The Paragon Of Animals

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;  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!   

"You don't have much use for the law at all, do you?"

Bob grinned in a way he must have thought was charming. "Let's just say we rarely see eye to eye."

"So why are you going after Wolfram and Hart now?"

"Well, they stole something from me."

Angel stared at him blankly, waiting for the punchline, and then he realized that was it. "They ripped you off in a business transaction?" He exclaimed, laughing darkly. "That's what all this is all about? They shortchanged you, and now you want my help in giving them a jumbo wedgie?"

Bob smirked bitterly. "I'd never do business with those lyin' scumbags-and yes, I am aware of that irony-but business doesn't come into it. I had a shipment coming in from Japan last night, and they killed my couriers and hijacked it. And while that's bad in and of itself, it's what they took that bothers me."

"What did they take?"


Angel still couldn't shake the feeling Bob was just toying with him, playing some stupid game, in spite of the seriously grim look on his face. "A person? You had a person brought in as a 'shipment'?"

"Not a person ... well, not anymore."

Angel sat back, frowning, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm waiting for that explanation, and it better be good."

"She was the oldest Belial in known existence-she lived to six hundred or so. Of course, she was nuttier than a squirrel in a nutlog factory, and so psychically powerful she scared the piss out of everyone, including fellow Belials, especially when she began killing indiscriminately. Hate us or not, Angel, you know Belials want nothing more than to live in peaceful coexistence with Humans. So someone-the argument continues over whom-approached a powerful coven of witches, and asked them to kill her. They refused, on the grounds that they didn't kill, but after seeing what Bellara had down to an entire town, they agreed to imprison her, so she'd be unable to hurt anyone again. They did it, imprisoning her 'psychic energy' in a lump of 'green' amber, but most of the coven died in the process. Still, the stone was cased up, a spell put on it so no one crazy enough to look for it would find it, and buried seven feet deep in a forest in China."

Squirrel in a nutlog factory? Sometimes it was best not to ask. "When?"

"Did it happen? A little before our time-around the twelfth century or so."

Angel sat forward, frowning in thought, folding his hands in front of him on the desk. "Wait-isn't that a myth?"

"Well, that's what we wanted you to believe. If people thought it was true, they might try and look for the stone, right?"

"So why did you?"

"I didn't!" He protested, looking a little too innocent to be believed. "Remember that big earthquake they had in China not too long ago? Well apparently, the ground churned the case containing Bellara's energy closer to the surface, and the protection/cloaking spell either didn't work, or had a finite shelf life, 'cause it caused a strange 'dead' area in the forest-anything that stepped on a two foot circle of ground around the box fell instantly dead. Dead animals were just heaped on the thing, but even the insects that tried to feed on them died. The locals had always considered the ground cursed and avoided it, although one foreigner who didn't believe in such 'silly superstitions' was the first Human victim."

"Why? Why did they drop dead?"

"See, that's the thing-the coven figured, once she was imprisoned in the amber, her psychic energy would dissipate; she'd die, but it would take such a long time it gave them less of a guilty feeling about it. But that didn't happen. Somehow, she kept it together. And, even while trapped in amber, she needed to feed on something to keep her energy level up."

"She fed on lives," Angel said, thinking aloud.

Bob nodded. "Or,at least the energy contained in living things, from plants and insects to Humans. I assume her appetite is insatiable, considering how powerful she's supposed to be. Anyhow, I have a business associate in Asia-a vampire, yeah, but a shrewd businesswoman-who went to the site and dug it up. It was only two feet down, and, being already dead, she was immune to Bellara. She tested it, figured out it was the genuine stone of Bellara, and - considering our relationship - gave me a head's up. She intended to put it on the auction block, but since we had been so close in the past, she offered me the first bid for it. I instantly wired her a million dollars and she sent the case, with a vampire courier, to Japan, where I had sent a vampire courier to intercept him and bring them back here."

