. That much I do know."
"Distractions that big, just so somebody can play at redecorating the lobby?" Spike picked up Wesley's fallen book. "Or is this all about everybody's favourite half-crazy ghost magician bookworm?"
"Hard though it is to let somebody else take all the limelight, doll, I think this is one we're going to have to give to the dead bookworm." Lorne ran a hand over the misshapen glass, and shuddered. "This is not a friendly place right now for an empath. There's been a lot of power in here recently, and it's left traces all over the place."
"Can you follow it?"
"Back to its source, you mean?" Lorne shook his head. "I don't think so. That's not my department. You've got your all-powerful super-Cordy for that kind of thing."
"Cordelia isn't here. You are." Spike tossed the book onto the nearest table, then gestured around him. "Look at this place. You're not telling me it was something shiny and good that blasted its way through here? Whatever it was that did this took Wes. You know it, and I know it, even if there isn't any proof. He's not gonna come waltzing in through that door any minute. And what the hell comes and melts windows and kidnaps ghosts?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know. I don't know. Nobody bloody knows! Well one of us is going to have to find out." Spike seemed about to leave; to do something decisive; but in the end merely slumped into a chair. "Sod it. I don't know where to start. Planning isn't supposed to be my thing. One minute I'm trying to work out where all these Broxx demons are coming from, and the next some weird shrivelled guy in a bar is telling me stuff, and suddenly I'm coming back here like two and two just added up to four for the first time. Too bloody late, though."
"Don't blame yourself." Lorne wandered slowly over, and sat down on a chair just opposite Spike. "I got a vision, listening to one of my customers sing. Not the first time, sure, but it's the first time in a long while that I got my head half-fried in the process. I thought he was a friend. I mean, he's cute, and he has great dress sense. Beings like that aren't meant to be evil."
"What about Illyria?" Spike had closed his eyes, trying to think but mostly failing. "She has powers, right?"
"Yes. She's not got half the abilities that she used to have, though. Besides, you want to be the one to tell her that something we can't identify has kidnapped Wesley? She'd tear half the city apart looking for him, and I don't want to think about who'd get hurt along the way."
"Yeah." Spike looked away, back towards the ballooned doors. "Man is that one twisted relationship. Wesley seems to specialise in those. Him and Lilah--" He broke off. "Lilah. Maybe she knows something. Or someone. I mean, she's got all these contacts, right? Wolfram & Hart and all that crap. She's one of them."
"Yeah. And she might just be behind all of this." Lorne wasn't sure if he really believed that. He only knew that he had never trusted Lilah. "You got any idea how to find her?"
"If she didn't do this, sooner or later she's going to turn up looking for Wes. Maybe sitting here and waiting is the only thing we can do." Even as he was saying it, Spike was hating the plan. He had never been the sitting and waiting type. Still - what else was there? Blasting into the offices of Wolfram & Hart looking for Lilah would get them nowhere. As far as they knew, she hadn't been based there since her death. Where she spent her time when she wasn't with them was one of the many, many things that they had failed to discover about her. Never had that been as frustrating as it was now.
"You really want to sit here and do nothing?" Lorne was beginning to pace, looking agitated, clearly worried. "You don't suppose he's just popped out to the library or something? Gone to one of his occult bookstores, maybe? You know Wes. He has weird contacts in weird places. There's a demon informer he visits sometimes, lives under Universal Studios. I think he's a Krecht. Lousy sense of time, the Krechts. You visit them in the morning, it's two days later before you manage to leave. Even longer if they break out the blood cider." He winced. "Which you should never touch, incidentally. The blood? It's real. Morl blood, hell of a narcotic. Has a nasty kind of..." He trailed off, catching Spike's glare. "What? I'm not rambling. This is ordinary conversation. And yeah, okay, I had forgotten that you're dead, but that still doesn't mean that I'm rambling. Not big on drinking anything just lately, are you."
"Go back to the club, Green Boy." Spike slumped deeper into the chair. "This isn't getting us anywhere."
"Hey!" Indignant at the suggestion that he should keep out of the way, Lorne ceased his pacing and tried to look less agitated. "I'm not leaving. If Wes is in danger, then... okay, I'm not the kind of guy you're usually going to turn to for help. But Angel's over in England, and he's got worries of his own, sweet pie. Believe me, I've seen them." He tapped his head, and winced. "Didn't enjoy the experience any, either."
"So Angel knickers is out of it. Big deal." Spike didn't sound nearly as glad about Angel's absence as he might have liked. "There's still Gunn. Can fight with the best of them, he can."
"When there's fighting to be done, buttercup, he's your ghost. But right now, we've got nobody to fight, nowhere to go, and we don't know a damn thing. Including where Gunn is. You said you couldn't find him earlier."
"Couldn't feel him. Couldn't zap over to where he is. It's almost as if he isn't. As if he's..." He shrugged. "Like he doesn't exist anymore."
"Then maybe something got him, too. Like it got Wesley." Lorne scowled. This wasn't supposed to be his line of work - certainly not nowadays. This wasn't supposed to be what he did. He sighed. "Looks like it's me you need, Spike. And it looks like I'm the guy who knows what we have to do next."
"Yeah?" Spike looked surprised. Lorne chose not to take that as an insult.
"Yeah. Like I said, back at the club I was listening to a guy sing. I saw enough in his head to know that I had to get over here right now. He's got to be mixed up in this somehow, for all of that to be there in his aura, even if he doesn't know about it yet. It's one hell of a coincidence that he turned up looking to sing tonight, when he's never wanted to before, so I'm betting he's up to his pretty neck in something. I don't know if he can answer our questions, but right now he's the best we got."
Spike nodded slowly, his momentary antagonism forgotten. "What about Lilah?"
"If she's behind this, she's not going to come here anyway. If she isn't, then maybe she doesn't know anything. Either way, I'm not all shiny and happy about the idea of getting together with her. Unless you especially want her, I say forget the Hellspawn Daughter Of Evil, and let's go back to my place. In an entirely platonic sense, of course."
"I don't have any better ideas." Spike made a face. "Course, you can't just transport yourself over there, can you."
"Happily, no. I've got nothing against the dead, sugar, but I have no intention of joining your ranks while there's still cocktails to be sampled. So if you don't mind, we'll use my car. Dega won't say anything to you, so there's no sense in going on ahead."
"Dega will say whatever I bloody well ask him to say." Spike looked about ready to start tearing heads off, and Lorne winced at his belligerent attitude.
"That's great, doll. You go on over there thinking that, and watch yourself running straight into the sanctuary spell when you try to start anything. Dega must have seen the effect that his song had on me, and he's got to have realised that I'll be wanting to speak to him sometime. He that knows that he's safe so long as he's at the club, so I'd be willing to bet my second favourite silk smoking jacket that he's still over there. Why run, when you can hole up somewhere where you can't get hurt?"
"Revoke the bloody spell." Spike was storming towards the doors. Lorne followed after him, rather worried that the vampire would break into the car if he reached it first.
"No. I won't do that. It's all happened before, Spike, and it's not happening again. No way. Not at my club. Everybody has to know that they're safe in that place, and I won't be the one to make them think differently. Not this time."
"Yeah yeah yeah." Spike had heard Lorne speak before about his precious impartiality, and had no great desire to repeat the experience now. "Just get us there. I don't like not knowing what's going on."
"You and me both." There were no fond nicknames this time, no lightness in the tone. Even when he was worried Lorne didn't often lose his easy demeanour - Spike had seen that in the past. He had lost in now, though, and the vampire would have bet good money on something from the vision he had seen in Dega's song being the cause. Spike wanted to meet this Dega. And no amount of anti-violence spells were going to prevent him from discovering what he needed to know.
He found nothing but sameness everywhere. Identical corridors, identical offices. Some bore more evidence of their occupants than his - photographs, keepsakes, post-it notes. They were all decorated the same way, though, with the same thick carpet and the same anodyne paintings. He met a few people walking down the corridors, all in expensive suits, all with neat hair and well-shined shoes. None of them spoke to him, and he didn't speak to any of them. They weren't what he was looking for. He didn't know why he was so sure of that; he merely knew that he wouldn't discover what he sought by talking to these people. These small fishes, in their shallow part of the pond. He walked on, waiting for somebody to challenge him. Nobody did. Nobody seemed to care that he was there amongst them, so perhaps he really did belong there. Maybe he too was one of these neat-suited types, with a briefcase and an annual rise in his paycheque, and maybe this was all supposed to be familiar. It didn't match with the talk of fighting vampires, but who knew how such things were done. He certainly didn't. Right now he didn't know anything at all; except, it seemed, how to open doors with magic - and how to wield a sword. And how did that fit in with a neat office block filled with immaculately dressed businessmen and businesswomen in expensive Italian shoes? He frowned at that. Italian shoes? How the hell did he know where their shoes were made? Was he a fashion expert? Did he know somebody who loved clothes and shoes? Damned if he knew. He just walked on, and trusted in his instincts to lead him somewhere.
