To my readers: Thanks for sticking with my story. Hopefully you guys have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Welcome to part three. I thought this was going to be an easy trilogy... turns out I was extremely wrong. This part took a long time to write since I was so picky about where I wanted to go with this. I planned on having a few surprises in store for you guys in this one and hopefully they are surprises. I'm trying to make a really great story and I hope you guys have been treated to that. Stay tuned.
Bienvenido S. Canonizado: Sorry I didn't get to your reply. I didn't even know people were still reading my old stories. Anyways, thanks for your kind words. I'll try and keep finishing out main trilogy as best as best I can. Keep trekkin' and enjoy.
The television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters and materials are properties of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Fox Television. Witchblade and all characters related are properties of Top Cow Comics and TNT Productions.
He sat kneeling, his eyes closed and hands in his lap. His breathing calm and almost unnoticeable, his mind drifted back in time, to lessons learned long ago. Lessons that had served him well in the past and were required in the present. The memories were just as vivid as when he first experienced them.
"Sit, Nottingham," Kenneth Irons ordered. The boy approached him and sat, his face unreadable as he looked at his master, eager to listen to his instruction.
"I will tell you the story of the Forty-Seven Ronin," Irons said, "and you will tell me the primary lesson to learn from it."
And as Irons told him the story of the band of masterless samurai that waited over a year to plot their revenge for their master's forced suicide, Ian listened intently. He sat riveted at the tale, though he showed no sign of it, and noticed Irons' approving demeanor at the part of their demise from their own hands.
"What is the lesson to be learned?" Irons asked at the end.
Ian closed his eyes to focus, trying as best he could to find meaning in the story. He thought of all of the themes that ran throughout: loyalty, sacrifice, honor, patience. Ian had thought loyalty would be the correct answer, but refrained from saying so. He knew that Irons demanded loyalty from all those who served under him. It was something that was more than expected. No, loyalty was a good answer, but not the answer his master desired.
"Patience," Ian finally replied.
Irons smiled slowly. "Correct. The patient warrior waits for an opportune moment to strike. The ronin exacted their revenge when all thought they had been defeated and dispersed, when none believed they posed a threat. They were willing to wait, much to the consternation of even some of their contemporaries. And that is what you must learn. Patience can be a great ally if mastered and a terrible foe if disregarded. I suffered from my own impatience..." Irons lifted up his right hand which bore the result of the his devotion to the Witchblade and its subsequent contempt for him.
"And you must learn to control your own," he continued. Irons turned his gaze toward a figure slumped in chair nearby, a man, his body still and his eyes open. He was a well-dressed man, in a suit that the average man would have nearly killed to have. The suit, however, had done nothing to protect him from the bullet that had been fired into his forehead.
"Of course," Irons lectured, "patience does have its limits."
Nottingham's eyes flashed open. One thing he had in abundance was patience. It was one of his defining traits: a cold, calculating patience that saw the end of many who had crossed his master Kenneth Irons. Disturbing events had transpired in the past year that he hadn't foreseen. Nevertheless, he had resolved after Genovese Vitelli's demise to use those events to his advantage and, indeed, had already begun so.
All that was left was the waiting.
"Patience, indeed," he said to himself.
Friday, 10:13 pm - 11th Precinct
"You don't want to play coy with me right now, Mrs. Hillman," a furious Sara gritted through her teeth. "I'm really not in the mood."
"I've done nothing wrong and you know it," the woman replied. "Besides, you have nothing on me anyway."
"Two men dead, one of them your husband and the other seemingly obsessed with you. I know you had a hand in it."
"I believe that's one of many prejudicial remarks you've made against my client," the woman's lawyer said.
"Let me take a stab at how this played out," Sara started, ignoring the lawyer's remark. "Your husband suspects something isn't right with the finances; too many unexplained transactions, things that would raise red flags. You knew the stepchildren hated you and that he might've been persuaded by them to cut you loose. And you just couldn't let that happen."
