In flagrante delicto.

He woke up with a start.

Angelus was crouched at the fireplace, carefully piling kindling into the grate. The room was cold and dark except for a lamp that he’d put on the hearth beside him.

Will sat up and swung his legs off the bed. He’d been curled up on the edge, his knees pulled up to his chest. He had a panicky feeling in his chest, as if he’d woken from a nightmare. A moment later he remembered some of it—he’d dreamed about being orphaned.

He sat watching Angelus arrange the sticks, and wondering stupidly what time it was. Then he remembered that he’d been sent to find Henry. He cleared his throat.

“Er…sorry. I didn’t mean to… “

Angelus broke a stick and laid it on the pile.

“It’s all right,” he said, without looking around.

Will rubbed a hand over his head and stood up. His leg ached. He went around the bed and crouched down by the hearth.

“Here, I’ll do it,” he said, pulling the scuttle over. Angelus abandoned the sticks and withdrew.

Will added some small coal to the kindling, then lit the pile and sat watching the yellow flame turn blue. From the corner of his eye he saw Angelus take the chair that was still sitting by the fireplace. He had his handkerchief out, and was wiping his hands.

Will turned away, thinking about the dream. He’d been fleeing alone through a sewer, and the water had been neck-high, then over his head—and he’d gone under.

“That fire wants a bellows.”

Will blew on it, and the flame grew. When it was strong enough he added a little more coal, then wiped his hands on one of the bloody slips Angelus had left by the basin. He stood up and watched Angelus examine his thumb with a look of irritation.

“Splinter,” he said, by way of explanation, and sucked on it.

“Want me to fetch a pin, sir?”

Angelus shook his head, then went briefly to demon face and nipped himself. He spat the splinter onto the floor and licked the cut. Will caught the thin smell of blood, and his mouth itched.

“Well…I should go down, I suppose,” he said, and rubbed his forehead. Then he just stood there.

Angelus looked at him and said nothing. After a minute he frowned and licked his thumb again.

“The women are—?” Will asked.

“Sleeping,” Angelus said.

“Oh,” Will said. “How long was I—?”

“A few hours.”

“Oh.” He shifted uncomfortably, glancing at the bed without meaning to. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to.”

Angelus examined his thumb. “Stop apologizing. I said it was all right.”

Will rubbed his forehead again and sniffed. It struck him that there was a slight fresh smell in the air; after a moment, he realized it was coming from Angelus.

“You’ve been outside,” he said. Angelus nodded, studying his fingernails. “What—where did you go?”

“You’re inquisitive for someone who’s been asleep half the night.”

“Did you kill that man?”

Angelus looked up from under his brows. “No,” he said flatly. “Not yet.”

“If you were scouting you should have woken me,” Will said, then hurried to revise when he saw Angelus’s eyebrow go up sharply. “I mean, I might have been some help. Sir. Were you scouting?”

Angelus studied the fire. “Scouting,” he said, “is no particular use. We know where we are, and we know what’s coming. It’s only a matter of waiting, now.”

His tone was calm, almost resigned, and Will felt a new curl of fear in his belly.

In Will’s imagination, and even in his dreams up till now, facing the Slayer had been a dashing and heroic scene—an element of surprise, furious blows exchanged, bouquets of blood. Most often he carried the day with bravery and a cool head, and in the envoy Dru was his and Angelus stopped calling him ‘boy.’ Less frequently he gave his life for the others, turning on insurmountable odds with a grim determined smile, while Dru was helped out a window in the background.

He’d never once imagined it like this—a confusing interminable wait in a foreign place, cold and hungry and lamed. Dressed like a bumpkin. Practically decapitated by a popgun before the Slayer even appeared.

He remembered the daydreams he’d had while they were riding—all the ways he was going to kill the Slayer—and was ashamed.

“Well, we’re not just going to sit here like posts,” he said, with the heat of his embarrassment. “We’ve got to…do something.”

Angelus considered him. “What should we do?”

“I—I don’t know. Something. We’re cornered, here.”

“You think we shouldn’t have come?”

Will kept silent, and after a minute Angelus went back to his fingernails. “We might have gone south,” Will said finally. “If we’d gone straight away we could have got across all right, I think—“

Angelus smiled and shook his head, as if he saw something melancholy and amusing in his cuticles. Will trailed off.

