The Monster in the Pit
Disclaimer: Not mine etc. etc.
Summary: Angel discovers that Wolfram & Hart know more than one way to skin a cat.
Not really in any timeline, but if pushed just after the gang moved
into the Hyperion in early season 2.
Lilah Morgan smiled, a wide self-satisfied grin. “Oh, it’s so good when a plan comes together.”
Her assistant glanced nervously up at the willowy lawyer. “Er, yes. Of course Ms Morgan.”
Lilah glared at him. “You’ve no idea what I’m talking about.” The man shrank down into his chair. Feeling too good to continue terrifying her subordinate, Lilah laughed. “I’ll tell you. I’ve stopped Angel from being a thorn in our sides, have got him where we can decide what to do with him when the time comes. And bonus point, we can use him to dispose of other nuisances to the firm. Hey, he’s just become an asset instead of a liability. Mmmm. Makes me feel all warm and fluffy inside”. She examined her long, red talons. “I can just hear the sound of my furniture being moved into that big, swanky new office upstairs, can’t you?”
Angel groaned, every part of him hurting. He opened his eyes, straining to make out where he was, but it was pitch black, without the tiniest glimmer of light. Even Angel’s preternatural night vision couldn’t cope with total absence of light. Effectively blind, he staggered to his feet, wincing with the pain of multiple bruises and contusions. Hands reaching out in front of him, Angel discovered that he was in some kind of pit, with cold stone walls, and a hard earth floor. He clapped his hands, the echo of the sound letting him know that the ceiling of the pit was at least twenty feet high. He sniffed the air. It was dank, damp, but gave him no idea where he could be.
The vampire sat on his haunches and tried to remember what had led up to finding himself here.
He recalled the call to Angel Investigations. A panicky sounding young woman, fearing for her life. Angel had rushed to try and help her. He remembered arriving at her apartment, and the young woman inviting him in. Then…dim, confused recollections….electric shocks, a hailstorm of blows…nothingness. And now he was here, wherever here was.
Angel searched his pockets, hoping to find the cell phone that he usually so despised. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t there. Angel supposed it had been taken from him while he had been unconscious, but wryly admitted to himself that it could equally well still be in the glove compartment of his car.
All Angel was certain of was that he had only been here a matter of hours. His vampire chemistry knew instinctively that the sun had not yet risen, and his hunger, although always with him, was still well within the bounds of comfort.
He prowled around the pit, feeling his way, looking for any sort of escape route. There was nothing. Angel crouched, and then leapt as high as he could, his fingers just touching the ceiling of his prison, before he fell back to the ground. He repeated this exercise ten or eleven times, but felt nothing except stone. On his twelfth attempt, however, his hand brushed against solid wood. The vampire rested for a moment, and then jumped again. No doubt about it, that must be the exit from the pit. Angel sat down directly beneath where he had discovered the wooden door, and pondered his next move.
Angel felt himself starting to become drowsy. Instinctively he knew that the day must be dawning above him. Straining to stay awake, the vampire stared upwards, trying to spot even the tiniest glimmer from around the door to the pit. There was none. That either meant that the hatch was completely covered from above, or that the pit was inside a building. He sighed, and allowed himself to curl up on the cold, hard floor. Dispite the discomfort, he was soon asleep.
Angel was startled into wakefulness by a sound from above him. He leapt to his feet, just as the trap door in the roof of the pit opened. There was a shriek, and then the door slammed shut once more. The thud of a body hitting the floor, and its accompanying groans told Angel that another hapless individual had joined him in his prison. Angel scented, whoever had been thrown down, was human, and injured.
“Hey. Can you hear me, where are you hurt?”
“Oh, Christ. Thank God, I thought I was going to die.” The voice was shaky and pain-filled. Angel guessed by his smell that he was a middle-aged white man.
“It’s my ankle, I think I must have broken it in the fall.”
“OK. I’m going to see if I can feel what’s happened. I’ll try not to hurt you any further. By the way, my name’s Angel, what’s yours?” Angel had come over to the injured man, and was gently trying to find if the ankle was broken.
“It’s Stephen. Stephen Bentley. Jesus, it hurts. Are we alone in here?” Angel could smell the man’s terror, even if it hadn’t been leaking through his voice.
“Yeah. Just the two of us. Uh oh.” Angel had found the site of the break, just above the ankle. Painful, but not life threatening at this stage. “Look, I’m going to move you, Stephen. You’ll be more comfortable if you can lean against one of the walls. Put your arm around my neck so that I can lift you.”
Bentley snorted, and then winced. “Don’t think so, pal. I weigh fifteen stone or more. You’ll have to drag me.” Angel shook his head, and then realised that his companion wouldn’t be able to see him.
