Friday, December 12, 2003



"This is all Spike's fault," Angel said with conviction, as he squinted at the desecrated tree.

Friday morning. The usual early morning bustle of arrivals had come to a sudden halt. People in suits were standing in the lobby, whispering and pointing at the tree, clutching their briefcases uncertainly. The awe with which they'd regarded the tree and the good cheer of the past few days was gone. Now they kept a healthy distance from the tree—and from their boss.

Blood. Everywhere. Dripping from thick reddish strands of flesh that hung from evergreen branches; thickly covering tinsel, glitter balls, and candy canes; drip—drip—drip—raining to the floor in scarlet splatters that bore a startling resemblance to red paint.

The 'Jingle Bells' soundtrack wasn't exactly helping either. On the contrary, its merry jingle seemed to mock the sight of blood and gore.

"I hardly think that Spike—" Wesley started.

"He's the one who had to bring up entrails," Angel interrupted him, slightly unnerved by the sight. It brought back painful and brutal memories of the first few Christmas trees he'd 'decorated' - in the 1890s. "Obviously he gave our reindeer friend some ideas."

"Speaking of the devil…." Gunn gestured towards the approaching vampire, but the nod with which he greeted him was friendly.

"Swell," was Angel's only comment. Storm clouds seemed to be gathering above his head and a deep frown creased his brow.

"Well, well, if it isn't Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. What are you starin' at?" Spike turned to follow their gaze and inhaled audibly at the gory sight. "Oh bugger!"


"Does the impeccable Hulk know 'bout this yet?" Spike scanned the crowd, but the gaudy demon was nowhere to be seen.

"Nope." Gunn answered. "But I figure he’ll go ballistic, once he sees this."

"Angel, please tell me it's not human," Wesley said in a hushed tone, dreading the answer.

"It's not," Angel said curtly.

"It's pig," Spike elaborated.

"How can you tell?" Gunn asked. Both vampires stared at him, eyebrow raised. "Stupid question, I get it. Forget I asked," he backpedaled.

"I'll call the lab. I'd like a proper analysis." Wes said and brandished his cell phone.

"Is it my imagination or are these people giving us funny looks?" Gunn asked, referring to the growing crowd of restless lawyers and executives.

"I believe you're right," Wesley agreed.

"They're afraid." Spike gave the older vampire a sideways glance. "I can smell it."

"Wes?" Angel said, sounding like a general deploying his troops, a sure sign that he was truly and utterly brassed off. "Find someone who can clean this mess up. Get a wizard to do it, or a dozen cleaners; I don't care. Just do it. I want that same tree sparkling and glittering and smelling of pine and resin and candy just like it did before. I don't want a single drop of blood to remain."

Wes nodded, and headed for his office, already mentally rolodexing through the list of warlocks and mages that occasionally worked for W&H.

"And you, Spike," Angel continued and stabbed an accusing finger at the younger vampire. "You—"

"What did I do?" Spike interrupted indignantly. "It's not my fault—."

"Shut up, Spike. It's time for you to earn your pay."

"What? That measly check you gave me?"

Angel ignored the interruption. "Do something useful for a change. I want you to help Wes with this investigation. Find out who did this, and I'll give you your own office."

With that Angel stormed into his office and slammed the door shut.

There was a stunned silence—except for the voice of Dean Martin singing 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,' and a muttered "Drama queen."

Saturday, December 13, 2003