For a Whedonland crossover challenge
Adelle knows there's something her new client isn't telling her, but she doesn't expect to have him turn out to be Michael Westen, ex-spy, who is intent on taking one of the Actives away - by force, if necessary.
"So, Mr Everwood," Adelle said, pouring tea. "Let's talk about your requirements."
The man sitting across from her smiled. He was in his early forties, tanned, with a scar on his left cheek. There was something about him that said military, Adelle thought, though he claimed to be just an Englishman with too much money and too little to do with it. She wished, for a moment, that Dominic was here; he'd understand that she heard warning bells, he'd triple check what Boyd had double checked regarding the man's background without making her feel paranoid.
"As I said, something a little unusual. I can have my pick of women, Ms DeWitt. Money is, and always has been, an attractive prospect for a bride. However I find that no woman has yet met my criteria."
Adelle ran an appraising gaze over him again; he'd worn his expensive sunglasses until the moment he'd taken his seat, slipping them into the breast pocket of an Armani jacket. He wasn't armed, because Boyd had swept him before leaving the client alone with her. Still, some people didn't need weapons.
Forcing her suspicions aside, Adelle passed Mr Everwood a cup. "Tell me your criteria and I'll see what we can do."
"I like Asian girls," Everwood said bluntly. "The family would never approve, but this is my fantasy, so point one, an Asian girl. Young. Twenty, twenty five tops. I want her to be compliant, affectionate."
Adelle nodded and sipped at her tea. "That can be arranged." The current Foxtrot would fit the bill; a delicate featured American of Korean descent, and twenty one years old. "However there must be something a little more unusual than that for you to request our services."
He nodded, leant forward, his gaze intent. "I want to save her," he said. "I want to be her knight in shining armour. I want a scenario where I rescue her, take her home, and she's so grateful we made love until the sun comes up."
There was something more truthful in these statements, and Adelle tipped her head. "Rescue her how, and from what?"
Everwood shrugged. "Slave trade. Mugging. Abusive husband. You work out the details. I just want to be the hero. I know how to handle a weapon; hunting, you know. Not foxes now, of course, but still. And in my reckless youth I had my share of bar brawls." He pointed to his scar, grinned. "Father made me take up boxing after I got this."
His accent wasn't quite right, Adelle thought, but her own had shifted somewhat after being in America for so many years and she knew colleagues who'd become positively French, Australian, or Canadian in accent since relocating. Adelle found her accent gave her a certain image that she cherished, of cool professionalism, so she'd worked hard to maintain it as much as possible.
"Anything else?" Adelle asked. "You still haven't asked for something that you couldn't acquire for a lesser fee from a high-class escort agency."
Everwood stared at his tea a moment. "I can tell when people lie to me," he said softly. "It's a gift, in business. It's a curse, personally speaking. The careless lies, the false declarations of affection, the smiles that they think hide their contempt."
There was a moment of silence and then he turned cold blue eyes to Adelle.
"I don't want a whore playing pretend. I want it to be real."
Satisfied at last, Adelle stood. "Very well. We can arrange this for you."
"I want to see the girl." Everwood stood too. He was tall, slim but muscular, and knew how to use his physical size to his advantage in intimidating. "I need to make sure she's appropriate."
"Very well." Adelle gestured to the door and he gestured back.
They exited her office and headed along the walkway to the stairs. Adelle glanced around. Hopefully Foxtrot wasn't swimming. Ah, no, she was painting. Good.
Adelle led the way to the art class. Sierra sat nearby, frowning in concentration as she applied broad pink strokes to an abstract looking design. Victor was sat cross-legged, dabbing tiny dots onto what Adelle thought was probably the portrait of a dog.
She crouched alongside Foxtrot and smiled warmly. "What are you painting, sweetheart?"
Foxtrot turned a beatific gaze on Adelle. "A dove," she said softly. "Do you like it?"
"It's lovely," Adelle said. "Foxtrot, come here a moment, please."
Foxtrot stood obediently and followed Adelle to where Everwood stood, staring.
