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It was 8:00 am, and the halls of Sunnydale High were slowly starting to come to life. First period didn't start for another half hour yet, so the only people in school were the teachers who needed to come early for whatever administrative nightmare they were facing, overeager students who wanted to hit the computer lab before class, and the swim team, whose coach was the only one in the entire school who forced them into 6:30 am practices three times a week.
One of those overeager students, however, was not in the computer lab, but in the least visited room in all of Sunnydale High: the Library. Willow was still a bit keyed up from the events of the night before, so she came in early to help Giles try to pull up more information on the Order of Ra and the Blessed Protector prophecy. The last name of their new Assistant Principal did not escape her notice. [Three years of French should be good for something,] she mused. She hoped that someone as smart as Blair was would pick up on it as well.
She looked up from her computer to see Buffy walk in the door. It intrigued her to see the Slayer in so early--because the girl kept such late hours, she was usually lucky to slip into first period before the bell rang. Besides, Buffy's mother was usually her ride to school, so how did she talk the woman into dropping her off so early? Before she got a chance to ask her friend these questions, though, Giles emerged from the stacks and blurted out her thoughts before she got the opportunity. "Why Buffy, you're here early! Even having to face the Master didn't get you here before eight in the morning. Did the second coming occur while I was asleep or something?"
"Nah, I just wanted to see if you guys had anything new on the Order of Ra." Truth be told, the whole Blessed Protector thing had her a little wigged out. Ever since she defeated the Master, she had come to accept her chosen role as the Slayer. It had become normal to her to sense vampires, demons and all the other nasty things around her as she went hunting every night. But to know that there was an evil out there that could strike at any time, and one that she had no idea how to hunt -- she didn't like that concept for a minute. Every bone in her body wanted to do something, anything to help.
As she sat down near Willow, who was still working furiously in a detailed net search, the young hacker asked her, "and how did you get your Mom to drive you over here this morning?"
"Easy," replied Buffy, "I told her I had an important research paper I wanted to get a jump on and Mr. Giles was kind enough to open the library early for me so I could do the research. Not exactly the truth, but not a lie either. And Mom was so impressed that she jumped in the car and drove me right here. So what do we have?"
Since Giles was still researching, Willow started to fill her in. "I got that list of all the new people in town, along with as much background information as I could find on them. This is the most interesting person on the list." She handed Buffy copies of the background information on Judas Filsdera.
As she skimmed over the information she noticed the main part that caught Willow's eye. She thought out loud, "our newest Assistant Principal?"
As Willow nodded, Buffy asked, "I don't get it. What makes this guy such hot news?"
Giles replied, "His last name, translated from French to English, means son of Ra."
Buffy mouthed a silent "oh" then added, "guess I would have learned that if I stayed awake in French class, huh?"
Willow and Giles both nodded. Buffy complimented, "good work, Willow. I'll watch this guy today, see if anything suspicious happens."
Giles disagreed with that idea immediately. "I don't think that would be a good idea, Buffy. You can't track him like you normally do, so if you lose him, you could end up in serious trouble. Willow's already faxed a copy of her list to Professor Sandburg at their hotel, so I suggest, for once, that you let the police handle this, all right?"
Reluctantly, Buffy nodded. Giles then patted her on the shoulder and declared, "it's almost half past eight. Go. Your first period teacher will probably collapse from a heart attack when she sees you actually in class early."
Buffy smiled. "You're right, that should be fun. I'll come back during free. See you later Will!"
As Willow was closing up her work she called out to Buffy, "all right, I'll see you later!"
"Let the police handle it? Sure, fine, whatever..." mumbled Buffy as she quietly tried to melt into the confusion of the crowds in the hallway just before third period. She had noticed Blair and Jim pull up to the school as she was staring out the window in biology class, and was determined to eavesdrop on their interview with the new assistant principal. She slid behind open lockers, open doors, anything where she hoped she could avoid the man who could know her every move if she got his attention.
And prayed, every minute, that she wouldn't catch his attention.
In fact, she was so intent on not catching Jim's attention that she ran head-first into Xander, who promptly (and loudly) dropped the few books he was carrying. He looked up at the rather startled Buffy and commented, "so, what manner of demon is this that hath you so focused that you would be blind to me, m'lady?"