They led him in the end to a lift, that told him he was on the twenty-second floor. That was a start, if not a particularly useful one. He ran an eye over the buttons by the door, trying to see if anything struck him as familiar. When he put out a hand, did his fingers move instinctively for a button? Did one number seem to leap out at him, indicating that it was the one that he should choose? He found to his annoyance that he recognised nothing. No one number screamed for his attention. With nothing better to work from, he pressed the button for the topmost floor, and let the lift take him on up. The doors slid open, not at another corridor, but in an apartment room. A penthouse, his malfunctioning memory told him. Odd that it hadn't been marked as such on the lift controls. He wandered into the room, looking about at a vast living area, with chairs, settees and a glass-topped coffee table. There was a book on the table - Moments Of Being, by Claude Thomas Ruboulde. His lip curled at the title. An overly-sentimentalised account of the birth of a vampire within the body of a dead man. Nonsense presented as truth, by a man who wouldn't believe that vampires were evil. Now that was unexpected. How did he know so much about a book that he would almost have sworn he had never heard of before? He picked it up, feeling its weight, knowing that it was a first edition, and that the book had first been published in 1816. That brought another frown to his forehead. How did he know that? Had he been a bookseller before taking up the fight against vampires?
"David." A measured, cultured voice made him look up. There was a man watching him from a nearby door. There was a bedroom behind him, by the look of things. Was this his apartment? Probably not. He didn't move with the easy familiarity of a man in his own lair. "I'd heard that you were on your way upstairs. Are you looking for something?"
"I don't know." This man clearly knew him. He was smiling pleasantly, and there was nothing threatening about his body language. "I'm trying to get my bearings, you might say." Their voices were similar, he realised. This man wasn't English, though. East coast American perhaps, ramrod straight and dressed in a waistcoat and cravat. He looked to be somewhere in his fifties, with hair going grey at the temples, and pale green eyes that matched the waistcoat, and the swirls of pattern on the blue-grey cravat. There was a pin securing the cravat in place, that glinted when he moved. A design of some sort, that stirred some distant trace of memory.
"I understand." The man was smiling broadly now. There was something magnetic about him. Something warm, and charming. Something trustworthy, friendly and kind. "Always head upwards. Roofs are great places for thinking on." He walked forward, smiling all the while. "You don't remember me, do you."
"Right now I don't even remember me." He didn't trust the man. Big, broad smiles, easy-going demeanour, bags of charisma - there was no reason to distrust him, and every reason to relax and return the warm and open smile. He couldn't bring himself to do that, though. His instinct was still to hold back. The older man shrugged.
"Your memory will come back. That was a hell of a fight you got yourself into. You're the best we've got, dear boy, but those vampires would have torn you to shreds if the reinforcements hadn't arrived when they did. You were in bad shape, but I think we've patched you up again for the most part. A few missing memories probably isn't so bad. We'd have been in a right mess if they'd turned you. All your knowledge in their hands? Doesn't bear thinking about."
"I'm... important in some way?" He didn't feel important. He could see his reflection in the glass of a window opposite, and just like its twin in the window of his office, it looked haggard and haunted. He wasn't wearing a suit, like everybody else in the building - not even the torn remnants of one. The other man laughed shortly.
"David, you're our greatest fighter. You lead the battle against the vampires, against the demons. You remember vampires and demons?"
"Yes." His mind was filled with information about such creatures. He didn't even need to think about it to know that it was so. Information ingrained into the very fibre of his brain, so that none of it could ever be forgotten. It was as though he had been learning such things all of his life. He weighed the sword in his hand, feeling its weight, and the familiarity of it. It seemed true. Such knowledge, such obvious intimacy with weapons. It felt right that he should fight demons. Even though he couldn't remember who he was, fighting evil creatures felt like what he did. The other man nodded.
"Good. The rest will come to you, in time. Don't worry about it. Here." He went over to the other side of the room, to a bar nestled into a corner. There were bottles there; whisky, brandy, sherry - the full compliment of spirits and liqueurs. "Have a whisky. Always better than rest when you've been in a fight."
"Thankyou." He accepted the glass, managing to drag up a smile. He didn't bother looking at it in the window opposite, but he knew that it was thin and ragged. Like him, he mused, and wondered if he should ask if he always looked such a mess. The other man was holding up his own glass, though, obviously planning a toast.
"To us." He was positively beaming now. He looked and sounded as though this were some familiar ritual. Were they close, then? Did they often share a drink, in this place or somewhere else? "To us, to the fight, to the destruction of our enemies." He took a sip of the whisky and winced. "Good grief, man. What happened to the single malt? This is more like engine oil."
"Don't ask me." It was a feeble joke. The other man laughed nonetheless, in an easy, familiar way.
"Sorry. It was a stupid question. We probably drank it all the other day. That was quite a night." He sighed. "And I'm sorry. You don't have a clue what I'm talking about, and you obviously don't have the slightest idea who I am. My name is Peter Cunningham. I don't expect you to remember. Not yet, anyway. We work together though, David. On the Angel Project."
"Angel Project?" Somehow that seemed to stir something within him. He wasn't sure what, but the mention of the name didn't meet with the same blank nothingness that everything else seemed to inspire. "What's that?"
"Our work. We set out to destroy the man responsible for filling Los Angeles with vampires. The man who killed most of our friends, and set that trap that damned nearly killed you. Angel. You don't remember him?"
"Angel..." The name seemed to fit his tongue. It rolled out of his mouth like a word that he knew well. Like something that he said dozens of times a day, so that it was as familiar to him as his own name should be. More so, now. David Holbrook meant nothing to him. Angel, however, seemed to mean a lot. He nodded slowly. "I think I remember. I don't... I don't know. It's all too vague."
"Give it time." The other man - Cunningham - clapped him on the shoulder. "Drink up, David. It'll do you some good, even if it isn't a single malt. I'll send down for some better stuff later. No reason why the great hero of Wolfram & Hart should have to slum it, is there. Champions deserve good whisky."
"Champions?" The word struck a chord in a weird kind of way, but he couldn't see himself being a champion. He didn't look like one. What was he champion of, exactly? Insomnia and paranoia? Cunningham smiled approvingly, though, like some proud teacher.
"That's it. It's all coming back, see. I said it would."
"I'm a... champion?" Gallant defender of the innocent? White steed? Shining armour? That definitely didn't sound right. Cunningham gestured to the whisky glass, and obediently, mechanically, he drank the liquid down. It burned his throat, and in a very familiar way. Maybe he was a Champion of Whisky, then. It would fit with the haggard appearance and rumpled clothes.
"You're the Champion, David. Don't tell me you've forgotten that? Perhaps that was no ordinary trap you fell into. Perhaps there was magic involved."
"Magic?" He felt like a bad echo, but now at least there was something that he understood. He set the empty glass down, and muttered a few words that came to his mind as if of their own accord. Through a faint haze of blue light he thought that he saw Cunningham frown, and wondered if perhaps magic wasn't the done thing. The notion did seem to spark something deep inside his memory. Then the light faded, and he nodded slowly. "There has been magic around me recently. Nothing that I've done myself."
"Ah." Cunningham looked momentarily taken aback. "Ah. You're... sure?"
"As sure as I can be when I don't understand what I'm doing myself. I can do magic. How, I don't know. Did I always...?" He trailed off. When you didn't trust anybody, it was hard to ask anyone for information. He had ask somebody though, and Cunningham at least was here, and seemed willing to talk. The greying head nodded.
"You've been developing magical abilities for some time, yes. None of us really knew how far you'd gone with your studies though. I knew that you had some powers..." He smiled faintly, and again there was a slight frown. "I didn't know how developed they were. I'm... impressed."
"No. No, not disapproving. Just surprised. I really wasn't expecting you to remember such things, through your amnesia. Once a magician, always a magician I suppose."
"So it would seem." He dredged up a crooked smile. "So if there's been magic spun around me recently, there's a chance that this amnesia isn't entirely natural?"
"You've been bashed about in fights before, David. You can never tell how a head injury will effect you of course, but I would never have expected something like this. Yes, I think the amnesia is the result of a spell. Something set up by Angel, I suppose. Him and his associates. The sooner they're destroyed, the better. To have your memory removed must be... well, I can only begin to imagine. Goodness only knows what Angel is planning, that he felt he needed to strike against you in this way. Perhaps he knew that it would be difficult to kill you, so he tried to destroy you as an adversary in another way instead. His plans must be coming to fruition."