“Let me try” he said quietly. With as much care as he could manage, the vampire lifted the human into his arms, and walked carefully backwards so that he bumped into the wall first. Bentley had gasped, half in shock at his fellow prisoner’s strength, and half with the pain of his broken limb. Angel put the man down so that he was supported by the wall of the pit.
“Wow. I’ve either lost a hell of a lot of weight in the past couple of days, or you are seriously strong.” Bentley managed to chuckle. “I’m just relieved to be still alive. Those goons who put me here told me there was a monster in the pit, and that I was going to die horribly. I suppose that must have been some sick joke. As if I needed it after everything I’ve already been through.”
Angel flinched in the darkness. “Do you know who did this to you? Why you ended up here?”
Bentley groaned again. “I screwed up. Big time. Thought I could pull a fast one, make a killing. Should have known better than to mess with those bastards. Even run-of- the mill law firms are tricky customers. These guys…” He moaned as another spasm of pain shot up his leg.
“Law firm? Do you mean Wolfram and Hart?” Suddenly everything fell into place. Angel smothered his instinctive urge to growl at the thought of falling into a trap placed by Lilah Morgan and her colleagues.
“Of course, Wolfram and Hart. Who else would consider throwing a petty would-be blackmailer into a pit to be devoured by a monster as normal business practice. Except they were lying about the monster bit. Anyways, what did you do to deserve this?” Bentley seemed to realise for the first time that Angel must have also have crossed the law firm in some way.
“Long, long story. Suffice it to say, Wolfram and Hart and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on most things. They probably found this a convenient way of getting me out of their hair.” Angel hoped that he was right. Bentley’s continued references to the monster in the pit were making him feel very uncomfortable.
Bentley groaned again. “Jesus. What if they just plan to leave us here? What if they decide not to give us any food, or water? What if they just let us starve to death?”
Angel was silent. He was painfully aware that only one of them had no choice but to starve to death.
Stephen Bentley was dying. Angel knew that seven days had passed since Bentley had been thrown into the pit. Bentley had no idea how long it had been, and no longer cared. He had been half-delirious with thirst for the past few days, and was getting progressively weaker. Angel’s own hunger was sharpened to knife-keenness, and he found himself getting as far away from the moaning human as he could, pressing himself into the farthest wall of the pit, and burying his nose in his coat to mute the tantalising smell of Bentley’s blood. As he sat listening to the human’s ever more incoherent babblings, Angel felt an ever deepening suspicion regarding Wolfram and Hart’s motives for capturing him. His mind kept flicking back to Bentley’s anxiety about the creature that had supposedly been in the pit, waiting to devour him. Angel had suspected then, and now knew with complete certainty, that the law firm’s heavies hadn’t been lying to Bentley when they had taunted him about the monster. He sighed, the sigh dissolving into a rumbling growl, as the sound of Bentley’s pounding heart assaulted his ears, and the smell of his blood assailed his nostrils.
I won’t give in Angel thought grimly. I won’t play their game. He remembered Lindsey Mcdonald’s parting advice, not to play by their rules. Easier said than done, especially when it looked like W&H were holding all the cards. Angel wondered how his colleagues were faring in trying to locate him. For all he knew he wasn’t even in LA anymore. He had asked Bentley if he knew where the pit was, but the injured man had been blindfolded and knocked unconscious. He too, had had no idea where he had been taken. Angel became aware that Bentley was no longer babbling. He listened to the man’s laboured breathing, his increasingly erratic heartbeats, and knew that it would only be a matter of a few more hours before the human died of his thirst. Angel wanted to comfort Bentley, but couldn’t trust himself to be close to the man. Even now, it was taking every ounce of the vampire’s iron self-control to prevent himself from surging across the pit and draining every last drop from the dying human. A tiny voice inside Angel’s head was pleading with him.
He’s dying anyway…what difference will it make to him? He’d nearly given in to that voice several times already. It was only the thought that Wesley and the others might find him – at any moment – that prevented him from taking Bentley.
At last, Bentley gave up his fight for life. Angel heard the final death rattle, and the heart stop its pumping. The pit fell silent as the grave it had now become. Angel clenched his teeth, and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He would not drain this person, even though they were now dead. Somehow he would find the will power to leave the poor man’s body alone.
It’s fresh, still. It’ll only be drinkable for a very short while – then it will all have gone to waste…
“NO! I won’t!” Angel hadn’t even realised he had shouted out. As if on cue, the trapdoor suddenly opened in the roof. For one moment Angel thought his team had found him, and then, horrified, he saw another body being shoved into the opening. The thud of someone hitting the floor, and the crash of the trap door slamming shut were almost simultaneous.
