Author: Notmanos
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
Disclaimer:  The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics.  No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-)  Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!   

He couldn't help but scream as he rolled to his feet, and tried to reach the bloody things as it seared through his muscles and flesh (he could smell it burning), but he couldn't. He was almost blinded by pain, so much so he didn't realize the Ex had him until he squeezed his throat so tight he could hear the bones creak. "Tell me-vampires don't like fire, right?"

He was holding him well off the ground, and Spike realized he was carrying him over to the flames. He kicked out, and knew he had hit him, but it was like kicking a brick wall. No, he took that back-a brick wall would give after a while. "Come on-don't you want to see Hell, Spike?"

"Three little shadows will snuff out the sun," Spike heard Dru say, even over the louder crackling of the flames, and then he heard her laugh,which was really disconcerting. "Daddy's here," she cooed happily. Suddenly the Ex jerked and dropped him on the ground as a huge hole exploded through his chest, splattering Spike with gore.

He quickly scuttled away, not daring to look back at the Ex until he put some distance between them, and that's when he saw Angel at the end of the alley, pumping a shotgun.

"Thanks for the alert flare, Spike," he said, taking aim once more as the Ex turned around to face him, the grapefruit sized hole in his chest already starting to fill in and smooth over.

The Ex grinned savagely, not paying attention to Spike or Dru, who had come around from the other side of the lot, as far from Ex as possible. "Hey, you gallumphing Irish oik, I wasn't sure I'd being seeing you again this soon."

"I had to say goodbye," Angel replied, then took his second shot, which was surprisingly good-it hit the demon in his right knee, blowing it to pieces, making him fall to his intact left knee. But Excrement just kept grinning like a madman.

"You don't really think you can do me in with your boom stick, do you, Angelus?" He taunted, beginning to stand as his knee seemed to start rebuilding itself.

"Born in flames, die in flames," Dru said, apropos of nothing. Or was it? Spike looked at her, but she was glaring at Ex.

"No, I don't," Angel admitted, smiling grimly as he slipped the shotgun into an ad hoc holster strapped across his back. He reached into the pocket of his now tattered coat, and he pulled out something, although Spike couldn't see what it was at first. "But I can do you in with this."

He then tossed what he was holding-a grenade.

As soon as it rolled to a stop at the Executioner's feet, it exploded, making a huge crater in the ground - and blowing the demon into a thousand pieces.



"Pick up the pieces and throw them in the fire," Angel said, shaking dirt and bits of Ex out of his frou-frou hair. "Let's make sure he's dead this time."

"You pick up the bleeding pieces," Spike kvetched, nearly dislocating his shoulder as he finally grabbed the still searing rod and yanked it out of his neck. The pain was a sudden, blinding shock that sent him crashing to one knee on the ground, and he heard a strange, garbled noise that must have come from him, but he wasn't sure how. As he tossed the blasted piece of metal aside, he wondered how close he'd come to having his spinal cord

severed. "If you'd listened to me in the first place, this never would have happened." He gave himself a moment to recover before attempting to stand, and he managed without too much difficulty.

Angel glowered at him, and for the first time Spike noticed how beaten and bloody he looked: the Ex must have used him like a football. He was sorry he missed that. "Stop being an asshole for once in your life, Spike."

He scoffed, and almost fell over. Okay, not quite as recovered as he thought. "That's rich, coming from the King of the Assholes: all other assholes pale compared to your magnificence."

"Oooh," Dru moaned, a unique blend of terror and awe that was never good to hear. "He's stronger now. This isn't right at all."

It took Spike a second to realize she wasn't referring to Angel-she meant Ex.

The ground was alive with shadows cast by the flickering fire, but as he studied the movements carefully, he found some didn't fit; they moved with purpose, with a deliberation the sinuous flames couldn't claim. It was body parts and fragments of body parts liquefying and pouring quickly into a pool as crimson as blood, but more viscous, with gelatinous filaments the color of pinkish skin weaving upward in defiance of gravity, becoming a parody of a human form.

