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AtS FF: "Curses" [5/7]

[Read it from the beginning]


Chapter Five


Wesley wiped the sweat from his brow and looked down at the two security guards who lay unconscious on the floor.

"That wasn't so tough," said Gunn.

Getting inside Havelock's mansion had merely been a matter of scaling the fence, overpowering a guard, and then taking his access card to allow them to sneak in through the kitchen.

They'd encountered two more guards in the hallway, but thanks to the Black Cat Spirits they hadn't even been noticed by the guards before they'd clubbed them unconscious.

"Told ya it'd make a good blunt instrument," said Spike, brandishing his fake sword triumphantly.

"I doubt this is the last obstacle we'll encounter," said Wesley. "We'd better get them tied up and out of the way so we can move on."

They stowed the two guards in a broom closet, after covering their mouths and tying their hands and feet with duct tape.

Wesley led them up the stairs and, after a moment's deliberation, chose the door he thought he remembered as leading to Havelock's private study. It was locked.

"Try the access card," Gunn suggested.

Wesley swiped the card through the reader beside the doorknob and waited tensely for alarms to start going off. Instead, a small green light gave him the all clear. He turned the knob and opened the door.

Everything was dark inside the room. They shut the door behind them and switched on their flashlights.

Gunn whistled. "Donald Trump would kill for this office."

"Donald Trump hasn't a third of Bernard Havelock's money," said Wesley. "Nor his taste."

In the middle of the room was an ornately-carved mahogany desk with a polished marble top. The far wall was covered floor-to-ceiling with equally impressive carved bookcases, while the wall behind them boasted a stunning collection of oil paintings, one of which, Wesley was nearly certain, was an original Vermeer. The room did not, however, boast anything whatsoever that hinted at the occult, which was unusual only in that its owner was one of the foremost collectors of mystical artifacts in the state of California.

Wesley approached one of the bookcases on the far wall and stared at it, trying to conjure a memory.

"I know the professor here's fond of books and all," said Spike, "but perhaps now's not the best time to browse."

"I'm looking for the trigger," said Wesley. "One of these books opens the secret panel." Somewhere on the third shelf, he remembered, towards the right side. He briefly considered Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, but dismissed it as too thin.

"Cool," said Gunn. "What happens if you choose the wrong book?"

"I don't know," said Wesley. "Possibly nothing. Or possibly something very bad indeed."

"Do you know which one is the right one?" asked Gunn.

Wesley frowned. "I'm working on it."

Spike and Gunn watched nervously while Wesley ran his finger over the spines of the books. He stopped on M. Merlaeau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and slid it out a few inches.

There was click, and then the bookcase swung open, revealing a large, elegantly-lit room filled with pedestals and museum cases containing an impressive collection of rare magical artifacts.

"Way to go, Indy!" said Gunn, slapping Wesley on the back. They stepped into the hidden room.

As soon as they were all inside, the bookcase slid back into place behind them with an ominous-sounding clank. At the same time, another panel opened in the wall across the room. Beyond it was a very dark space.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," said Spike.

"Why am I suddenly worried that a Rancor's about to come tearing out of there?" said Gunn.

"What's a Rancor?" asked Wesley.

There was a low, vaguely feline growl from the darkness.

"Oh, hell," said Spike, sniffing the air. "I bloody hate Arioch demons. All those teeth and claws. But it's the slime that really gets me."

Gunn had the crowbar so Wesley held up the only weapon he had--his flashlight--and prepared to defend himself as best he could.



[Go on to Chapter Six]

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