Henry and Spike pulled up in Henry's Jag outside a row of rundown houses just outside the city centre. The sound of police sirens in the distance and dogs barking in nearby back yards filled the night air.
After stepping from of the car and closing the door Spike walked over to the footpath, admiring the exterior of Henry's car. "Hey nice wheels... where'd you steal it from?"
"Why would you assume it is stolen? Some of us work and make a living. Not all of us like to slum it like you do." Henry pressed the button on his keys to enable the car alarm.
Spike scoffed then looked around at his surroundings. "Speaking of slums... what are we doing here?"
"Many of the people who frequent St Andrews homeless shelter are squatters at these abandoned houses. It's a derelict neighbourhood. I'm making the assumption that they are likely to still be here, and may be able to give us an indication as to what is happening at the church. You... stay here with the car." Henry ordered.
Spike leaned back against the side of the car and buried his hands in his pockets. "Fine by me. By the looks of that place I reckon I'd likely fall through the floor and accidentally stake myself. I doubt it needs the dust.. and I don't wanna find out if vampires need tetanus shots."
Henry rolled his eyes and headed up the cracked pathway that lead to a broken front door. He could hear the heartbeats of several bodies inside the premises. He headed in direction of a nearby room where he could hear the sounds of a person coughing and spluttering. He rapped gently on the door, it squeaked as it pushed open. "Hello?" he called out.
"What do you want? You don't belong here. Get the hell out." A voice rasped from the corner of the room, where a grey-haired man was hunched atop a dirty, old mattress. The white glow of the street light outside shone through the cracked and blackened window panes.
"I need some information. I'd appreciate your help." Henry suggested politely.
"I ain't gonna tell you nothing. Get the fuck outta here." The old man spat at Henry.
Henry swooped in close to the man, his eyes blackened as he pressed him firmly to the wall. He could smell a mixture of alcohol, halitosis and body odour from the man. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to resort to this. I want you to tell me what you know about St Andrew's Cathedral. Have you been to the shelter before?"
"I used to go there." The man replied compliantly.
"But not anymore?"
"No.. the place gives me the creeps."
"Some of used to go there a couple a' times a week.. but one of the priest's got all weird. Father Raymond... that's the one."
"He made us confess our sins y'know... before he'd let us eat. But if we hadn't done anything bad he'd drag us back out on the streets and tell us not to come back till we had somethin' worth confessin'. Some of the others started making sick shit up y'know... just so they could get some food... but not me I tell ya'.... he scares me. He changed.. he never used to be like that... Father Raymond used to treat us good."
Henry loosened his grip on the man. "I was never here tonight" he whispered before releasing the man. Reaching into his back pocket he pulled out his wallet and removed some bills, putting fifty dollars in the old man's pocket.
Spike was standing in the doorway watching Henry. "Neat party trick.. how come I can't do the mind control thing?"
"Because as I have already explained several times... you are not a real vampire."
"Maybe not... but at least I'm better lookin'."
Henry rolled his eyes as he walked past Spike and back out the front door. "Do you honestly think 'the powers that be' would give demons the ability to hypnotise? To make it even easier to kill and enslave their human victims?"
Spike pursed his lips and thought about it, following Henry back to the car. "No I guess not...but need I remind you that I'm one of the good guys?"
Henry unlocked the car and stared at the other vampire. "Do tell Spike.. how exactly did you manage to acquire a soul?"
"It was a recent upgrade. A very pricey optional extra I'll add."
Henry unlocked the Jag and both vampires got in.
"I wasn't aware that a soul could be bought. Surely that would defeat the purpose?" Henry asked condescendingly.
"Don't worry mate... I had to prove myself worthy, didn't get it at the bottom of a Wheaties box if that's what you're wondering."
"Intriguing... " Henry pondered as he stared out through the windscreen.
"What?" Spike stared blankly at him.
"A demon... actually seeking out a soul." Henry added.
"Well I did it for her.... for Buffy I mean. To convince her that I loved her, with soul and without."
Henry raised his eyebrows.
