Parts 1-4 are posted here, part V should be there shortly.
by Marcus L. Rowland
"My guess," Wallace said as we came off the Interstate into Neptune that evening, "is that she's gone deep cover, like in Alias. They've told everyone that she's dead so that she's free to operate without the evil lawyer guys catching on." During the trip back I'd told him a little about the people Cordelia wanted watched, to see if he could come up with any fresh ideas. His main one was that Cordelia wanted to locate them to have them killed. I had a gut feeling he was wrong, but no real evidence either way.
"Nice idea," I said, "especially since the evil lawyers paid for the funeral. Besides, weren't the evil lawyers part of Cordelia's fiendish plot a few minutes ago?"
"Who says I can only think of one fiendish plot? Can't I have two?"
"Sure. But they have to use all the facts, not just the ones that seem convenient."
"Okay, then in this one most of the lawyers aren't in on the scam. Maybe it's just one or two people helping her."
"Wallace," I said, "people don't just come out of a long coma and organise complicated conspiracies. Unless they're really lucky they need weeks of therapy before they can even walk again."
"Is that so?"
"So how come that Faith Lahene chick went on the run as soon as she came out of her coma?"
"Maybe they're mutants, like the X-Men. Or maybe... hey, I'll tell you one thing."
"When you were telling me about this you must have spent twenty minutes talking about Faith Lahene, maybe five minutes for all of the rest put together. I've been doing pretty much the same thing, because whatever it is she is, she sure as hell attracts attention. But for all we know maybe she's the least important person of the bunch."
"Actually," I said, "you could have a point there. The list Cordelia gave me wasn't in alphabetical order, and Faith Lahene wasn't at the top."
"Buffy Summers, with Dawn Summers noted as probably accompanying her. Then Rosenberg, Lahene, Giles, and Harris, in that order, with Andrew Wells at the bottom marked as 'possibly accompanying one of the above.'"
"So Wells was an afterthought," said Wallace, "Dawn Summers was there because of her sister, and two others had a higher priority than Faith Lahene. "
"Cordelia didn't say it that way."
"There's a lot of things she didn't say, starting with who she really is, if the real Cordelia is buried under that tacky angel. So... if Buffy Summers is the important one, who is she?"
"A high school counsellor until Sunnydale was destroyed, and that's what's on her passport. Other than that... well, she was a murder suspect in 1998, when she was a student at Sunnydale High, but she was never charged, witnesses cleared her. She was questioned again a few months later, but Faith Lahene eventually confessed to that one."
"Twice?" said Wallace, . "While she was still in high school?"
"It was a violent school. I saw a newspaper story blaming most of it on street gangs on PCP. Funny thing is that PCP is a tranquilliser."
I stopped at a light, and a motorcycle drew up alongside us. The rider opened his visor. Weevil, with a few of his friends coming up behind him. He said "Hey, Veronica Mars, you and flagpole boy on a date?"
"I'm working, Weevil."
"Well, I'm not going to diss a working girl, though I would have thought a fine looking woman like you could get a better class of clientele, but you might want to think carefully before you head back to the office. We drove by there earlier, there are some heavy-looking guys watching the place."
"Not from Neptune. You been pissing off the Feds?"
"Not that I know."
"Well, someone's taking an interest, better be real careful."
"Thanks. Oh, Weevil, did you see any sign of my dad there?"
"His car's outside, I didn't exactly want to walk in to take a closer look."
"Okay, I owe you one."
"You owe me plenty, but I'll put it on the tab."
I had a sudden thought and said "Weevil, do you know anything about Sunnydale?"
"Big hole in the ground." He slammed his visor closed and put his bike into gear as the lights changed. I thought about following, I had a hunch he knew more than that, then changed my mind and drove Wallace home. Before I left him I backed everything up to DVD and gave him a copy, just to be on the safe side.
There were a couple of guys in suits sitting on the couch in Dad's outer office, they looked like bodyguards or cops. When I came in both of them seemed to tense a little. I could hear Keith talking to someone in the inner office. "...I hear what you're saying, and if you can prove that the money is yours I'll be happy to have it transferred back to your account. But I can't discuss our clients affairs..."
I asked "Can I get you guys anything? Coffee?" One shrugged, the other shook his head. I put the cameras away, poured myself a cup and went to my desk and began to type a heavily censored account of my trip to LA, omitting all mention of Wallace, breaking and entering, and other crimes and misdemeanours. I could hear that Keith was talking to a woman, and as I typed I tried to listen in, but the voices didn't carry very well. A couple of times I was pretty sure I heard the words "Cordelia Chase" and "Wolfram and Hart," but I didn't get the context.
Eventually I heard a chair scrape and Dad came out with a woman, maybe in her thirties, with a scarf around her neck and an oddly stiff walk, like she had a back problem. She said "If this matter isn't resolved I can assure you that there will be consequences, Mister Mars." She swept out, the goons in tow, barely giving me a glance.
When they were gone I asked "Trouble?"
"Lawyer, from Wolfram and Hart. It appears that the money we were sent came out of one of their accounts. They aren't happy about it." As he was talking he got out a handheld bug detector (yes, that is the manufacturer's name for the thing) and began to sweep the room for little listeners. I made small talk until he'd finished and said that we were probably clean, then asked "Did you find out anything more about Cordelia before the lawyers showed up?"
"I spoke to someone who knew her, an ex-cop called Kate Lockley. She confirmed that Chase is dead; says she went to the funeral and saw the body. But there was something a little odd about the conversation. I told her a little about the calls, and she didn't seem as surprised as you'd expect. Just made a lame joke about checking that she has a reflection if she turns up here. How about you?"
"I saw the grave, and I met someone who knew her and said that she was dead. Guy named Spike, I didn't get his full name but he seemed sincere. He also said that the owner of Angel Investigations, turns out his name really is Angel, now runs Wolfram and Hart. I checked in the public library. Liam Angel became CEO of Wolfram and Hart about a year ago. Oh, and there were flowers from Xander Harris on the grave, the florist said they were ordered from Gibraltar. Do we know anyone there who can trace him?"
Dad rubbed his head, and looked about as puzzled as I felt. "We'll have to confront Chase, or whoever she really is. This can't go on."
"Don't you want to figure it out for yourself?"
"I'd love to, but we could be facing Federal charges if that money really came from Wolfram and Hart."
"I guess. She ought to be calling in a couple of hours. What about Harris?"
"Leave it until we've talked to her," said Dad.
"Any reports from the subcontractors?"
"I haven't had time to check."
I went on line and checked our e-mail. Nothing exciting from Cleveland, Faith Lahene and her boyfriend had hit a few clubs on Friday evening and lost their tail somewhere along the way, but they were back at home today. The guys in Rome had tailed Buffy and Dawn Summers to the Vatican again, and back to their apartment a few hours later. Wells was in Milan, and had spent the day visiting the Da Vinci gallery at their science museum and sketching some of his designs. And in Rio...
"They've lost track of Willow Rosenberg."
"The guy they had trailing them fell asleep on the beach, when he woke she and her friend were gone. They haven't gone back to their hotel, and he thinks someone spiked his drink."
"More likely he drank too much and dozed off."
"Maybe, but the guy who runs the agency seems to think he's pretty reliable. He's going to have him tested for drugs."
"Okay. You'd better tell Chase, or whoever the hell it is, when she calls."
Comments please before I post to archives.