The doorbell rang; a sedate peal that echoed through the house and died away. The young girl who had been sitting in a chair by the window uncurled her long legs and stood. Without hurrying, she walked to the door and opened it, looking at the visitor thoughtfully. He flushed slightly under her cool appraisal and then recovered his composure.
“Miss Grey? Miss Amanda Grey?” She nodded and he continued, his voice tinged with condecension. “I wonder if I might come in. I have something important to discuss with you. My name is Forrester.”
He mentally took away a point for the lack of caution that allowed him easy entry, without noticing that she had simply stepped back, rather than formally inviting him inside. The sound of a tap gushing water and the cheerful clatter of dishes told him that she wasn’t alone in the house and he revised his opinion of her rashness somewhat.
Waving casually at the room she had been sitting in, she ushered him to a chair, still without saying anything. Perching on the arm of a sofa, she looked at him, lifting one delicate eyebrow inquiringly.
“What I have to say will come as a considerable surprise to you, young lady. I ask that you hear me out and that you –”
“You’ve come about the powers I have,” she said, her voice so calm that it robbed her interruption of any insult.
He swallowed, taken aback. After a moment he nodded. “You seem like a very intelligent child. That will make my job much easier.”
“I am sixteen.” The reproof was gentle but her tone was not.
“I’m forty-six,” he said dryly, settling a leather briefcase across his lap and flipping the catches open. “To me, you’re a child. I intended no offence.”
She inclined her head as graciously as any duchess and he smothered a smile.
For fifteen minutes he spoke, his voice low and urgent. He didn’t understand why the girl’s mother hadn’t come to see who her daughter was talking to but he was glad that she didn’t. The parents were usually the hardest to deal with. Amanda let him talk, her few questions pertinent and brief. When he finished she nodded.
“I see. I am the Slayer, the powers are mine until death and you are my Watcher, my trainer.” He smiled in agreement, relief flooding him at how easy it had been. He’d heard tales of girls who cried, fainted – this one was so calm. Then she stood, her face shuttered and still and he realised that his battle was not won – it had just started. “No. I won’t do it. I’d like you to leave now.”
He remained seated, disappointment shouldering aside the relief. So she was going to be difficult after all. “It’s not something you can decline. I thought I’d made that quite clear. You have been Chosen.”
She nodded, arms folded across her chest, her long dark hair falling across her face. He made a mental note that she would have to get it cut. Hair like that could get in her way when she fought, or give an opponent something to grab. “Chosen. Yes. I felt it.”
“Really?” His curiosity got the better of him and he leaned forward eagerly. “Would you care to describe it?”
Her eyes were unfriendly now. “No. It was private.”
“I am your Watcher. Closer than a parent or a lover. There is nothing that you cannot share with me.”
Distaste wrinkled her nose as she looked at his sandy brown hair and thick, powerful body. “I do not accept you, or my destiny, so that hardly applies.”
He fought to keep his temper. “I have told you how vital your job is, how honoured you are to have been –”
“’Honoured’? To have been marked for an early death? Please.”
“It is something you will come to terms with. There is nothing you can do about it. If you’re afraid –” The contempt in his voice was meant to flick her into an angry response but she laughed.
“Fear? When I can feel the strength I have? I’m not afraid.”
“You say I will have to fight demons, vampires.”
“Yes. No matter how evil a human is, they are not your prey. You kill those outside the human law, the demons who infest this world like cockroaches.”
“You didn’t do much research before you came did you?” she murmured. Raising her voice, she called out. “Mum! Come here, please.”
Forrester heard footsteps and stood automatically as Amanda’s mother came into the room, nervously twisting a tea towel between her fingers. “Hello,” she said, with a sidelong glance at her daughter. “Can I help you?”
“He’s a Watcher, mum. It’s as we thought. I’m a Slayer.”
The inanity of her response left Forrester speechless. He turned to Amanda and she smiled, her eyes glittering with malice. “Show him, mum. I think he needs convincing.”
Forrester twisted slowly and watched the pleasant, vacuous face of his hostess alter hideously, sprouting fangs and horns.
“Mum’s half demon,” Amanda said in a conversational tone. “My dad was human though. Not sure what that makes me. I haven’t got any useful abilities that I know of – apart from the Slayer thing, of course.” She turned to the Watcher, her face hard now. “Have I convinced you that I won’t be killing any demons for you?”
Forrester sat down, mopping at his face with a handkerchief. “Well, I really, I don’t know what to say. Of course I see your point, my dear but you would be killing evil demons, vampires. I’m sure your mother’s ...people are perfectly nice but not all demons are like that.”
“I don’t care!” Amanda said, her calm finally shattering. “All my life I’ve heard about the Slayer and the harm she does. Yes, vampires are bad, but she doesn’t stop to ask questions about the other sorts of demons, does she? Do you know how many she kills that are peaceful, harmless creatures? Do you even care?”
With a deep sadness, Forrester looked at them both, the mother now in her human form, the daughter, her pretty face flushed with anger. “Is that it? You can give me no hope that you will change your mind, take up your duties?”
She gave him a look of contempt. “None.”
His hand slid into his briefcase and he shot her through it, the silenced bullet ripping through leather, then air, then flesh. Before she had crumpled to the floor, a second bullet had found her mother.
He stood, snapping the briefcase shut tidily and checked both bodies for signs of life. When he was certain they were dead he took out a slim cell phone and called a number.
“Hello? I need you to send in a clean up crew. Yes; it was as we’d feared. She gave me no choice at all. Tragic? Yes, yes, I suppose it is. I’ve waited so long for this, trained so hard... but I won’t give into despair.” He chuckled. “I know a Watcher only gets one Slayer but I still qualify for the retirement package. Yes. My regards to Brenda. I believe I’m coming to you for dinner next week? See you then.”
He slid the phone away and sat down to wait. She had been a failure but it was none of his doing. He would fulfill his last duty. He would see to the disposal of his Slayer’s body.
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