Part 1 was HERE. Part 2 was HERE. Part 3 was HERE
Summary; The time is now, January 2006, and Xander is staying at a camp site on Zomba Plateau in Malawi and taking in the view. There’s a little more to his trip than rest and recreation, however …
Lonely on the Mountain
“You w-won’t get away with this,” Meryl said. “Uh, I know that sounds pretty lame, but really. I mean, my brother knows I stayed here. If I don’t join him he’ll tell the cops.”
She was trembling a bit but keeping her cool. Smart, pretty, fun, nice, and now I knew she was gutsy too. One hell of a girl. If I could just keep her alive.
Rod stepped forwards into the room, confirming my suspicions that the invite rule didn’t apply in these circumstances, and leered. “You got spirit, chippie. I might have some fun before I take a graze, hey?” He saw me clenching my fists and jerked the gun muzzle in a warning gesture. “Ag, man, don’t tune me grief.” His voice had changed; harsher than before, his accent even more noticeable. Probably this was the real him and the other had been an act.
Okay, priority one, keep him occupied until Faith arrived. Priority two, try to get the gun away from him. I had good reason to be well aware that Slayers weren’t immune to bullets. “You wouldn’t dare say that if you weren’t holding that gun. Makes you feel pretty big, huh?”
He just laughed. “I could klap your lights out any time, boy. You just do what you’re told, hey?”
Okay, he wasn’t going to take the bait, but at least he was talking and we weren’t heading off into the darkness. “Did you use the gun when you killed Grace?”
He frowned. “Grace? That kaffir stukkie? You know about that, hey?”
Meryl turned to stare at me with wide eyes. “He killed someone?”
“He’s the baboon,” I told her. “Only, not so much with the baboon or leopard-ness. He’s a vampire.”
Meryl shook her head. “I don’t understand. A vampire?”
“You know? Ag so, man.” He stood up straight and stared at me. “How’d you find out, hey?”
“I knew a vampire had killed Grace. It didn’t take me long to work out that it had to be you. Know anyone else around here who never shows his face when the sun’s shining? The fake tan was a clever touch, had me fooled for a while, but really? It would have faded.”
“Smart boy. You’re a real boffin, hey?”
I turned to Meryl. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want you caught up in this, Meryl. That’s why I wasn’t all ‘yay!’ about you wanting to stay on. I should have made you go anyway, only, I couldn’t let you go away thinking that I didn’t want you. It was selfish of me, dumb and selfish, and I’m so sorry. I’d kinda hoped I could keep you out of this.”
Her eyes were getting even wider, and her lips were quivering. “You’re crazy!”
“Ag, shame, you’re a vampire hunter, hey?”
“You could say that. I’ve dusted more vamps than I can count. How’d you manage to beat Grace?”
He snarled. His forehead rippled, his nose retracted, and his fangs came out. “That kaffir bitch broke my arm. Skopped my kneecap half off. What was she, the Slayer, hey?”
“You know about Slayers?”
“I’m not dwass, man. I know the Slayer’s always a chick. Man, she nearly had me before I backed her off with the gun and then got the dwaal on her. She lumbered my frame too bad for me to take her to Chingwe’s Hole to dump. I had to just leave her where she pegged, hey?”
“Chingwe’s Hole? That’s where you dispose of the bodies?”
He shrugged, but the gun barrel didn’t waver. “If I can’t make it look like an accident.”
Chingwe’s Hole. A dark deep hole with dead bodies at the bottom, only I’d been thinking about when it had been a burial site, not about vanished travelers from the past three years. I shivered. So did Meryl.
“It’s over, you know,” I warned him. “Take a look in my suitcase. There’s a sat-phone in there. I’ve been calling in to base. If I don’t check in tonight there’ll be another Slayer on her way. You’re finished.” Fuck, what was keeping Faith? She should have been here by now. I didn’t think I could stall him for much longer.
“Izzit? I don’t think so. You’re going to check in, yah, only you say what I want you to say, hey?”
“At gunpoint? Yeah, like they’re not going to guess that something’s wrong.”
He grinned. “You’ll say the right things. Look into my eyes.” His voice grew harsh. “Look into my eyes right now, both of you, hey?”
Oh shit. Dwaal. Thrall. I was going to get turned into a bug-eating butt monkey to an undead racist. No way. Only, how could I avoid it? I had a sudden flash-back. I could hear that witch-doctor Duncan Lipenga’s voice in my head. ‘There is power in your left eye’. Yeah, right. What was I supposed to do, throw it at him? I couldn’t even see out of …
I closed my right eye and turned to face Rod.
“That’s right,” he said in a kind of purr. “Look into my eyes. You have no will of your own. I am your master. You will obey my orders, hey? I am your master.”
“You are my master,” Meryl droned.
“You are my master,” I echoed.
“Okay, boy, make that call.”
“There is no call, master,” I told him. “I haven’t used the satellite phone since I arrived here. I lied to you, master.” I guessed that it would be safe to open my right eye now.
