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Chapter Sixteen - Someone To Watch Over Me
Riley steered them into a Starbucks on the south side of Oxford Street. He paid for the coffees and then sat down at a table. He sat facing the window while Xander and Liz sat down opposite him, facing inside.
'Can you see them?' Riley asked, taking a sip from his mug. 'Big bearded guy in an overcoat and his friend, curly blond hair, leather jacket and jeans.'
'I see them,' Liz said.
'Where?' Xander asked, craning his neck.
'Xander, try not to stare,' Riley instructed. 'We don't want to attract attention.'
'They've sat down by the door,' Liz added.
'Good,' Riley said. 'They were with us on the train, but I didn't think much of it.'
'You memorised the people on the train with us?' Xander asked incredulously.
'Yes,' Riley replied simply. 'Then I recognised them when we came out of the museum. And now they're here.'
'So what do we do about it?' Liz inquired.
'I want you two to get back to the hotel,' Riley told them. 'Meet up with Spike and Suzi and sort out a car. I'll take care of these guys.'
'And how do you plan on doing that?' Liz asked.
'Are you kidding?' Xander put in. 'This is secret agent man.'
'Thanks, Xander, I think,' Riley replied.
'Well, when do we get going?' Xander asked.
'No rush,' Riley responded, taking another sip. 'Might as well enjoy your coffee.'
They drank in silence. Liz and Xander kept glancing towards their stalkers, but Riley refused to so much as turn his head.
'Finished?' Riley asked when he'd drained his mug. 'Good. I'll go first. When I give the signal, I want you to make a break for it.'
'And the signal is?'
'You'll know it when you see it,' Riley replied enigmatically.
He got up, swaying a bit, and swaggered over to the door. When he reached the exit he slipped, crashing into the nearest table and knocking it and the drinks on it into the laps of the two people seated beside it - the two stalkers.
'Sorry,' Riley said. 'Here let me help you up.'
As he offered his hand to the blond man in the jacket, he caught a glimpse of Liz and Xander rushing out of the door. He smiled.
'Get away from me,' Jacket protested.
'Only trying to help,' Riley said. He grabbed hold of the man's jacket and made a show of pulling him to his feet, while all the while pinning him where he was.
'I think you've done more than enough,' Beard and Overcoat insisted. He had a hand inside his coat.
Riley stepped back. He had suspected that these two were armed, but it was nice to have it confirmed.
'At least let me buy you fresh drinks,' he said.
'Just get the hell out of here,' Jacket insisted.
'Whatever you say,' Riley replied, stepping out of the door and allowing himself to be carried along by the crowd.
* * *
'Don't drink it all at once, munchkin,' Spike said, putting a glass of lemonade down in front of Suzi.
'Don't call me that,' Suzi snapped. 'And the least you could have done was buy me a beer.'
'And encourage underage drinking?' Spike asked. 'Not bloody likely.'
'Of course not,' Suzi mocked, 'you being such a nice law-abiding vampire and all.'
'Law's got nothing to do with it, munchkin,' Spike replied.
'I said '
'I know. And it's got more to do with me not wanting to attract unwanted attention.'
'In that case,' Suzi continued, 'we'd have been better off in your room.'
'Is that an offer?' Spike asked with a hungry grin.
Suzi blushed. 'How dare you.'
'Don't worry, munchkin,' Spike assured her, 'you're not my type. Still, I notice you didn't say no.'
'Just remember,' Spike told her, 'you promised not to stake me.'
'I promised not to stake you until they got back,' Suzi reminded him. 'After that you can take your chances.'
'I like you, munchkin,' he said. 'There's a fire blazing away in there, isn't there. Maybe you are my type, after all.'
'I doubt that,' Suzi muttered, picking up her lemonade. Her free hand was playing with her hair and had been since she had sat down. Spike knew that it had nothing to do with her being self-conscious. Suzi had one of her knives sheathed back there, hidden from sight by the upturned collar of her jacket.
'Anyway, I like it out here,' Spike continued, 'so long as we stay away from the windows.'
'Life must be tough for you, huh?' Suzi remarked.
'Not really,' Spike replied. 'All the interesting stuff happens at night anyway.'
