Arsene looked up as their Practical Education teacher walked into the room with a large box. "Need help carrying? You can have Ishi. He's moping again," she offered generously. Ishi glared at her. "You are." She smirked at him.
"No, I've got it, dear," she assured her with a smile. She looked at the small class, counting heads. "Einhart?"
"Bathroom," most of the class chorused. The poor kid had gotten food poisoning a few days earlier so they all knew where he was hiding.
"Perfectly understandable. Someone explain this exercise to him when he gets here." She opened the box and pulled out a doll. "We're going to learn how to do childcare. Sometimes, you'll have a child during a hostage situation or even as your hostage and you'll need to learn how to deal with them. Children scream, cry, wet, fuss, poo, and all manner of annoying things, but if they're hurt then their parents will try for you, thereby causing a bigger problem." She saw the one student's hand go up. "Yes, Arsene?"
"For those of us who have younger brothers and sisters, may we be excused from this?" Arsene asked. All the students stared at her so she shrugged. "Goemon's got more kids and we've got little brothers and sisters. We've all changed diapers, walked the floor with colicky babies, and seen some of the most disgusting things in the world. Alex likes to lick ashtrays."
"Yu seems to like to lap dive," Ishi said with tolerant fondness. His little brother had tried to steal his girlfriend but had given her up for the reasonable price of a story and his teddybear.
The teacher smirked at them. "Then I'll expect your group to be flawless in this exercise."
Melissa looked at her, then at Lotus, who was scowling. "For some, it's probably not something we care to repeat," she said gently.
"I'm fine," Lotus said, still scowling.
"Lotus?" Ishi asked.
"I'm fine!" she snapped, getting up and stomping out.
Arsene looked at him. "Go find her. This'll be your duty." He nodded, getting up to track her. "Sorry, but her mother... well, let's say she basically gave up during her last pregnancy. Her mother was a bitch most of the time and got even worse during that one. She turned Lotus into the nanny, even though we had one. Fujiko wouldn't let her help and forced Lotus and us to help because she refused to do anything."
"Kenji screamed for almost a full day straight because she refused to take care of him and we were trying to make her," Melissa said quietly. "Just the normal things that babies have, but she read and listened to her discman instead of changing him or feeding him."
The teacher frowned. "Fujiko Mine?"
"Yeah, their mother," Arsene agreed bitterly.
"I never pictured her being *that* selfish."
"And then some," Arsene assured her. "So please excuse them or have them work with us. That's not an issue."
"We will not be discussing this among the other students," the teacher said firmly. "She's not the first one who had to be the mother much too young. Fine. Do it for forty-eight hours and I'll pass you."
"Sure," Arsene agreed calmly. "Does it cry or are we supposed to pretend?"
"No, they cry. They wet after you feed them."
"Do they aim it at your head?" Melissa asked. "That was Yu's favorite trick."
"Alex's too and I never knew girls could aim that way," Arsene offered with a grin. "Got dad the only time he changed her diaper."
"Yeah, I remember that pout," Melissa agreed with a smug look for her sister. "Remember my dad having to do it for him because he ran away screaming?"
"Oh, intensely. But Mom proved her point. She's not just the mom and she should be worshiped for putting up with those diapers. It really did look some sort of biological weapon."
The teacher snickered. "There are probably people who have thought of that." She handed them each a doll. "Pick one of the group to work with this time and be ready to give advice, ladies."
"The tape goes in the back and hitches on the front," Arsene told the other students.
"Those little cloths will not clean with the first one," Melissa added. Lotus stomped back in with Ishi. "Which one of us do you want to work with to show we can do this?"
"I don't care," she said quietly, sitting down again. "I'm sorry, I had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom."
"That's fine, Lotus. You're excused," the teacher promised, going back to her seat. "Your brother is where?"
"The Headmistress stopped him to see why he was out of class." She waved a hand at the door. "He's out there somewhere."
"Thank you. Work with one of your siblings and be prepared to answer questions, all right?" She nodded, looking calm again. "Thank you, dear." She handed out more of the dolls to groups of students. Then she got the small bags of gear for them, handing them out. "In there is almost everything you'll need. The formula you'll be using is water. You won't have to worry about anything besides them wetting. It's realistic but not quite that realistic," she offered with a smile. One of the dolls started to fuss. "All right. That's a crying baby. Do something before it gets worse. For the rest of you, you'll be parents for the next week. That does include bringing them to classes by the way."
"That's a hungry cry," Melissa told the new parent of the doll. She checked the diaper bag. "Only six diapers?"
"You shouldn't have to change more than one every six hours," she said with a smirk. "Unlike real children, who can go through four in an hour."
"Or more," Arsene said dryly. "Especially after eating the blue crayon and freaking out the father."
Lotus snickered. "I've never seen that look on Father's face before," she agreed.
"It was matched by the look on mine," Melissa agreed with a smirk at Ishi as he came in. "Whichever of us that Lotus doesn't want, you get."
"Fine. We have visitors." He sat down and looked at Lotus. "And it's Mother."
"Got your sword?" Arsene asked.
"The Headmistress said we're not allowed to hurt her," he said patiently, sounding pissed. "She's in the office." He looked at his sister. "Up to you. I can go bitch her a new one by myself." He looked at Arsene as she stood up. "Later, Lupin. Us first."
"Of course. Find us if you need us," she promised. "We can find a place to stuff the body."
Lotus stood up, picking up her bookbag. "I'm sorry, but we have to go kill someone," she told the teacher. "We'll see you next class if we're not in jail for homicide." She walked out, leading the way to the spacious office the Headmistress used. It was a former classroom by the size and it had the best view of the main gate. The school looked like it had been part castle, part manor house and it showed that it had once been a private home before renovations were done because all the windows were large, ornate panes of glass. She walked up the few stairs and tapped on the door before walking in. "You needed to see us, Headmistress?" she asked calmly.
"Yes, dear. Come in." She smiled at them. "Thank you, Ishi."
"Not a problem. I let Lupin hold it for me. She's good with them." He sat down and looked at the other person in the office. "You actually have balls. I'm impressed," he said coldly. "Is our father on the phone yet?"
"I've got Lupin but I couldn't get Goemon. I heard him say something then something broke," the Headmistress offered. "He's on the speaker phone." She pushed the button. "Both Goemon children are here, Lupin."
"Thanks," Jigen's voice said from the phone, sounding sarcastic. "He went to calm down their father before he killed someone who was cutting the grass. Kids, you okay?"
"We're doing baby care lectures in Practical Education," Lotus offered, taking a seat and moving it so she could stare out the window and past her mother as well. "Why did you call this meeting, mother?"
"Because I want you two to come live with me for a year."
"Fat chance," Lotus said simply. "Are we done now?"
"Lotus, you're a little girl. You can't hope to learn everything about being a girl from Xander."