Angel instinctively rushed over to the new arrival. Whoever it was had landed very heavily, and had been knocked out, presumably by the fall, or perhaps had already been unconscious when they had been thrown into the pit. But as Angel got closer, he was almost overwhelmed by the smell of hot, flowing blood. Whoever this individual was, they were bleeding from a fresh wound. Moaning, the vampire scrabbled backwards until he was once again pressed up against the wall.
Angel could feel his self-control slipping. A week of starvation, listening to Bentley dying, and now this. Angel made a decision. He found Bentley’s body, already cooling, and bit down. The blood was so thick and viscous through dehydration, that it was almost impossible to suck it out of the body. And now the heart was stopped, there was no circulation. Angel found himself forced to tear open the body on its throat, arms, legs and torso in order to get the blood into himself. Even after this terrible mauling, Angel had only been able to feed enough to stave off the very worst of his hunger. At least this new fellow prisoner would be safe from him for a while. For the first time, Angel was glad that the pit was in pitch darkness. He had no wish to see the results of his desperate need to feed.
A groan from behind him, made Angel aware that the new arrival was waking up. Once again, Angel helped the man sit up, and told him where he was. This time his companion was a young man, in his early twenties, called David Williamson. Angel was shocked to learn that he had been a lawyer with Wolfram and Hart.
“There were things going on with the firm that I was getting scared of.” David told Angel. “I’d only been there a matter of weeks. Sure, I knew that W&H were into a whole raft of, shall we say, unusual, practices. But when I was asked to witness a contract, and sign it in my own blood, it began to freak me out. There was other stuff too, strange looking creatures that you’d catch glimpses of in offices or corridors, chanting and incense, guards carrying stakes and electric stun guns as well as ordinary weapons. It got so I wanted out. Christ knows how they knew.” Angel remembered the mind readers that Lindsey had told him about, but didn’t say anything to the young lawyer.
“Anyway, they got hold of me yesterday. Told me that they were concerned about my commitment to the firm. Next thing I know, I’m waking up somewhere I haven’t seen before, with three muscle-bound heavies surrounding me. One of them has got this knife. Tells me it’s nothing personal, he’s been ordered to cut me, and he does, right down my forearm. Jeez, and it still hurts like hell. They’re laughing, though, while they do it. Then they chuck me down here. How long have you been here?”
Angel hesitated. If he told Williamson that he’d been captive for a week, then the young man would assume they were going to be fed and watered. He would also have to warn the lawyer that there was already one corpse in the pit with them. He hedged.
“Uh, I don’t know. There’s no way of telling whether it’s night or day outside. Look, David, you need to know that there is a body in here. Another guy who got on the wrong side of your ex-firm. He was injured when he fell, and he was an older guy…” Angel left Williamson to make his own assumptions.
“Jesus Christ. D’you think they’ll take the body away when they come to feed us? God, the thought of being in here with some dead guy…well, I didn’t think things could be any worse.”
Angel thought it best not to enlighten Williamson with the information that he was actually sharing his prison with not one, but two dead guys.
“David, they haven’t actually been to feed us yet. In fact, I’ve seen nobody but Bentley, and now you, since they put me in here.”
“No food? But what about water…they must give you water, surely?” There was the unmistakeable tinge of panic in Williamson’s voice now. Angel didn’t reply.
“Oh my God. They’re going to starve us to death. I’ve read about people dying of thirst. It’s supposed to be an awful way to die. God, I wish I’d broken my neck in the fall."
Angel tried to calm the young man. “I have friends who will be searching everywhere for me now. We have to try to stay calm, and hope that they will find us.”
Williamson clutched at this faint hope like the proverbial drowning man and the straw.
“Yes. Oh thank Christ. Friends who are looking for you? How will they know what’s happened?”
Angel managed a dry chuckle. “We have a history with W&H. It won’t take them too long to realise who’s behind my sudden disappearance. And we’re detectives. They’ll be using every source we have to try and figure out what’s happened.” Angel knew he was speaking the truth, his colleagues wouldn’t rest until they had found him. He just hoped there was something – anything - for them to go on.
“Detectives…..and your name’s Angel isn’t it. Are you from Angel Investigations?” There was a sudden note of wariness in Williamson’s voice.
“Yes. What have you heard about me…us?” Angel asked, conscious that the lawyer’s heart rate had speeded up.
“Not sure….I know they don’t like you, that’s for sure. Don’t you specialise in, y’know, demonic activity too?”
Angel was relieved, Williamson’s nervousness was about the business, not about the proprietor.
“Well, we have a mission. We help the helpless. More often than not, that involves us working to help people who have discovered that there is more to LA than meets the eye. We like to think that we’re the good guys”. Angel tried to sound reassuring.
