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Africander Fic: Facing the Heart In Darkness; Part 4/?

Since I'm going to be out all day, I'm posting this part on the early side.

For the Scatterlings and Orphanages Africander Fiction Challenge by ludditerobbot .

For all previous parts, go here.
Continued from Part 3.
 

“Thank you for the advice, sir,” I said. “I’d much rather avoid trouble, if I can.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly,” Mr. Giles said. “Whenever you do, trouble has a disconcerting habit of finding you.”

 

Now that my fate was settled, the months between my meeting with Mr. Giles and my departure seemed easier to handle. I accepted the congratulations of my peers with good grace and allowed myself some fleeting feeling of satisfaction with their envy. As unhappy as I was about my assignment, there is no denying that there is some prestige in being asked to do something by the First Watcher himself.

My days were taken up in helping to choose my successor and getting him settled, doctors’ appointments, and enduring so many needles that I was in danger of turning into a pincushion. Through this entire period, Jonathan continued to remain unavailable to me. It seemed that the preliminary crew had run into a string of difficult subjects, and so he was forced to hop from city to city in an effort to fulfill his obligations. He did manage to call me once to offer his congratulations and to offer me sympathy as I confessed to him that I didn’t want to go into the field, let alone Africa. We both agreed that I didn’t have much choice, since Mr. Giles was determined to send me.

I very carefully left Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s name out of the conversation. I felt less secure confessing his hand in my new appointment over the telephone. Had Jonathan been standing in the same room, I would’ve confessed all. As I have said before, he was more politically minded and could have offered me advice on how to navigate the rocky terrain in which I found myself.

The fact that I still hadn’t heard from Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was both a source of worry and relief. As the weeks piled on, I convinced myself that I had misread his order for me to do a hatchet job on Mr. Harris’s character. It could very well be that all he wanted was an honest and neutral report of Mr. Harris’s activities and nothing more.

A week before my departure reality crashed down around my shoulders.

I had just completed my final round of inoculations and filled out the last of the paperwork that would allow me to enter Mali. All that was left for me to do was get to Paris and board my Air France flight to Bamako, Mali’s capital city. I was informed by Mr. Giles’s office that Mr. Harris would be waiting for me when I arrived, so once I stepped off the plane, my itinerary was in the hands of my mysterious host.

On the evening in question, I was looking forward to getting into my flat and enjoying a good, long soak in the tub, as I was under the impression that indoor plumbing might be a bit beyond my grasp once I left Bamako. As I mentally settled on which scent of bubbles I would use, I absently shoved my key in the lock and opened the door.

The door swung open and something, I’m not sure what, told me that if I walked into my darkened apartment, I wouldn’t be alone. I backed up a few steps as the hairs on the back of my neck stood and my mind gibbered in panic. I had no idea how I should react. Instinct urged me to charge forward and confront whoever had dared to invade my sanctum sanctorum. Years of reinforcement told me to flee to the flat below, cravenly ask my neighbors for help, and hide there until the police arrived. These contradictory impulses froze me to the spot.

“We’ve been waiting for you, Miss Swithin,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s voice floated out to me.

Now I was frozen because I knew who was visiting me.

“Good heavens, get in here before you’re seen gawking in the hall like that.”

I did as ordered. As I shut the door behind me, one of my table lamps flickered to life. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had turned one of my overstuffed chairs to face the door and had settled himself in it. His retainer stood next to him, holding an oversized manila envelope stuffed to the breaking point.

“Is it safe for you to be here, sir?” I asked nervously.

“We were not followed, I assure you.” He waved at a nearby chair to indicate that I should sit. As I followed his silent command, he continued, “This old dog has many tricks up his sleeve. Even if someone were watching my home or offices, you can be very certain that they didn’t see me leave.”

I refrained from pointing out that Mr. Giles arguably had just as many mystical tricks up his sleeve, and at least one witch capable of making them exponentially more powerful than anything in Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s arsenal. If Mr. Giles was in the least bit suspicious of Mr. Wyndham-Pryce or myself, I knew that neither one of us could long escape detection.

“I understand that congratulations are in order,” he said.

“Thank you, sir. I had heard that I was appointed because of your recommendation,” I pointedly said.