It took Angel a second to realize he had actually said a million dollars-he'd dropped the term so casually it was like saying he had loaned someone twenty bucks .How wealthy was he? "Why did you the courier she sent need to come too?"

"Because she had given him instructions-to be told to me-about how to safely destroy the thing. She didn't want to tell me over the phone or email because she was afraid she had a leak in her organization-word was getting out about the Bellara stone, even though she hadn't publicized it yet-and if it was known it existed and I intended to destroy it, hell would probably break loose. And I agreed, because I figured 'radio silence', so to speak, was best when dealing with a hot potato like this."

"But the news got leaked to Wolfram and Hart."

"Apparently so. I sent another courier to the docks to make sure they arrived okay, but the ship docked a bit ahead of schedule, and by the time she got there, she found nothing but piles of dusts on the deck, and there was no sign of the case or the stone."

"So why do you think Wolfram and Hart are responsible? You could have simply been double crossed by your 'friend'."

Bob sat forward with a weary sigh, and gave him a look that seemed to say he was the stupidest person he had ever met. "Because Jiang is not and was never like that, even as a Human. And Heather, the other courier I sent, did note one strange thing as she pulled up beyond the docks: a limo pulling away. How many people drive limos down to the worst part of the Santa Monica pier at two o'clock in the morning?"

Angel grimaced. If he was telling the truth, he had a point. "Why would they want it?"

"Oh, I don't know," he sighed, throwing his hands up as he slumped back in his chair. "What could they do with an all powerful god-like demon with a huge grudge against humanity? It boggles the mind."

Angel had to admit this sounded pretty damn bad. But how could he trust Bob? He'd just proved how untrustworthy he was by entrancing Cordelia, and by playing mind games with him. "Is that why you wanted the stone, Bob? Did Wolfram and Hart take that from you too?"

Bob scowled at him, eyes narrowing to slits as an angry crease formed between his brows. "I wanted to put Bellara in the ground, or ether, or wherever the hell once and for all. I don't care if you believe me or not, Angel, but maybe you can believe this-I ain't Bellara, but I'm strong enough to hurt people if I want, and hurt 'em pretty bad. But I don't, because I don't have a grudge against Humanity. Do I hate certain people? Yeah, sure, but they're not all Humans. The world is too big for me to want, and I've seen enough death to last me another two lifetimes. Believe it or not-and I really don't care if you do-but we need to get the stone before they let her out, although it's probably too late for that. In that case, I need your help in trying to figure out how to kill her, because I'm at a loss."

"Why not call your friend Jiang and ask for the instructions?"

"I tried-she's missing, and I fear the worst." For a moment, a shadow of sorrow crossed his face, but Angel presumed it was part of the act. "Wolfram and Hart have even more connections than I do. I really didn't think that was possible."

Angel sat back and sighed, running a hand through his sopping hair as he considered the possibility Bob was mostly telling the truth. A slim possibility, but still within the realms of probability. "She's non-corporeal, right? And since she feeds on the energy of living beings, she can't really possess people without killing them."

"She can possess the right kind of body."

Angel almost asked what he meant, but figured it out himself. "Belial."

Bob nodded somberly. "If we're lucky, they picked someone young-that might inhibit her abilities somewhat .But, knowing Wolfram and Hart, they were more on the ball than that."

Angel nodded in agreement himself: the bastards always did their homework. "What are her abilities exactly?" He presumed they were like Bob's, but hell...if she was six hundred when imprisoned, and kept a rudimentary form of consciousness even while trapped in the stone...that made her technically what, fourteen hundred years old? Angel knew if he was still capable of shuddering, he would have.

"Remember that village that convinced the coven to take her out of the game?" He said grimly, sitting forward and resting his hands on his knees.

"What had she done to it?"

"She had enslaved the entire populace. A few hundred people reduced to an army of automatons, who existed only to do her bidding, including kill each other off on her whim. Just think what she could do now."