“Nooit? Lekker, man.” Rod smiled. “Okay, you two. Take a walk outside. Wait, pick up your torches. I don’t want you pranging all the time, hey?”
We obeyed. Meryl had brought her own flashlight with her, and I had mine. My flashlight with an 80,000 volt stun gun built in. It wasn’t quite enough to bring me level with the gun, and the vampire strength, but it was something.
“Okay, outside,” Rod ordered.
“Yes, master,” I said. I had a sudden scary feeling that I might be overdoing the bug-eating minion thing and I got a lump in my throat.
“Yes, master,” Meryl said tonelessly. Hearing her say it wigged me out, but it put my mind at rest about my own act.
We walked out, Rod following right behind us, and we’d taken about five steps when there was an interruption.
“Yo, vampire dude. Hold it up right there.”
Rod spun, raising the gun, but he didn’t fire. Faith was holding Marius in front of her, one hand on the scruff of his neck, and she was twitching him from side to side so that he kept passing in front of her head, never giving Rod any chance for a clear shot. “You can throw the gun away now, dude, or I can wring your cousin’s neck like he’s a chicken. Your call.”
Marius was as white as a sheet, obviously scared out of his mind, and I’d felt Faith’s hands on my neck myself and it hadn’t been any fun at all. I almost felt sorry for him for a moment. The pity only lasted for a couple of seconds. Marius was letting a vampire kill and making a living out of it. That made him about the lowest kind of scumbag there was. I didn’t want Faith to go as far as killing him, but bending him some, well, that was fine by me.
Rod’s lip curled. “You won’t kill a human, chippie.”
“You think? Hey, I guess you don’t know me at all.” Faith shook Marius like a terrier shaking a rat.
“Help me!” Marius pleaded, his voice quavering as Faith shook him. “She’s befok, man. She’ll kill me.”
Rod’s gun muzzle wavered. “Ag, I’m not going to let you peg me to save a human. Even my grandson, hey?”
“Grandson? I thought he was your cousin. Oh, yeah, the age thing.” Faith eased off a touch on her shaking of Marius. “Not expecting you to surrender, dude. Lose the gun and I’ll take you on in a straight fight.”
Rod must have been tempted. The gun lowered. Then I guess he must have lost his nerve. Maybe the confidence in Faith’s voice got to him. Grace had come close to beating him, and Faith was older, stronger, way more experienced, and it showed even with Marius swinging in the way. The gun whipped up to Rod’s shoulder, he aimed for a split second and then fired.
I could hardly bring myself to look. Even if Marius was in the way the bullet from that hunting rifle would go straight through him and into Faith. Then I heard Rod grunt “Ag, shame!” and I looked.
Faith must have ducked down. She was still holding Marius; only he didn’t really have much of a top to his head any more. As far as I could tell Faith was untouched. She dropped the limp body and sprang for the cover of a chalet.
Rod worked the bolt of the rifle. He wasn’t looking at me at all. Meryl was standing like a statue, still under the thrall, and he was expecting me to be the same. I flicked the switch on the flashlight to activate the stun gun and lunged at him.
Contact. Rod yelled and dropped the rifle. I lunged again and kicked out at the gun, knocking it yards away, and bringing another yelp of pain from the vampire. And then he lashed out a backhand blow and caught me across the jaw.
I went flying backwards and landed on my ass ten feet away. My head was spinning and my ears were ringing. I had let go of the flashlight and I had no clue where it had gone.
Rod wobbled and clutched at the wall of the chalet for support. “Poes!” he growled. “I’m going to donner you up bad.” He forced himself erect and took a step towards me. I tried to reach inside my jacket for a stake but I was as weak as a kitten and I could hardly get my hand to move.
“Yo! Dude! You missed.” Faith came back out from behind the other chalet. There was a splatter of blood across her forehead but I guessed that it had come from Marius. “Way to go, Xander, five by five.” She was holding a panga, a local machete, two feet long and with a wide blade, and she swung it in a lazy circle. “Okay, sucker, you ain’t got no gun now. You and me. Bring it on.”
Rod looked from Faith to me, back to Faith again, and then in the direction in which the gun had gone. He snarled, obviously not liking his chances, and then his gaze fell on Meryl. “Girlie! Run to the cliff and jump off.”
Meryl wavered for a second, turning this way and that, and I hoped that she was managing to resist the suicide command. “Meryl! Don’t do it,” I croaked out.
“The nearest!” Rod clarified. “Just now, hey?”
Meryl turned and broke into a run. Rod grinned and flexed the fingers of the arm that I’d zapped with the electric shock.
“No!” I cried. “Meryl!” She ignored me and raced out of the circle of light from the propane lamps and into the darkness. “Faith! Stop her!”
“Oh, shit!” Faith hesitated for a moment and then threw her panga at Rod. Hard. He tried to parry it but wasn’t fast enough. It hit him in the chest, went all the way through, and pinned him to the wall of my chalet. “Stick around. I’ll be back.” Faith spun around and took off at a run after Meryl.
