The bell chimed, and the elevator doors opened on the twenty-third floor of the Los Angeles office tower. Buffy stepped out, with Dawn a half step behind her and looked around at the opulent appointments of the head office lobby of Harmon and Ross. Plush carpeting covered the floors, and the wood paneled walls had an almost otherworldly luster to them. (Almost. Buffy had seen otherworldly, and these didn't quite qualify.)
Buffy stepped toward the receptionist sitting behind an oak desk. "Hi. We're here to see Hank Summers. We're his daughters, Buffy and Dawn."
The receptionist glanced at her computer monitor. It was one of the few items in the place that didn't look like an antique, but it didn't look cheap either. It was pretty clearly a state of the art flat panel, that seemed to function without any wires attached. Whatever she read off it met with her approval, and she pointed Buffy and Dawn down the hall to her left. "Mr. Summers is in the third suite on the right. He's expecting you." She flashed them a smile. "In fact he's been talking about your visit all week."
"Thank you." Buffy smiled at the receptionist, and started down the indicated hallway.
Dawn fell in beside her. Buffy noticed that her sister's nervousness was rapidly approaching panic intensity. "Will you relax? It's going to be fine."
"How can I relax?" asked Dawn. "What if he doesn't like me? This is the first time I'm ever really going to meet him."
"Yeah, but he doesn't know that," said Buffy. "He thinks you're the daughter that he's had for sixteen years. He loves you. He'll love you just as much as Mom and I did when we first met you two years ago."
"You thought I was an enormous pain in the ass!" said Dawn.
"That's what sisters are supposed to think about each other," said Buffy. "You thought the same thing about me. He's your Dad. He loves you."
"If he loves me so much, why'd he disappear for nearly two years?" Dawn couldn't keep a note of bitterness out of her voice, and Buffy couldn't blame her for it. She shared Dawn's attitude about their father's two year European sabbatical. It had left them unable to contact him when their mother had first become ill, or when she had died. It had been even worse for Dawn, after Buffy herself died a couple of months later. She had been left alone, in the care of their friends, and a robot that looked like Buffy. (Buffy seemed to be the only one who didn't think the robot was that good a copy.)
"He's back now," said Buffy. "And he wants to see us. Let's just relax and have fun. Here we are."
Buffy swept her hand toward the open doorway, with the sign: 'Henry Summers, Director of Operations' on the window beside it. Dawn stepped through into the outer office with Buffy close on her heels.
Buffy's eyes scanned the anteroom to her father's office. Plush, comfortable chairs for visitors to wait in, and a secretary's desk, complete with a very professional looking fifty-something secretary. The woman smiled at the Summers sisters. "You must be Buffy and Dawn. Your father is in a meeting right now, but I have instructions to buzz him out of it at noon sharp, if he hasn't escaped by then." She glanced at the clock on the wall. The time was 11:58. "Why don't you have a seat?"
Dawn thanked the woman, and sat down. Buffy sat beside her. They didn't have to wait long. The door to the inner office opened, and a woman—tall, slender, dark shoulder length hair, about thirty years old in an expensive looking tailored business suit came out. She was followed by a man carrying a brief case.
The 'man' immediately arrested Buffy's attention. All her Slayer senses were screaming "Vampire!" It wasn't the sort of vampire that Buffy was used to. This one was dressed almost as impeccably as the woman. His suit was off the rack, but it came from a good rack. While Buffy was familiar with a couple of vamps who put an effort into looking good, they tended toward leather, not business attire. This vamp looked like a junior executive, carrying his boss's briefcase. The woman was clearly the boss.
Buffy heard a sharp intake of breath from Dawn. She glanced at her sister and saw Dawn nod toward the windowed wall separating the anteroom from the hallway. A quick glance showed that the woman's reflection was dimly visible in the window, but not that of her companion. Buffy looked back toward Dawn. "Good spotting." she mouthed silently, and turned her attention back to the people coming out of the office. Her right hand slipped inside her jacket, making sure that the stake she carried in the inner pocket was ready for quick access.
