DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike has faked wanting to make a deal with Lilah in order to get her out of the hotel, Giles and Wesley saw Trick show up and changed their arrangements in order to make sure Willow and Xander don’t get hurt, and Willow and Xander went upstairs to see about Lindsey without waiting for confirmation that Lilah was actually gone…
Wesley’s head swiveled as Giles slipped through the lobby exit into the back hallway of the hotel.
The older man’s eyes glittered, his lips pursed as he quickly strode to join Wes in front of the elevator. It was only then that he frowned, scanning the otherwise empty hallway. “Where are Willow and Xander?” he queried.
Wes pointed to the floor display over the elevator doors, the needle hovering in the twenties. “My suspicions would suggest…up,” he replied tightly.
A quick glance around, and an even more furious scowl at the ceiling. “What in blazes do they think they’re doing?” he barked. “I never gave them the call that Miss Morgan had left the building.”
“Apparently, they chose not to wait. No matter. We’ll just go up and fetch them down before anything untoward happens.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple.” Pivoting on his heel, Giles began marching down the hall in the direction from which he’d come, stopping before the door to the stairwell. “Come on. We don’t have time to wait for the lift.”
“What’s wrong?” Wesley asked as he joined him. Together, they began hurrying up the stairs, long legs taking them two by two as the sounds of their heels pounded hollowly against the walls around them.
“I overheard Trick speaking to his men at the lift,” Giles said. His breath was starting to quicken. “And something tells me that the words ‘Lindsey McDonald’ and ‘shoot to kill’ are not good for us.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Wes argued. His own pace accelerated, drawing him level with Giles as they sped past the landing for the fifth floor. “Why would they kill their own attorney?”
“Perhaps…it’s their way…of firing him.” He stopped, panting.
For a moment, Wesley hesitated on an upper stair, glancing upward before looking back at his unwilling partner. “Are you all right?” he finally asked. “Perhaps we should get the lift after all. Or I can go on ahead and you can---.”
“I’m fine.” Not even bothering to hide his glare, Giles began jogging up the stairs again, albeit one at a time now. “We can’t afford to have Trick get there first. If Willow and Xander really are up there…”
Though he didn’t finish his sentence, both men knew the warning it would’ve held. Neither was ready to allow it to happen. Together, they continued onwards and upwards.
“Is he there?”
“Sssshhh!” Xander waved at Willow to duck back behind the corner as he stood before Lindsey’s door, the trolley just to his side. Waiting until she’d disappeared again, he raised his hand and added a second sharp rap. Maybe this was why they hadn’t gotten a call, he thought. Maybe it’s because McDonald left with the female lawyer.
Behind him, he heard a door open. “There you are,” came a male voice. He whirled, and gazed at the shorter man standing in the opposite room, doing a quick inventory of his appearance. Dark hair, expensive shoes, shirtsleeves rolled to the elbow. Could be him. Xander was beginning to wish he’d paid more attention to Willow’s files. There probably had been a photograph of the lawyer somewhere in the bunch.
“I thought I told the desk I wanted it delivered to this suite instead,” the other man said, stepping into the hall.
“Mr. McDonald?” Xander quizzed.
Lindsey frowned, finally looking at him full-on. “There’s nobody else on this floor, now is there?” he commented, his voice dripping in condescension.
In the constriction of the hotel uniform they’d stolen for him to wear, Xander stiffened, straightening to his full height so that he towered over the smaller man. Ha, he thought. Little lawyer man may have me beat in the brains department, but I could take him any day. Out loud, he merely said, “Yes, sir.”
Lindsey’s attention returned to the trolley, picking up the various silver covers on the food, his frown deepening with every plate’s exposure. “Where are the croissants?” he asked when he was done. “I specifically ordered croissants.”
Xander’s head jerked at the new voice, his eyes widening as Faith’s dark head appeared behind the lawyer. They widened even further when he saw the bruises marring her otherwise beautiful features.
Boy oh boy, someone really did a number on her.
The thought was quickly followed by, I wonder what the hell she’s doing here, and then…
Oh shit, she knows who I am.
“They forgot the croissants,” Lindsey was saying. He’d half-turned away, ignoring the other man in the hall, but Xander saw her doe eyes flicker past the attorney to alight on him, recognition dawning there almost immediately.
“Hey---,” she started, and then snapped her mouth shut when Xander pulled out the revolver he’d had tucked in the back of his trousers.
“Where’s Miss Morgan?” he demanded.
“Out,” Lindsey said. He froze when he saw the gun, but his face remained impassive.
From around the corner, the redhead poked out her head, and quickly hurried forward to join Xander at the trolley, her own small pistol cradled in her hand. She stopped in surprise when she saw Faith standing in the doorway. “Oh,” she said. “O-kay…”
“I should’ve known,” the brunette said, shaking her head. “How many more of you did Rook have stashed around Heaven?”
