As usual all characters belong to their respective creators, production companies, etc., and are used without any intent to infringe copyright in the series in which they appear. This story may not be distributed for profit. If you enjoy this story, please see my work on the fanfiction.net, Twisting the Hellmouth, and Fonts of Wisdom sites. Other sites please ask before posting my work. I'm British, so's my spelling, live with it.
As I was working on the last paragraphs of this story I read Lucinda's excellent story Questing For, which has a similar opening scene and can be found on the Twisting the Hellmouth site, story 1935
by Marcus L. Rowland
Usually Kenny was pretty good at finding his way around LA, but there were times when his sense of direction seemed to desert him. Joey Lucas had learned to recognise the signs, and she was ready with the maps when the car slowed and he signed to ask if she'd seen any street names recently. "No," she indicated, "Anywhere open that we can ask for directions?"
"There's a club over there." He pointed to a small neon sign reading 'Caritas'.
"Let's give it a try," signed Joey, "I could do with a ladies room."
Kenny parked outside and they went downstairs, through a metal detector, and into the bar.
"I didn't know it was Halloween," signed Joey, looking around at dozens of inhuman faces.
"It isn't," Kenny signed back.
"Hi, I'm Lorne," said a tall man with green skin and red eyes and horns. Kenny translated. "Welcome to Caritas."
"What is this?" signed Joey, "A film set?"
"No, just a karaoke bar, but hey, if you want to think of it that way be my guest." Joey looked closely at his face, and could see no sign that it was makeup. He smiled and said "It's real, sugar. Go ahead, feel."
Joey touched his face and felt skin; her fingers came away clean, not covered in makeup. She signed "Aliens?"
"Actually, most of my customers are from right here in LA. We're demons, cup-cake."
"Demons?" said Joey, for once speaking for herself. Kenny echoed her, looking shocked.
"That's right. Don't worry though, the place has a spell against violence, so you'll come to no harm here." Somehow, impossibly, Joey was beginning to believe him.
"A spell," signed Joey, "magic?"
"Most expensive I could afford."
"Okay. Got a ladies room?"
"Through there. Watch out which cubicle you use, some of our customers have kinda odd anatomy."
Joey came back a few minutes later, feeling simultaneously relieved and slightly nauseated. Some of the plumbing was distinctly bizarre, and not all of its users were fastidious. Kenny had bought her a Perrier and was drinking a tomato juice and talking to Lorne.
"So," signed Joey, "demons?"
"Yeah. LA has a big demon population, a good few thousand."
A few thousand? thought Joey. That could explain quite a lot. "Any of them vote?"
"Planning to run for office, sweet lips?"
Joey smiled and signed "I'm a pollster, work for political parties mostly. I'm not sure if we get many demons answering our questions, or if they vote. If they do that could skew our demographics."
"Not to mention your demon graphics." They stared at him, then Joey gave a short laugh. "Sorry, not very funny," said Lorne. "Well, I guess those who can pass for human might vote, but even then there might be problems. Let's see now... hey Cordy!"
An attractive brunette sitting at one of the tables got up and came over to the bar. "What's up, Lorne and who are your friends?"
"Joey Lucas," said Kenny, gesturing towards Joey, "and I'm Kenny."
"Pleased to meet you," said the girl, "Cordelia Chase."
"Just settle an argument for me, sweetness. Does your boss vote?"
"I'm not sure. I guess he could go in after dark if he wanted to. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I saw a voter registration form on his desk once."
"Does he ever talk to pollsters?" signed Joey.
"Pollsters? Seen him hang up on them a few times, but he's mostly a night kind of guy, isn't around much when they call. Was there anything else? I think my date looks a little impatient."
"Thanks," signed Joey, "you've been a great help." Cordy smiled and went back to her table.
"Okay," said Lorne, "now Cordy's boss is a vampire. Don't get me wrong, he's a nice guy, has a soul so he doesn't go around killing people like most blood-suckers, but I doubt he'd be very patient if you called him. Same with most demons, those that even speak English. A lot of them don't."
"How about you? Do you vote?"
"Nope, can't say that I do. There are practical problems when someone who looks like me tries to register."
"What about a postal ballot?"
"Hadn't thought of that one. I'll have to give it a try."
"So you might vote, Cordy's boss probably does, LA has a big demon population, and there's nothing on the electoral slate aimed at their specific needs. It's incredible."
"Not really," said Lorne, "I think politicians find us kinda embarrassing. We have more than our fair share of trouble-makers, so it's easiest to sweep us under the carpet and forget about us, hope we don't make too many waves."