A sudden knock on the door made Angel start slightly, as the door opened and a very harried looking Wesley poked his head inside his office. His blue eyes scudded over Bob first, making the ex-Watcher frown, but when he looked at Angel, he just looked grim. "You'd better come out here, Angel-there's something very strange going on outside."

"What?" He wondered, his stomach clenching in a sudden rush of a very bad feeling as he got to his feet.

Wesley just shook his head, worry lines wrinkling his brow. "You'll have to see for yourself."

"She's started," Bob proclaimed, his tone somewhere between reluctant acceptance and angry remorse.

And Angel wondered if he was right as he went out to the lobby to see what was going on.




Wesley knew there was something wrong when he re-entered the Hyperion and found Cordelia sitting at her desk, pretending she wasn't trying to eavesdrop on a conversation going on in his office, all the while cradling a hand held battle axe in her lap.

And to top it off, all the chocolate doughnuts were gone.

As he put down the volume on Chaos demons he had run back home to get, Cordelia told a slightly confusing tale of what of had happened, but the gist of it was Angel was in his office, talking to Maximum Bob.

Now there was a name he'd hoped to never hear again. As if it wasn't bad enough he wasn't a black marketer and an all around scoundrel, smart and slippery enough to straddle the line between mostly harmless and repugnantly evil to avoid being caught up in something truly foul, Angel was apparently 'indebted' to him.

He helped Angel kill the Executioner a couple months back, when Wolfram and Hart made an ill advised attempt to raise him, and all for the price of Angel's word that he 'owed' him. A terrible deal, although Wesley could sympathize with my why Angel had made it-at the time, the Executioner, who had already nearly killed him, was hot on his heels (although Wesley still didn't know why Angel just didn't call him. No, he couldn't physically take on the Executioner, but maybe he could have come up with a spell to weaken him, or send him back home). But since Angel had told him about it, he had a bad feeling this would all come back to haunt him; to haunt them all.

He had to hand it to Bob, though-he was very clever. And that's what bothered him the most. Well, that and his age: old Belials could not only be quite psychically powerful, but there sanity always remained an open question.

Wesley picked up the book of spells he had left on the counter earlier and pretended to shelve it, attempting to hear what they were discussing in his office, but they were speaking too low to really make out: he could hear their voices, but not the words. Judging from the tone of their voices, though, their conversation was quite serious.

Since he wasn't really paying attention, it took him a minute to realize Cordy had just answered the question of why she was holding the axe. "He did what?" He exclaimed, horrified, hoping he had heard her wrong.

"Did his mojo thing; 'mesmerized' me," she explained, gripping the axe handle tightly in both hands. "He just took off his sunglasses and it was like...wham. I couldn't even control myself-it was like his puppet or something. It was way creepy." She shuddered in memory.

Wesley felt his jaw drop at such a hideous thought, and was glad Bob wasn't out here right now, because he'd be tempted to beat him to a bloody pulp. "What did he make you do?"

"Well...nothing really. He just wanted me to grab his hand."

"His hand?" He repeated warily. He had expected a lot worse, and was sort of relieved, although confused. "Why?"

"I don't know," she admitted with a shrug." Although he said I was 'blocked', whatever that means."

"Blocked?" He was starting to feel like a parrot. But it was only noon, and already the day had been more puzzling than he would have liked. "Psychically? Did he say how?"

"No. But Angel seemed to think he was full of shit."

"With a Belial, that's always a safe assumption." But why would he choose that particular lie? And what was his intentions when he mesmerized her? Of course, he could guess the ultimate intention, but why would he want her to grab his hand? What was that supposed to do?

He didn't have long to ponder that before they heard the crash outside.

Muffled by the walls, the crunch of metal on metal was still audible, the sound of glass breaking almost as soft a sound as rain on the pavement. There were several loud blats of a car horn, but they sounded like they were from at least two different soyrces. A car accident?

He exchanged a curious look with Cordelia, and then they both headed outside to have a look, Cordy remembering to leave the axe behind at the last second.