"He's very evil?" Even though the name still seemed second nature to him, even though the very sound of it meant something to him, he couldn't remember who Angel was. What sort of a man or creature might he be. David nodded slowly.
"Yes, he's evil. You wouldn't have made it your life's work to stop him otherwise. Do you feel like an evil man yourself?"
"No." For some reason morality seemed a difficult question, but he couldn't imagine himself doing anything truly bad. An enemy he was pledged to stop couldn't be a good man himself, then, he supposed. He would hardly choose a hero as an enemy.
"Here." Cunningham filled up their glasses again. "A good stiff drink has its uses, you know. Our ancestors got that right, even if they were a bit vague about certain other things."
"I suppose." He took a slow sip of the harsh liquid. "Not sure that it's ever been prescribed to amnesiacs though."
"Perhaps we'll set a trend." Cunningham smiled faintly, then his eyes softened into a look of kindly concern. "You don't trust me, do you. You don't know if you can believe a word that I'm saying."
"I don't know who you are." He heard the sadness in his own voice, and gave a little shrug. "Have I always been so untrusting?"
"In a word?" Suddenly Cunningham was grinning, and clapping him gently on the shoulder. "Yes! You're famous for it, David. You never trust anybody, even the staff here. They've all been vetted, but there's only one or two that you've ever taken into your confidence. It's a bit of a standing joke, though I probably shouldn't say as much to your face. It's saved all our lives, you know, at one time or another. And it's only to be expected. You're a fighter. You spend your whole life out there, fighting creatures that most people couldn't dream up even in their worst nightmares. Monsters, demons, magicians. Things from other dimensions, beasts straight out of hell. Plenty of them are here because of humans calling them, or summoning them, or because of old prophecies and spells and all the rest of it. You once told me that for all the fighting we do against monsters, it's humans who are our greatest enemies. Always trying to destroy each other, or get power and riches and all that nonsense. If you don't trust people, that's fine. Nobody here blames you for it."
"But I should trust you?"
"You did. I understand if you don't now. It's your nature, David. You're not a trusting man. It would be wrong of me to ask for your trust now, before you've reason to remember our friendship, or see that you can depend on me."
"It wasn't intended to be a line. I was just speaking the truth." Cunningham smiled again, as always looking warm and good-natured. "You are a good man, David. I wouldn't lie to you about that. You must be able to sense it inside yourself in some way."
"I don't know."
"No. Well, that doesn't matter. All that matters is that you believe it now. I'd hardly have reason to lie to you about that. You're a good man, and you've dedicated your life to fighting evil. That's the only thing that you really have to believe right now. The rest will come in time. There are still battles to be fought, with or without your memory - and they won't all wait until you're fully recovered. You understand?"
"Yes, I think I do." He drank down the rest of his whisky, and set the glass aside. Cunningham refilled it almost immediately. "I can't keep on worrying about what I can and can't remember. There are more important things to worry about."
"Always supposing you can trust us." Cunningham was smiling teasingly, and received a rueful smile in reply.
"Yes. Quite. Although one wonders why somebody evil would be so eager to get me back out fighting evil."
"Unless it's all a clever ruse." Cunningham's smile was more a smirk now, challenging and teasing all at once. His companion nodded a slow, sorry head.
"I don't think that I like this paranoia business very much. I'm not sure that I like me very much."
"You're the man that you are, David. It's what's kept you alive."
"Yes." He glanced down at his right hand, apparently noticing the sword for the first time in some while. "But I'm still not sure that I like it. It must be a very lonely way of living."
"Then perhaps this is all a new start for you." Cunningham gestured at the newly filled glass of whisky. "To new starts?"
"I suppose." He threw back the cheap alcohol, experiencing again the odd familiarity of the sensation it produced in his throat. So he was a drunk as well, was he? Drunk, paranoid and - if the look in his eyes was anything to go by - somewhat unbalanced as well. Not a great thing to wake up to, when the world was so enjoyably fresh and new in his eyes. He set down the glass, and dredged up a faint smile for his companion.
"I want some air. Any objections if I go for a walk?"
"No, not at all. It's daylight, so there's less danger. Just don't forget that there are a lot of enemies out there. Don't go too far. You're obviously not one hundred percent yet."
"It's alright. I don't want to go very far. I just need the fresh air." He glanced down at the sword again, then slowly put it down beside the whisky glass. "I'll see you in a little while."
"Take as long as you need, David." Cunningham's eyes were kind, and that was nice. It was reassuring, pleasant, warming - but he didn't trust the expression. He didn't trust the kindness, or the eyes, or the man. He didn't trust anyone, himself included. A strange, strange way to live a life, he thought - and yet somehow it seemed familiar. It seemed right. With a final, wan smile at Cunningham, he turned around and walked back into the lift. He needed that air, and he needed some space. With luck then, perhaps he could untangle his mind.
In a vast, white room that was not really a room at all, Peter Cunningham stood on his own and spoke to the air. A voice answered him, though it appeared inside his head, and seemed to come from no external source. Occasionally he thought that he caught a glimpse of something, with him in the whiteness; a shape, a shadow, a white blur against white - but there was never anything definite, and never anything that he could truly pin down. Suggestions of shapes, rather than shapes themselves. Things that teased the furthest corners of his vision, and refused to coalesce. He was used to that, for he had been in this white space before. He was used to the oddness, to the unreality of it all. The only thing to which he never truly became used was the whispering of many voices in his head, underneath or behind or within the single voice that he came to this place to hear. They were the voices of his predecessors, of his colleagues, of enemies and long ago friends. Dead now, or banished; echoing in this weird place of neither here nor there. They were trying to tell him things, he knew. To warn him, probably, of the dangers of Wolfram & Hart. He told himself that he didn't care, but they disturbed him anyway. It was like having hundreds of tiny creatures scratching away inside his skull. For once, though, there was no reason to pay any great attention to their whisperings. He had more important things to worry about, and for once he had the courage to raise his voice, and let the power he spoke to know that he was worried and annoyed.
"He wasn't supposed to remember anything! All of this was set up on the understanding that he wouldn't know a thing about himself. Now suddenly I have a magician to deal with. How can he remember the magic, or how to use it? How long before he remembers something else?"
"He will not remember. His memory was taken with magic. With magic it will remain hidden from him." The voice was assured, and level. If his unseen contact was angry at the short tone Cunningham had used, it gave no sign of it. "There is no need to fear."
"There was 'no need to fear' anything else, either, to begin with. But he still knows his magic! He did a spell, and found that there had been magic performed upon him recently. He knows about your spell. How long before he finds a way to counteract it?"
"Impossible." The voice was louder now, curt. Confident. "One human, no matter how talented, cannot fight our spells. He will not recover his memory. If you are concerned, perhaps you should not have mentioned that his memory might have been removed by magical means."
"I was thinking on my feet! When somebody wakes up after what he's told is a serious injury, and finds that his memory has gone, he doesn't usually expect to be in an office somewhere, with nobody but lawyers and businessmen to talk to. He expects hospitals and doctors - and that goes, it would seem, even for somebody who has had their memory tampered with. I had to tell him something. Now at least he's ready to accept a few things. He's not wondering anymore about why he's not being treated by medical professionals."
"Then all is well." The voice was calm again. Cunningham would have sworn, had he been brave enough to do so here.
"All is not well. He still has his powers. Why aren't you worried about that? You were supposed to take it all away."
"Some things are not a part of the memory. Some things are a part of the mind. Of the body. Of the heart." There was distaste in the voice now, at the mention of the last word. "Some things cannot be removed without destroying too much of the man."
"You told me that--"
"You were told that all would not necessarily be as planned. All instances differ. There is much that he will retain, and your task is to be sure that it does not become a problem when he does remember something. To be sure that he does not link his memories to any part of his old self. You were chosen for this. Are you not capable?"
"I'm capable." Cunningham bit back a sharp reply. He was capable - he had to be. You didn't get moved to another job in this game. You joined the chorus of whispering voices, now scratching away inside somebody else's skull. "I just want to be clear that--"
"He will not know who he is. Make him trust you. Earn that trust. Send him on his mission, and let prophecy do the rest. There is nothing else that need be clear." For a second the voice was quiet, and all that Cunningham could hear were those scratching, hissing whispers. As ever he caught one or two of the words, or thought that he did. As ever it was not enough to decipher a message, or uncover a complete warning. He didn't care. He wasn't interested in the advice of his predecessors, any more than they had been interested in their turn. He turned to leave.
