|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2008-11-03 23:59:00
The Players: Willow
This is part one of the second section of the story that began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part).
If you're interested, there's now an alternate version of this written in July 2009, posted as if 4th November, here.
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. It is being written as part of wrimowrimo.
The Players: Willow
Willow reached out for another set of files and her hand met, instead of the mouse, a hot mug of coffee.
Giles was standing at her elbow, she realised a moment later: he had put the mug down on the mouse pad, and was nursing his own mug of tea. He was looking down at her with raised eyebrows. “Dare I ask what, exactly, you have just spent five hours researching …on the first full day off we have had in weeks?”
“Five hours?” Willow stared at the clock. It was nearly 11. “Er… more like seven hours.” She drank the coffee, looking up at Giles. “Well… eight. I couldn’t sleep.”
Giles sat down. “Well, was it worth it?”
“I don’t know.” Willow looked at the collection of files on her screen. “I found out who Richard is… was.”
For a moment Giles looked exceptionally interested, and then his face flattened out into customary calm.“Richard who?”
“Giles,” Willow protested.
“You mean the fellow that Sam seems to have… bought.”
“I thought he was very handsome.” Willow ducked her head to hide a grin.
“I suppose,” Giles said. His tone of voice said he was humouring her. “If you like that kind of rather obvious masculinity.”
“Maybe Sam does. Or maybe he bought him for some other reason.”
“Well?” Giles waited. “Are you going to tell me who he is?”
“His name’s Richard David Kimble,” Willow said proudly. “He’s a vascular surgeon. Or he was. He killed his wife five years ago. I found his employment record at Chicago Memorial Hospital, and I just got hold of his trial transcript, and I found the news feed for the night his wife was murdered, and loads of other stuff. He did a tour of duty in the Marines twenty-five years ago.”
“He killed his wife?”
“Yes. Lady Helen Waverly.”
Giles looked startled, and then shook his head. “You know, Americans still bewilder me,” he said.”You fight a revolution to get rid of the British ruling classes, and then you turn around and invent your own. ‘Lady Helen’, indeed. What did this vascular surgeon do to her?”
“He bashed her skull in and then he shot her.”
“Did he,” Giles said, very dryly. “That seems a little …excessive.”
Willow made a face. “Well, he might have shot her and then bashed her skull in. The medical evidence in the pathologist’s report I read said it couldn’t be proved either way, but she’d died within about five minutes of her skull being broken.”
“Willow, do you ever think about what you’re saying?”
“Of course I do!” Willow thought about it. “Do you suppose Sam’s all right?”
“I have every confidence in him,” Giles said, dryly. “How did you find all this information on ‘Richard’? Are you sure it’s the same man?”
“Giles, it was the coolest thing!” Willow brightened up again. “I drew his face on the paintbook, till I had it right, and then I shopped the face down to the Commerce website’s basic beauty standards and then I searched on the pattern his face made with the name ‘Richard’ as one of the criteria, and there were only three slaves in the whole Commerce database who matched his facial pattern and name and two of them were the wrong age. No, it’s definitely him.”
“I understood not one word of that.” Giles lifted his hand. “No, don’t explain. Where did Sam buy him?”
“The Chicago arena,” Willow said.
Giles stared, mouth open. Mostly when Giles faked being startled, Willow could tell he was faking: this time she was sure he wasn’t.
“That …place?” Giles said finally, in a strangled voice. “Are you sure? Oh, dear Lord.” He got up, looked around, and found the phone.
“Who are you calling?”
“George, then Benton – we have to get out to the house and warn him – ” Suddenly Giles flung the phone down. “I’m an idiot,” he declared. “Of course Sam knows where he bought him from. But why did he buy him?”
“Well, people do,” Willow said. “Not convict slaves, that’s weird, but if Sam didn’t live where he does, he could have three or four slaves. If we didn’t live here – ” she flapped her hands at the tiny apartment – “we’d have to have at least one between us.”
Giles finished his tea, and went over to the kitchen counter to rinse out his mug. “Did you ever want a slave?” he asked, not looking at her.
“Yes,” Willow said. “Not now,” she added, clarifying. “But you know. It’s like asking ‘Did you ever want a car?’ or ‘Did you ever watch a baseball game?’ It’s how normal people live. You get a job, you get a car, you get a house, you get some slaves.”
Giles laughed, abruptly. “Living the American dream,” he said. “Do you think that’s why Sam bought this ‘Richard’? A murderer and a vascular surgeon – who survived for five years in an environment designed to kill him as bloodily as possible for mass entertainment?”
“No,” Willow said. “I said it was weird.” She looked down at her laptop. The screensaver had flicked on: the US Marshals star, spinning across the screen. “Maybe Richard’s got information on a case.”
Giles switched the kettle on. “And Sam’s planning to run an interrogation without any support? I hardly think that’s likely.” His tone of voice added But I wouldn’t put it past him.
“No,” Willow agreed, to both spoken and unspoken comments. She watched Giles. “The Trenton case is a big one,”she added, wanting to sound casual. “I gave the list to Sam.”
“Yes,” Giles said. “If you recall, I gave you some of the names.” He was looking in one of the cupboards.
“Yes,” Willow said.
“Is that why you couldn’t sleep?” Giles turned round and leaned back against the counter, looking at her.
“Yes,” Willow said. She looked down at the star turning lazily on her laptop screen, and moved her hand, making it vanish. The temporary access she had set up to search the Commerce database was about to expire: she began logging out and closing down, deleting her tracks as she went.