"Politicians know about you?"
"You bet. Town not far from here had an evil wizard for a mayor up until a couple of years ago, they say that he was the only politician who kept all his promises. Of course most of them were promises he'd made to the forces of darkness... I'm pretty sure he wasn't the only one."
"So it's not just LA that has a demon population?"
"Any big city's got it's share. LA maybe more than most, that I wouldn't know."
"Okay," signed Joey, reaching a decision, "I think I have a business proposition for you..."
A leading market research company needs YOUR input, if you are a demon or half-demon resident in the Los Angeles area and prepared to spend approximately an hour answering an extensive questionnaire and taking part in a short interview. Participation fee and all reasonable expenses paid.
Phone 555 9876 to book a time slot; interviews will be held at Caritas on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (8.00 AM-5.00 PM), with night sessions Wednesday and Thursday (1.00 AM - 5.00 AM). All replies will be strictly confidential, anonymity guaranteed.
"What do you make of this?" asked Angel, showing everyone the flyer. "Anyone got any ideas?"
"That's strange," said Wesley. "Where did you get it?"
"Found it tucked under my wiper blade when I left Caritas last night, didn't read it until I was home."
"Can't be anything too bad," said Gunn, "not at Caritas anyway, with the anti-violence spell. Of course they could be recruiting for some evil mastermind."
Cordelia said "I think I met the woman who's doing this a few days ago. Joey something. She's in her thirties, seemed like a nice person but she's completely deaf. She was talking to Lorne about opinion polls, had a guy called Kenny interpreting her sign language. I think she wanted to know if demons vote."
"Opinion polls?" said Angel, making it sound like a swear-word. "There has to be something more to it than that. Unless they just want a few hundred extra names to stuff the ballot, of course."
"Can you remember anything more about her?" Fred asked from under the table. "Her full name might help."
"Joey something," said Cordelia. "Lake? Luke? Lucas, that was it. I'll see if I can find anything about her on the web." She moved to her computer, typed in a search string, and said "No... no.. okay, here we are. Joey Lucas, she's a high-flyer, runs opinion polls for all the major political parties, even the government, works for the White House... she ran the poll after the President's last State of the Union speech... oh, she gave a lecture on statistical methods at UCLA last week, she must have stopped off at Caritas afterwards because that's the night I met her."
"Wow," said Fred, looking at another screen, "she's published some major papers on statistical analysis, really deep into number theory. Some of them are on line..."
"So she's a high-flyer, Anything to say why she'd be interested in demons?" asked Angel, moving behind Cordelia to see the screen.
"Nothing here. Let's try the "personal" page... okay, she looks kinda genuine. She's about thirty-eight, deaf since infancy, studied at UCLA and Stanford. Membership of American Mathematical Association, Association of Statisticians, a bunch of other professional groups, and on the board of several charities. She's a Quaker, single and opposed to capital punishment. Not exactly the wicked witch of the west."
"So what does she want?" asked Angel, "this just doesn't add up."
"The Holy Grail," Fred said absently.
"Not literally, it's something she says in this paper. 'The Holy Grail of polling is a completely accurate map of the demographic. Without such a map results must always contain a significant margin for error; the degree of error is inversely proportional to the accuracy of the map.'"
"So she went into Caritas," said Wesley, "found out that demons exist, now she wants to add them to her map. Seems harmless enough."
"No it isn't," said Angel grimly. "It's about as far from harmless as you can get. I want everything you can get on her, home and office addresses, her schedule, anything else that you can find. She and I need to talk."
"Excuse me," said a voice as Joey and Kenny left her car in the underground park below her office. "Miss Lucas?"
"Yes," asked Kenny, signing Joey to warn her of his presence.
"My name's Angel, I'm here about the poll you're running at Caritas."
"What about it?" signed Joey.
"My guess is that you're planning to use the opinions of demons to refine the accuracy of your polls. Would that be correct?"
"That's right. What's it to you?"
"I'm here to explain why that would be a very bad idea."
"To listen to the opinion of demons?"
"Mister Angel, I can see you're human..."
"That's your first mistake," said Angel, putting on his game face for a second then snapping back to human. Joey and Kenny stepped back hastily. "It could easily be your last."
"Okay, you're some sort of demon. Surely you want your opinions to matter?"
"Sure, and they do in my personal life. But do you really want them deciding how to run the country?"
"I don't understand."
"Okay, I went by Caritas this afternoon, and I did a little informal poll of my own. Counting me you had thirty or so demons there today, about two thirds of them of species that are pretty well always evil, including eleven members of cults and races that are actively working to end the world or destroy humanity."