"You are still worried," said the voice. He stopped and looked back, staring at the focal point he had chosen for himself when he had first visited this apparently empty room.
"Yes, I'm still worried. He doesn't know me, and he's got no reason to trust me. I can smile, and fill him full of whisky so that hopefully he won't think too much. I can lie to him better than he's ever been lied to before. He doesn't know me, though. Why should he believe me when I say that I'm his friend?"
"That has been taken care of. If you believe that you can continue to be in control of this task, you may go now, and see our plans working."
"Continue to be in control? Of course I can still be in control."
"Then go." There was a whirl of white, a rush of air, and Cunningham was no longer in the room. He was standing instead on a street corner, though the people that rushed on past didn't seem to have noticed his appearance amongst them. He pushed through them, searching for whatever it was that he had been sent here to see. It was cold, though he hardly noticed the weather. The unaccustomed sunlight hurt his eyes at first, for he hadn't been outside in the daytime for years - but he ignored that too. He was here to see something. He wouldn't miss that because of discomfort at the elements, or because his body had chosen to adapt itself to the nocturnal lifestyle his job had long required.
"Hey!" Somebody was objecting, possibly to his having pushed past, or possibly just because this was a city, and as Cunningham recalled there was a good deal of loud complaining and displeasure amongst the throngs of people who rushed about the streets. He shot the complainer a look that was far, far from the kindness and smiles he had shown 'David Holbrook'. He didn't see the man's face, and there was no further complaint. Whatever he had done that had so displeased his fellow pedestrian, clearly it was going to pass now without further comment. Cunningham might have smiled to himself, had he been the kind of man much given to smiling. He wasn't. As a rule the face he showed to the world never smiled at all, and the cold green eyes showed all too clearly that there was little humanity left behind the skin and bone.
"Where are you?" He turned in a circle, looking for some sign that his masters were at work. A glimpse of his amnesiac charge perhaps, or the signs of magic being done. There was nothing. Just people, being people. People unaware of the worlds running parallel to their own. He ignored them and their protests, and pushed his way through their midst as though he barely registered their presence. Let them swear at him, let them complain. Their voices were as nothing to him.
It was when he reached a clear space, at a junction with a street where there were far fewer people, that he found what he had been looking for. A dark, slight man, dressed in rumpled clothing; dressed without care before his arrival, in an effort to remove all traces of the knife wound that once had killed him. A man walking slowly away from the throngs, obviously deep in thought, obviously seeking the solitude that he preferred to such a crowd. There was somebody else there, Cunningham noticed, and for a moment worry filled him. These two mustn't see each other. These two mustn't speak. He almost started forward; almost swore out loud. Then he noticed something else in the almost empty street, and he smiled, unpleasantly. His masters had been right. This was everything he needed.
David Holbrook was a man adrift. He had thought that leaving the confines of the offices, and going back out into the world, might steady his mind and remove some of his many confusions. It served merely to create more. Stepping out of the doors into the world of the Los Angeles sidewalk was like stepping from one world into another - or so he imagined. For some reason, the idea of stepping from world to world was weirdly familiar. He wondered if he did that, too. A sideline, for the quiet moments when he wasn't battling vampires and demons. That didn't ring any bells though. At the thought he was left just with the peculiar feeling that seemed to spark in his head whenever he thought of vampires. Maybe fighting them was the family business, and all of this seemed so familiar because his father had done it before him. That reminded him of nothing, though. Perhaps he didn't have a father. Perhaps he had never known the man. Perhaps all that he had in the world was this office block, this city, this mass of people making a noise that felt like screaming inside his head. He winced and turned away, almost going back inside the building. Only his own restlessness prevented it. He needed to walk, and he needed to do that somewhere where there were no corridors, no bland paintings, no identical stairwells and elevators. Now if only he could have the outdoors, and some peace and solitude with it.
He walked aimlessly at first, buffeted by the crowds, pushed one way and then the other by pedestrians who didn't seem to know that he was there. He asserted himself at last, regaining some sense of real awareness when the cold began to penetrate his thin clothing, and the noise of traffic and people finally began to dispel the thick fog of confusion that had dulled his brain since his awakening. He felt more real then - more alive, more awake. More human. It didn't bring his memory back to him though. It just left him with more questions, and more mind now to dwell on even more questions still. What had happened? Why did he not feel any residual effects from the injuries he must have received? He didn't appear to be physically damaged in any way. Cunningham had suggested that the amnesia was magical, but that didn't make much sense to him. It made less the more than he walked, and the more that he became able to think straight. Why lure him into a trap, apparently to kill him, but then cast a spell to wipe his memory? What was the point? Surely it would be easier simply to kill him? Cunningham's answer had been that Angel would find him difficult to kill, but how hard could it be to kill anybody in a trap, with magic and vampires for assistance? He wondered about this 'Angel', supposedly the enemy behind all of this. The name that was so tantalisingly familiar, and yet seemed to mean nothing to him at all.
"Well if isn't the wandering ghost." The words took some time to sink in, and when he finally glanced up from his distracted thoughts, he saw that the crowds had disappeared. He had veered off the main concourse at some point, into a much quieter, far less chaotic street. For a moment he thought that that he was alone, and couldn't understand where the voice had come from, until he saw movement in the shadows that clung to a wall on his right. There was a man there, almost hidden - no, not a man. A demon. Shorter than him and faintly cowed, with red skin and a long, broad nose. He emerged slowly from his hideout, looking nervously up and down the street.
"I beg your pardon?" Polite inquiry didn't necessarily seem the right way to speak to a demon, but instinct said that they couldn't all be murdering monsters. This one certainly didn't look very dangerous. The red brow crinkled into a puzzled frown.
"I said..." The frown deepened, and the little demon sniffed the air suddenly, and backed sharply away. For some reason, David found that he didn't want the creature to leave.
"Wait." He took a step forward, but the demon flinched noticeably. "I'm not going to hurt you. Or... if you promise not to eat anybody, anyway."
"Eat anybody?!" Forgetting its fear in a moment of obvious outrage, the demon drew itself up to its full, rather unimpressive height. "Do I look like I'm likely to eat anybody?"
"No..." His brain was on the move, processing thoughts, dragging things out from that same, weird store of knowledge that had helped him to perform magic. "You're a... Lynd. You're vegetarian."
"Strictly a leaves and nuts kind of guy." The demon frowned. "What's up with you, Wes? You don't smell right. You smell... solid. When is a ghost not a ghost?"
"Is that a riddle?" David was beginning to feel lost. "Do I know you?"
"Know me? Haven't I been feeding you information about demon movements for the last three years? Haven't I been your number one underworld contact all this time? Well, no, I guess not. But I've gotta be number three at least, right?"
"You're an informant? I pay you for information?" David was sure that something should strike a chord, but nothing did. "Are you sure you're not confusing me with somebody else? And why shouldn't I smell solid?"
"Whoah, man. Questions, questions, questions. I get paid per answer, remember?" The creature frowned again. "I don't know, though. I'm not sure I should be charging you right now. You were okay to me, Wes. Mostly. I mean, there was your whole Psycho period, sure, but I can't really hold that against you. We all go off the rails occasionally, right?"
"Psycho period? And what's 'Wes'?"
"Boy, somebody sure did a number on you, didn't they." The Lynd shook its head, slowly and exaggeratedly. "I don't know, man. There's a whole lot of beings who'd pay a whole lot of cash to hear that you're all alone out here. Alone in every wrong way." He seemed to be fighting some instinct inside himself. "Damn it. Must be some of you rubbing off on me, man. I'd better get you under some serious cover, unless you're a whole lot more lucid than you look."
"I'm not in any danger. I can't have gone that far from the office." He reached up one hand, faintly shocked by the realisation that he was looking instinctively for a gun. He knew that he was unarmed, but his instincts clearly wanted to check again for themselves. The Lynd's eyes widened.
"You're not packing? Man, Wes. What's got into you? I always knew there'd be weird things happening with that whole Wolfram & Hart deal, but you've beaten all the records this time. Angel better we willing to pay me a whole lot of money for this."
"Angel?" David stopped dead at this, the name making his pulse quicken and his hackles rise. Angel was his enemy. Angel was the reason he had no memory now - or so said Peter Cunningham. And Peter Cunningham was the only person he knew in the whole of the world. "You know Angel?"
"Of course I do. I know Angel, you know Angel. Hells, everybody in the whole damn city knows Angel. Or the ones who know their city do, anyhow. I doubt there's a more famous vampire in the States. And why are we having this conversation? What in Mornock's name is up with you?"
