DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Faith has helped the others hide from Trick, but he has figured out that they were lying to him, while Spike has found himself double-crossed by Lilah…
She loved to gloat, but with Spike still aiming the gun at her head, Lilah decided to opt for the better side of discretion in this case as she slid onto the seat next to him. All right, the safer side. No reason to push his buttons even harder than she already had. After all, she had his balls in a lock and he knew it.
“Do you mind?” she asked, holding out her hand for the gun.
“Actually, I do,” he retorted. His fingers tightened around the grip. “Me and this piece go back quite a ways.”
“You won’t get a chance to use it. If the police see you with a weapon, you won’t step out of this car alive.”
“I’ll take my chances.” His eyes were ice chips as they remained steady on her face. “That what this is about then? You expect me to turn myself in?”
“That’s the plan,” Lilah said brightly. In spite of her certainty at success, his demeanor made her wish she’d thought to bring along her own weapon. Not that she really knew how to use anything---her most viable ammunition had always been her mouth---but it would definitely help the like-a-lamb-stepping-into-the-lion’s-den feeling he was creating in the pit of her stomach. “I thought it was a rather good one, myself. The fact that you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker, is just a bonus for me.”
“Because if I kill you or drive off without you, I’m a dead man.”
His voice was so matter-of-fact, she wondered what it was she was missing. “Yes.”
“Seems like an obvious choice to me, then.” As she watched, he turned back toward the front, dropping the gun onto his lap before setting his hands on the steering wheel. “Which precinct did you have in mind, pet?”
Too easy, her mind screamed at her, and for the first time since rapping on his window, Lilah’s smile faltered. Her head turned to see the other cars pull out to match his ease into traffic, prompting a chuckle from Spike.
“Just out of curiosity,” he said, and coasted the car to a stop at the red light. “How many other escorts you got for me out there? The ones of the wheeled variety, I mean.”
She watched as his eyes flickered between his mirrors. Her smile was now completely gone, replaced by a puzzled frown. “Why?” she hedged. “What does it matter?”
Spike shrugged. “Doesn’t. Not in the long run.”
The sudden jump of the car into the intersection made Lilah screech, scrambling for purchase at the door as she was slammed against it, the world careening around her as the Desoto dodged the traffic coming through the intersection. Whipping her head around, she saw the others try to follow through the red, weaving slowly among the vehicles that had screeched to a halt to avoid collision, before turning to gape at Spike.
“You’re completely crazy,” she said.
His knuckles were white around the wheel, his foot pressed to the floor as he pushed the velocity as far as he could manage along the street. “That sounds like it surprises you,” he said, but the casualness of his tone contradicted the tension in his jaw, the darting of his eyes.
“It---.” She was cut off with another yelp when he jerked the wheel to the left, cutting across an oncoming car to barrel down a narrow side road. Heart pounding inside her chest, Lilah jolted when he deliberately sideswiped a row of garbage cans, sending them rolling into the street behind them with muffled metallic clanks. A look into her side mirror revealed a stream of cars following, three of the five that had been originally there. Damn it, she thought through her terror. At this rate, he’ll lose them before we’ve even three blocks away.
When Spike turned the Desoto onto the next major intersection, her lips glued themselves together in a desperate bid to hold in her fright, and for the briefest of moments, her nerves began to sink back to some semblance of normalcy. It lasted barely a breath, though. It lasted just long enough for her to see the cars heading toward them instead of in the same direction.
“You’re going to kill both of us!” she hissed, and dared to glance over at him. Anything was better than seeing the traffic racing at her; if she didn’t see death coming, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much.
Spike’s eyes were twinkling, his lips spread into a wide smile, and it dawned on Lilah that the bastard was actually getting off on this. “Dance with the devil, duck,” he purred, “and you gotta expect to get your feet burned.”
She had purpose now. The others didn’t know the truth of it, or at least they accepted her version of why she was eager and willing to go along with them, but Faith didn’t care. All that she could think about was that this was her ticket to getting closer to Rook.
Not that her interest wasn’t piqued regarding his friends. She probably should’ve expected that the duo they’d had dinner with at Heaven were part of Spike’s coterie, but the red-haired coat check girl came as a surprise. What was even more surprising was seeing good ol’ boy Wes hanging all over her like a lovesick puppy. Wonder if they know he’s a white hat, she mused, and then internally shrugged. None of her business. Though it would be hysterical to watch if it all came out in the open.
Now, however, wasn’t the time for that. Now was the time for getting their shit together and running. Fast.
“All right,” she said, grabbing her purse from the desk. “Let’s---.”
