Most of the prologue was inspired by Roz Kaveny's story Dawn in Rome, which can be found on the Buffy Fiction Archive. She has kindly given me permission to use my own version of news broadcasts etc. originally described in that story.
All characters are the intellectual property of their respective creators, film companies, etc. and there is no intention to infringe copyright; this story may not be sold or distributed on a profit-making basis.
I'm British, so's my spelling. Live with it.
There was a dragon flaming downtown Los Angeles instead of the news... looked like some sort of fantasy movie, except that there was the CBS News logo on the screen. Detective Mac Taylor tried another channel, and got Michael Moore talking about the President's links to lawyers Wolfram and Hart, and Wolfram and Hart's links to.. to Hell? Another, a soldier talking about fighting something called HSTs in South America. The fourth showed more fighting in LA, the National Guard and and what looked like three different street gangs firing and throwing Molotov cocktails at a mob of creatures that looked like they had come out of a bad fantasy film. Not human, whatever they were, the newsreader was saying something about a demon army. The fifth, a tiny blonde at a press conference with Tony what's-his-name, the British Prime Minister. According to the text at the bottom of the screen she was "Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer." He channel surfed again, got Michael Moore again, this time claiming that Bush had demons bused in to key districts to swing the vote. Again, and saw someone he actually knew... Jim Brass, who used to run the CSI team in Las Vegas.
"So you have vampire slayers involved in law enforcement?" asked an unseen interviewer.
"We've been helping to train them for a year or so, and they've been helping us with any supernatural problems that come up." He sounded completely serious, and Mac realised that he was starting to believe it wasn't a gigantic hoax.
"Does Las Vegas have a demon problem?"
"Let me make one thing clear before we go on. There are dozens of different types of demon, and a lot of them are harmless, some of them are very productive citizens, pillars of the community. Just saying there's a 'demon problem' is... well, I guess I'd have to call it racist."
"But there's a war going on in Los Angeles."
"We think that there were special circumstances; our intel suggests that someone bought in an army from another dimension and lost control of it. You look closely at the footage, there are quite a few demons fighting on our side too."
"So in general...?"
"We have problems with some elements, of course, vampires especially, but even there we've got a registration, tagging, and testing scheme in place - if they stick to animal blood and stay out of trouble we're letting them be."
"What if they don't?"
"Usually it takes lethal force to stop a vampire that's gone bad."
"What about their rights?"
"What rights? They're corpses that won't lie down. Until the courts and the government tell us otherwise they have no legal rights. We're trying to be as fair as we can, but we have to put public safety first."
"In the long run?"
"Damned if I know. I'm pretty sure we'll have politicians claiming to represent 'Undead Americans' inside a month, beyond that your guess is as good as mine."
"And other demons?"
"We deal with them on a case by case basis, and on the whole they cause very little trouble. There are certain species we register, tag, and test, same as vampires, the rest are pretty much the same as everyone else, except for their looks."
"One last question... now that this is out in the open, what do you think will happen?"
"We've been helping law enforcement agencies in other states as cases came up, we have a briefing pack that'll be updated and go out to all police departments and state officials nation-wide. The FBI will be releasing its own advisory, I think both of those will go out later today or tomorrow. We're also making all our data on this available through the usual police channels, and I think that the vampire slayers are going to put a lot of material on line. That's happening as fast as possible. Over the next few months I'd imagine that a lot of old cases are going to be re-examined, and maybe some of them will be solved."
"What about the long term?"
"In the long term the government is going to have to make things work. In its own way this is bigger than 9-11." Mac angrily moved to switch off, then thought better of it and listened to the rest of the interview. "There were always monsters out there, and people have been trying to pretend that they didn't exist. What's happening in LA is blowing that apart. I'm just hoping that we can live with the consequences."
"In Washington..." Mac switched off the TV, drank the last of his coffee, strapped on his gun, and set off for work. He had a feeling that it was going to be a difficult day.