The Ex was pulling himself back together again.

Angel opened fire with the shotgun again, punching huge holes in the latticework of new tissue, but it healed over more quickly than before, and Spike went over to Drusilla and grabbed her arm, pulling her down the alley, behind Angel and his covering fire. "You got wheels, right?" Spike shouted, although he figured that was rhetorical; of course he didn't just walk here, especially with the injuries he was sporting.

"No," Angel replied, starting to walk backwards as he popped the spent shells out of the gun and quickly began loading in more. "I was on foot, remember Spike?"

Spike cursed, and desperately wanted a cigarette, but he didn't want to know what the Ex would do with it if he caught him smoking. The scream of fire engines grew in intensity as he heard Angel say something, but most of it was drowned out. It sounded like he said something about finding some books, which made Spike roll his eyes. "It's always books with you, isn't it? What are you, an encyclopedia salesman?"

The Ex was now a pillar of gelatinous red goop, slightly taller than Angel and just as wide, and as the skin suddenly seemed to color in, along with the clothes he had been wearing before (but not the sunglasses-those had been real), substance surfacing in a sea of congealed blood. And, like a demonic Cheshire Cat, his shit eating grin was the first feature of his face to return. "Nice try, Angelus ,but no cigar. You know what they say-kill me once, shame on me ..."

"Kill you twice? Bet on it." He replied, putting a bullet through his perfect teeth. But they seemed to rebuild themselves as instantly as they shattered, and Angel finally started retreating in earnest, catching up with them at the mouth of the alley.

"What now, genius?" Spike asked sarcastically.

The best Angel could do was shoot him a dirty look, as the sirens were now so loud that Spike was surprised the engines weren't already on top of them. "We run. We need to find the Book of Kellnor-I know the Executioner is mentioned there in great detail. Maybe it can tell us what the hell is going on, and how we can kill him this time."

"And where are we supposed to find the Book of Bloody Kellnor?" Spike wondered, although he was perfectly happy with the running option; it was the only plan tonight that had had a one hundred percent success rate.

Dru suddenly stopped and looked up, and Spike looked up, fearing an attack from above now, but there was nothing but the strange null blue of a light polluted Los Angeles night; nothing special there. As he dragged her along, he asked her, "What is it, baby?"

"The moon is very cross with us," she replied, her voice as distant as the look in her pale blue eyes.

As he saw the fully formed Executioner start walking towards the alley, grinning like the idiot he must have been, the hellish flames a perfectly appropriate backdrop for it, Spike pulled her along a little faster. "Well, it can join the fucking club."




Angelus looked the cretin up and down, chuckling coldly. "Are we supposed to be impressed? Do you have any idea who you're talking to?"

"A dead guy," the well dressed, red eyed demon said, slowly coming towards them, that idiot grin still on his face.

Dru whimpered above him as Spike took a step back, not retreating but repositioning himself to keep the demon from reaching Drusilla, but Angelus held his ground, leering at the smug moron.

"Remember my name: I'm Angelus," he said, and then threw the sword. "Your death."

The sword hit the demon right in the center of his face, with so much force not only did it punch through the back of his skull, it nailed him to the trunk of a pine tree behind him, the haft of the sword sticking out where his nose used to be. His body sagged, but the sword in his face-and the tree-kept him upright in a parody of life.

Dru cackled, not unlike a crow. "He counted his pawns before the king," she said, and Angelus didn't even bother to try and make sense of that.

"That must have hurt," Spike commented dryly. "Nice shot."

He wondered if he should retrieve the sword, but was it worth it? Better to leave him there as a reminder of what happens when you pissed off Angelus. Of course, he'd left his share of reminders around the globe, but would one more hurt?

"Come on, pet ,it's safe now," Spike said, looking up at Dru, and holding out his arms as if to catch her. Dru kept eyeing the corpse warily as she slid off the branch and jumped down to the ground, Spike not exactly catching her but easing her landing. She wrapped her arms around his neck as he slid his hands around her waist, making noises of comfort, even though she was no longer the whimpering, mewling mess she was earlier.

