Marcus L. Rowland
"Willie ought to be here soon," said Modesty Blaise. "He said he'd walk back from the barracks and shake off anyone who followed him."
"I hope that he'll forgive me for keeping him in the dark," said Sir Gerald Tarrant. "I hope you will, for that matter."
"Why did you think we'd...." There was a soft click from the hallway, and Modesty looked round towards the door as Willie walked in wearing his Marine uniform and said "Got any beer handy, Princess?"
"There are some bottles of Guinness in the kitchen cupboard," said Modesty, "and some lager in the fridge."
"Willie," said Tarrant, "I'm sorry that..."
"Let me get a drink first," said Willie, "Then I can tell you what a conniving old bastard you are without wearing my voice out."
"Were you followed?" asked Modesty.
"I don't think so," said Willie, "but I think someone's watching this block. There's a mini-bus in the car park, sounds like the one you said picked Giles up, with a couple of girls in it. Looks like they're watching the penthouse lift."
"Did they see you?"
"Don't think so," said Willie, coming back with his Guinness, "but if what they told me was true it...." He suddenly stopped talking, looking startled.
"What?" asked Modesty.
"That's odd," said Willie, "I was going to say something and it was like my voice stopped working. Anyway, according to the briefing...." He stopped again, and said "Bloody hell."
"I take it you now have Top Secret Valkyrie Five clearance," said Tarrant. "It is a little startling the first time that happens."
"What happens?" asked Modesty.
"'You will not discuss anything said here with anyone who does not have Top Secret Valkyrie Five clearance,'" quoted Tarrant. "That isn't an instruction, it's a statement of fact. But all members of the Watcher's Council, and anyone they brief, automatically count as cleared. You can talk to her."
"How the hell does that work?" asked Willie, then realization dawned. "Bloody hell, it's magic, isn't it?"
"Exactly," said Tarrant. "It's at its strongest in the first few days after you sign, even after that you'll need a damned good reason to talk about it."
"Which is why you didn't warn us," realised Willie.
"You really couldn't talk?" asked Modesty. Willie nodded as he drank. "That must be awkward if you run into a vampire and you're with people who don't know."
"That's one of several contingencies the spell covers," said Tarrant. "If it's a real emergency it cuts out."
"Okay," said Willie. "So... they briefed us for about two hours, told us about vampires and demons and vampire slayers. If it hadn't been for the magic thing I'd still be half-convinced they were joking. How about you, Princess?"
"Giles explained the broad outline of their work," said Modesty, "and showed me a vampire to convince me he wasn't insane."
"A vampire?" said Willie. "Where the hell did they dig that one up?"
"She's their typist."
"Miss Kendall?" asked Tarrant.
"You've met her?" asked Modesty.
"I know of her," said Tarrant. "They have her fitted with a tracking device, we supplied the equipment."
"Most vampires and many other types of demons are little more than murderous animals," Giles had said earlier that day, "with near-perfect camouflage, stronger and faster than any normal human. There have been a few exceptions..."
"Harmony?" asked Modesty. Dawn giggled.
"To an extent," said Giles. "Killing people is always somewhat problematic, even for vampires. The authorities tend to notice. Some, like Harmony, find it more convenient to drink animal blood and avoid attention. But if it wasn't for that, and for the fact that she has enemies who would destroy her if she left our protection, she'd be happily killing anyone who took her fancy."
"Back in Sunnydale she made her own little army of minions," said Buffy, "six or eight people she'd killed and turned into vampires. But the police in Sunnydale were actively covering up what was going on."
"I saw the conspiracy theory web site," said Modesty. "I'd love to hear some explanations."
"Later, perhaps," said Giles. "Now where was I? Oh yes... Another exception was the vampire originally responsible for destroying the Kalderash tribe. Angelus, or Angel as he later became known. In 1898 he and his lover Darla kidnapped and murdered a girl of the tribe. They responded by cursing him with a soul."
"With a soul?"
"Vampires are soulless," said Giles, "it's one of the reasons why they can kill and feel no remorse. We're aware of one exception, a vampire who was scientifically restrained from killing and gradually developed the vestiges of a conscience, but lacking such restraint they are implacable killers."
"Usually," added Buffy. "One of the reasons why we didn't kill Harmony is that she shows occasional signs of going the same way."
