and Blair left the Library, Jim asked, "so what do you think,
Blair reassured his partner, "well, I think the reason that
Willow panicked initially is because she's probably a hacker and
thought we were there to bust her or something. She does, after
all, seem like the nervous type, Jim."
Jim nodded his agreement to that. "Yeah, she does, doesn't
she? Do you think she knows what happened to Michelle?"
Blair shrugged, "it's possible." He then caught the
look in his Sentinel's eyes and guessed, "you think she does,
"I think it's possible. But if she does know, then everyone
in that room knows too, and didn't want to tell us. I was watching
our 'spectators' when Willow panicked, and they all started to
become real protective of her--like they all shared some big secret.
And they all jumped a bit when we started to ask about the other
victims, like they had an idea of what happened to them. Something's
going on here, chief, and I want to find out what it is."
"So what next, Jim?"
"I'd like to go back to the station and take a look at the
full case files on the recent victims. See if there's any connection
"Sounds good to me. Lead on, MacDuff."
Jim groaned at the obscure literary reference as he opened the
door to the truck.
Buffy caught the brief look on Giles' face as the two cops [correction,
the cop and that grad student] were questioning Willow. Whatever
he was thinking, he blew it off, but she wasn't about to let it
go that easily. The minute the two men left she questioned her
He roused himself from his thought on the prophecy he was re-reading
and focused on Buffy. "Yes?"
"What's your opinion of those two?"
"Hmmm? They're with the police department, and they're a
"Ohhh no. I saw the look that blared across your face while
they were questioning Willow. Now, spill it."
"Oh that? It's nothing?"
"Yeah right. It may be nothing, but it's more than we've
got right now. What is it?"
The Watcher took off his glasses and cleaned them, trying to gather
his thoughts. As he replaced the glasses he commented, "there's
a chance, albeit a very slim chance
Buffy urged him on, "yes?"
"Well, there's a chance that Detective Ellison may be our
'Blessed Protector', but I couldn't tell from just meeting him
this one time."
"Giles, that _isn't_ nothing! You were thinking that because
of his partner, right? '
guided by wisdom and innocence
"Well, yes, but that doesn't make him entirely 'separate
from the hunted', does it?"
Xander added, "and he doesn't seem all that particularly
gifted to me, either."
"Still," declared Buffy, "Giles, you yourself said
you couldn't tell from just meeting him this one time, and he
may already fulfill one part of the prophecy, so I say that this
warrants further investigation. And Giles, you're always telling
me to trust my hunches, so maybe now it's time for _us_ to trust
yours." She then turned to her computer-genius best friend,
who was still searching for information on the Order of Ra. "Willow?"
She looked up from her computer, "yeah, Buffy?"
"Can you pull up the files of the Sunnydale PD and find out
what kind of information we can get on these guys?"
"Sure." She opened another window and typed in the now-familiar
codes to get into the Police Department database without anyone
knowing she was in there.
Buffy watched her friend's fingers fly over the keys in amazement.
She didn't know how the girl did it, and frankly, she didn't really
want to know, she was just grateful, at times like this, that
she knew someone who knew how to pull any thing she could possibly
want out of a computer.
Willow frowned as she repeated the search again on the database.
[This can't be right,] she thought.
Buffy picked up immediately on her friend's confused expression.
"What is it, Willow?"
"Well," replied Willow, "I checked the department
records three times, and there's no record of a Jim Ellison or
a Blair Sandburg anywhere in there."
The bell rang, and everyone looked at the clock. Xander and Willow
gathered up their things and headed out for Math class, while
Buffy gathered her stuff to get to Biology. As Willow pulled up
the card-catalog program she had designed as a password-protected
screen saver for her to hide her research behind, Giles told the
group, "all right, why don't we meet back here after school.
In the meantime, I'll keep looking for more on the Order of Ra
and who this Blessed Protector chap might be."
The group agreed, and the three students left quickly to get to
Blair leaned back in his chair and threw a pen across the wall
in frustration. There were apparently about as many connections
between the hundreds of deaths in Sunnydale over the years as
there were in the number of drunk driving cases in Cascade: none.
Apparently, anyone who lived in Sunnydale could be at risk. The
only link between the cases was the thin cord that tied them together--their
unique cause of death. Jim was looking at the more recent cases,
and Blair was wondering if his partner was having better luck.
"I hope you're having better luck than I am right now, Jim."
"No connection between those cases, chief?"
"Nothing other than cause of death. I can see why the Feds
would make all those vampire jokes. It seems like anyone could
be a target in this town."
"True. Actually, I did find a few connections between the
more recent deaths, although its slim. Come take a look at this."
Blair got up to look over Jim's shoulder as the Sentinel explained,
"the coroner's reports state that the victims were drained
of their blood, just like the other ones, but that the third mark,
the one on top, was made post-mortem." He pointed to the
identifying mark on one of the neck photos to emphasize his point.
Blair commented, "like some sort of ritual." Already
his mind was working on the possibilities.
Jim agreed, "Exactly. I'm beginning to think this vampire
thing may not be far off--not so much as the idea of actual vampires..."