There was a shark-toothed hermaphroditic demon in a blue floral dress in the reception area when Mac got in for the night shift; he recognised it as a witness in a week-old shooting, and vaguely wondered why it was back. It was Danny Messer's case, maybe he'd come up with a new approach. Mac reached his office and leafed through a stack of reports... yes, Danny was going to test its sense of smell, see if it could ID the perp that way. Worth a shot; juries rarely liked that sort of thing, but maybe it'd shake the perp into confessing. He leafed through the rest of the files... nearly all routine cases, most criminals were too stupid to be much of a challenge. In response to that thought, of course, the phone rang.
"Crime lab, Detective Taylor."
"Mac," he recognised Stella Bonasera's voice, "there's been a break-in at the evidence store. One of the security guards was killed."
"Who's on it?"
"Looks like us, unless you want to pull someone off another case."
Mac checked the case list and said "Us it is. Where are you?"
"Loading fresh evidence kits into the van. Thought you'd want to take it."
"Okay... I'll be down in a couple of minutes."
As he went downstairs Mac wondered how long she'd been at work, the shift was only a few minutes old.
"Still waiting on the M.E. to pronounce death," said Don Flack, the homicide detective who'd answered the call. "He's stuck in traffic."
"Any doubt in your mind?" asked Stella.
"Looks like a broken neck, didn't want to mess up the scene taking a closer look."
"Okay... we'd better do this by the book. Any witnesses?"
"Cassidy here found the body." He gestured towards a young-looking guard.
"The office closes at six," said Cassidy, "after that it's just us until seven the following morning, when the cleaners come in. Tonight it was me and Ken Muller. Mostly we watch the monitors, but about once an hour one of us takes a walk, checks all the rooms, takes about fifteen minutes. Ken went out about ten past nine, he'd been gone about five minutes when the alarms went off."
"Did he call you first?"
"No, he hit the panic button on the radio but didn't say anything."
"How long did it take you to reach him?"
"No more than four or five minutes."
"Why so long? Wouldn't you know where he was by the time he'd been gone?"
"No, we try to vary the route, keep things a little unpredictable. It's good for security, and it's a little less boring doing it that way."
"What exactly did you see?" asked Mac.
"Ken was in room four, looked like his neck was broken. He wasn't breathing, I tried giving him CPR but nothing happened. About five minutes later the cops showed up, then the paramedics."
"And you didn't see anything on the monitors before the alarm went off?"
"Not a thing."
"We took a look at the camera in that room," said Flack, "someone disconnected it and plugged in a little digital camera with a video output, showing a photo shot from the same angle."
"Okay," said Mac. "Stella, I want you to go over Mister Cassidy's statement, see if anything else comes to mind, and get fingerprints and shoe imprints to eliminate his traces. I'm going to take a look at the camera. Don, you want to show me?"
Mac and Flack went out of the room, leaving Cassidy with Stella and two patrolmen, and once he was sure Cassidy wouldn't hear Mac asked "How did the killer get in?"
"Looks like the window," said Flack. "Catch was unlocked, the steel grill inside looks to have been wrenched out of the frame. Pry bar, or something of the sort."
"Cut and bridged."
"Any idea how long the camera was there?" asked Mac.
"It's running on batteries, so no more than an hour or two."
"And it's showing the room before the window was opened? There must have been an inside man. You think Cassidy was in on it?"
"Could be, or maybe Muller was double-crossed," said Flack.
"If they were taking turns to patrol Cassidy is the logical choice," said Mac, "but the physical evidence will tell us."
"You probably know this place better than I do. Any idea what the intruder was after?"
"I think room four is long-term storage, evidence in cold cases going back decades. There could be almost anything there."
"How will you find out?" asked Flack.
"Everything ought to be logged, and the inventory is on the computer. We'll have to check if any boxes have gone missing, if not we start checking the contents."
"I think there were a couple of thousand boxes in there."