He chuckled. “Is that what he told you? Rest assured, that is not entirely true. You were a compromise candidate.”

I admit that I felt a stab at his statement.

“Now, don’t be like that,” he said with bonhomie, since he had obviously read the expression on my face. “In my mind, you were the only candidate, but had I put your name on my initial list of candidates to review Mr. Harris’s ‘needs,’ Mr. Giles would’ve never appointed you to the position. I merely let him shoot down my usual suspects one by one until he reached your name. Since you were at the bottom of my list of barely acceptable candidates, and are not obviously in my camp, he agreed to vet you. The lack of obvious connection between us is what really sealed the deal.”

“I see.”

Mr. Wyndham-Pryce leaned back in his chair and smiled benevolently at me. “I cannot begin to express my thanks to you for taking this on. It is imperative that we get to the bottom of Mr. Harris’s activities. I confess that the more I delve into his background, the greater my concern.”

“I’m doing this at some considerable risk to myself,” I said. “If I find evidence of wrongdoing, I suspect Mr. Giles will not be pleased with me for unmasking one of his favorites, thereby throwing doubt on his ability to lead the Council.”

“But you will have the undying gratitude of myself and my allies. I want you to put your mind at ease on that score. You will be protected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune should anyone decide to target you for revenge,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce reassured me.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“This is a copy of everything I have on Mr. Harris.” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce indicated to his retainer that I should have the envelope in his possession. “I urge you to study it carefully. Although I would prefer you destroy the documents before you leave the country, I do understand that you may feel the need to refer to them once you are in Mali. If you find that is the case, be sure to keep these on your person at all times. It wouldn’t do for your baggage to be searched and these documents found.”

“Yes, sir,” I said as I took the envelope from the retainer.

Mr. Wyndham-Pryce indulgently smiled. “I’ve included a psychological workup of Mr. Harris in the documents based on what we know and some additional information that has recently come into my position. Copies of everything I have are also included in that envelope. One thing that stands out very clearly is that Mr. Harris’s greatest strength is ‘passing.’”

“Passing?” I asked with alarm. “Passing for what? He’s not a demon or part-demon, is he?”

“What? Good heavens! No,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce chuckled. “He is distressingly human, despite the fact he grew up in Sunnydale. It would be our luck. There’s more than one half-breed bastard of an illicit affair between human and demon that grew up in that town, but he doesn’t happen to be one of them. Trust me dear girl, we went over his family tree with a fine-tooth comb and we can’t find anything remotely noteworthy on that score. Pity. Had there been even a drop of demon blood in him, we would’ve been successful in pushing for greater oversight of his activities. As it is, we were only able to get you into his base of operations by labeling your mission as a ‘resource review.’”

“What do you mean by ‘passing’ then?” I asked.

“By passing, I mean that he’s very good at hiding his…well, let us call them idiosyncrasies,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce said. “In Sunnydale, he managed to hold a full-time job with responsibility by day while working with Miss Summers by night. He is the quintessential example of the nice, normal, young man-next-door who harbors a dark and deadly secret. He’s not the sort you’d look twice at, at least that was once the case. I suspect he may now have a more difficult time of that given his disability.”

“Disability?” I squeaked. “If he is disabled, then why on earth did Mr. Giles send him to Africa?”

“I don’t have time to get into that here. You’ll have to read the material in that envelope. I think you’ll see very quickly that Mr. Harris has become much more noticeable since his Sunnydale days thanks to a very distinguishing characteristic that he hasn’t bothered to hide,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“I’ll review the records, sir,” I said.

“Excellent.” He took a deep breath and a troubled expression crossed his face. “I feel I should warn you that Mr. Harris is aware that you are coming.”

“I would expect that to be the case since he is the one picking me up at the airport,” I pointed out.

“You didn’t let me finish. I also suspect that Mr. Giles can see the resource review ruse for what it is,” he said.

I swallowed hard. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s meaning was hard to miss.