The day was so clear and bright Wesley's eyes stung as soon as they left the hotel, and he had to shade his eyes until they adjusted to the sunlight, making him muse that at least he was not a vampire; they'd do a hell of a lot more than water then.

"What the hell..?" Cordy wondered aloud behind him, and he had to admit that was his thought as well as soon as he clearly saw what was going on before them.

The crashing noise they had heard was indeed a car accident-at the head of the street, a BMW parked next to the curb had been 't-boned' by a large black Mercedes. A Mercedes that backed up as they watched, and deliberately smashed into another parked car on the other side of the street. This time it was a small blue Honda, and the force of impact not only crumpled the car inward but sent it up onto the sidewalk, where it tumbled right through the window of a small convenience store, the glass shattering explosively as part of the front facade collapsed. The Mercedes backed up onto the road again, front bumper now hanging on by a single bolt, steam from the punctured radiator spewing from the seams of the hood like dragon's breath.

There were few pedestrians, but those that were near didn't scatter, or even seem to notice the bizarre scene going on around them. In fact, they all seemed to have the stiff walk and glazed stare of somnambulists, their faces unusually slack and stripped of any expression at all.

There was a heavy metallic thunk at the opposite end of the street, and Wesley had to edge farther out on the sidewalk to see what was happening, although he had a sudden spasm of great reluctance to do so. Still he did, Cordy grabbing his arm and looking past him, all the while making sure he was still in front of her like a human shield.

There was a middle aged woman in a fuzzy blue bathrobe and pink bunny slippers smashing a plumber's wrench against the top bolt of the fire hydrant at the end of the block, obviously trying to break it open. People walked around her, not even seeming to notice either her attire or what she was trying to do. In fact, it looked like a rag tag group of people were dismantling a building on the corner past her, their fingers bloody from digging out the bricks from the solid mortar, one piece at a time.

There was a harsh noise, metal scraping on concrete, and Wesley looked back in time to see the Mercedes, half its front end accordioned in, the bumper rasping against the blacktop and causing sparks to trail beneath the car as it limped along, aim towards a light post across the street from them and swerve into it as violently as possible, snapping the metal street light's post in half on impact. It fell across the hood of the car as the light smashed down into the road, and the hood, crumpled up like a tin can, began venting steam like a volcano.

Cordy's fingers were digging so hard into his bicep they felt like claws, and the man in the Mercedes, wearing a very expensive Versace suit that almost matched the color of his car, looked like he was trying to back up again and have another go, even though blood was gushing down his face from a visible, nasty gash on his forehead.

Cordy was trying to pull him back into the Hyperion, and he let her, feeling remarkably cold for such a sunny, warm day.

"Okay, can you say 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'?" Cordelia commented, once they were safely ensconced inside the hotel. She was trying to sound flippant, but he could hear the tiny edge of fear in her voice. "Think there was a mass escape from the insane asylum we didn't hear about?"

He looked at her, and saw a sort of hopeful curiosity in her hazel eyes that seemed to say 'You were the Watcher-so what's the deal here'. But he didn't know, although he had several possibilities in mind. Absolutely none of them good, but that was a given.

They were standing close enough to the door to hear another crunch of metal and crash of glass-Mercedes man must have gotten his car started again.

"Lock the doors," he told her, even though such a measure would only work against people on foot, not people using cars as battering rams, and went to get Angel.

It looked like the rampant chaos problem had finally spread to people as well. But what had happened to their minds? When it hit the demons, they appeared out of their minds, yes, but not blank; there was an intelligence there, just skewed.

But he had seen their eyes, and the people out there were hollow, empty.




Angel could only get within half a foot of the glass door-it was just too sunny out-but even he could hear the crashing, the metal on metal thuds and the crunch of glass as violent chaos erupted outside. It was slow, for the moment, but he knew it was just for that-the moment.

"Maybe it's a spell," Wesley said, sounding desperate. "Maybe they've found a powerful enough curse to plague several dozen people."

