Part 2 "The Wedding"
The Vampire's Lair…
The couple sat on the couch in the darkened room. The light from the television flickered over them.
"Ernest honestly; 'The Crocodile Hunter'? How do you stand to watch this show?" The old lady turned to him.
"What do you mean? This show has reptiles and worms and insects all manners of creepy crawlies. I'm sure you'll like it."
"It's not that, just the Australian man who hosts the show…"
"Steve - the crocodile hunter himself?"
"Didn't you hear what he did? He put his own son practically in the gapping maw of a crocodile…" The old woman held a cat up to her sharp vampire teeth demonstrating.
" …and then pulled him out just before the crocodile could swallow him down." Demonstrating again she whisked the cat away from her.
"Oh! Oh really? I had no idea." He shook his head disapproving. "What amazing cruelty."
"Indeed, to offer a crock a succulent meal like that, only to pull it away at the last second."
"The man obviously cared nothing for animal rights."
"The right animals should lead us to him." Angel paced the floor.
"What?" Fred looked up confused.
"Look L.A. is a really big place. There must be loads of animals getting put to sleep on a daily basis. We just have to track those animals scheduled to be put down and we should find our guy."
"I'm on it." Fred started typing on the computer keyboard in front of her.
Gunn shook his head. "Supposing we find this guy, it's not like he's doing anybody any harm. I mean we ain't the A.S.P.C.A."
"I don't know." Fred typed away at the keyboard. "I think that animals are worth saving too."
"We won't be saving any animals." Angel grimaced slightly.
"But if we find this guy and stop him?" Fred objected.
"We still won't save any animals." Angel shrugged. "It's like he said to me outside the animal hospital, these dogs and cats are destined to be put down anyway, if he doesn't do it, somebody else will."
"Besides does it really matter whether it's a long needle piercing the skin or vampire's teeth?" Angel was nonchalant.
"Vampire bite's not all that bad 'a way to go, really." Spike interjected looking up from his magazine. "I mean it hurts a bit at first, but it's pretty good afterwards."
"I've been burned, bled, riddled with bullets, been crushed, disembowelled and partially dismembered. Those aren't much fun, and honestly I put a vampire bite in my top five of the most pleasant ways to die."
Top five, gee what's on the top of the list?" Gunn rolled his eyes.
"That'd be driven over a cliff by a pack of naked girls on roller states." Spike smiled coyly.
The group looked at Spike blankly.
Spike sighed. "You Americans aren't really much up on British comedy are you?"
"It still seems really inhumane what they do to all those animals every year." Fred frowned as she typed.
"Of course it's inhumane. They're not humans." Angel shrugged.
"I don't understand, if this bloke ain't really hurting anybody, why are you all in a hurry to find and kill him?" Spike asked.
"It's not him I'm after. It's whoever set me up." Angel rummaged through his war chest and pulled out a short sword.
"I'll make them sorry they ever messed with me." Angel ran his finger along the blade. "Me and my son."
The Animal Shelter…
"Son of bitches!" Fred walked in front of a group of caged animals.
"What?" Gunn squinted confused.
"Isn't that what they call male dogs?" Fred said innocently. "I mean if females are bitches then logically males would be called sons of the bitches, right?"
"Males are just called males Fred"
"Would you guys be quiet." Angel put a finger to his lips. "Anything so far?"
"As far as I can tell nothing has been removed from any of the cages." Fred shone a flashlight at the various animal cages surrounding her.
"You say he cleared out that other animal shelter, he might have enough to live on for a while." Gunn opined.
Angel's cell phone rang. The tune of Rule Britannia filled the air. "I just love these singing ringing phones."
Angel smiled anxiously as he reached inside his jacket for the ringing phone. "I have a different song programmed in for everybody so I always know who's calling me."
Angel frowned as he looked at the ringing cell phone. "But I must say that tune really bugs me."
Wolfram and Hart's…
"Dum ta dumm dumm - ta da ta da ta dumm. Dumm ta - la del la del la - ta da da ta dumm " Wesley hummed at he held cell phone to his mouth.
Wes furled his brow. "Angel? How did you know it was me?"
A loud squawking could be heard coming from the phone.
"Angel?" Wesley pulled the phone away from his ear. ""Yes, I know the potato famine was a terrible example of the British Empires rule over the Irish colonies."
"Yes, yes I know the British justice system unfairly prosecuted your Irish countrymen."
Wes closed his eyes in exasperation. "Angel listen, this is neither the time nor place to discuss this. I found a lead on our vet."
"Listen to this…" Wesley read aloud from the computer screen in front of him.