"Angel is a vampire?" Then Cunningham must have been telling the truth. Angel must be his enemy, and this creature claimed to know him. David reacted purely by instinct then, one hand darting out with a speed that surprised him, catching the Lynd by the throat and holding him tight. The demon made incensed choking sounds, and struggled hopelessly.
"Hey! Hey! Okay, so you're playing at Bad Watcher again, I get it! I may be a demon, but I've still gotta breathe!"
"Answer me. Quickly. Do you know where Angel can be found?"
"Well you should know that better than me, man. Where he is you're never far behind." His captor gave him a brief shake, and he yelped. "Okay! Okay! I hear rumours he's gone to help his blonde bombshell with something. I don't know. My information is good, though, right? That's why you come to me. Aren't I the only one who worked out the whole dead thing? That you know of, anyway."
"Yeah! Buffy! In London. There's talk of prophecies, man. Slayer stuff, you know? Not anything I want any part of, but if it's what floats your boat, fine. Now let me go. I'm not as young as I used to be."
"The Slayer." It was a title, and it was like a hammer in the back of his head. "The Slayer." It meant something to him. It meant... pride failure embarrassment exile pain. Not a good thing then, it seemed. "Look, I don't--"
"Just let me go, will you!" The demon struggled in his grip. "Come on, Pryce! You know I can't be out in the open air too much. I've got enemies. Now let me go."
"We need to talk." David loosened his grip, though he didn't release the Lynd. "I need some answers."
"Yeah, sure. Don't we all. Listen, whatever's going down with you, I don't need any part of it. You, Wolfram & Hart, all that magic - if you've got yourself into something you can't handle, it ain't me who's going to be getting you out of it. So let me go, and--" The creature broke off, eyes widening. "Hey, you've gotta protect me, Pryce. You - you gotta. It's your fault I'm here. Your fault. You have to stop them."
"What?" David released him, turning around to see what had suddenly frightened his prisoner. Two large men were coming down the street, dressed in neat, expensive suits that exactly mirrored all the others he had seen that morning. He didn't need to wonder where they were from.
"Don't let them get me, man." The Lynd was looking around for a means of escape, snatching up the lid of a metal trash can to use as a weapon. "You owe me."
"Nobody is going to hurt you." David moved forward to intercept the pair. "You're from Wolfram & Hart?"
"Yeah. Clean up ops." The larger of the two men nodded politely. "Keep out of the way, Mr Holbrook. We have our orders."
"For him? He's just a Lynd. Leave him alone." David tried again to head them off, but found himself gently pushed aside. "Hey! He's a Lynd."
"Yeah!" The Lynd brandished its trash can lid, without the slightest conviction. "I'm harmless. I've never sold out your lot, have I?"
"We know what you are. And we know what you're doing." One of the new arrivals reached into his suit, and withdrew a large, powerful handgun. The Lynd yelped.
"That's unnecessary!" David broke into a run, catching hold of the operative's arm to spoil his aim. "You don't need to kill him."
"We have our orders." A heavy arm caught hold of him, pulling him off balance, and the Lynd let out a yell. David started to shout, but before he could utter a word, the gun had gone off. It made no sound, and the only noise in the quiet little street was the thump of the demon falling back against the wall, its head burst open by the force of the bullet. David slumped against the arm still holding him back.
"You didn't have to do that." He pulled away from the pair, going over to the dead creature and staring down at it with real regret. "He wasn't going to hurt anybody."
"You think?" One of the Wolfram & Hart pair joined him by the body, crouching down beside it and rummaging around in the demon's pockets. He held up the item that he had apparently found in one of them - a small, silver cylinder, glowing with a faint blue light. "You're supposed to be the smart one. You know what this is?"
"It looks like some kind of device." David took it, turning it carefully in his hands. He shouldn't have known what it was, given the hole that had appeared in his mind - but he did know, with the same certainty he had had in identifying the demon's race. "A grenade. Magical trigger by the look of it. Probably a good deal more powerful than it looks."
"We had an anonymous tip that this thing was armed with something deadly, that he was planning on setting off today, in a crowded place. My guess is he was going to head right out into that street back there. All those people, and they'd never have known what had hit them. This thing could disintegrate four blocks."
"No." David shook his head slowly. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would a Lynd--"
"It's a demon." The second ops man smirked suddenly. "Was a demon. Why would it do anything? They hate humans, you know that."
"No. No, they're not all like that. Lynds are peaceful."
"Try explaining that to the people it was about to incinerate." The first man took back the grenade, and stowed it away inside his suit. "Look, it had its reasons. Maybe it was being paid to do it. It would have incinerated itself too, so maybe it had nothing to lose. I don't know. I don't care. My job is just to follow orders, and keep this city safe. Right now my orders are to get this grenade somewhere secure, and take you back to the office. You don't remember who your enemies are, Mr Holbrook."
"He didn't act like my enemy. He said that he knew me. He knew Angel."
"Of course he knew you. Enemies know each other too. If he knew Angel then he must have been one of the bad guys, right? Now Mr Cunningham asked us to keep an eye out for you, just like he told us to keep an eye out for that thing. Looks like we've killed two birds with one stone."
"Cunningham sent you out here today?" Holbrook stared down at the body at his feet. So Cunningham had heard about the Lynd's plot, and had seen to it that the creature was stopped. Apparently Cunningham had thought to look out for him at the same time. Thousands of lives saved, his own one of them. Maybe the man was worth trusting after all.
"Yeah, Cunningham sent us. And you should be getting back to him. There's probably things you two need to talk about."
"Angel and all that stuff." The second ops man didn't sound especially interested. Perhaps his field was a smaller, more local one, and the many nefarious activities of this Angel did not come into his jurisdiction. David remembered something that the Lynd had told him.
"Angel may be in London. I should... I suppose I should report that."
"I guess you probably should." The first ops man smiled rather blankly. "We'll clean up here. You get on back to the office. Unless you'd like an escort?"
"No. No, I can manage." David smiled faintly, briefly, then nodded a brisk farewell and left. He didn't notice Cunningham watching him from the shadows, a satisfied look on his smirking face. The other man was hidden by magic, as well as by light. Had he looked back he would have seen the two big ops men shimmer slightly and then disappear, for all the world as though they had never been there at all. Maybe they hadn't. But he didn't look back. He didn't see the rats that came to devour the Lynd's body, clearing up where the wraith-like ops men had failed. He didn't see Cunningham's smirk turn into something considerably more unpleasant. He just saw crowds, and thought about the grenade that could have killed so many. All of them, saved by Cunningham, or so it seemed. Perhaps it was time to be a little more trusting. Time to accept that the man truly was his friend.
"You should let me hit him." Sitting at the bar, frustrated by the alcohol that he couldn't drink, Spike was in a far from good mood. "Five minutes alone with me, he'll be talking so much we won't be able to shut him up."
"Five minutes alone with you, honey, and it's you that'll be singing, not him." Lorne sipped without enthusiasm at a glass of something bright and vividly pink. "Sanctuary spell, remember?"
"Which you won't bloody remove." Spike muttered something that Lorne couldn't hear, though he could guess well enough what it had been. He sighed.
"Something is going on, which could affect all of us. For all we know, Wes and Charlie boy have already been zapped. Now I want to know what's going on, and I don't intend to let some stupid spell stop me from finding out. Your buddy over there knows something. He's going to tell me."
"Calm down. Just 'cause you're called Spike, doesn't mean you have to be so damn prickly." Lorne sighed. "Look, he's here, we're here - we can talk about this nicely. You just stay here and keep your head down. Try not to punch anybody, or get zapped by any weird Wesley-napping spells, and I'll see if I can get Dega to come over here and play nice. He's always been one of the good guys in the past."
"No, he always seemed like one of the good guys in the past. Big difference, Liberace."
"Yeah." Lorne looked distinctly miserable. "I really liked him. Just call me Sucker."
"Just go get him." Spike seemed to relent a bit, either because he was affected by the sight of the dejected demon, or because his temper was just naturally wearing itself out. Lorne nodded, then with a last, fortifying sip of the pink concoction in his glass, he heaved himself to his feet and headed across the room. There were still a lot of customers, just as there had been when he had left, though his sudden departure seemed to have signalled the end of the festivities for some. There were gaps on the dance floor now, and less people seated at the tables around the room. It meant that it was much harder for Dega to hide, for there was no longer such a crowd to lose himself within. Lorne walked straight over to the table where the beguiling demon was sitting, and favoured him with a glare as blistering as any he had given before. Dega stared back at him, purple eyes cloudy with hidden expression.
