Buffy was leaning against the back end of her car waiting for Mister Lacking Small Talk to show up. She had no doubt that he would drive up at five thirty on the dot. She had stopped at a KFC for dinner. She hated the food choices she had when making trips like this. She continued to hope at the end of each trip that it would be her last but new slayers kept popping up on the Council's radar. So long as she was stuck making these trips unless she wanted to spend a fortune at places like Applebee's she was stuck eating fast food. She was no gourmet chef, but she was getting pretty good at making pasta without burning the noodles. That was about the extent of her culinary wiles.
A bright and shiny black SUV pulled into the parking spot next to her and three men got out. She thought she looked pretty stylish dressed in her black leather pants, white top and black leather jacket that Angel had given her forever ago. She had nothing on these three men, though; each and every one of them absolutely put her to shame.
"Wow," she said with a slow exhale of breath as she checked them all out. Ranger was by far the most attractive, but they were all fine men.
"Tank, Hal this is Buffy." Buffy heard the amusement in his voice as Ranger said her name but his face displayed nothing.
"You sure do have a knack for taking the helpless ones under your wing," Hal said while the other one, appropriately named Tank just stared forward. He had sunglasses on so dark she could not see his eyes behind them but she could tell that he was giving her the once over. And it was not in a sexual way.
"I'm not helpless," Buffy said simply. "It's easier to have people who know the town help. I'm from LA, so Trenton is Siberia as far as I'm concerned."
"Thought you said she was from Cleveland," Hal said.
"She lives in Cleveland but is from LA," Buffy said. "Are all the guys you hang out with like you?"
Ranger just shrugged, Buffy took that as a yes.
"Okay, am I following you or what?"
Ranger glanced at her Jeep that had seen better days and just smiled with a shake of his head. "Leave the Mom-mobile here."
"Why does everyone make fun of my car? And I'll have you know it was my mother's. Who is dead now," she added, hoping to get some reaction out of him.
"You should have buried the car with her," he said, with a slight hint of a smile.
"Very nice," she said, grabbing her duffle bag from the back of the Jeep and walking to the passenger side of the SUV. She assumed she was going to sit in back, but wondered with as big as the other two guys how either of them would fit. She saw her reflection in the dark tinted windows and the spotless car. The paint job was amazing. She was not a gear head but she knew enough about cars to know this one cost a good chunk of change.
The man named as Tank, a nickname Buffy was hoping, took the duffle bag. "I got it," she said, getting defensive at the idea that these men thought women were so hopeless.
"Just going to put it in back."
"Oh. Thanks," she said.
She sat in silence as Ranger drove the SUV on the road. She felt Tank's gaze on her and turned to regard him. He was a scary guy. They were all scary guys when it got down to it. Mercenary came to mind but she doubted the Council would get mixed up with those kind of people. Not with Giles in charge anyway. Quentin Travers would not have batted an eyelash. "Is there a problem?"
"Does this girl look like you?"
"If I knew what she looked like I wouldn't need you, would I?"
"I'm not testy," she said and turned to look out the window. "Do any of you know who you're doing this job for?"
"Watcher's Council," Ranger answered. "They're over in England."
"Do you know what we do?" Her question was met with no response. She sighed heavily and realized there was no way these guys would believe her if she told them. The government had been aware of the monsters, they had not been aware of the Council or slayers.
"So tell us, Bunny."
"It's Buffy." All three men snorted and she grew quiet. It was past sunset now. A good thing about winter in states like New Jersey, a slayer did not have to wait until god awful hours of the night to patrol because the sun set early. This could also be seen as a bad thing because it stayed darker longer so the vamps could be out longer.
"Take me to the park that has seen the most action lately."
"You're not armed and you don't have a vest."
"I have weapons," she said simply. "And I don't need a vest. If she can take them out without damage so can I."
"You know who this is then?"
"I know what she is."
"Because I am one, too."
She took a deep breath and sighed. "A slayer."
No one said anything, no questions were asked. Buffy did not know how to take that. Did that mean they believed her or that they just did not want to hear what she had to say? She wished she knew, but did not really want to get on their bad sides, not until she saw what she was dealing with.
Ranger stopped in a part of town that Buffy ordinarily would not be caught dead in. She did not need to know Trenton to know that this was the slums of the slums. Every city had them and they were easy to spot pretty much anywhere. One slayer had been in the projects in Chicago. That had been a hard retrieval because no one wanted to help her with the job.
She stepped out of the SUV thinking that Ranger did not seem the type who would back down from that retrieval. "Do you travel?"
"Do you leave Trenton?"
"Good to know."
"You haven't even seen us in action yet."
"I don't think I need to," she said as she took in the three men standing before her. They looked like Rambo, different styles of Rambo but she thought of war movie action heroes when she saw them. She opened her duffle and took out a few stakes which she stuffed into the waistband of her leather pants. She grabbed her crossbow and a few quarrels. "Is this armed enough for you?"
"Around these parts, Muffy, we use guns," Hal said.
"It's Buffy and what I hunt guns don't hurt."
"So long as you know how to use that thing."
She shook her head slightly. "So, tell me what damage she's done so far?" Buffy asked as they walked toward the park.
"There have been seven so far. That we know of." Buffy glanced sidelong at Ranger, surprised he had volunteered the information. He was not much with the talking so she had expected one of the other two to answer her. "Critically wounded, one that I know of was pretty near dead. That was the last one."
"She's getting worse then."
"Looks that way."
"Here's the deal," she said to the three men. "I'm taking custody of her. No one's died, so the police don't need to be involved."
"She's beaten the crap out of more than a half dozen people."
"All of them gang bangers from what Giles told me. This will end as soon as I find her. No one's dead, the police will just think the vigilante has moved on. She'll be my problem then."
"What if she tries to kill you?"
"The reason she hasn't been caught, the reason she won't get caught unless I'm here is that because cops aren't going to understand what drives her."
"And you do?"
"The mission," she said simply. "It calls to you and if you don't know what you're supposed to use the power of the mission against you'll use it against something."
"You talk a good talk."
"Don't worry," she interrupted Tank before he could finish. "I can walk the walk," she said with a roll of her eyes. "Been doing it for close to nine years now. Now, do you want to talk war stories or start working on making our retrieval?"
"You do know how to pick the spunky ones, no matter how hopeless they might be."
"He did not pick me, we picked him because he came highly recommended. Now, how many have been found at this park?"
"All of them," Ranger said.
"Any reason? Could she live around here?"
"Possible, but doubtful. The folks in this neighborhood generally don't turn on their own."
"Unless something happened to her or someone she knows that she couldn't stop. Until now."
"And all of the sudden she starts kicking gang banger ass?" Hal asked.
"She would have suddenly gotten unbelievable strength, basically overnight. So, yes, all of the sudden. She probably wasn't sure if it would stay or not so didn't come up with her plan until recently."
"How?" Ranger asked.
"A spell," she said simply.
"I'm taking a lot on faith here, Buffy."
"So am I," she replied. "I never liked the idea of bringing civilians in on Council business." Her comment was met with snickers from all three men. "In my world you are just civilians I don't care if in your world you're mercenaries. And civilians don't understand my world and that lack of understanding gets people killed. But I'm just Retrieval Girl, I go where I'm told, retrieve who I'm told, and work with who I'm told to work with."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com