“Hah. The good guys. Depends on where you’re stood, I suppose. W&H seem to think that you’re the big bad. Still, can’t say I trust my ex-firm’s judgement all that much now.” Williamson slowly got to his feet. Angel could hear him stretching and starting to walk about. Just as he was about to warn Williamson about Bentley’s corpse he heard the young lawyer stumble and curse. Too late, he’d tripped over the body.
Then Williamson gasped. “Jesus! You said this guy was injured, it feels like he’s been torn to pieces. Ugh, gross, I think I’m going to be sick”. The young man vomited.
Angel shrank away, ashamed of what he had done to poor Bentley. He tried to remember that he’d only fed from the dead man to try to protect Williamson, but the lawyer’s disgust at his discovery still made the vampire feel like an unclean thing.
Williamson fared even worse than Bentley had. The combination of him vomiting, and the sickly sweet smell that was the decaying corpse of the dead man, was making the young lawyer, weak and sick within a day of his imprisonment.
“Jesus. I can’t stand this. I need to drink, I’m so thirsty. Goddamn it Angel, why aren’t you even worse than me?”
Angel shifted uncomfortably. Williamson was a complainer, but was astute with it. He’d already commented on the fact that he couldn’t hear Angel breathing or moving, forcing Angel to keep breathing, even when he didn’t need to speak. The vampire was also now consciously trying to make a noise when he moved about.
“Are you sure you haven’t got some water hidden on you? You should be parched by now, I am, and I’ve only been here a day.”
Angel wished Williamson would shut up. He was still hungry, although not as painfully as before he had fed on Bentley, but the smell of Williamson’s crusting wound, combined with the man’s whining was irritating the vampire more than it should. He stifled a growl of frustration. However, Williamson wasn’t finished. Crawling over to where Angel was sitting, the young man reached out as if he were going to search his companion. With preternatural reflexes Angel shot away from the lawyer’s questing fingers.
“Hey, where’ve you gone? OK, that makes me think you are hiding something from me. C’mon, give it up. I know you’ve got something to drink here”. Williamson blindly pursued Angel around the perimeter of the pit.
Suddenly the lawyer found himself snapped into a vice-like grip, his face pressed into the cold stone of the wall.
“You’re right, Stephen. I do have something to drink. You.” With a low growl, Angel thrust the young man away from him, sending Williamson slithering across the floor.
“Now just stay away from me and keep your mouth shut.”
Williamson scrabbled as far as he could get from the creature he had thought was a fellow human.
“W-what are you? Oh God, what’s happening here?” Williamson’s naked terror emanated from him, filling the air with the intoxicating scent of adrenaline. Angel felt the change sweep over him, felt fangs lengthening in the vampire’s instinctive response to prey. It was only by a Herculean effort of will that Angel forced the demon back down. Panting with the effort, Angel leant back against the wall.
“Stephen, I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Angel’s voice was shaky with the effort of controlling himself. “I don’t want to hurt you. Truly. I didn’t tell you before, it would have only have scared you even more. I’m, well, not human. Not a man.” Williamson’s low moan of fear made Angel tremble. “Please, Stephen, try not to be frightened. I don’t kill people.”
“W-hat are you…please, I need to know” Williamson repeated, still very frightened, but a little calmer. Angel could hear the frantic pounding of the human’s heart beginning to slow a little. He debated with himself the wisdom of telling the truth to the lawyer, not wanting to send the young man over the edge again.
“I am a demon. I don’t need to drink water, or eat solid food to survive. But I won’t hurt you.” Angel hoped this would be enough for Williamson. But the lawyer seemed unable to help himself.
“But you said…you said you could drink me. Did you mean my blood? A-are you a vampire? I mean… do they exist too?”
Angel sighed. “Yes, Stephen. I’m a vampire. But I have a soul. Now I try to help people, not kill them. That’s why your firm wanted me out of the way. Now please. Try to rest.” Angel fell silent, determined not to answer any more questions. But Williamson had finally had his terror-filled curiosity satisfied. He was quiet, only his shaky breathing betraying his anxiety. That, and his still racing heart.
“I want you to kill me”.
Williamson’s voice was hoarse and cracked, he was so parched. The young man was dying, and in terrible pain as his internal organs dehydrated. It had been six days since Bentley died and Williamson had been thrown into the pit. He groaned, a pitiful, creaking sound.