“Well, it would have been a proper fight at least,” he said. “Not like this, moping around in a bloody dungeon, being assaulted by the local peasantry. Just bloody waiting.”

“Are you done?” Angelus asked. His tone was mild and still amused.

“Y-yes. Sir.”

“Good. It would be better if you knelt.”

Will dropped. It hurt his leg, but he didn’t let it show. He tried to look calm and matter-of-fact, and not like someone who needed a thrashing.

“Perhaps I haven’t said this to you before,” Angelus said. “So I’ll be clear on the subject now. I don’t mind if you hold your own opinions, Will. When I ask for them, you can assume I actually do wish to hear them stated. Politely, and with respect.” He lifted one boot and put the sole in the middle of Will’s chest. “Is that clear?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. In this particular case, you’re wrong. Darla and I discussed the matter, and decided Purwall was our best defense.”

Will swallowed and said nothing. Angelus cocked an eyebrow and pushed his boot into Will’s chest, so that Will had to struggle to keep his balance.


“Nothing, sir.”

Angelus sighed and tapped his toe in the notch of Will’s rib cage.

Will hesitated, then said, “Well, it’s just—it doesn’t seem like much of a defense, sir. I mean—wouldn’t it be better if we were in the open?”

Angelus smiled, and pushed his foot forward so that Will was bent backward. Angelus stopped pushing, Will pulled himself straight, and Angelus pushed him back down. The process seemed to amuse Angelus; he did it several more times, while Will kept his face still and tried not to clench his fists. Then Angelus gave him a harder shove and he went over on his back.

“Purwall may surprise you,” Angelus said.

Will picked himself up and started to stand, but Angelus frowned. Will knelt again, a little farther away this time.

“Just as a matter of interest,” Angelus said, “you aren’t always wrong. You were right before, about not taking any of the men. Until you changed your stance to please me, that is.” He lowered himself a little in the chair and put his foot out again. “Did you think you were out of reach, there?”

Will didn’t think the question merited an answer, and merely pressed his lips together as Angelus planted a sole against his breast. With a small smile, Angelus pushed, and Will pushed back to stay upright. The pressure increased gradually, and finally he let himself be pushed backward. Angelus had stopped smiling, and was studying him carefully with his head on one side.

“Your leg is weak,” Angelus said. “You’re not taking weight on it.”

Will immediately tried to take his weight on his left leg, and almost toppled. Angelus hooked his toe under Will’s arm to catch him, then gestured for him to stand.

“You need to feed properly,” he said.

Will said nothing—he couldn’t think of anything to say. He straightened his trousers and brushed a little dirt off the knees.

“You could have that Purwall boy,” Angelus said. “He might not be missed for a day or two.”

“I could have that bugger with the pistol,” Will said quietly. “Sir.”

“I told you, that one’s mine. The boy is the best solution. We’ll have him make up the fires again first.”

Will had a faint flicker of regret for Henry, who after all had called him sir, but his stomach sent up a pang and the regret was snuffed. He’d kill the boy quickly, so he didn’t feel much pain—that was the only sort of mercy Angelus encouraged.

“The moral here is,” Angelus said, standing up and starting for the door, “if you don’t want to be treated as a child, don’t behave as one.”

“Yes sir,” Will said, only half paying attention.

“Well, come on,” Angelus said. “And I’ll give you something to do, while the rest of us wait about like…posts, I think it was?”

Will opened his mouth, but Angelus was already out the door. Will hurried after.

He followed Angelus down the hall, wondering whether he was still going to be given Henry. Now that he’d considered the prospect of a meal, his stomach ached.

Angelus stopped at one of the doors on the right and opened it, and Will realized that it let onto a second wheel stair. This one was smaller than the one he’d found earlier, but just as dark and cold. Angelus went up without a pause.

Will followed, and in a moment Angelus was putting his shoulder to another door at the top of the stair, and with a bang and a scrape they were on the roof of the tower.

