It was a good warehouse.

It was a GREAT warehouse.

It was a warehouse that for five years running had received the highly coveted quadruple death's head award in Willy the Snitch's 'An Insider's Guide to Sunnydale - Where to Lurk, Plot, and Party With Your Friends (see page 8 for catering).'

This enormous building didn't stand out at all in its run-down neighborhood, which was basically the whole point. It was located in that part of the California town where Sunnydale Syndrome was really intense, causing people to conveniently ignore at night the truly horrific sounds emitting from the hulking structure. You know, the usual: screams, chanting, the tearing of dimensional barriers signaling the slime-sucking arrival of a soul-destroying abomination from the darkest depths of the cosmos, and the practicing of 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen' by the Sunnydale Scots/German Friendship Polka Band, heavy on the bagpipes and tubas. Concurrently.

The Hellmouth had a lot to answer for.

Anyway, the outside walls of this particular windowless warehouse were painted (or daubed, your choice) in a palette of forgettable brown, unnoticeable rust, and what-place-was-that? guano white, all such shades of amnesiac drabness that carried over to the institutional memory of whatever corporation, company, or person that owned the building. The taxes, utilities, maintenance/repair fees, and janitorial bills were absently paid on the dot, but nobody ever seemed to show up to actually run or inspect the place. It was quite probable that anybody who in fact had the responsibility of administering the location had been eaten years ago.

Naturally, the people (in the broadest sense of that word) of Sunnydale took full advantage of this ignorance. That specific warehouse soon became the place to go for whatever various nefarious, reprehensible, and disreputable activities anyone wished to carry out in the course of their shady business. The best part of it all was that the building's interior was absolutely perfect in every way, as agreed by the town's demons, monsters, unearthly creatures, and those members of The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Inside, surrounded by the begrimed walls that hid all the suspicious activities there from the outside world, massive wooden crates, covered with strange markings, sigils, and languages from every known and some unknown countries, were piled high, up into looming hills that disappeared into the darkness towards the ceiling. Nobody actually knew what was within the crates, and frankly, nobody cared. It was enough that these boxes were a lot more atmospheric than the usual prosaic metal and plastic containers. At and around the bottom of these small hills and into the piles of crates meandered various lanes, nooks, passageways, crannies, and corridors where the usual suspects could skulk, eavesdrop, prowl, hide from view, pounce, and have a nice game of canasta.

In the center of the warehouse, where that building's pair of wide main corridors met on their east/west and north/south axis, a large rectangular wooden table sullenly rested. Its surface scarred with numerous scratches, clawmarks, dents, and somewhat peculiar messages carved onto the top of the table (such as 'Kilroy Was Here - The Original') all revealed the dark reddish-purple wood of the aged-into-dinginess timbers that made up the table. This color also had the commendable quality of successfully hiding bloodstains.

This table was directly beneath the only windows of the entire warehouse, a large A-frame skylight, with that casement more than willing to join in the fun occurring nightly, by allowing anybody outside on the roof, or higher, who were looking downwards in the warehouse and its current inhabitants around the table to never expose themselves, no matter where or how bright the overhead moon shone, even if it meant totally disregarding the proper motion of that sphere in the heavens. Unless, of course, they actually wanted to silhouette their presence, sending a menacing shadow onto the tabletop below, striking fear into the hearts of those evildoers conspiring against the innocent citizens of Sunnydale (all seventeen of 'em).

That specific event wasn't scheduled yet. At least not for the next couple of minutes, so just hold on yer horses, buckaroos.

Instead, kindly direct your attention to the nice range of villainy currently standing around the warehouse table at this exact moment, several weeks after a certain Halloween. While not up to the classic recitation in the movie 'Blazing Saddles' of those prepared to bring wickedness and doom to the world, even Spike the vampire had to admit he'd managed to gather together as a fine group of malefactors as ever had joyously devoured human babies.

Of course, the British demon noted to himself, with these blokes, you always had to show them that you were the top dog, while also keeping in mind that murdering everyone there possessing the slightest spark of intelligence somewhat defeated the whole purpose of bringing together a crowd of monsters to finally kill that soddin' Slayer and her friends. No, you had to steer a middle course of getting total dimwits to listen to your plan while also dealing with those bystanders having a sudden flicker of ambition in usurping your position. Fortunately, he was bloody well capable of doing that, especially right now.

Keeping a bored expression on his face, Spike casually ripped out the tongue of the vampire hopelessly struggling in the headlock that blond Englishman was securely holding the other demon. That unlucky fiend's fleshy organ puffed into ashes a second later in Spike's grip, with the rest of the maimed vampire's body following right after into dust, when the former member of the Scourge of Europe used his other arm to tear off his victim's head.

"Now, as I was saying before that twit opened his big mouth," calmly stated Spike stepping out of the dust cloud towards the end of the table, past another heap of ashes resting on the floor and a puddle of demonic goo alongside this powdery mound (three challengers was about the average number at these meetings, anyway). "With the Mayor gone, this bleedin' town's ours for the taking. All you have to do is get rid of the Slayer and her gang, and then we'll rule the Hellmouth."

At hearing that specific pronoun in Spike's proclamation, various eyes and other sensing organs possessed by the demons there listening to this now shifted, to nervously examine the remains lying there on the warehouse floor, the last residues of those who'd just defied the vampire now coolly lighting up a Silk Cut. It was unanimously agreed by these monsters in the privacies of their minds that 'we' meant 'me, and I don't give the slightest tuppenny damn if you got a problem with that.'