Rachel Hillman looked on, her face expressionless as Sara continued.
"Enter Larry D'Amico, an old boyfriend, one of those jealous, obsessive types. Did you bait him with pleas to help you 'escape' the marriage, win him over with tales of abuse and such? You knew he was never over you and arranged for him to kill your husband. Unregistered gun, few witnesses... it was the perfect setup. He thought he was helping you when your husband was trying to calm you down after you staged that tirade. Larry gets the wrong idea, plugs your husband, and gets a nasty surprise when you shoot him with your own handgun. All that and you walk off claiming self-defense. What do you think about that theory?"
"It's brilliant," Rachel replied. "Completely wrong, but brilliant. Even if I did all those things, how would you go about proving it?"
"How did Larry know where you two were that night?" Danny asked.
"Like you said," Rachel replied, "he was obsessive. He probably followed us the entire night." She smiled at Danny, who was already tiring of the game the woman before him was playing.
"I think we're through here..." the lawyer said as he got up.
"We're not done yet," Danny replied sternly as he stood up to stop them "The man had a history of mental instability. Your client knew he was capable of violence and manipulated him. She manipulated this entire situation."
"And I assume you have some way of proving that?" the lawyer riposted. Danny couldn't say a word to counter the challenge.
"Don't think you can get away with this," Sara cautioned.
"Like I said before, detectives," Rachel's lawyer replied, "we're through. You're grasping at straws here and we all know that you've got nothing on my client, so I say we quit this dog-and-pony show. Any more questioning for my client, you contact me, understand?" He handed a card to Sara and slyly grinned. Immediately upon seeing the card and the name of the firm he represented, her face grew dimmer and angrier: Wolfram & Hart.
"Good night, detectives," Rachel said, smiling as she began to leave.
The smugness of the woman infuriated and sickened Sara, as Danny tried to remain as stone-faced as he could, determining not to let the encounter get to him. As soon as Rachel and her lawyer left the room, Sara punched the table and yelled in frustration.
"Don't worry about it, Pez, we'll get her," Danny replied, trying to calm her down.
"No, we won't. He's right, Danny; we've got nothing on her except accusations to say she planned this out. Even if we had more, I'm not sure we could get her."
"How do you figure that?"
"The law firm her lawyer works for."
Danny looked at the card. "Wolfram & Hart. Yeah, I've heard of them. They're pretty good. So what?"
"So, I think we might be fighting a lost cause here," Sara replied. "Seems to be the way things go nowadays."
"What do you mean by that?" Danny asked defensively. "We've put away a bunch of people over the last two months. You know that."
"And we've seen just as many walk out with a wink and smile," Sara retorted, the agitation in her voice palpable. " I mean, I became a cop to try and make the world a better place, by putting scumbags behind bars. Now all I find myself doing is making sure the everything doesn't get any worse. And it always seems to, especially when people like Amy manipulate a mentally-disturbed man to kill her husband and get to walk free. Makes me sick to my stomach."
"Rachel, Pez," Danny corrected.
"Her name is Rachel Hillman."
"Yeah... what did I say?" Sara asked.
"You said 'Amy', that 'Amy' used that man to kill her husband."
"Well, I meant..."
"I know what you meant, Pez," Danny interjected, "and it still bothers me. I know we've talked about this before, but this... obsession... with her is..."
"I'm not obsessed with her, okay?" Sara protested, her forefinger pointed her partner. "I'm just... extremely concerned,"
"Oh, really? Then why is it I have to hear you mumble her name when you're pouring over a file at your desk? Why is OCD on my case to get you to stop muscling in on their work? Don't tell me you're not obsessed, Pez."
"Danny, she's a noted crime boss," Sara shot back as she defended her position.
"Who, from the way I hear it, isn't particularly good at being one."
"That doesn't make her any less dangerous," Sara countered. "Then there's still the issue of the witch murders last year. I named her as a viable suspect."