I tried to get to my feet but I was still feeling too dizzy from the punch. Sitting up was the best that I could do. I would have expected activity from the staff quarters by now; they’d have heard the shot, and they should have been coming out to see what was going on, but there was nothing. Maybe they were too scared, maybe Rod had them under permanent low-level thrall and had ordered them not to take any notice of things that went ‘bump’ in the night. Or, in this case, ‘bang!’ I fumbled in my jacket pockets for a stake.
Rod’s face was contorted with pain. He grasped the hilt of the panga and pulled. It came free of the wall, and he slumped down to his haunches, and then he pulled the panga free of his chest. “Man, I’m wrecked,” he gasped. His voice was quiet, almost a hiss; I guess his lungs weren’t pulling in air properly for talking, seeing as how they had a hole right through them. He held the panga for a moment and then dropped it. “You’ve lumbered me good, hey? Going to have to cut this place, take the gap. First I’ll blow the head off that befok chippie.” He stood up and lurched away. Towards the rifle.
I had a stake in my hand, and I managed to get to my feet, but I knew I’d never catch him before he reached the gun. Throwing a stake was a skill that I’d never gotten the hang of. Buffy could do it, and I’d seen Spike do it a time or two as well, but when I tried to copy them it would mostly hit side on. I put my hand back inside the jacket and pulled out the decorative wooden spear that I’d bought at Chingwe’s Hole. It wasn’t much of a weapon. The blade was wide and heavy, yeah, but the handle was thin and too fragile; only it put the weight mostly at the front. I raised my arm, took aim, and hurled it as hard as I could.
I was on target. The spear hit him right slap bang in the middle of his back, point first, and it stuck in. Only, he didn’t dust.
He fell, face first, broke his fall with his hands and ended up on his hands and knees. The spear was sticking up out of his back and I could see that it had penetrated only to half the length of the blade. I hadn’t reached the heart.
“Ag, shame!” he croaked. “This is not my foken day.” He rose to his knees and reached back with his right hand, trying to grasp the spear.
I grabbed the stake once more and took a step forward. It was a lot of effort but I managed it. The next step was easier. On the third step I stood on something that moved under my foot and nearly made me fall. I looked down. It was the flashlight.
I bent down and retrieved the weapon. Okay, now I had a stake and a stun-gun, my head was clearing, and I was ready to rumble. Rod was a mess. Zapped twice, impaled twice. Third time would be the charm. I reckoned the odds were on my side now.
Rod twisted to face me, still clawing at the spear in his back. “How did you break the dwaal, man?”
“You never had me,” I told him. “Somebody gouged out my left eye a while back. It’s glass. You can’t hypnotize a glass eye.”
“Ag, shame.” Rod shook his head. “Why couldn’t you have left things alone, hey? People die all the time in this country. Not enough food to go round. AIDS. I’m doing them a favor, thinning the herd, hey?”
“Malawi has enough troubles without a parasite like you.” I saw Faith behind him, coming into the lamplight, bearing a struggling Meryl slung over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry. “This is where you get off.”
Rod turned his head and saw Faith. His mouth gaped wide and he came up off his knees and lunged at me fangs first. I met his lunge with the flashlight. Rod halted in his tracks, writhed, and staggered backwards.
Faith whirled Meryl around, set her on her feet, and hurtled towards us. She took off in a flying leap and kicked Rod right in the head. He crashed into the wall of the chalet, bounced off, and stood swaying. The point of the spear protruded from his chest. He put his hand to it, said “Ag, kak!” and exploded into dust.
We drove the whole way from Zomba to the turn-off from the main road to Liwonde National Park without Meryl speaking to me at all. She just sat there, half turned away from me, staring out of the window.
She’d hardly spoken to me during the aftermath of the previous night’s events. When we were agreeing what to tell the cops she pretty much just stuck to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ‘okay’, and she’d shrugged off my attempts to comfort her and gone stiff in my arms when I’d tried a hug. She’d stuck to what we’d agreed when the cops arrived – we’d heard a shot, looked out the windows, seen nothing, gone out and found the body and the gun lying there, and then called the police, no mention of vampires or of Faith – but when they’d gone she’d stayed in her chalet, and I’d stayed in mine, and that had been it.
When I’d stopped at Zomba Market to have a word with Duncan Lipenga Meryl had stayed in the car. She hadn’t spoken a word since then. I’d put the radio on. Malawian Gospel music, which got old pretty darn quick, and then I’d found a station playing Country. Old school Country, the music of pain, none of that Shania Twain fluff. Just right. That had lasted almost to Liwonde.
Now the radio was playing Western pop. Mainly British. James Blunt came on. ‘You’re beautiful.’ I glanced across at Meryl. She was on my blind side – right hand drive cars here, which I’d found to be easier for me to drive, although parking could be a bitch – and I had to turn my head right around to look at her.
Was that a tear in her eye? I wasn’t sure. I turned back to the road. Maybe there was a tear in my eye too, as the song came to an end; and James Blunt sang the quiet, slow, unaccompanied finishing lines.
‘But it’s time to face the truth.
I will never be with you’.
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. Lyrics from ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt used without permission.