“You know these people?” Lindsey asked.
She shrugged. “Know’s such a strong word.”
“What’re we going to do, Xander?” Willow asked. She didn’t even bother lowering her voice; at such close proximity, to do so would’ve been silly. “She’s not supposed to be here.”
“Not telling me anything I don’t already know, Will,” he said. “I guess we’ll just have to take her with. Spike’ll know what to do.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down.” Lindsey’s gaze swept over the group. “I’m sure we can come to some kind of---.”
All heads turned to see Wesley come rushing down the hall, a gasping Giles several feet behind. The oncoming pair drew their weapons as soon as they saw Lindsey, though Wes didn’t stop until he’d reached the redhead’s side.
Faith’s eyebrows shot up. “Hello, Grand fucking Central. And I gotta say, Wes, interesting company you’re keeping these days,” she drawled, crossing her arms and leaning against the jamb.
“What’re you guys doing here?” Willow asked.
“We’ve…got company,” Giles wheezed. His hand shot out to steady himself against the wall, and she pushed past Wes to go to her mentor’s side, slipping under his arm to help him stay upright.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “You don’t look so good.”
“That would be running up twenty-odd flights of stairs you’re looking at,” Wesley said.
“I’m fine,” Giles assured. “Just…a little winded.”
“You know this joint’s got an elevator, don’t you?” This came from Faith.
“It was taken. And we couldn’t wait for the service lift to come back down.” His bespectacled gaze jumped to Xander. “Trick’s on his way up here to kill Mr. McDonald. We have to get him out of here now if we want to get any information.”
For the first time since opening the door, Lindsey smiled. “I’m afraid you’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion, Mr. Giles. Mr. Trick is my liaison with my client. He’s probably just here to deliver some information.”
“With four armed men?” he shot back. “What kind of information requires instructing them that they can go ahead and shoot to kill now, because Miss Morgan isn’t around to accidentally catch a stray bullet?” He straightened, pulling out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping at his brow. “Whatever it is you’ve done, Mr. McDonald, you’ve managed to piss them off, just as thoroughly as you’ve angered Spike. I think coming with us is really your only option at this point if you want to stay alive.”
“What about the dame?” Xander asked, jerking his thumb toward Faith.
She surprised them all by answering first. “I’ll go with you,” she said firmly. She held up her chin in defiance when even Lindsey turned to look at her. “What? I’ve had my fill of walking ego trips doing their thinking with their dicks and guns. If you think I’ve got some secret yet to be caught in this particular line of fire, you really are a sap.”
“We have to get going---.”
“I’m not going anywhere without my files,” Lindsey announced and tried to push his way past Xander into his hotel suite, only to be stopped by the bigger man’s hand wrapped around his bicep.
“We don’t have time,” Giles said through gritted teeth. “Now---.”
In the distance, the unmistakable sound of the elevator bell rang down the hall, the soft swish of the doors following immediately afterward. Wesley’s eyes glittered as they glared down the corridor. “Damn it,” he muttered. “Both the stairs and the service lift are back there.”
“Guess that means this is Custer’s last stand,” said Xander. He released his hold on the attorney, and cocked his gun.
Immediately, Faith stepped into the hall and grabbed the trolley. “If you guys want to get out of this with your skin still all nice and pretty---.” She stopped, catching Wesley’s eye. “---or maybe just really colorful,” she went on, “I suggest you cheese it and get your asses into the bedroom back there.” She jerked her head back toward her suite. “I’ll take of your Trick problem.”
As the sound of mens’ voices and footsteps grew closer, Willow grabbed Wesley’s arm and pulled him toward the room. “C’mon, Giles,” she shot back. “We’ve got zero choices right now.”
Faith watched them file past, but when Xander tried to cross in front of her, her arm shot out to block his path. “Not you, cutie pie,” she said. “I’m going to need you to go park your caboose on the couch. Keep your gun tucked away, and follow my lead.”
He exchanged a glance with Giles, waiting for his nod before replying in his own affirmative. “Gotcha.”
She cast a quick glance back down the hall as she pushed the trolley inside after them, closing the door behind her. “All right, people,” she said to the group vanishing into the suite’s bedroom. “Traps shut, gats ready. Them’s the rules if you want to get out of this little hellhole alive.”
Trick stretched his neck to the side as he pulled his suitcoat down in an attempt to sharpen up his image. Not that he didn’t always look good, but being around the mouthpiece was enough to make him want to put in that extra effort. “Keep back, boys,” he instructed as he raised his hand to knock. “Let me get in before we blow this gee away.”
The rap was loud in the empty corridor, and he waited for the footsteps to come up on the other side. They never came. He frowned and knocked again.