Buffy rolled her eyes at the bad attempt at humor and tried to get past him. When he wouldn't let her past, she whispered, "if you _don't_mind_, I'm trying to follow those cops and find out what they know." It took every ounce of self-control she had to not send him flying into one of the banks of lockers and out of his way.
A deep voice echoed behind her, "Buffy, I know you're trying to help, but maybe this time you should let us handle things?"
She turned around to see the rather imposing figure of Jim Ellison standing behind her. Before she could try to make up an excuse for what she was doing he commented, "don't even try it, Summers. I heard the entire conversation from the moment Xander dropped his books." As she shot dagger looks at Xander, he continued quietly, "Buffy, I know that you're not normally used to the police understanding exactly what's going on, but I do, so just let us handle this one, okay?" He knew that he was trying to fight a distrust of the police that she had lived with ever since she became the Slayer in L.A., but he refused to let her get in the way of the investigation. Even if she'd make one hell of a cop someday. He assured her, "I promise I'll let all of you know what we find out after school today, all right?"
As the bell for third period rang and the crowd of students dispersed to their classes, a commanding voice echoed, "excuse me, gentlemen, but is there something I can help you with?"
Jim, Buffy and Blair looked over to see a tall, dark man with a deep booming voice and powerful presence approaching them. Buffy could almost feel the strength of the presence radiating from him, setting her 'spider-sense' on edge.
The unmistakable smell that Jim had come to recognize as a vampire became stronger as the stranger approached, although it was unbelievably faint, like the lingering scent of Blair that hung in his room even after the anthropologist had been gone several days. It seemed clouded, too, and almost sweeter than the pungent odor that Angel had practically reeked of the night before. This had to be their man. He flashed his badge and asked the stranger, "I'm Detective Jim Ellison, and this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. We're here investigating the murder of Michelle Chen, and I was hoping to find Assistant Principal Filsdera and ask him a few questions."
In a condescending tone, the stranger turned to Xander and Buffy and directed them, "children, why don't you run along to class now?"
As the Slayer and Slayerette headed to the library, Jim heard Xander mutter under his breath, " 'run along'? 'run along'? What does he think we are, six-year-olds? I'd like to see Buffy knock him into next week and _then_ see who's telling us to 'run along'!"
Jim almost laughed before he caught himself and turned his attention to the stranger who was now introducing himself, declaring, "I'm sorry. I didn't want the children exposed to any of this unpleasant business. Now then, I'm Judas Filsdera. I assume that Ms. Chen was a student here at Sunnydale?"
Jim eyed the man suspiciously. By now Michelle's death had been public knowledge in the community, and, according to Buffy, the talk of the school for days now. But Mr. Filsdera, apparently, had never heard of the girl. Jim quickly focused in on the man's heartbeat, respiration and body temperature. This man was literally as cool as a cucumber -- he showed no signs of lying or even being nervous that he was being interviewed by the police, a fact with struck Jim as quite odd. That meant that either Mr. Filsdera was either deaf, dumb and blind to the world around him…
…or he was very good at hiding something. After all, from the time he had spent in Sunnydale, he realized that people had become very good at hiding secrets in this town. From what he could tell, it was more likely to be the latter suggestion than the former. But if this guy was a vampire, then why was the smell so weak? And what was that buzzing sound? He would have to ask Giles about that. He pushed that thought to the back of his mind. He needed to find a way to draw the guy out, get him to slip and say something that he would rather not have mentioned to a couple of cops.
Luckily, Blair was already working on the man, slowly trying to draw him out of his shell. "Yes, she was, Mr. Filsdera. I'm surprised you hadn't heard about it. From what the students have been telling us, it's been the talk of the school."
Abruptly, Judas commented, "yes, yes, well, I've only been in town for a couple of weeks, so I haven't exactly had the time to listen to hallway gossip."
Blair raised his eyebrows in well-faked surprise. "Really? And what were you doing before that, Mr. Filsdera?"
Judas replied flippantly, "oh, I was teaching at an all-boys school in LA."
