Doyle Investigations: Episode 3
Third Time Unlucky

See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.

Chapter 4
by Mike Dewar

Spike kept his hands down casually at his sides, smiling in a relaxed fashion. “So, where’s your Slayer girlfriend then? She run out on you or something?”

“ She’s just unloadin’ the car,” I said, returning his smile. “She’ll be right down.”

Spike laughed, shaking his head. “Nice try, mate. She didn’t arrive with you; I was watching from the window. Good front you put up, though, wouldn’t want to play poker with you.”

I shrugged. “Can’t blame a guy for tryin’. Anyway, I don’t need Faith’s help to take you apart.”

Spike smirked at that, taking a single measured step towards me but still staying just out of my reach. Bluffing aside, I wasn’t really in the best situation. My only advantage was that Spike obviously had little respect for my combat skills after that fiasco at the bar. With any luck I could play on that, let him get cocky and then take him down. Then again, it could turn out that he hadn’t really been trying very hard at the bar, and that when he went full-out he’d knock me down with one punch.

But if that was true, then I was already a dead man. All the bluffing was done and it was time to lay out my hand and hope the cards were on my side.

Spike moved suddenly forward, interrupting my thoughts with a brutal punch for my face. I couldn’t get my hands up to block in time, but I managed to twist my head with the punch, absorbing the impact. I ducked under his second strike and smashed my elbow into his ribs.

Spike grunted in pain and surprise, and I rose out of my low stance, shooting a rising uppercut for his jaw. Spike blocked the blow before it got near his face and drove a hard left into my nose.

This time, I wasn’t able to twist with the impact.

My head snapped back hard, my eyes half-closing in pain. Out of the corner of my slitted left eye, I saw Spike aiming a powerful right cross.

I flung myself with the blow, crashing hard on to the floor and rolling away. I ended up lying flat on my back, dizzy and confused, one hand clutching my throbbing nose while I stared at the roof and tried to concentrate.

I heard Spike laugh a meter or so away. “Yeah, mate. You’re really beating me down here. What ever can I do against your ruthless attack of falling flat on your arse?” I heard his boots moving towards me.

As I had hoped, Spike had let over-confidence get the better of him. My plan was working perfectly. I had him right where I wanted him.

Yeah, I was lying on the floor with a bloody nose and him standing over me, but everything was going according to plan. Sure.

Spike spoke again, sounding almost disappointed as he moved right up beside me. “Is that all you got, Doyley? I would have expected more of a fight from your hobbling Watcher chum!”

I let my head loll about, eyes half-closed, like I could barely hear him. Spike drove a boot hard into my ribs and it took all my self-control not to roll away and block.

My moan of pain wasn’t entirely staged as he kicked me again. I folded up around his outstretched leg, clinging on to it weakly.

“ Here!” Spike said disgustedly. “Leggo! You’re gonna bleed all over my boots!”

I rolled on to my stomach, still holding tenaciously onto Spike’s foot.

He groaned. “This is getting really pathetic…”

I felt his leg tense to pull himself free and allowed myself a bloody smile. Then I moved.

Now, if you look at the situation here, bruises and battle aside, Spike was effectively standing with all his weight on his back leg and with me holding on to his front foot. So when I rose from the floor and yanked his leg upwards with every inch of demon-enhanced strength I possessed, Spike was thrown over so hard and fast he practically did a somersault.

As the vampire hit the ground, I rushed forward, picking him up off the floor and hurling him into a wall with both arms. Spike smacked hard into my apartment wall, gasping in shock and pain as he tried to regain his shaky balance.

He took a single, hesitant step forward and walked straight into my right cross. Blood sprayed and I jabbed hard with my left, pummelling his chest and then snapping my fist up for another blow to his face. My right arm shot in again, snapping his head round a second time.

“ Pathetic, huh?” I spat through gritted teeth as I threw punch after punch. Spike was dazed, in pain and off-balance, and growing more punch-drunk by the second.

I have to hand it to him. Usually, in a fight where one fighter gains such a clear and decisive advantage, well, the rest of the combat is basically a formality. The defender is too busy covering up and blocking to get a blow in, and the attacker is on such an adrenalin high that nothing short of being hit by a truck will stop him punching.

But Spike actually stopped blocking. In the midst of a web of pain, taking the nastiest blows I could throw and then some, he was actually able to think rationally and wait for an opening.

I could see this new tactic and I didn’t like it, so I took a single step back and kicked hard for his chest, hoping to knock him down.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to do.

