AN: Any writer contemplating a crossover between the Dresden Files and BTVS eventually needs to address how BTVS vampires fit into the DF vampire courts. To my mind, the simplest way to do this is simply to say that BTVS vampires are Black Court vampires. Obviously, this alters DF canon a little bit, as Mavra and the other couple of unnamed BC vamps who've appeared so far in the Dresden Files books change into BTVS vamps. This means that BC vamps are not rotting, they don't need to sleep during the day, they do turn to dust when they're slain... etc... I think that this is the most painless way to incorporate BTVS vampires into the Dresden Files. Chapter Two
As the first detective on the scene of a gruesome murder, only two hours into my shift, I was not able to get away to consult Bob for more than six hours – by which time it was very nearly dawn in Sunnydale.
On the upside, the night I had spent examining the crime scene, questioning Buffy Summers, and discussing the condition of the two victims' bodies with Sunnydale PD's forensic examiners had provided me with a much clearer picture of just what had happened last night. On the downside, after a full night without a wink of sleep, my body was reminding me that I was not as young as I had been ten years ago, and demanding some shuteye.
Fortunately, a quick infusion of the nectar of the Gods – aka coffee – was able to kick my body from about to fall over and die gear back into low gear – a state in which I was just aware enough to effectively question an annoying, perverted, talking skull. Unfortunately, so far, the talking skull was being uncooperative: he wasn't talking. Instead, apparently annoyed at having been stuffed into a closet for weeks, Bob was playing dead – a quite simple feat for the skull of a deceased human being.
For the moment, knowing that I needed him, I was trying to play nice with the spirit. However, considering my mood, that was not likely to last. As the seconds continued to tick by with no sign of life from the skull, my sleep-deprived mind's suggestion that I just go hunt down a sledgehammer and start making with the threats was sounding better and better.
I took a deep breath and decided to compromise. I'd give Bob one last chance, but, after that, if he didn't start talking, I was moving on to plan sledgehammer.
“Okay, Bob. What do you want? I know that Harry used to bribe you with raunchy, romance novels. I can even get a new one for you, if that's what it takes. I'll even let you out of the closet, so long as you stop cat-calling every time I walk by.”
In response to my offer, just for a second, and only faintly, I thought that I saw an orange glow alight within Bob's left eye socket. Taking the faint glow as a sign of interest, I decided to up the ante.
“Not enough? Then what's it going to take? I've got dead bodies here, and a killer on the loose, so I'm feeling a lot more generous right now then I'm likely to be after he's caught.”
Both of Bob's eye sockets faintly lit up with a wary, orange glow.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Pretty generous. Why? What are you thinking of asking for?”
The skull's eye sockets flared, regaining their usual brightness. I could still see wariness in those incandescent orbs, but also something far more useful: greed.
“A personal striptease and getting to spend my nights here in bed with you, clutched to your heaving bosom?”
I closed my eyes and counted to ten – taking deep, calming breaths. I needed Bob. Smashing his skull into tiny, itty, bitty pieces might make me feel better, but it would not help me bring the killer I was after to justice.
Instead of smashing Bob to pieces, after calming down, I firmly picked his skull up, took it off my bed, and placed it on my bedside table.
“Keep dreaming. Just for that, no more resting on my bed for you. Try again.”
The skull glanced at me shiftily, probably trying to guess just what I would be willing to pay in return for the information he could provide.
“Can't say,” Bob equivocated. “Without knowing what problem you're having, it'll be tough to figure out just how much I can extort out of you.”
Well, at least he was honest. I'd dealt with worse informants.
“Alright,” I conceded. “How about this? I'll tell you what I'm up against, and, while we're doing that, you can try to figure out just what you think your information's worth. I'm warning you though, Bob. If the price's too high, it'll be back into the closet for you, and you won't be coming out any time soon. Who knows? If you manage to annoy me enough, I might even give burying you underground a try.”
“Hey, hey, boss,” Bob replied, looking a bit panicky. “No need to make with the threats. You know me. I'm always helpful. How about this? As a gesture of my goodwill, I'll tell you everything I know about your problems in return for three romance novels a week and a prominent place here on your bedside table.”
“You never charged Harry that much,” I shot back. “What's with the sudden price hike?”
Eyes changing color from their usual carefree orange to an angry crimson, Bob glowered at me.
“Well, Harry never made me watch while he put all my old novels through a paper shredder, did he? He was also a good friend, who was always happy to help a guy out whenever I needed some R&R at the local, college sororities. God, do I ever miss that guy?”
Bob sighed wistfully, as I offered him a deadpan stare.
“Harry did not let you out, just so you could go around terrorizing sororities.”
“I wasn't terrorizing them,” Bob protested, sounding offended. “I'd call it showing a healthy, academic interest in the opposite sex.”