“Angel…please, finish me…”
The vampire sat hunched over himself. If anyone had shone a light onto him, they would have seen a picture of misery, as Angel was curled up, his hands over his ears, eyes tightly shut, rocking slightly. He had been listening to Williamson’s pleas for death for over a day now, and didn’t any longer know what to do for the best. He knew that with one bite, he could end Williamson’s agony, and make his ending as painless as possible. Alternatively, he could just break the human’s neck, which would be quicker still. Was he doing the right thing, hoping that they would be rescued before Williamson died, or was he being selfish, allowing Williamson to suffer unnecessarily because of his own refusal to do what he was certain W&H wanted him to do. And in his silent heart, Angel was frightened. What would happen if he did kill the lawyer, drained him? Would the next victim – and Angel was sure there would be a next victim – find themselves at the mercy of the monster in the pit?
“For the love of God….kill me…”
Angel pressed himself into the wall of the pit. Despite himself, he couldn’t suppress a fretful whine, and recognised that once again his control was slipping away from him.
“I just want to die…..please….help me” Williamson’s voice was so dry it was nothing more than a painful rasp. Angel heard the man trying to drag himself across the floor towards him. Williamson had done this before, and Angel had retreated out of his reach, but this time he felt paralysed. Then he could stand it no longer. The vampire struck.
Now there were two rotting corpses in the pit.
Angel had fed desperately on the dying Williamson, the man’s blood had been thick and gelatinous through lack of water, but his heart had helped push the liquid out of his body and into the vampire. After the young lawyer was dead, Angel had looked anxiously up into the darkness, wondering if yet another unfortunate human was going to be thrown down into the pit, to suffer the same fate as Bentley and Williamson.
Over time, Angel was forced to listen to the agonies of more dying humans, until, finally he could bear it no more. Any hopes of rescue had long since been extinguished, now when the trap door opened and a screaming victim was thrown in, the vampire was on them almost before they had hit the floor. He had learned that it made no difference if he waited until they died of their thirst, or if he drank and killed them immediately. There would still be a gap of about ten to twelve days between each opening of the trap door. Angel had made his decision after the sixth victim, a woman called Sheila Franks, had cursed him for his selfishness in denying her a merciful end. She had known she was being thrown into the pit with a vampire, and spent the first two days being terrified of him. After that time, when the thirst really began to cause her pain, Sheila had demanded that he kill her. She knew that nobody was going to save her, it had been made clear to her by those who had condemned her to her fate. The pile of stinking, rotting corpses in the pit, only confirmed that understanding. Angel had finally given in to her, even then, she had had to beg, plead and finally execrate him before he had taken her. He had wept bitter tears afterwards, cradling the woman’s drained body in his arms, knowing that Wolfram and Hart had won.
He was now the monster in the pit.
Angel sometimes wondered if he had gone mad.
The first time he felt like this was when he had found himself slowly counting the corpses that putrefied the air in the pit. He’d been deprived of any sensory stimulation other than feeding for so long that he’d lost track of how long he’d been a prisoner down here. By counting the number of bodies, Angel thought he’d be able to work out roughly how long he’d been in the pit. Appalled, he had counted twenty-five skulls, and that fact alone was enough to send him skittering across the floor away from the gruesome heap, whimpering in distress.
He’d also taken to eating rats once more. The pit was full of them, scuffling and squeaking. He could hear them gnawing and scratching at the corpses constantly. They never came near him, but he often snatched and caught them as they ran past him.
Once, he was determined not to let the next victim know he was even present. He spent four, long days and nights being completely still and silent, only moving when the poor victim searched their prison desperately looking for escape. But the human’s moans of suffering became too much for him on the fifth day, and he ended them.
Then he began to howl. At first Angel had howled because the build-up of stress had demanded some kind of release. Now he howled simply because he liked the way the sound bounced off the walls and ceiling of the pit.
If he stopped howling for a little while, Angel would listen to the scuffling of the rats, hear the slow drip, drip, drip of rotting flesh, and again wonder if he had lost his mind.
He dreamed whilst he slept, and dreamed while awake. Buffy – of course – Spike, Cordelia and Darla, Wesley and Drusilla. Their faces, human and vampire swam before him. Sometimes the dream was so real he could smell them, even above the stench that pervaded his nostrils from the pile of death that lay so close to him.
Then someone switched the light on.
Angel cried out in pain, as the light smashed against his eyeballs, searing a blinding whiteness into his skull. He curled up away from it, hiding his head under his arms, feeling fear slither down his spine.
Nothing else happened. Gradually, Angel raised his head, and carefully, slowly opened his eyes, blinking rapidly from the – to him – startling glare of one yellowish lightbulb that was fixed high up on one of the walls of the pit. As he became accustomed to the light, Angel’s first reaction was to gasp with the horror of seeing the charnel house that he had existed in for such a long time.
The smell of human death had been overwhelming, but somehow he had been able to detach himself from it. Now he could see the bodies, in various stages of decomposition, and all with the tell-tale puncture wounds in their necks, or worse – their throats torn out completely. He whimpered, a miserable, animal sound as he stared at the people he had killed.