Spike blocked my kick, grabbed my foot and shoved backwards. The push was pretty flimsy, all things considered, but I had to stagger backwards a few steps to regain my balance, my eyes on the floor instead of my opponent.

And when I looked up again, I wasn’t looking at a bloody, battered Spike who was swaying on his feet.

The Spike I was looking at was, to put it bluntly, extremely pissed off. He was wearing his vampire face and his yellow eyes veritably glowed with pain and anger.

He spat a dollop of blood on my floor and grinned with feral amusement. “Not bloody bad,” he said with grudging admiration. “You suckered me very nicely, mate. And that little tip-me-over move? Bleedin’ brilliant. I am impressed.”

“ So glad to have won your appreciation,” I shot back.

“ Yeah, well don’t be. I killed the last ten people whose fighting impressed me. Constructive criticism.”

“ I’m sure they’ll be very grateful in their next lives.”

Spike smiled, balling his fists. “I underestimated you, Doyley. Let myself get too cocky.” His voice turned dangerous. “But don’t think the same trick’ll work twice. Amateur hour’s over, time to play for the money.”

Spike’s advance was more cautious and slow this time, partly because of his new respect for me, and partly because, all his bluffing aside, he was fairly beat-up.

But then again, in the state I was in, a sloth would have seemed like a dangerously quick opponent. We began to circle.

I made the first move this time, punching high. Spike slapped the blow aside but didn’t retaliate. I punched low. Again, blocked but with no response.

A quick sequence of punches aimed at his face yielded similar results, though Spike sent a few slow, easily-blocked strikes at my stomach.

I was starting to get nervous and I was sure Spike could see it. With him taking such a defensive stance, there was really nothing I could do to get to him and with every blow I made, the chances increased that I would slip up and leave him an opening.

I built up the pace of punches until, finally, Spike did retaliate.

It was like a Chess Grandmaster who distracts you by moving pieces down one end of the board, until finally you leave yourself vulnerable to a single move of his queen that gets checkmate.

As the exchange of punches had gained momentum, I had shifted my feet so as to easily defend from Spike’s occasional return blows by bobbing my head or blocking. Even my hands were up high like a boxer’s stance.

So Spike just hooked his front foot around mine and tugged. It was a simple bloody trip, something even Wesley could have pulled off - if his leg wasn’t broken, of course - but it caught me totally by surprise and pulled my legs right out from under me.

I hit the ground hard and rolled. No chance to play dead here. I heard Spike rushing in as I came to my feet and I knew there was no way I could stay out of the coming assault of blows long enough to regain my balance and focus.

So I didn’t. Instead, I shrugged out of my jacket and threw it straight into Spike’s face.

“ Hey! No fair!” I heard him yelp, muffled by the coat. I punched him hard in the stomach and then grabbed his jacket-wrapped head and smashed it into my knee. I threw him aside as he snatched the coat off his face and flung it away, tearing it in several places.

I winced. Explaining those marks to a tailor would be interesting.

“ All right!” Spike snapped. “Enough is enough. I’m gonna grind your bones into a mushy paste and hand your heart to your Slayer slut.”

“ You know what, ‘mate’?” I snarled. “You’re all talk.”

Considering the mood Spike was in, there was no way I was letting him swing the first punch. I charged him, hands to the sides, my guard totally down.

No, I wasn’t suicidal.

When I was a step or so away from him I flung my torso backwards and kicked both my legs off the floor. Now what would normally happen next is that I would fall flat and feel like an idiot.

And yes, I did fall flat. But thanks to my momentum, my feet went up high and hard and smashed into Spike’s face. Then I fell flat, but so did he.

A nice little flying kick, if not as pretty as the ones Jackie Chan and them do all the time.

Of course, now I was flat on my back. Again. But fortunately Spike was down as well and after having received both my feet in the jaw, he was considerably less ready to get up again.

As Spike lay stunned on my floor, I staggered to my weapons cabinet and snatched at the first weapon I saw.

A double-headed axe in hand, I turned and threw myself onto Spike, pinning him to the floor.

His hands grappled with mine for the axe, but I tugged it from his weakened grasp and raised it up high.

“ An’ by the way, Faith’s not a slut. The girl just likes to party.”

The axe swept down.

I might as well have hit Spike with an axe-shaped hammer. He grunted in pain as it rebounded off his shoulder.

Betrayed, I stared at my weapon. The bloody thing was blunt! I was so surprised I lost hold of my demon form.

Then I looked down into Spike’s grinning face and swallowed.