“There is nothing academic about your interest in the opposite sex.”
“Au contraire, boss. I'll have you know that, as a spirit of intellect, I always closely scrutinize all aspects of any subject who catches my interest. For example, did you know that the the pert, pierced, perfect vision of loveliness who went by Molly Carpenter used to change down in Harry's laboratory. Oh, I could write sonnets about that girl's-”
“Alright,” I interrupted Bob before he could manage to tick me off any further. “I get the idea.”
Could I live with Bob's demands? Well, they would mean that I would have to start changing in the bathroom. Also, I'd need to stick to unrevealing sleepwear, and I might get weird questions about my choice of decor, if I ever invited anyone over to visit. The novels might cost me thirty or forty bucks a week, on top of that. All in all, his offer was not one that I particularly liked, but I could live with it. Moreover, without Bob's help, quite a few other people might not live. Put that way, the choice was easy.
“Okay,” I agreed. “I can live with that. I've just got one condition. When I say to stop talking, you stop talking. If you want to leer at me while I'm sleeping, I can deal with that, but I don't want to hear about it. I also don't want you speaking while I have guests over. Understood?”
“I believe that we have a bargain, mon capitaine,” Bob replied, nodding his head. “So, what seems to be the problem? How can Bob, the proud purveyor of incredible paranormal knowledge, be of assistance to your lovely self?”
“Alright,” I began, trying not to act as creeped out as I felt at having Bob's incandescent, orange eyes focused upon me. “Here's the deal. Last night, while I was on my beat-”
“Wait, wait. Hold up,” Bob interrupted me. “Your beat? Last I heard, didn't you get fired?”
I glared at the skull.
“Right, right. I comprende, boss: sensitive subject. Even so, uh, you know, it might kinda help if you gave me all the facts. I mean, it might be relevant, right?”
I took a deep breath, gritting my teeth. I still did not particularly like thinking about the days right after the battle at Chicken Itza – it brought up too many hurts, most of which had still not quite scabbed over. However, Bob had a point. Even if he was probably just being nosy, there was no way he could do his best work without all the facts.
“Alright. After the Chicago PD let me go, I got a job offer from the Sunnydale PD, in California. That's why you spent all that time in a suitcase, instead of a closet: I was moving.”
“Wait a second,” Bob replied, glowing eyes wide. “Are you saying that we're in Sunnydale, California? The Sunnydale, California?”
My eyes narrowed.
“You've heard of it?”
The skull seemed to be practically vibrating with excitement.
“Are you kidding, boss? Who hasn't? It's Sunnydale: the epicenter of evil. I gotta say, boss, you sure know how to pick 'em.”
I frowned. The epicenter of evil?
“Do you mean that it's a supernatural crossroads, like Chicago?”
I thought of what I had seen last night, and then recalled the emergency dispatcher's remark that they got prank calls like that all the time. Considering the state of Sunnydale's police force, it would not surprise me if supernatural evil could get away with murder – literally – in this town. If Sunnydale faced even half the supernatural threats that Chicago had, without any kind of protection, then it was a wonder that the city was still standing.
“Hah!” Bob scoffed. “Compared to Sunnydale, Chicago's barely a pit stop. Sunnydale: now it's the real deal.”
“What do you know?”
The enchanted skull rolled his eyes.
“Probably way more than you have time for, boss... Karrin. Now that we have this brand spanking new partnership going on, can I call you Karrin?”
“No. Now, let's get back to the topic at hand. Sunnydale: what do you know about it? Give me the short version.”
“Harry was way nicer. Anyway, how short a short version are you looking for? Even if I just give you the highlights, we could be here all day.”
I grimaced. My caffeine high was starting to ebb, and I really needed to get some sleep.
“Give me everything I absolutely need to know now. Try to cram it into five minutes, if you can.”
“Gotcha, boss. The really short version it is. The Spanish who first settled this place called it 'Boca del Infierno,' which, in English, roughly translates as 'the Mouth of Hell.' To be honest, they were pretty well right on the money. Sunnydale is connected to some of the nastiest and most gruesome areas of the Nevernever – humans tend to call them Hell Dimensions. These places were so bad that the queens actually sealed them off from the rest of the Nevernever a few millennia back. If you open a gateway into the Nevernever from here, serious badness is waiting on the other side, and if someone ever managed to establish a permanent portal, well, I think that the phrase Hell on Earth would pretty much sum it up.”
By the time Bob had finished his explanation, I was frowning, and I suspected that more than a little disbelief had crept onto my face. I had seen Harry establish gateways to the Nevernever dozens of times. According to him, for any decently trained wizard, it was easy. Establishing a permanent portal would probably not be quite as simple, but I'd lay odds that he could have done it without too much trouble.