"Lorne." He sounded nervous. "You can't, er... I mean... you wouldn't..."
"Wouldn't I? You bet your butt I would, cupcake. I'd personally tear you to shreds, and feed each one to the Tinacz beast that lives in my sewer. Honey, don't you dare presume to think that you know me."
"There's spells here." Dega, always the epitome of cool with his sleek hair and perfect clothing, looked ready to fall apart now. "The sanctuary spell. You can't hurt me so long as that's in place, and everybody knows it. I checked, and it's working. Did a.. did a... magicky thing, and it's doing like it should. You can't touch me."
"Uh huh. Sanctuary's doing just fine. Thing is, doll - you see who I came in with over there? Tall, blond, kinda cute in a brash kinda way? Well don't spread this around too much, as he's a little sensitive, but that guy's dead. As in the proverbial doornail. Which means, kitten, that the Sanctuary Spell doesn't mean a thing to him. He could beat you till you're as purple as those beautiful eyes of yours. So I'd suggest that you talk to me, otherwise, much as I hate the way blood refuses to come out of the upholstery, I'll just have to be willing to make the sacrifice. What's a little haberdashery in the fight against evil, right?"
"You're bluffing." Dega's eyes flicked from Spike back to Lorne, then drifted back to Spike again. The vampire stood up, sensing the attention, and seemed about to join the pair at the table.
"Sure I'm bluffing. It's all just a trick, and you can go on believing that while you're picking your teeth up off the floor." Lorne smiled placidly. "So you come with me over to the bar, and you tell me and my irascible friend what we want to know, or you get to find out what kind of a bluff it is. Right?"
"The sanctuary spell protects everybody. It has to. It's why you had it put on your place to begin with." Dega was speaking almost to himself, obviously panicked. "Nobody's immune, and everybody knows it. That's why everybody feels safe. You promised there'd be no loopholes again, after your place got trashed by humans that time."
"Ever think maybe you should stop listening to the scuttle-butt, doll? I do what I can to make this place safe, sure, but I can't cover all the bases. Only found out about the dead guy glitch myself just recently, and maybe, in time, I'll get it fixed. Right now, though, he can take you apart like yesterday's chicken. And he will. If you won't talk, there's no sense in keeping you in one piece, is there. If you won't talk, you got about as much use as a plaid jacket in my wardrobe."
"No." Dega's eyes roamed the room, possibly looking for allies, or possibly looking for a means of escape. "No, I'm supposed to be safe here."
"Honey, nobody's safe. Now shift it over to the bar before we start making a scene. The clientele are starting to look, and I'd much rather do this privately. It's not good for business if I have to have customers dismembered when there's too many witnesses."
"I'll shout. I'll tell them what's going on. Tell them that you're bringing people in here who aren't covered by the spells."
"Yeah, you do that. But my friend over there won't appreciate it, and he likes breaking things. Especially living things. Not very subtle, I know, but there's a lot of that around here. You'd be better off just doing as you're told."
"This is supposed to be a sanctuary." Looking broken, Dega was a mere shell of his former self. The being that Lorne had flirted with such a short time previously seemed no more. Lorne himself spared no thought for that now. He had other concerns.
"It's a sanctuary, right enough, and it'll always be that. Maybe I just decided to be a little choosy about who I protect." He stepped aside as Dega hauled himself to his feet, then watched the Krayn carefully as he made his way over to the bar. For a moment it looked like he might be about to run, then seeming to think better of it, he wandered slowly over towards Spike.
"I don't know anything," he mumbled listlessly. Spike stepped aside and gestured at a bar stool.
"Sit down." His voice brooked no argument. For a second Dega hesitated, then he slid onto the stool and stared at his hands. They were quivering, and he was trying to hide the fact. Spike sat down next to him, taking great care not to touch anything.
"Get you a drink?" he asked. His false politeness obviously unsettled Dega still further. "Beer?"
"I don't know anything." Dega's voice was barely audible. A beer arrived on the bar in front of him, and he blinked at it as though afraid that it might explode.
"If you don't know anything, then what are you so bloody scared of? People who shake like you are do it because they know they've got good reason for shaking." Spike brushed imaginary lint from the front of his prisoner's shirt. "Who told you to come here and sing today?"
"So quite out of the blue you decided to come here tonight and put those pictures in Lorne's head?" Spike clearly wasn't buying it. "Why did you choose today?"
"I didn't... I-I mean... Look, like I told Lorne earlier, I've got some... some things going on in my life, and I wanted some answers. How was I supposed to know that what he saw would scare him like that? When I saw him run off like he did, I panicked. I was going to run too. Then I figured, where would he run off to? Everybody knows about him and Angel. So I thought I'd wait here, and then if he came back all mob-handed, I'd be safe. I didn't know about this dead man clause."
"Dead man clause?" Spike glanced sharply over at Lorne, who shrugged uncomfortably.
"Keep your voice down. And you know what he means. The sanctuary spell has no power over dead people, remember?" He frowned sharply. "Not that it would be such a great idea for you to go giving any practical demonstrations. If you get my drift."
"Yeah. Sure." The vampire leaned closer to Dega, and let his teeth slide out. At the sight of the gleaming yellow eyes now staring into his own, the Krayn gasped loudly and pulled back. Only Lorne standing so close behind him prevented his falling backwards off the stool.
"Okay! Look, I came here tonight on purpose. I thought... I wanted..." He trailed off, looking pathetic. "You've been a good friend, Lorne. When I heard what I heard, I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how to begin. I didn't think that I could tell you the truth. Not without digging myself in, and a whole lot of others, too. So I figured I'd sing, and then maybe you'd see something. Like when you see destinies. And you did see, didn't you. You got freaked out by something, and you ran out of here like a madman."
"Yeah. I sure got my sinuses cleared out by that little slide-show." Lorne waved a hand at the bartender, and a Seabreeze arrived almost immediately. He knocked it back in one swallow, and Dega toyed miserably with his beer. He took a sip as though to fortify himself, then looked up at Spike.
"I'm not the bad guy here. I know what it looks like."
"What it looks like is some guy with answers, but determined to keep them all to himself. Guys like that aren't a whole lot of sparkly good." Spike folded his arms, staring down at the hapless demon with a force that came from more than a century of practice. His game face had faded, but a spark still remained in his eyes. "You want to convince us you're not the bad guy, you've got a lot of talking to do."
"Yeah." Dega looked away briefly, then sighed, and nodded his head. "Yeah, okay. I'll talk. But I want a promise from you that you won't go out there on some vengeance mission. I've heard all about Angel, and I know you work for him. I know what you people are like."
"You what?" Spike was incensed. "For Angel? I don't work for Angel. Hell will freeze over before I work for that namby-pamby ponce."
"Yeah, okay Spike. We'll deal with the semantics later." Lorne was anxious to get on. Spike glared at him.
"I do not work for Angel."
"Sure, honey. Whatever you say. Can we get on with the important bit now?"
"I..." Dega, once again, was somewhat fazed. He took another hasty sip of his beer, then began again. "Look, I just want some assurances, that's all. I know how Angel works. Everybody does. I don't want to name names or--"
"I don't care what you want, and I don't care whose names you've got." Spike laid a hand very carefully upon Dega's shoulder. The slow, precise movement suggested the threat of violence to come, but the move had been more about being sure of making contact, and not passing straight through the Krayn's body, than it had been about making a point. Dega, who clearly wasn't to know that, swallowed hard.
"I got a call," he said in the end, his words suddenly coming in a rush. The guy who works with you, for... I-I mean with Angel. Pryce. He had some investigative work that he wanted me to do. I've got a few contacts in places. Looking the way I do, I get to go to the human bars. I get around the social scene a lot, so I get to make human contacts as well as demon ones. I get into some pretty exclusive places. Do bar work, you know. Get invited to parties." He shrugged. "Well, anyway. Pryce knew all that I guess. He asked me to keep my eyes and ears open, and get back to him about some stuff, but what I uncovered wasn't exactly what I'd bargained on. And I don't think I should--"
"You can think all you like. You're not going to stop now." Spike towered above him, body language alone seeming to increase his height three-fold. Dega nodded slowly, then took another sip of beer. His hands were trembling, and the glass shook alarmingly.
"Pryce asked me to find out about a dead body that he said Wolfram & Hart had in one of their vaults. I don't know whose. Some magician or something. Anyway, he wanted me to find out what they were planning to do with the body, if I could. I know a lot of lawyers. We move in the same social circles, that sort of thing, and they talk just like everybody else after they've got some alcohol in them. And I guess I can be pretty persuasive." He took another sip of beer, looking anything like the confident, charming socialite he was making himself seem. Lorne had seen the other side of him though, and he nodded his head.