"Yes, I can. What I can't, then I can pick up from Murami or someone else suitable. So far she's handled all the other female questions I've had. When it came time to put us all on birth control she was very gentle with us and took us to an excellent doctor, who also answered questions that we couldn't ask her. Frankly, mother, I've learned more about women from Uncle Jigen than I have you." Jigen's snort came across very well.
"Mother, you have nothing you could teach us," Ishi pointed out.
"I do have skills, son."
"Really? Good enough to do the Tower of London?" Ishi asked snidely. She glared at him and shook her head. "Pity, Lupin the Fourth does and Lotus looked stunning in the coronet." He stood up. "Are we done now?" he asked coolly. "I have sword practice next class and I'd like to calm down before then."
"You can't use a sword, Lotus, you're a girl. Girls can't be samurai."
"Said who?" Lotus snorted. "Besides, who said I wanted to be a samurai, mother? I'm a witch and we do have to use them sometimes for gathering and hunting things and in ceremonial practices." She stood up. "Are we finished? I have something I'd rather be doing, like doing a root canal with a rusty nail through my asshole." Jigen's choking came across very well too. "By the way, mother. You have no right to sell me off to some scuzzy old man who wants to hurt me night and day for shits and giggles. I'd kill him very quickly."
"Lotus, you're not that good," Fujiko snorted. The next thing she knew, she was on the ground with a knife at her throat and pinned so she couldn't move. She stared up into her daughter's eyes. "They've ruined you," she told her.
"No, mother, you ruined me. I'm still a blood innocent, but I don't consider you human enough to care about." She got off her with her brother's help. "You'd be surprised at what I can do, mother. I'm not some weak thing who depends on her tits to get by in life. I have a very good mind, a very good body, a lot of training, and the ability to use it to protect myself. Never come back. You burned that bridge when you tried to have me snatched in Cairo." She walked out, heading for the practice area. It had things she could hit.
Ishi looked down at his mother. "I used to worry about her becoming you, mother. Fortunately she's taken every lesson from all our uncles and father about what sort of woman she's to be. She'll be one who can depend on herself, not her attributes, to get what she wants and needs. You get her over my cold, dead body. And I am skilled enough to now possess my own sword."
She stood up. "Already?"
He nodded. "It's amazing, between the three teachers, I'm good enough that they're trying to find things to teach me here. Lupin, Jigen, and I are all more than good enough to have worked together already. Lotus has as well," he noted coldly. "You're dealing with a full group mother, plus the younger generation of the group. Never come back. Next time, I won't come unarmed, and I won't promise not to harm you physically." He stepped back and bowed to the Headmistress. "With your permission, I'm heading to the practice area to calm down before my next lesson in fencing."
"Go ahead, Ishi," she agreed, giving him a gentle smile. "Try to calm your sister down as well."
"She's in the woods by now," he offered before leaving.
"Jigen, you've heard what the children said."
"I'm back," Lupin announced. "And we had you on speaker on this side too once we found it. I don't want Fujiko near the kids. She's not allowed visitation and she's not allowed contact. The only thing they can do is make her a mark."
Someone tapped on the door and Melissa walked in, pushing her hair back behind her ears. "I bring a message from Lupin the Fourth." She looked at Fujiko. "You're a dumb bitch to have showed up at all after Cairo, Fujiko. We know who turned that one person onto my mother. We know exactly who turned Peter and we know exactly who made sure she'd be given a gas she was allergic to. Arsene said you're dead to her and I agree. If you come near us, we'll protect ourselves. We're not children to be tormented by you."
"Calm down, 'Lis," Jigen said from the phone. "You okay?"
"Feeling poisoned by being in the same country as her but otherwise fine. We're safe here, dad."
"Yes, you are," the Headmistress agreed. "You five are not allowed off campus without an escort and you're not to go off on jobs on your own. You can wait until the field exercises this spring," she offered at the pout coming out, smiling slightly at her. "You five are going to be running a group, leaving the teacher the more hopeless cases. The only one who may check you off campus are your fathers or mother." She smirked at her. "And Lavelle of course," she added with a wink when Melissa opened her mouth. She looked at Fujiko. "I believe the other parents, the ones with custody, and the children themselves have spoken, Fujiko. Please leave."
"I will sue for custody."
"Do it, watch me prove you an unfit mother," Jigen growled.
"Even Pops said she's unfit," Lupin agreed. "He'll stick up for the kids in this case as long as he doesn't have to see Arsene for a while."
"Did you guys sedate Mom? I haven't heard her yet," Melissa asked.
"We're on a job," Lupin told her. "That one you found. She's off being pretty and girlish."
"That's fine. Tell her I want fudge." Melissa smirked at the Headmistress. "Can I tell the others?"
"Go ahead, dear." She turned and jogged out. "Fujiko, I'm having you banned from the school. The guards will have a 'shoot to kill' order from now on. Goemon has custody because you abandoned them. The custodial parents have made themselves very plain in this matter. Also, the fact that you tried to have your daughter stolen so she could be used is sickening. As much as you trying for Sylvia was. We all know about that by the way. Lupin, how is she?"
"She's fine. She was saved before they could hurt her. Mostly by her own devices. We got given the wrong directions," he admitted. "She called for some help."
"So we heard. Tell her I wouldn't mind her coming in to give a reality talk to the students. You and Jigen either." She hung up. "You have two minutes to make it out the gate, Fujiko. Otherwise I will be the one who shoots you." Fujiko stomped off. She dialed the guardhouse. "The woman stomping off in a snit is Fujiko Mine, a former student. If she comes back, you have my authority to shoot her. She tried to sell her daughter off." She hung up and leaned back, calming herself down. No wonder they wanted the kids somewhere safer for a bit. She'd have to talk her teachers into finding more advanced lessons for the kids to do.
Xander looked up and grinned at the big, bad man walking toward her chosen lunch spot. "Hi," she said with a shy grin and a light blush. "How are you today? It's a very pretty day, isn't it?"
Goemon sat beside her on the park bench, grunting in annoyance. "Fujiko just showed up at the school for Lotus."
"Hmm, I feel sorry for her then. She all right?"
"She's fine," he noted calmly. "The children told her off. The school has banned her. You've been invited to give lectures to some of the students. Also, your wire is not working and we can't find a new one."
"That's fine. I'm not helpless." She saw the mark and watched him walk up the trail. "So, your daughter is how old? She sounds really cute. Is she around? I'd like to meet her," she offered.
"Unfortunately she's at school. You reminded me of her. If you're here over the holiday, I'll introduce you." He checked his wrist like he was checking a watch. "I've got to go. Thank you for humoring a lonely father." He got up and walked off.
Xander ate a bite of her sandwich and grinned at the guy who was staring at her, swallowing quickly. "His daughter just left for another term of school."
"I've heard that can be tough," he agreed, walking over to sit beside her. "You look familiar."
"Then you've probably seen my sister's wanted poster," she sighed, putting down her sandwich. "It's really upsetting that she's like that. People keep comparing us but I'm not like her and I'm really nice and sweet. She's just cranky and mean." She pouted at him and saw him melt. "It's not fair to be judged by my sister, is it?"