“As a result, I’m not entirely sure how Mr. Harris will act once you arrive,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce continued. “He may try to charm you, or he may try to sabotage you. Whatever you do, do not tip your hand and do not overtly look for anything wrong. If you happen to see anything questionable, make note of it. In your packet, you will find a blind email address. Memorize it, and then destroy it. Send anything that raises your suspicions to that address, so we’ll have a real-time electronic record of what you find. When you first arrive in Mali, report to the British liaison office in Bamako. One of my people will bespell your military-grade laptop as a precaution. It will shield the address and all records of you sending material to that address from anyone who may try snooping around your hard drive, intercepting your communications as they bounce off the satellite, or breaking the encryption code that will automatically apply to any message you send to us.”

I was awed at the level of planning that had gone into protecting me. “You’ve thought of everything.”

“Hopefully,” he said, “but we cannot afford complacency. You may have to do some fast-talking to convince Mr. Harris to take you to the liaison office when he picks you up at the airport. There is a good chance he will be suspicious of you right at the start. Don’t let him bully you into taking shortcuts or chances. Keep your head down, your eyes open, and play everything by the book. We’re counting on you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, sir.”

“Good, good,” Mr. Wyndham-Pryce said as he got to his feet. “I must be off. I’ll let you relax and peruse Mr. Harris’s file at your leisure.”

“Will we speak again before I leave?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” he replied. “It wouldn’t do to take too many chances, eh? But rest assured, I and my associates are behind you all the way.”

I confess this parting bon mot wasn’t much of a comfort. I wasn’t worried about what was behind me. I was, however, terrified about what was ahead.

***

My plan to relax and forget my impending departure was ruined. I did make an attempt to relax in the bath, but I was too wound up to lose myself in the warmth and bubbles. I did, however, make myself a cup of herbal tea formulated for relaxation. While I had doubts I would be able to enjoy its full medicinal effects, I had hopes that it would at least take the edge off my nerves.

I wrapped my robe around me, placed the cup and saucer on an end table, retrieved Mr. Harris’s sealed dossier from the kitchen counter where I had left it, and sunk into the sofa cushions with a sigh. I carefully opened the flap and slid the contents free. Given that Mr. Harris was an unknown quantity, and that his activities in Africa were shrouded in mystery, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to peruse the files.

However, my attention did not immediately focus on Mr. Harris, but on a sticky note layered on the very top.

It was from Jonathan.

Sorry I couldn’t tell you what I was really doing in the field, but I had to work in complete secrecy. We’re both in a tricky spot and I didn’t want us to get caught out in case someone might be listening in on us.

I was asked to go back and re-interview as many Sunnydale people as I could, but this time I had to ask questions about A.H. You’re not going to like reading what I found. And that’s even taking into account that every single person I’ve talked to has their share of delusions. If even a quarter of what I’ve heard has any relationship with reality…

Eva, be careful around him. The more I hear, the less I like the fact you’re going to be at his mercy. I hope I’ll be able to find more information that’ll help you before you go, but I’m not hopeful. What these people are saying about A.H. is starting to sound the same. If I hear anything that stands out, I’ll make sure you get word.

Take care and stay safe,

J.

I carefully removed the sticky note and held it up to my lips. I was grateful that Mr. Wyndham-Pryce allowed Jonathan’s note to go through. I was even more grateful that Jonathan thought to send me a note. I was confident that if there was any truth in what the civilian Sunnydale survivors said Jonathan had ferreted it out with his characteristic tenacity. My job was to separate the factual wheat from the rumor-mongering gossip.

I took comfort in Jonathan’s note, despite the dire warning it contained. In many ways, it felt like a natural continuation of the relationship we had established during our time in the Sunnydale Project.

I reverently set the sticky note aside, and concentrated on the enigma of Mr. Harris. A photograph of the man immediately confronted me and, just as Mr. Wyndham-Pryce predicted, I could see why Mr. Harris would have a difficult time going unnoticed. He had an eye patch over his left eye. Going by Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s statements, I easily concluded that this had not been the case when he lived in Sunnydale.

There were three photographs in total and I studied them at great length. While not an ugly man by any means, he was not handsome either. His looks were, at best, slightly above average, but nothing that would draw an appreciative gaze. He seemed sturdily enough built. Tall, broad shoulders, a neck that tended toward the thick side, an oval-ish face, dark hair, and a dark eye.

