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St Luke's Cross was in a more habitable area of Avarice, but the lone apartment complex in the area was barely occupied. It should not even have been considered an apartment complex anymore -- its walls were nearly grey from dirt and its corridors were littered with winos, junkies and trash. Most of its apartments were abandoned. The ones occupied were heavily barricaded from the inside at all times. Its residents just did not have the means to leave.

A figure emerged from the near-ruins of the complex's lobby. He cut a strange figure; not because he wore all black despite the heat, but because he carried a large, black longbow with his right hand.

The man stepped over a junkie and walked up the apartment stairs. When he reached his desired floor, he entered an empty unit and stood at the window, watching the warehouse across the street. He dropped the bow gently by his side and took out something from his leather jacket.

"Wonderful. Ten vampires. Having a party. In a warehouse full of holes. In the middle of the afternoon. Don't they make them smart anymore?" he muttered, his voice heavy with cynicism.

Gloved hands replaced the binoculars in his jacket. They reached for the longbow at his side and for several arrows next to it.

"Who should go first? Should I take out the man with the Britney Spears tee-shirt or should I send the man with his hair standing up to hell first?" he reminisced.

Wesley squinted at his target as he mounted the arrow and stretched the bow string.

"Eeny, meeny, mienie..."

He released the arrow.

The arrow traveled swiftly and pierced the heart of the vampire with spiky hair. He reared back in shock, stared at the arrow, then cried out in horror before exploding in a shower of dust. His other vampire friends scuttled away into the relative darkness of the warehouse and gestured wildly at the hole made by the arrow.

"Sorry old fellow. You remind me of someone who tried to smother me to death once," Wesley said as he prepared another arrow.

"I think you're next, Britney fan," he murmured. "I like the girl, but you insult her by wearing the shirt."

Another arrow.

Another vamp biting the dust.

"What's your agenda, Mr. Swanson?"

Another arrow. This time it was a female vampire.

"I've cleaned out four of your warehouses, and they were such easy kills I'm beginning to suspect something."

He released another arrow.

"Or perhaps I'm paranoid, like that Thesulac demon said those many naïve months ago. Oh wait, it was last year when I actually thought I had a purpose."

Another vampire dead. More dead, sorry.

"Hmm. Perhaps it's a standard assignment. Nothing to worry about. Play demon exterminator. Cash for job well done. But why are my alarm bells ringing? Why do I feel as if there's something more to you, Mr. Swanson? What game are you trying to play?"

Two more dusted. Six gone, four more to go.

"Granted you're paying me an obscene amount of money. More money than I've earned with Angel Investigations. Good lord, how I loathe that word now. Angel. Angelic. Hmm. Why are you hiding behind the beam, dear boy? Don't make me go down there and ruin my jacket."

Two more gone. They didn't know how to hide like that marginally smarter vampire.

"Did your family have such abysmal luck that they ended up buying so much property in Avarice? What game are you playing, Mr. Swanson?" he murmured. He quickly shot the ninth vampire to ashes.

The last vampire was still huddled behind the beam. And not making a move, it looked like.

Wesley hissed in annoyance and slung his bow over his shoulder. He took out a stake from his jacket and ran down the stairs. While he did so, his mind was buzzing with questions and theories. For a supposedly shrewd businessman, Swanson was too eager to part with his money. He did put up a fight, but it was a pathetic attempt at bravado than anything else.

Wesley was being used for some shady purpose. He could feel it.

The afternoon sunlight nearly blinded him, but he ignored the brief darkness of his vision and walked purposely to the front doors of the warehouse. With a quick flick of his wrist, he snapped the chain that held the doors of the warehouse bolted. It came apart, releasing the doors. Wesley kicked it open and stepped through.

Loud music assaulted him. One of those screaming numbers devoid of sense and rhythm. As he looked around the warehouse he saw piles of dust, some already being blown away by the hot, afternoon breeze that filtered through the numerous holes he had made with his arrows.

"Hey, don't stake me man!" a frightened voice begged him.

He took his earlier remark back. This man was not marginally smarter. Maybe microscopically so. Wesley walked towards the sound of the voice, lifting his stake.

"I mean, what did I do to you?"

Wesley did not bother giving him a reply. He frowned, inching towards the beam where he knew the vampire was hiding.

"I mean, we were in the middle of lunch!" the vampire yelled.

Something was not right. Wesley stopped.

"So that was really rude."