'Bet you miss the killing, though, don't you,' Suzi said, 'what with that chip in your head.'
'Are you deliberately trying to irritate me,' Spike said, 'because you're going the right way about it. Sure I wish I didn't have this damn chip up here, but I've adapted. There's still plenty of stuff I can kill so I'm not exactly missing out on the rough-housing, if you know what I mean. The blood, though, that's a different thing. Pig's blood's foul and that stuff you get from the hospital isn't much better. No, I like it fresh and warm, but I'm beginning to forget what that even tastes like now.'
'You're disgusting,' Suzi told him.
'At least I'm honest about it,' Spike replied. 'What about you, what's your vice?'
'Like I'm going to tell you.'
'Come on, fair's fair,' Spike said. 'I've answered all of your questions, now you answer one of mine. 'Less you're afraid that is.'
'Yeah, that's it, isn't it,' Spike wheedled. 'The big bad Slayer's afraid of the toothless vampire.'
'Yeah, right,' Suzi responded, looking away.
'In that case,' Spike said, 'tell us your little secret.'
'It's silly,' Suzi admitted.
'Promise I won't.'
'I want to get a tongue stud,' Suzi confessed.
'Hey, you promised,' Suzi protested.
'Evil, remember?' Spike pointed out. 'A tongue stud? Is that all?'
'Told you it was silly,' Suzi pointed out.
'I never said that,' Spike replied. 'I just don't see why you haven't already gone out and got one is all.'
'Mum would never let me have one,' Suzi explained.
Spike sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.
'Not to seem callous and all,' he began, 'but she's dead.'
'Exactly,' Suzi replied.
'You've lost me.'
'If she was alive, at least I could do it as an act of defiance,' Suzi told him. 'Now, well it'd just be disrespectful.'
'I guess,' Spike said. 'Never had much time for respect, myself, even when I was alive.'
'What were you like,' Suzi asked, 'when you were alive?'
'Can we talk about something else,' Spike said.
'You were the one who wanted honesty,' Suzi pointed out.
'Just leave it, okay,' Spike snapped.
'Sorry,' Suzi muttered, slouching in her chair.
There was a commotion over by the reception desk. A bird had flown in from outside and a couple of members of staff were trying to chase it back out again.
'Uh oh,' Spike said, sitting up, 'this doesn't look good.'
'Why?' Suzi asked. 'It's just a blackbird or something.'
'It's a crow,' Spike informed her.
'And I care because?'
'Don't you know your mythology?' Spike demanded. 'Course not. You're a bloody Slayer. What would you need to know any mythology for? The crow represents Morrigan, Celtic goddess of war and strife.'
'And that's a bad thing, right?' Suzi asked.
'Well yeah,' Spike replied.
'Not any more.'
A knife streaked from Suzi's hand and caught the crow in its neck, pinning it to the floor.
'Better?' Suzi asked as she stooped to retrieve her knife.
'What were we saying about not attracting unwanted attention?' Spike asked.
He picked Suzi up and started carrying her from the room.
'Show's over people,' he called out, 'but you'll be pleased to know we'll be performing here all week.'
When they got back to the hotel room, Spike threw her onto the bed.
'Watch it,' Suzi protested.
'What were you thinking?' Spike asked.
'You said that thing was dangerous,' Suzi replied, 'so I got rid of it.'
'And not that I don't admire your enthusiasm, munchkin,' Spike began, 'but did it ever occur to you that you might have made matters worse?'
'Hey, I saw a threat so I acted,' Suzi protested. 'I thought you liked girls with a bit of fire. Or does that only apply to vampires?'
'Oh, I like some vampires,' Spike replied crossing to the window, 'but that doesn't mean I don't like warm-bloods too. Fangs ruin a good pout.'
Suzi scowled. Then thought better of it.
Standing as far away as he could, Spike reached over and twitched the curtains open a fraction before looking out.
'Munchkin, come over here,' he ordered.
'Like hell,' she replied.
'Suzi, this is important,' Spike said. 'I think we've got a problem.'
Suzi walked past him and stared out of the window.
Crows were gathering on the lawn. Dozens of them.
Suzi snapped the curtain closed.
'So what do we do now?' she asked.
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