God, it was enough to make one vomit.

"Let's get those goddamn horses and find a town with someone to eat before the sun comes up," he told them, sneering as he walked away.

But as he started moving towards the path, Dru suddenly made a noise of alarm, a keening sort of cry, and wailed, "He's come back!"

And out of the corner of his eye, Angelus saw the corpse move.

He reached his hands up and grabbed the hilt of the sword, yanking it out of the tree and his head with great strength and careful precision. As he withdrew the sword, the gash in his face healed completely, the flesh flowing in like liquid, instantly solidifying into the shape it was before.

"What the fuck-"Spike gasped, too shocked to even finish the exclamation.

"Angelus, huh?" The demon said, its face now intact and grinning at him like it was before. "Cute." The demon then broke the heavy sword over his knee as if it was nothing more than a child's wooden replica, tossing the top half of the blade aside while keeping hold of the jagged haft. "You know, I'm really going to like killing you. Vamps are usually no fun at all, but you? I can tell you're going to be a screamer."

Angelus backed up, rejoining the stunned Spike and terrified Dru, who clung to Spike like he could actually save her.

"Plan? You've got a plan, right?" Spike whispered, trying hard to keep the rising panic out of his voice.

Angelus still had no idea who-or what-the fuck this ugly thing was, but he knew one thing: nobody called him a screamer. "Back into town,"he growled, glaring at the demon the whole time. "There has to be more weapons somewhere."

"And then what?" Spike asked. "You skewered him and he's just mildly pissed off. We can't kill this bloody thing!" The demon started to approach as they began slowly backing away, prelude to an all out run, but Angelus never stopped glaring into those gelatinous red eyes. "I'm Angelus," he reminded him. "I can kill anything."



When Spike came to, he found himself impaled on a tree branch. Luckily it had only gone through his right shoulder, which was bad enough, but he'd take a little pain over exploding into dust any day.

With slightly more pain than he though he could bear, he managed to work himself off the branch (he was just lucky it was close to the ground),and pull free, nearly falling on his face as he did so.

The last thing he remembered was a fist coming towards his face, and his face felt swollen and tender-the bastard hit him hard enough to throw him twenty feet and impale him on a tree limb? Shit.

He listened hard, but the night was eerily silent. Had it killed Angelus and Dru? Was he the only one left?

No, he couldn't believe that; his baby was smart enough to keep away from that thing. As for Angelus...well, okay, he was probably dead.

Even if he wasn't, there's no way he'd leave; Angelus was engaged in a pissing contest with this bugger, and even though running away was the only sensible thing to do, he wouldn't go until one of them was dead, even though it would most likely be him. So Spike figured he'd have to do the reasonable thing-he'd find one of the horses, get Dru, and get the fuck out of here. Angelus could fight the thing to his heart's content, but without them to be witnesses and casualties.

He stumbled through the underbrush, blackberry vines clawing at his legs while low tree branches slapped at his face, a gust of wind making the foliage undulate like living creatures, demons taunting him behind leafy camouflage, and while he knew he should be royally pissed, Spike just felt cold. And scared; scared like he was a lowly, pathetic human again, which really infuriated him, but ironically it left him even colder.

He finally broke through into a hidden clearing as the last of the clinging vines tangled around his ankles and sent him sprawling on his face, causing a jarring, icy pain to shoot through his injured shoulder, sharp enough to make him almost cry out. The scent of rotting flesh was almost cloying, and when he looked up, he saw why.

Staring straight back at him was a severed head.

Although staring was a relative term: the man's eyes had been gouged out, leaving deep black holes in his face, his cheeks stained with bloody red tear tracks. The wind moved his thinning brown hair, but as a dark shape creeped over his wide, creased forehead, he saw it wasn't the wind but shiny black beetles, one of which crawled into his empty eye sockets as he watched.