The night air was cold and clean, and Will breathed it in with pleasure. They were in a small sheltered alcove, apparently on top of the wing they’d just come up from. The roof spread out before them in a white snowblown stretch that seemed too long until Will remembered that the two wings met in the chapel. Directly ahead was a hooded alcove like the one they stood in; it must be where the other wheel stair let out.

Will went to the low stone wall that bordered the roof; peering over the edge, he looked down on the back end of the main hall. It was only one storey and seemed a great distance below. He backed away, wiping snow off his hands.

Angelus was still standing by the door, watching him. Will glanced back and smiled.

“Lovely spot for a dovecote,” he said.

Angelus said nothing, and Will looked around again. He was on the far side of the tower from Purwall; below him was the outer wall, and outside that a steep downward roll of white. At the bottom of the hill was a wide shallow groove that went round the back of the tower as far as he could see. It didn’t look natural, and after a moment’s squinting he decided it must have been a kind of moat, once upon a time. It was dry now, but still wide enough to trouble horses. On the other side of the ditch, the rolling hills started up again.

He walked across to the other side and saw the tragic gap in the outer wall where there once had been a gate; beyond that, the steep hill down to Purwall. The breeze was going the wrong way, but he could still smell a hint of coal fires and horses in the air.

“Well,” he said, turning back to Angelus, “what now?”

Angelus kicked the door to wedge it open, and walked over to the wall beside Will.

“Do you see the road?” he asked.

Will looked again. After a moment, he thought he did—there was a faint dark line, like a smudge, creeping into the village. He pointed at it.

“Good,” Angelus said. “You’ll watch that. And the route we took.” He pointed a little to the right, and Will made out a faint feathering against the hills that must be their own tracks. “It’s likelier they’ll come that way, but they may send a party by the road as well.”

“All right,” Will said slowly. He was losing some of the pleasure he’d felt at gaining the fresh air and open sky. Seeing their own tracks made everything seem somehow more serious.

“If you see anyone,” Angelus said, “you come and tell me. Immediately. You understand?”

“Of course,” Will said, still looking at their tracks. Then something occurred to him. “It’ll be morning soon. What if they come during the day?”

“Watch from the alcove,” Angelus said. “It’s likely to be overcast in any case.”

“Right,” Will said, trying not to show the discomfort he felt at that prospect.

“Don’t draw attention to yourself,” Angelus said. “And if you do see anyone, don’t let them see you.”

“No,” Will said. The cold was beginning to creep into his skin again, and he crossed his arms tightly over his chest. “When they come, what do we do then?”

Angelus gave him a narrow look. “That,” he said, “is really the question.”

Will stared at him a moment, then laughed without meaning to. He snapped his mouth shut and peered over the wall, trying to look as if he were suddenly greatly interested in the drop.

Angelus turned and leaned his back against the wall.

“You’re frightened,” he observed.

“I’m not. I’m just—“

Angelus looked off into the middle distance, and Will let it go.

“It’s not what I expected,” he said after a moment.

“No,” Angelus said.

“It’s bloody cold, for one thing,” Will said.

To his surprise, Angelus laughed. Will smiled crookedly, and felt slightly less afraid.

“Come here,” Angelus said, putting out his arm. Will stepped over and let himself be pulled in against Angelus’s side. For just a second, he buried his face in Angelus’s shoulder.

“You’ll need a coat,” Angelus said, running his fingers through Will’s hair. “Did you even bring one?”

“Dru’s got it,” Will said. “Haven’t seen it in a while.”

“Well, find it. They won’t be here tonight, but there’s some chance of their arriving tomorrow.”

“All right.” Will pulled away and smoothed his hair irritably, but then leaned on the wall with his body pressed alongside Angelus’s. He chewed the inside of his cheek and stared at nothing, pretending he wasn’t comforted by the contact. After a moment he felt Angelus shift, and tried quickly to think of some way to keep him there a minute longer. “Henry says Darla drove the Devil out of Purwall.”

Angelus laughed. “Does he?”

“Well, she fought someone. That idiot with the gun—his father was there.”

“Oh, yes. I asked her about that.”

Will gave it a moment. “Well, what did she say?”

“She said he was a fine man. Delicious, in fact.”

Will craned his neck to look sideways at Angelus. “Not really?”

“Really,” Angelus said, smiling.