Admittedly, the photos were not designed to place him in the best light. In one of the photos, he was standing next to a car that had seen much better days. His attitude indicated that that he had been searching through a bag slung over his shoulder, but that the picture-taker had captured his attention. He was looking at the camera with a frown etched on his face, indicating that he was very unhappy about his predicament. Aside from the endless cornfield in the background, there was nothing in the photo itself or written on the back to indicate when or where the picture was taken.

A second photo was a stereotypical tourist snapshot of Mr. Harris and Miss Rosenberg standing next to a Buckingham palace guard. In sharp contrast to the silent woman I had met, Miss Rosenberg grinned broadly in such a way that showed all her teeth. Her arms were clasped around Mr. Harris’s waist and her head rested against his upper arm. Mr. Harris stood ramrod straight with his arms by his side, as if he enjoyed the moment of physical intimacy far less than Miss Rosenberg did. His one eye squinted at the camera and his expression was a grimace, as if the sun was too bright for him to handle. His hair, which was longer than it was in the first picture, fell across his forehead in an unruly manner. Coupled with the casual clothes that seemed a size too large for him and the hint of 5 o’clock shadow on his jaw, he looked exceedingly disheveled, especially when compared to Miss Rosenberg’s smart appearance.

The third photo was clearly his passport photo. The length of his hair was about the same as it was in the photo with Miss Rosenberg. He was clean-shaven and his features were smoothed out, his hair somewhat more tamed, and what little of his clothes was visible seemed to be a better fit. However, there was a sense of shadowed menace around the eye. He was staring straight into the camera with no expression at all. It was as if he barely tolerated the fact that he had to sit for the photo, even though it was for an official document.

These pictures were attached to copies of his passport. I didn’t wonder how Mr. Wyndham-Pryce got his hands on it, since these would’ve been part of Mr. Harris’s personnel file. I was surprised to see that he had just turned 23 in December. In his photos, he looked significantly older than that. I would’ve guessed late 20s, perhaps even early 30s based on those images. It showed that his birthplace was in Sunnydale, that he was an American citizen, that his occupation was “aid worker” for one of the Council’s many shell NGOs, as well as other information you might expect in viewing a passport.

Other personnel documents were included as well. The first raft merely made note of his exploits. While in Sunnydale, he worked for a local construction company, entering employment as a carpenter before quickly working his way up to construction foreman. While the speed of his ascent might raise eyebrows, the indication from official Council documents was that he reached his position through seniority and honest means, although there was a hint that there was some room for disagreement on that. This was Sunnydale, after all. He could well have outlived the other candidates, assuming they hadn’t moved to safer pastures before meeting an untimely demise.

Although the timeline was silent on how he fell in with Miss Summers and Mr. Giles, a quick perusal of the executive summary in front of me indicated that he started working with them while still in high school and continued his association up to the present day.

He was there at the fall of Sunnydale and had helped beat back the Turok-Hans getting into position to attack any who might flee ground zero. He then traveled with the group to the Cleveland Hellmouth, before traveling onward to London with Mr. Giles, Miss Summers, Miss Rosenberg, a Slayer by the name of Kennedy Sunnocci, and Mr. Wells. This information indicated that he spent three months in London and that he had volunteered to take over the Africa territory. His stated mission was to seek out new Slayers and then send them on to London for processing. From there, the African Slayers were to be sent to the training facility in Devon before they were returned to their homes.

This last piece of information gave me pause. As I mentioned before, I had met several Slayers passing through the London headquarters, but none from Africa. As far as I knew, there were no Slayers hailing from that corner of the globe at the Devon training facility either. I made a mental note to contact Devon in the morning to see if any had ever attended the facility. I suspected that the answer was “no,” but I thought it best to double-check.

Given that my suspicions on this matter were confirmed the following day, I could see why Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was concerned, especially since there was no indication anywhere that Mr. Harris had been given leave to keep the Slayers in Africa.

Also included were a battery of psychological, emotional, and physical tests, which was also to be expected. Flipping through the results and scanning the reports told me that these were not from the experts Mr. Wyndham-Pryce was referring to when he spoke to me earlier. These tests perfunctory at best and had been conducted by civilian employment firms, instead of the Council’s own experts. That too was to be expected, as the Council apparatus was still in disarray during this time period. What was surprising was that someone, obviously someone from within Mr. Giles’s inner circle, felt it necessary that Mr. Harris undergo these procedures. Clearly they had their own set of concerns about sending Mr. Harris off on his own.