"If it was easy," said Mac, "it wouldn't be a challenge. Don't worry, they're all numbered, it shouldn't take too long."
"Your guard was killed by a single blow to the right side of the neck," said Doctor Sheldon Hawkes, "something narrow, heavy, and fast. Crushed the third and fourth cervical vertebrae, if it hadn't killed him he would have been paralyzed."
"Could the weapon be a pry-bar?" They'd found one on the fire escape one storey down. There were no prints on it. The claw-marks matched the marks on the window frame, and looked to have been made from the inside.
"It's certainly a possibility. I've sent skin specimens for testing, see if the weapon left traces."
"Not so far."
"They're missing four boxes," Mac said two days later. "All from the mid-seventies."
Stella groaned. "Couldn't just be one, of course. Okay, give me the numbers, let's see if we know anything about any of the cases."
Stella typed the number into her laptop and said "Sutton, Amanda. Rape-homicide. Oh... that's an error. Case was closed in seventy-nine, the evidence was returned to the family of the deceased. Someone forgot to log it out of the store."
"Good start. 77-2469-853."
"A John Doe. A vagrant, no name or address, witnesses saw another vagrant kill him and run off. No leads, no description worth a damn, doesn't look like much effort went into finding the perp."
"What was the evidence?"
"A knife, had bloodstains from the deceased and someone else, a male with A positive blood. Prints on it couldn't be matched to any record. High alcohol levels in both of them."
"Chances are that the perp's long dead," said Mac, "let's call that one possible but unlikely. Okay, 77-7443-22B."
"Wood, Nikki. African-American, aged 22, found murdered on the B train, 1977. Broken neck, severe bruising, signs of a prolonged struggle. No prints from the perp. She or the killer stopped the train between stations, they thought that the killer escaped into the tunnel, but that's as far as they got."
"Sounds promising, especially considering the way she was killed. Though it's hard to believe the same killer would be active nearly thirty years later. And the evidence?"
"Clothing, jewellery, and other personal effects," said Stella.
"Got a precise list?"
"There'll be more detail in the case file, but that'll still be on paper. I'll send for the record." She typed another command into her laptop. "Might take a few hours. Okay, and number four?"
"Abandoned infant, girl aged... uh... two to three days. Caucasian, found in Central Park. Never identified. Suffocated, probably with a pillow."
"One of those." Mac grimaced. "Wouldn't stop crying and one of the parents couldn't stand it. Some people shouldn't be allowed to have kids. Was the property clothing?"
"Wrapped in a blanket."
"Okay... that's probably a long shot too, but the only one we can rule out for sure is the first. Get the files on the others, we'll see what we find."
"Prints finally got a match from the camera," Mac said a few hours later. "The camera body was cleaned pretty well, but there was a partial on the memory card."
"Cassidy or Muller?" asked Stella.
"That's right, steal my thunder. Muller. And Cassidy says Muller did two successive rounds that evening, said he wanted the exercise."
"So he let the perp in, when he came back an hour later the perp killed him and took off with the evidence."
"Certainly looks that way."
"Any evidence of a bribe, or some kind of coercion?"
"Doesn't give use much to go on, maybe the files will tell us more."
"Silver crucifix, silver chain, some rings and earrings, clothing," Mac said the following evening. "Her coat was missing and her wallet, they were never found."
"There's something odd about this file," said Stella. "We have a murdered woman in her twenties, and we really don't seem to have anything on what she did with her life. Nothing about her job, her friends, or any immediate family apart from a son aged four."
"Someone must have checked it out at the time," said Mac.
"Sure, but everyone involved in the case is retired or dead. I'm having trouble tracing them. And remember what most of NYPD was like at the time, a dead African-American woman might not have been given their undivided attention."
"What about the kid's father?"
"We have an unconfirmed report it was a police officer killed during a drugs bust a few months before he was born."
"And the kid?"