Blair repeated his act. "Really? Which one was that?"
"L'Ecole de Fils de la Lumiere. It was a second language satellite school. We taught only in French."
Blair scribbled notes down furiously, knowing that anything he gave them could either be checked out for suspicious activity in the area or used against him later on, should that be necessary. Jim, on the other hand, having not expected Judas to give them such a straightforward answer, remained skeptical. He decided to try and see if the man would slip up, give him some names of people who could potentially be other vampires. "Have you gotten a chance to meet many people since you've been here, sir?"
Judas looked up at the larger man with disdain and scorn. [Clumsy pig. Who does he think he is? Does he think I'm going to slip up that easily?] He noticed, however, the protective emotions he had when it came to his partner, for they ran strong and deep in the big man's character. There was something else about him, though, something unique. He'd never seen it before, which puzzled him, but he shrugged it off as nothing.
The younger man, though, was fascinating. Here was a man possessed of great wisdom that he had such little comprehension of, yet his curiosity and energy seemed almost boundless. [Yes, yes, he would make such a fascinating addition to the family. I will bring it before the others tonight.] He then realized the big oaf was looking for an answer to his question, so he replied, "actually, no, Detective. I've been so busy moving in and getting adjusted to the new job and community I've barely had any time left after that."
Jim looked Judas over with renewed skepticism. He was convinced the man was lying, but he could pick up on none of the normal physical signs to prove it. And he did not like the way the man was looking Blair over one bit. [Like he was sizing up a future mate,] thought Jim, [either that, or a good T-bone steak.] Once he realized the conversation was not going to go anywhere from there, he stepped just a bit closer to his partner and pulled out a Sunnydale PD business card. "Well, thank you for your time, sir. I realize that you're a busy man, so we won't keep you any longer. However, if you do hear something that might help us in our case..."
Judas took the proffered card and interrupted him curtly, "...I won't hesitate to call you. Good day, gentlemen." And with one last look at Blair, Judas, son of Ra, quickly turned and left in the direction of his office. Before he reached the office, though, he hid in the recess next to a set of lockers and focused his keen vampire hearing on the conversation the two men were having behind him...
"Wow, Jim, this guy definitely sounds like a vampire! I wonder how old he is? Who he's killed? Who he's known? God, what an opportunity..." Blair sounded like he was on the verge of some sort of unbelievable anthropological discovery.
Jim could see this coming. "Chief, have you completely lost your mind?!?!? _If_ he's a vampire, then that means that he's _literally_ a bloodthirsty psycho killer who's not going to see you as some great academic researcher, but as lunch!"
Confused, Blair asked, "What do you mean by if, Jim?" Conspiratorially, he whispered, loud enough so only the Sentinel (and the vampire) could hear him, "you mean you couldn't...?"
Jim confessed, "I'm not sure. The smell was so faint I couldn't tell if it was him or someone he's been around recently. I didn't hear him breathing, though, so he's most likely a vampire, but I can't be one hundred percent certain."
Blair asked, "and your senses, they're not going haywire or anything?" The silence told Judas the bigger man's response was most likely nodding his head yes or shaking his head no. Judas then assumed the answer to be no, because Blair's response was, "well, since I'm far from being the expert on vampires, let's go see the man who is, shall we?" He then heard the two men walk away from the direction he had just retreated to, heading instead toward the Library.
Judas rested his head against the cold concrete wall and pondered the conversation in wonder. [That clumsy pig is the Blessed Protector? Well he certainly isn't the Slayer, so who else could...] Gratefully he shut off the tiny ozone-producing generator that his technological wizard, Merlin, had distributed to the family last night when they had received the news. He then thought again of the now-familiar prophecy. [...Guided by wisdom and innocence..] He realized that had to be a reference to that unique man Mr. Sandburg. [Perhaps we can incapacitate the Blessed Protector in more ways than by just throwing him off of our scent...]
After he realized that a freshmen had been staring at him for the past couple of minutes, he shooed the boy away with a curt, "what are you doing? Quit staring like an idiot and go to class!" As the boy hurried away in embarrassment, he turned and walked quickly to his office. [So many plans to be made...]

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