"It's more than several dozen, mate," Bob said, joining them in the lobby. "And it's no spell either."

Angel's eyes were throbbing from his proximity to sunlight, but he didn't turn away, not even as he heard the open contempt for Bob in Wesley's voice. "Oh?" The Englishman replied. "Then what is it?"

"Entrancing; Bellara's snagged them all." From the tone of his voice, Wes's contempt didn't bother him a bit. But what exactly did bother Bob? Then again, maybe by the time you got to your third century, you got remarkably jaded.

"Bellara?" It sounded like Wes was rolling that name around in his mouth, trying to figure out where he'd heard it before. "That's a myth." There was a thick and serious pause before he added, "Or is it?"

"What's Bellara?" Cordy wondered. Her reflection in the glass door showed she was now holding the small battle axe, and keeping an eye on a still unconcerned Bob.

"It could be an extension of the chaos; we don't know that it's her for sure," Angel replied, feeling a bit stroppy. He didn't know why-maybe the combination of a crappy morning and Bob was just too much.

"Then I'll find out," Bob said, coming up to the door and unlocking it.

"Don't go out there," Wesley said, but it was a reflex, his voice trailing away as he realized he didn't care if Bob went out there or not.

Bob did, Angel stepping back to avoid any rays of sun reflected off the door, and he saw a man in what appeared to be a mechanic's jumpsuit wandering down the center of the street, now littered with jagged shreds of metal from destroyed cars and bright with shattered glass, making the road look like it was covered with crushed diamonds. He was carrying what looked like a tire iron in his hands, smashing anything that looked breakable ,including an ornamental tree planted in front of the Hyperion, which was what he was hitting when Bob went up to him.

Angel was marveling at the stupidity of that as the man turned towards him-Bob was extremely breakable too-but he heard Bob clearly say, "Give it to me."

The man froze, tire iron raised over his head, brown eyes so glassy Angel could swear they were as reflective as mirrors.

Wes and Cordy-still holding her axe-crowded next to him, but unlike him they were able to get right up to the door.

The man's arm seemed to jerk, as if someone had pulled it, and Angel noticed the set of Bob's shoulders, so tense the muscles in his arms were bulging as if he was trying to bench press a great weight, veins standing out like dark cords beneath the flesh. Bob was fighting something in the man's head, and from the strain in his body language and the slack inertness of the mechanic's face, Bob had no hope of winning. Whatever was in the man's head was a lot stronger than he was.

Oh shit. If it wasn't Bellara, what else could it be?

"," Bob gritted through what sounded like clenched teeth.

After a moment, the man's arm lowered in several hurky jerky motions, like he was in the hands of an inept puppeteer, and Bob grabbed the tire iron out of his hand.

"Go home, and stay there," Bob said, and it sounded like a command, not a suggestion.

The man turned stiffly and shambled off, as graceless as a zombie, and when Bob turned back towards the hotel, he could see the sweat beaded on his forehead, starting to stream down his flushed face in rivulets-he had almost lost the battle.

He wiped away the sweat with the back of his hand as he re-entered the hotel, Cordy and Wes stepping back to let him inside, and as soon as he was in the lobby, he tossed the tire iron aside and locked the door.

"Pardon the language Cordelia, but I'd say we're buggered black and blue," Bob sighed, sounding out of breath. "She's not even conscious in that man, and I could barely get through."

"Not conscious?" Wesley asked.

"You can entrance in two ways: direct control-consciously-or oblique control-not unconscious, just not directly present. An afterthought, if you will. You can control more people obliquely, but usually its easier to break since you spread yourself and your abilities so thin. But it was like hitting a steel wall-for a moment there, I thought I might not be able to get through. But finally I was able to sort of 'piggyback' on her frequency-if you get my meaning-and get through, but it was a close thing: like squeakin' under a portcullis and just losin' a toe."

"A portcullis?" Codelia wondered. "And I'm still needing back story here."