"No," he promised, shifting to look directly at her. "What's your name?"
"I'm Lady Inell. Little sister to Lavelle and Sylvia."
"Ah. I had heard he had gotten an estate by some means. He gave it to you?"
"Once I'm of age. I'm not quite eighteen yet," she admitted with a shy blush. "I'm on vacation to see if I want to go to a college or a top finishing school. Fortunately I managed to escape my sister's attention for a picnic since it's such a pretty day. She's off watching someone," she said with a small hand wave. "So I'm here all by myself." She gave him a look, then grinned. "But you."
He chuckled. "Well, you're certainly not in any danger with me. You're pretty enough to steal but I'd never do anything like that. I only take pretty girls out to dinner. Would you like to go?"
"Tonight?" She paused for a moment. "Well, I guess I could. I was supposed to go clubbing tonight but it was with my sister. I'm sure she'll mind but I don't care. You'd be saving me from another dose of 'you've got to protect yourself, all men are like Lupin'."
He chuckled and patted her on the hand, moving a bit closer. "No, not all men are like him. Some of us are very nice men. Would you like to go for a walk with me? It's a beautiful park."
"Okay. Let me finish my lunch or I'll be starved later." She quickly ate the rest of her sandwich and tucked the rest back into her bag, standing up with his help. "Thank you." She let him pull her closer so he could put her arm around his and wandered off with him. If her wire wasn't working she could wing it from here.
Lupin stomped up to where she was sitting at dinner. "Where were you all day? Your sister was worried sick!" he demanded.
"I was having lunch with this nice man, who then showed me around the park," she said, waving at her companion. "He's very nice and he didn't try anything funny, you can tell my sister I said so," she said, frowning at him. She ate another bite of steak delicately. "Is she actually done?"
"No, but she called in and threw a fit when she found out we had let you out alone. You're very vulnerable to people who'd want to hurt you because of your siblings."
"She did teach me how to hit someone," she said, starting to sound more cold. She put down her cutlery and wiped her mouth, then stood up, walking him back to the door. "I'm fine, Lupin. He's a very nice man who invited me out for a boat ride tonight and then I'll be back at the hotel. Chill already!" She patted him on the hand as she felt him slip the wire under her bracelet. "So tell my sister that I'm fine, I've met a few very nice older men who have been telling me about the local history all day long, and that I'm not getting into trouble. Okay?"
"Fine, but if you get into trouble, I'm not sticking up for you this time, Inell." He stomped off and she went back to her seat, adjusting the wire so it was inside her sleeve instead of on the bracelet. She sat back down and put the napkin over her lap again. "Sorry, but sometimes he's just as paranoid as my big brother is." She sipped at her water. "They're paranoid that I'm going to be snatched to be used against them."
"I would be too. You're a very gentle and nice girl."
"Who my sister did teach self-defense to," she admitted with a smirk. "I may be nice and not in the life, but I'm not uncareful. Usually I'd have my personal bodyguard with me but he's on vacation since he decided my sister could watch me well enough. Fortunately I'm able to get out and about, he only sighs in complaint when I go shopping."
He chuckled. "Then it sounds like you've taken good steps to protect yourself. Where is he vacationing?"
"Italy. He's visiting some people at some training school." She sipped her water again then picked up her fork and knife. "This is really nice. I'll have to remember this restaurant when I'm spoiling myself."
He chuckled, smiling at her. "Wait until you see dessert, Inell." He dug into his dinner as well. He'd need his energy for later. "Which hotel are you staying at?"
"Um," she said, digging out her key. "The Forsythe." She put it back, noticing that the wire had dropped into the bag while she was digging. She closed it and put the purse back under her chair. "It's that big one with the gold leaf trim around the doors."
"I know the one," he agreed, still smiling. "So, it's your first time in this country?"
"No, I've been to Geneva before. I just never really thought to go anywhere in-country until I was delivered to my sister so I could look at some of the exclusive schools."
"Tell me, are your family old money?"
She smirked at him. "Lavelle said I'm not allowed to tell anyone about our family history. I can say that some of their more legitimate things have hyped the family fortune. Like how we got the estate and title. It still surprises me that she offered her estate to have something like *that*."
"I hadn't heard how he got the title. Was it interesting?"
"More scandalous," she admitted with a grin and a wink. "The woman he got it off of said she'd give the person who could give her.....one of those everything. He did it so well that she died during it. Right in front of her nephew when he barged in."
"One of those?" he asked. She blushed bright red and he 'ahh'ed and nodded wisely. "I think I heard something about that. That's how you got the title?" She nodded, her blush still bright. "Did they let you have it?"
"Lavelle said I could have it when I found a spouse. Until then he's keeping it for himself so he can wine and dine the ladies." She sipped her water again to seemingly calm down. "My sister's not really interested in it but since I'm not following them into the life it's a perfect spot for me. Lavelle agreed. He's a good big brother, if a bit goofy and odd now and then."
"He's still into comic books."
"Ah." He nodded. "That is a hobby that one doesn't usually associate with people like your brother. Did you want a career? You mentioned college a few times."
"I'm not sure yet. That's why I was thinking about college. Not that I like taking classes but I'd like to find out what I can be good at. I do pretty good with languages and with money."
"You could go into the world of finances but you'd probably have to defend yourself against your family name for the first few years."
"I was thinking something less stressful. I don't mind working every day but I don't want something that'll give me wrinkles too soon." She grinned at him. "Of course, those are the sort of jobs that pay really well. Not that I need it, but it's always wise to plan in advance."
"That's very true, especially with what your relatives do." He sipped his wine, staring at her. She was either acting or a very innocent young woman. "Tell me, have you had a boyfriend?"
"One," she admitted shyly, glancing down at her plate. "He was very...intense. Lavelle drove him off when he found him trying to get into my clothes with me. He promised he didn't kill him," she added quickly, looking up at him, blinking a few times when he only stared. "I went to an all-girl's school *way* out in the middle of nowhere in the US. Montana."
"That's pretty country."
"It is, but it's flat and boring too. There's not much there except for people who want to get far away from things, farmers and ranchers, and some unsavory extremists who just want people to leave them alone. Even when we were taken to town, there wasn't much there to do."
"I understand. It can be like that here too," he admitted, judging her to be innocent. "Are you celebrating your eighteenth birthday while you're in town?"
"Next month," she admitted, taking a sip of her water. She put the glass down and wiped off her hands, then picked up her fork to eat her asparagus. "You've had me talking about myself all day. What do you do? I'm sure you do something distinguished."
"No, I've given up on the evil world of work," he admitted with a smirk. "I live off the splendor of my youth. I manage my art and jewelry collections."
"Like the Queen has?"
He chuckled, smiling at her. Yes, she was definitely inexperienced. "Something like that but not as extensive I'm sure. Did you visit the palace the last time you were in London?"
