It's the weekend, and liliaeth and I present another chapter of Beloved. To keep things from getting murky, we will post the age of all children appearing in any given chapter in this header section.
William is just ten years old
Alonna is eight and a half.
I can honestly say our darker phase has begun. There is angst. There is cruelty to children. There is heartbreak. Nothing graphic. And we've only just begun.
This takes place the morning after the werewolf incident. Will's a little banged up, but he's fine. Enter our villain. Action ensues, yet we manage to not give away any plot. If it means anything, there were tears shed over the writing of this chapter, but I'm easy.
Goddess bless willa_writes for putting up with my incessant cries for help.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Beloved – Chapter 14 – Torn Asunder
Alonna came through the school’s double doors, alone. “Hey, Uncle Hugh!”
“Have you seen Will?” they asked at the same time.
“Isn’t he here yet?” the little girl asked. “Tommy said they called him out of class for a visit to the nurses’ office, but that wouldn’t take all afternoon, would it?”
“How long ago do you think he was called?” Hugh wondered if they should wait where they were.
“Um… I know it was after lunch, ‘cause we sat together.” Alonna nibbled at a ragged cuticle, brow creased in thought. “And it had to be after gym, ‘cause he was there for baseball practice.”
Hugh had a moment of panic. Did the boy re-injure his arm? “Did this Tommy mention Will needing stitches? If it were serious, shouldn’t they have called the house number they have on emergency file?”
Alonna nodded her head in agreement. “They won’t even let you have an ibuprofen without calling your parents.”
“All right then.” Hugh took her by the hand and walked towards the building. “I think it’s time we get some answers. Let’s go see the nurse.”
They walked through the school to the nurses’ station. To Hugh’s surprise, two armed policemen stood guard outside the door.
“Excuse me, Sir,” Hugh approached the guard on the left. “I’m here to pick up William Dowell. I was told he’d been sent to the nurse earlier, and I’m concerned that he’s not been released as of yet.”
“And you are?” asked Guard One. The officer stared at him as if he were a known child molester.
“I-I’m a long-time friend of the family, Sir. My wife and daughter live with the boy and his parents, and I’m on the school’s approved list to pick the lad up. Now I must insist you tell me if he’s all right, and let me in to see him.”
“Nobody’s seeing the boy, Mister Old Time Friend,” Guard Two sneered. “Not until you’ve been cleared by Social Services.”
Hugh was affronted. “Now see here! This hostility is unnecessary and totally unwarranted. I’ve picked that boy up from school every day for the past four years, along with his friend, here. What happened to William that you’re not telling me? Did something happen on school grounds that I should be concerned about? That I need to call his parents about? He was in perfectly fine spirits when he left home today.”
“Perfectly fine?” Guard One looked incredulous. “Mister, didn’t you notice the boy was covered in bruises? Not to mention that poorly concealed gash on his arm?”
“William had a slight accident in the basement last night,” Hugh allowed, stiffly. “He fell into a pile of wooden packing crates. Look, my good man, I understand he looks a tad poorly. All you have to do is ask the child what happened and he’ll tell you the truth. Will is not known to lie.”
“We’ve seen cases like this before.” Guard Two waved an accusatory finger in Hugh’s general direction. “Who knows what’s really going on in a kid’s home? Maybe the father lashed out after a hard day at work. Maybe the mother is a closet drunk and pushed the kid down the stairs. Nothing would surprise us these days.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Dowell would never hurt Will!” Alonna yelled.
“Or maybe,” Guard One mused. “Maybe that bruising happened because a perverted uncle didn’t like getting his advances turned down.”
Hugh felt his gorge rise. “Now you’ve gone too far, you sanctimonious…”
Alonna kicked the guard closest to her. “You… you… creep!” she shouted, raising her little fists as if to do battle.
The little girl’s stance seemed to amuse the guards, but they stood their ground. Both sides were at an impasse. Hugh’s fists were opening and closing at his side in frustration when the door finally opened.
“Hello, Hugh. I thought I heard your charming voice,” Nathaniel Chalmers greeted his younger sibling. “You can go now,” he said, dismissing the guards with a wave of his hand.
“Nathaniel.” Hugh’s voice was cold and harsh. “I should have known you’d be involved in this.” He turned to Alonna, going down on one knee to make eye contact. “Don’t worry, pet. This is my brother. Apparently we have some family matter to take care of. Why don’t you go to the main office and have someone call your mum. Make sure you wait there until she picks you up, understood?”