"Some days there's not enough cages to hold them…"
Angel looked at the cages filled with many different dogs and cats before him.
"Some days we have to pack them in two per cage." Angel heard over the earpiece of his cell phone. "The problem with that is when you have two territorial animals sharing the same enclosed space…"
Angel stared at one of the empty cages.
Inside the cage two cats rolled around on top of each other. Various large squeals and mews could be heard from the pair of fighting cats.
A hand reached into the cage grabbed one by the scruff of the neck. "Ok you two, cut it out!"
"Such a shame, the poor dears all cooped up together like that." A woman dressed all in black with a large black headscarf that covered her face, stood beside Ernie in his white veterinarian's coat.
"A shame? A tragedy is what it is." Ernie pulled one of the cats from the cage.
"We have thousands of animals every year coming through those doors." The doctor placed the cat on a flat white table in the middle of the room.
"We have perhaps a few hundred people looking to adopt a pet." The doctor took out a needle and held it up close to his face so that he could see it. A few drops of clear liquid emanated from the tip.
"This place isn't an animal shelter. It's like death row for creatures with four legs." Ernie frowned.
"No, that's not even true. People on death row are at least there for a reason." He said angrily.
"These animals haven't done anything wrong. They haven't hurt anybody. But that doesn't matter. They're being killed not because of what they did but because of what they are."
A cat's tail twirled in the air.
"No courts, No trial, none to appeal to for mercy. No clemency granted." The cat's tail continued to curl around.
"Just simple execution." The cat's tail stopped moving.
"For the simple crime of not being human." The cat's tail slumped down lifelessly.
"I despise humanity." The cat's tail remained motionless
"God, I hate them." The cat's tail just lay there.
"I hate myself." The doctor looked at the blood stained needle in his hands.
"This job." Ernie shook his head ruefully clearly shaken. "They say that more you do it the easier it gets."
"Well I've been doing it for over ten years now and it's not getting any easier."
"I've stepped over the graves of thousands of innocents." Ernie stared at the animals in the cages beside him.
"It's killing me." Ernie laid the needle down by the cats lifeless tail.
"Killing you?" The old woman pulled back the scarf covering her head to reveal piecing yellow eyes and a large protruding brow. Her grey hair was curled up in a bun at the top of her head.
"Maybe I could help with that." She smiled flashing her long vampire teeth at him.
The car pulled up outside a huge gate guarding the entrance to a large house that could be seen on a slight slope above it.
"We got the right place, I'm sure that house belongs to vampires." Angel stepped out of the car.
"How sure?" Fred slammed the car door behind her.
Angel kicked at a barred door built into the outside fence. A sign on the door read: Private Property No Trespassing.
Angel walked calmly through the gate he had kicked off its hinges.
They looked at the many different cats strewn around the yard, they walked to and fro.
"Look at all the kitties. The yard is littered with them." Fred looked around the yard astonished.
"Pew, it smells like they used the yard as kitty litter." Gunn held his nose.
Wesley looked at the expensive mansion above them "Mrs. Etta O' Garb, She was a major radio star in her day. She had it all and then decided to give it all up."
"No friends, no family, she spent her days locked away in her mansion, surrounded by her many, many cats." Wes continued.
"Obviously things haven't changed much." Angel looked around the yard.
"She's been a vampire for a while now. I'd say since the late fifties, early sixties. As far as I can tell her tastes lead her to dine exclusively on the feline population. She seemed to have had a very good line on those animals about to be euthanized." Wes elaborated. "Remember a few years back Fu-Massa the lion that attacked Freud of that magic act Siegheil and Freud?"
"Yeah they figured that he was too dangerous after the attack and he was scheduled to be put down." Fred nodded.
"Well Miss O'Garb didn't take it lying down, she took the lion down."
They looked at a large statue of a lion in the front yard.
"So how should we approach this big, nasty, lion eating, woman?" Gunn asked.
Angel rang the doorbell, it chimed. "Ding, dong."
An old lady answered the door. "Hello, come in, come in, all of you."
"Come in, let me get your coats." An old lady vampire, Etta O'Garb, invited the gang into the large front porch. Various cats milled about in the hallway.
"Er... thanks." Angel pulled off his long trench coat and handed it to her.
"I'm sure you already remember Ernie."
A vampire wearing a white vets coat reached over to shake Angel's hand. "Nice seeing you again father."
"Sit down sit down, make yourselves comfortable." The elderly woman pointed to the living room.
They all sat down awkwardly on couches arranged in the living room. Numerous cats crawled over everything in sight.