“Someone’s coming,” Wesley barked from the closed door.
“Back in the bedroom. Now!” Giles ordered.
Faith watched as everyone scrambled, Xander resuming his place on the couch while the rest disappeared back into the bedroom. Might as well be Keystone Kops, she thought wryly, and turned back toward the door when a knock sounded throughout the suite.
The steward on the other side surprised her until she saw the croissants piled in a bowl on the trolley behind him. “I forgot Linds called for room service,” she said, and then froze when she saw Trick ambling down the corridor.
“Guess you forgot a lot of stuff, right, doll?” he said without a smile. Pressing a ten dollar bill into the steward’s chest, he added, “Why don’t you go ahead and blow, pal? I think I can help the little lady with her breakfast.”
With a stuttering thank you, the young man smiled, tipped his cap, and scurried back toward the service elevator, leaving Faith staring at Trick with the trolley placed between them.
“Where is he?” he asked smoothly once they were alone.
Though her mind was hustling for ways to get out of her current predicament, on the outside, she appeared unflustered, eyes steady, her breathing even. “Who’re you talking about?”
Trick tutted under his breath. “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” he murmured. “I don’t like people who try to pull the wool over my eyes. I don’t like wool. It’s itchy.” His free hand shot out across the trolley, linking through Faith’s hair and pushing her against the jamb, holding her in position while he kicked the cart out of his way. He cocked his gun and pressed it to her temple. “So, I’m only going to ask this one more time. Where is he?”
Her ears were ringing, the sharp stabs of pain from the impact against her bruises momentarily thrusting Faith back to her apartment, the dark shadow of Angel clouding her vision as his fist descended over and over again into her face. The taste of blood on her tongue told her Trick had managed to split her lip again, and she squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to block out the pain.
“Let her go.”
She was facing the wrong direction, but there was no mistaking Xander’s voice. Or the sound of his gun cocking as he approached the door.
Trick chuckled. “Well, if it isn’t Sir Galahad. Hate to break it to you, but she’s no Guinevere. Save your ammo.”
“She lied to you because of me. You got a beef, you deal with me. Leave her out of it.”
Faith’s eyes shot open, the pressure on her head vanishing when Trick let her go. She turned just in time to see him say, “What have you got to do with McDonald?”
Xander stood just inside the door, the gun resting comfortably in his palm, ignoring the drawn weapons of the men surrounding Trick. “I came here to do business with him, and I thought you might be that female lawyer coming around. I didn’t want her to know I was talking to McDonald, so I asked Faith to cover for me.”
“Business? What kind of business?”
“I work for William Rook. I came here to tell McDonald how to get him.”
As she surreptitiously wiped the blood from her lower lip, Faith’s eyes narrowed in scrutiny of the brunette’s face. Just what in hell is he playing at here? she wondered.
Trick’s response was to laugh out loud. “Oh, really? And he fell for that line?” Just as quickly, the wide smile was wiped from his countenance, leaving behind a brittle mask, dark eyes gleaming in disbelief. “You’re going to have to be selling a lot of softsoap, boy, for me to be believing that you’d turn over your boss like that. You’re dressed like a fuckin’ steward.”
He glanced down at the uniform he was wearing. “I had to get in here without drawing any attention to myself. And you can believe what you want. Spike signed me on to do a job. He didn’t say anything about it being murder.”
The air was heavy in the silence that ensued, each man regarding the other in a gravity that made Faith want to scream out in frustration. It was different trying to fool Trick when she’d known what the hell was going on. But this story about turning over Spike had come out of the blue, and her brain wasn’t entirely sure just how serious it actually was.
“I think you’re full of shit,” Trick finally said. “You just don’t want me hurting the dame here. No way do you work for Rook.”
For a moment, Xander just stared at him. “Fine,” he said, and whirled on his heel to march for the bedroom door. As his fist pounded on it, he called out, “McDonald! Get your ass out here!”
Faith inched away from the entrance, trying to gain as much distance as she could between the group in the hall and what she was beginning to believe was the psycho at the bedroom. As she watched, the door opened and Lindsey stepped out, his eyes darting from Xander to Trick, and then back to Xander again.
“You knocked…ever so belligerently?” he commented coldly.
Xander jerked his thumb behind him. “Tell these jokers who I work for.”
From where she was standing, Faith couldn’t see his face, but she could see Lindsey’s as it coolly appraised the man before him. Would he tell the truth? Or would he try covering and blow whatever this guy was trying to do?
“You work for William Rook,” Lindsey replied.
Score one for the Gipper, she thought.