So paralysed was he by the sight, that he failed to even notice the trap door swinging open once more, and he was nearly hit by the body that had been pushed through it. Angel leapt back, catching sight of the figure of a young woman, dark hair spread around her, who had landed heavily on the floor. She groaned, and dragged herself into a sitting position, dazed with the fall.
Angel saw the girl pushing the hair off her face.
“No. No oh no, please no. Nonononononono….”
It was Cordelia.
“Angel…?” Cordelia looked bemused, and then, realising it really was him, her face lit up with one of her thousand megawatt smiles. “Angel…Oh thank God…We thought you were dead…Oh Angel….Where are we? Uggggh, the smell….” She screamed as she turned her head and saw the source of the overwhelming stench.
She was just about to throw herself into Angel’s arms, and away from the terrible sight, when she saw the puncture wounds on one of the more recent kills. Then she saw all the others. She turned back to where the vampire had retreated, and was now huddled against the wall, unable to meet her eyes.
“W-w-what have you done? You’ve killed and eaten all those poor people….”
“Cordy…I’m so sorry….I never wanted to….please, you have to believe me….Oh God, and now you’re here…I can’t stand it….” To Cordelia’s increasing horror, Angel began to cry.
Instinctively she rushed over to him. He flinched away from her, but Cordelia grabbed his shoulders and forced him to look at her.
“OK. For once in my life, I’m not gonna jump to any conclusions. Angel. Pull yourself together and tell me what’s happened here.” She gave Angel quite a violent shake. Startled, he looked up at her, and the naked grief that clouded his dark eyes took her breath away.
“Tell me…please” her tone was suddenly more gentle.
Slowly, haltingly, Angel described the months of darkness, how he had been forced to listen to people dying of thirst, and how they had begged him to end their agony. He explained how he had tried to resist, hoping that by not succumbing, that he could beat Wolfram and Hart’s plan, but how, finally, he couldn’t stand to see another human suffer such an agonising death, and began to kill them as soon as they were thrown into the pit.
Cordelia listened to him, hearing his voice hitching as he fought to keep control of his emotions, and her heart went out to him.
“Oh my poor Angel. Those bastards, when I get my hands on them….” She stopped seeing the despair on Angel’s face.
“Cordy….they’ll do the same to you…no food…no water….They’ll make me watch you die.”
“Or they’ll make you kill me”. She shook her head. “That’s not gonna happen, Angel. We’ll get out of here. Wes and Gunn will find us”.
Angel rested his head on his knees. “They won’t. They won’t find me, and they won’t find you.”
“Well, we’ll find some way to escape then.”
“There isn’t a way, Cordy. Don’t you think I’d have found one by now. The only way out is through the trap door that they threw you through, and it’s too high for me to reach.” He gestured upwards at the wooden door that was set into the ceiling of the pit, some twenty five feet above them.
Cordelia was silent, thinking. She looked up at the trap door speculatively. “How high can you jump Angel?”
“I’ve tried, Cordy. I can touch it, but there’s no way I can get any force behind me to get it open.”
“Then we’ll just have to get closer to it, won’t we.”
Angel opened his mouth to argue with the girl, and then saw where she was looking. And suddenly he realised what she was talking about.
“Yeah, dumbass. I’m gonna let you off this one, as you’ve been sitting in the dark, alone…apart from a heap of corpses…and you probably didn’t realise what a big heap this was turning into, did ya?”
“Well, looks like Wolfram and Hart just made a big mistake. I suppose they thought it’d be even more torture for you to have to look at me dying by inches, hence the light” she gestured at the weak lightbulb on the wall. “But they forgot that it might also let us see a way out.”
Angel shook his head. “No Cordy, not us. You.”
“Not gonna argue. Now, just to let you know. I’m ideas girl, but there’s no way that you’re going to get me to touch any of those poor, stinking bodies. You’re on your own building that pile.”
“Wouldn’t let you, any way. I’m worried enough that you’re exposed to disease just by being in here, without you having to handle them, especially some of the older ones.”
“Eeeewwww. And I know that this stink is going to get a whole lot worse as soon as you start shifting them. I’ll apologise right now for barfing.”
“Here” Angel ripped off the sleeve of his shirt. “Wrap this around your nose and mouth. It might make it a bit easier for you.”
Cordelia took the strip of cloth gratefully and bound her face with it.
“It might be better if you don’t look….”
“Again…not gonna argue. In fact, hand me your jacket. I’ll just put it over my head and pretend I’m at the mall”.
