Faith, Hope & Charity
A Faith Lehane Mystery
So, was I really gonna go and murder my aunt to avenge my mother's death? Fuck yeah, but I didn't want to get caught this time. No fucking confessions, Aunt Florence could end up next to the mother-fucking pimp who probably ended up with the lion's share of the money anyway.
I was getting mixed up though. The pimp I took care of was much earlier, this would have to be a different pimp, if any. So I'd add another to the list of better off dead.
I dressed to go vamp hunting and stalked out my front door and threw my leg over the Fat Boy and fired her up. I cruised down the Long Island Expressway, trying to get into the zen zone so I could decide how to kill her. For some reason, the zone wasn't there, I couldn't center myself. I was full of nervous energy, all zooming around inside, making it impossible to relax, impossible to concentrate on my plan. Since I didn't have a plan I guess that wasn't a surprise. I should have turned around right there, I should have stopped, but I wanted only one thing – to kill my mother's killer. That I could concentrate on.
I drove up to Florence's building, but when I saw the doorman inside the brass and glass doors I immediately kept going. Not a good idea Faithy, I said to myself, what was I gonna do, sign in, make sure the cameras got my good side, and then go upstairs to commit murder? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Why was I having such a hard time with this? I knew what I wanted to do, and certainly wouldn't have any difficulty committing the deed, but one thing did bubble up over and over – don't fucking get caught! I did my time, I didn't need to do any more because this wasn't murder, this was just setting things straight, putting my universe back in order.
And when did I become such a staunch defender of my junkie mom? Okay, she wasn't much of a mom, but she was was the only one I had. If I hadn't run away from her my life would have been much worse; but I did run away, and even living on the streets my life did get better, so there's that. Except for the times things got worse, but I solved those times. I mean, with Buffy's help I did kill Kakistos in the end, and he certainly deserved to die. No one would think of locking me up for that, not even me. I suppose if the most staunch law and order guy wanted to charge me with something to do with Kakisto's death, it would be along the lines of hunting out of season, not really something that would cause much anguish.
I guess what really hurt was simple: if Florence had been sincere about helping mom, she could have have done some good, she could have ensured that mom did the rehab, and maybe it would have worked. Or maybe not, but she could have tried. That's what got to me.
Then there was that pimp mother-fucker I took care of after the fall of Sunnydale. I was out on one of my solo hunting trips, a venture across New England. It's funny how I remembered that guy – out of all the men that trooped in and out of my mother's bedroom, that one stuck in my mind. It must have been the way he hit her, or maybe it was the way he hit me. Anyway, his fucking face was burned permanently into my memory. So in between slaying vamps I tracked him down. I had planned carefully, I didn't just jump in and off the fucker; I followed him, learned his habits, learned his route. I figured the whole thing down to the gnat's ass – hey, I didn't read fucking poetry in prison, I listened to people and I learned. So anyway, after I confronted the pimp he managed to make me angry all over again, but I turned those tables and soon he was dead. I did it in the shadows, at around three in the morning, timed so I was near a large construction area of the fucking Big Dig, in between shifts. So it was easy to sneak the body in and bury him between huge concrete forms. The next day, shortly after dawn, they poured tons of concrete over his fucking grave. Now there was a killing I was proud of.
But this time I was going off without much thought. As I circled the block for the second time I noticed the doorman staring through the door at me. Shit, this wasn't gonna work. Instead of circling the block again, I turned towards Stone's place, which was only a few blocks south.
I parked and jumped off the bike, ran up the steps and pounded on his front door. After several long moments he opened up.
"So Faith, do I have to defend you for yet another murder?"
"No, not yet anyway."
"Good, come in."
"Did you call the cops on me?"
"No, but it was a close thing."
"Hmmm, yeah I can see that. If I found out about this even a couple of years ago, I don't think anything would have stopped me, and I'd now be cooling me heels in prison again. I guess this is what they call growing up, although it feels like shit to me."
"Look, your Aunt Florence is not going to get away with this, we'll file a complaint against her with the District Attorney, and we'll also file a civil suit against her. Although whether or not the DA brings charges is up to him – this won't be an easy win so they may pass on it. On the other hand, I wouldn't care to be the one to defend your aunt in court, so this could go either way."
"Hmmm," I said, "A lawsuit doesn't sound like it would be all that bad to her."
"Oh don't dismiss it like that, a lawsuit can mess up a person's life for many years to come. And I believe we may win. Anyway, it's better than killing."
I sat down on the couch, he sat next to me, I leaned against him. And we did nothing, we just sat there while time passed.
The next morning I was cruising back to my house when a bunch of cop cars suddenly surrounded me, forcing me to stop in the middle of the fucking expressway. They were extremely wary, pointing guns at me, shouting to put my hands up. It was clear I didn't have a choice in the matter. They handcuffed me and tossed me in back of a cruiser and took me back to a cop shop in the city. No one said a word to me.
I sat in the interrogation room, again, and stared at the cops across from me. I said, "I want my lawyer," and had been silent since. That's a magic phrase, they really do stop asking questions after that. But they watched me, I thought it was creepy.