"Yeah. I know exactly how persuasive you can be. Carry on, sugar. Don't stop now."
"I won't. I guess I can't, now." Dega took a deep breath. "I found out what they had planned for this guy's body, whoever he was. Or I sort of did. They were going to bring him back to life. Resurrect the body, and use it for something. He wouldn't know who he was anymore, they said." He shuddered, and drank more beer. "Freaked me out. I didn't want to have any part in anything like that. Didn't even want to know the kinds of people who do that stuff. I got scared that when these lawyers got sober, they'd realise what they'd said, so I went underground. And that's when I found out how big this is. Once you know about something, you start seeing it all over. I thought it was coincidences at first, but it wasn't. All over the place, people were talking about some big piece of magic going on over at Wolfram & Hart. I don't think anybody knew what it was, but they all knew there was something. Occult dealers were all providing bits of this and bits of that for the spell. Not enough for any one of them to be able to work out what the big plan was, even if a few of them met, but enough to get them interested. Demons are closing ranks,because some of them have disappeared, and everybody thinks that their blood is being used as part of some kind of rites. And then the Broxx demon invasion started, and all these vampires all over the place. Everywhere's going crazy, and it feels like I'm stuck in the middle of it all, and I'm the only one who knows more than a few little pieces. Everybody else has got sentences, and I've got a whole page." He drained his beer. "Don't have the whole story, though, and I don't want it. I wish I'd never met your guy Pryce. I wish I'd never asked any questions or found anything out. Got a conscience, though, didn't I. Had to say something about what I'd found out, but I didn't dare do it openly. Couldn't go to Pryce. So I thought I'd sing to Lorne, and see if he could pick up on anything. Everybody sings to Lorne. Nobody thinks anythingof it. And you did see something, and now I don't know what I'm going to do. Wolfram & Hart will find out in the end, even if they don't know yet. They always find out. And unless I stay in here for the rest of my life, they'll get me. I'll bet they have spells to get around the sanctuary thing. I'll bet they have enough dead people on staff to not have to worry anyway."
"Yeah." Lorne looked faintly sheepish. "About that..."
"I guess it doesn't matter any more, huh." Dega stared into his empty glass, shoulders slumped. "I'm as dead as that body they've got in their vaults. Nobody's going to be resurrecting me, though, for whatever reason."
"I wonder who the poor sap is?" Lorne snapped his fingers for another Seabreeze, but Spike intercepted it.
"No time. Come on."
"Honey, there's always time for a Seabreeze." The drink didn't find its way back to him, and he scowled. "This dead guy isn't going to be getting any deader."
"No, but he could be getting a whole lot more lively." Spike looked down at Dega, as though considering speaking to him further, or making him accompany them when they left. Whatever his thoughts, he abandoned them, and presented the Krayn with Lorne's Seabreeze. "Drink up. Stay put. He's safe here, right Lorne?"
"In theory." His companion didn't sound convinced. Dega smiled faintly, and drank the Seabreeze down in a rush.
"Maybe I can get Illyria to be my bodyguard. Always did like the colour blue."
"You could do worse. Buy her some firewater. She likes that. Tell her you're helping us with a job for Wesley, but don't say what it is. She's probably in my office hoping everybody will give up and go home, and that's a good a place for you as any. You'll be out of sight there, but the spell still covers you." Lorne clapped his fellow demon on the shoulder. "Don't lose hope, yeah?"
"Yeah. Because you two are going to close down Wolfram & Hart. Every branch, in every city, with all their hundreds of years behind them." Dega shook his head. "Thanks for the thought. And I hope I'll see you when you get back."
"You will." Lorne seemed about to say something more, but Spike gave his arm a tug, firmly leading him away from the bar and back towards the doors. The best that the Pylean could do was blow a last forlorn kiss at the purple-eyed demon, before they were heading for open air. It was cold outside, more so in contrast to the warmth of the lively club they had just left. Lorne scowled.
"You've got no social graces, have you Spike. I was saying goodbye."
"Yeah, and knowing you, your 'saying goodbye' would have gone on until lunch time, and would have included cocktails all round. We've got work to do, Lorne."
"We've got some dead guy to find. Some maybe-not-dead-anymore-guy. And we've got to find out why he's been brought back to life. And we've got to find Wesley, and Gunn, and find out why Cordelia hasn't been in touch yet, and we've got to work out what's going on around here. I get that."
"You sound like you don't think we're up to it." Spike bridled at the suggestion. Lorne just sighed. Spike would do anything to prove a point.
"You have any plans?" he asked, knowing that he was certain to regret this. Spike just shrugged.
"I'll meet you back at the hotel."
"Spike! Don't you go doing anythi--" He broke off, for the vampire had gone. Lorne scowled at the empty air that remained. "Anything rash," he finished, then sighed and headed for his car. Spike would have to take his chances.
Which was rather what Spike thought, when he rematerialised in the hotel lobby, and realised that he was not alone there. For a moment he thought of bending, buckling windows, and of Wesley spirited away, and his fists clenched automatically. Well he wasn't being disappeared without a fight. He recognised the figure soon enough, though, and lowered his fists with a scowl.
"What the hell are you doing here? Like I don't have enough on my plate."
"I had to come." Lilah turned around to face him, and he saw the worry that even she was not able to hide. "Don't go throwing me out, Spike. I think we need to talk."
The heat of the lobby at Wolfram & Hart was like a sauna after the chill air outside. David barely noticed it, though some dim recess of his mind noted the fact, and some half-buried notion about the temperature of many a hell dimension stirred itself briefly in his memory. He dismissed the thought. A place like this wouldn't be designed for the comfort of demons. Wolfram & Hart, it seemed, was an organisation set up to defend humanity, and there were few enough demons whose aspirations chimed with that.
Somebody said hello to him in reception. He nodded his head rather vaguely, in what he hoped was a reasonable form of greeting, and certainly nobody seemed affronted by the brevity of his response. Perhaps he was always curt. It didn't matter. Right now he had no particular interest in what he was like, or what kind of man he was supposed to be. He had no memory, he had no past - but he did seem to have some kind of mission. Fighting evil felt right. It was what he did, and, he was more or less sure, was what he had always done. Outside in the street he had seen a demon with a grenade that could have wiped out hundreds or even thousands of innocent people, and that seemed as good a purpose as any. You didn't need a memory to know that genocide was wrong. The only uncertainty that remained now was where to head for. The inside of Wolfram & Hart was an unfamiliar place, even if he had once known it well.
He went to the penthouse in the end. He preferred it to his office, and Cunningham had met him there once before. Perhaps he would again. It seemed empty when he arrived, but he didn't let that discourage him. Instead he wandered around, looking at the furniture, staring out at the view from the huge window, wondering who lived here, and if they minded his intrusion. The blended whisky had been removed, he saw, replaced now with a bottle of Laphroaig. Somewhere deep inside him a memory stirred, that seemed tied up with shouting and anger, and a dark, confining place that smelt of dust and cobwebs. It meant nothing to him. Shrugging the half-memory away, he poured himself a glass of the whisky, and sat down on the nearest chair. It was covered with a dark red material that felt worn from regular use. It didn't seem to welcome him, though. It wasn't his shape that had made this chair its own.
"David!" Cunningham's voice. Right now it was probably the only other voice that he knew in the world, alongside his own. Not that he knew his own all that well either. "You've been having some excitement. I'm sorry about that."
"Nobody got hurt." He thought about the little Lynd, smeared all over a wall, and frowned. Not quite nobody, but if the ops men had been right, he probably shouldn't think about it. The creature had had to be stopped.
"All the same, it's more than I'd have liked for your first walkabout out there. About par for the course though, I suppose. Did you ever take an uneventful walk?"
"I don't know." David flashed him a thin smile, the first he had used since awaking that was reflected properly in his eyes. "Here, have a whisky. I don't know whose it is, but hopefully they don't mind too much."
"This is your apartment, David." Cunningham smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I suppose you weren't to know that. Thankyou, I'd like another whisky. I could do with it after what I've just been hearing. Is it true that that demon had a grenade?"
"Yes. It looks like he was planning to make quite a mess." David poured out a second whisky and handed it over. "It's just as well that you sent those two men after me."
"We'd heard talk. There'd been a tip-off of sorts." Cunningham shrugged. "It's my job, anyway. Looking out for the city. Looking out for you. They tell me that the demon was talking to you for some while before he died? Did he... say anything in particular?"