The sanctioned tests were not informative. Again, there was nothing extraordinary in them; certainly nothing that would give one pause even if someone were looking for something wrong. However, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had stressed to me that Mr. Harris was very good at passing for “normal,” however normal might be defined. Given the abbreviated nature of the examinations, anyone short of a raving loony could easily put their best foot forward and escape detection.

There was also the requisite paperwork showing blood tests and aura checks proving that Mr. Harris was, indeed, completely human. He didn’t even carry so much as a whiff of a mystical imprint, which was surprising since he had grown up in Sunnydale and had fought side-by-side with a Slayer. Surely something should’ve clung to him. However, there was nothing, which meant he was eligible for full Council membership. I could see why the authenticity of the results could be questioned. Oh, not the blood tests, although these too were conducted by an outside third-party. The aura check, however, would raise eyebrows. Miss Rosenberg was the one who signed off on the certification that Mr. Harris was unencumbered by mystical influences.

Lord knows I knew how it easy it was to alter and destroy documents, and how simple it was to cook the books so that reports said what you wanted them to say. I, of all people, knew how easily it could be done even when the First Council was at its height and on the lookout for such things. How much easier would it be to accomplish when all the usual safeguards had been blown away and the watchdogs were absent from their posts?

When I picked up the next set of documents and saw the date, my hands went numb and the pages slipped from my fingers. I sat still and willed my pounding heart to slow down before I retrieved the papers. Suddenly, my position seemed much more precarious than I had thought possible. If something like this survived the conflagration in 2002, what other documents had survived?

I forced my mind into a quiet space and convinced myself that I was being silly. Documents dating from the First Council were proof of nothing. In addition, the documents that concerned me had been purged long before the destruction of the First Council building and its stored records. Since the documents that worried me were sensitive in nature, it was unlikely they had been stored outside of only the most secure Council vaults, assuming they still existed in 2002.

This older report was dated January 2001 and was clearly a facsimile of the original. It detailed the experiences of a visiting team of experts sent to Sunnydale to evaluate Miss Summers and her allies. The team was lead by none other than Mr. Quentin Travers, who was First Watcher at the time. According to the coversheet, Miss Summers’s skills and competence were evaluated and no less than five individuals were interviewed: Miss Rosenberg; Mr. Harris; a witch by the name of Miss Tara Maclay; Mr. Harris’s girlfriend, Miss Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins; and Spike, aka, William the Bloody, aka Slayer of Slayers.

The only name on the list that was unfamiliar to me was Miss Maclay. I was already aware of the role the others had played in the battle against the First, and knew that Miss Jenkins and William the Bloody had perished during the group’s final stand.

The only interviews that were included with the packet were Mr. Harris’s and Miss Jenkins’s. It made sense. I had no reason to read any of the other interviews, assuming they had survived. However, the interviews themselves were not terribly informative and were, quite frankly, a yawner of a read. Part of it was that I lacked context. I had no idea why an evaluation team, lead by Mr. Travers no less, had gone to Sunnydale.

It suddenly occurred to me that the team wasn’t there to evaluate Miss Summers, but Mr. Giles instead. I seemed to dimly recall that he had been restored to Council membership around this time. The only reason why I remembered was because my parents were positively scandalized by this turn of events in had indicated that they were not alone in their violent reaction. As I was deep in my studies at that time, I had not heard any discontented rumbling from within the Council itself. Now I wished I had paid more attention.

I revisited the interviews and re-read them with a fresh eye. However, going by the questions and answers, it would appear my supposition was wrong. The interviews seemed to center on Miss Summers, not on Mr. Giles. There were questions about her competence, her strategies, and her past exploits. The only thing really notable about them was that both Mr. Harris and Miss Jenkins seemed unfocused in their rambling answers, although Miss Jenkins seemed even more so than Mr. Harris. She kept brining up personal information at the most inappropriate times, and kept repeating stories about her childhood, her name, and her birthday.

What I did note was that Mr. Harris’s rambling was entirely focused on Miss Summers. However, whenever the interviewer asked a follow-up question that might be construed as hostile or questioning the veracity of his answer, Mr. Harris would backtrack, adding or removing a telling detail. As cover-ups went, it was a clumsy attempt.

