Doyle Investigations, Episode 2...
Deceiver and Deceived
Disclaimer: All BtVS and Angel characters and concepts belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, WB, etc. We're just mucking around with them.
The office building seemed quiet, when I cautiously stuck my head around the front door, but that was no guarantee.
I closed the door behind me silently, with the utmost of caution, and debated my options, lookin’ at the stairs.
Up or down? Where was the danger most likely to lurk?
Hardly daring to breathe for fear of being heard, I began to ascend the stairs. I was halfway up when a step creaked as I transferred my weight onto it.
“Mr. Doyle? Is that you?” Immediately, the oh-so-polite, British voice floated up from downstairs. “Could you please come down here a moment?”
I spat out a stream of obscenities under my breath, and called back, “Be right there, man.” Then I trudged back down the steps to the basement apartment.
My basement apartment...
...which I’d never had any intention of sharing with some pompous, tight-assed Watcher with his leg in a cast...
...was a chaos of books and papers.
“Can you pass me the Encyclopaedia Diabolica from over there?” Wesley’s disembodied voice emerged from somewhere in all the mess.
I was too busy staring around in utter disbelief. I didn’t know where all this stuff had come from, especially in the space of ten hours since I‘d left the office that morning to meet up with Kate. I was certain I’d had nowhere near this amount of texts in my small library of demonology research.
“What the hell’s goin’ on?” I spluttered.
“I am attempting to properly reference your research library.” His voice was emanating from behind the enormous pile of books on the table. My table. It was bowed in the middle from all the weight on it, and if I craned my neck, I could just about see Wesley’s cast sticking out from beneath. “Not to mention ordering some essential editions to fill the truly lamentable gaps in your collection. It‘s disgraceful, Mr. Doyle, and I don’t know how a seasoned fighter of the forces of darkness such as yourself can stand to work from this paltry collection. Furthermore, it‘s beyond me how you ever find anything amongst what you do have, considering your haphazard shelving system.”
“Well ‘scuse me,” I snapped. “But the last time any of these here tomes came in useful in a case, the perpetrator had broken into the office and the book happened to be the heaviest item on hand to brain him with.”
I edged around the overloaded table as Wesley’s laughter rose from the other side of it. He looked up at me disparagingly, and said, “I’m not at all surprised. Mr. Doyle, you’re not an unintelligent man, and surely you can see you’re wasting a resource here with this criminal lack of organisation. Nevertheless, do not fear. I shall have it all sorted out and properly catalogued in a matter of days.”
“Days?” I repeated, running my eyes once again over the horrendous mess. I could see the piles of torn off wrapping and delivery notes, now. The bastard had waited ‘til I’d gone out for a day, then ordered everything delivered. He’d better not have put it all on the office tab, I fumed, with the distinct feeling that he had.
“Maybe a week or two,” he amended.
I restrained my temper. He was extremely close to gettin’ a demon-powered fist in his smugly smiling face. And since I hadn’t yet gotten around to explaining about my demon side to him, it wouldn’t really be the punch which came as the major shock.
I kicked a pile of books instead and stomped off to the kitchen to make a coffee, ignoring his berating voice trailing after me.
Now, when Faith turned up at my office, having invited herself to join forces with me, I admit I didn’t put up a whole lot of resistance to the concept. Especially after the sexual acrobatics - it has to be said, the girl sure knows how to twist a guy around to her point of view.
But I hardly expected the girl would make herself scarce within a week, leaving me to baby-sit her incapacitated Watcher.
I ventured from the kitchen a few minutes later, by which time Wesley had abandoned his work at the table and was hopping around on his crutches. He pointedly waved the book he held in his hand - “Encyclopaedia Diabolica”, the elaborate letters on the dust-jacket said.
Faith had brought in the crutches. I didn’t know where she’d got them from and I didn’t want to know. Largely because I had a strong suspicion that somewhere, on some LA street corner, there was a very pissed off one-legged war vet.
“I must say,” Wesley remarked casually, poking through the contents of a large, opened package which retaliated by spilling polystyrene pieces over the floor. “I don’t entirely understand why you do what you do. Fighting the forces of evil seems a... peculiar career choice.”
“You chose to become a Watcher,” I pointed out.
“Ah. Yes, well... That’s... sort of a family tradition,” he said, flustered. “Besides which, the Watcher’s Council is a respectable, if secret, institution. I do wonder how it was you came to do this sort of thing... alone.”
The query in his voice was obvious. But I didn’t respond to his clumsy digging. After a moment’s silence, he prompted, hopefully, “Faith said you used to be in the police force.”
“That’s true enough.” I wondered if he’d believe me if I told him what I used to do before that, and didn’t bother trying.