"Adopted by cousins in... ah... Hollywood. Over the years he's updated his contact details four times, said he wanted to be informed if we ever had a suspect."
"Convenient. Where is he now?" asked Mac.
"Last update was in oh-two, when he was... oh."
"Principal of Sunnydale High School, California," said Stella.
"Yes. Right over it. "
"And nothing since?" asked Mac.
"Not a thing, and up until then he'd kept his address details current."
"Must be dead then."
"Maybe. You see that TV movie US Slayers?"
"Sure. It was garbage."
"But you saw it?" said Stella. Mac nodded. "You remember there were two or three guys in the final battle, right at the end where they were taking out the demon army? I'm pretty sure that one of them was supposed to be the high school's principal. The black guy with the mini-gun."
"Didn't he get killed at the end?" asked Mac, "Sliced in two or something."
"I think so."
"Just because the movie says that, doesn't necessarily mean it's true."
"Anyone that was there, I guess," said Stella.
"One of the vampire slayers. Any in town go back that far?"
"I can ask."
"Robin Wood?" said Caridad, punching a bag in the gymn at the fourteenth precinct. "Sure, I know him."
"He survived Sunnydale then?" asked Stella, watching with fascination as the heavy bag's seams slowly disintegrated under the torrent of blows from the Philipino Slayer.
"Of course. He runs the Las Vegas school these days."
"The Slayer school?"
"The Jenny Calendar School for Girls. And yes, it's the Slayer school. Why do you want to know?"
"We've a case that might be related to the death of his mother - did he ever mention that?"
"Everyone knows about that one. Spike killed her." She said it so matter-of-factly that it took both of them a moment to realise the importance of what she'd said.
"Spike?" Mac asked carefully.
"Spike, vampire with a soul. Only back in the seventies he didn't have one, and he decided to kill his second Slayer." The bag began to leak sawdust, and Caridad grimaced and moved to the heavy weights.
"Second?" asked Stella.
"The first was in the Boxer rebellion."
"If Wood knew that it would explain why he didn't contact us after Sunnydale."
"Sure, Wood knew," said Caridad, "He and Spike had a big fight about it, half killed each other. Then Spike got killed when we were closing the Hellmouth."
A vague memory came back to Mac. "Wait a minute, wasn't he killed in LA?"
Caridad lifted fifty kilos and said "Killed in Sunnydale for sure, I heard stories that he'd somehow come back but I didn't see it. Either way he's dust in the wind."
"You don't sound too unhappy about it," said Stella.
Caridad added another fifty to each end of the bar, and lifted it again. "Vampires creep me out, even the ones that say they're on our side. I've got a lot of respect for Buffy, but I never understood how she could stand to have him around."
"Getting back to business, wasn't Nikki Wood too old to be a Slayer?" asked Mac. "I hadn't even thought of the possibility until you mentioned it."
"Yes, she started late, I think she was seventeen or so. She had a good run for those days." She was holding 150 kilos above her head one-handed.
"Do you do this every day?" asked Stella, fascinated.
"I'm taking it slow today, can't do the really rough stuff on my own. If there was another Slayer here to train with we'd be doing a lot more, but both of the new girls are in Las Vegas until the end of the week, taking the advanced demon identification course, and our Watcher went with them."
"New girls?" asked Mac. "Sorry to ask so many questions, but I've never really got into the way your organisation works before."
"It's not much of a secret." She added another hunded kilos, held it above her head for thirty seconds or so, then carefully lowered it to the floor and began to screw on more weights. "Crystal was one of the Potentials the Watcher's Council had missed, she was activated when the spell went down. She was in New Jersey at the time so they had to locate and train her afterwards. Nicole is even newer, she was activated when Wolfram and Hart started assassinating Slayers last year, same time their demon army was getting its ass kicked in LA."
"I hadn't heard about that, were many killed?"
"It didn't get much coverage compared to LA and the Rome thing. And yeah, they killed twelve we know of, maybe more. A couple were friends."