This was a pretty fresh kill. The flesh was starting to rot, but the maggots hadn't settled in yet, and by now, Spike knew how to judge a new kill from an old one by scent alone. He shoved himself up to his feet, using his left hand only, and surveyed the scene before him.

There were five bodies scattered all over the clearing, mostly disemboweled and decapitated, all men wearing black robes, and there was a shape burned into the ground. It took him a moment, but he realized, even with the bodies and several various bodily organs blocking some parts of it, that it was a pentagram; lumps of white beeswax candles, flames long extinguished by splattering blood, marked the points of the star.

He could smell the stink of sulfur beneath the scent of blood and decay, and knew these stupid gits had been conjuring something-was that thing the result? How? Unless...instead of conjuring something, they raised something. From Hell, or another demon dimension? Either way ,it explained a lot, and doubly convinced him they had no chance against eyeless demon wonder.

One of the bodies was laying in a rather funny position-his neck stump and the rest of his upper body was twisted away from Spike, his intestines spilling out over the center of the pentagram, while the lower body was twisted towards him, his feet pointing in two separate directions, which Spike knew he would have found hilarious under any other circumstances, but he seemed to be laying on something that caused him to look a bit arched in the middle. Curiosity made him step forward, and he soon saw a glint of gold; the wanker was laying on a book.

Spike grabbed it and pulled it out from under him, causing his guts to shift and spill out even more, angering the insects already crawling among the liver and lights, and he saw that the title of the blood stained book was written in a language he couldn't identify, nonetheless read.Damn it;Angelus could probably read it, the bloody show off.

He flipped through it idly, wondering if it was worth the bother, and then stopped as he an illustration seemed to jump out at him: it was a pen and ink drawing of a very familiar face, with black holes where the eyes should have been; turn those black holes red, and you had their indestructible demon. So this book knew what he was-did that mean it knew how to kill him, or at least send him back where he came from?

Spike decided to find the horse first; then he'd toss Angelus the book before getting Dru and getting out. If he figured it out and survived, he could meet up with them down the road; he'd been hurt enough for one day.

"There you are, blondie," a voice said behind him, making him jump. He quickly pivoted on his heels, but the bastard was right behind him, and seized him hard by the throat, nearly crushing his larynx. "I was wondering where you went."

Spike hit him hard in the face with the only thing he had-the book-but it only made the red eyed asshole laugh. "You guys have got to be the dumbest vampires I have ever met. And your kind are idiots, so that's saying something! First of all, the big Irish side of beef thinks he can kill me, and now you think you can escape me." He lifted him off his feet by his throat, and began squeezing his throat so tight Spike could hear small bones in his neck start to snap. "That's very funny. I should keep you all live a bit longer just for the laughs; I haven't had a good laugh in a millennium. But you know what's even funnier? Squeezing someone's neck so hard their head pops off. That's fucking hilarious!" He leered in his face as Spike's vision began fading out, everything in his sight becoming as bloody crimson as the demon's eyes. "Too bad you'll miss it, blondie. I think you'd have found it funny too. Well, if it wasn't about to happen to you."


Los Angeles, California-present day

When Lia finally let them into the bar, Angel was surprised to find it empty, and the expression on his face must have showed it, as she answered his question before he could even ask it. "Some of the customers heard you say the Executioner was in town," she said bitterly, replacing the metal bar across the door. "They got outta here so fast you'd think the blood bank was handing out free samples." When she was done securing the door, she frowned violently at him, her electric blue eyes nearly luminescent in the dimness. "And what the fuck are you doing back here anyways? If you led him here, you're paying for the damages."

"Maximum Bob is still here, right? Does he have the Book of Kellnor, or at least know where to get it?" Angel asked, peripherally aware that Spike was leaning over the bar, obviously searching for a free drink, while Dru drifted to the back of the now deserted bar, towards the old fashioned jukebox.

"Who the hell is Kellnor? Sounds Norwegian." She replied, then in an impressive display of athleticism, leapt one handed over the bar, landing on her feet behind it, and deftly ripped the vodka bottle Spike had just snagged straight out of his good hand. "No freebies ,punkie."