“But… I want to see Will.”
“You’ll see him later, at home. Go now,” Hugh insisted. “Heed me, child. Do not leave the building with anyone else.” He watched until she turned the corner at the end of the corridor before turning back to Nate.
“All right, Nathaniel. I demand to see William. The extremity of this action in calling you all the way from home has me more than concerned for his well-being.”
“Young Master William is in good hands,” said the distinguished looking gentleman who’d suddenly appeared at Nate’s side. “And no longer any concern of yours.”
“What the bloody hell is going on here?” Hugh seemed to collapse in on himself at the sight of Roger Wyndam-Pryce. This was bad. Very, very bad, he thought to himself. Pryce wasn’t just a Watcher. He was often considered the strongest proponent for the more conservative streak at the Council now that Rupert Giles was at its head. He was hard, ruthless and had proven his mettle in literally thousands of verbal battles throughout Quentin Travers’ tenure.
And he hated Angel with every breath in his body.
Hugh had respected the man at one time, until he’d seen the manner in which Pryce regarded the Slayers. Like tools, he thought them. Weapons to be used and discarded at the slightest provocation or inferred fault.
The man had forged his son in the same mold, and when the younger Pryce found it impossible to live up to his old man’s expectations, had been thrown away like a piece of refuse.
“There is no way you’ll be allowed to see the boy, Mr. Chalmers.” Roger Wyndam-Pryce’s imperious tone announced. “We’ve brought papers from the British Consulate regarding my son’s long lost heir. Since Wesley had been co-opted by Mr. Dowell, and turned from his family, we’ve been keeping tabs on the bloodsucker. As Will’s natural grandfather, my rights supercede all others and he’s coming home with me, immediately. There is nothing you can do to prevent our flight this very evening.”
“Your son’s heir?” Hugh gasped, unable to comprehend the bald faced lie being told. “Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, William is the legally adopted son of Angel and Nina Dowell.”
“No, Sir!” the man countered, hotly. “Indeed he is not. William is the natural born son of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and that harlot he’d taken up with – Lilah Morgan. The British Consulate has provided the appropriate paperwork and legitimate blood work to stake their claim.”
“That’s impossible.” It was all Hugh had to counter with. Knowing quite well that William had existed long before Wyndam-Pryce the younger had been a twinkle in his father’s eye. Hell, Before Wyndam-Pryce senior was a twinkle in his own father’s eyes, yet it was hardly a subject that could be brought up during conversation in a mixed environment. How could he bring into evidence that barely ten years ago, William Matthew Jamison Pratt had been a one hundred and twenty five some odd year old vampire?
Nate just stood his ground, looking smug. Hugh had nowhere to go even with the truth on his side.
“You’ll do well to remember, Mr. Chalmers, that the Wyndam-Pryce name carries a great deal of respect and power behind it in our respective circles, and we’ll be informing both the police and the people who’ve been looking after the boy of his new living arrangements.”
“Surely you’ll allow the child to go home and say goodbye to his parents. Even you can’t be that cruel, Sir.”
“We have a flight to catch, and much to do before departure,” he said calmly, “and there’ll be no need to send for the lad’s things. He’ll not want for anything with his proper family.”
Hugh tried a final time to get through to the pompous bastard. “You can’t just do this… take a boy from his home – the only home he’s known for ten years. It’s wrong, Sir.”
“Right or wrong is irrelevant, Mr. Chalmers. The boy belongs with his blood family, and we are rectifying a long standing lie. We suggest you head on home to your employer and fill him in on the situation as it stands.”
“You won’t get away with this – I’ll personally see to it if it’s the last thing I do.” Hugh took a menacing step towards the old man, but was restrained by Nate.
“Don’t you see, little brother? We already have.”
Hugh couldn’t restrain himself. He hauled back and punched Nate as hard as he could, connecting solidly with his jaw. Not a physical man to begin with, the resulting punch seemed to cause more damage to his fist than his brother’s face.
“Ah, poor Hugh. I didn’t want it to go down this way, but you’ve left me no choice.” Nate pulled out a sleek silver cell phone and called in an assault charge.
Seemingly within moments, Hugh was escorted out of the school by armed policemen..
Nathaniel Chalmers’ demeanor seemed to fold in on itself just the slightest bit. He took no great joy in hurting his brother, but neither was he adverse to using pain as a motivator. Maybe now Hugh would see that he’d joined the wrong side; that working and living with the vampire had been a corrupting influence.