I felt like someone had glued my eyelids together with treacle and then an octopus had wrapped itself around me.

“ Come on, sissy boy,” I heard Spike mutter. A hand slapped my face, none too gently.

I opened my eyes just in time to receive another slap.

“ Hey!”

Spike chuckled. “Nice to see you’re back with us, Sleeping Beauty.”

The ‘octopus’ of my semi-conscious musings was in fact quite a lot of tight rope that Spike had wrapped around my upper body, tying me into a chair in the centre of my apartment. I struggled with the bonds as my captor stepped away from me, admiring his handiwork as he took a swig from his bottle of blood. He was human again, and the bruises and marks from our fight had nearly vanished from his face.

“ I should have been a Boy Scout,” he said cheerily, watching my efforts with amusement.

“ You cut off my bloody circulation,” I muttered, tugging futilely at the ropes as my fingers tingled unpleasantly. The chair was borrowed from upstairs and it shifted slightly on its castors in response to my movement.

“ I’m sobbing with guilt, I am,” Spike laughed, sprawling down casually on my sofa. “That was quite a fun little affair we had back there, wasn’t it?”

“ I don’t really call fightin’ for my life ‘fun’,” I said sarcastically. “But maybe that’s just me.”

Spike snorted. “Liar. Why else do you spend your time fighting all us nasty, non-productive and unpleasant types, then?”

“ It might be ‘cause your charmin’ habit of killin’ people offends me,” I said, finally giving up on my ropes. Spike sure did know how to tie knots.

“ Really. So you’re just the big Dark Avenger, huh? Well, okay, short, badly-dressed Irish Avenger, then.” Spike sat up and smiled unpleasantly, poking me in the chest. “I’ve got news for you, mate. You’re part demon, same as me. Just because you tramp around with a Slayer and can walk in daylight doesn’t mean you’re any better.”

I glared at the vampire, filled with loathing. “I don’t kill people.”

Spike folded his hands behind his head and leaned back casually. “Well that all depends, don’t it? After all, you’ve killed lots of people, if you consider demons people, that is. And if you don’t, then you’re not a person, are you? Quite the moral dilemma.”

“ Spike, you don’t have any morals, much less dilemmas,” I retorted.

Spike seemed immensely pleased at that. "Yeah. I don’t. It’s so much more fun my way.” He took another pull from the bottle. “But you’re letting me get off topic, Doyley. I didn’t leave you alive just to blab about ethics all day long.”

“ So why did you? Not that I’m not happy to still be counted among the breathin’ or anything.”

That had been eating at me. Spike had every reason to kill me and judging from Wes’s research, he didn’t seem like the mercy-giving type. Whatever his reason was, I didn’t think I was going to like it.

Sure enough, I didn’t. “Your girlfriend. Faith. When’s she coming back, then?”

“ You called it right the first time, Spike. We had a fight; she took off. She could be gone for days.”

Spike frowned. “Bloody hell! Girl doesn’t even have the decency to stay put so I can kill her. Now I call that inconsiderate, don’t you? She got any other place to run to besides this joint?”

Something else had been preying on my mind. “How’d you find us, Spike? We couldn’t find you, so how did you track us?”

Spike laughed. “Well I’m not in the phone book, am I? You, on the other hand… Doyle Investigations. Real subtle. ‘Course I visited a Doyle Plumbing and a Doyle’s Pet Store first, but I was hungry anyway.”

“ Lovely.” Poor bastards. Just having the same name as me had got them killed.

Spike sighed. “All that effort, and she’s gone and buggered off somewhere else. Still I suppose she’ll come running back when Crutches finds her. Got to save her dear little Doyley-snookums, hasn’t she?”

“ Uh-huh. An’ then she’ll stake you an’ I’ll set Wesley to work washin’ your dust out of my carpet,” I told him.

“ We’ll just have to wait and see about that, won’t we?” Spike said smoothly. “I hope she gets here soon. I’m getting bored.”

“ Poor you.”

Spike smiled suddenly. “But why should I be bored when I have such a perfect way to while away the hours? I mean, all these medieval weapons... you, tied to a chair... time flies when you’re mercilessly torturing someone.”

“ Couldn’t we just play Scrabble?” I asked as Spike picked up a large knife from my weapons cabinet.

“ Nah. I’m not really the literary type. More of a hands-on guy.” Spike grinned as he brought the knife to rest against my throat. I closed my eyes in anticipation, trying hard not to swallow.

There was a long pause, and then I heard the knife thud against the floor. “It’s just not the same without her!” Spike complained brokenly. I heard him slump back onto my sofa.