He pulled back and matched her scowl for scowl. "We could be dead in a minute-you can't even comp me a drink?"

"I'm running a bar here, not a charity," she said, putting the bottle of Stoli on the shelf behind her, right next to the flask of goat's blood.

"Ooh, hello kitty," Dru cooed, as something hissed, and Angel turned to see her talking to a black cat perched on the jukebox, its back arched as Dru reached towards it. It took a swipe at her with its paw, but she easily avoided it. "Now now, don't be that way. Bad kitties get eaten."

"Hey-leave my cat alone, Vampira," Lia snapped, retrieving her brightly colored Supersoaker full of holy water from beneath the bar.

Angel quickly went to Dru, weaving through the maze of tables and chairs hastily abandoned (some were still on their sides, attesting to a sudden stampede),and grabbed her arm, pulling her away from the cat. "When you ask someone for help, you don't customarily eat their pets," he reminded her as

Spike scoffed at Lia.

"You're threatening us with a water gun?" He asked in amused disbelief. "Oh, I'm shaking."

"It's holy water, asshole-wanna see?" She asked, aiming the gun at his face, and he leapt back a step, holding up his hands in mock surrender.

"No, it's cool," Spike said, slowly lowering his hands. But he made no further move for Lia or the bar.

Dru yanked her arm violently from Angel's grip, her azure eyes suddenly as hard and cold as ice. "You're not daddy, you're the Angel beast. I'm not talking to you." She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away from him, pouting like a child.

Angel rolled his eyes, still feeling more hurt and sore than he was willing to admit, especially in front of Spike and Dru. "Fine-just don't eat anything."

"You need to be a beast to kill the beast," Dru said, apropos of nothing. "The stench of your soul will kill us all."

He turned back towards her, but she was still resolutely not looking at him. "What? What do you mean, Drusilla?'

"I don't want to talk to you; I want to talk to him," she answered coolly, staring at the far wall.

"What do you know, Dru?" He repeated, quickly losing his patience.

"Just 'cause she's kind of psychic and extremely mental doesn't mean she's incapable of playing you, Angel," Lia interjected sagely, giving Dru a knowing smile. "Believe me, hon, it takes a liar to know one."

Dru's head whipped around, and she glowered at her, her upper lip curling back in a snarl. "Such pretty eyes. I wonder how they taste."

But Lia's smile grew wider and fearless. "You really think vamps scare me, even freaky ones like you? Oh hey, gonna try and entrance me? If you haven't noticed, I'm a Belial, and two can play that game." Her eyes seemed to grow brighter, and she began slowly rocking, shifting her weight from one foot to another, as languidly and rhythmically as a cobra hypnotizing its prey. The older a Belial got, the more their powers of delusion increased, which often included the ability to cloud minds and mesmerize. Although Lia looked like a human female, approximately twenty six years old, it was possible she was actually one hundred and twenty six-or, considering the amount of power he was now sensing from her, possibly twice that.

He waved his hand in the air between Dru and Lia, and said, "You've made your point, Lia. Enough." He wouldn't admit it, but Angel was a bit curious to know if Dru could be hypnotized, but now was neither the time or place. And then it suddenly occurred to him: "How old are you?"

Lia's eyes dimmed to their typically hyper real cerulean as she glanced at him with a small frown. "You actually think I'll tell you the truth?"

"Good point," Angel admitted, but continued on regardless. "Could you mesmerize the Executioner?"

"Oh, hey," Spike exclaimed, looking between them. "Good idea. You could put him in a trance, and we'll draw and quarter the bastard between a couple of semis."

"I'm not part of your group," Lia said incredulously. "And I ain't taking on Hellspawn. Fight your own battles."

"Coward," Dru spat. "The Queen of Hearts plays in the field but won't pick the flowers and anger the thorns."

Lia stared at her. "What the fuck are you on, lady? And can I have some?"