"Lavelle took me to the Tower but I think he was casing it," she admitted. "It had some stunning pieces. There was a beautiful coronet in there that was just so adorable. I wish they'd do special things to let people try them on."
"I have a lovely tiara in my collection. It's got some beautiful sapphires that would look stunning on you I think. Would you like to see it? I could even be persuaded to let you try it on," he added as an enticement.
"But they'll yell for *hours* if I go to your home," she pouted. "You don't know this, but Lupin can really rant when he gets started and then my sister will join in."
"That's fine, maybe a picnic tomorrow then?"
"That'd be great," she agreed with a grin. "Just as long as I don't get fat." She shifted some. "I'll have to start doing my aerobics again. Cardiovascular regimens are just so me. I'm a bit bouncy at times," she admitted with a bright grin. "Lupin threatened to tie me to the bed the next time I woke him up before ten in the morning. Not that he should have minded since he and my sister got really noisy after that." Then she giggled and leaned closer. "Lupin is so jumpy sometimes. Sis says sometimes she can't work for him trying to get into her clothes with her."
He laughed and patted the hand she had on the table. "I'm sure he is. Some men are like that, but usually only the young ones." He stroked the back of her hand, watching as she shivered and grabbed her water to sip. Yes, definitely innocent of men. He would be adding her to his special collection. "Drink up, dear. We'll go for a stroll so I can take you back to your hotel."
"Sure." Xander drank her water and finished her dinner, happily chatting about inconsequential things as she finished. He helped her into her jacket and led her out of the restaurant, heading for the street. "Isn't the hotel that way?" she asked, pointing behind them, where it really was just around the corner.
"No, it's this way," he assured her, walking her on. "Or if you want we could go on a trip around the lake on my boat."
"Not tonight. I don't want to be lectured until I'm ancient. Besides, Lavelle's coming back sometime this month and I'm hoping he'll show up while we're all here. That way we can gossip and get together for a bit before the group leaves again."
"Are you staying after they're gone?"
"I might be," she offered, "but my bodyguard would be back by then. He's a fierce protector of me. Lavelle found him for me. He's a relative of Jigen's I think."
"Interesting." He walked her on, frowning as a car slowed down behind them. He glanced back. "Which car is your sister driving?"
"She's got a rental Fiat. She likes them for some reason. Why?" She glanced back then up at him. "Are we in trouble? I've got a panic switch."
"No, we'll be fine. I'm sure it's just one of those nasty reporters." He turned the corner with her, pulling her into a doorway to let the car pass them by. He smiled and kissed her gently. "There, how was that?"
"It was very nice," she said with a goofy grin. "You do that very well." Actually he sucked, but she couldn't tell her mark that.
"Thank you." He strolled on with her, taking her to his house. He pointed up at it. "This is my townhouse. Would you like to stop inside to get a small nightcap?"
"I really shouldn't," she reminded him. "They'll be watching for me."
"I know but it won't take long." He kissed her on the cheek this time. "I could show you that tiara and let you try it on." She wobbled but eventually nodded, falling into his trap. He walked her inside and got her some sherry from the special bottle, handing it over. "Here, you sip this while I find that tiara," he promised, walking off. "Henry!" His butler came out of the kitchen. "We have a guest." The butler nodded and went to prepare the room he liked. By the time he got back there she was unconscious from the drugs in the sherry. It did mask the taste very well. He rang the bell and the butler pulled in the gurney, helping him put her onto it so she could be wheeled into the elevator and up to the main room. When he got in there he started the cameras as soon as she was strapped down. "Thank you, Henry. I may need you later." He loosened his tie as he walked closer. "You're very pretty, Inell. Much too pretty for some thief to claim. Only I shall have this prize." He started to unbutton her shirt and found the first wire, snorting and tossing it aside. His anti-listening devices would have taken care of that. He got her down to bra and panties, then picked up a pair of scissors to undo them for her, glancing at her nether areas as he did so. Hmm, not open any so there was hope for her being a real virgin. He undid his shirt's buttons and waited for her to wake up, smiling down at her. "I'm sorry, Inell. You must have been overcome with the sherry. So, as you can tell, I've put you to bed." He stroked her cheek.
"Get off me!"
"Shh, precious. I'd never hurt such a little flower."
"Get off me and let me go! Lupin!"
"Dear, I've got so many anti-listening devices built into this house that his pitiful wire won't even transmit," he assured her gently, still stroking her cheek. "Now, you can enjoy this or not. That is up to you."
"Let me go, you freak! I never agreed to sleep with you!" She struggled and managed to get one of the restraints loosened, but she felt something else happening as well. Huh, this guy was about to get a surprise. She got one wrist free and shoved him, working on her other one while he strolled back.
"You've got fire, I like that," he assured her, chuckling when she got the other wrist free. "Where are you going to go? This is my house. The doors are locked and the cameras are transmitting to various people around the world who share the same tastes I do."
"Really? So sure of that?" she asked. She reached behind her and felt the clasps appear under her fingers. She took off the cloth that hid the choker she wore by bending light away from it. Then she unclipped the first setting, praying that the second would come undone as well. It did and he let it drop onto the bed, then undid his ankles while the man stepped back, babbling in horror. "Surprise. It's been a year since it was put onto me." He stood up and stretched, wincing as his back popped. "You really should invest in some better mattresses. That one's bad for the back."
"How...." he babbled, backing against the wall, blindly searching for the emergency button. Henry would protect him.
"I follow Janus. It was a surprise gift," he sneered, grabbing him and spinning him around, planting him on the bed. He put a hand in the middle of the elderly man's throat. "Now then, rapist, where are the keys, where are my things, and is there anyone else in the house?" The man croaked so he let up on his windpipe. "Ten seconds," he warned.
"Corner, purse is downstairs. Butler."
"Thank you." He slammed his head onto the bed a few times until he was unconscious then gathered up his things, stuffing the choker into his jacket pocket. He found the door keys easily enough and walked out. The butler gave him a long look so he smirked. "What? You expected me not to show up to save my sister? She called me out of a bath." He struck him, knocking him out too. Then he found the main bedroom. The old guy was about his size. He found a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt, both female for some reason, then he found the safe. He really shouldn't... But the guy had tried to rape him. "Ethics suck," he noted. "They might be from his victims." He walked out, finding his purse in the room he had been in, and headed out into the night. He nodded at a cop, who stopped to stare at him. "Sorry, was with someone," he said in German. "She kicked me out. Going to a hotel." He hid the purse and headed on. He could feel the magical shopping spot nearby and headed there instead. He definitely didn't have anything to wear in his things and he doubted he'd look as cute as his female form did in some of his dresses. He tapped on a door that still had lights on and had men's clothes in the window.
"We're closed!" someone inside yelled. Xander held up his black Am Ex card and the door opened. "We're closed."
"I just changed back." He held up the choker. "I'm a priest of Janus'. I'm Lavelle." The man's eyes widened. "Needless to say, I doubt Sylvia's clothes would fit me. All I need are some suits and stuff."
