Pretend that disclaimers are here...
By Marcus L. Rowland
"What the hell was that about?" asked Wallace, once we were out of the hotel and driving towards Cordelia's address. "One minute you were getting on well with that guy Spike, the next minute you couldn't get away fast enough."
"Didn't you hear what he said? Angel runs Wolfram and Hart!"
"So?" I realised he hadn't been there for Dad's warning, and told him about it.
"So let me see if I've got this right," said Wallace. "Not only have you just been talking to a guy who knows the CEO of Wolfram and Hart well enough to do him favours, you told him more or less where you come from, and that you were talking to Cordelia."
"Um... yeah." I was furious with Wallace, and furious with myself. We'd been idiots... no, I'd been an idiot, it was my fault... not to go in with a better cover story.
"You'd better call your dad."
"If I do that he's likely to tell me to come home now, and I think we can do more good in LA. Besides," I said hopefully, "it didn't sound like that guy was a big fan of Wolfram and Hart, maybe he won't tell them we were there."
"You want to put money on that?"
"Not really. Okay..." I dialled Dad, got his voicemail and left a message summarising the situation, and ended "...so we'll take a quick look at the apartment, see if there's anything there, check out the cemetery, then head for home."
"And then your dad will ground you for life," said Wallace, watching the video footage he'd shot.
"Hey, pull over for a second."
"Something weird on the tape, think it needs your magic touch."
I found a parking space and plugged the camera into the firewire socket of my laptop. "Where on the tape?"
"When I was filming in that office. There's a closet at the back, open just a little, and there was something gleaming inside it, just caught the light a couple of times from different angles. See if you can get a better look at whatever it is."
I ran through that part of the film and eventually spotted what he was talking about. Something metallic, long and shiny. "It'll probably turn out to be a vacuum cleaner nozzle."
"Maybe, but aren't you a little curious as to why they'd leave it behind? I think it's gonna be a gun, a big one."
"Well, I can try..." Despite anything you might see on CSI, there's only so much that you can do with a bad picture. Boost the contrast, stretch the highlights to exaggerate minor differences in shade, sharpen things a little, use the best parts of different shots, and so on. But sometimes you get lucky. "It looks like... hey, that is a little odd... a sword, a big one, in some kind of rack. Looks like a real one, not a toy. Weird."
"Now why," Wallace asked "would someone leave some seriously expensive cutlery in an abandoned building."
"Good question. Only thing I can think of is that the place isn't quite as abandoned as Spike said. But what sort of psycho keeps swords in the closet?"
Cordelia's apartment was a complete bust. An old lady was renting it, she'd only been there a couple of months and didn't know anything about the previous tenants, and wasn't about to let us in to see for ourselves. I called the management with the same story that I'd given her; I was Cordelia's cousin and trying to catch up with her. All that they knew was that she was in hospital, couldn't even tell me which one. Her boss, presumably Angel, had paid off the lease and had her belongings put into storage, but they didn't have any details. Obviously they didn't know she was supposedly dead. All mail was being forwarded to the same post office box I'd seen mentioned on the sign at Angel Investigations.
"What now?" asked Wallace.
"Cemetery, I suppose. Maybe they'll have some records, tell us a little more about how she died."
We drew a blank at the office, the only guy there was a clerk who checked a file and said that the only records he had were for the sale of the plot, paid by a Mister Angel, everything else had been turned over to the lawyers handling the estate; Wolfram and Hart, of course. He printed out a little map of the cemetery, with a red star to show where Cordelia was buried.
Her grave was under a stylised marble statue of a weeping angel holding a book open to a bronze page with an engraved photograph, her birth and death dates (1980-2004), a list of roles (about as minor as I'd thought), and the phrase "Taken from us before her talent was truly recognised." Yes, it was really as sad and tacky as it sounds.
There were three bunches of flowers in vases at the base; one that was wilting, three or four days old, with an italic "In loving memory - Angel", another a little faded, maybe two days old, with a label reading "Rest in peace" and a squiggle that might have been "Leon" or "Loren", and a rather nice arrangement of roses, maybe a few hours old, labelled "Fondest memories - Xander".
"Xander?" I said.
"What?" said Wallace.
"These flowers came from one of the guys Cordelia - whoever - wanted watched, Xander Harris." I took the card and turned it over; there was a florist's address stuck to the label, and a pencilled 'Style F-12', which I thought looked like the same writing as the dedication inside the card. "Ordered from a local florist, but that doesn't mean much, he could 'phone it in from anywhere in the world."
"But it's a starting point," said Wallace.
"Hi, this is Veronica Chase," I told the florist. "I think you handled some of the floral arrangements for my cousin's funeral. Cordelia Chase, three weeks ago at the Hollywood Forever cemetery.... you did? They were really good, especially those... um... sorry, I'm not much with flowers, the yellowy-white ones... yes, I guess. Look, I was visiting the grave today and I noticed someone had left a fresh bunch of roses there, looks like it came from you, maybe yesterday or this morning. The thing is, the name on it is Xander, and if it's the guy I think it is he's mentioned in her will, and we haven't been able to locate him. Could you check? Oh.... oh, I see. Okay, that's great, maybe I can track him down." I closed the 'phone and said "Jackpot!"
"Yeah?" asked Wallace.
"Ordered through Interflora, the order was placed from a florist in Gibraltar."
"Gibraltar near Spain?"
"That's the one. Also near Africa, which is where we were looking for him."
"And?" asked Wallace.
"And they speak English there... I think. We ought to be able to locate him."
"You can't trace his credit card?"
"Not through Interflora. He would have paid the florist in Gibraltar, the florist transfers the payment to the USA, so there's no direct contact."
"What happens if we find him? The dead lady thanks him for the flowers he sent to her grave."
"When you put it that way... This is seriously weird."
"No shit, Sherlock."
Does the last line look like something Wallace might say?