With any luck, he’d pack up his wife and daughter and move back to England; back in the bosom of his family. Surely he’d accept some lesser post with the Council. The Chalmers would once more close ranks. Maybe, just maybe, they could make a run for a covetous lead seat on the Council, proper.
He drew himself up to his fully imposing height and followed Roger Wyndam-Pryce to collect the boy.
Will shifted in his seat, his butt having gone numb ages ago. He was hungry and thirsty, but the snack brought in by the guidance counselor was unappealing – browning apple slices and fruit juice with something pulpy floating on the surface. He shuddered and pushed the tray to another desk.
Ms. Larson sat at her desk, going through a stack of student folders. Will had nothing more to say to the woman. Not since she’d placed an anatomically correct male doll in front of him and explained what she wanted him to do with it.
He couldn’t understand why they kept asking him if Mom or Dad touched him in bad places. And when he said no each and every time, they shoved that doll in front of him. He was ten years old! If he’d been abused, he’d certainly be able to tell the counselor about it.
Shit! God damned shit, piss, hell and damn.
Even cursing to himself made Will flinch. Mom hated it when he used ‘vulgarities,’ but the words fit his mood. He knew his body looked pretty disgusting – black and blue and green from where he’d fallen into those crates, and his arm throbbed from having a hunk of wood in it. But he was fine. And he wanted to go home.
Where are Alonna and Uncle Hugh?
This whole thing was stupid.
When the door opened, Will practically cried with relief until he recognized the man.
“Hello, William. It’s good to see you again.”
“Where’s Uncle Hugh, and why are you here instead? I wanna go home.”
“It’s all right, boy. We’ll take you home.”
Will looked at the old man standing next to his uncle. He sounded okay, but his smile… that stopped at his lips. The look in his eyes scared him, and he looked to his uncle for reassurance.
“I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Roger Wyndam-Pryce. Your grandfather.”
“No. He’s not your dad,” Will insisted. “Lotte and Uncle Hugh showed me pictures of Grandpa Andrew, and that ain’t him.”
“Bright lad,” Mr. Wyndam-Pryce noted. “Excuse me, Miss… Larson, is it? May we have some time alone with the boy? It’s going to be difficult enough for him to accept, and I think it best if we have some privacy.”
Ms. Larson nodded and stepped into her inner office, closing the door.
Shit again. This wasn’t good. William didn’t like this at all. He barely knew Nathaniel Chalmers, and these two men together scared the hell out of him.
Mr. Wyndam-Pryce held William’s backpack with the tips of his fingers; distaste dripping from his expression.
“Hey, Mister! That’s my stuff,” William shouted, rising from his seat as the man rooted around in the bag.
“Sit down and be silent, boy,” the older man commanded. “What is this?” he asked, holding up the raggedy Paddington bear. “Surely a child your age has no need of a teddy,” he sighed, tossing the stuffed animal into the trash. “You don’t need it, nor any of this nonsense,” he said, dumping the remainder of the bag’s contents.
“You’ll be given everything you need once we arrive back at the Council.”
William was horrified. Council? “I’m not going. I’m won’t go anywhere with you. My Dad…”
“That vampire will be dusted on sight if he tries to prevent our departure.” Mr.Wyndam-Pryce’s voice was chillingly calm.
“Uncle Nate… please!,” William begged, desperate for help from any sector. “I want to go home. I want my Dad and Mom.” His tears fell silently.
“I’m sorry, William. This is the way it has to be.” Nathaniel took hold of his hand tightly enough to hurt. “We can do this one of two ways, son. Either you come along willingly, or we’ll drug you and carry you out in a duffle.”
He opened his coat, revealing a folded bag, proving his intention.
At the mercy of his uncle and the older man, William followed where he was led; out of the guidance counselor’s office; out of the school building, and into a black limousine that had been parked in front of the school.
Angel stood on the runway of the small, private airfield; head bowed. After Hugh’s frantic call to Gunn’s cell phone, alerting him to his whereabouts and the problem with William being detained, a quick call to the school referred Angel to the police station. Hugh was allowed to fill him in on the arrival of Nathaniel and Roger Wyndam-Pryce and their agenda. He’d driven at breakneck speed straight to the field.
He’d been too late by moments, arriving just in time to see the tail lights of the plane bank and disappear.
His howl of despair would have done any wolf proud.
He put up no resistance when he was approached by policemen and taken to the station for questioning in regards to his assuming parental responsibilities for a minor child not his own, and possible reckless endangerment and abuse of the same child.