"End the world?" asked Joey, looking shocked.
"Oh yeah. It's a big religious thing with some groups, others just resent people for one reason or another. Okay, about eight out of the thirty actively prey on humans. A couple of other vampires, you'll probably get more of those in the evening sessions, two psychic parasites, one guy that eats babies, a couple of ghouls, and one demon that lays its eggs in people."
Kenny was starting to look a little green, Joey was watching Angel's face intently.
"Let me guess, you met Lorne and thought all demons were members of a persecuted misunderstood minority?"
"Yes," said Kenny, in response to Joey's signs, "that's about it."
"Don't get me wrong, Lorne's a great guy, but he sees the world through rose-tinted and very bloodshot glasses. His bar is about the one place in this city that demons and humans can mix safely, because there's a spell stopping demons from hurting people. Without that spell it'd be like any other demon bar, and humans would have to be out of their minds to go near the place."
"So what do you want us to do?"
"Ignore us, just pretend you never heard of demons. Because if politicians start looking for the demon vote, and alter their platforms accordingly, what are you going to get? Policies that play into the hands of these guys, one way or another. Free bags of blood for the vampire voters, for example, that'd be a vote-getter. It sounds good but what happens if the supply runs low? Who are you going to give priority to, the guy who needs an operation or the demon that can rip heads off until he gets what he wants? Or take babies, the baby-eating guys would love a discreet supply... come to think of it that could explain the anti-abortion lobby, that's something I ought to look into. Sorry, where was I? What about the guys who want to end the world? Gonna listen to them when they want missile programs and increased military spending? You see where I'm going with this?"
"I think you're underestimating politicians, but I'm beginning to see your point."
"At the moment most demons aren't interested in politics because they see it as a human thing, something that doesn't really have much relevance to their lives. You try to make policies more appealing to them and I'll guarantee you won't like the outcome. I've seen what happens when demons meddle in politics..."
"Hitler?" asked Joey.
"Don't sell the human race short, you came up with that bastard on your own. Actually I was thinking about the mayor of a town near here, he wanted to eat a high school graduating class to become a giant snake demon. And of course Spiro Agnew."
"Spiro Agnew was a demon?"
"A Grathnar demon. Not nice guys, believe me. You can thank Nixon for saving you from that one."
"What about you? You're a demon, but you do seem like a nice guy. Why shouldn't we do something that'll improve things for you?"
"Because I don't deserve it. Now think about what I told you and let it drop."
Joey began to sign another question, but Angel was gone.
"She didn't actually agree?" Cordelia asked incredulously.
"I was sure that she understood my argument," said Angel, "and like an idiot I didn't get her to give her word, or even wait for her to say that she'd abandon the project."
"Well, she didn't."
"By now her pollsters must have seen a couple of hundred demons," said Gunn.
"At least," said Angel, "I'd better have another word with the lady."
"I've been expecting you," signed Joey, as usual Kenny translated.
"What part of 'let it drop' were you having trouble with?" asked Angel, looking around Caritas during the night-time polling session. Demons were being interviewed at every table, and he recognised several faces. Usually they'd been trying to kill him, or he'd been trying to kill them, the last time they met.
"The part where someone else tells me what to do."
"Are you really planning to let demons have a say in the running of this country? Because that's what it feels like to me."
"Shows how much you know about things," signed Joey. "I don't want to involve demons; I want to make sure that they don't bias our results."
"What you said about wanting to end the world, and the rest... I took a look at some of our older data, and realised that you were explaining something that's been bothering us ever since we began to run polls; the way that the extreme lunatic fringe sometimes seems to be much more unified than it should be. I could show you the math but it's a little complicated. It suddenly makes a lot more sense if we assume some manipulation by the groups you mentioned."
"But don't you have to.. I don't know.. pay some attention to them if they have a political opinion? After all, this is a democracy."
"No it isn't, it's a republic. The people elect representatives, once elected they don't have to be guided by public opinion. They're interested in it, of course, but no politician can be all things to all men; if we can show that something that looks like an opinion held by a sizeable group is actually down to a tiny minority with its own agenda we can persuade them that it's best ignored. That's why we needed to spread the news of our interest as widely as possible and get a wide spectrum of demonic opinion, a feel for what they really wanted."
"If that's all..." Angel began, but was interrupted.
"What do you mean, you're gonna ignore us?" shouted a bat-eared demon at a nearby table. "I want my opinion to count for something!"