"I'm sorry," said Stella.
"It's a horrible thing to say," said Caridad, dismantling the weights and putting them back onto the rack, "but in the long run it's probably going to save a lot more lives. There was an idea going around that there wouldn't be any more Slayers activated until we were all dead, now that the bad guys know that there'll always be more they ought to think twice."
"That makes sense, I guess," said Mac. "Getting back to Nikki Wood, can you think of any reason why anyone might want to steal any of her possessions? We've had a break-in and murder at the evidence store, they seem to be the most likely target."
"Sure. She might have been carrying something magical or mystical, or someone might have thought she was. Then there's souvenir hunters, we've had a lot of that since we went public. Can't put a stake down these days without some asshole stealing it, or making a dozen copies. Just take a look at eBay, more wood than Noah's Ark."
"Any idea how we could narrow it down?" asked Stella.
"Ask her Watcher, if he's still alive. Or ask Robin, he was only a kid but he might remember something."
"It won't be casual souvenir hunters," Mac said as he and Stella walked back to the labs, "Nobody seems to have known that she was a Slayer."
"That's true to a point, except that Caridad knew, probably most insiders do. The way she talked, things I've heard other Slayers say on TV, they have a lot of respect for the girls who had to go it alone, back when it really was just one girl against the monsters. Buffy Summers especially, of course, but someone like Nikki, who actually brought up a son while she was Slaying... that's got to make her a big-time hero to them."
"You think it might have been a Slayer that broke in?"
"Mac, she was lifting nearly half a ton with that last set of weights and she was barely sweating. She wouldn't have needed a pry bar to get in, and if she'd hit Muller with one his head would have come off."
"Unless she pulled her punches."
"Are you serious?" asked Stella, staring at him.
"She's the only Slayer in New York right now, so far as we know, doesn't even have a Watcher to ride herd on her this week. It won't hurt to check out her whereabouts last night."
"I guess." She sounded dubious.
"Don't lose your objectivity. We know what they do, we know that we owe them an enormous debt, but that doesn't mean they can't go bad."
"Right. Okay, who'd know what she was up to?"
"Internal Affairs keeps an eye on them. Ask for Kowalski, if he doesn't know himself he'll know who to ask. You call him, I'll talk to Wood."
"The Jenny Calendar School, how may I help you?" The voice at the far end of the phone sounded like a kid, maybe sixteen or so. Mac guessed it might be one of the trainee Slayers.
"This is Detective Mac Taylor, NYPD crime lab. I understand you have a Robin Wood there, is that correct?"
"Sure, Principal Wood."
"I'd like to speak to him if I may."
"I'm sorry, that isn't possible right now."
"Sure, but he isn't here. He's on his honeymoon."
"Any idea where?"
"No. We've got an emergency contact number, I think, but we're not supposed to give it out unless it's a matter of life and death."
"We're investigating a murder which may be related to his family." Mac stretched the truth a little.
"Oh... just a second." The line went quiet, then began to play quiet music, which he couldn't quite identify. After a minute or so another woman's voice came on line. Mac thought it sounded familiar, but couldn't immediately identify it.
"Who's calling please?"
"This is Detective Mac Taylor, NYPD Crime Lab."
"Hi. This is Buffy Summers. What's this about?"
"Miss Summers, it's an honour..."
"Yeah, right, whatever." She sounded tired and annoyed.
"I'll get straight to the point. Two days ago our evidence store was burglarized and one of the guards was killed. We're pretty sure that the thief was after the effects of Nikki Wood, whom I understand to be a Slayer and the mother of Robin Wood."
"Oh... Yes, that's right."
"We've spoken to the Slayer here, she suggested that something of mystical or magical importance might have been amongst her belongings."
"Slayer? Which one?"
"Right, yes, I know her. Wait a minute, are you saying there's only one Slayer for the whole city?"