When I hesitantly opened my eyes, Spike was lighting a cigarette. He slipped his metal lighter into his pocket and ran a hand through his white-blond hair, taking a long drag on the cigarette.

He smiled sadly. “The torturing was her favorite part, too.”

“ Okay…an’ who was this lovely lady?” I asked nervously, eyeing the gleaming knife lying on the floor.

Spike looked up at me as if he’d forgotten I was in the room. “Oh. Drusilla’s her name.”

“ That’s a nice name. Very, uh, gothic.”

Spike grinned. “Oh yeah, my baby’s got style. Great dress sense.”

Killer figure too, I imagine. In more ways than one. “Sounds like quite a catch, huh?”

“ She’s the best,” he told me. “Totally bonkers, though. I miss her little spastic fits and the way she used to talk in nonsense words.”

Figures. Like a guy called Spike would have a normal girlfriend. “That’s nice... in a dada-esque kinda way.”

Spike chuckled in memory. “Once she went through an entire year thinking she was a daisy.”

“ I’m sure that was fun.” I wonder if she wanted fertilizer?

“ Uh-huh. You know, sometimes I used to get annoyed with her rambling and stuff, but now I miss it so much. Sometimes I go and sit in cellars and mutter about dolls and flowerpots to myself, but it just isn’t the same.”

Great. So now, not only was I trapped in my own apartment with a murderous vampire, but I was with a murderous vampire who had just been dumped and who was probably looking to release a lot of repressed anger.

Woo-hoo.

“ So…why’d you two split? You sound like a perfect match,” I said with total honesty. Maybe if I could stall Spike with reminiscing, Wes could have enough time to find Faith and save my soon-to-be-tortured butt.

Spike blew a cloud of smoke into my face and sniffed. “It all started because of Prague, you know.”

“ She left you for a city?” I asked quizzically

Spike rolled his eyes. “No, you bloody pillock. We were vacationing in Prague, and well, we got a little bit over-enthusiastic... there was this mob...”

I nodded wisely. “I’ve had holidays like that myself.”

Spike waved me into silence. “Anyway, Dru got hurt really bad. She was very weak and she kept on getting worse and worse…so we decided to go to Sunnyhell to see if we could get her rejuvenated.”

“ Where hell?”

“ Sunnydale,” he said by way of explanation. “We thought maybe the Hellmouth could recharge her, give her system a little ‘oomph’, if you get my meaning.”

“ Like a health spa for the undead,” I suggested.

“ Exactly. So we arrive, and I mean this place is just unreal. Crawling with vamps and every other kind of demon to ever ooze its way out of Hell.” He chuckled. “Man, that town redefines the words ‘lively nightlife’.”

“ I suppose it all depends on your point of view,” I said diplomatically.

Spike didn’t appear to hear me. “And slap bang in the middle of it all is this great nightclub called the Bronze. Local kids used to hang there, but then the Master made it his own private hideaway. Much better than the crypts vamps usually meet in. The kids still hang there, but now they hang on meat hooks. Great joint.”

“ So? Sounds like the perfect honeymoon destination,” I said ironically. This was the town Wesley had wanted to send Faith to? Idiot.

“ Yeah, well, Dru was back on her feet in no time, all those demonic energies worked wonders.” A smile creased Spike’s face. “She was all excited and happy - it was like she’d been turned for a second time. Only problem was, the Master is very traditionalist, big on the whole ‘obey thy elders’ crap. And, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit of an independent thinker. Not his favorite kind of person. I got into a million arguments with the wrinkled old fart, so one night I finally decide that enough is enough, time to hit the road. Only Dru disagrees, see?”

“ She’s like all, ‘Hellmouth wonderful, the Master wonderful,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey! He’s a shrivelled old prune who hasn’t paid attention to the world since the wheel was invented!’ So we had a huge fight, but I thought we were going to make up again.”

“ You obviously didn’t,” I observed.

Spike scrubbed at his eyes with his sleeve and sniffed again. “No. I wake up the next night, there’s this big empty space next to me in our bed. Turns out she’s just moved into the Bronze with the Master and his chums. She didn’t even have the…the decency to tell me to my face! I pitch up at the Bronze, she’s flirting with a couple of slimy demons! She told me that ‘It was fun while it lasted!’"

“ That’s harsh,” I admitted.

Spike nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Bitch. And it was just so…callous, too. Like I didn’t even matter.”

“ Love is tough.”

Spike sighed. “Yeah. So what about you, then?”