Just then, a back door opened, and Lia produced, seemingly out of nowhere, a semi-automatic pistol that she aimed towards the rear while still keeping the water gun centered on Spike. For a moment, she looked like a red headed Lara Croft, with a more realistic figure.

But it was Maximum Bob who came through the door, and he instantly stopped, hands raised. "Bloody hell, Li: do you think the Executioner would bother to open a door?"

She lowered the gun with a sigh, tucking it back beneath her shirt and into the waistband of her black leather pants, where she somehow must have hidden it, but she still hadn't lowered the holy water pistol. "He could try and be sneaky for a change; it'd probably give him a laugh."

Bob shrugged, acknowledging the feasibility of the comment. Bob looked human; young, tall and slender, but well built, with thick brown hair and a hint of an Australian accent. But his scent, and his unrealistically bright blue eyes betrayed him as a Belial demon, one of Lia's kind. Angel still hadn't decided if his Aussie accent was real, or just an affectation he'd adopted to amuse himself; nothing amused liar demons more than fooling people about little things that didn't matter one bit. Bob's eyes scudded over Dru appreciatively before he looked at Angel steadily. "I thought I'd research our Ex friend after you left, and after what I read I thought you might be back. You need the Book of Kellnor, right?"

"Yes. You have it?"

He shook his head. "Nah, it's in Russia somewhere."

Spike made a noise of disgust. "Great plan, Angel. What the hell are we going to do now?"

"But I've got something to show you," Bob continued, heading back towards the door. He paused at the threshold, and gestured for them to follow. "Come on-it just might save your lives."

Angel, Dru, and Spike shared wary glances, but they all knew that-liar demon or not-at this point they had nothing left to lose.

They followed Maximum Bob into one of the Way Station's back rooms, ready for anything.




The pressure was intense and incredible; it felt like an elephant was stepping on his neck.

Spike thought it was bullshit, but this demon bastard really was going to squeeze his head off, wasn't he?

He clawed at his hands, trying to pry them away, but he just closed his hand tighter ,and the bones in Spike's neck cracked like glass beneath heavy boots.

Spike's vision dissolved into black shadows as something in the brush moved, and after he dismissed it as the wind it took on a familiar form, and the demon turned his head towards it, never easing up on Spike's throat. "Hey, Ang-"the demon began, but never finished, as Angelus swung a hatchet and sliced the demon's head clean off at the neck. It went sailing away, into the woods, as its body buckled at the knees and fell to the ground, finally releasing Spike from its crushing grip.

Spike hit the burnt grass and rolled away gagging, fighting the still lingering human impulse to gasp for breath as Angelus kicked the demon's corpse, and said, "You were saying, asshole? What? Cat got your tongue?"

Dru came through the brush, holding up the hem of her bloodstained skirt to avoid the thorns, and when she saw him she rushed to his side, dropping to her knees in the remains of someone's stomach cavity, and cooed, "Oh Spike, my poor baby-did the bad thing hurt you?"

Spike looked up into her bruised yet pale face, and tried to speak...but nothing came out. He tried again, but he barely managed to make a faint croaking noise. Oh fuck-it had crushed his voice box. Spike's thoughts raced around his mind in a hyperactive panic-would he heal? Would his voice come back? What if he was immortal but stripped of his voice?! Oh god no, he never signed up for that.

Dru saw the panic in his eyes and stroked his forehead, her skin welcomingly soft and cold. "Shhh, my sweet, mummy will take care of you." She looked over at Angelus with a slightly exaggerated pout. "The bad thing took Spike's voice away."

"Well, I guess he wasn't so bad after all," Angelus replied, giving her a smug grin as he wiped the blood away from his head with his forearm.

Angelus had a large gash on his forehead that ran almost parallel to his hairline, as if something had tried to scalp him, which Spike had to admit was a funny idea. But obviously No Eyes hadn't succeeded, which was actually a good thing, at least this time. But Spike knew, under different circumstances, he'd love to see Angelus scalped.