So why was I here? I thought about everything I had done in the last month, and I just couldn't come up with anything that would warrant getting arrested. Unless, and this was a real possibility, they decided to charge me with assault on a police officer for disarming Randy the cop. But something told me that wasn't it.
Stone finally arrived. "We've gotta stop meeting like this."
"I know what you mean. The trouble is, this time I have no fucking idea why I'm here."
"They didn't tell you?"
"You've been charged with the murder of your Aunt Florence."
"What?! I didn't even see her, and I sure as hell didn't kill her!"
"Are you sure? You wouldn't lie to your lawyer, would you?"
"Of course not! I'm not an idiot."
"Okay, I'll go see what they have."
"Then I guess I'll get some sleep."
I woke up an hour later. An hour after that they decided to put me in a cell. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Eventually Stone and the detectives got back to me. Then they transferred me to Riker's Island. They didn't let me out for two weeks, so for those two weeks I'm getting one of those Third Person guys to tell this tale.
The three young slayers, Rikki, Davina and Evelyn were in the library, drinking hot chocolate, munching biscotti, and not talking much because of their glumness.
"So what are we supposed to do while Faith's in prison?" asked Rikki.
"I dunno, you suppose she's gonna get out or not? She says she's innocent."
"Yeah, yeah," said Evelyn, "they all say that, it's like a natural law or some shit like that."
"So you don't believe her?" asked Rikki.
Davina said, "You do? I mean, it's not like she hasn't done time for murder before."
Rikki said, "I believe her."
"You got a bad case of hero worship, Rikki-tikki-tavi."
"Don't call me that!"
"Or what? You'll hit me? Like you could!"
Rikki leaped up, high up, and came down on Davina. They fell off the couch and wrestled, rolling around on the floor and destroying a coffee table. Evelyn pulled her feet up out of the way.
Xander walked in and said, "What the hell is going in here?!"
"Xand!" wailed Rikki, "she doesn't believe Faith!"
"Really? And you do?"
"Hmmm. All three of you, ten laps around the fence – outside the fence. Maybe that'll cut down on your energy levels a little."
All three yelled, "WHAT?"
"Go on, out!" said Xander, "you need the workout."
"But it's almost midnight!" said Evelyn.
"So? You're Slayers, what does the time of the night matter to you?"
Grumbling, the three got up and headed outside.
At the end of the first lap Davina stopped. She said, "Hold up."
Rikki said, "But Xander said..."
"He's not here, he'll never know. I don't know about you two, but I think there's vampires that need to be slayed."
"In the graveyard, of course. Where else would they be?"
"Almost anywhere. Besides, where we gonna find a cemetery?"
"I googled it earlier today, about two miles as the crow flies, in that direction." She pointed inland.
Evelyn said, "Yeah, okay, I'm in. We'll run there and back, and it'll be about the same as running ten laps."
"I don't know," said Rikki, "are you sure about this?"
The other two grinned at her and grabbed her arms. "Of course we're sure! When have we ever led you astray?"
The three leaped smoothly across a drainage ditch and loped away into the night. Rikki said, "Have you two ever not led me astray?"
"And have you ever not let us?"
Five minutes later they walked through the unlocked gates of the local graveyard, all three laughing nervously at some silly joke. "Look!" said Davina, "who, or what, is that?"
They saw a young woman sitting on a park bench, painting her fingernails by a streetlamp.
"That's kinda odd, don'cha think?"
"What, a young woman sitting on a park bench?"
"Yeah, let's go talk to her."
They walked over, noting that she was really quite beautiful, in a vacuous blonde sort of way.
"Hey," said Rikki, "who are you?"
"Well that's for me to know and you to find out," she answered, tossing her hair back and waving her hand around with the fingers spread out to dry her nail polish.
"That's why I asked, to find out."
Rikki was worried about something. She pulled Davina aside and said, "I think I feel a vampire, over that way." She pointed towards the shadows of the woods to the south.
The girl on the bench scoffed, "Vampire? What have you girls been smoking? Or have you just watched too many episodes of that stupid vampire show."
"Hey," said Rikki, "that's a great show!"
"No it isn't," said the blonde. "I mean vampires that sparkle in the sun? Really?"
"Yeah, well, it's just entertainment and sucks to you. You better get out of here, it's dangerous here tonight."
"Sure, I could say the same for you."
"No you can't because we're prepared and you're not!"
"What was that!" said the blonde, standing up and suddenly looking small and worried while she pointed towards the shadows.
Eve said, "Don't worry, stay behind us, we'll protect you, that's what we do."
"You will protect me? Protect me from what? If he's a rapist and murderer we'll be a regular smorgasbord for him."
"No, no, don't worry, we will protect you. Stop worrying, we know what we're doing."
Two vampires had walked out into the open, spotted their prey, and stalked towards the girls.
"You just stand back out of the way and watch," Davina said with as much authority as she could muster, "we'll take care of this situation."
"Okay, I'll observe." The blonde suddenly became calm and collected, the three young slayers didn't notice; they were too busy concentrating on the vampires.