“That crafty bi—“ Will started, then caught himself. “I mean, she was very convincing.”

“She can be that,” Angelus agreed.

“So…who was the Devil? Who did she drive out?”

Angelus sighed and rolled his head from side to side as though his neck pained him. “I’ve told you already,” he said. “It’s not your affair. And furthermore, it’s irrelevant to our situation.” He pushed off the wall.

“I thought you were going to start telling me things,” Will said. “You said you were going to stop keeping me in the dark all the time.”

“Did I?” Angelus said. “You’re a vampire, Will. You ought to like the dark.”

“I only want to know what we're doing here,” Will said. “As far as I can see we’re trapped—what are we going to do when the Slayer comes?” He meant to sound matter-of-fact, but the words came out hurried and overloud. Angelus tipped his head to one side and looked at him.

“Purwall may surprise you,” he said again, and slipped his hand inside Will’s pocket. “What have you got in here?”

Will pulled away, surprised and slightly annoyed to be groped just now, but Angelus had already taken his hand out. He held something up in his fingers—after a moment, Will realized it was the lock of hair he’d taken from Angelus’s coat. He’d forgotten it entirely.

Angelus turned it over, regarding it first with confusion and then recognition. “Where did you get this?” he asked, turning to look at Will.

Will took a quick instinctive step away and tried to think of a convincing story—he could say it fell out of Angelus’s pocket, or that he caught Henry with it, or he could pretend not to recognize what it was.

“I took it out of your coat,” he said, and winced.

Angelus gazed at him, then made a little hm sound and put the curl in his own pocket. Will waited, shifting his weight slightly from his bad leg.

“Well, come in and find the boy then,” Angelus said, turning away. “Unless you don’t want a meal after all.”

Will lingered a minute, half out of surprise at having the matter dropped so easily, and half to give Angelus a moment’s lead, in case he decided to turn back and lash out suddenly. When Angelus was at the alcove, he hurried after. They left the door jammed open behind them.

At the foot of the staircase, Angelus started directly back to the main bedchamber, where the women were sleeping. “Remember to have him make up the fires first,” he said over his shoulder, then disappeared inside and closed the door.

Will stood alone in the hall, still not quite convinced he wasn’t going to be thumped. He heard Angelus’s boots come off behind the door, and Darla murmured something. That got him moving.

He went downstairs and found his coat draped carefully over the back of a chair to one side of the fire—Henry’s handiwork, no doubt. Again, he resolved to do the boy quickly. He grabbed up the coat and went to the kitchen, his mouth watering.

He pushed the door open with a smile, his lips already framing Henry’s name—but the kitchen was empty. The fire had burned low and was threatening to smother itself with ash. Will looked around stupidly for a moment, as if Henry might be hiding in a corner, then went back to the main hall.

He stood for a moment trying to think of where he’d last seen the boy—it had been when Darla sent him upstairs, on the men’s arrival. He must have been hiding up there all this time.

Will started for the stairs, noticing as he passed the table that the pistol still lay out upon it in full view. Probably it should be put away somewhere, or at least unloaded, but he couldn’t bring himself to approach it. He didn’t know the first thing about guns, anyway; it was better to leave it to Angelus or Darla.

As he went up the stairs he began to consider how odd it was that Henry was so elusive. He’d been underfoot since he arrived, taking care of the fires and bringing in water—now he seemed suddenly to have abandoned all his duties. Perhaps he’d taken Darla’s order literally, and hadn't returned downstairs because he hadn't been called. But Darla had also told him to stay in the main bedchamber, and clearly he wasn’t there, if the others were already asleep in it.

For some reason he couldn’t name, Will stopped at the top of the stairs and listened. The tower was silent. He sniffed. He could smell the others, the fires, the lingering smell of blood, and somewhere in it all, Henry’s little signature. It wasn’t enough to place him, but at least it meant he hadn't left the tower.

It was pointless, but Will looked in the small bedroom anyway—it was empty except for the half-dead fire. The main bedchamber was silent. He passed the door that led to the roof, pausing briefly to put his head through and sniff. It smelled of disturbed dust and snow, nothing more.