"A sort of gate spiked on the bottom that some castles used to have as a defensive measure," Angel explained idly, still staring out onto the street. He now saw a heavyset man dressed in a stained t-shirt, boxer shorts, and socks alone walking down the opposite sidewalk. The glass had cut his feet so badly his socks looked red, and he was leaving bloody footsteps behind him with every step, but he seemed oblivious of it.

"I ain't telling the story again," Bob said, collapsing on the circular sofa in the center of the lobby, letting his arms dangle loosely between his splayed legs. He looked honestly weary as he sagged against its back and closed his eyes, and that disturbed Angel more than almost anything else. Bob was the strongest Belial he had ever known-and in a space of less than an hour, he had been one upped by a force so great Angel was roughly certain he wasn't comprehending it right.

It was then that a shadow appeared in the doorway, and he tensed, ready for anything, until he realized it was Gunn, giving him an impatient 'are you going to open this door' sort of look. But it was Wesley who unlocked it long enough to let him in, and then quickly locked it again. "I guess you know about all the freaky shit going on out there," he said, glancing at Cordy holding the axe. His chocolate brown eyes scanned the room, and fixed on the slumped figure of Bob. "And who is that?"

Bob opened his eyes, and attempted a weary smile as he gave him a mocking salute. "Maximum Bob, bane of Angel's existence. You must be Gunn."

Gunn nodded, considering his words for a moment. "Black market liar demon scumbag?"

"At your service."

"Nice to meet you." He then looked between Angel and Wesley. "So what the hell's going on?"

"That's the million dollar question," Cordy said, looking straight at Angel. In fact, they were all staring at him, except Bob, who had closed his eyes again and appeared to be meditating. Or just trying to avoid telling the story again.

So Angel gave them an abbreviated version of what Bob had told him, sprinkling it with the word 'allegedly'-not to annoy Bob, although that was a nice side effect-because he still didn't trust Bob as far as he could throw a Berserker demon. But he was willing to believe Bellara was here now, out and about, most likely courtesy of Wolfram and Hart. As soon as he had updated them, he asked Gunn, "Is it only happening on this block, or did you see it on other streets?"

"It was everywhere I went," Gunn replied, frowning in concern. "At first I thought we were having another riot, because I saw a group of people busting out windows on Sunset, but nobody was looting. Well, nobody doing any of the breaking-there was some people stealing in their wake, but they looked normal. Mostly they're attacking inanimate objects, but one guy took a swing at me as I walked past."

"What did you do?" Wesley asked.

"Decked him. Hypnotized or not, he had a glass jaw."

"It's just starting-it's early days yet," Bob said. His eyes were open again, and he looked a little better than he had before. Controlling that man had really taken it out of him, which seemed bitterly ironic compared to how easy it had been for him to entrance Cordelia. "They will get more violent the deeper she gets into their minds. She'll burn them all out eventually, leaving them nothin' but meat puppets. If she leaves 'em after that, the body will be there, but the people will be permanently out to lunch."

"So how do we fix this?" Gunn asked, looking at Bob alone. "I take it we just can't kick her ass and stake her."

"No. And that's why I came here-I don't know how to kill her. We can kill her host body, but we have to get her psychic energy, or she'll just find another Belial to inhabit."

"How many people can she control at once?" Wesley asked, although he looked at Angel rather than Bob, whom he still clearly didn't trust.

But it was Bob that answered. "Before I saw into that man, I'd have said thousands. But now I'd say hundreds of thousands. Maybe even a million."

"Impossible," Wesley gasped, but he looked a bit shaken as he straightened his glasses and headed for the bookshelf: he didn't want to believe it, but he knew he just might have to. "There has to be a spell...maybe we can trap her inside something again."

"Wouldn't it be better to just kill the bitch?" Gunn said.

"A million times yes," Bob seconded. "Before she makes L.A. the vegetable capital of the world."

"The problem with that is how do you kill something that can exist as non-corporeal energy?" Angel pointed out, stepping away from the door. He had seen enough troubling things that he couldn't do anything about. "Also, how did she entrance this many people at once?"