Finally it was done. Angel had sorted the bodies, placing the oldest and most decomposed at the bottom of the heap, and piling the other bodies onto the heap in order of decreasing decomposition, until the final corpse was placed at the top, a young man who had only died ten days previously. As the rotting corpses were disturbed, the gases and fluids that had built up in them were released, and the stench, disgusting before, reached unbelievable proportions. Despite Angel’s jacket, and the cloth wrapped around her nose, Cordelia was overwhelmed by the revolting stink, and vomited profusely. Even after she had lost the contents of her stomach, she continued to retch almost continuously, her eyes watering as she spasmed uncontrollably.
“Jeeeezus, Angel, how can you stand it?” she groaned between heaves. “Especially with your sense of smell”.
“But I don’t have to breathe all the time. Only when I speak, or want to scent…and even then, my perception of what is disgusting and what isn’t is different to yours. I mean, I am dead too….remember?”
“Uhhhgh. Gotta tell you, if you smelled like these guys….Angel Investigations would be short of one seer.”
“Cordy…if this works, we’re only going to have one shot at getting out….you’ll have to climb up with me…” he gestured at the gory heap.
“Uuugh. At this point, dying from thirst seems like a soft option”.
“Believe me, Cordy. It’s not.”
Angel stretched out a hand, and then quickly withdrew it, and wiped it on his pants, but not before Cordelia had seen the slime and mess that stained it.
“Angel…I don’t know if I can do this.”
“You have to. We’ve no idea what – or who is waiting up there. Once that trap door is open, I’ll have to throw you through it, and hope to God that I can follow you fast enough to protect you from anyone already up there.”
Cordelia grimaced, but got to her feet. Angel looked at her strappy shoes.
“Oh no. I know what you’re going to say…but barefoot on those bodies….just too yuck to even consider.”
“And you’d rather step on their faces with three inch stilettos?”
“Point taken. Why did I even come up with this crappy idea in the first place?” she retched again.
Angel boosted Cordelia so that she found herself on the top of the corpse heap, without having had to claw her way up the bodies, and Angel quickly followed her. Now the trap door was only four feet above Angel’s head.
“I’m going to try to get it open first time. You’ll have to be ready for me to throw you up as soon as it’s open.”
Cordelia nodded mutely, almost fainting from the stench as the bodies released even more putrifying gases as they were crushed under their weight.
Angel crouched, and then, using every ounce of his preternatural strength, hurled himself upwards, fists outstretched, and with a splintering crash, ripped the trap door clean off its hinges.
Falling back down, the vampire twisted like a huge cat, landed back on top of the pile of bodies without losing his balance, and in a single, fluid movement, hoisted Cordelia above his head, and threw her like a projectile straight through the opening in the ceiling. Even as her feet disappeared through the open trapdoor, Angel had launched himself after her, appearing through the hole in the floor of the room above the pit, like the demon king in a children’s pantomime. But no amount of smoke and make-up could ever have looked as fearsome as Angel did at that moment. Covered in stinking putrefaction, fangs bared, and yellow eyes blazing like the fires of hell, he was an apparition straight from Dantes ‘Inferno’.
The two guards, who were reeling from the shock of the trapdoor exploding, had not even had time to really register Cordelia’s sudden appearance, before the vampire was before them, snarling viciously. One of the guards had somehow got his gun into his hand, but was so panicked that his shots went wide, even though Angel was nearly at point blank range. The other guard simply cowered in the corner, sure he was going to meet an awful end. Angel simply scooped them both up, and dropped them into the pit from which he and Cordelia had just escaped.
Angel saw Cordelia scrambling to her feet, still half-winded from her sudden exit from their prison, and pale from her ordeal. “Are you OK?”
She nodded, and pointed at the door. “Let’s just get out of here, shall we?”
Angel could already hear the sound of running feet and voices. Wherever they were, there were other people in the vicinity who had obviously been alarmed by hearing gunshots.
Vampire and seer ran down the corridor that was outside the door, having no idea where they were going, or what they might find around the next corner, but trying to go in the opposite direction from where all the noise was emanating. Bizarrely, they appeared to be in some kind of modern office block, with glassed offices and the occasional kitchen area. As they skidded around the next corner, Angel slammed the brakes on, causing Cordelia to cannon into the back of him.
“Oof, brake lights, much?” She peered around the side of the huge vampire, and was startled to see an open-plan office full of workers, who looked equally startled by their sudden appearance.
Angel’s heart sank as he saw the sun streaming through the windows. Even if they found a way out, Cordelia would be the only one leaving.
Cordelia was seemingly forgetful of this fact as she started to pick her way through the desks and tables of the office. Angel watched her, but couldn’t follow through the sunlight drenched room. She turned back, questioningly, and then realization dawned and she scurried back to his side, pursued by an agitated looking office manager.