“Maybe he’s not home,” one of his men said.
“I’ve been eyeballing this joint since dawn,” Trick said. “I’m telling you, he never left.”
Two minutes passed, and it became increasingly obvious that nobody was coming to answer the door. A third knock boomed in the wide space, made with a raised fist instead of careful knuckles, but when it elicited footsteps this time, they came from behind him instead of before.
“What’s the racket out here?”
Trick pivoted to see Faith standing in the doorway opposite, her curvaceous body stretched along the edge of the jamb. Too many buttons were undone on her blouse, exposing the lacy edge of her bra, and while her face looked the worse for wear, he thought, her body most certainly did not.
“Aren’t you the Mayor’s dame?” he asked, recognizing her in spite of her injuries.
Faith shrugged. “Kind of hard to be a guy’s dame when he’s six feet under, now isn’t it?”
“I thought his funeral was this morning. How come you’re not there?”
For a moment, he thought he saw regret flicker behind the brown eyes. “Not my cup of tea,” she said. “I’d rather remember Richard the way he was and not with his head blown to pieces because of Rook’s gun.”
Trick nodded. “I can pipe that. Heard you were there when the hit went down. Shame Rook had to mess up your pretty face at the same time, though.”
She ignored his compliment, instead nodding toward the door behind him. “You looking for the lawyer?” she asked.
“Yeah, he called me and said he wanted a meeting. Said it was important. You seen him around?”
“Not since he took off half an hour ago. He popped over here to see how I was doing, and then said he was going out for some grub. Isn’t that bitch around? What’s her name…Lilah?”
“Nah, she took off.” Trick’s gaze slid past her, peering into the living area of the suite that was exposed. A dark head was visible on the couch. “Who’s your friend?”
Faith followed his eyes, her lips curving into a lusty smile. “Just someone to keep me company when I get a little lonesome. Isn’t that right, loverboy?”
She called out the last to the couch, and Trick saw the man there half-turn to look back, a smile on his own face. Something about him seemed familiar, but he just filed it away as someone who worked for Wilkins. He’d seen enough of Angel’s men over the last few weeks for them all to begin to look alike.
“Get that sweet ass of yours back here,” the man said. “This couch is getting cold.”
“You need anything else?” Faith asked, turning back to face Trick. “’Cause, you know, can’t keep a cold man waiting.”
“No. Thanks.” He started to turn away, and then stopped, holding up a hand to prevent her from completely closing the door. “McDonald didn’t say how long he was going to be, did he?” he asked.
She smiled. “Do I look like his fucking secretary?” she said lightly. “I’m just around to keep him company when he wants, just like Angel asked. You’re tooting the wrong ringer if you think I bother keeping tabs on him when I get a few minutes to myself.”
“Right,” Trick said, laughing. He backed away. “Have a good one.”
As soon as the door was closed, Xander buried his face in his hands. “Anya’s going to kill me,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I’m headed straight to hell on a hooker-lined path.”
“Aw, you were great, slugger.” Faith strode to the bedroom door, pushing it open to reveal the group listening on the other side. “Coast is clear,” she announced. “I suggest we double-time our exit. The sooner we blow this joint, the more distance we get from Mr. Bo-shoot-me-up out there.”
“I don’t get it.” A confused Lindsey wandered into the living room. “Trick and I weren’t set to have a meeting. Why would he come around and say we did?”
“Hello? Have you not been listening?” Xander was up on his feet. “You screwed up, probably by letting Spike getting away in the first place, which was a good thing for us but I’m thinking not so much for your client out there.”
“We don’t have time to be debating this,” Wesley said. He had his weapon drawn, and was standing with his ear to the outer door, listening for any sounds in the hall. “As soon as they get on the lift, we need to get out of here.”
Giles nudged Lindsey with the muzzle of his gun. “No more talking until we meet up with Spike, got it? One word, and I’ll shoot you myself.”
Reluctantly, the lawyer nodded. He may not like it, but at least these men with guns seemed to be giving him an option about how long he got to live.
He was halfway in the elevator when the trolley rolled by behind him. Frowning, Trick’s arm shot out, stopping the door from closing, and he looked back to see the steward heading around the corner. “Hey!” he called out. He waited for the young man to stop, his mind flashing to the matching cart he’d seen parked inside Faith’s suite. “I thought that Mr. McDonald was the only one on this floor.”
The steward nodded. “He is. This is the breakfast he ordered.”
Trick’s eyes narrowed. “How long ago?”
“About ten minutes. He called it down himself.”
The muscles in his jaw twitched as he turned to look back at the quartet waiting in the elevator. “Get ‘em out, boys,” he said, pulling out his gun from inside his jacket. “Don’t know why, but it looks like we’ve been had.”