The woman had turned back toward the inner office. "Mr. Summers, I do think you should reconsider our offer. It really would be best for you if you did."
Hank Summers followed the vampire out of the office. He was not looking happy. His eyes glanced toward Dawn and Buffy, and a momentary expression of delight crossed his face, but it vanished again when his attention returned to the woman. "Ms. Morgan, as I have already told you several times, we are not interested in selling. That is my final word on this matter."
"We'll just have to modify our offer," said Lilah Morgan. She gave Buffy and Dawn an appraising look. "I'll be in touch." She swept out of the office, with the vampire trailing behind.
Hank Summers seemed to feel the same burden lifting off him that Buffy felt with the departing vampire. He turned back toward his daughters. "God, it is good to see you!" He held his arms open for a hug, that Buffy and Dawn were quick to join him in.
"It's good to see you too, Daddy!" said Dawn as she wrapped her arms about her father. Buffy hugged him tightly too, but she couldn't help notice that Ms. Morgan had paused in the hallway outside, and was looking back in at them. A wicked smile crept across her face, before she moved off down the hall.
Hank Summers pulled back for a better look at his daughters. "You two get more beautiful every time I see you!" he said. "And you've grown at least a foot!" he told Dawn.
"Well, that can happen in two years," said Dawn.
Hank couldn't help but notice the bitterness in his daughter's voice, and he hugged her again. "I am so sorry about that. There really isn't anything I can say, or do to make up my not being there for you when…" He couldn't bring himself to say it. "But I'm here now, and we are going to have a wonderful time together!"
He looked back at his secretary. "Mrs. Johnson, I am out of the office until Monday morning. Any crisis requiring my attention will have to wait until then. I'm spending the weekend with my daughters!"
Buffy and Dawn returned to the lobby with their father. He had an arm over each of their shoulders, and their arms were around his waist. Buffy saw Ms. Morgan and her vampire entering one of the elevators ahead of them. She didn't hold it for the Summers, something that Buffy was privately thankful for. She didn't think she could stand being that close to the vampire for an extended period, and it would be tough to stake it in an elevator without her father noticing.
They discussed the logistics of the visit while they waited for the next elevator. Buffy and Dawn had left their bags in their Jeep Cherokee, which was in the visitor parking, so it was decided that they would take it to lunch, and then back to their father's apartment. He could pick up his own car later.
Buffy saw the black limousine come out of the building's underground parking while they were all getting into the car. She had surrendered the keys to her father. He was driving since he knew this area of L.A. a lot better than she did. They followed the limo out through the parking lot gate. Buffy could barely see the two silhouetted figures in the back of it through the heavily tinted windows.
Hank Summers drove them to an expensive looking Italian restaurant. The maitre d' recognised him as they entered, and told him that their table was ready. He escorted them to an intimate booth, set up for three. Dawn and her father took their seats.
"Um, I have to visit the powder room," said Buffy. "Order me a glass of white wine. I'll be right back." Hank Summers raised his eyebrow a bit at that. "I am twenty-one Dad," said Buffy.
"You're just growing up too fast," said Hank as Buffy headed back toward the rest rooms at the front of the restaurant.
Buffy waited until she was out of her father's sight before she pulled her cell phone out of her purse, and dialed a number from memory.
"Angel Investigations!" said a falsely cheerful voice at the other end. "We help the helpless!"
"Cordelia. I need to talk to Angel."
All notes of cheerfulness vanished from Cordelia's voice. "Well you can't. I won't let you."
"Cordy, this is important!"
"One: it's noon, Angel's asleep, and he had a tough night cleaning out a nest of Klexar Demons, and two: whenever he talks to you he gets all broody, well broodier, for a week. So unless you can tell me that the world is going to end before sunset if you can't talk to Angel, I'm not going to wake him up."