Blair completed the thought, "...but a vampire cult could
be a possibility. Someone who is draining the blood for their
own purposes and then dumping the bodies somewhere. You think
that could be the case?"
"It's the best idea we have so far. The only hole I can poke
in the theory is this new group."
"Yeah, man. A vampire group would never commit their murders
in broad daylight. Plus, the murders would be messier--they would
have to have spilled blood _somewhere_. But these killings are
just too clean. And what would they use the victims' blood for?
Why has none of it ever been found in a DNA typing somewhere,
connected to another crime?"
"Beats me, chief. I would like to go take a look at the corpse,
though. See if there's anything we can find that forensics here
The two men packed up their files on the case and headed out to
the Sunnydale funeral home, which doubled as the town morgue.
Within ten minutes of the bell sounding the end of last period,
Buffy, Xander and Willow were back in the library to meet with
Giles. All three teens had the same things on their minds: if
those guys Ellison and Sandburg weren't cops, then what were they?
And who was their "Blessed Protector"? Buffy was convinced
it was Ellison, but if it was, then what was so different about
him that he would be able to find the Order of Ra when the Slayer
Once everyone had settled in, Willow behind the computer, Xander
and Buffy at their customary spots at the table, Giles announced
to the group, "I could find nothing new on the Order of Ra,
so at this point we can only work with what we have right now:
according to Egyptian legend this group of vampires received a
blessing from the sun god Ra that allows them to be unaffected
by daylight and undetectable by their enemies, including the Slayer.
The only way to know they're around is by the triangle-shaped
mark they leave on a body after a kill. The Slayer can still kill
them, as they received no other special protections from Ra, but
only the 'Blessed Protector' from the Slayer prophecies will have
the abilities necessary to track them."
Buffy added, "and now we have two guys who say they're cops
but who may or may not be cops snooping around asking about one
of the people the Order of Ra have killed."
Willow hadn't found anything new on the Order of Ra during her
search on the 'Net, but something told her that even though those
two cops weren't Sunnydale PD, they were still on their side.
She pulled up Excite in a second window and did a search on James
Ellison. As the search results came up, she called to the group,
"guys, I think this is something that you might want to see."
She pulled up one of the pages as the others crowded around her
computer. It was an article from the Cascade Sun Times in Cascade,
Washington, about the Prometheus arson investigation, and beside
the article was a very flattering picture of Detective James Ellison
of the Cascade Police Department, Major Crimes division and his
partner, Blair Sandburg.
Buffy and Giles both muttered under their breath, "
a blessed protector will descend from the clouds
It normally took about twenty minutes to get from the station
to the Sunnydale Funeral Home. Unfortunately, Blair insisted on
driving, so the pair made it to the Funeral Home in a little over
an hour. Jim winced as his partner got out of the truck and cracked
his knuckles rather audibly. "Do you really have to do that,
"Sorry, Jim. I like to crack my knuckles after driving for
a long stretch of time. I didn't realize it was that loud."
Jim let out a long sigh. "Usually it isn't, chief. I guess
I'm just a little cranky after having spent forty minutes being
lost in a town that's as small as Sunnydale."
"How many times do I have to apologize for making a wrong
turn at the gas station, Jim ?!?"
Jim reassured his partner, "don't worry, all is forgiven--as
long as you're buying dinner tonight."
Blair smiled briefly. "Deal."
The two walked into the funeral home, flashed their badges, and
were quickly directed to the morgue. Once at the morgue, the local
coroner, having expected them forty minutes earlier, steered them
to the appropriate body, then left to take her dinner break.
Jim pulled down the cloth that was covering the head of the late
Michelle Chen. In his line of work, he worked with dead bodies
on a fairly frequent basis, but this one seemed distinctly different.
He opened up his senses in an effort to determine just what was
bothering him about Michelle's body.
Buffy got off the phone with the Sunnydale PD and sighed loud
enough for everyone to look at her. She turned to her Watcher
and announced, "Giles, we may have a problem. I just got
off the phone with our local police department. According to them,
our Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sandburg just went over to the morgue
to have a look at Michelle Chen's body."
"Buffy, I hardly see that as cause for concern. It's only
6:00, there are several hours before sunset, and even if Michelle
were to cross over, we have at least one or two days before that
were to happen."
"I don't know, Giles, but my spider-sense is tingling. I
have a bad feeling about this."
Just as Giles rolled his eyes at her awful comic-book metaphor,
Willow interrupted them. "Guys, I think you should take a
look at this."
As the group came to stand behind Willow, she explained, "I
found out that the funeral home is now keeping track of their
'residents' by computer, so I was able to break into their system,
and I found out that there have been six deaths that we could
consider vampire-related killings, and three of those were from
our friends in the Order of Ra."
Buffy urged her friend on, "yeah?"
Willow continued, "well, out of the six people who have died,
all three from the Order of Ra are listed as having had their
bodies stolen about twenty-four hours after they died."
Xander started to say out loud what everyone was thinking, "and
we all know that bodies aren't just stolen from the Sunnydale
Buffy completed the thought, "
they usually walk out
under their own power. And since Michelle died around 6:30 last
Giles completed her thought, "
she should be waking
up any minute. Come along, Buffy. I'll drive."
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