“You go, Cordy. I’ll try to find another way.”
“No time to argue, let’s get away from this jerk before you have to flatten him.”
Cordelia ran back the way they had come. Angel growled once at the approaching man, stopping him dead in his tracks, and then caught up with his seer.
“Cordy…unless there’s an underground route out of here, you’ll have to go on your own.”
“Not gonna happen, Angel. I’m not leaving here without you. Anyway, without you, how far do you think I’m going to be able to get…for instance, like now.”
The like now that Cordelia was referring to was five armed security guards. Angel noticed that instead of guns, they held spring-loaded stakes and yard long tasers. He wasn’t too concerned about the stake weapons, but a lucky touch with a taser could well take him out of the game long enough for them to be recaptured. But as the guards advanced on Angel a red mist of rage overcame him. All the months of mental anguish were suddenly distilled into a killing fury. Angel whirled and kicked and struck in a blur of preternatural violence that gathered momentum like an erupting volcano. The guards literally disintegrated in a cloud of blood and flesh. Cordelia, who had seen Angel fight on many occasions had never seen anything like this uncontrolled destruction. In a matter of only seconds the fight was over. The guards were dead, torn limb from limb. Angel was covered in yet more gore – but fresh this time – and Cordelia was horrified to see blood dripping from his fangs as well as from his hands. He was still snarling, demonic yellow eyes glittering.
“Angel. Stop!” It was the horror in Cordelia’s voice that dragged Angel back from the pit of his killing frenzy. His features blurred back into his human mask, and for a second he stood blinking, unsure of where he was, or what he had just done. Then he saw his handiwork strewn over the corridor. Five dead humans. These to add to the pile of dead mouldering in the pit they had escaped from. Stricken, he stared at the blood on his hands.
“Angel. ANGEL! Come on. There’s no time now. We have to get out of here”. Cordelia urged him. She grabbed hold of his arm and tugged him towards another corridor and away from the awful carnage behind them.
Luck, which had been notably absent from their lives, now took pity on Angel and Cordelia. The corridor that they ran down led to a staircase with the helpful sign “Basement Car Park” emblazoned on the door. Cordelia scurried down the stairs, Angel following behind. They crashed through the door to the underground car park. There were about twenty cars to choose from. After many previous occasions where the ‘borrowing’ of a car could have been extremely useful to her, Cordelia had learnt how to hotwire.
“Smash the window” she pointed at an innocuous looking Ford. Angel obliged. Opening the door of the now squawking car, Cordelia pointed at the fascia underneath the steering wheel. Angel ripped it off, and Cordelia quickly did the deed, permitting herself a sigh of relief as the car’s engine roared into life. Hunting around quickly, Cordelia found the catch to the trunk and snapped it open “It’s broad daylight outside, get in the trunk.” Angel, still dazed obeyed Cordelia without argument and folded his long body up into the trunk of the Ford. Cordelia slammed down the lid and leapt into the driver’s seat, just as more guards burst into the basement. She gunned the engine and tore out of the parking space, praying that there were no doors to the exit of the car park – just a barrier. Luck held and seconds later the Ford crashed through the exit barrier and out of the car park away from their pursuers.
It was a long drive back to LA, and as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, and Cordelia was sure that they were not still being pursued, she stopped the car by the side of the road and went to release Angel from his captivity in the trunk. She opened the trunk and stepped back involuntarily as the stench of blood and decomposition hit her nostrils. But even though he was free to get out, Angel didn’t move from his cramped, curled up position.
“Angel. Wake up” Even as she spoke, Cordelia realised that Angel wasn’t asleep as she had first thought. She moved forward to help him out, but as she did so Angel curled tighter and shrank away from her.
“Leave me…please Cordy…leave me alone.”
The dimness of the evening light prevented Cordelia from being able to make out Angel’s expression, but the anguish in his voice was unmistakeable.
“What is it? Angel, are you hurt?”
Angel didn’t reply.
“This is ridiculous. You have to get out. I’m not driving all the way back to LA with a vampire stuffed in the trunk – anyway it’s your turn to drive. Though we’ll have to have the windows open. I mean, I know that I don’t smell daisy fresh, but you really stink”.
“I killed them…all those people…”
The appalling memory of the heap of putrefying corpses came back to Cordelia, followed by the dreadful destruction that Angel had wreaked on the guards who had tried to prevent them from escaping. Without another word, she slowly closed the lid of the trunk once more, and returned to the driving seat.
As she continued the long drive back to LA in the gathering darkness, Cordelia began to understand that the horror was far from over – might never be over - not just for Angel, but for all of them. And despite the hot flush of shame that accompanied the thought, for the first time Cordelia was glad that there was no handle on the inside of the trunk.
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