"Foxtrot, this is Mr Everwood."
Foxtrot gave a deep nod of greeting. "Hello, Mr Everwood. Do you like painting?"
"Yes," he said, taking a step forward. "Very much." He tugged at the paintbrush Foxtort was still clutching in her hand and the girl released it.
"Well?" Adelle asked.
"I'll take her," Everwood said calmly. "Right now."
He moved swiftly, and suddenly the pointed end of the brush was digging into Adelle's throat, and Everwood had her pressed against him, his arm around her neck.
"Dana," Everwood said. "You have to come with me."
Boyd had already noticed the situation, was dashing over, gun drawn.
"Let Ms DeWitt go," he ordered.
"You're not going to shoot me and risk hitting your boss," Everwood said. "Code Red."
"Don't count on it," Adelle said bravely. "Take him out, Mr Boyd. I've been shot before. Just try not to hit anything vital."
Boyd hesitated. Other security staff were approaching.
"I can puncture her throat," Everwood warned.
Topher came running downstairs, saw the commotion, and skidded to a halt, almost running into Boyd.
"Um, I know this is a bad time," he said. "But, um.."
"Spit it out, Topher," Adelle said.
Topher opened and closed his mouth a few times. "Security breach. The elevators. And we're in lockdown."
Ah, the code red that Everwood had ordered; she wondered how he was communicating with his backup.
"I barely got out of my office," Topher complained. "My door isn't supposed to lock automatically."
Two of the security guards had moved to the elevator. There was a ping as it arrived and the doors slid open. Smoke poured out of it and the guards began coughing and choking. Soon they were unconscious on the floor.
"Topher, can we talk about this later?" Adelle asked, as if she weren't being held hostage, but was in the middle of a rather important meeting.
He nodded and looked anxiously to Boyd, waiting to see what would happen.
"Mr Everwood, or whatever your name is," Adelle began, hoping to reason with him, "I don't know what you think you know, but Foxtrot is unaware she was born Dana Park, and she has no desire to go with you. You will accomplish precisely nothing by taking her from here in her current state."
"Yeah, well, I'm only concerned with taking the body back to my employer," Everwood said. "If you've stolen her mind, that's going to be on you. When they know for certain you had her, I'm sure they'll come back and finish you off."
"The Rossum corporation is more powerful than you can imagine," Adelle said. "Your employer will find themselves in serious trouble over this."
"Again, not my concern." Everwood glanced around. "Foxtrot, come with me."
Sierra and Victor had taken cover when the security had shown up, but Foxtrot had stayed exactly where she was. She frowned.
"But I want to go swimming," she said. "It helps me be my best."
Everwood made a noise of disgust. "Foxtrot, my name is Michael. Theresa sent me to get you. Going home will help you be your best."
"Don't listen to him," Topher said. "He's a liar. A lying McLiar pants."
Foxtrot just looked even more confused.
"What …please notice I have a sharp implement pointed at your employer's throat," Michael said.
Topher shrugged. "Not really the first time we've had security problems," he said.
"Topher, please don't badmouth the Dollhouse to clients," Adelle said. "Even insane liars like Michael here."
There was a crash from upstairs. Adelle wanted to look, but Michael's grip didn't allow it. A moment later a female voice shouted down from above.
"Drop the weapons."
"About time, Fee," Michael said.
"Sam said he misjudged the C4," the woman replied. "I don't think the elevator will be safe to use for a while."
Boyd glanced up. Neither he nor the remaining security guard had a clear shot at either of the intruders. Additionally, the newcomer was wearing body armour, including a helmet, and was leaning an automatic rifle on the railing to point at the Dollhouse guards. The lockdown, intended to contain a suspect, was now also preventing backup from getting to him, plus half the guards had been assigned to escort Kilo on a very unusual and potentially dangerous assignment. It could be a while before anyone came to help.