"Yeah," Cordelia piped up, holding the axe down at her side. "Don't you need to look them in the eye?"

"Usually," Bob conceded with a shrug. "But she's strong enough that just having the concept of a person-a weak willed person-in her mind may allow her to take them."

"And where is she now?" Wesley added, pulling a spell book off the shelf. "Wolfram and Hart's building?"

"No way," Bob averred with perfect certainty. "She'd feed off the energy of people around her, and somehow I don't see them offerin' up half their staff as a snack for her."

"They have safe houses," Gunn said. "Lots of safe houses."

"Then she's probably in one." Bob said, then suddenly sat forward, his eyes brightening. "And that's where we gotta go, Angel."

Angel scowled at him. "The safe houses? Didn't you hear him? They have lots. If we start checking them all blind, one by one, we should be done by next year."

"No, mate, the belly of the beast itself: Wolfram and Hart. Somebody there knows something about her, and they'll tell us."

Angel scoffed in disbelief. "Oh yes, of course they will. We'll just go up to the front desk and ask them,' Say, where are you hiding the fourteen hundred year old Belial demon who has mesmerized half the city? We wish to kill her'."

"You won't-I will," Bob said simply, and Angel understood what he meant: he'd go in and mesmerize the staff, combing through their minds for what he wanted to know. Although there was a delicious ironic vengeance to that-if anyone deserved to be psychically invaded, it was Wolfram and Hart-he still didn't see how that would work.

"You're strong, Bob, but I don't even think you're strong enough to mesmerize that whole building. They have Belials working there as lawyers, and possibly other psychic demons on the payroll. Even if they're not strong enough to repel you, they'll see you coming. And there's no way in hell you're going there alone."

"I said 'we'," Bob replied, frowning slightly. "I know you don't trust me. And I don't need to mesmerize the whole building. Just witnesses and security staff...and the vamp detectors, of course."

Wesley looked up from his book, curious. "You can mesmerize them?"

Bob grinned devilishly, with obvious pride. "They're simpleminded creatures; I could do them in my sleep, don't even need to look 'em in the eye. No problem at all. But, having said that, I can't blind you from everybody, Angel-you're gonna have to do the stealthy thing."

He expected that, and sighed as best he could without breath. "I guess I could dress up as a lawyer again."

"A lawyer?" Bob scoffed in disbelief. "Who'd buy that for one second? You don't look like a lawyer. You know what you like?"

Angel didn't want to know, but Bob told him anyways. And before he could laugh in his face, Cordelia gasped in awe, "That is so perfect. Why didn't we think of that before?"

Gunn nodded in agreement. "Yeah. It's kind of a no brainer, isn't it?"

"But where would we get the outfit?" Wesley wondered aloud.

"Hey-I do not," Angel protested weakly, but no one listened to him.

Bob got off the sofa and headed for the phone on the front desk. "Ibri is covering the bar tonight, so I'll call up Lia and have her run over an outfit. If anyone can get here and back in one piece, it's her."

"You have one?" Wesley asked, astonished.

"Well no, but I know where to get one. I know where to get anything-I'm a black marketeering scumbag, remember?" He replied casually, picking up the receiver and punching up Lia's home phone number.

No one denied that-how could they?

But Angel still had a bad feeling about all of this.

If the fate of the world depended - in any form - on Bob, they might as well start writing their obituaries now.




Although he had lived-well, in one form or another-for almost three centuries, Angel could count on one hand the times he actually and honestly felt like a total git.

This was one of those times.

In spite of the fact that they all wanted to see him in the outfit, after changing into it upstairs, he threw on a workman's coverall, explaining that any smell or sight of sewer on it was bound to attract attention he didn't need. Cordelia accused him of being vain-he wasn't vain! He was embarrassed, and ever so slightly humiliated. Humiliation made worse when he realized what the name tag on the outfit said: "Neeson".