When she looked up again, Giles had come back from the kitchen area and was standing with his hands shoved into his pockets. He cleared his throat. “No one ever said it was going to be easy.”
“I know that.”
“It is our day off. Shall we go out? I’ll buy you lunch.”
The doorbell rang. Giles glanced at his watch. “I was hoping we could get out of here before this happened.”
“Before what happened?” Willow shut down her laptop completely and pushed it away.
“You know perfectly well,” Giles threw over his shoulder, and, as he opened the door, “Hello, Ray. Benton. We were just talking about you.”
“You were?” Ray glanced up at Giles as he came in, and broke into a beaming smile as he passed him. “Hey, Will!”
“No,” said Giles, and closed the door.
She and Giles had been Sam’s last recruits: the rest of the team had all been working together for over a year by that time. Ray had spent the first six months staring at her suspiciously, and the next six months being ebulliently effusive, while Benton was always exquisitely polite. And they were the normal pair of the team: an Italian-American and a Canadian-American, married for seven years. Chicago was far too cold, and the apartment that Sam had found for Giles felt cramped after the expansive rooms of California. Willow liked Dana, but both Adam and George scared her. Sam Gerard didn’t scare her, though she sometimes wondered why not.
Ray came over, gave her a close-up look of practiced admiration, and shook his head. “You look terrible, Will, you need to take care of yourself. You don’t eat right, you don’t sleep right – you want to come over to my house for dinner tonight? I’ll make pizzas. Giles, you should come too,” he added.
Benton had shaken hands with Giles, politely refused tea, and offered his hand to Willow.
“You want to know about ‘Richard’.” Willow said.
“How did you know that?” Ray looked honestly surprised.
Willow decided not to make the I’m a federal agent, I know everything joke that had occurred to her. Benton was intensely protective of Ray.
“Because you’re here,” Giles said.
Benton and Ray turned towards Giles; their faces carrying, for an instant, identical expressions of embarrassed apology. “Well, yeah,” Ray said.
“It is rather unusual,” Benton said.
“Unusual,” Ray said, sharply, sarcastically. “Look,” he was talking to Willow again. “I’ve worked with Sam Gerard now… six years. He’s never bought a slave. He’s had them sometimes in his house, you know, he’s got a holding cell upstairs – but there was always a reason. We always knew about the reason. This guy, he’s wearing a convict collar, Benton said –
“Yes,” Willow confirmed.
“ – and Sam just drives out yesterday afternoon, picks him up like a box of chocolates, and dumps him on us? Who is he? What’s he doing there? What are we going to do with him?”
“There is the obvious reason,” Giles said.
“No,” Ray said, vehemently.
Benton looked at him.
“Not Sam Gerard. Anyway. Will, can you do whatever it is you do to government databases and maybe find out who this guy is?”
“It is my day off,” Willow said.
“Yeah, what can I say? Make you the Vecchio Special Pizza for dinner? Take you out to lunch? What can I do for you?”
“I said that I wasn’t sure we should try to find out if Sam doesn’t want us to know,” Benton said.
“Yeah, yeah. Come on. Don’t tell me you don’t want to know.”
“I did find out who he is,” Willow said. She told them. Benton’s face went blank: Ray nodded sharply. “I remember that case. Big story, five years ago. So this is where the scumbag ended up.” He looked in a strange way relieved.
The doorbell rang. Giles lifted his eyes to the ceiling. “I wonder if we should put a sign outside?”
“We were driving out to see Melissa,” Dana said. “And we wondered if…” Her voice trailed off. The apartment was effectively one room: the bedroom had been, Giles said, a walk-in closet in an earlier incarnation. Even with the pull-down bed in its upright position, with four people the main room was crowded.
“No, come in,” Giles said; with six it was over-crowded. “Willow and I were just going out for lunch,” he added, over-loudly and over-emphatically. “Why don’t you tell Dana and Adam what they came for?”
“His name’s Richard David Kimble,” Willow said.
They were gone, and Willow and Giles were about to leave, when Giles said – hand on door stopping her from opening it – “Why didn’t George show?”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t think he needs my help.”
“No… perhaps not.”
Willow had been tested by the USNA federal government years earlier: she had known since she was fourteen that if she wanted a job working for the feds she could have it. Back then, Giles was the school librarian, a friendly, distant man: Willow hung out with the nerds and the smokers and didn’t have much to do with him, until the thing happened that killed Xander.
In California it would still be warm enough to go without a sweater: here, though it was only late autumn, they muffled themselves in scarves and gloves. This time last year, Willow thought, and realised she was almost beyond thinking that.
“We left Sunnydale a year ago next week?” she said.
Giles glanced at her. He’d owned a slave, one he’d bought in LA before he came to work in Sunnydale. After a couple of years, Willow had realised she wasn’t really a slave. She had been killed last year.
On this day last year.
Giles glanced away. Willow put her hand in his. “I’m sorry,” she said, out loud. “I just – I wasn’t thinking about the date.” She took a breath of the cold air, and said formally, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Giles looked down at her again, and put his arm round her shoulders in a brief, almost formal sideways hug. “Thank you.”
The girl had …died, and the thing had happened, and they’d destroyed the school, and she and Giles had got out of Sunnydale alive, and then Giles had got them to Chicago and a contact there… and a week later Sam Gerard had interviewed them both, rapid-fire questions at each of them separately and both of them together, and Willow had ended up working for the federal government after all. She just hadn’t expected it to be the US Marshals service.
There was an email from Sam when they got back: Monday morning briefing in armoury at eight fifteen. Don’t be late. Someone bring doughnuts.
to Part 2