"We just want the girl," Michael said. "I don't know why they want her, only that my very secret and powerful employer has ordered me to fetch her, and even gave me super-special authorisation to come to Los Angeles. I haven't been out of the state they dumped me in for months, so believe me, Ms DeWitt, when I say that this is a huge deal. If I do it right, I get to go on working for them. If I screw it up, maybe they punish me - or someone I care about. They didn't say to bring her and her memories, they said bring her back safely."
Adelle made a noise of dissent. "Well, it's your funeral if they wanted Dana and not a Doll," she said. "Unless of course they do only need her body. Identification purposes, perhaps – though a signature will be out of the question. She can't even write her Active codename in crayon. DNA, though, I can see that being useful. But why take the whole thing when if this was their plan, you could have gone on your little date and swabbed her cheeks, pulled some hair strands? Come to think of it, Michael, why didn't you simply take her on the date and abscond with her?"
"Ha!" The woman upstairs laughed. "See, Michael. I told you that was a better plan." She sounded American but with a hint of an Irish accent.
"Yeah, well, the funds aren't real," Michael said. "They look real, but they're not, and that will become obvious in about ten minutes time. You'd have cancelled our 'date' as you put it, before I'd have gotten Dana out of the building. Now, let's look at the situation. Two of your guards are unconscious. The building is in lockdown. I have this pointy object at your throat. Fiona up there has a gun trained on your head of security. My special forces backup has by now rigged several of your vehicles to explode, which will cause an alphabet soup of agencies to swarm on your parking lot, fearing a terrorist attack. Your best chance of all this going away, is to order Dana to come with me."
Everyone stood very still for a moment.
"Dana came to me of her own accord," Adelle said. "Topher, explain to Michael the circumstances, please."
Topher rolled up the sleeves up of his red and blue check shirt nervously. "Um, Dana wouldn't tell us the particulars but she said she'd seen and done things she wasn't proud of. She said five years would give her some distance, some perspective. Then maybe the nightmares and hallucinations would go away. I'm thinking PSTD."
"She came to us," Adelle said, "because her employers weren't able to provide her with appropriate debriefing." Michael had slackened his hold just a little and she found being cradled against him wasn't unpleasant. He smelled musky, and his warm, strong, arms held her securely but not painfully. Under other circumstances Adelle might have been rather taken with him.
"You think you're doing something good?" Michael asked.
"I rather think we're all well beyond concepts of good and evil," Adelle observed. "What are you, Michael? Covert Ops?"
"I used to be a spy," he said.
He gave a humourless chuckle. "Let's say it's more like freelancing, but without the part where I'm free to choose. Now, Ms DeWitt, does Sam destroy thousands of dollars worth of vehicles, or do I get to walk?"
Echo was due back in a couple of hours, but the lockdown signal would have gone through to all the handlers, Ballard included. He might decide to disobey the "stay away until further notice" order and instead come to their rescue; his FBI credentials had once before saved the LA Dollhouse from government interference. It was a long shot, and Adelle didn't like long shots.
There was a ringing sound. Michael made an embarrassed cough.
"Um, I kind of need to take this."
"I am not preventing you," she said dryly.
"It could get awkward."
"No doubt." Adelle looked directly at Boyd. "Lower your weapon and take two steps back," she ordered.
He looked as if he might complain, but did as she asked. The other guard, at Boyd's hand gesture, lowered his gun too.
"Better?" Adelle asked.
"A little." Michael moved so his arm wasn't at her throat, but wrapped instead around her waist. There was some jiggling about as he reached into his pocket and took out a tiny cell phone which he flipped open. "Go ahead."
Adelle leant back against her captor, tipping her head so she could see his expression. She watched as astonishment fought with anger across his countenance.
"Yes, I'm looking right at her! You have got to be kidding me!" His voice was tight with contempt. "No, I get it. …no kidding! Thanks for nothing."
"Problem?" Adelle asked sweetly as Michael replaced the phone in his pocket.
He favoured her with a white-toothed grin. "You know how bosses are," he said, matching her faux-happy tone. "Always changing their minds. You can keep Dana."