Wesley whirled in surprise -- just in time to feel something sharp stab him in the side. He gasped, dropping the stake in shock. He looked at the penknife sticking at his side in fascination, then at the vampire that stood before him. Without thinking he asked -

"How did you-?"

The vampire backhanded him across the face.

Surprised at the attack, Wesley stumbled back and hit the pillar. That sent waves of nausea from the wound. Grunting in pain, he pulled the penknife out. That brought another wave of pain, but he was glad to see that it didn't bleed too much. It was just a flesh wound.

"I was a ventriloquist. I learnt how to throw my voice. Neat, huh? Guess my human phase wasn't such a total loss after all."

The vampire lunged and caught Wesley around the throat. Wesley clutched the penknife in his right hand and brought it to the vampire's chest-

"And I'm going to crush your pathetic throat like-"

The creature's eyes widened suddenly. Then he said, "Cripes" -- and dissolved into a shower of dust.

A figure emerged from the cloud of dust.

"Do they always talk this much?" the figure asked.

Wesley could only stare at his saviour. He was young -- just a teenager. His brown hair was a wild mess of locks; his eyes hard and cold for one so young. No, Wesley was not surprised that his rescuer was young. He had seen him fight before after all.

Wesley threw the penknife aside, clutched his wounded side and continue to stare at the young man in amazement.

It was Connor.

"Umm. Pizza," Anne remarked, admiring the slice pepperoni pizza in her hands. She took a bite and said while munching -- to hell with manners -- "Though, it'd be better if we ate it in an *actual* pizza place."

They were seated in the living room of Fred and Gunn?s converted apartment. It was quite neat really -- in the past month with Angel and Connor missing, Gunn had occupied his time doing, as Fred called it, 'macho man renovation work'. Thankfully, in Gunn's case -- he was actually quite good at home improvement. He had converted a few rooms on the fourth floor into their own abode. Fred had her own study, which looked like a labyrinth of technological equipment Anne was sure she could not name. Gunn had added decorating touches to the apartment too -- mostly posters of baseball players.

"Sorry," Fred was saying. "Gunn said he couldn't risk them finding you."

"I feel like a prisoner," Anne moaned, then took another bite.

"It'll be over soon. The full moon phase will be over in a few days and then you'll be free."

At least for now, Fred thought worriedly. But she flashed Anne a big smile to reassure her.

They were taking a breather from Fred's long narration of the year's events. It felt good to unload everything on Anne, who didn't appear to mind. When she told Anne how Angel nearly suffocated Wesley to death, she nearly cried and admitted to Anne how horrified she had been.

"Because a part of me wanted to do it to Wesley before Angel did it for me, but I didn't really want to do it -- but when I saw Angel nearly kill Wes, I thought -- what the hell happened? What's going on? What have we become? I want things to be the way they were. I want Connor back!" she had babbled.

Anne had just hugged her and said that it was okay to feel that way; they were only human after all.

Funny, thought Fred. You'd think that with a soul, people could be better than demons and vampires, but it was never that way. They had pricked and stabbed each other with their hurt feelings and now it might be too late to do anything.

"Hey," said a voice from the doorway.

Anne gasped and nearly fell of her chair. At the same time, Fred grabbed her fork and tried to wield it like a weapon-

Gunn chuckled. "Honey, I surrender," he raised his hands in mock defeat.

A man and a woman appeared behind Gunn. The woman gave Fred her hand. "Hey. I'm Lisle."

The guy was J-Bob.

"They're ... protection," Gunn said.

"Wow, I need bodyguards," Anne smiled. However, her expression said that she was not really comfortable with the idea.

"It's okay, Annie. Just a couple of days and it'll be all over," Gunn reassured her, unconsciously echoing Fred. He then gestured to Fred who went to his side.

"What is it Charles?" Fred asked after she made sure that Anne was occupied with Lisle and J-Bob.

Gunn told her about the mysterious vampire hunter that stalked the streets of Avarice.

"Wow. Sounds heroic. What makes you think he'll help us?"

"I don't know, Fred. But we need all the help me need, and I don't mind begging the man for it."

"You mean like asking him for a discount?"

Gunn winced. "Well more like an I.O.U. Or better - F.O.C."

Fred smiled at that, but she grew serious again.

"So, how do we get in touch with this guy? From the sound of it, he doesn't really have a forwarding address."

Gunn shrugged and looked uncomfortable. "We stalk the streets he stalks. If we're lucky we'll bump into him."

Fred made a face. "Or bump into something with a bumpy forehead."


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