"On some information by informants you said wouldn't come forward," Danny replied, raising his voice. "We questioned her and she had some decent alibis. And the idea that a young woman could orchestrate a bunch of murders and go unnoticed? It's crazy."
"Oh, thanks a lot, Danny," Sara shot back. "Thanks for thinking I'm just a nutcase. No, really... from the bottom of my heart, thank you."
"Pez, I don't think you're a..." he began to say. "It's just that you can't go on like this. I know Amy Vitelli is bad news, but if you keep obsessing over taking her down you're gonna end up like Rorschach over at the 27th. Remember him?"
"Yeah, I remember him."
"Guy spent years trying to get what he could on the Franchetti family, got so obsessed with it he lost his family, friends, everything trying to take them down. The Franchettis harassed him and his family, but they never laid a hand on them. They just let him unravel as he alienated everything and everyone. Got reprimanded more times than you. Went violent on a suspect and got suspended. And finally..."
"Finally," Sara interrupted, "he was found dead in his apartment. Drank himself to death."
"Exactly," Danny replied. "You want to end up like that?"
Sara paused for a moment and thought, knowing the answer. Truth be told, she didn't want to be at this point in life in the first place, but she had no choice now. She knew she didn't want to end up becoming a casualty of her own crusade against Amy, but she also knew what Danny, Jake, and others didn't. Sara knew the damage that would be wrought if Amy were to get her way and that fueled her more than the potential damage done to her own personal and professional life. For the Bladewielder, nothing less was expected.
"No, not particularly," Sara replied. "But I'll risk it if that means stopping her. I have to." Danny was shocked at how much his partner was willing to risk on what he thought was a futile and career-damaging pursuit. He was about to tell her so when a uniformed officer came into the interrogation room, saying, "Danny, Pez: you guys are needed at a scene."
"We'll talk about this later," Danny said. "Let's just get the ball rolling on this one and hand it to Jake."
She put her hand to her head in momentary frustration and relented, saying, "Fine, but can we get some coffee along the way?"
"Yeah," he replied. "Decaf, though."
"Not a chance."
Saturday, 5:37 am - New York City
New York. They called it the City that Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. Gotham. Whatever nickname it went by, it was still as bright and beautiful as ever. Though it had its fair share of tragedy in the past few years and not everyone had the good fortune to prosper within its boundaries, it nevertheless was still a place of wonder and beauty to those who took time to look at it. Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, they were all there. Though he told only few, Captain Alasdair Faraday particularly loved Madison Square Garden and Little Italy whenever he came to visit. But he lamented that some of his favorite spots would be soon be nothing but memories were he to fail in his personal mission, and the glamorous metropolis he had grown to love would become nothing but a graveyard, a monument to untold death and destruction. The prospect of that fate drove him to the States from his home in New Zealand. It also drove him, as surprising as it was even to him, to keep walking despite the gunshot wound on the right side of his chest that had gone clean through the other side.
He approached the building, sweating profusely, trying to stay as coherent and alert as possible as the fibers of his torn clothing stinging the wound. His jacket hid the blood that was soaking the front of his shirt and began to trickle down his leg. If the person he was looking for wasn't there, the whole journey would be for nothing. He attempted to hold on, the dizziness warring against his desire to stay conscious as he started to make his way to the building's entrance, the little strength he had left fueling him ever so slightly toward his goal.
Saturday, 5:45 am - 11th Precinct
Sara Pezzini and Danny Woo entered the precinct lot from the back doors. The murder scene had been pretty cut and dry, something that Sara was grateful for considering her 'other' life. Working late and completing a couple of reports, the both of them had just finished a long, hard day and both were looking forward to some well-deserved rest. Sara herself had an old movie, some leftover Chinese takeout, and a beer just dying for her attention. It was something that her new boyfriend, Rupert Giles, didn't get about her. If it wasn't Chinese takeout, it was pizza. If it wasn't pizza it was a fully-loaded greasy hamburger with curly fries. He'd taken one look at her fridge a while back and immediately decided she was going to have very little, if any, say in what was going into the Slayer HQ pantry. To say he wasn't a fan of her food choices was an understatement. Still, it didn't bother Sara in the least. Giles may not like you, tasty Chinese takeout, Sara thought, but I'll always be your biggest fan. She smiled at the prospect of filling her growling stomach with heated lo mein.