The woman leant over the railing, long brown hair swinging forward in front of her face. "You mean we broke in here for nothing?"
"Not now, Fee," Michael said, still falsely cheerful.
Adelle took pity on the agent. She, too, had been left to the wolves, before now. She could sympathise.
"Possibly this was a warning to Rossum," she said. "That your employer can have someone in their employ get to us. Or it was a test of your abilities, perhaps?"
"Or checking up on intel to see if it's correct, see if you really had Dana at all," Michael agreed. "So much for my rescue mission."
"Then I think you should be on your way."
Michael glanced at the stairs and Adelle shook her head.
"You drag us backwards up those, especially with me in these heels, and someone's going to get hurt," she said firmly. "I will escort you safely out. You have my word."
Fiona scowled. "Why should we trust you?"
"Because I've behaved like a good host, despite your hostilities, and if you know anything about me, it's that I am a woman of my word." Adelle frowned. "If you've disabled the elevator we'll have to use the emergency exit at the rear of the kitchens."
Michael shook his head. "Uh-uh. Not part of my plan. We'll go out the way Fiona came in. Up the stairs. Come on."
He kept one arm around Adelle as they climbed to the upper storey, but it was a show of his being in control rather than any real attempt to coerce her. Fiona kept her gun trained on Boyd the whole time, and brought up the rear as Adelle and Michael entered Adelle's office.
Glass was shattered all over the floor and the incoming breeze had disturbed Adelle's paperwork which had been on the desk.
"Sorry about the mess," Fiona said insincerely.
Outside the window was a window cleaning platform, presumably Fiona's means of entry.
"I hope you didn't hurt Jammer," Adelle said frostily. "He's a very competent cleaner, and very discreet."
"You know the nickname of your building's window cleaner?" Michael asked incredulously.
"I know many things." She turned to Fiona, one eyebrow arched.
The petite woman shook her head. "Just a little something in his Thermos. He'll wake up soon."
Fiona climbed out onto the platform and, while waiting for Michael, took out her phone.
"No, Sam, not even one," she instructed to Adelle's relief, though the British woman was rather occupied with Michael and couldn't eavesdrop as effectively as she'd like.
"You knew I was lying, didn't you?" Michael said. "How?"
Adelle smoothed at her creased blouse. "I have a lot of practice at lying and being lied to. Don't worry, you're rather good at it. I suspect you were under time constraints that affected your performance. Also, it might behove you not to fake an English accent to an Englishwoman; your British accent needs work. Finally, I wasn't sure what you were lying about, only that you were not telling me the whole truth, which is true for most of my clients."
Michael nodded curtly. "Well, thanks for the advice. Sorry for the inconvenience, Ms DeWitt."
"Adelle," she said. "After we've been in such intimate contact, I rather feel formalities are pointless."
"Michael Westen, Adelle." He climbed out onto the platform and gave her a mock salute. "Sorry, again, about the mess."
Adelle watched Fiona winch the platform down out of sight. Boyd came into her office.
"Are you all right, Ms DeWitt?"
"I'm fine." She strode over to the phone, hearing pieces of glass crunch beneath her heels. "I have some calls to make regarding Mr Westen; he is not the problem, whoever hired him to breach our security is. I trust you will arrange to have someone come and replace the window."
"Of course," Boyd said.
"And send someone to the roof, please, to check on Jammer, our window cleaner," Adelle said as Boyd made to leave. "And then the vehicles – "
"I'll secure the parking garage," Boyd promised. "I've got it under control."
Adelle made her calls, and had Topher send her Dana's file; once informed however, the Center wanted to handle this themselves and she was commiserated with, ordered to make some security updates, and then told to leave it alone.
Later, nursing a glass of whiskey, Adelle found time to wonder if Michael and Fiona had ever breached their professional boundaries and how any personal issues affected their work. She somewhat envied them their obvious camaraderie, something she'd had with Dominic and was still having to work on with Boyd.
Such thoughts were not healthy. Still, she let herself dwell a little, in recompense for what had been a hell of a day.