Spike glanced at his watch. Any minute now, he thought, returning his gaze to his window and the sidewalk across the street. He was parked across from the restaurant he’d arranged with Lilah to meet at, to ensure that she actually showed up and stayed away from the hotel long enough for the job to get done. Of course, if she didn’t show, it would just mean trying this again some other time. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about Red, Harris, and Ripper if this turned out to be a bust; if the dame never left, they’d never move to take the lawyer. The whole thing would just be called a wash.
So far, though, no show.
As his eyes remained locked on the restaurant and its surrounding area, Spike’s mind drifted back to the apartment and Buffy’s fervent good-bye kiss. “Knock ‘em dead,” he’d whispered in her ear when he’d finally been able to tear his lips away from hers.
“You’re supposed to tell me to break a leg,” she’d teased. Her breath had tickled where she nibbled at his neck, and he’d had to forcibly push her away, his hands on her slim hips, holding her at arm’s length before he spoke again.
“My line of work, that’s too much like actual consequences,” he’d replied. “And someone’s bein’ a very naughty girl in tryin’ to make me late.”
Her grin had been almost a leer, her eyes dropping pointedly to the erection his trousers did nothing to hide. “And here I thought you’d like Naughty Buffy.”
He couldn’t help his answering grin. “You’re killin’ me here, pet.”
Good humor instantly vanishing, she’d said, “Don’t kid about that. It’s not funny.”
His response had been to immediately take her into his arms, brushing his lips across the top of her still unkempt hair. “It’s not,” he’d agreed. “But you don’t need to fuss. I’m the best, remember?”
His small joke had eased a modicum of the tension in her shoulders, and he’d slipped out after another small kiss. They couldn’t get out of this city soon enough, he realized. The more distance they had between them and everything that had ever haunted Buffy, the happier he was going to be.
The knock on the passenger side window instinctively brought up the gun he had cradled out of sight in his lap, its deadly aim directed toward his new visitor.
To her credit, Lilah didn’t even flinch. Instead, she smiled, and made a rolling down motion with her hand, indicating the window.
Fuck, Spike thought. Got distracted and didn’t see her coming. Still…he was the one with the weapon, inside the vehicle that could get him out of here. Without letting the gun waver from its target, he slowly leaned over and twisted the handle to lower the glass.
“I have to say,” she said, leaning forward and resting her arms so that her face was practically in the car, “you are much better looking in person than you are in your mug shots.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” he replied. His eyes were cold. “Care to tell me why you aren’t inside?”
“Do you care to tell me?”
“Waiting for you to show.”
“I could say the same.” She glanced down at the lock on the door. “May I?”
He shook his head. “Don’t think so. I’m more the private type. You can just stay on that side, while me and the heat stay on this.” He didn’t like how this was turning out. She seemed far too relaxed, and considering he was the one in the position of power, that couldn’t be good.
“Private? You?” Lilah laughed, a cold, brittle sound. “With that hair? The least you could’ve done was wear a hat if you didn’t want me to see you. Looking like that, you’re just begging to be made.”
Spike gritted his teeth, his jaw clenched. Hope that’s enough time for you guys, he thought angrily. Because I’m done with my end of the arrangement, right now.
His free hand angled around the steering column to turn on the ignition, his gaze never leaving the other window. “Can’t say it’s been a pleasure,” he said, the engine roaring to life. “See you in hell.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
He paused. “Do what?”
“Blow off. If you leave without me being in this car, you’ll be dead before you get back into traffic. That’s a promise.”
“Looks like I’m the one with the gun, toots, so I don’t really see how you can do me in. Unless you’re counting on that killer smile of yours. But then again, you’d be out of luck there, too. My heart’s been stopped by the best of ‘em, and, pet? You are not among that number.”
“Look, Mr. Rook, I understand you have plenty of swift and could plug me before I could even turn away. But, you shoot me, and you’re going to get the same response as if you drove away alone.” She began pointing to various people along the walk---a man in a phone booth down the street, another one loitering in an alleyway behind him---as well as scattered cars parked along the road. “That one’s mine, and that one, and that one, and even more if you want me to waste even more of our time to point them out to you. I’m not so private. I like to keep a little company, especially that of large, burly men who are expert shots.”
Spike didn’t say a word. The possibility that she would doublecross him had been brought up when they were discussing the plan, but he had argued that he could handle anything she’d throw his way and the others had left it at that. This much back-up, he hadn’t expected, at least, not without a little warning. But that didn’t mean he still couldn’t deal with it.
“So, what’s this all about then?” he asked, his hand falling from the keys. “You need this much muscle just to talk to me?”
Lilah shook her head. “No, I need this much muscle to take you in.” Her smile widened. “I’m your personal escort, Mr. Rook. The game is over.”
To be continued in Chapter 31: Drive a Crooked Road…