Spike glanced around, and saw where he'd dropped the book, by one of the cultists' headless corpses. He grabbed it and thumped the cover with his fist to get Angelus's attention as he held it out towards him. Angelus glanced at him and it curiously, finally coming over to have a proper look. "What'cha got there, Spikey?"

"Oooh," Dru sighed dreamily, moving her head to music only she could hear. "It sings. It has such an evil song."

Angelus grabbed the book and opened it, having a look at its front page. It took him a moment, but just as Spike suspected, he could read the language."'Daemonic Rites of the Underworld.'" He looked up with a smirk, ignoring the new blood oozing down his face. "Who knew the Welsh had their own black magic books?"

Suddenly, the demon's headless corpse stood up, making Angelus jump in shock.

As it rose, a bubble of flesh emerged from its neck stump ,and facial features seemed to surface like bloated bodies rising to the surface of a pond during the spring thaw as its head reformed before their eyes. "Real cute, Angelus," he said, as his eye shaped sockets seemed to fill with gelatinous blood. "But you're going to have to do better than that, you dead moron." He tried to grab him, but Angelus, still holding the hatchet along with the book, swung the small axe and neatly severed his arm off at the elbow. But the demon didn't even flinch as he grabbed the hatchet with his one remaining hand and crushed it to dust like so many dried bones. "Nope, that ain't gonna get it done either, boy-o."

Spike stood, grabbed Dru's arm, and ran into the forest, dragging her with him. Maybe this time, Angelus could provide enough distraction to allow them to get away.

He'd already lost his voice ;he wasn't losing anything more.


Los Angeles, California-Present day

Maximum Bob led them back into a dimly lit side room, empty save for a metal desk in the center of the room, and curious crates lining the side walls, most bearing words and labels in foreign languages (and, disturbingly enough, hazardous material warnings. Angel was sure the one in the far right corner had a radiation symbol on it).

"Shut the door," Bob said, as he positioned himself behind the desk and turned an iBook laptop computer towards them. On the screen was a page of text written in almost impenetrable Melloch demon language.

"What the hell is this?" Spike asked, scowling violently. "Is this a joke? I'm in no mood, Belial."

"It's the Book of Kellnor," Angel told him, nearing the desk to get a better look at the words on the screen.

"Physically, it's in Russia, but a demonologist over there was nice enough to scan a text version onto her website," Bob told them, crossing his arms over his chest. The wan yellow lights in the room glinted off the watch on his wrist, which Angel couldn't help but note was a gold plated Rolex. Business must have been good,o r he was simply the king of all con men.

"Here he is, The Executioner; also known as The Guardian of the Gates of Hell," Angel read aloud.

"You can read Old Melloch?" Bob asked, sounding surprised. "Great, now I don't have to pretend I don't. Scroll down-you'll find an interesting bit on the perils of raising the wanker more than once."

Dru drifted over to Bob, and seemed to study him with great interest. "You have pretty eyes too," she purred, stroking his arm. "You're all pretty."

Bob looked at her with great interest, smiling seductively. "You're definitely the prettiest vampire I've ever seen. You have a touch of the sight, don't you? So do I. Maybe we should get together and compare notes sometime."

"Dru," Spike growled angrily, grabbing her arm and pulling her away from him. "He's a liar demon, remember? He's completely full of shit."

"Not just shit-one hundred percent, premium grade bullshit," Bob countered, with an endearing smile Dru instantly returned.

Dru yanked her arm away from Spike and returned to Bob's side, snaking her arm through his as Bob gave Spike a triumphant grin. "She's a free agent now, mate," Bob told him. "I think she can do whatever she wants."

If looks could kill, Bob's head would have been splattered all over the office. "Go back to Botany Bay, Bruce," Spike muttered, turning away in disgust. Angel knew he must have been upset if he could even think up a decent insult.

Bob simply laughed, aware of his distress on some peripheral level, but since Spike could attack him if he really wanted to-he was a demon, after all, not human-he wisely chose not to rub it in ... too much.