I hadn’t been expecting that. “Me?”

“ You and your Slayer. You are an item, right?”

“ Yes. Well, kind of.”

Spike nodded wisely. “Ah. She flirts with everyone, doesn’t she? Never pays attention to you, but if you say ‘Hi’ to a pretty skirt then you’re being unfaithful. And she’s just ‘having fun’.”

“ Uh-huh,” I agreed, remembering Faith at the rave. “We were at this dance an’ she just ignored me. Like I was a piece of furniture.”

“ I know, mate. And when you bring someone to eat home, you're expected to share. But when she does and you want some, you're 'being mean'.”

I remembered the way Faith always appeared just when Wes and I ordered takeaway. “Yeah.”

“ And she always wants everything her way. Never any compromise.”

“ An’ it doesn’t help that she can beat me flat in a fight. Kind of humiliatin’, too,” I said. “An’ what’s worse is she’ll rub my nose in it! She’ll poke me around until I’m close to losin’ my rag an’ then cross her arms and say, ‘Whatcha gonna do? I’m the Slayer, remember?’”

“ Women. Who needs ‘em.”

“ Yeah.”

Spike stood up and stubbed out his cigarette on the armrest of my chair. “You know, I feel like we’ve really bonded here, Doyle. You’re a nice sort, even if you keep bad company.” He smiled pleasantly at me.

“ Uh…thanks.”

“ I'm still going to rip your heart out and hand it to your Slayer lover with a ribbon tied around it, but tell you what, I'll snap your neck first, before I extract the heart. Less painful that way.”

He patted me on the head in a friendly fashion.

“ Goody.”

Spike grabbed the top of my head. “Okay, now hold still…”

A female voice purred, “Hey, boys…starting without me?”

I tried to look behind me and nearly broke my own neck. Faith and Wesley stood by the side door into my apartment. Relationship gripes aside, I could have kissed her.

Spike glanced at his watch in annoyance, stepping back from me. “About bloody time!”

Faith grinned in a predatory fashion. “Getting impatient, were we, Spikey?”

“ I like her,” Spike told me. “She’s got sauce.”

“ I’m all yours, Spikey,” Faith said teasingly, pulling a stake from her belt. “Have you been a bad boy?”

Spike chuckled throatily. “Oh, yes. Want to punish me?”

I looked from Slayer to vampire. “Faith!” I said desperately. “Quit flirting an’ start fighting!”

Faith glanced once in my direction. That was a mistake. She really shouldn’t have taken her eyes off Spike for a second. The vampire shot past me, crashing straight into her and bearing her to the floor. Wes yelped in surprise, hopping out of the way of the struggling foes.

Hopping while on crutches is not an easy task.

With a bone-rattling crunch, he slammed into the floor, his crutches going flying.

Swearing under my breath, I lifted my feet upwards and pushed hard against my sofa. The chair skidded backwards on its wheels, nearly toppling. Now I was much closer to the fight, but still unable to do anything.

Faith managed to shove Spike off her and she lunged upwards with her stake. The vampire sneered as he batted the weapon out of her hand. Faith, always ready to improvise, stomped on his foot.

Spike snarled and went vamp, smashing her across the face with his forearm. As she reeled backwards, he advanced, flashing me a fanged grin over his shoulder.

I did the only thing I could.

If you push hard enough with your feet, a chair on wheels can pick up quite a turn of speed.

Spike growled as the chair, with me firmly attached, slammed into his side. He staggered for a second, and then grabbed a hold on the back of the chair.

“ Piss off, Doyley,” he snapped. “I’m busy.” With a shove of his hand, he sent my chair careering away from him again.

The chair wobbled and teetered on two wheels as I shot across the room. For a second, it seemed about to right itself.

I tried very hard not to move. Or breathe.

Then the chair toppled over like a falling tree and I crashed to the ground beside the prone Wesley.

“ This is not going well,” he observed, his bespectacled face inches from my own.

“ As always, you’re the king of understatement, Wes,” I grunted, yanking hard at the ropes. But the damn knots were still tight.

Wesley began to drag himself past me on his hands and good knee, gasping with exertion.

“ Useful,” I said sarcastically. “What are you goin’ to do, gnaw on their ankles?”

Then I saw what he was going for. Spike’s dropped knife.

My chair-lunge had given Faith enough time to regain her balance and she was holding her own against Spike. In fact, more than holding her own.

Spike spun away from a sweeping roundhouse kick, dodging and diving furiously. The vampire had obviously been more hurt by our fight than he had seemed, because his movements were infinitesimally slower and less efficient than before.