There were only a few doors left in the hall—the next on the right opened into the chapel from the opposite side he’d been on before, and without stepping through he saw that it was empty. He closed the door quickly and moved on. The rest were like their fellows in the far wing, cold and underfurnished.

At the end of the hall, he stood looking at the door to the room where Caitlin lay.

The door was closed, but now that he was near enough, he could hear something on the opposite side. No fear ecstasy—just the slight steady vibrato of human life. Perhaps the air smelled a little more strongly of blood, here. And, yes—someone was breathing inside. Slow, even breaths, as if in sleep.

Will turned the knob and walked in.

What he saw confused him at first. Henry lay stretched out on the pallet beside Caitlin, half under her, an arm thrown over her shoulder and his legs twined with hers. At first Will thought they were asleep together; then he saw the boy’s eyes flutter, and thought, bizarrely, that they were making love.

Then Caitlin raised her head from the deep wounds in the boy’s throat, and looked at Will. Her chin was dark with blood. Her eyes shone yellow.

“Get out,” she said.

Will stepped out and closed the door behind him.

He got almost all the way to the stairs, then stopped. He was still holding his coat, and that minor irrelevance baffled him. He couldn’t recall what he’d been doing—why had he come back here, when Caitlin was draining Henry at the far end of the hall? He turned on his heel and went quickly back the way he’d come.

This time he went through the door at speed, and found Caitlin just picking herself up off the pallet and wiping her mouth. Henry lay still with one hand dangling.

“What—what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Will barked, dropping his coat and making for her. She sidestepped and tried to circle away.

“Nothing, I—“

He caught her up by the neck and shook her, then threw her back against the wall. She scrambled to her feet and ducked his kick.

“You bloody bitch,” he snarled, and spun to grab her again. He got one punch in before she yanked free and made it to the door, half-stumbled, jerked it open, and ran directly into Angelus.

“O God—“ she said, and actually tried a desperate feint to get around him. He caught hold of her without a second look, his attention already taken up with Will and Henry.

“What is going on here?” he asked. Caitlin struggled slightly and he lifted her up and gave her a knock against the wall.

Will shook his head, not sure what to say. “She got Henry in here,” he said. “I don’t know how. And—“ He waved a hand at the pallet, where Henry was watching them wearily while his neck bled into the mattress.

Angelus looked at Henry, then turned a disbelieving look on Caitlin. “She fed on him?” He looked her up and down, then put out a finger and wiped some of Henry’s blood off her chin. He smelled it, then put his hand out again and tipped her chin up. The bite marks in her own neck were almost healed.

“He’s snuffed it,” Will said, watching Henry’s eyelids sink. Angelus gave the boy a glance.

“Not yet. Bandage his neck.”

Will paused. “But weren’t we going to—“

“I want to speak to him, if he’s not a corpse,” Angelus said. “Bandage his neck and put him in a room with a fire.” He wiped his bloody fingers on Caitlin’s shirtfront, then frowned. “Did she hit you?”


“Did she touch you at all—or even try?” Will paused a moment and looked at Caitlin, who was staring at him with obvious terror. He looked directly into her eyes and let the moment spin out.

“No,” he said finally. “She dodged, is all.”

Angelus studied him, then gave a slight nod, and lowered Caitlin until her feet touched the floor. “If you run—“ he said. She shook her head.

“No sir,” she whispered.

“Good. Get out—we’re going downstairs. Will, tie up that boy’s neck and come down directly.”

“Yes sir,” he said.

Angelus pushed Caitlin out and followed after her, and Will heard him rap smartly on the door to the main bedchamber as he passed it. A moment later, Darla said something muffled, and then both Dru and Darla were up and moving.

He leaned down and picked up Henry, who weighed less than a cat. The boy half-opened his eyes and smiled, bringing his arm up around Will’s shoulder.

“That’s all right,” he said, as blood pooled in the cup of his collarbone. “Our Lady’s here.”

“And that’s a comfort to you, is it?” Will asked. “I can’t precisely see how.” He straightened up and saw his coat crumpled on the floor. He’d got almost to the stairs before turning around and coming back—what had he been thinking?

He shook his head and carried Henry out, with the boy’s cool hand still clasped around his neck.

Home A Winter's Tale Fourteen