"Oh crap," said Angel, "Gullik demon, I forgot how good their hearing is."
"Easy, Moe," said Lorne, trying to calm down the demon. Moe tried to take a swing at him, reeled back cursing as the bar's protective spell kicked in, then stormed out, shouting "I'll be waiting for you outside!" Some of the other interviewees were also looking restless, and two others followed Moe out of the club.
"They can't hurt you in here," said Angel, "but as soon as you and your people go outside all bets are off."
"What do we do?" asked Kenny, "wait for dawn?"
"Won't work," said Angel, "all of those guys prefer the night, but none of them are hurt by daylight the way I am. And Gulliks can go a week without sleep if they're angry."
"You're hurt by daylight?" signed Joey.
"Thought you realised, I'm a vampire. Don't worry, I don't hurt people."
"That's good," Kenny said nervously.
"That's why we need to get you out of here before dawn," said Angel, "after that I won't be able to help you."
"But you can help us now?" asked Joey.
"Sure, if we move quickly. Pay off the rest of these demons and get your people ready to leave while you treat the house to a few rounds of drinks. That'll stop these guys from following us out, but we'll still have Moe and his pals waiting outside. I'll hold them off while you get to your cars and get the hell out of here, and make sure they don't chase you."
"Can you do that?"
"Sure. They're tough, but I'm tougher."
"It's very helpful of you."
"I'll send you a bill." He handed Joey an Angel Investigations business card.
"What? You're going to charge for helping us?"
"The advice I gave you was free; you chose to ignore it, so now I start charging for my time, expenses, and so on. If you don't like it I can always let them slaughter you..."
"Okay," signed Joey, "but don't kill anyone."
"That might be the tricky part, but I'll do my best."
Angel came out of Caritas carrying a crate of beer and an opener, and said "You guys want a drink?" to the demons. They hesitated then reached for the bottles.
"Thought you were on their side," said Moe.
"I am," said Angel, grabbing Moe and another demon and slamming them together with brutal force. He shouted "Now," and kicked the third demon, who was trying to hit him with a tyre iron, sending teeth and green blood flying as the demon flew back fifteen feet and hit a wall. By the time Joey, Kenny and the pollsters came out the fight was in full swing, with Angel forcing the demons towards the end of the alley away from their cars. A beer bottle flew out of the melee and hit Kenny, who collapsed. Someone shouted "They've killed Kenny," but Joey felt his pulse and said "He's alive." She and two other pollsters dragged him to her car, and they drove off into the night, the last car to leave.
Moe hit Angel with a club-like fist, took two punches without flinching, then stopped fighting and said "They're gone." Angel and the other demons relaxed.
"Okay," said Angel, "You guys all right?"
"You bust my teeth," mumbled the demon who'd been kicked in the mouth.
"Sure, and they'll grow back by the morning," said Angel, wrapping a handkerchief around his fist. "Just let me take care of this and we'll settle up."
"I know we said fifty each," said Moe, "but that was a lot more physical than I expected."
"Call it sixty?" suggested Angel.
"I was thinking seventy-five," said Moe.
"Sixty-five," said Angel firmly.
"Don't be greedy," said Angel, morphing to his demonic face.
"Okay, if you put it that way..."
"Did they all get out of it safely?" asked Gunn
"I spoke to someone in her office this morning," said Cordelia, "her translator was knocked out by a bottle, he's taking a few days vacation to get over it, apart from that everyone's okay. Couldn't speak to the boss lady, she took off for Washington this morning, apparently the White House want her to run some sort of poll about beets."
"Your tax dollars at work."
"I think we can call that a success," said Angel. "After that little fiasco they won't be polling demons again, and we can be reasonably sure that the politicians won't start pandering to their tastes."
"But I thought she said..." began Cordelia.
"I know what she said," interrupted Angel, "but she's an idealist. I'm older than her and a lot more cynical. She might mean well, but what about the politicians she works for?"
"I guess we'll never know who was right," said Wesley, "but at least we'll make a profit."
"What's the problem?" asked Cordelia.
"Do you have any idea how much free booze thirty-odd demons can sink? The money she gave Lorne lasted for two rounds, after that I was paying. What with that and bribing Moe and his pals to stage a scene I'll be lucky to break even."
"You could always pad your expenses."
"I've inflated it as much as I can, but I'm still short."
"So charge her for the drinks, say you got everyone drunk to stop them from following them, it's true enough. Lorne'll give you a receipt."
"That's not bad. Work on it some more, maybe we can come out of this with a profit..."