On the other hand, claw, or talon… If Spike actually had a decent idea that did manage to accomplish his proposal, then there would soon be more than enough blood and bodies to glut the hungriest demon. So, it only made sense to give him a chance to outline his strategy, and if it sounded feasible and did in fact succeed, well, then that vampire could always be given a holy water enema in the future as a reward from his appreciative followers delighting in their triumph.

Smirking through his cigarette smoke at the rest of the monsters so obviously planning their imminent treachery, Spike leaned forward to rest his palms down onto the tabletop. Sweeping his eyes around the foul host cautiously awaiting his latest scheme, the Englishman shifted his fag to the corner of his mouth by his lips alone, with that cancer stick bobbing along in time with his next muttered words. "Right, then, here's how it goes…"

At the far end of the warehouse table, two other vampires ignored all that was being discussed over there among the big boys. Frankly, that pair were just there to make up the numbers, with both of the demons standing there cheerfully accepting the fact they were last on the pecking order, which suited them just fine. As long as they got a young virgin or two for dinner every once in a while (female or male, either was fine), Chuck Tell and Ron Cheroskee were content to be the vampire muscle for their demonic bosses. Taking the opportunity when nobody was paying any attention to them, Chuck leaned over to his friend and whispered into that vampire's ear. "Hey, Ron, you heard anything new about what happened to the Mayor?"

Ron shrugged, glancing over at where a fascinated mob of some of the worst beings in existence were engrossed in Spike's plan. He looked back at his comrade in unlife, shaking his head. "Nope, just the same rumors about what they found stuffed deep in that guy's throat."

"What?" blurted out Chuck, his face a mask of confusion. "I, uh, heard that it went waaaaay up you-know-where."

Ron blinked, now as befuddled as his friend. "Where?"

Chuck cautiously eyed his superiors in villainy down the table, with these now beginning to have delighted grins showing all their fangs as they clearly appreciated what they were hearing. Turning back to Ron, Chuck said a bit uncomfortably, his body shifting to mirror his uneasy tone, "Uh, where the sun don't shine, if you get my drift."

Ron was really baffled at this moment. "What the hell are you talking about? Was the Mayor a vampire, or what? Because that doesn't make sense, when I heard he choked to death, his air supply cut off-"

"Hey," interrupted an argumentative Chuck, "I got it straight from a guy at Willy's bar who swore to me that the boss demon who formerly ran this city had a fatal rupture of his guts-"

Smack! A pair of hands abruptly clapped down on the outer shoulders of the arguing vampires, as a jovially threatening voice spoke in a Cockney-style accent. "You blokes want to tell us just what you were nattering about? I'd hate to think we were keeping you wankers from such an important debate. If you like, we can adjourn our meeting and listen to you, instead." Spike leered that last statement into the horrified faces of Ron and Chuck hastily twisting their necks around to look at where the English vampire was now standing behind them, his gripping fingers beginning to dig into the tops of their shoulders.

Since they were already dead, it wasn't possible for the features of the two caught unawares vampires to become even more pale in fright, even when they abruptly jerked their heads around to look up the table, where their superiors were now giving them both evil smiles of combined irritation and amusement. Irritation because of Spike suddenly interrupting his delivery of a most interesting and workable plan to them, to then quietly stroll towards a wrangling pair of demons absorbed in their own dispute. Amusement at what was going to happen to those two idiots in the next few seconds.

As Spike now lifted his hands off the shoulders of those soon-to-be-even-deader tossers, preparing in the next instant to grab them both by their skulls and play a game of vampire conkers, he, along with every other demon at the table suddenly froze in absolute astonishment at hearing a merry voice beginning to loudly speak, coming from behind the west stack of crates on the edge of the corridor containing the table. Not only was this voice inexplicably cheerful about being in the presence of at least a dozen ferocious fiends, all sworn enemies of humankind, which certainly included the owner of that voice now happily chortling, "Last night, I shot an elephant in my pajamas and how he got into my pajamas, I'll never know!"

Right after that absurd announcement, a very strange…person then skipped out from behind the crates into the corridor, and then coming to a halt to simply stand there and beam through thick glasses with black frames at all the gaping spectators staring at him. Every demon there boggled at seeing a skinny human male, his age perhaps in his mid-twenties, and dressed in a close-fitting light-purple unitard, with darker purple boots, shorts, and a cape over his front and back that was slashed into wedges of also dark-purple fabric hanging nearly down to the man's white belt holding up his shorts. Most baffling of all, the man was wearing on his head a most peculiar dark-purple hat that covered all his skull and consisted of a leather cap with a dozen strips of this material attached to the top of the headgear and now dangling down to his shoulders, with all of these long, flat leather strips having a tiny, dull-metal bell fastened to their ends.

Grinning widely, the human then performed an expert cartwheel, with his headgear thrashing around during this gymnastic feat and causing the attached bells to gaily jingle throughout all this. As the interloped landed effortlessly back upon his feet, he spread out his arms to then deliver the totally incongruous declaration, "Hey, I just flew in from New York, and boy, are my arms tired!"

After hearing that, Spike finally dropped his hands back onto the shoulders of Ron and Chuck, to firmly push them towards this…this…whatever, while ordering in a no-nonsense growl, "Kill that soddin' nutter, and don't take all bleedin' night about it!"

Fervently thanking their lucky stars for their narrow escape from what Spike had just been planning for them, the two vampires hastily nodded their acceptance of his annoyed command, shifted into game face, and then stalked from the end of the table towards the man still standing there and watching the pair of demons come nearer. That still-grinning prospective victim's only reaction to seeing his forthcoming death approaching was, strangely enough, his smile become even wider in absolute glee.