The problem was that, while Harry had been a great wizard, by his own admission, there were plenty of other wizards who had been far beyond him. Moreover, powerful beings lived within the Nevernever who could open portals to the Earth on their own. I had met some of them myself. If a place like Bob described actually existed, then the world should have ended long ago.
“That doesn't make any sense,” I challenged the spirit. “If what you're saying is true, then what you're calling 'Hell on Earth' should have been unleashed a dozen times over by now. I mean, people and faeries open gateways to and from the Nevernever all the time. What's stopping them from opening one up here?”
“Well, that would be the seal,” Bob replied easily.
“Yep. No idea who did it – before my time – but, a long time ago, all the Hellmouths – there are actually quite a few – got sealed up. Whoever did it must have had some serious mojo, like maybe the combined might of the queens or archangel level power, but like I said, no idea who it was. Since then the Hellmouths have been sealed off – you can't cross over into the Nevernever here at all. There are ways the seal could be broken, of course, but no one I know's crazy enough to actually give any of them a go. I mean, even most of the beings humans consider evil, like the vampire courts, aren't really interested in having a whole bunch of demons way stronger than them taking over the world and killing all the humans.”
I bit my lip. That did make sense. Even so, there had to be crazies who had given ending the world a shot before. Bob was talking about thousands of years, after all.
“And, of course, there's the slayer.”
“Yep. One girl in all the world blessed with the strength and skill to keep humankind from becoming monster munchies.”
“A girl?” I prompted him, suddenly thinking back to the young, blonde I had caught in the graveyard. Surely, she was far too young to be some sort of magically powered monster fighter.
“That's right, boss. The whole world gets one nubile, teenaged, mystically powered superbabe to defend it from evil. I think the current one's Kendra something, and, you know, boss, even if you're hard up for romance novels, I'd still be happy to learn all about her for you. I could follow that sweet, little, Jamaican chica all over the world, collecting any information you want to know about slayers. I wouldn't let her out of my sight for-”
“Okay,” I interrupted. “That's enough of that. I'm not going to let you out of your skull just so you can go stalk an underage girl. There probably isn't a law which explicitly covers creepy, perverted ghosts stalking underage girls, but, if there's not, there definitely should be.”
“Hey! I resent that remark!”
“The word you're looking for is resemble, not resent.”
Bob grumbled a bit more before I managed to lure him back onto the topic at hand.
“Okay. So, unless there's anything else pressing that I need to know about Sunnydale...”
I trailed off inquiringly.
“Well,” Bob chimed in. “There is one thing. For some reason – not sure why – unlike the other Hellmouths, which are sealed up tighter than a bank vault, the seal here sort of leaks a bit. That's why some people'd call it the epicenter of evil. The big baddies on the other side still can't make it through. Sometimes, though, some small fry can, and even when they can't, a lot of your regular, run of the mill supernatural baddies are attracted to the energy which leaks through the seal. So, Sunnydale's kind of like a vacation spot for every terrible thing you've ever imagined. Seriously, when the faerie girls hear that I'm hanging my hat here now, it'll be out with the bookish Bob image and in with the new and improved, dangerous, studly Bob. It's like I've always said. Chicks dig danger, and nowhere's more dangerous than at the mouth of Hell.”
Ignoring Bob's plans to improve his image with faerie girls, I focused on the important part of his spiel. According to Bob, Sunnydale was far worse than even Chicago when it came to supernatural danger, and what I'd seen of Sunnydale PD did not exactly suggest that they were a well-oiled, evil monster fighting machine.
Considering what Bob had said, it sounded like what Sunnydale really needed was its own Harry Dresden – a powerful defender of the weak capable of quite literally raining down Hellfire on anyone who threatened the people of his city. It needed a superhero. Unfortunately, Harry Dresden was out of the picture right now, so Sunnydale would have to make do with Karrin Murphy.
I knew that I couldn't fill Harry's shoes, but someone had to keep this city safe, and I doubted that anyone else was likely to step up to the plate. What Bob had described sounded out of my league – way out of my league – but someone had to protect Sunnydale's citizens. If no one better qualified was available, then that someone would have to be me. I would just have to take care of the local nightlife one monster at a time, starting with my current perpetrator.
“Okay, now that we've gotten the preliminaries out of the way, let's get to the perpetrator I'm searching for right now. From his description, he sounded a bit like some of the vampires I've encountered, but the details didn't quite fit.”
I checked to see if Bob was paying attention. He seemed to be following me, so I continued.
“Apparently, he dug his way out of his own grave, and attacked a man and woman, draining the man of blood. According to a bystander, who claimed to have seen the whole thing, he started out looking human, but then developed forehead ridges and elongated canines when he attacked. Here: I had the sketch artist draw a before and after picture of what the girl claims she saw.”
I pulled out a photocopy of the drawings and held them up in front of Bob's skull.
