A Nice Little Business by Lilachigh
Chapter Five: It’s an Apocalypse!
Ever afterwards - especially in those horrid, bright, noon days when the curtains never seemed thick enough to keep out the sunlight - Agnes was forced to admit that everything that happened was Her Fault. As she’d tried to explain once to a very bewildered vampire friend, you could trace the events back to sausages.
After years living in America where sausages usually meant hot dogs - an expression she had always found odd, because a chilli dog was not, apparently, the complete opposite - Agnes had revelled in making proper British sausages for the guests in Mr Rayne’s hotel. Demons and vampires loved sausages, especially with the special ingredients, alive and dead, that Agnes added to her bloody pork and beef mixtures.
And, no excuse, but she’d been very tired that day. Not only was she doing all the cooking, but the vampire - a nice girl called Tracey - who’d been the housemaid and waited on the tables at meal times - had vanished. Hopefully, Agnes told herself, not into thin air. Mr Rayne had made no effort to recruit extra staff, so everything fell on her shoulders. In fact these days he wasn’t quite as charming and friendly as he’d been when he’d rescued her after her accident.
The hotel had been extra busy - groups of demons coming and going - and not all of them the most friendliest she had ever met. Even some of the vampires that had passed through recently had been the type of person she would have crossed the street to avoid. (Agnes could see no reason why being a vampire meant you neglected personal hygiene.) The group staying at present were leaving at midnight, thank goodness, because their language and manners left a lot to be desired - she knew she would have great difficulty in getting the dropped, spattered blood out of the tablecloths.
She was confused by her unlife at the moment and wished desperately that there was someone she could ask for advice. That was where Spike, for all his faults, had been so useful. Even if she’d disagreed with what he said - and towards the end of their time in Sunnydale he had had some very odd, unvampiric ideas - he had been a good shoulder to lean on. Well, well, those days were long gone and she was a far tougher vampire than she used to be. Although she had to admit that although standing on your own two feet was a good rule to live by, it did get very tiring.
Even her nice little bedroom on the other side of the kitchen had been taken away from her and given to very small, evil looking demon who would only eat with human bone knives and forks which were very expensive to buy and did not do well in the dishwasher. Agnes had had to move all her possession out into a little caravan at the end of the hotel grounds, just behind the garages. But she wouldn’t even have minded that if she’d thought her life still had some meaning.
Agnes had thought helping Mr Rayne save vampire lives would be a useful role to play since the children she’d cared for and brought over from America to England had been adopted elsewhere. But...these people weren’t the poor and helpless, oppressed vamps and demons she’d thought would be involved. These certainly weren’t victims of the upsurge in Slayers that had been happening all over the country recently. In fact she’d even heard one of them boasting that they’d killed two young Slayers only a few days ago.
Mr Rayne had jerked his head to where Agnes was serving the meal and told him to be quiet. And the expression on his face made the vampire go silent very quickly. But then there was never usually a great deal of talk around the dining-table. It was almost as if Mr Rayne and his friends were anxious she shouldn’t know where they were going or what they were going to do.
As soon as she’d served the dinner and cleared away the blood stained plates afterwards, Mr Rayne always closed the door firmly behind her. At first Agnes had been upset that he’d even thought she might listen to private conversations, but then she realised that he probably had her best interests at heart. If she was captured by the Slayer sometime in the future, and tortured in some awful human fashion, she would not be able to tell them anything she didn’t know!
There was more ample proof of that, of course. Upstairs, in the attic rooms of the hotel, was a mysterious guest, whom Agnes had never seen. Whoever it was had arrived a few days ago and Mr Rayne had made it very clear that she was not to ask questions about the new visitor. He would take up little meals of fresh blood and deal with the VIV himself. She had an idea that it was a relation of some sort of Mr Rayne who maybe wasn’t dealing too well with being recently turned. Admittedly, although her turning in Los Angeles all those years ago had Not Been Her Fault, it had still been traumatic and she had every sympathy with the poor vampire as he or she recovered their wits and began to understand their new life.
The group of vampires who were passing through the hotel this week had no trouble at all with the life style. Although Agnes had to admit that the death of any Slayer was the cause for rejoicing, she had the feeling as she listened to the tales that they hadn’t been particularly fair fights. She knew Spike had killed two Slayers in his checkered past, but she also knew that his feelings - she might even call it love - for Buffy Summers, would have made this situation very difficult for him.
Agnes sighed. Perhaps it was a good thing he had died in Los Angeles on that dreadful Night of the Dragons as it was now officially known. And always, at the back of her mind, was the worry about the young American girl. Agnes had been appalled when Mr Rayne told her the Slayer might be coming in search of them. Why on earth couldn’t she have gone back to America where she belonged? Agnes felt it was very unfair to have to suffer Buffy Summers on this side of the Atlantic having lived under her shadow in Sunnydale for so long.
