The click of his heels against the sidewalk sounded hollow and insignificant. Surprised he could even hear it over the roar of the traffic, Giles slumped down onto the first bench he found. He'd been so certain Buffy had returned to L. A., her old stomping ground. He stared ahead. The maze of promising possibilities had turned into a mess of dead ends.

"Real change? Hey, buddy, real change?" A woman stood before him, waving a magazine. Lodged behind her, in a shopping cart, he saw piles of bags, presumably all her worldly possessions.

"What? Oh, of course." He handed over some change and tried to object when she pressed the magazine into his hand, but she merely let it go and moved on.

He checked his watch. There was just enough time to make a flight to Sunnydale if he left immediately. He dropped the magazine into the first trash can he passed, never noticing the title, Real Change, or the article about a gang, unusually fast and strong, possibly hyped up on PCP, and the girl who'd bested them.