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Crazy Eights - Chapter 5

Another day, another chapter. Happy Friday, folks, as I bring
you the next chapter in my tale.

Feel free, as always, to comment. Enjoy, and have a terrific
weekend.

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About an hour later, the doorbell rang. Buffy roused herself and Spike, and they greeted Xander and Willow at the door.

Walking in. Xander sniggered as he passed the vampire. “Losing your touch, eh Spike?” He turned to Buffy. “Your Big Bad Best Friend looks a little worse for wear.”

Before Spike could even open his mouth, a small blonde tornado leapt into the fray.

“Shut it, Xander. Not one more word out of you,” she fumed. “I asked you to come over – not to harass Spike – but because it’s important. You don’t like him, that’s your business, but he’s a guest in my home and you don’t get to treat him like garbage.”

“Whoa, Buffster.” Xander held up his hands in mock-surrender. “He’s a soulless creature of the night; it’s not like I can hurt his widdle feelings.”

Buffy glanced surreptitiously over her shoulder at the silent vampire, who was busy looking at a very interesting spot on her carpet, then back to the annoyed man in front of her.

“Why do you keep pushing? There is absolutely no reason for this animosity.”

“But he’s a vampire, Buff. An evil, soulless Master Vampire who’d as soon rip our throats out as…”

Willow stepped forward. “Xander, maybe you need to step back and let it go for now. I mean, Buffy asked us here for a reason. She said it was important so maybe we should all focus on the problem, instead of your Spike grudge.”

Grateful for the interruption, Buffy forged ahead. “Thanks, Will. We do have a problem. The Crazy Eights.”

Turning to Spike, she said, “And question for you, my fine fanged friend – why didn’t you tell me this club is located in your old haunt?”

“You never asked.”

She glared in response. “Well, what can you tell us about the place? Entrances? Demon varieties? Types of weapons we should bring to the party?”

“M’not sure about other entrances, but the main one has a metal detector, manned at all times. Means no blades. Have to be stakes all around.”

“Um, Spike?” ventured Willow, nervously, “just a thought, but do you think this is wise? Going back to the establishment that had you attacked?”

“Probably not, Red, but I just can’t let them get away with this. And it makes no sense that they came after me over a soddin’ deck of playing cards. Something’s up, and it needs lookin’ into.”

Glaring at Xander, he said, “You gonna be able to control your gob, whelp? Place’ll be heaving with demons and that hole of yours’ll put the Slayer in danger if it goes off at the wrong time.”

His jaw clenched in an attempt to stay in control, Xander simply nodded.

“Guys, please,” Buffy said, grabbing a stash of stakes and shepherding them all out of the house. “Let’s call a timeout in the pissing match and get this show on the road.”

~*~

Xander surveyed the factory and grumbled, “This is the hottest place in town? Looks deserted. You sure you didn’t get hit in the head one time too many, Spike? Remember the wrong place?”

“Stellar observation skills as ever, Harris. Question – exactly how long did it take you and your lot to realize I was holed up here? Or that the Annoying One and his minions were there before me ’n Dru showed up.”

“Hey!” exclaimed Buffy, with a playful smack to the vampire’s shoulder. “I resent that!”

“Sorry, pet. You did find me, after all. ‘Course it did take you and Peaches and some serious Slayer dreams, if I recall. Anyway, there’s a reason the factory looks abandoned. Right, Red?”

Giving the factory her full attention, Willow exclaimed, “It’s a glamour. Someone’s cast a glamour to make it seem deserted.”

“Score one for the witch.” Spike gave her a playful tap to the nose. “Best way to keep out the riff-raff. Entry is granted only when accompanied by a current patron. S’why I had no choice but to come back here; no way any of you would be allowed in without me. I’m stamped for re-entry.”

He held out his hand for examination – Buffy stepped forward and felt the small, raised patch of skin, midway between his knuckles and wrist.

“Is that an embedded chip?” she hissed, inexplicably angry at the invasion of his person. Couldn’t they just issue a card like every other club?”

Best way to avoid counterfeit, luv. Can’t copy what can’t be seen – can’t lose what’s attached. ‘Course, trouble comes when they revoke your membership,” he said, a flicker of confusion crossing his face. “Makes me wonder why I still have my hand.”

“No way, Buffster. No way I’m getting tagged like a dog,” Xander announced. “That’s probably how they found him for his beatdown.”

“What makes you think you’d be offered a membership, you stupid git? You don’t just walk in an’ get accepted. A member has to propose you an’ there’s a screening interview…” Mid-sentence the angered vampire stopped his rant.

“Bloody hell!” he whispered, “the whelp’s got a point. The chips have gotta be personally coded.”

Willow looked faintly ill. “So they can track a person, like a vet tracking a missing pet.

“So much for a low-key entrance.” Spike sighed. “Was hoping to at least make it through the door without attracting attention… though that was always a long shot, what with me bringing the Slayer and her chums in.”

“I can do low key,” Buffy pouted.

She could feel his eyes on her jutting lower lip. “Oh, pet,” he murmured. “That pout’s gotta be illegal in at least five different countries. You use that as a weapon and you’ll have demons and humans fallin’ at your feet.”

Unable to resist, she replied, “Aw, Spike – I bet you say that to all the Slayers.”

“Oww!” Xander yelped suddenly, rubbing his shin and glaring angrily at Willow. “I wasn’t gonna say anything – much as I wanted to.”

“Yuh huh,” Willow smirked, knowing she’d gotten her point across.

“Okay you guys,” Buffy took a deep breath, “it’s time to make our grand entrance. And we’re gonna have to follow Spike’s lead here.” She stared at Xander intently – daring him to comment.

Taking point, the vampire led them to the entrance. He waved his hand under a small light and the door opened to a well-lit reception area. There they were greeted by a strikingly attractive woman in a sequined halter gown. Six feet tall if she was an inch, raven black hair falling in loose ringlets down her bared back, black leopard spots dotting her tawny gold skin and the most beautiful pair of deep violet cat’s eyes set in a broad boned face.

“Ssspike,” she purred. “Sssurprised to see you back so soon. And I sssee you brought us company this time.”

“’Lo, Ailuros. Yeah, just showing m’friends a night out. There going t’be a problem issuing guest passes?”

“Just keep a close eye on them. And watch your back, Ssspike. Ssseems you’ve upset a couple of the big bosses. I don’t want a repeat of last time,” Ailuros whispered. “Especially when you bring the Ssslayer into the house.”

Buffy adopted her bubbliest tone. “I’m not here to cause trouble. Just looking for a fun night out for a change.”

Handing a small gold circlet to the Slayer and her companions, Ailuros said, “Pleassse pin these prominently on your clothing and follow me.” Walking to the door, hips swaying and tail twitching, she had the rapt attention of all as she led the way to the inner sanctum.