"Fine. It shouldn't take long but you will be paying extra."
"Like I care." Lavelle walked in and pulled the shades, putting everything on the chair. "I swear, it's been a 'kidnap Xander' month again. I hate those," he complained. The man stiffened and looked at him so Xander grinned. "Yes, I'm that Xander."
"My Prince, what I have is yours."
"All I need are clothes that fit, dude. Calm it down."
"Yes, sire." He hurried into his back room, coming out with three suits. All black with black shirts and ties. "Here, try these on, sire. They should fit you and I will hem anything that needs it."
"I'm a pretty standard size," he offered. "Underwear? I was just in the choker when someone tried to rape me."
"Of course." He grabbed some and handed them over. "I hope these meet up to your expectations."
"They're fine. Thank you." He put the silk boxers on and then stepped into the first suit, looking at himself in the mirror. "It fits well enough. What do you think?"
"I think you look like the Prince you are, sire. Do you require a hat of some sort?"
"No, I'm good on that," he assured him. "Just a hairband." A silver hairband was handed over, etched with black designs. "I like this." He checked himself out again, flexing and bending to make sure it wouldn't rip if he tried to sit down. "Fine, I'll take it." He handed over the card and went to the wall that had shoes, finding a pair that matched. "These too."
"Yes, sire." He rang the purchases up and held out the slip and a pen. Then he got him a bag for the other suits and one for the women's clothes he had. "Thank you for your patience with my ignorance, sire."
"Not an issue. Thanks for opening for me." He handed back the shop's copy of the slip and the pen, taking his card back. Then he took the bags and wandered out into the night. He found the hotel where he expected and walked inside.
"Sir, guests only on the elevator," the hostess said in broken english.
"I'm with Lupin," he called, waving at her. He grinned back and winked. "He's expecting me."
"Yes, sir." She moved to the far end of the counter, watching as the elevator doors closed on him. Then she dialed upstairs. "Sir, there is a silver haired man on his way up, said he was expected? Thank you, sir. No, I did not stop him," she said in French. "Thank you, sir." She hung up and relaxed. He was one of their group.
Goemon hung up and sat down again, watching while Lavelle came in. "You found clothes already?"
"I had to. The idiot cut mine off me and I don't exactly fit into that peach skirt now." He dropped his bags and pointed at a door. "Lupin?" Goemon pointed at another one. "Thanks, big guy." He strolled that way, opening the door and grinning at the sleeping thieves. He chuckled evilly and pounced, landing on top of Jigen so he could kiss him awake. Jigen's eyes went wide and Lupin shrieked, falling off his side of the bed. "Morning, Jigen," he said smugly. "Leaving me alllll alone with that rapist was a mean thing to do to me."
"Shit!' Lupin said, standing up. "I didn't know he was that bad!" He paused then looked at the bed and shook his head. "Xander?"
"No, ya think?" he asked sarcastically. "And it's another 'kidnap Xander' month too, boss."
"Xan, you're heavier, get off," Jigen groaned. Xander rolled to lay beside him, stretching out on the bed. "When did you change back?"
"Just now. When he had me strapped down to the bed and drugged." He grabbed Lupin's phone and dialed Zenigata's phone. "Pops, me. Yes, me. No, the guy we're marking is a rapist. He just tried on me. Yes, it's me," he said patiently. "Switzerland. Yeah, him. No, he's got a house in town, over by the river. Bring Dawnie, she can find it I'm sure. It's a block past the magical shops toward the river. Thanks." He hung up and sat up. "I didn't touch anything in the safe. I didn't know if they were from some of his victims. Sorry, I had a bout of ethics."
"No, not an issue," Lupin said, leaning down to steal a kiss. "Steak?"
"Steak, asparagus, and baby potatoes. Then drugged sherry. I didn't even taste it."
"That's fine. As long as you're fine, Xan." He sat on the end of the bed, staring at him. "You stopped to get clothes?"
"I had to. I didn't fit in the peach skirt anymore."
"Good point," Goemon said from the doorway. "Did I hear you correctly?"
"He's a rapist. I couldn't be sure that some of those things weren't from the girls he had harmed. Sorry. I'll make it up next month."
"Not that. Did you just call Zenigata?"
"Did you want him?"
"No," Goemon admitted. "When are we leaving?"
"I've got to go back there and gas it," Xander offered. "Just to make sure they can't leave."
"Sirens just headed that way a minute ago," Jigen offered.
"I did not torch that place," Xander said honestly, holding up a hand. "I knocked him out on the bed and got the butler before leaving. I stole a set of his sweats and a t-shirt, which I left at the shop but I did not torch his pretty room with the big bed and restraints and cameras." Xander got up to get his purse, dialing from his phone. "If the rapist torched his house, it wasn't me," he told Dawn. "Jigen said he heard sirens. I did not touch the safe, which was in the master bedroom, because I couldn't be sure it didn't belong to the victims. I did knock him out but I didn't torch it." He hung up again. "There, I'm done covering my ass now. Shall we go?"
"No, I wanna watch this one," Lupin said from the bedroom doorway. "You okay?"
"Just fine. I woke up after he had cut my clothes off but before he could touch me. He still had the scissors in his hand from where he cut off the bra." He shrugged. "Sorry."
"Not an issue," Lupin told him, coming out to hug him. "Gods, you feel good," he whispered. Xander gave him a squeeze. "Besides, I wanna see Ray's face when he sees you." He winked and cackled, heading back to bed. "You coming?"
"In a bit. I need to shower and stuff." Lupin nodded and let him do that in peace. Xander winked at Goemon. "You might as well get ready for me, dear. You *do* remember all those promises to me, right?" He walked into the bathroom, closing the door.
Jigen looked up at Lupin as he slid back into the bed. "What did you promise him?"
"That things weren't going to change and that I'd let him roll me over now and then," he said smugly. "It talked her into bed a few times."
"Have fun with that, I'll sleep through it," Jigen said, flipping over.
"Oh, come on, it'll be fun," Lupin teased.
"Just once, Jigen?"
"Nyet," he said, hoping it got through in some language.
"We did promise it wouldn't change when he finally came back to himself."
"Fine, he'll pounce you in the morning."
"And land on the floor," Jigen snorted, pulling the blankets up around his chest and closing his eyes. He felt a hand stroking up his arm and swatted at it. "No, Lupin. Not for either of you. That's one area where I only top."
"Fine, grumpy." He settled himself in, listening to Xander hum in the shower. "I should probably get ready. He's got to be horny to try out his dick." Jigen pulled the blankets up higher and wrapped them around his chest. "I would be if I hadn't had my penis for a year."
"You think with yours, I taught Xander better."
Lupin cackled. "That boy thought with his *long* before we hooked up with him, Jigen."
"If you say so." He punched his pillow a few times. "Behave. Or at least try to so I can get some sleep. If Pops is coming in soon, I want to be on my toes."