Etta O'Garb rolled out a tray with various cups and saucers placed on it. She handed each person a cup and saucer and placed sugar and crème on the table. "Here you go, sorry if the coffee is a little stale, it's been a while since I've had any visitors."
"Er. Quite a nice place you have here." Fred looked up. "I like the extra high ceilings; it gives the place more, ambiance."
"Yes I guess it does. You know when I had it built in the late 20's I really wasn't considering aesthetics much, I was more worried about acoustics. The high ceilings provide the perfect amount of reverberation."
"Yeah our friend Lorne, well he's a singer." Fred sipped her coffee. "He said the same thing about our old hotel lobby because it had high ceilings."
"You know I gotta say this is really nice and hospitable of you. I mean normally we don't get served tea and crumpets, we get knuckle sandwiches." Gunn laughed.
Angel concurred. "It sure would be great if we could sit down and calmly talk about our differences instead of getting involved in knock 'em down, drag 'em out, fistfights we have practically every week."
"I must say this is a real nice change of pace." Angel nodded.
Annie and Andy threw a tied up and gagged Wesley down on the floor before them.
Angel looked up at them relieved. "Oh thank God, I thought I'd never get a chance to hit something."
Half of Annie's face was blackened. Big burn marks stained the front of her dress. Andy's face was burned less then Annie's but his ear was shrivelled and blackened. It stuck out strangely from the side of his head and his hair was mostly burned away.
"This concerns no one besides the doctor." Anne stepped forward she carried two Japanese sai in her hands.
The gang moved to form a protective circle around Ernie.
Andy turned to Anne. "No, those concerned are beside the doctor, as one."
The pair walked slowly toward Ernie the doctor.
Gunn stepped forward wielding a large axe in both hands. "I don't normally like beating up on little kids."
"But I don't think you two are gonna be calling child protective services anytime soon." Gunn swung his axe at Anne.
Annie with practically no effort locked her sai around the handle of Gunn's axe as it came toward her. She pulled the axe from his grasp and used the handle from the sai in her other hand to knock Gunn on top of the head.
Gunn fell to the ground backwards toppling over Fred who stood behind him.
"Is he that able or just useless?" Annie stared intently at Ernie.
Andy blade in hand focused on Ernie as well. "Just that he is less useable."
Angel clashed his blade against Andy's.
Andy spun around and swung his sword. The sword cut into the back of Angel's legs.
The sword clattered from Angel's hand as he dropped to his knees.
Andy stretched out his sword holding its tip to the back of Angel's neck. Angel reached up and touched the red area on his throat.
Andy glanced from Angel to Ernie. "Is there still that soul?"
"There's a soul that's still." Annie walked towards Ernie.
"You couldn't just leave me in peace." Ernie stared dejectedly at the ground. "What do you want? Want can you want of me?"
"Is this not fitting enough a vengeance?" Ernie extended his brow, fangs sprung from his jaws.
"This is not vengeance, it was never vengeance." A woman hidden in silhouette entered the room.
The silhouetted woman stepped forward into the light. She slowly removed the black hood covering her head.
Blair's face was revealed. It seemed to shine with an intense luminescence. "It was love."
Ernest buttoned his shirt back up. He was sweaty and his hair was slightly dishevelled.
A female voice spoke to him. "Doctor, you certainly run a full service clinic." A black cat's tail curled around the air.
Ernie smiled slightly as he tightened the tie around his neck. "Well, we do aim to please."
"My God you're wonderful, you know that. I can't keep thinking how lucky I am to have met you."
"Yes" Ernie looked down pensively as he pulled on his white lab coat. "We're lucky to have crossed paths."
The cat's tail flailed in the air.
"It seems I've been waiting for thousands of years for the right man to come along."
"Still we're opposite, so very different from each other." Ernie tucked his hands inside his lab coat.
"So were lady and the tramp that never stopped them." The tail swirled around.
"People won't understand." Ernie said softly.
"People…hah, they never do." The black cat said licking her claws.
Anne and Andy stood on either side of Blair as she entered the room.
"Goddess Bastet." They bowed as she stepped before them.
"Bastet? The Bastet?" Wesley still tied up looked at Blair in awe. "Amazing."
"So I guess she ain't really a witchy woman name 'a Blair?" Gunn held his arm in pain.
"Bastet is one of the major gods of the Egyptian pantheon. A rather benevolent one for that matter, associated mainly with fertility and healing."
Fred shrugged. "Which in a way explains her involvement with the doc here."
Ernie looked at Blair/Bastet in utter astonishment. "No it can't be. You're dead. You're dead because I killed you."
Ernie's face was racked with pain. "I caused your death…"
"I should do it." Ernie tried to push his way past a group of people all wearing white doctors' coats.