I frowned and forced myself to read a third time through Mr. Harris’s interview. It was on this pass that I finally spotted the pattern. Whenever asked about himself, or how he got involved with Miss Summers, Mr. Harris was evasive. He answered the questions with a stream of words that amounted to no answer at all. The only reason he got away with it was because he was not the target of their inquiries. In fact, I got the distinct impression from the scribbled comments in the margins that the interviewer found both he and Miss Jenkins of little interest and had dismissed them out of hand as persons worthy of further investigation.

Take a lesson from this, dear reader. What may seem unimportant and beneath you at the time, may translate into an opportunity forever lost. Had that interviewer realized that the man being questioned would end up in the Council’s inner circle with awesome responsibilities, as unlikely as it might’ve seemed at the time, he or she would’ve been far more exacting in the futile quest for honest answers from the secretive Mr. Harris.

It appeared that the pattern of Mr. Harris not answering uncomfortable questions had established itself long before he went to Africa. Having seen the video interview of his parents and read the reports of same, there was no doubt in my mind that these questions about his background were uncomfortable in the extreme. The only difference is that where once Mr. Harris disassembled, he now just outright refused to give answers.

The only exchange of note was the single straightforward answer he gave when asked what he contributed to the group.

Q: And what do you do?

A: I help Buffy.

In the pages and pages dedicated to the interview, this was the only statement that was not open to interpretation or second-guessing. Naturally, the interviewer did ask a follow-up question about how, exactly, Mr. Harris “helped.” He was off and running with his nonanswers disguised as answers.

I set aside the interviews and turned my attention to the next set of papers. I startled again when I realized that these, too, were from before the destruction of the First Council. These documents were dated July 2002, mere months before the First Council’s destruction. However, these documents were not about Mr. Harris, but Miss Jenkins.

I frowned as I tapped my finger under her name. Why these were in the packet, I didn’t know. I supposed they were there because she was living with Mr. Harris when the evaluation team was in Sunnydale. I thought that perhaps Mr. Wyndham-Pryce thought I might glean some insight into Mr. Harris by studying the sort of woman he welcomed into his bed.

As I delved into the report, my jaw slowly unhinged and my eyes grew ever wider as I took in the information it contained. Miss Jenkins was a lie. Her true identity was Anyanka, otherwise known as St. Anyanka, Patron Saint of Scorned Women. She was nothing less than a vengeance demon.

I was in such shock, that all I could do was look up and stare at the far wall. The information was so stunning, that it took me several moments to process it.

Mr. Harris had been romantically involved with a vengeance demon!

I forced myself to look down at the report to read further as there was more. Much more. Some unnamed Watcher must’ve run wild through the stacks to find this much information. As it turns out, Anyanka was not just any vengeance demon. She was one of the bloodiest and oldest vengeance demons known to the Council. She had initially come to the Council’s attention when she murdered a Watcher in the most gruesome manner in 937 A.D. She disemboweled him and then burned him alive in front of the eyes of his helpless Slayer. There were scattered reports of her activities after that singular incident, but no one could say for certain if she were truly responsible for the events attributed to her, as there were almost never any survivors.

The funny thing was that Miss Summers herself was the one who tipped off the Council that not all her allies were what they seemed. According to the information in front me, Miss Summers told the evaluation team that one of her allies was a thousand year-old ex-demon, but she didn’t explicitly say who, what kind of demon, or the demon’s known name.

Why Mr. Travers waited so long follow up on this statement, I had no idea. Perhaps they weren’t sure which ally Miss Summers had outed as the demon in their midst and it took time to solve the mystery. Perhaps ferreting out the demon and the demon’s identity wasn’t given a high priority as none of her allies had been accused of demonic activity. Or perhaps investigating the mysterious statement became a pet project of someone on the evaluation team because they were curious. There was no way to know for certain, as there was no paper trail to indicate how the connection was made between Miss Jenkins and Anyanka. All I had was Anyanka’s incomplete biography and it was isolated from anything that might reveal the story behind the story.

I eagerly turned to the last page so I could read the concluding summary. There was nothing but a scribbled note from Mr. Wyndham-Pryce.

