Nineteen: The Locale
“Oh, I think this will do, don’t you, darling?” Hardison fussed over the small house, checking out the old lace curtains. “And it comes with all these furnishings?”
The realtor was trying to put a warm face on things. “Oh, you know, sometimes people want to leave in a hurry, they don’t want to bother with taking their stuff. We had everything cleaned, of course; the place is spotless.”
“They left this?” Parker picked up a pair of lace panties gingerly. “The dressers are full.”
“Well, of course, you can donate all of that to the Salvation Army or something.” The realtor flapped her hand. “I’m sure you can come up with something, or we can send in someone to clear it up.” She frowned repressively at them. “It does come fully furnished.”
“Oh, no, no, of course, we can donate that to the church charity, right, honey? We’re joining the South Sunnydale Presbyterian Church, ma’am, and we’re super excited to be going there. Good works, helping people—”
“Nighttime prayer services,” Parker added with an insipid smile. “Truly God is powerful.”
“Truly, yes.” The realtor was looking pale and uncertain now. “So, ah, about the price…”
The price she named was several thousand less than the last price she’d offered.
“Oh, that’s lovely. And it’s ready immediately? We’re in quite a hurry to do God’s work, you see.”
“Right now, yes. Just contact your mortgage company and have them contact my office…”
“Is check okay?”
“This is stupid,” Elliot snarled, not for the first time. “I look like an idiot. I look like…”
“…like half the thugs out here. Straighten your tie and think cliche. You’ll fit right in.”
“Where exactly are we fitting in, Nate? Hunh? We gonna go sweet-talk a vampire, is that what you want? Because if you’ve got a death wish, there are definitely quicker ways to go about it.”
“No vampires, if we can help it. I get the feeling vampires aren’t the problem here.”
“They’re real, Nate. I know you don’t want to believe…”
“Oh, it’s not that. No, it’s just that there are always things that go bump in the night, Elliot. Some of them have always been supernatural… but some have always been human. And they leave different trails.”
“Since when did you become an expert in the ‘supernatural?’” Elliot’s air quotes accompanied a sneer.
“You’re not the only one that has a past.” Nate swung his cane theatrically as they wandered down the night street. “Although vampires are new. There was that one time I had to track down what turned out to not only be a priceless antique, but also the key to opening a gate to a Hell Dimension.”
Eliot paused. “Not the Knife of Pan?”
“Oh, no, but I’ve encountered that once or twice. No, this was the – hsst. There we go. Local muscle.”
The men walking up to them were only making the barest attempt at looking like humans, but they were dressed – like Nate and Eliot were – in the height of fashion, circa 1960. Their lapels were wide, their suits were bright, and they all looked very cheerful about matters.
Matters, in this case, included the nail-studded Louisville Slugger that the big one was carrying.
“You look like you’re in town to do business.” The little one was maybe five foot four, tops, skinny, with a face like a weasel had mated with the wrong end of a crocodile and a smile like the croc had won. “Which is great. We here in Sunnydale like people doing business. Keeps the tax revenue coming in.”
Nate played dumb as only he could. “Oh, we weren’t planning on doing anything taxable, per se. we’re just here to take a look-around, see what’s to be had here. I’ve heard good things about Sunny-”
The big one stepped forward, his bat pointed at Nate’s chest. The little one cleared his throat.
“Keeps the taxes coming in, I said.”
Nate’s smile was wide and cheerful. “Oh, I really was hoping you’d say that. My associate here has been feeling a bit cranky, you see, and I’d really rather he be cranky at someone who isn’t me. Isn’t that right?”
Eliot didn’t have to fake the snarl.
The boss made the fatal mistake of attempting to argue math – that is numbers – with any side involving Eliot. “There’s four of us. There’s two of you, and one of you looks like a pussy.”
“Oh, my friend, I hope you’re talking about me. But just to make the odds a little more even, I’ll sit over here. You can sit with me, if you like.” He nodded at the weasel-faced boss. “I’m sure we’ll both find it quite instructive.”
He sat down on the nearby bench and watched the leader dither.
Twenty: The Locals
“I tell you, they’re beautiful women. Beautiful women, here.”
“Gee, thanks, Xander.” Cordelia punched him in the arm.
“Seriously, Xan. Way to make a girl feel appreciated.” Buffy punched him in the other arm.
“Oh, there’s no arms left for me.” Willow pouted. “Well, that’s all right. I know Xander doesn’t think I’m beautiful.”
“No, really, Xander, tell us more about these beautiful… oh.” Cordelia swallowed. “Damn.”
“Wow.” Willow pushed her hair out of her face and gawped. “Did I say wow?”
“You did not,” Buffy grinned. “Perhaps you should say it again to be sure it’s said?”
“I feel outclassed,” Cordelia complained. “I should never feel outclassed.”
“Oh, darling.” The blonde woman seemed to have overheard. “You should not feel outclassed. Perhaps instead, feel as if your, what is the word? Sensei is here.”
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