So with all the worry and weariness, Agnes later felt it wasn’t surprising that things went very wrong that evening. The sausages were frying in their pan, sizzling away, filling the kitchen with nice blood tinged smells but she’d been a little late in starting them cooking; too busy thinking about Spike and how she missed him. She reckoned there was only just time for them to finish before the group of vampires gathered in the dining-room were ready to leave the hotel and travel on to wherever Mr Rayne took them. Half-cooked sausages could be dangerous, even to demons and vampires, so she decided it would do no harm just to knock on the dining-room door and ask them to delay leaving for ten minutes or so and then their travel snacks would be quite ready.
But as she reached the main hall, the door was flung open and she could hear angry words being exchanged. A tall, dark haired vampire, dressed in leather, his face covered in very painful looking piercings, stormed out of the dining-room, then turned and strode back in.
Agnes hesitated. The argument was still continuing, although it didn’t seem to be quite so heated. Perhaps if she just quietly went in and spoke to Mr Rayne.....she tiptoed up to the entrance, raised her hand to knock politely, then hesitated. Her boss was speaking, his voice cold and direct, not an ounce of charm or old-school manners to be heard.
“It’s my decision and it’s final. There are not enough of us yet. There are Slayers all over the country. I need an army of vampires to fight them, not just a few.”
“Can’t just sit around waiting for action!”
“You can always leave.” Mr Rayne’s voice now had a touch of ice.
“And go where?”
“That’s not my decision, it’s yours. I thought you all wanted to be part of the uprising.”
“We do, boss. But when is it going to happen. We need blood. We need to hear the screams and see the mayhem and chaos. Not be stuck in this poxy hotel or wherever else you’re going to put us.”
There was silence, then a grunt, a few startled yells and the faint sound of a large cloud of dust exploding into the air. “Now, any one else got a problem with my plans? No, right. Then let’s go. I’ve a revolution to organise.”
Agnes froze, then squeaked in terror. She had no doubt what would happen to her if Mr Rayne found her listening outside the door - exactly what had happened to the vampire who’d spoken up. She spun round - there was no time to get back to the kitchen and the stairs were too open - but, right next to her was a large oak blanket chest, heavily carved, a relic of happier days. Moving faster than she’d ever moved before, Agnes lifted the lid and climbed inside, pulling it almost shut behind her and devoutly hoping the old lock didn’t still work.
Muffled by the thick wood, she heard footsteps, the mumble of voices, then the front door banging shut and, very faintly, the sound of Mr Rayne’s big car being driven away.
For long minutes Agnes crouched on all fours, curled up like a dormouse, too scared to move. But eventually the aches in her knees and hips forced her to push up the chest lid and peer round the empty hall. She scrambled out and sat on the chest, her head buried in her hands, her thoughts whirling. Mr Rayne wanted to start a revolution! That was the main thing she’d learnt. The vampires she’d been helping weren’t escaping from some undisclosed terror, they were being gathered together to fight the Slayers.
“Which is bad on so many levels,” Agnes whispered to herself. She was well aware that vampires could cause an enormous amount of damage in a fight, but eventually the power of the Slayers would prevail and they would all die. And in the meantime they would have drawn the attention of the human world onto peaceful vampires and demons who just wanted to live out what remained of their unlives in quiet seclusion. “We’ll all be wiped out. The Slayers won’t let any of us survive. It’s an apocalypse!”
Agnes coughed suddenly. Oh no, she was not catching a cold! Vampires didn’t catch colds. She coughed again, then realised why. The hall was full of smoke and in the distance she could hear the distinct crackling of fire.
And she knew. Even before she ran back to the kitchen and coughing and choking opened the door enough to see bright flames leaping up the walls, greedily consuming the old wooden beams and the floorboards of the room above, she knew. She’d left the frying pan of sausages on a high flame to hurry them along and somehow the grease had spat and spilt and the hotel was now ablaze!
Pulling off her apron, she threw it over her head and turned to run - then hesitated. Mr Rayne’s relation was still upstairs! Would they smell the smoke? What if they were too weak or ill to get out of bed? They would die just as if the Slayer herself had staked them. Eyes burning, her chest heaving, Agnes forced herself up the stairs. The very top landing was a little clearer but the sound of the flames roaring could now be heard coming closer and closer. There was the door to the attic room and as she hammered on it, shouting a warning, it was pulled open abruptly from the other side.
Agnes catapulted into the room and fell on the floor. Gasping as the smoke caught her throat again, she gazed up and found herself looking into a pair of blue eyes she’d never thought she’d ever see again!