As far as anyone is aware, Anyanka was destroyed in Sunnydale. Mr. Wells, Mr. Giles’s personal secretary, witnessed her final moments. He insists that she was human when she ceased to exist, although I question his truthfulness on this. It would be in his interests, as well as in the interests of everyone in Mr. Giles’s inner circle, to spin such a fiction. However, our seers have confirmed that Anyanka is no more.

I should also note here that, according to Mr. Wells, Mr. Harris was still romantically linked with her at the time of her destruction, even though he was well aware of what she was.

This revelation did nothing to improve my impression of Mr. Harris. He was intimately involved with a despicable creature of evil, a grand murderess who utterly destroyed her victims and everyone around them. She brought down more than a millennia of misery on humankind. Her manner of destruction was far too good for the likes of her. The fact she was considered a hero for her death in Sunnydale was simply icing on the hypocritical cake.

This, then, was the sort of creature Mr. Harris had a taste for. This was the sort of thing he bedded. It was disgusting.

Had this been the First Council and these facts known, Mr. Harris would’ve never been let through the front door. Had this been discovered even after he started his work in Africa as a Watcher, he would’ve been summarily removed and a hearing would’ve been quickly convened. He would’ve been tried, judged, and convicted for consorting with the enemy. The punishment would’ve been quite severe. Probably not death, but he certainly would’ve been thrown into one of the Council’s many lock-ups to serve time for the crime of turning against his own. It was only through the grace of Mr. Giles that he held the position of authority and respect that he did. He was disgrace to the Council and to Watchers everywhere.

As I read over the paragraphs I’ve just written, I realize just how harsh my words must look to you. I know better now and, I don’t have to tell you, my stance on Mr. Harris’s relationship with Anyanka, or rather Anya, has significantly softened since that time.

The heart is a messy, tangled, and bloody thing. Why it loves and who it loves, or why it loves the way it does, has been a confounding mystery since humankind achieved the ability to love against its own best interests. What should seem a straightforward thing when read on paper becomes complicated and rife with shades of grey when one is faced with a very human reality. It is the point when you see something good in a being where no good should reside. It is the moment when you see something human in what should be a monster.

Why it happens, or how it happens, no one can say. Certainly, I have no wisdom on this score, despite my own share of stumbling down tangled romantic paths that have lead me to surprising and disturbing places. The only thing I can say for certain is that it is possible for both Beauty and Beast to reside in the same creature. Once you see the Beauty, it is all that matters to you, even though you may see the Beast with equally clear eyes.

I apologize for my distraction, and will return now to the simple child who sat enthroned on her couch in the comfort of her own flat and passed harsh judgment on a complete stranger.

I eagerly paged back to find the concluding summary to see what sort of torture the Council had in store for the wretched pair. Upon seeing the plan, my shoulders slumped with disappointment. There was only a notation that the Council would continue investigating the situation before deciding what to do about Anyanka. As for Mr. Harris, the report was silent.

It goes without saying that the rise of the First Evil and the destruction of the First Council interrupted any planned action against Anyanka. Her subsequent destruction and posthumous whitewash took care of the rest. Even if this report were to come to light, it could be easily dismissed as a forgery, the work of a person or persons unknown seeking to sow dissent among the Council and tar the names of those who fought bravely against the darkness in Sunnydale. Because you can be sure, dear reader, that if there was anything still in existence that supported the charges contained in the report in my hands, this would’ve been dragged to light long before Mr. Wyndham-Pryce approached me to bring down Mr. Harris.

By this point I was weary from the battery of revelations. The only thing left were the psychological reports from Mr. Wyndham-Pryce’s experts and Jonathan’s transcribed interviews and executive report. Given what I had read so far, I suspected that Mr. Harris’s picture could only get darker with additional reading.

I decided that there was no point in reviewing the material right away. I had the basics already. I could peruse the rest at a later time. I still had a week before my departure, as well as plenty of travel time during which I could familiarize myself more intimately with Mr. Harris.

 

Continued in Part 5

 

Tags: character: ensemble, character: oc, character: xander, fanfiction: 2006, fanfiction: buffy the vampire slayer, fanfiction: facing the heart in darkness, fanfiction: fic-a-thon
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