"It's ok Ernie, the new guy is taking care of it." A doctor in a white coat slapped Ernie on the back. "We all know how much it bothers you to euthanize the animals, let someone else do it for a change."
"But what if he doesn't do it right. What if he hurts them?"
"Ernie he's going to kill them."
"Yes and they know it too. Do you know how terrified some of those creatures are when you hold them down?"
"They can sense it. They feel something's up. They know it." Ernie's eyes darted back and forth suspiciously.
"They know us for the murderers we are." Ernie whispered
"Murderers? Ernie are you feeling ok?" A doctor looked at him concerned.
Ernie's jaw dropped in horror. "Something's wrong."
A veterinary doctor stood in front of a door blocking Ernie.
"Out of my way." Ernie thundered.
"Earnest you're overreacting, I'm sure…"
Ernie pushed the vet violently to one side and walked past him.
He opened the door to the operating room to see a young doctor holding a needle in his hands. He looked down at the table. There was a black cat sprawled out on it, its tongue was hanging out.
"Oh no! It's the wrong one. You killed her." Ernie held his hand over his mouth aghast.
He grabbed the vet by the lapels of his white coat. "You killed the wrong animal. She's in the next room."
"What?" The young vet stammered.
Ernie vacantly opened a door adjoining the two rooms. In a similar operating room across the way a grey tabby cat sat on the table.
"You killed her." Ernie stared at the dead black cat.
He picked up the black cat delicately in both hands. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I let you die."
He held the cat tightly in his arms and began to cry.
He leaned against the wall and slowly crumpled to the ground, sobbing.
"I killed you. Oh God, it's my fault, I killed you. How will I go on without you?" He opened his eyes. On the table in front of him he eyes caught a glimpse of the hypodermic needle; blood smeared its tip.
He slowly reached for it, slowly picking it up.
He held it up before him, it still was over half full.
He depressed the plunger slightly and a stream of liquid flew from its tip.
Ernest looked stunned at Bastet. Suddenly Bastet began to change shape. Her head got smaller and her ears started to get pointy.
A small black cat leapt into Earnest's arms.
Earnest looked at it lovingly. "I thought I'd lost you forever."
The black cat spoke with Blair's voice. "I thought I lost you too. Why did you do that to yourself?"
"When I saw your lifeless body on the table, the reminders all the other lives I had snuffed out."
"The monster I had become…"
Earnest looked in the large wall mirror to the side of him. Ernest was not reflected by the mirror behind him, only Bastet could be seen lifted in his embrace.
"I couldn't bear to stare at myself in the mirror. Well let's just say it seems like the only just thing to do."
"It's just the thing to do." Andy shrunk down in size and formed himself into a stuffed toy boy.
"Just doing its thing." Anne shrunk similarly and flopped her doll body on top of Andy.
"I've known the worship and sacrifice, the dedication and devotion of your kind. Men have kneeled and grovelled before me countless times. But humanity never sees us gods as we truly are. Their scriptures are often corrupted making the gods in man's own image." Bastet, in cat form, spoke to the group.
"The Gods are not tame; they are wild creatures of ferocious intensity such as the tempest or an earthquake. The powers we wield are sleek and fierce and uncontrollable." Bastet grew becoming humanoid.
Bastet in the form of woman Blair yet with distinct feline facial characteristics embraced Ernie. "You saw beyond this face of a goddess to the wild at heart creature underneath it all."
"At heart we are all wild creatures underneath it all." Ernie stared back at her lovingly.
Ernest looked balefully at Angel as he embraced Bastet in his arms. "I'm sorry father; I assumed it was you who was responsible for my condition. I thought Annie and Andy were in league with you, I did not want to see the children, I wished to be left alone. Forever."
"To spend eternity wallowing in guilt?" Angel punched Ernest lightly in the shoulder. "Wow you really are a chip off the old block."
"So what happens next?" Fred asked.
"And by the power invested in me I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the cat goddess."
Ernie pulled the white veil from the front of Blair's face. Two pointed ears stuck up from her long black hair. Two cats eyes looked out at him, she smiled slightly, her nose moist and black, two canine teeth protruding from beneath her whiskered lips.
Ernie wearing his vampire face smiled back at her. Two sharp teeth protruded from his mouth as well.
They kissed each other. The crowd at the wedding cheered. Annie and Andy carried large baskets of flowers which they threw out to the assembled guests. Angel and the others from the gang were assembled in the front row of chairs behind them all sorts of weird animal headed creatures as well as other demons and sinister beings applauded the kissing pair. They threw rice into the air.
"For a Wedding after a Funeral" Magnus Parvus