"Oooh, I'm sure you'll be standing for quite a while," Xander said from the doorway with a smirk. "What's wrong, Jigen? Did you forget you promised to try it once for me?" he cooed as he slid in between them, pulling Lupin closer.
"Some other night, Xander. I'm tired."
"Fine, spoilsport." He pounced Lupin instead, making him grin and laugh nervously when Xander licked his lips. "Didn't you get yourself ready for me, baby?" he taunted.
"Hell no, that's half the fun," Lupin said. Xander smirked and nipped him, then moved lower to please them both.
"Fricken earthquakes," Jigen complained, getting up to sleep on the couch, taking the blankets with him since the others weren't using them. Goemon gave him a look but surrendered it. "Not sleeping?"
"I figured one of us should watch for someone trying to come in here. Xander may be under arrest if they catch him."
"Let 'em try," Xander called. "Jigen, I'll be getting that blanket back soon. Lupin isn't warm in the middle of the night."
Jigen wrapped himself in the blankets and got comfortable on the couch, smirking as he fell asleep. Yeah, his Xander was back, but that didn't mean he couldn't fuck with his head now, did it?
Lavelle looked up as someone gasped, lowering the corner of his paper to grin at the cop standing there. "Hey, Ray." He went back to reading his stocks. "I need to sell Microsoft stocks before they plunge again," he muttered. "Coffee?"
"No!" He snatched the paper and tossed it onto the table. "What the hell did you do to him?"
"The rapist? I only knocked him out. Why?"
"Because the house exploded, Lavelle."
"As I told Dawn, I didn't do that and I didn't touch the safe. All I did was knock him out and then the butler before stealing some clothes and leaving. That was an...inconvenient moment for the choker to come off after all. Don't believe me? He had tapes running." He grabbed his paper and turned the page again. "Did you need something else, Inspector Kowalski?"
"Yeah, stand up and turn around, hands where I can see them, Lavelle. You're under arrest."
"For protecting myself? I could have killed him you know."
"I know, which means something's going on," he said coldly. "Stand, hands where I can see them, no funny shit." Xander sighed and stood up, letting him cuff him. "Thank you. Car!"
"Food," Xander said. "My wallet's in my back pocket, toss down about ten." Ray grumbled something but did so, then kept the wallet. "I know how much was in there," he warned jokingly as he was led off. He nodded at the other cops. "I was having coffee after protecting myself. He thought that knocking someone unconscious was a bad thing when the man wanted to rape me." He allowed himself to be shoved into the car, getting comfortable for the ride down to the station. He didn't have anything on him. Not even a weapon outside of his pocketknife. He wiggled his shoulders as Ray got in. "Could you get these any tighter? I'd like to have some feeling in my arms later and my shoulders already ache."
"Tough, you're not breaking out of them."
"Ray, sweetie, you've know for *how* long that I suck at picking locks?" Xander said dryly. Ray glared at him. "Fine. We'll play this game and then we'll go do something more fun, but I'll get to retaliate."
"There isn't one built yet that can hold my ass," Xander reminded him dryly. "Really, honey, there's not." He watched the scenery, shrugging at Goemon when he spotted him and nodding at Ray. The car sped on but he knew Goemon would be reporting back to Lupin. When they got to the station he was drug inside and put into an interrogation room, where he made himself comfortable once he found the thumbtack on the chair. When the cops came back, he had one cuff off and was working on the other one. "Sorry, I'd be faster but thumbtacks aren't really long enough so I had to get creative." He looked up at the trio of cops. "Yes?" he asked patiently. "The guy picked up a very innocent little girl in me last night and took me home, where he drugged me, strapped me to table, cut off my clothes, and when I woke up I fought back. I didn't make his house explode. Though we were being followed last night by one of those little innocuous black sedans that kinda look like London taxis."
"So you didn't kill him?"
"No, I knocked him out. I started to choke him until he told me where the keys to the door were and how many people were in the house. He had a surveillance system that he said broadcast so I'm guessing his main house had the tapes."
"Main house?" Vecchio asked dryly.
"Yeah, he's been hitting on young rich girls to get their jewels," Xander told him, crossing his feet under the table. "He's got a manor house outside town, up on the hillside. From the park it looks like it's pinkish and white in the afternoon light. He pointed it out to me yesterday but he took me into his townhouse instead of up there."
"Why were you playing along? You could have killed him earlier," Ray Kowalski noted.
"Of course I could have, but he had something very pretty and very bad taste. He knocked up a sixteen-year-old duchess last year." He shrugged. "Lupin's target, not mine. I was just the bait, guys. Honestly."
"Fine," Zenigata sneered. "We'll go look at his main house."
"Sure. Maybe you should ask someone to help you find hidden rooms?" Xander asked dryly. "He said it broadcast to a few sources."
"We'll see. You're staying in a cell until then."
"So I'll get a nap on a really hard bed," Xander snorted. "Yay me. You won't keep me. I don't have any warrants. I don't have any recent jobs that I'm even being held for because I've not been around for the past year and a bit. I'll play along for now, but my patience isn't unlimited."
"You're damn cocky to be in here, boy," Zenigata sneered.
Xander slowly stood up and leaned on the table. "Zenigata, who do you think helped teach Dawn her shit?" he hissed. "Now, who do you think taught Lotus how to teleport? You couldn't keep me if you put me in a lead cell sixty thousand feet underground."
"We'll see if we can't build you one," Zenigata sneered. "Take him to a holding cell. Strip him first."
"Sure, boss," Vecchio agreed, grabbing Xander's arm to take him off.
"Um, LA," Kowalski said quickly. Everyone stared at him. "I do remember, Harris."
"Good. I won't hurt him. I know he wouldn't try any funny shit." He waved at the door. "We were going?"
"What did you do in LA?"
"Some punk ass Immigration bastards tried to strip me down. I kicked their asses in finest fashion with Goemon watching. Don't worry, you're not a Marine with a hardon for pretty boys. You'll be safe with me, this time."
Vecchio nodded, taking him off. He checked in his effects himself and handed him a plain jumpsuit, putting him into a single, suicide watch cell with padded walls. "There. You should be safe enough in there."
"Hmm, pretty drab and boring. Maybe I'll redecorate while you look at the main house." He reclined on the bed and wiggled his fingers. "Have fun." Vecchio stomped off and Xander unzipped his outfit to look at the spot on his thigh he hadn't seen before. He shifted until he could see it all. "Huh, I can open hellmouths with that. Interesting." He zipped back up. "I see a new one each time I have to look at them." He put his arms behind his head, sure either Lupin would be coming soon or the cops would see sense. He hadn't done it this time. And if they didn't see sense, well, he had options now didn't he? And Lupin would be a sorry bastard when he caught up to him. He closed his eyes, deciding to rest. Or at least he tried until he felt the ghost slip into the cell. "Go away. I don't talk to dead people and I don't let them scare me. I grew up in Sunnydale."
"Release me," it whispered next to his ear.
Xander opened his eyes to look at it. "You're already dead, what other release do you need?"