"What?" Spike guffawed. "No witty repartee from his majesty?"
"I do believe I may have just found a of degree respect for you Spike. Shame about your name." Henry turned the key in the ignition and started the car.
"Uh hello.. it's a nickname. My name is actually William if you must know."
"A much more respectable name. Even Bill would have been better choice of nickname than Spike."
Spike laughed. "There's just no bloody pleasing you is there? I'm guessing Ms Private Eye Nelson might have a little something to do with you being wound up like clockwork eh?"
Henry growled. "I need to go and feed. Perhaps I should drop you back at Vicki's office."
"Actually... I'm hungry too. Know anywhere in town I can get some pig's blood this time of night?"
Henry cringed. "Ugh... yes I do. I'll take you there if I must" he replied, before putting the car in gear and heading back towards the center of town.
Several hours later everyone had returned to Vicki's office. Coreen was sitting on top of her desk, Willow was still madly clicking away at the computer. Mike was sitting uncomfortably on Vicki's couch, one ankle resting on his knee as he suspiciously continued to watch over the group. Spike was perusing the various books on the nearby shelf. Henry was sitting against the window ledge, eyeing Vicki and Buffy as they both took command in the centre of the room.
Buffy clapped her hands. "OK so what do we know people?"
Coreen excitedly spoke up first. "Willow and I managed to find out quite a lot while you were gone."
Willow looked up briefly from the computer. "Yep....we think that the hell-mouth is under St Andrews Cathedral."
"How'd you find that out?" Vicki asked Willow.
"Well we discovered that the back in the mid seventeen hundreds there was a group of prominent town folk who formed a Hellfire club. Y'know.. a group of pretentious rich people who thought it was cool to perform satanic rituals and participate in human sacrifices in order to summon demons and the like."
Henry stood up and stepped towards the women. "I'm all too familiar with the existence of the Hellfire Club. Astaroth has had many affiliations with them in the past."
"Well ..." Willow continued. "The Toronto chapter setup shop on the piece of land that is now where the church is located. The club dug into the earth and carved a seal into a huge stone slab and used it as a centrepiece for their activities. Fortunately the God-fearing citizens of the town eventually became aware of what was going on.... and the group members were basically hunted down and hung in a mass lynching. The local priest claimed the club grounds and blessed the area, later building a church over the seal in order to protect it from anyone with evil intentions. The little church over time evolved into St Andrew's Cathedral as it is known today."
"So you think Astaroth is trying to get to the seal?" Vicki asked. "But he's a demon! Surely he wouldn't be able to get into the church in the first place?"
Mike cleared his throat. "I spoke to Kate, she said she spoke to a Father Raymond Cascioli at the church. She said he was acting a little suspiciously when questioned about the disappearance of one of the priests."
"And we spoke to a homeless man who seemed genuinely afraid of the Father Raymond." Henry added. "He said that the priest had changed, and wouldn't let him in to the shelter unless he confessed details of a sin or crime he had committed.... and when the sin wasn't dirty enough he kicked him back out on the street. It sounds like Astaroth to me."
Vicki sighed and crossed her arms. "So I guess a demon in a holy man's body can access sacred ground. Must be a loophole."
"Umm guys... " Willow cried out urgently from over at the computer. "We have a problem. A big problem. We need to get to the Cathedral....now!"
"What is it Will?" Buffy asked, concerned.
"If the information I am looking at is correct it indicates that Astaroth can perform a ritual that will open the seal to the hell-mouth on the summer solstice."
"What's that?" Vicki asked.
Henry stepped in to respond. "Basically its the time of year when the earth's current axis means our hemisphere is pointed foremost towards the sun. Means shorter nights for us vampires, and longer days for humans to enjoy."
Willow was flustered and stressed. "Yeah... but the solstice is now!! Or more precisely at midnight!"
Vicki looked at her watch then began to panic."That's in half an hr!"
Buffy looked around at everybody in the room. "No time to waste. Lets go."
"And what are we supposed to do when we get there?" Vicki asked.
"We kick his ass back to hell. That's what." Buffy replied.