"I'll see you later, Danny," she said.
"Take care, Pez," replied her yawning partner.
Putting on her helmet and starting up her bike she rode it toward the gate entrance. Putting in her code it opened up and, just when she was about to exit the lot, she caught view of a haggard-looking elderly man standing in her way. The motorcycle headlight flashed in his tired eyes and he shielded them. Sara called out to the man.
"Hey, buddy, you're gonna have to move out of the way."
The man didn't move.
Sara got off of her motorcycle and walked over to the man, noting that he looked a little disoriented. Ugh... junkie, she thought tiredly. I am so not in the mood for this. While desiring to be diplomatic, her weary body wanted to get home as soon as it could. Unzipping her motorcycle jacket and calling out to the man again she said, "Sir, you're going to have to..."
"I need to speak with Detective Pezzini," he interrupted in a haggard Scottish accent.
That caught Sara by surprise. The mere fact that someone she never met knew her name put her on her guard. Adding to the tension that it was someone standing less than a few feet from her and she became even more wary.
"I'm Detective Pezzini," she replied, moving her hand moving toward the back of her jeans where her revolver was. Her body tense and ready to defend itself, she was surprised when the man collapsed in a heap onto the ground.
"Call an ambulance!" she yelled a nearby uniformed officer, who threw down his cigarette and went to his car to radio for an EMS. Sara was ready to perform CPR on the man, only to see that he was still conscious. Danny, who had pulled his car up toward the gate, leaped out and ran toward his partner, who was kneeling down beside the man. "You're going to be fine, sir," she said. "They're calling an ambulance." Opening up his jacket to view any injuries she saw the gunshot wound.
"Get a towel or something!" she yelled as she pressed her hand against the wound to stem the flow, the blood seeping through her fingers. The uniformed officer went to fetch her request.
"It's too late for me, lass," the gray-haired man whispered out. "Too... late."
"No! No, you just hang on," she said as she applied pressure wound. The man lifted up his left arm and tapped the left side of his jacket at the chest.
"Inside… pocket," he whispered between breaths.
Curious, Sara reached into the inside of his coat pocket with her right hand as she kept her left firmly in place on the wound. She felt cloth, cloth that seemed to be holding something hard, smooth, and hexagonal-shaped. She pulled it out and uncovered the handkerchief's contents. Her eyes widened at the sight.
"Is this…?" she started to ask in astonishment.
"Yes," the man replied. "Please, guard it. Don't let it… don't let it… get… into… her hands. Please." He tightly gripped Sara's hand with his, warm blood mixing with sweat of her palm.
"I won't," she replied sincerely.
The man smiled, as if the mere assurance from her was enough to soothe his pain. He looked at the woman, the hope of a city, and amusingly quipped, "Seems... I got my wish."
"How's that?" Sara asked as comfortingly as she could.
"Always wanted... to die... in the arms of a lovely lass," he replied. "You... more than qualify." She somberly chuckled at the strained compliment. The man's smile soon faded, his eyes widened and, letting out a loud breath, he died.
Sara's face fell at the man's last breath, lamenting that her battle with Amy had taken yet another innocent life. She pocketed the object with the handkerchief in hand and pretended to withdraw the handkerchief from her jeans as Danny asked incredulously, "Pez, what do you think you're doing?"
"He gave this to me," she whispered.
"And it's evidence," Danny replied. "Someone might have come after him for that."
"I know, Danny, but this cannot go into evidence storage."
He was about to protest when Sara interrupted him. "Danny, if you don't want this man's death to be for nothing then you can't tell anyone about this, not even Jake," she said. "I'm asking you to trust me on this, Danny, please. If it ends up in storage things'll be much worse, for all of us."