Wesley gave up and changed the subject, to one only slightly less uncomfortable. “Erm, speaking of Faith, I don’t suppose you know where she is?”
He looked up from his box for the first time and his eyes, suddenly distracted, fixed on the mug in my hand. “You couldn’t get me a cup of tea, could you?”
“No, I couldn’t. There isn’t any left. You drank it all.”
Grumbling under my breath, I thrust my untouched cup at him and went back through the kitchen to fix myself another. I got some entertainment from the manner in which he was forced to juggle the cup, almost overbalancing on his crutches in the process.
“Faith,” he reminded, after a pause, his voice carrying through to the kitchen, slightly muffled.
“She’s around,” I growled evasively.
“I don’t seem to have seen her in a while.”
“Yeah? Well, in theory at least, she - like some other people I could mention - doesn‘t actually live here. Plus you aren‘t exactly her favourite person. And the slayin‘ work has been a little thin on the ground this past week.”
“She’s avoiding me?” he asked, slightly pained.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it. I’m sure she’ll turn up when she’s hungry.”
He laughed, briefly.
I picked up my second attempt at a soothing fix of caffeine and sipped it as I headed back into the mess which was my apartment. That was when the vision hit.
They sure pick their moments. My hand spasmed on the cup and it exploded into pieces, splashing me with its hot contents. I guess I just wasn’t destined to get that coffee anytime soon.
The images slammed through me in seconds and left me standing there shakily with splinters of cup sticking out of my palm and Wesley staring at me with a truly annoying interest.
“That was one of your visions?” He hadn’t actually seen me experience one before, although Faith had told him about it. It was something he seemed to find quite fascinating. I’m pretty certain he’d have another view entirely if it was his brain the Powers had chosen to regularly assault with mind-numbingly painful visions.
Cursing, I hastily pulled the splinters of broken pottery out of my hand and crossed to the weapons cabinet, tripping over piles of books. I slammed open the doors and wondered what the hell I had that might kill the thing I’d just seen.
“Any books in that lot that you can use to look up some information on a demon for me real quick?” I asked.
“Certainly.” He sounded puzzled. “What kind of a demon?”
“A really big one. I don’t know and I don’t have time to describe it. You’ll know when you see it. Just grab some books you think will be useful and head for the car.”
I snatched up the biggest axe from the weapons cabinet, and discovered it looked a lot smaller than I remembered in view of what I’d just seen. “Shit.” I grabbed a broadsword as well, and a crossbow for Wesley.
Wesley, books under his arm, was clumping towards the door on his crutches. “Faith would be useful,” he remarked, the sarcasm dripping from his voice. “A little supernatural strength wouldn’t go amiss.”
“I’ve been doin’ this for years,” I snapped, offended by the implication. “I don’t bloody need Faith... I’ll leave a note.”
I dropped the weapons on the floor and scrawled a few sentences on a piece of paper.
I left it pinned to the elevator doors as we hurried out through the hallway.
“Could you... possibly... go a little slower!” Wesley choked out. In the mirror, I could see him sprawled across the back seat and trying to stay in place. His hands were gripped white-knuckled on handholds on ceiling and door, and crutches, leg cast, books and cell phone were all bouncing merrily around the upholstery.
“Sorry, pal. But this demon’s about to make a meal of a real nice little blonde, and I kinda think we should be hurryin’.” I took a sharp left down a dark, narrow street, approaching the area I’d seen in my vision.
He withdrew into silence, for all of a few seconds. “I hope Faith gets your note. What you’ve mentioned about this creature sounds less than encouraging.”
I didn’t reply. Faith wasn’t going to come back until she was ready to, and I sincerely doubted that was going to be in the next hour or so. Besides, I had other things to think about. I could see the demon from my vision up ahead, outlined by a street light. It looked even bigger in the flesh; had to be about nine feet tall. A crumpled human figure lay on the ground at its feet, a splay of bright hair glittering in an incandescent pool on the ground around the girl’s head.
“Good grief,” Wesley said as he caught his first sight of the demon. “Mr. Doyle, I really think... Doyle!”
His yelp, almost a shriek, came as he evidently caught on to the fact I wasn’t slowing down, and wasn’t going to.
I drove straight up onto the sidewalk and ploughed into the demon, missing the girl by what I hoped was a margin of a few inches. I only hit the brakes after I’d hit the creature, when it was already too late to slow down completely to avoid impact with the imminent wall.
The car shook horrendously, but the demon sandwiched between it and the brickwork absorbed most of the impact, and it wasn’t actually as bad as I’d been expecting.
Wesley, from the back of the car, whimpered incoherently.