"So this Angelus got a soul. Did he stop killing people?" asked Modesty. She tried not to let her skepticism show. She could think of a dozen killers she'd known, most of them without any vestige of conscience. She had no reason to think that any of them didn't have a soul.
"Eventually," said Giles, "though it may have taken some time for a conscience to develop again. We don't have all the details. We do know that by the time of the Boxer Rebellion he was refusing to kill."
"What about the rest of the tribe then?"
"Darla," said Buffy. "She led some other vampires on a rampage against the tribe. We don't know how many they killed, but between that and the Nazis a generation or two later they were pretty much wiped out."
"Except for Jenny Calender and a few of her close relatives," said Giles. "In 1997 Angel moved to Sunnydale, and they sent her to keep an eye on him, to be ready to warn them if the spell was ever broken."
"Spell?" asked Modesty. "Are you saying that magic is real?"
"Certainly," said Giles. "I'm afraid that we don't have anyone here today who can give you a convincing demonstration without hours of messy ritual, but it's as real as... well, this table." He rapped it with his knuckles.
"Why are you surprised?" asked Dawn. "They just showed you a vampire!"
"Oh, I believe you," said Modesty, "I'm just not sure how to react to it. Are we talking something like voodoo here, or more like Harry Potter?"
"Both," said Giles, "and every other type of magic you can imagine. There are elaborate rituals that require exotic ingredients or human sacrifices, and curses and spells that can be cast with a wand or a word. Given your previous experience I'm surprised you've never run into it before."
"Sorry to disappoint you. Now tell me how Angelus lost his soul."
"Where the hell did that come from?" asked Buffy.
"Isn't it obvious?" asked Modesty. "Angel moves to Sunnydale, Jenny follows, and a year or so later she's dead. Somehow he lost his soul and killed her."
"The details really don't matter," said Giles. "It's all in the past now, and Angel is dead. But yes, he lost his soul, killed Jenny and several others. Buffy eventually killed him, and that ended that rampage."
"When you say 'killed him,'" said Modesty, "does that mean he stayed dead, or do vampires come back, like the Dracula films?"
"Not usually," said Dawn, "but yeah, Angel showed up again. Something pulled him back and gave him his soul again."
"Do you think he's responsible for the deaths in Bucharest?"
"We believe he was killed again in 2004," said Giles. "Both Angel and Darla have returned from apparent death at least once so it isn't impossible, but we have a better suspect." He handed Modesty a folder labelled 'Drusilla'.
"A psychic psychotic vampire?" said Willy. "Not just an ordinary one?"
"That's right," said Modesty.
"And Giles thinks that she's finishing the work begun by her... um... parents?" said Tarrant.
"That's right," said Modesty.
"But why now?" asked Willie. "It's an 'ell of a coincidence."
"It probably isn't a coincidence," said Modesty. "Giles has had people looking for survivors of the Kalderash tribe for several weeks. He thinks that this Drusilla somehow learned about it. The first victims were researchers his organization hired, the last one was Giles' representative in Bucharest."
"And now Giles thinks she's on your trail," Willie said flatly.
"How did you work that one out?" asked Tarrant.
"The girls in the van downstairs. They wouldn't be there for the fun of it."
"You're right, of course," said Modesty. "Giles had to give his man some information, and he was tortured before he was killed. He didn't have my name, but he knew that Giles had found someone in London. For someone like Drusilla that might be enough."
"How long do we have?" asked Tarrant.
"Probably a day or two," said Modesty. "The last killing was two nights ago. Giles doesn't think she'll risk travelling by air, there's too much that can go wrong, so if she set off last night..."
"If she's travelling in a packing case or something she could be in London tomorrow night," said Willie, consulting a mental timetable. "Train from Bucharest to Budapest, Budapest to Vienna, Vienna to Paris, Paris to London through the Channel Tunnel. Or stow away on a truck, do the whole trip in three or four days, through the tunnel or on a ferry. Add another day or two if she's travelling as a passenger, she'd have to break the trip a couple of times and hole up somewhere until the following evening."
"What are you planning to do about it?" asked Tarrant.
"First, we get you out of here," said Modesty. "Once we've done that, Willie and I can start getting ready for visitors..."
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