"I understand two others are on a training course in Las Vegas."
"Even so... just a second. ANDREW! Get in here!" The line went quiet again for a couple of minutes, then came back with a click and Buffy's voice saying "...put Boba Fett where the sun don't shine." Mac wondered if he was hearing correctly "Hello? You still there?"
"Yes," said Mac.
"Sorry about that. Minor disagreement about scheduling here. You've got a big city there, it needs more cover. We'll have someone else there by tomorrow."
Mac somehow felt compelled to say "Is that necessary? Caridad seems to be coping."
"I'm pretty sure that Nikki Wood was coping, up to the day her neck was broken. It's not a reflection on Caridad, it's the nature of the job. She needs backup. We'll get someone else out there."
"You know how Nikki Wood died?"
"Sure. A few years ago I was shown."
"Sounds like you've been digging. Yeah, Spike showed me."
"Could I speak to Principal Wood?"
"Do you really need to? He's in Hawaii with Faith, they're taking their first real break since Sunnydale."
"What about his mother's Watcher? Would you know how I can contact him?"
"I'm pretty sure Robin said he died a few years back. But we probably have his diaries in our archive."
"Every Watcher keeps a diary, logs the things the Slayer runs into and how she handles them. Until the day she doesn't, of course."
"That might help."
"Okay, give me your number, I'll get someone to call you back when we've located them."
Stella came back into the office just as he was finishing the call, and said "Caridad checks out clean. She was negotiating a truce between a couple of demon street gangs that night, wouldn't have had an opportunity to break in. How about you?"
"Wood's on his honeymoon, I ended up talking to Buffy Summers. The Buffy Summers."
"Holy... did she say anything helpful?"
"Apparently Nikki Wood's Watcher would have kept a log of all her activities. She's going to have it located for us."
"Could be useful."
Mac was reading through the reports on another case when the phone rang an hour or so later. "Crime lab, Detective Taylor."
"This is Rupert Giles, from the International Watcher's Council. I believe you're expecting my call."
Mac said "That's right. I'm switching this to speaker so that a colleague can hear it. You have the diaries for Nikki Wood's Watcher?"
"That's correct. What exactly is it you need to know?"
"Whether she might have been carrying anything that might be worth killing for at the time of her death."
"It's possible but I'd say it was unlikely. I can't see anything here."
"Detective Bonasera here," said Stella. "Would it necessarily be in the diary?"
"Yes. Anything of magical or mystical significance is noted, of course, but for the most time her career in New York was routine, in Slayer terms. Reading between the lines, she was handling fairly run-of-the-mill vampires and demons most of the time. New York isn't a Hellmouth, you know."
"Even so, could she have been carrying anything that might be worth stealing today?"
"Let me check the list..." said Giles. "No. A cross, jewellery, holy water, some stakes. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"Wait a minute," said Mac. "You have a list?"
"Of course. Oh, goodness me, how stupid of me."
"I don't understand."
"It's a list of her possessions that were retrieved by the old Watcher's Council, in... ah... nineteen seventy-nine."
"Retrieved? As in stolen?"
"I'm afraid so. I'm just surprised that it took so long."
"Why would they have done that?" asked Mac.
"It was standard procedure when the Slayer was killed. So far as possible the Council did everything in its power to recover her belongings and erase her traces."
"Why would they do that?" Stella repeated. "How could they possibly justify it?"
"We were always told that it was to prevent them falling into the hands of anyone who might be able to use them for magical purposes. In the same way the body of the Slayer was always cremated, and the ashes scattered as widely as possible." Giles' voice was carefully non-committal.
"But you don't think that's true?" asked Mac.
"The old Council felt that the Slayer was a tool, a weapon that they must control, subservient to the organisation. They wanted blind loyalty and obedience, that's one of the reasons why most died so young. I think that graves were felt to be too much of a reminder of the reality."
"Weren't you part of the old Council?"