"He talked about Angel. I suppose they must have known each other." David shrugged. "Allies, perhaps. It was peculiar. He was talking about something, but the context didn't seem to make any sense. A price? Perhaps he was planning to make some kind of demand, in return for not detonating that grenade. Your people probably arrived before he could go any further with that."
"Price?" Cunningham frowned, and nodded. "Yes, that sounds a reasonable theory. Anything else?"
"He kept saying something. Wes. My first thought was that it was a word in another language, but I can't match it up with any. It appears that I know languages, even if I don't know much else right now. I suppose it could be a name, but it's not one that really seems familiar."
"I'll get a research team on it." Cunningham appeared satisfied. "We'll track it down, if it's anything important. Good job, David."
"Me? I didn't do anything. All I did was stand and talk to a creature that was planning to blow me up. Hardly a great achievement."
"For a man whose life technically only began an hour or so back, that's not really all that bad." Cunningham smiled at him. "You're always too hard on yourself. Even when you don't know who you are."
"I think I know enough. Enough to know that there's a lot that needs to be done, and that I'm no good sitting around in here wondering about my memory." He drained his glass. "If I never get it back, what then? Right now, I don't miss it. I can't miss what I don't have. I can't miss a me that I've no knowledge of. I hope that that makes some sense."
"It does, yes. And it's a brave thing to say, David. A lot of people would be going to pieces round about now."
"Perhaps. And perhaps I still will. Just now I'm not sure. Perhaps something in my subconscious is telling me that there's a lot in my past I'd rather stayed forgotten. At any rate, I don't plan on wasting too much time in worrying about it. Do I get a clean bill of health otherwise?"
"The doctor who saw you earlier seemed certain enough about that. He gave you a fairly thorough medical examination when you were still asleep, and according to him, all things considered, you're in rather better shape than you've any right to be in. He seemed quite affronted by your good health, actually - but it all backs up the theory that your memory loss is magical, and not a result of an injury. I should probably recommend plenty of rest, but with everything as it is right now... I shouldn't be telling you this, but whole sections of the city are crazy at the moment. You were in charge of the operations before you were attacked, but I suppose you don't remember any of that anymore. The Broxx rampages, and the increased number of vampires?"
"Broxx rampages? The Broxx have been peaceful for years." He remembered the Lynd, also supposedly peaceful, and sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Sorry. I feel a little behind the times."
"That's alright. We'll soon get you back up to speed." Cunningham frowned suddenly. "Not planning on waiting, though, are you."
"Not really, no. That demon told me that Angel is a vampire. You neglected to mention that piece of information."
"Yes... I suppose I'm used to you knowing all of that sort of thing. What of it?"
"Apparently he's gone to London, to meet up with somebody. A female associate named Buffy. Does that mean anything to you?"
"Buffy? Yes, of course. She's long had associations with Angel. I can get you photographs if you'd like, but David..."
"You told me yourself that all of this was too important to be able to wait for me to get my memory back. I'm a magician, clearly. Perhaps I can cure myself. If I can't then it doesn't necessarily matter."
"David, your memory has been wiped."
"And a dangerous vampire that apparently it's my responsibility to fight has gone to London to meet with an associate. We have to know what they're up to, and given that he's gone there right after you say that he wiped my memory, I think it's important that I'm the one who goes after him now. He must have had some reason to have done what he did."
"You can hardly ask him."
"I don't plan to. I wasn't trained to interrogate vampires. My job is to see that they're stopped." He frowned suddenly. "I was trained?"
"Yes. Years ago, in England. David..."
"I'm going. As far as I can see it, I have to stop these two. Perhaps if I kill them, the spell will be revoked. There are any number of instances when certain acts of magic have been reversed by the death of the sorcerer."
"True enough. Alright, I'll detail a unit to go with you. You should have help if you're going up against Angel and Buffy together. They're a lethal pair, and they'll stop at nothing. Once they hear that you're after them they'll try anything, and with your memory gone you could be at risk from any number of tricks that would never ordinarily concern you."
"If I go over there mob-handed, they'll notice. No, I'll go alone. Send somebody out later, perhaps, but I think it's best if I do this on my own. I'll get some weapons together. Can somebody here arrange flight details?"
"The flight is no problem. I'll have your secretary sort something out. But David, your memory is in more of a mess than either of us realises if you think that you can take your weapons on a plane. It doesn't tend to be greatly appreciated by airport security - on either side of the Atlantic."
"That's alright. I'll set up a simple spell, and they'll never know that it's there." He said it without thinking, but realised almost straight away that he could still do the spell. "Odd. You'd think that if he wanted to wipe my memory he'd have got rid of my ability to fight him, as well as the more ordinary memories."
"Perhaps he couldn't. Perhaps he didn't care. He's an arrogant bastard, we all know that. He could have killed you in that trap, but he chose to wipe your memory instead. He probably thought that that would be a better kind of revenge - assumed that you would no longer be a threat to him. He just didn't think it all through." Cunningham shrugged, apparently none too impressed with Angel's actions. "Anybody with a smaller ego would just have shot you."
"Well then let's be glad for his conceit." Questions about the amnesia and its cause still niggled in the back of his mind, but David put them aside. He wasn't sure if he was being foolhardy, or, if he was, whether that was usual for him. He wasn't sure if he was being at all sensible. He just knew that he belonged on a plane, heading to wherever Angel was. To remain in Los Angeles now was out of the question. Cunningham was smiling at him, he realised, and he frowned a question.
"Sorry." His companion still couldn't hide the smile. "I can't say that it's easy being around you just now. The memory thing... knowing that you don't know me anymore. That you don't anything. But you're still you, aren't you. I could lock you in the hospital wing, and you'd still get on that plane."
"I don't suppose that it would hard. Transcendental sorcery isn't all that difficult." He shrugged. "Or at least, I don't think that it is. To be honest I don't know how far my powers extend."
"And this doesn't worry you at all?"
"I'm not sure." He smiled, looking faintly bashful, and suddenly years younger. "And I suppose I should be worried about that."
"Your mind is made up then? There's nothing that I can do to change it?"
"No, I don't think so. It strikes me that the best chance I have of getting rid of this amnesia is to go to London and face Angel. Nothing is going to happen with me sitting here, wondering if I'm going to get any better. If the doctor is happy that I'm alright, I see no reason to behave like an invalid."
"Then I'll get you that ticket booked. There'll be a file on Angel waiting for you at the front desk, and I'll have some information on Buffy put in there as well. Listen, David - I could come with you. It would hardly be mob-handed then, would it."
"And when was the last time that you were in the field?"
"Three years ago last Wednesday. But who's counting? For all you know, you could have been out of action even longer."
"I doubt it. I feel... I don't know. Ready for action. I feel like I'm used to being able to fight. I feel used to weapons. And speaking of which..." He looked blankly around. "Where do I keep them? There's got to be more than just that one sword that I found downstairs."
"There's a chest in the room back there." Cunningham pointed towards the room that looked like a bedroom. "You're quite a collector, but you'll see that for yourself when you look. Are you really sure that you can handle them all?"
"Are you expecting me to go on a refresher course, whilst Angel gets up to who knows what on the other side of the world? No. I'll be fine. This is what I do."
"I could never ask you to do this. I certainly wouldn't think ill of you if you changed your mind."
"Are you expecting me to? Don't worry about it. Make those calls. I'll pack."
"Oh, I don't need a telephone to talk to your secretary." Cunningham watched speculatively as David went into the bedroom. "In a few hours you'll be on your way to Britain."
"Excellent." David sounded distracted, as he began the task of sorting through his weapons. "Angel will never know what hit him."
"Oh, I imagine that he will." Cunningham's voice was too low to carry, his smirk too shadowed to be seen, even had David been in the room alongside him. "That's really rather the point."
"I beg your pardon?" Emerging from the bedroom with a sword in one hand and an axe in the other, David dropped the weapons onto a chair and regarded them thoughtfully. "Do you think I need an axe and a crossbow?"
"The more the merrier." Cunningham eyed the weapons with a look of definite approval. "And in answer to your question, I was just talking to myself about Angel. I have a good feeling about this, David. The two of you may have had your tussles before, but perhaps you have a better focus now. He might almost have done you a favour."
"Maybe." David's attention was almost totally taken up with the weapons, which he was beginning to clean with a thorough hand. "I certainly feel ready to take him on."
"Good." Cunningham nodded briskly, and reached over to pour out more whisky. "In that case... to Angel's destruction. Maybe it be soon, swift and complete."
"Certainly." David laid aside the battle-axe that he was cleaning, and came over to take his glass. "I'll drink to that."
Click Here For Parts One, Three and Four