"Under the wall. The west wall as we were building it."
"If I can," he offered, closing his eyes again. "Go bug Kowalski, that Interpol inspector. He can see you guys." The ghost floated off. "Huh. I never expected this area to be a hotbed of supernatural stuff." He crossed his feet again, missing his socks now. His toes were cold. "Can I have some socks at least?" he called. "My feet are cold."
"Shut up!" the guard yelled.
"Fine." Xander summoned his, putting them back on. Then he got comfortable.
Lupin looked up as Goemon walked in and slammed the door. "What happened?"
"Xander was in the back of a cruiser," he said grimly. "Ray was driving."
"Kowalski. The others were at the station."
"Fuck," Lupin sighed. "Okay. Guys, go get Xander, I'll go stump the cops." Someone pounded on the door. "Or not. That sounded like Vecchio." He opened the door and leaned on it. "Yes, Inspector?"
"You're being called into the service of good. We're looking for the tapes. Lavelle said to try for hidden areas."
"Coming," Lupin agreed. "Have fun, guys."
"If they go near the station there's a shoot-on-sight or arrest-on-sight order," Vecchio warned. "You're not getting him back."
"Xander can open a portal to hell and walk through it to get out somewhere else," Jigen noted. "Why would we have to?"
"But he wouldn't. That would endanger others."
"Not really," Goemon told him. "Just anyone in the cell with him." Vecchio grunted in annoyance and led Lupin downstairs and to the car, shoving him into the back. "He agreed. I warned the others."
"Good. Dawn warded the jail from the demonic."
"That won't help," Lupin pointed out. "Hell can break loose before she can stop it from coming in."
"The jail used to be part of a convent," Zenigata said smugly.
"Hmm. He'll still make it out." Lupin got comfortable as they started off. "Have we checked the wreckage?"
"We have," Ray Vecchio said grimly. "We found both bodies."
"If Xander said he didn't kill them he didn't."
"That doesn't mean he didn't leave them there to die. That's negligent homicide."
Lupin snickered. "He was getting away from someone who had him strapped to a table and had just cut his clothes off him. Someone he knew was going to rape him. That's called self defense. You can't even get to a trial with what you have. If Xander had wanted to, he would have killed them on contact and he didn't."
"No, he didn't, but even if he didn't set the fire he still hindered them getting out, that's still homicide."
"If he didn't set the fire, have you considered who did?" Lupin offered. The cops all glared at him. "This guy was wanted."
"Yay. I'm going to nap now," Zenigata sneered. "I'll get you all yet."
"Keep dreamin', Pops. Though, Ishi did offer to put you out of our misery so I wouldn't have to."
"Fat chance that kid'll do it," he snorted.
"He's gotten you twice now and so did my daughter," Lupin reminded him. "Stopping us won't stop them."
"Shut your yap," Kowalski ordered coldly. "Which way?"
"We were planning on casing it today when Xander agreed to go to a picnic with him," Lupin said tiredly. "It's the hacienda up on the hill. I'd say take the private drive but that may lead somewhere else. Like up to the ...." He sat up. "I know this place. Take the main road." They all looked at him. "I know what the hell happened. Take the main road." Kowalski looked at Zenigata, who shrugged and nodded. "Take a right when it forks too. You've got ammo, right?" They all looked at him so he sighed and set off the gas container on his belt, getting over the back of the seat to push the cops over so he could drive. He knew *exactly* what had happened. He sped up the hill, growling lightly as he went. The main gates were closed and there was a note on them. So he got out to read it. "I didn't do it, Lupin. Uh-huh, and I believe you too," he sneered, hoisting himself over the gate and down into the driveway. He calmly walked up there, going to kick someone around again. He looked at the open door and walked in. "I know you're here, bitch."
"Oh, I am, but I still didn't do it," a female said from the top of the stairs. "Would you like some coffee or tea, Lupin dear?"
"Hell no," he snorted. "Who did? They're blaming Lavelle because the guy got him."
"Oh, I saw. We do feed off his tape. You can have it...for a price."
"I want your daughter to be mine," she said smugly.
"Sorry, but my daughter's fourteen and already well trained. She doesn't need another mother. She's got one of those."
"Yes, and it's *so* interesting how she got here too," she said as she came down the stairs. "Your choice of course. I can always finish her training."
Lupin grabbed her and slammed her against the wall. "Victoria, drop the fucking subject. Arsene is *my* daughter. She'll always be my daughter. I don't care how much you want to hurt me, you don't do it to my kids. Or else I let Goemon have you this time." She actually looked scared for a moment then chuckled. "If you go to Fujiko to help you, then I pity you. If you come near my children, I'll make your world stop in the most horrible manner I can."
"I don't want to harm her, Lupin. I want to make her a good girl, just like I am."
"Fat chance, she's still straight, Victoria." He backed off and calmed himself down. "The tape," he growled.
"Not if you won't meet my price. Which has now raised to that *entertaining* necklace."
"That's from Janus. You want it, pray to him for one," he sneered. "I can kill you."
"No, you can't. Your friends are here, Lupin." She pointed at the doorway.
Lupin looked, then looked at her. "They'll either understand or be expendable. You just threatened my daughter's life for the price of a tape."
"She has a tape?" Vecchio asked.
"We don't have a warrant," Zenigata admitted. "We can't search the place."
"That doesn't stop me," Lupin reminded him. He backhanded her and sneered down at her. "Now, Victoria. I have no feelings for you."
"She should have been mine!" she sneered back. "You promised me, Lupin."
He pulled his gun and cocked it. "Last chance. I can find it without your living body."
"It'll be gone by then." She held up her pendant. "It'll be on fire as soon as I stroke this." He made a grab for it but she covered it. "Your choice, Lupin, dear."
"Fuck you." He shot her in the stomach then took the pendant and crushed it. "Your real one was broken two years ago in Tibet. Jigen broke it on you." He looked at the house. "Let's see, you always put things next to your bedroom." He headed for the back area of the house, finding the bedroom and the tape. He came out waving it. "Here you go. One assassin who just threatened my daughter's life and the tape."
"We can't use it, it's gotten by illegal means," Vecchio told him. "That's the law."
"Then you're expendable," Lupin decided, pointing the gun at him. "Your choice of course."
"Don't do it, Lupin," Zenigata warned. "We can shoot you just after that."
"Which would make this evidence of the crime, which would make it admissible," Lupin reminded him coldly. "No one takes what's mine. That's my special treat." He spun and shot Zenigata in the knee, then got Vecchio in the stomach. He ducked Ray Kowalski's shot, only getting grazed on the arm, then got him on the thigh, making him yell. "I feel better now," he noted, handing him the tape. "The reason for the shooting, which makes it evidence," he reminded him. "I'll call ambulances. Tell them Vecchio forgot to wear his vest." He walked out, his phone already being dialed. "I just heard gunshots up at the old Brazelton manor house. There were cops there and I know at least one screamed in pain," he said before hanging up. He strolled down the driveway, taking the path toward the other house.