"I'm pleased to say that they fired me. They felt I was too sentimental, that I'd let Buffy get out of control. But aren't we straying from the point?"
"Yes, I think we are. Let me get this straight, the Council somehow recovered everything of hers that was in our evidence room? There was nothing there of hers to steal?"
"Exactly. I know for a fact that Robin Wood has his mother's cross. I'd imagine that her Watcher was given the job of retrieving it, and took it upon himself to give it to him."
"Then we've been looking in completely the wrong direction," Stella said flatly.
"It could still be someone looking for something that wasn't there," said Mac.
"That doesn't feel right, somehow," said Stella.
"Would there be anything else?" asked Giles.
"I'm sorry," said Mac... "one question before you go, how would they have stolen it?"
"I'd imagine that someone in your department was bribed or coerced into helping. Probably swapped it for another box that was being transferred or discarded."
"Yes, that makes sense. Thanks, that's extremely helpful."
"If you need anything else please let me know," said Giles.
"Anything else you can find out about this would be useful. Otherwise I think we're done. Thank you."
"My pleasure." Giles hung off.
"So what now?" asked Mac.
"Wasn't there a case where the records were screwed up?"
"Yes." He flipped through some notes, and said "75-4532-43A. Sutton, Amanda. Rape-homicide."
"Murdered in seventy-five, by seventy-nine it was as cold as they get."
"So someone generated the paperwork to have the box sent back to the next of kin, put the wrong case number on the form and somehow screwed up the records so that nobody would know it was the wrong box. It's intercepted before it reaches her family, or there is no close family for it to go to. The evidence store records show that the Wood evidence is still there, since nobody ever touches the boxes again nobody realises the truth."
"That presumably means that all the evidence on the Sutton case should still be there," said Stella, "and that the case is still unsolved. That's easy enough to check."
"One person knew," said Mac. "The killer."
"Who was content to leave things alone for thirty years," said Stella. "If it was him, what the hell suddenly made him change his mind?"
Suddenly Mac had a flashback of memory, to the day when the world learned about the monsters. "Jim Brass. Call Giles back, he owes us one and I think we're going to need his help after all."
"It's plausible," said Giles. "How are you going to test it?"
"I was hoping that you'd be able to help with that," said Mac. "Don't Slayers have some kind of sixth sense?"
"Well yes, but it isn't always reliable. Isn't there some sort of chemical test you could perform?"
"Of course, but without the original evidence we'd have no way to prove there was a connection with the original crime."
"So you want to... what, provoke a reaction?"
"Very well. Just a moment." They heard voices murmuring away from the phone, then Giles came back. "It's fortunate that we were planning to send someone out to you tonight. Flight 437, if you can arrange to have her met we'll give it a shot."
Mac, Stella, and Flack arrived at the evidence store just before the cleaners the following morning. Cassidy was on duty again, accompanied by an elderly guard called Weiss. More officers followed them in.
"We need to shut the place down now," Mac said to the guards. "We think that there's some evidence here, every time the cleaners touch the place or you walk through there's a chance they're making it harder to detect."
"Sure. What are you looking for?" asked Weiss.
"We've found out something interesting. Some of the missing evidence belonged to a Slayer that was killed in the seventies. The Watchers are sending us a witch to sniff for clues." He checked his watch. "Her flight should be in by now, if the traffic isn't too bad we ought to be done in an hour or so."
"A witch, is it?" said Cassidy. "Like that Rosenberg woman that made all the Slayers?"
"Exactly like. That's who they're sending."
"I wonder if she'd give me her autograph for the grandchildren," said Weiss.
"Won't hurt to ask," said Stella.
"You'll have to wait outside and keep very quiet," said the redhead. "I need to concentrate to do this."
She went into the store-room and seemed to wander around the room aimlessly, while the guards and the detectives watched from the doorway. Gradually she seemed to focus on one side of the room, then a particular rack of shelves, then a stack of flat cartons on one of the shelves. "In here, one of these boxes, there's something that doesn't belong. Something... demonic."