Buffy took a deep, calming breath. "Alright. I suppose it really isn't Angel I need right now. It's Angel Investigations. Can you find out who a license plate number belongs to?"
"That's not nearly as easy as they make out on TV," said Cordelia. "And we've lost the only contact we had in the police department. Fred might be able to do something. She's even better than Willow when it comes to getting into computer systems that she isn't supposed to. What's the number."
Buffy doubted if this Fred person (what sort of name was that for a girl?) was really better than Willow. Willow had picked up some very non-standard computer hacking abilities since Cordy had left Sunnydale. She let that go. "Black limousine, California plate, WH-006."
"Damn!" said Cordelia. "I might have to wake Angel up after all. We don't need Fred. That limo belongs to Wolfram and Hart. An evil law firm."
"Evil law firm?" asked Buffy. "Isn't that redundant?"
"Ha. Ha. I laugh at the originalness of your jest," said Cordy. "Make that an Eviler law firm. Maybe Evilest. These guys don't just represent your garden variety criminals and politicians. If a demon wants to screw you, but cover its legal ass, it hires Wolfram and Hart. Angel has messed up several of their best laid plans over the past couple of years, and as a result they have kinda made a special project out of trying to drive him crazy. They have had some limited successes on that front, if you can call him letting Drusilla and Darla slaughter most of their Special Projects division a 'success.' What's your interest in Wolfram and Hart?"
"Dawn and I are in town to visit Dad," said Buffy. "When we arrived he was in a meeting with a woman, who was accompanied by a vampire. I want to know what they're up to. The woman's name was Morgan."
"Brunette, thirtyish, buys her clothes someplace you could never afford?" asked Cordy.
"That's the one."
"Lilah Morgan. Took over Special Projects after the slaughter. Wolfram and Hart does do some legitimate legal work from time to time, but if she's involved it ain't legit. If she was taking the meeting in person, it's a big deal. What was she doing with your dad?"
"I don't know," said Buffy. "But whatever it was, she didn't leave the meeting happy. Dad wasn't doing whatever it was she wanted him to do."
"That's good news and bad news," said Cordelia. "The good news is that your dad isn't a collaborator with an evil bitch. The bad news is that this particular evil bitch is very dangerous when things aren't going her way. You really have no idea what this was about?"
"I just know that my dad was refusing to sell something that this Morgan woman wanted."
Cordelia sighed. "Until you can give us more to work with, I don't see any point in waking Angel, but I'll get Fred digging, see if she find out anything. What does your father do?"
Buffy filled Cordelia in on the little she knew about her father's recent promotion at Harmon and Ross, an engineering and construction corporation. She had never really paid much attention to just what he did before, or what a 'Director of Operations' was. She returned to the table and found Dawn and her father laughing together about something that hadn't really happened when they visited San Diego together three years ago.
Buffy sipped at her wine while she looked over the menu. Dawn and her father had already made their decisions, and the waiter was standing by, unobtrusively waiting for an indication from Buffy that she was ready too. He was right there as soon as she closed the menu and set it down on the table.
After the waiter had left again Buffy tried to casually ask her father about the meeting he'd been in when they arrived.
"What is it with you two?" asked Hank Summers. "Suddenly you're both interested in boring real estate deals. Some law firm wants to buy a bit of property that we don't want to sell. We have our own plans for that land. Now I don't want to be talking about my job through this whole visit. What have you been up to?"
Buffy let herself be diverted. She was momentarily annoyed that Dawn had tried to pump their father for information about this Morgan woman ahead of her, but once she had a moment to think about it she decided it didn't really matter which of them had tried it first. Dawn was good at wheedling information out of people, and their father clearly just wasn't going to talk about it.
After lunch the three Summers spent the afternoon seeing some of the sights of L.A. Hank Summers had some contacts with someone at Universal Studios which let them get an up close look at a TV location shoot. It wasn't for a show that either Buffy or Dawn had much interest in, but it was still fun to get a behind the scenes look at how it was done. They returned to their father's apartment after dinner at another restaurant.