Against Faith, that kind of margin can get a guy killed.

Inwardly, I cheered as she backed him up against a wall with a violent barrage of punches. Spike was getting hit more than he was blocking. In fact, he hardly seemed to be blocking at all any more.

I recognised the pattern.

As I opened my mouth to warn Faith, Spike made his move. Faith was too fast for him to pull another block-and-shove stunt like he had with me. Instead, he just ducked.

With every ounce of her Slayer-strength behind it, Faith’s fist plowed straight into my wall. I heard the pop of her wrist dislocating and her gasp of pain.

But that wasn’t enough for Spike. The bastard reached up and grabbed her damaged wrist and twisted.

For the first time in my life, I heard Faith scream. She went down on one knee as Spike twisted her already bent hand. His face twisting with victorious glee, he flung her backwards and raised his fists.

“ Wesley!” I snapped, glancing at the Watcher. He had the knife in hand and was crawling back as fast as he could, his eyes on the deadly confrontation.

Faith looked up at Spike with pain-dimmed eyes, grabbing her wrist with her good hand. I heard the horrible grinding sound as she forced it back into place, a hiss of pain escaping her lips.

Spike applauded mockingly. “Impressive, Slayer. You’ve got guts!”

Faith glared at him wordlessly.

Spike smiled. “By the time I’m done with you, you won’t have any. At least not inside you. On the walls, mayb -”

Faith hurled herself forward, punching him in the face.

Wesley pulled himself up behind me and began to saw at the ropes. There was a scraping sound and then a pause.

“ Uh, Doyle?” he said plaintively.

“ Yeah?” I rasped.

“ This knife is blunt.”

I glanced at him. “You’re kidding.” He shook his head slowly. “What the hell happened to ‘A Slayer must always rely on her weaponry above all else’?”

“ There’s no need to be snippy.”

I ignored him, straining against my ropes. They were a bit frayed, but at this rate, it would take Wesley a year to free me. And it didn’t look like Faith had a minute.

Spike swayed out of the way of her weakened blows and grabbed her by the throat.

“ Third time’s the charm,” he remarked, tightening his grip. I heard Faith gurgle as she fought for breath. Spike grinned. “Congratulations, Faith. You’re my hat trick.”

Not if I could help it.

I probably should have warned Wesley beforehand.

The change came slowly and with difficulty as I gritted my teeth and used every inch of the control it had taken me three years to learn.

I heard Wes yelp and draw back from my spines as they sliced into the weakened ropes around my hands. But the ropes still held

Doyle the human couldn’t have busted them. But for Doyle the demon, it was no trick at all.

I tore myself free of the chair and hit Spike with the first thing that came to hand.

His glass bottle of blood shattered as it collided with his forehead. Blood, both his own and the bottled, ran down his face in a hideous river as he threw Faith to the ground and spun on me.

Spike’s fist shot into my jaw and the world seemed to spin around me as I fell, my momentary burst of demon-boosted adrenalin fading. Spike grinned as he bent down over me.

There was an explosion of noise by my ear and something invisible seemed to pick Spike up by the shoulder and toss him backwards. He staggered and nearly fell, clutching at his bleeding arm.

On the stairs behind me, Collins carefully levelled the slim-barrelled pistol in his hand for another shot. Behind him, Weatherby and Smith raised bottles of holy water to throw.

I hastily shook off the demon, hoping they hadn’t noticed my spikes in the shadows. But they didn’t seem to be paying attention to me at all.

Collins’s pistol spoke again and Spike lurched drunkenly, his face reverting to human. He stared at all of us, suddenly seeming weak and faltering, blood running down his black duster.

“ Bloody hell,” he gasped. “Six on one is getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Collins smiled cynically. “And you were expecting what? Queensbury rules?”

Spike snarled once, a furious, animal sound. “All right. You win. But I’ll be back, and you and yours will be in for a very nasty - ”

He hissed in pain as scattered droplets from Smith’s holy water hit him. “Can’t you even let a man finish a sodding sentence?”

Spike turned and dove for the sewer grate in my apartment floor in a flurry of motion. Collins’s pistol spoke four more times, but Spike was through the grate before the bullets found their mark.

The trio of killers moved swiftly for the sewer grate, but I could have told them they were wasting their effort. With someone like Spike, you have to have him right in front of you when you pull the trigger, and even then you have to be lucky.

You see, Spike’s a survivor.

But the thing he hadn’t allowed for, I realised as I surveyed my wrecked apartment, is that so am I.

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