As she was talking a member of the audience quietly backed away from the door and back towards the stairs. He was creeping down as quietly as he could when he met someone coming up. "Going somewhere?" asked Caridad. He turned to run, saw Mac and Stella at the top of the stairs, and tried to push past Caridad. Two quick blows put a stop to that.
"Alex Cassidy," said Flack, "You have the right to remain silent..."
Upstairs Weiss said "That's a good trick. How did you know where to look?"
"Magic, of course," said the redhead.
"Now I'd believe that if you were Willow Rosenberg, but since I saw her picture in Newsweek just a couple of days ago I know you're not. So what's the trick?"
"Easy," said Vi. "Hair dye and Slayer senses. I was listening to his heartbeat, every time I went near those boxes it got a little faster. Helps that he has a three-chambered heart, made it easier to keep track of him. The rest was easy."
"So Cassidy was a demon?" asked Flack. "Hard to believe, he looked pretty human."
"A lot of them do," said Vi, "on the outside anyway."
"Back in the seventies the crime lab had no idea that demons existed," said Stella, "let alone that some of them might go in for rape, so none of the forensics made any sense. She was ripped up internally, but that was assumed to be from a weapon. After Los Angeles things were different, and labs all over the country started to re-examine a lot of old cases. Cassidy must have thought that the Sutton case would be one of them. It probably would have been, sooner or later, if the Watchers hadn't messed things up."
"When we read the real report on the Sutton homicide," said Mac, "And cross-checked to the Watcher's data-base, we knew what we were looking for. The trouble was that all the evidence was missing. Even if we unmasked him as a demon we had no way to prove that he was the killer, there wasn't a clean evidence trail."
"He figured out that we'd be looking for him," said Stella, "He'd lived in that area since the thirties, must have realised that if we started looking for a long-lived demon we'd find him sooner or later. Somehow he got the idea that he'd steal the evidence, along with clues from some other cases to confuse things, so he got a job here. Then it took a while for him to get into the routine and actually locate the box; there can't have been much time for searching during fifteen-minute patrols, and whoever stole the Wood box presumably put that one in its place, so it was with boxes from the wrong year. Once he'd located it he had to get it out, and the theft had to look like a break-in, so he used the camera to stop Muller noticing. But things went wrong. Maybe Muller heard the noise of the pry-bar and came to investigate. Cassidy decided to kill Muller and frame him. Must have touched the card against his finger after he'd killed him. Or maybe that was his plan all along, it's one of the things we don't know yet."
"Muller managed to set off his alarm when he was attacked," said Mac, "Cassidy knew he only had a few minutes, and that wasn't enough time to get rid of the evidence from the Sutton case, so he hid it instead, then pretended to give Muller CPR."
"And last night we had a DNA test run on Muller's lips," said Stella, "found that the spit Cassidy left contained biochemicals that you don't get in humans. That confirmed that Cassidy was a demon, but there was no proof he'd done anything wrong."
"What about the murder weapon?" asked Flack.
"Cassidy used the bag from the baby blanket to hold the pry-bar," said Stella, "opened the grille with it, used it to kill Muller, then dropped the bar out onto the fire escape. It fell through the grille but caught on the floor below. Then he wrapped the bag around the blanket again and put it into one of the boxes Vi found. The technicians are checking for prints and skin residues now, that ought to be our proof that Cassidy killed Muller."
"The trouble was that all of our attention was focused on something being missing," said Mac, "when what we were really looking for was something out of place. We just didn't know it."
"What happens now?" asked Caridad.
"We can nail him for Muller's death," said Mac, "I'm not so sure about the Sutton case, but we'll give it our best shot when we've checked the evidence. But before that, I think we could all do with some breakfast. My treat."
"You may live to regret that," said Vi, "Slayers have big appetites."
"I'll risk it."