Two of them started trading punches with the two vamps when two more such creatures came out of the woods. Now all three girls were mixing it up, trying to stake the vampires. But they were not having much success because these were not newbie vamps. They all got thrown around, leaped when they could, got punched and tossed into gravestones. The blonde woman watched with hooded eyes.
Four more vampires came out of the shadows, circling the blonde. Davina noticed. "GET OUT OF HERE!" she shouted urgently, desperation tinged her voice from her position on the ground, struggling to keep from getting bit by a large and incredibly ugly vampire.
The woman stood still, her headed cocked slightly as if listening carefully, her whole attitude attuned to the night. Suddenly, two vampires attacked her from each side. She snapped her hands and two stakes fell from her sleeves into her palms. She instantly reversed her grip on the stakes and thrust them out and sideways, and the two vamps on each side of her turned to dust, having no time for anything but looks of surprise.
She stepped sideways smartly and the other two vampires, who had planned to rush her from the front and back, smacked into each other right where she had been standing. As they backed up, her hands flashed out again, and two more vamps turned to dust and blew away into the night.
Davina and Rikki, from beneath their angry vampires, were shocked at how easily the stranger had dispatched four vampires in as many seconds, and both wished for that same ease of staking for themselves. All three of the young slayers were frantically pushing their attackers away from their throats, kicking out, punching, twisting, doing everything they could to keep from becoming vamp food. The unknown woman unhurriedly walked over, casually threw two stakes into the backs of two vamps, which promptly dusted; Rikki and Davina both inhaled at the wrong time and started coughing. Evelyn's vamp was suddenly lifted from her, and tossed thirty feet onto a tree, a branch of which pierced the vamp's chest and he slowly dusted. The last one started running, really churning up the turf in his haste to escape. But it did him no good, the blonde flicked her wrist and another stake seared through the air, unerringly hitting the vampire's back and piercing his shriveled black heart.
"So," said the woman, turning back to the young ones, " I'm still alive and kicking and I didn't even break a nail, so I guess you guys did a pretty good job of protecting me after all."
The three younger girls got up sheepishly. "So," asked Rikki, "who are you again?"
"I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and you are? I mean besides in over your heads."
All three were astounded. "YOU'RE BUFFY?"
"We've heard of you, I thought you'd be bigger," said Rikki.
"Yeah," said Davina, "taller, like."
"And a hard-bitten hard-assed mother-fucker," said Evelyn, looking a little shocked at the language that came out of her own mouth. "I mean seriously, you're the senior Slayer? You're the one who's saved the world more than any slayer in history? You're so short!"
"Yeah, I wouldn't talk if I were you, you guys are even shorter."
"But we're still growing!"
"Uh uh. At the rate you're going, I wouldn't think you'd get much bigger before biting the big one." Buffy let them stew on that thought for a few moments. The she said, "Introduce yourselves."
"And I'm Evelyn."
All three looked down at the ground and scuffed their shoes in the dirt.
Rikki looked up, hero worship practically radiating from her eyes, "I'm ever so glad you were here, the help was much appreciated."
"Hmm, and just what did you think you were doing hunting vampires on your own? And on a school night, too."
Davina said, "Um, we were running laps and got bored."
Buffy laughed, "Running laps? Why?"
Evelyn said, "Cuz Xander got mad at Rikki and Davina fighting in the library and he told us to run the fence line ten times."
"Yeah," agreed Rikki, "and then Vina and Evie dragged me away."
Davina and Eve looked at Rikki, "What? You came away readily enough."
Buffy nodded her head, "Okay, I get the picture. Let's head back to the house."
"You're not gonna tell Xander on us, are you?" Rikki almost wailed.
"And just what do you think I should do?"
"Tell him you came across us running laps!"
"No, Xander would know instantly that I was lying."
Xander was sitting on the front porch, drinking a beer when the four strolled up.
"Buffy! I didn't know you were in town!" said Xander, getting to his feet to give her a heartfelt hug.
"Yeah, I heard Faith needed a hand, so I'm here."
"I think she's innocent..."
"We're helping her either way it goes."
"Yeah, Faith's done all right the last few years. We'll never be best buds, but we get along these days. She's proved she can watch my back."
"Yeah, we've run across each other a few times since the fall of Sunnydale – she has changed."
"Anyway," said Buffy, "I found your wayward charges fighting vampires in the graveyard and getting their asses kicked."
Buffy turned to the three and said, "Get to bed girls, I'm getting you up at four-thirty in the morning and we're gonna do some training."
"But that's only three and a half hours from now!" said Davina.
"So? You need more sleep than that?"
"Well, no, but I wanted to finish this book..." Rikki and Evelyn grabbed Davina by the arms and dragged her up the stairs.
Xander shouted after them, "No dessert for a week, and you're gonna wash dishes for Jacques!"
A couple of "That's no fair!"s floated downstairs.
Buffy laughed. "Come on, fill me in on what's going on around here. Who's Jacques?"
"You're gonna love Jacques – he's a national treasure. It all started..."