Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series
fan fiction by Vyola
For Slodwick's A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Take Two Challenge, based on this picture:

Trouble is My Business

I pulled up to the gate at dusk, flipping my license to the guard. He checked a list before letting my car through. The drive circled up and around until spitting me out at the front door. I'd been to old man Giles' place before but it never failed to impress. It's what Hearst would have done if he'd had the money.

The guard must have called ahead because Giles' assistant was already opening my door and guiding me inside. Wyndam-Pryce did the English bit as well as his employer but I'd seen him in action a time or two and knew he was as much bodyguard as secretary. When you've got a finger in as many shady deals as Giles, you stack the deck however you can.

"Mr. Giles, Mr. Harris is here." I took a leather club chair across the desk from Rupert Giles. He had a glass of whiskey in his hand and a glance to his secretary fetched one to mine. I drank deep; Giles always had the good stuff.

"Dawn is missing. She hasn't been home for over a fortnight. I don't know if she's been kidnapped or just run away."

That explained the urgency of his summons. This wasn't professional; it was personal. Desperate father, not businessman.

"Is there a man involved?"

"With Dawn, when isn't there?" Giles sighed. "She took a call from a man named Rack the day I last saw her. First name, last -- I've no idea." He shrugged, a helpless move I'd never seen from him. "After her mother died, I know I didn't pay enough attention to her but her sister could always rein her in. Since Buffy's marriage...."

It was in the society pages, the older Giles girl hitching herself to a broody Mick who'd seen the inside of too many bottles. I don't normally hold a man's private demons against him but I'd met him once and disliked him on sight. What do I know anyway, though? Some women get weak in the knees and soft in the head at the thought of saving a man from himself.

"Find her, Harris. Get her out of whatever trouble she may be in and bring her back to me."

I left with a list of names in my pocket, two C-notes for expenses in my wallet, and another whiskey in my belly. My first stop in the city was The Silver Palm. The jazz combo was between sets and I found Danny O in the alley, finishing a cigarette.

"Xanman, what can I do you for?"

"Know a man named Rack?" If he was any sort of player in the city, Danny O would know him.

"Bad news all the way. He runs a place in Chinatown. Crooked gambling up front, opium in the back. First couple hits are free for good-looking girls. Rack likes 'em after they've got a taste for it." He gave me the details and checked his watch. "I'm on in two minutes."

I passed him a fin with my thanks.

"Watch your back, Xanman."

Chinatown's filled with clubs but most are invisible unless you know exactly where to look. Danny's directions were good.

The doorman sneered at my suit until a folded bill improved my looks. I wandered aimlessly, casually working my way toward the back. I dropped some bills on the roulette table; the Mississippi was straighter than that wheel. My losses earned me a whiskey on the house, served by a redhead with glazed eyes. I put a hand on her wrist as she turned away.

"Where's Rack? I need to chase the dragon."

The magic words sparked enough reaction in her to escort me to where a bronze dragon crawled up a curtain in the corner, almost hidden behind a buddha-like bouncer. She sing-songed a phrase to him and he moved aside so I could slip behind the curtain.

A short corridor led to a door. In the dim red light inside, I could make out still figures on couches. No one paid any attention as I looked them over. Dawn Giles lay caught in smoky dreams, a pipe loosely between her lips.

Another discreet door suggested offices and a back way out. As I cautiously opened it, I heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot. My own gun was out and into my hand, leading me into the next room.

A man fitting Danny's description of Rack sat behind a desk. He wouldn't be hooking any more girls on opium; the bullet hole in the center of his forehead saw to that.

The fair-haired man in front of the desk turned jerkily toward me. The gun in his hand came too, pointing none too steadily at me.

"Easy there. I'm not interested in a showdown," I said, keeping my own gun up just in case.

He blinked wide blue eyes and looked at his gun as if he'd never seen it before. I like to live dangerously so I took a chance. He didn't stop me when I took it away from him and put it in my pocket.

"Bastard killed my sister. Messed her up and tossed her out."

Another Brit. California was lousy with 'em.

"All I want to do is get one of those girls out there home to her father." I put my gun away. There was a bar set up on a side table so I grabbed a bottle at random. "You look like you need a bracer."

He took a deep pull, shuddering all over once. A couple more swallows and he passed it back. "Thanks, mate."

"Somebody's going to check on him eventually. We need to get out of here. Give me a hand with the girl?"

Dawn was drug-limp and the extra hand helped. We made it to my car without any alarm going up. We tucked her into the back and I got around to introducing myself. "Xander Harris, P.I. Who's my partner in crime?"

"Call me Spike."

the end
8 February 2004

garden gate
Petals & Pixels
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