I reached down and pulled the crossbow from where it lay among the other weapons, wrapped in protective cloth - mostly to protect from public view - at the foot of the front passenger seat. I tossed it over into the back to Wesley.
“If things get desperate, use that. If I look like I’m about to get dead, use the ‘cell to phone the cops. For the moment, get your nose into those books and find out what it is I’m fightin’ and how the hell I’m meant to kill it.”
“I should think a much wiser plan of action would be to get the young lady into the car and drive away from here as quickly as humanly possible,” he objected.
“Just do it!” I snapped, angrily because that sounded sorta good to me, too, looking at the demon I had to take on. But the PTB hadn’t sent me a vision of this thing so that I could run away from it.
“Right,” Wesley said, looking put out.
No more time for gabbing; the demon was starting to stir, its struggles actually moving the car as it shifted. I grabbed the sword and climbed out to face it.
“Good luck,” Wesley muttered. From his tone of voice I gathered he already considered me a walking dead man. Then he yelped in fear as, with a sudden heave, the creature threw off the car and sent it sliding back several feet. I watched it once again just miss the girl, going so close this time that a wheel actually ran over her flowing blonde hair. She let out a soft cry and flinched away. Not dead then, I thought with some relief.
I raised the sword and ran at the creature while it was still dizzily shaking itself and climbing unsteadily to its feet. A swing of the blade opened up a broad slash across its midsection... which proceeded to heal up instantly before my eyes.
“Oh, hell.” If it had that sort of regenerative ability, I didn’t think I had brought anything with me that could really hurt it.
Curses and the rustling noise of pages being frantically turned abruptly began to emanate from the back of the car.
The demon appeared to notice me for the first time. It peered down its nose at me - a long way down, it’s gotta be said - and sniffed. “Brachen,” it croaked, in what was barely recognisable as a voice. Its throat seemed to form the words out of a series of clicking sounds.
“What did it say?” Wesley yelled, kicking the back door open with his undamaged leg so his voice reached me more clearly through the body of the car.
“Nothin’ important. Just tell me how to kill it.” This was not the time to provide him with a belated explanation of my demon half.
I swung the sword again, aiming to try a different tactic. It had its head on one side and was looking sorta confused, perhaps wondering why another demon would choose to attack it. Anyway, it was distracted, and I managed to sever one of its arms just below the elbow joint.
I’d see how its regenerative abilities dealt with that one.
Well, its reflexes were definitely recovered - its immediate response was to tear the sword from my hands with an ease that came as a real jolt to my confidence. Then it simply picked me up before I could dodge and hurled me several yards through the air.
I landed, face-down, in a sprawl on the roof of the car.
My demon form, dragged out just prior to the impact, protected me somewhat. But I still lay there for several seconds, feeling the shuddering protests drawn out of the metal by my heavy landing reverberating through my body.
“Doyle! Doyle!” Wesley’s frustrated yells from inside the car drew me back to the less-than-wonderful situation on hand. A moment later, I heard him talking frantically into the cell-phone.
Groaning, I sat up, shaking off my demon form before I unsteadily jumped down from the car. I just managed to keep my legs from buckling beneath me when I landed.
The demon was reattaching its arm, a fairly disgusting process which nonetheless afforded me a few necessary moments’ grace.
I looked around for the sword and, not seeing it anywhere, staggered over to the front passenger door to retrieve the axe instead.
“You’re all right,” Wesley said, sounding surprisingly relieved, as I opened the door. “It’s a Torunak Demon. I’ve discovered that much. Unfortunately the Encyclopaedia Diabolica doesn’t have much more than an illustration and a name. I’ll see if Rowther’s Demonology Index can do any better.”
“Yeah. Great. You called the cops?” Didn’t like to think what they’d make of this, but I didn’t think I could handle it on my own and a distraction might at least let us get out of there alive.
“No. I tried. Your battery went dead.”
I cursed. “Keep lookin’.” I hefted the axe and headed back into the fight, intercepting the now-recovered demon just in time to prevent it from seeing how far it could throw the car complete with Wesley inside it.
I hacked at its arms, breaking its grip on the car. Its claws left streaks in my paintwork. It shoved me aside even as the cuts I’d made with the axe healed themselves.
Trying to stay on my feet, I reeled, off-balance, bounced off the front of the car, and ended up in a shabby heap on the ground. My head spun. I heard Wesley cry out in fear and realised, damn it, that the demon wasn’t much interested in me. It was after human prey.
I struggled up again. The demon was reaching inside the car, through the opened door. I wasn’t going to be in time -
The demon staggered back from the car with a crossbow bolt sticking out of its eye.
Wesley could actually shoot straight...? Nah, it must’ve been a lucky shot...
The demon wrenched at the bolt, pulling it out. The instant it was out, the wound healed over.