No one touched what was his. They died for that.
Xander sat up as the door opened, nodding at the woman standing there. "You are?"
"Your attorney. The officers who arrested you were shot by your cohort."
"I was in here," he noted, waving a hand around. "And I didn't choose you. I have an attorney."
"Until he gets here, I am to act in your behalf."
"Huh. That's nice. You want what?"
"To talk to you about a plea."
"Nope, sorry. The man wasn't dead when I escaped. I didn't blow up the house."
"I'm in here because a man tried to kidnap me last night to rape me. I woke up strapped to a bed. I knocked him and his butler out before escaping. Then someone else blew up the house when I was far away."
"Your Lupin perhaps?"
"Doubt it considering he was asleep in bed when I got back to the hotel."
"Hmm." She nodded. "Fine. You will be in here for a while." She walked away and the door closed.
"Not really," Xander noted dryly. "I hate these 'kidnap Xander' months." He got comfortable again, not expecting any help now. If Lupin had shot Gramps then things had just turned from bad to worse. He'd have to do it on his own apparently. That's fine, he could do that, he just needed a nap first. He closed his eyes, only opening his good one when the door opened again and another prisoner was put into the cell. "Sit on the other side of the room," he ordered.
"Who're you to give me orders?" the thug asked.
"Lavelle. The assassin Lavelle." The man retreated quickly and sat against the other wall staring at him. "Do something else. I'm trying to rest." The man nodded and looked down at his hands, twiddling his thumbs instead. Xander got a few hours of rest when he felt the magic go off, sitting up and walking to the window. "You, come here," he ordered, pointing outside. "What is that?"
"It's something that's always happened. We don't know what. It protects the town."
"Fine." Xander rubbed the summoning mark, making it look toward him. "Break this cell," he ordered when it flew closer.
"Why should I?" it hissed.
Xander unzipped his jumpsuit, making it shriek and look away. "Now. Or else I kill you and open a Hellmouth here." The demon shot the bars out and Xander climbed out of the hole. "Thanks. Have fun. Watch out for Dawn Zenigata. Her sister's a slayer and she's a witch." He looked at the thug. "What did you do?"
"Beat my old lady."
"You can stay then," Xander said, having the demon wave a hand and put back the wall. "Have a nice night. Tell them I had another appointment." He jogged off, heading for the hotel to get his things. He found them packed and his bag at the front desk. He nodded and changed in the bathroom then snuck out, heading for the main road out of the valley town. He didn't want to have to steal a car but he would if forced to. He wasn't staying there. When no cars came his way in an hour, he sighed and gathered his energies, taking himself to his manor house in England, scaring the maid horribly. "Chill, it's me," he ordered calmly. "Just getting away from some odd things." He handed her the bag. "I'm headed up to change then leaving again. Phones working?"
"Y...yes, sir," she stuttered.
"Thanks. Have a good night, dear." He trotted up the stairs, going to change into some of his usual clothes and grab his keys. He called Jigen's phone once he was free. "I'm out, I'm heading out of England. They only got a toss-away and my Mastercard was in my wallet. My phone was there too so I'll check the bulletin boards now and then." He hung up and grabbed his spare wallet and headed down the stairs at a fast jog. He nodded at the butler as he walked past him. "Heading out again. The clothes should be clean. Just hang 'em up or whatever. Thanks, man. Any problems?"
"Those furry things have been back once or twice."
"Yeah, the kitsune have a portal here since they can't get near Stonehenge without pissing someone off. Just ignore 'em. Anything else?" he asked, turning to look at him.
"The funds are still in the bank?" The butler nodded. "Then have fun. My main phone's broken so I'll have the car phone." He wiggled his fingers and headed out to the garage. His baby, the Jetta, was in there. He slid into the custom leather seats with a sigh of pleasure, then started the engine, heading off into the night. He stuck his earbud into his ear and dialed Marcus' phone. "It's me, I'm heading out of the country right now. Am I picking you up at Ethan's?" He grimaced. "Cool beans. No, I'm heading to one of mine. Ishi knows it. Fallback position sixteen." He hung up and sped up, going to find somewhere safe from the things that wanted to keep him. It shouldn't last too much longer but he was tired of it. Three times in less than two weeks was a bad omen in his book.
Lupin looked over as Jigen dug out his phone. "Xander?" he asked when Jigen got into the voicemail. Jigen nodded. "Where is he heading?"
"He didn't say. Just that they had his phone, his wallet with his Mastercard, and that he was free."
"That's fine, we can get that." He looked behind him, stopping suddenly as Marcus appeared on the road. "You can't hit a moving target," he chastised.
"I wasn't trying to," he promised as he climbed in, handing over Xander's things. "Everything but his socks and his phone."
"That's okay, we got that off Vecchio at the hospital," Jigen said, waving it. "Where is he heading?"
"He was at the manor house, he's heading out of the country. He wanted to know if he needed to pick me up. He sounded like he was in his Jetta."
"Jetta?" Lupin asked, starting them moving again. "What Jetta?"
"It's the car that was at the manor house. It's got a car phone."
"Fine. Do you know it?" Marcus shook his head. "Got it written down?"
"Somewhere but I don't know where," he assured him. "Check his phone, it might have it."
"Battery's dead. Did he say anything?" Jigen asked.
"He's heading for fallback position sixteen. He said Ishi knows where it is."
"Okay, someone dial the kids," Lupin ordered as he took a sharp turn in the road. "I hated that bitch."
"Which bitch? You never told me what started this off," Jigen reminded him when Lupin growled.
"Victoria had the tape. She wanted Arsene."
"Fuck 'er then," Jigen agreed. "You kill her?"
"Hopefully. I think it was a lung shot." He shifted up as they hit a straight spot, heading off at a faster speed. "Call the kids. Tell them to watch out for the soul-sucking thing too. Just in case."
Jigen hunched down so the wind wouldn't cause too much interruption on the line. "Hey, brat. Where's Fallback position sixteen?" He listened as his daughter yelled for Lotus and Ishi. "Yeah, he said sixteen. No, your other dad. No, he's male and a job just went to hell. Lupin just had to shoot the cops and a soul-sucking thing. Watch out for her, she wants Arsene. Yeah, her. Thanks. Yeah, me too, kiddo." He hung up. "He's heading back to Sunnydale."
"Why?" Lupin demanded.
"Because he said nothing there would want to keep him," Marcus offered. "He'll probably be in LA instead of just inside Sunnydale."
"There are those cabins," Goemon reminded Lupin. He didn't worry, Xander could protect himself now.
A woman looked up as her guard came running into her tent. "M'lady, a Jetta approaches," he panted. "A single human from the scans."
"A Jetta? I have seen one in my dreams," she said calmly. "Do not harm him, he is here to help us ascend. He is a Powerful One." The guard nodded and went to spread the orders. She got herself ready. Surely a Powerful One like that one would need her services in return for helping them get more power.
To Part 45