by Marcus L. Rowland
"Hello, this is Mars Investigations."
"Hi, Veronica, this is Cordelia."
"Err... about that..." I said, "...are you quite sure? Everyone seems to think that Cordelia Chase is dead."
There was a pause, then she said "Okay, I guess you're a little mad at me." Dad was listening in on earphones, and rolled his eyes.
"Who are you?"
"Cordelia Chase. You have a problem with that?"
"Come on, Veronica, do the math. Either I'm lying, and you have to ask yourself why I'd lie to you over a year or so when I could just hire you under another name, or I'm telling the truth. And if I'm telling the truth either the coma and funeral were faked, or I'm a ghost or a zombie or something. Which do you think is more likely?"
"Are you in the witness protection scheme or something?"
"That's not much of an answer."
"It's all I can give you for now."
Dad beckoned to me, and I gave him the 'phone and took the headphones. "Miss Chase, this is Keith Mars. Kate Lockley gave me a couple of questions to ask you."
"How is she? Haven't seen her in a couple of years."
"She seemed well. What was the name of the murderer the papers called 'The Pope'"
"Penn, can't remember if I ever knew his first name."
"And who killed him?"
Dad nodded to himself and said "What was your flatmate's name?"
"Dennis." Dad nodded again. I tried to remember if I'd heard anything about a flatmate. Maybe he'd left before she started to fake her illness.
"And the name of your high school principal?"
"Snyder. Where the hell did she get that from?"
"I'd imagine it's on record. Very well, Miss Chase, let's say that you are who you say you are. Wolfram and Hart claim that the money that you paid us was an illegal transfer from one of their accounts."
There was another pause, then she said "Who told you that?"
"We were visited by one of their lawyers this afternoon. A Lilah Morgan."
"Lilah?" said Cordelia. "She's a fine one to talk... Is she around somewhere?"
"She's staying at a motel in Neptune. I could give you her number."
"Can you connect her on a conference call?"
Dad put Cordelia on hold, punched in the number, and said "Miss Morgan? I have Cordelia Chase on hold, she'd like to talk to you."
"Really? This ought to be interesting. Go ahead." Dad pushed a couple of buttons to connect her.
"Hello Lilah," said Cordelia.
"Cordelia," said Lilah. "Am I to understand that reports of your death have been... exaggerated?"
"Understand what you like, Lilah. This is a conference call so you might not want to get too specific."
"You have a hell of a nerve saying that my money, from my savings account, belongs to Wolfram and Hart."
"All of Cordelia Chase's assets have been frozen pending settlement of her estate."
"Sure, and I'll bet that you're planning to release them to my heirs any decade now."
"It's in hand. If you want to change anything, all you need do is call in and sign a few forms."
"You know I can't do that, Lilah."
"What exactly is it you want from me?" asked Lilah.
"Back off. Leave the detectives alone, they're just doing the job I've paid them to do, which has nothing to do with Wolfram and Hart."
"And if I don't?"
"Come on, Lilah, you know what I'm talking about. The Senior Partners get a full report on Billy. All the things you didn't tell them."
"Billy?" I thought, "Who the hell is Billy?"
"That might be... awkward," said Lilah.
"Damn right, skippy. Look, just write it off as a debt owed by my estate. Lump it in with miscellaneous transactions at the end of the month, by then nobody will care. If I were you I wouldn't even mention it to anyone at the office, that might be a little unfortunate."
"And your business with Mars Investigations?"
"Has nothing to do with Wolfram and Hart, or anyone who has ever worked with Wolfram and Hart. Including Angel and everyone else who used to work for Angel Investigations. I'm just tying up a few loose ends."
There was a long pause, then Lilah said "Very well. Mister Mars, Miss Chase has assured me that her business with you has nothing to do with Wolfram and Hart. Can you confirm that?"
Dad thought for a second, then said "You know that I can't discuss the details of our business, but I can confirm that she's specifically told us to have nothing to do with you, not to get involved with your company in any way."
"Very well. Provided you follow those instructions Wolfram and Hart will take no further action. Agreed?"
"Agreed," said Dad, looking at me. I nodded half-heartedly.
There was a click, and Dad said "Okay, Miss Chase, she's gone. Now would you mind telling me what the hell this is really about?"
"I really just want to keep an eye on a few friends for a few days."
"And to do that you've faked your own death?"
"It's a lot more complicated than that. Look, I'm not asking you to do anything illegal or immoral, and I can promise you that I don't mean any harm to my friends. I just want to know what's happening to them."
"Miss Chase, are you in any danger?"
"No. But it's a complicated situation, and I really don't want to explain it right now."
"I'm going to put you on hold for a moment," said Dad, then said "What do you think, Veronica?"
"I think we should do it."
"I'm not so sure. There has to be more to it than that."
"Sure, but Cordelia really doesn't want to tell us. I've got a feeling that she's telling us as much of the truth as she can."
"The hell of it is," said Dad, "that I have the same feeling. Okay, let's do it."
I picked up the 'phone and said "Okay, we're in. First of all, I'd better tell you that we have a lead on Xander Harris. We're pretty sure he's in Gibraltar, or was yesterday. Do you want us to track him down?"
"Definitely." She sounded pleased.
"Okay, we'll get on it. Next, it's probably a coincidence, but I was in LA today and ran into someone who knows Angel. A guy called Spike. Do you know anything about him?"
"Spike? He's bad news. Stay as far away from him as you can. Where did you meet him?"
"Ah... At the Hyperion Hotel," I said sheepishly.
"Stay well away from there," said Cordelia. "I don't want you to have anything to do with Angel, Spike, or anyone else that works with them."
"Okay. I don't think he knows what we're doing, and I won't be going back."
"Make sure that you don't."
"Okay. I'm afraid that our guys in Rio have lost track of Willow Rosenberg. Any instructions?"
"Well," said Cordelia, "I guess they'd better try to find her again." For some reason she sounded amused.
"Okay. Any advice on how to do that?"
"Nope." She sounded way too cheerful. "How's the money holding out?"
"You're still good for three or four more days, but we'll probably need more on Wednesday or Thursday."
"No problem. Okay, anything else?"
"An explanation would be good."
"Ask me again when the job is done." I heard a click and the dialling tone.
"What do you make of that?" asked Dad.
"It sounds to me like she wanted us to lose Rosenberg."
"That's the impression I got too."
"You knw," I said, "I don't think that this has ever been about watching those people. It's about her wanting them to be aware that they're being watched."
"And when they find out," said Dad, "if they're competent to trace it back, they'll want to ask us some questions."