Xander was already turned back to face Trick. “So unless you can think of some other reason I’d be visiting with the enemy here, maybe it might be a good idea to shut your trap and believe what I told you.”
She was very glad she was out of the line of fire. Anger flared in the black man’s eyes, his nostrils wide as his lips thinned to an almost invisible line.
And the Gipper goes down in flames.
Except he didn’t.
“You don’t need to be dealing with any middleman,” Trick said. “You want to give over Rook, you can do it to me.”
Xander shook his head. “No dice. I do that, and Spike’ll be wearing a Chicago overcoat before sunset. Least with McDonald, I know he’ll stand a fair shot at getting through this with his neck still intact.”
“You’re giving him up and you’re worried about how he’s going to be treated?” He laughed. “Mighty big of you, pal.”
“Spike and I go back a long way. I may be pissed at the bastard for playing me for a sap, but it doesn’t mean I want the guy dead.”
“I could shoot McDonald. Then, you wouldn’t have a choice but to deal with me.” He looked ready to make good on his threat, and Faith’s gaze bounced back to a still-calm Xander.
“You do that, and you’ll have to shoot me, too, because there’s no way I’m dealing with you, Mr. Trick.”
“You know my name.”
“Which means I also know what kind of man you are. I meant what I said.”
She had to admit, the guy surprised her. She’d been mildly amused by Xander’s banter at Heaven, but dismissed him as a lightweight. And he’d quickly bowed to both Giles’ and Wesley’s lead once they approached, which meant he was used to being a toady as opposed to a leader. But he was holding his own with Trick, staring him down with a gaze that was just as frigid as the mobster’s. That took balls.
The exact same words were just coming out of Trick’s mouth. “You just bought Mr. McDonald here an extra day,” he commented, slipping his gun inside his jacket. Coal-colored eyes flickered to Lindsey. “My employer is very interested in seeing Mr. Rook pay for what he’s done. But if your new friend here is lying to me, and Rook’s not in police custody by six o’clock tonight, you can guarantee that I’ll be back. And this time, I won’t be asking questions first before I shoot you.”
And with a quick jerk of his head to his men, he was gone.
She practically flew out the door when Lindsey opened it, flying straight to Xander’s rigid form and throwing her arms around it. “Ohmigod!” Willow exclaimed. “That was amazing!”
His body was unyielding within her vigorous embrace, his voice flat when he spoke. “Tell me I did not just stand here and try to outbluff a New York mobster with four of his baddies right behind him,” he said, eyes locked on the now-closed door.
“No try about it,” Giles said, clapping his hand down on his other shoulder. “Well done.”
“I am seriously insane,” Xander intoned. “Or stupid. I haven’t decided which yet.”
“You could be both,” Faith offered. She smiled as she sauntered to face him, hand on her hip as she looked him up and down. “But, damn, that was a nice piece of work you did there, buster.”
He moved then, head tilting to glance down at her, and his eyes went wide. “I’m married,” he blurted, stumbling backwards and out of Willow’s grasp.
“He really was going to kill me,” Lindsey murmured.
“Yes, I believe we established that,” Giles replied. His gun was back in his hand, and he used it to gesture toward the door. “Now, if we could please get going, I’d really rather not be around in case Mr. Trick decides to pay us a third visit.”
“Good plan.” Xander was halfway to the door before anyone else could speak. “I got shotgun.”
Trick stopped as he stepped into the sunshine, canting his head back to look up into the cloudless sky. “Who’s got a yen for working on his tan?” he said blithely.
“What’s up?” one of his men asked.
“My suspicions.” He pivoted to stare back into the hotel’s lobby, obsidian eyes drinking in the seeming normalcy of it. “I want two of you to stick around and tail the lawyer and his new pal if they leave the building. A little birdy’s whispering in my ear that they’re not going to be sticking around.”
“You think he was lying?”
Trick shook his head. “Not sure. But I’m not willing to take any chances. McDonald’s not about to play me for a chump if I can help it. You see anything out of line, I want you to take him out. Take ‘em both out. We’ll worry about netting Rook another way if we have to.”
Her face was pinched, her cheeks deathly white, when Spike eased the Desoto to the curb. Casting another sideways glance at his passenger, he dropped the car into park but didn’t kill the engine, instead picking up the gun that still rested in his lap. “End of the line,” he announced, aiming it casually in Lilah’s direction.
She tried to meld herself into the door, to secure whatever added distance she could between them, as if that might prolong the inevitable. “So that’s it? You’re going to kill me now?”
