Consider this to be several lines of disclaimers etc.
By Marcus L. Rowland
I had Cordelia's home 'phone number from the wannabe actresses page, and that plus a quick search in last year's reverse lookup directory got me an address in Silverlake, about twenty minutes from the offices of Angel Investigations, formerly the Hyperion Hotel. I also found out where she was buried; the LA Tribune had carried an announcement of the funeral three weeks earlier. The Hollywood Forever cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard. Looking at their web site and prices I guessed that she was finally with the stars. And wondered who'd paid for it, of course.
I took Wallace with me for company and Backup for protection. Of course Wallace would like to think he was the protection, but really we both know better. He's useful, but not exactly Mr. Muscle; about my age, black, short and wiry, and his mom and my dad have the hots for each other. Backup's my dog, a pit bull.
"Where do we start?" Wallace asked, about half an hour out, when we were just starting to hit the first real LA traffic.
"The offices, I think. There might be a forwarding address, some way that we can get in touch with someone who worked for Angel Investigations."
"And we are totally not going to break in and search the place," he said sarcastically.
"Why, Wallace Fennel, whatever do you mean?"
"Of course, if a door or window should happen to be open..."
"Don't jive me, I saw you put the bolt-cutters and the pry bar in the trunk."
"Just a routine precaution."
"If we're stopped by the cops we are so dead."
"So let's not do anything to get stopped by the cops."
"Sure...." said Wallace, and sat low in his seat the rest of the way.
I'd expected the Hyperion to be small; instead it was a huge building that seemed to occupy most of a block. We did a drive-by first, and I spotted a loading bay in an alley round the back, with parking for several cars. All of the spaces were empty.
"What do you think?" asked Wallace.
"I think," I said, pulling into the least conspicuous parking space and making sure we had a clear route out if we needed to make a fast getaway, "that we need to get some pictures of this charming example of period architecture for art class." I grabbed my Nikon and a flashlight, and left Wallace holding Backup's lead, my laptop, and a little Fuji video camera. "C'mon, I think that there's a Japanese sand garden round on that side."
"Riiight," said Wallace, and followed me around the side. I took plenty of pictures as we went - if you're gonna make up an alibi you might as well live up to it - and by the time we'd reached the front entrance we were both really a little enthusiastic about the place. The landscaping was definitely cool, though a lot of the plants in the gardens were overgrown or dying from neglect and there were some signs of fire damage. One thing I noticed was that there were no hoboes around, which made me wonder if there was security there. Couldn't see any signs, but maybe there was a watchman or an alarm.
"Okay, that's the exterior," said Wallace, "Wonder how we get a look inside." We both looked at the door, and I took a couple of shots of a notice that said that all enquiries for Angel Investigations should be forwarded to this phone number or that post office box. The doors were glass and didn't seem to be chained, so I gave one a push. It was locked, but only by a Yale model I knew pretty well, and I was through it in about ten seconds.
"Guess it wasn't locked properly," I said loudly as we went inside.
"Holy...." Wallace was looking around the lobby with his mouth half-open, and I was finding it hard not to join him. The place was huge, with furniture covered in dust sheets, and open on three levels. It had an Art Deco look, don't know if it that was the original period or later re-modelling, and there was a vast chandelier overhead. Taped to one wall was a faded poster of a black woman called "Jasmine", nothing else to say who she was. I had a vague feeling I remembered the name, but couldn't remember why. Neither could Wallace when I asked him later.
Wallace was clicking his tongue and listening to the echoes, while I shot frame after frame with the Nikon. "If we can't get straight A's with this we aren't trying," I said.
"Let's get some pictures of some of the other rooms," Wallace said pointedly. "Art teacher's gonna want a full rundown on the place." From somewhere, I guessed one of the side rooms, there was a tinkling noise. We both froze, then I said "Hello? Is anyone there?"
I heard a noise like glass breaking, then one of the doors behind the counter swung open and a stranger came in, a blond guy, maybe twenty-five or so, wearing a black leather duster, a Billy Idol look-alike. He started to say "Buf..." then stopped as he saw us, and said "Who the hell are you?" He had a British accent, and a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. Remembering the list of names Cordelia had been trying to trace, I guessed that the word he'd started to say was 'Buffy', and wondered if my voice sounded like hers.
"Hi!" I said, my voice a little higher and squeakier than I liked, "We're art students from Neptune, here to get some pictures for our photography project."
"Neptune? Where did you park the flying saucer?"