"'For all of us'? Being a little over-dramatic, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not," she replied.
"Pez, if someone finds out…" Danny began to say.
"You knew nothing about it, okay?"
"Fine," he said, acquiescing. Wondering at the man's cryptic words, his curiosity piqued, he asked, "Who was he talking about? Who are you supposed to keep it from?"
Sara looked at the now-dead man, the one who had sacrificed his life to bring her what she and the Scoobies had never hoped to acquire. Reaching her blood-covered hand out she closed the man's eyes and replied in a low, grim tone.
"The bad guys."
Across the street, none of them noticed a man observing them. He took out a cell phone and dialed a number, disappointed that he didn't have better news than what he was about to deliver.
Amy heard her cell phone ring and was aroused from her sleep. Well, she didn't call it 'sleep'. The technical term escaped her at the moment, but she had needed it for the past month to sustain her own bastardized version of the Witchblade. She had been able to keep it powered whilst she slept, but for the last month that wasn't enough. She had created a spell that kept her somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness, which was working so far. But as always with spells of such a nature, there were side effects, most notably the nosebleeds and the dancing lights she occasionally saw, which became ever increasing as time went by. Every occurrence of the side effects was just one more reason to hate every single one of the Scoobies, particularly Sara Pezzini.
Stone-faced, she picked up her phone and answered it. "What is it?"
"We have a problem, right," Amy interrupted. "Of course we do."
"Um, well... yeah," the man replied.
"And let me guess: this problem is either in the form of a petite blonde or a female cop, am I right?"
"Yeah... how'd you know?"
Amy let out a loud, exasperated sigh. "Because it always seems to turn out like that. Sometimes I don't even know why I bother." She pinched the bridge of her nose and let out another sigh. "I'm going to handle this myself. Just be ready when I say."
"Yes, ma'am," he replied.
She closed her cell phone and looked at the clock. It was 6:00 am on the dot. She would deal with this issue personally when Sara would get to the Scoobies, haggard and worn from lack of sleep. The kid gloves were about to come off. She had kept hands off of the Scoobies beforehand, for the most part, because she believed there was nothing stopping her. But she realized that Buffy and her friends seemed to be skilled at surviving and thriving against impossible odds and was determined to make sure they wouldn't be the monkey wrench in her machine. The ambush was supposed to accomplish that and, to her dismay, it only seemed to strengthen their resolve. She knew she would have to break it to truly win and already had a few plans on how to do so, particularly if situations like what had transpired arose. She had gotten the second stone under their noses, through Devlin Post, and was not going to be done in by an unfortunate turn of events.
Amy's eyes kept fixated on the clock. Time was most definitely not on her side, as the other bosses in New York and New Jersey, including the Triads, Russians, Yakuza and the rest of the Italian bosses, were becoming bolder by the minute. She learned of a secret meeting they all had concerning her, the result of which was an agreement to keep pressure on her and eventually put her out of commission. She was losing her grip on her small empire, something that she knew right from the start could occur. While she wasn't completely inept at running things, she knew her lack of experience would be something her enemies could and would exploit, as well as the fact that a common enemy always brought rivals together. Given more time, they would briefly band together, mount a strike to wipe her out, and try to restore things to their pre-Amy state. The only way to put a stop to that was with the stones... and one other thing. Once she had them, every single one of her foes, from the slimiest mob boss to the youngest Slayer, would beg for mercy and drown in their own blood.
Thoughts like that made her smile. Thoughts like that kept her warm. Thoughts like that kept her going. And thoughts like that gave her the will to win.
Time wasn't on her side; of that she was certain. But if things went right, time wouldn't need to be. Time would be the only thing between the Slayers and a slow, excruciating death.
Blood trickled down from her nostrils as she imagined the Slayers' demise.
She'd endure a thousand nosebleeds if she could see that happen.