“Here it is,” Wesley called, shakily, as I embedded the axe in the demon’s head and got thrown against the brick wall for my troubles. The axe hit the wall after and above me and I just managed to roll out of the way in time to avoid getting brained by it. “The Torunak Demon. A fearsome beast, possessed of fantastic regenerative properties. Clans were once plentiful in warmer parts of the world. Believed it originates from the mating of a...”
“Bloody hell, Wesley, I don’t wanna know its mating habits, just tell me how to kill it!” I yelped, as the creature’s foot came down hard in the spot where my head had been a fraction of a second earlier.
I snatched up the axe again, ducked beneath a swipe of the demon‘s claws, scrambled inside its reach on hands and knees and sank the axe into its foot. I didn’t have the leverage I needed to cut right the way through. The massive demon’s other foot came down in a hard stamp on top of my own leg and I had no choice but to switch to my demon form, otherwise it would’ve splintered my bones worse off than Wesley‘s.
Something twisted and dislocated in my right leg, and I yelled in pain. I wondered what the hell Wesley was delaying over. Knowing my luck, all the book contained about Torunak Demons was an essay on their mating habits.
With an effort I managed to lift the axe up for another blow, bring it down hard as I could, and cut off the creature’s bloody foot.
This time I thrust the disgusting severed demon-part as far as I could away from it, and with satisfaction watched it keep rolling until it wedged itself in the gutter at the side of the road. The demon, howling, tried to lunge after it and fell with a crash that shook the ground.
I hunched over and wrenched my knee joint back into place with an audible snap, and switched back to human. In demon form I could take the damage; it didn’t make it hurt any less, though.
If Wesley had seen, I was gonna have some serious explaining to do. Although, in the dark, with the demon obscuring his view, I doubted he had seen.
As for the Torunak Demon... I lifted the axe and staggered over to where it still floundered on the ground trying to get up. As I prepared to strike the blade down onto its neck, it said, in its odd, clicking tones, “Others will avenge me, little man-demon.”
“Yeah, pal. You believe that if it makes you feel better.”
Once it was in enough pieces to satisfy me that it wasn’t about to pull itself together anytime soon - although the option of chopping it up into dogmeat and burying it piecemeal definitely seemed wise - I headed back to the car.
Wesley blinked at me nervously; I guess I must’ve looked a sight, covered in the demon’s yellow blood. He thrust a book at me. I took it from his hand and stared at it. “What’s this?”
“It‘s one of those useless old tomes,” he mocked, in what was presumably meant to be an imitation of my accent. After a moment, he extended a finger to tap a small line drawing on the opened page, and added the curt explanation, “This symbol. The Mark of Nammohn. Protective rune. Scares the stuffing out of them. Or... you can just chop them up into puree, that works too.”
We got the girl to a hospital and the demon-bits to various sealed boxes dumped throughout the city. Then I drove the two of us back to the office.
My note was still there. Faith, predictably, wasn’t.
Wesley had been unusually quiet and withdrawn in the aftermath of the fight. “You all right?” I asked, as he stood contemplating Faith’s note while I locked the door of the office building behind us.
He actually flinched slightly at my voice. I studied him, noticing how pale he looked. “Your leg hurting? Banged it in the fight, huh?”
He stuttered a moment, then nodded, “Y-yes. It aches somewhat.” He changed the subject, indicating the note, “Wonder what she’s doing, eh? Crazy girl, always running around. Gone on walkabout again, yes?” He tutted and laughed uneasily.
I frowned, wondering if he hadn’t got his medication mixed up with something Faith had brought in. I said, warily, “She’ll be back. Does it all the time, right? Isn‘t that what you said?”
“Indeed, indeed. To me, to any number of her, um, male acquaintances...”
I glared at him sourly. I didn‘t really want to share with him exactly how I felt about that; despite his tales of her wildness, not to mention said acquaintances, I‘d kind of hoped... well. “I get what the girl’s like,” I snapped. “And now, if you don’t mind, I think we have more important business to sort out. Like locating the rest of those Torunak things.”
He spluttered and choked, and almost fell off his crutches. The hand I shot out to steady him was the only thing that kept him upright. “The rest of them?” he managed finally, appalled.
“Yeah.” I sighed, and helped him into the elevator; we descended to the basement apartment. “When you were readin‘, you said they came in clans, right? And before it died, it told me others would come to avenge it.”
“Yeah.” One of the things had been very nearly too much for me. “So - we gotta sort out some crossbow bolts with that Mark of Gammon on them or somethin‘. Not to mention findin’ where the hell these things are hidin’ out. Must be some place good. After all, you wouldn’t think they’d be easy to miss.”