“Okay,” Bob replied flippantly, sounding more than a little bored. “I can already tell you what you're dealing with. It's obvious. That's a black court vampire.”
“Black Court?” I asked, the words summoning a few foggy recollections from a long ago vampire hunt. “Like, what was her name, Mavra?”
“Oh, yeah,” Bob responded. “I forgot that you'd run into her. Anyway, you should know the score then, right?”
I considered the very little I remembered about Mavra from that encounter. I had seen quite a few of her Renfields, but I hadn't really gotten a good look at what the head vampire herself could do, or any particular weaknesses. Well, I had seen that she died if you chopped off her head. Actually, from what I recalled, she had turned to dust, which Harry and Kincaid had both confirmed was the norm for Black Court vampires who had just been slain.
Suddenly, the image of the blonde girl I had seen the night before leapt to the front of my mind. She had been absolutely covered in dust, and not just normal dust either – it had looked almost like funerary ashes. Like an idiot, I had dismissed the oddity at the time, but could she have actually taken out my perp? Was that why she had been there? If so, I was down one murderous monster, which I was not exactly going to complain about, but it did raise other questions.
What had she been doing there? She was neither Kendra nor Jamaican, so she could not be Bob's mysterious slayer. Was she some sort of amateur vampire hunter? If demons and vampires were as common as Bob had implied in Sunnydale, then it might be possible. If so, it was a wonder that she was still alive. Accepting that she had just happened by – a girl capable of killing a vampire, who had also calmly delivered two fabricated, but well-rehearsed, accounts of events to a police officer – was too coincidental to accept.
From the student id she had shown me, Buffy Summers was still a minor. Did her parents know that she was spending her nights out hunting for monsters? I was not sure whether I wanted the answer to that question to be a yes or no. On the one hand, if they did know, allowing their daughter to risk her life like that was almost criminally irresponsible. On the other hand, a parent would have to be pretty negligent to fail to notice his or her daughter constantly coming home late at night with the sort of assorted injuries an amateur monster hunter would inevitably pick up.
I knew that it was possible that I was jumping to conclusions, but my instincts were telling me that I was on the right track. I already had a legitimate reason to approach Buffy Summers – both from a legal and practical standpoint – as she was an important witness in a case, and, practically speaking, I needed to somehow confirm whether or not she had actually killed the vampire who had murdered my two victims.
Glancing at my alarm clock, sitting on the bedside table beside Bob's skull, I noted that it was still only seven-thirty in the morning. Considering that, from what I recalled, Black Court vampires could not operate during the day, that still left me a good six hours to sleep, and another hour to interrogate Bob regarding anything he knew about Black Court vampires, before Buffy's school would get out.
If I cut an hour of sleep out of that schedule, I could show up just before the school day ended, have Buffy called out of class, and then discuss matters with her in private. I still was not quite sure what I wanted to say to the girl – hopefully, sleeping on it would help clear that up – but we definitely needed to have another little tete-a-tete. After my long night, I did not need to head back to the station until six pm, so I had some time to work things out, one way or another.
I turned towards Bob, his skull still propped up on my bedside table.
“Right. Bob, thanks for your help. I'm going to sleep for a bit, but, later this afternoon, after I get up, I'm going to need the lowdown on Black Court vampires, okay?”
“Gotcha, boss. Planning on going hunting?”
I smiled wearily.
“Maybe. I guess that would depend on what my new source has to tell me.”
Bob's eyes sharpened.
“A new source? Do I get to meet her?”
My smile widened.
“Not likely. Unfortunately for you, when it comes to this source, our new rule regarding underage girls applies.”
“New rule? I don't remember a new rule.”
“Oh? You must have missed it. It says that every time you leer at someone underage, I throw a book at you.”
“Throw the book at me? I think, Sergeant, you're going to find that most of your laws don't apply to spirits of intellect, such as myself.”
“Not the book, Bob. I said a book. Don't worry, though. You might pick up a few dents, but I'm sure you'll manage to endure it.”
Ignoring Bob's complaints at the unfairness of my so-called new rule, I picked a fairly modest nightgown out of my drawer and headed towards the bathroom. Living with Bob was going to take some getting used to, but I could probably manage. It was not as if I had much of a choice.
As I had learned at great cost – at the cost of my old partner Carmichael's life, in fact – when people like me – people without flashy, preternatural extras – went up against the supernatural uninformed, we did not just get ourselves killed, but often managed to take others to the grave along with us. It wasn't a lesson I planned on ever forgetting. Harry – much as I hated to admit it – was gone, which left Bob as the best resource I had regarding the things which went bump in the night. That meant that I would have to put up with him – annoying as he could be – because, if Sunnydale was even half as supernaturally active as he had implied, then I was definitely going to need him.