It almost made him laugh. For all her bravado, she really was naïve. Her little plan had dissolved when he’d lost the last of the cars flanking him somewhere in Chinatown, although she’d realized much sooner that she’d seriously erred in her estimation of her target. For some reason, that gave Spike a small thrill of satisfaction.
“When someone comes around and offers me fifty large to blow you down,” he said, “then I’ll do you the favor. For right now, though…” He leaned across her body, catching the door’s latch and shoving it open. “…this is where you get off.”
The sudden disappearance of the brace against her back sent Lilah sprawling to the dirty sidewalk, and she noticed for the first time the cracks in the cement, the distinct scent of…oh god, she didn’t want to know what that was…in the air. “And where is here?” she demanded, scrambling to her feet and wiping the back of her skirt as she looked around.
“Welcome to the Bronx.”
“And how in hell do you expect me to get back?”
He grinned. “You’re a smart dame. I’m sure you’ll figure something out. And I owe you a spot of thanks, I think. If it wasn’t for your little distraction, my part in this little escapade today could’ve been bum-numbingly boring.” Pulling the door shut, Spike offered her a small salute before pulling away from the curb.
He didn’t hear her final words drifting after the retreating vehicle.
“Escapade? What escapade?”
They stood together in the shadows at the entrance of the alley, cigarettes burning brightly as their dark gazes moved continuously around them---from the hotel’s front entrance, to the cars lining the streets, to the throngs of people passing them by. “We should’ve just drilled ‘em upstairs,” the first said. “Rook’s chilled off plenty of our boys. It’s the least we owe him.”
“We do what Trick says,” the second said.
“Don’t tell me you’re not itching for revenge? He got Isaiah.”
“Technically, one of his men got Isaiah---.”
“Could’ve been the one upstairs.”
“And I’m telling you, we do what Trick says. Now stop arguing with me about---.” He stopped when his partner grabbed his arm, turning him around to see the side entrance of the hotel push open into the alley, and Xander emerge. He pointed in vindication. “See? Trick was right. He’s trying to sneak off.”
The pair slid around the corner, out of direct view from the alley but still able to see the exit. As they watched, Lindsey emerged, followed immediately by Giles.
“Hey…” said the second, frowning. “Isn’t that…?”
“Yeah. Looks like them leaving wasn’t the only thing Trick was right about.” Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out his gun. “You heard what he said. We take ‘em out.”
He wasn’t listening to her excited chatter as she followed Faith out into the alley. Wes was just relieved that they were all getting out of this latest quandary with their lives intact. Listening to Xander through the bedroom door had left him with a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach, but then he’d remembered how the man’s words had managed to fool even Angel and he’d held his breath until Trick had left the suite. A glib tongue had managed to save the day, and nobody got shot in the process. That was always a good thing in his book.
The powerful rings of a gun being fired echoed between the brick walls of the alley, and Wes saw Faith shove hard against Willow, propelling her back into the hotel as he slipped past them, drawing his weapon at the same time. Lindsey was flat on the ground, trying to make himself as small as possible, while Giles and Xander were crouching around the garbage cans, shooting toward the mouth of the alleyway.
He didn’t even look before shooting, diving sideways until his shoulder crunched against the concrete ground, the world suddenly lopsided as he took aim at the two dark figures poking around the front corners of the building. A grim satisfaction flared in his chest when he saw a spurt of red erupt from one of their shoulders, the weapon the assailant had been holding dropping to the ground as he lost his grip. Another shot, this one from either Xander or Giles---in the flurry, it was hard to tell which---shattered the man’s kneecap, and he fell forward with a scream of angry agony.
“We have to get out of here,” Wesley heard Lindsey hiss behind him. “This kind of activity will bring the cops around for sure. This isn’t the kind of thing this neighborhood takes very lightly.”
Silently, he agreed, but kept on shooting instead, only hesitating when a bullet shattering the brick near his face sent the second shooter scurrying away for safety.
“C’mon!” Xander called, beginning to run for the opposite end of the alleyway. “We’ll go around the block to get to the car!”
Wes was about to follow when Faith’s voice rang out from the still-open door. Pausing, he glanced inside, his eyes immediately dropping when he realized both women weren’t standing.
A pool of blood was already beginning to spread out across the tiled floor, seeping into the cracks to begin making tiny spider veins along the pale marble, scarlet streaks that made it appear as if the building itself was bleeding. All of a sudden, frigid hooks began to curl and writhe within Wesley’s gut, shredding his relief into fluttering ribbons when he saw the pallor in both women’s cheeks.
“It’s not me,” Faith said, unnecessarily, looking down at the unconscious woman nestled in her lap. “It’s Red here…”
To be continued in Chapter 32: I Hear You Calling Me…