"Neptune's up the coast," Wallace said tiredly. That joke and the others like it get old fast, like the one about 'Mars Attacks' I run into every now and again. "Near the border." Backup was growling softly.
"Oh yeah, remember the name now. That's what, a hundred and fifty miles from here, isn't it?"
"A hundred and twenty," I contributed.
"So tell me how the fame of this mighty establishment has penetrated to far-flung bloody Neptune." He sounded just a little drunk.
"Um..." I began, then decided to take a chance. "It's kinda a long story. I kinda know someone who used to work here, at least to talk to, she was always saying how great the architecture was so when the project came up I thought it'd be nice to come here and finally meet her and get a few photos, mister... uh..."
"Call me Spike. Meet who, exactly?" he asked.
"Cordelia. Cordelia Chase. We haven't talked in a long while, I didn't know they'd gone out of business. I should have guessed when I couldn't phone to warn her we were coming."
"Oh bollocks," Spike said, suddenly sounding tired. "Sit down. I've got some bad news for you."
"She's dead. The cheerleader's dead. I mean... Cordelia."
I sat down, hard, on one of the shrouded couches. I didn't have to fake it much, somehow it felt a lot more real hearing it from someone who knew her. Wallace patted my back, a little awkwardly, while Backup kept growling at Spike, who kept his distance.
Eventually I looked up and said "How did she die?"
"Don't really know the details," said Spike. "I wasn't in LA when she was hurt, but I heard she'd been injured in some sort of freak accident, must be a year ago now, put her in a coma. A few weeks ago she just.. well, just died, I suppose."
"So how do you know her?"
I had a story ready, of course. It wasn't a good one, but I thought it had the right air of total cluelessness. "My mom wanted me to be an actress, and for a while I was on the books of a talent agency in LA. Trouble was that the only time I got a job offer they'd sent it to the wrong girl, it was meant for Cordelia. So I called to tell her, and Cordelia and I just got to talking, and we really like totally hit it off. But then I got into art, and my mom and dad divorced, and what with one thing and another we kinda lost contact. Then we were given the architecture assignment and I thought it'd be cool to come here and see Cordelia and get photos of the building. I just never..." I let it tail off into an awkward silence, apart from Backup's growls.
"Look," Spike said, more or less kindly, "You can't stop here. I've just dropped by to check that the place isn't over-run with va.. um.. vagrants, and it isn't very safe. Floors up above are as shaky as hell, there's a lot of earthquake damage."
"Oh... that's a shame," said Wallace, "we were hoping to get some photos. It really is pretty amazing."
"Don't know what'll happen to it now," said the blond guy, "Angel was only keeping the place because he thought that she might want to visit when she got out of her coma. He's a sentimental bastard sometimes, suppose it comes of being Irish. I suppose he'll sell it now."
"Angel? Angel's a person? I'd always figured the name was something to do with Los Angeles."
"No, he's a bog-trotter." He saw my puzzled look and said "Irish. Didn't she tell you?"
"No, she never really said much about the people she worked with."
"I wonder if we should send a condolence card or something," suggested Wallace.
"It's a bit late now," said Spike, "and I think he's trying to move on. Don't know about her family, they didn't even show up for the funeral. But she isn't buried far from here, wouldn't hurt if someone put a few flowers on the grave."
"Where is that?" I asked, pretending not to know.
"It's the Hollywood Forever cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard, can't remember the exact plot number. Funny thing," he said regretfully, "a lot of people I knew from Sunnydale have died, knew most of them better than her, but she was the only one where I managed to get to the funeral."
"Okay." I immediately wondered if he'd been one of the people on the bus out of Sunnydale, but couldn't think of a natural way to ask. "Um... could I at least get some photos of the places she worked?"
"It'd be out here and in the office I was in, I suppose. I was never actually here while they were in business. Only reason I'm here now is because Angel was busy and asked me to look the place over."
"What happened to the company?" I asked as casually as I could while I was taking photos. There wasn't much to see, the place seemed to have been pretty well stripped, with no papers visible, and gaps in the furniture that had probably once been filing cabinets. Spike seemed to be going out of his way to stay out of the viewfinder, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Wallace shooting video that would probably include him. There was a broken shot glass on one of the desks, I guessed he'd dropped it when he heard my voice. "Why did they go out of business?"
"Oh, someone made Angel an offer he couldn't refuse, he's CEO of another company now."
"What company's that?"
"Bunch of lawyers," he said with a sneer. "Place called Wolfram and Hart."
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