Uncertain Ground - Chapter 2
“I am surprised to have Council representatives here, Rupert,” the head of security at Keflavik International Airport stated while leading the Watcher and Slayer down to his office.
“Iceland usually is a haven amidst the insanity in the world, Benedikt,” Giles agreed. “For the moment the case is a police matter - at least on the surface - but we are heavily invested in the investigation as a rogue sorcerer may be involved. My man in London should have provided you with the details.”
“Yes, we were contacted by a Mr Andrew Wells. I am sorry to hear of the missing girl and hope you find her soon. A jet did arrive from Dublin according to the logs, however only two men came through customs.”
“Could you provide us with their information?” Buffy inquired as they entered the official’s office. It was tastefully decorated in a simplistic decor, sort of like IKEA, but with a more rustic feel.
“Of course, just a moment. Please, have a seat.”
Buffy would have preferred to stand and pace, needing to work off some of her nervous energy, but she followed Giles’ example and sat down, taking a moment to study their host. Benedikt Einarsson was a tall, well built man in his forties with sandy blonde hair, a square jaw, and steel grey eyes. He might have been intimidating but he had an easy way about him that had set her immediately at ease when he met them at their plane and addressed them on a first name basis.
“Ah, here we are, the two men had American passports,” he reported after looking through the file on his desk, “Finn Gates and Henry Page.”
“Any physical details? CC footage we can wade through?”
“No, as you know customs checks for private charter are done quickly and at the plane. The two men had a car waiting for them near the hanger, so we have nothing more to go on,” Benedikt replied apologetically. “It was being refueled and serviced by the grounds crew before the pilot took off again and no one reported seeing anything out of the ordinary. Both the customs officials who processed their passports went off shift a few hours ago, but will be back in the morning. I will go and make the arrangements for you to speak with them.” The official then stood up, picked up a file, and left his office, leaving Buffy and Giles alone.
Giles could feel the disappointment and frustration radiating from his Slayer, and sat up a little straighter in his chair. Her patience was wearing thin and she wanted to stake something, anything, and as tired as he was from the day’s events, he knew she had to be running on adrenaline by now as well. It was close to midnight and the sun was only just starting to set, confusing his natural body rhythm.
“This is looking like one huge dead end, Giles,” Buffy hissed, getting up from her chair, finally free to pace. “Where ever Dawn and Ethan are, they have a half a day’s jump on us now and that lead is growing by the minute.” She folded her arms around her waist and looked out the window over the runway. “God, I am so tired I can’t think straight.”
“We’ll investigate the hanger area and then go to the hotel to get some sleep. In the morning we’ll interview the customs officials and if nothing turns up, we’ll fly back to London and continue searching for clues with the rest of the team. We followed the lead we had, Buffy,” he sighed and ran his left hand through his hair. “Ethan’s note may have been a ruse. I don’t know.”
“The men are American. Ethan is profoundly not American. Everything about him screams ‘sociopath from the land of tea and scones.’ Pip-pip and cheerio.”
Giles glared at her, desperately trying not to lose his patience. “The men presented American passports, however, it doesn’t mean they are American.” A motion outside the door caught his attention. “Ah, here is our escort now,” he said as Benedikt returned with a female security officer.
The investigation at the hanger turned up no new information and all the workers who’d been involved in preparing the plane for its next flight had gone off shift hours before. Tired and with no new lead to follow, Buffy and Giles checked into their rooms at the hotel and collapsed under the physical and emotional weight of the day.
After a few hours of sleep, Giles and Buffy met up for breakfast in the dining room. Neither seemed particularly well rested and immediately reached for their coffee cups.
“According to Andrew there has been no trace of Ethan in the public records since his incarceration in Nevada four years ago,” Giles informed his Slayer as the waiter served the pair their breakfast.
“Sounds like he’ll definitely want to even the score if he’s been locked up for that long. I guess I am the target this time. I beat the shit out of him and I let Riley and his guys lock him up,” Buffy said, taking a sip of coffee.
“I dare say he probably figures he has a bone to pick with both of us. Ethan holds grudges for a very long time.”
“Ya think?” Buffy’s tone was sharper than she intended, but she had no intention of apologizing for it. She felt so utterly useless sitting around waiting for things to happen while god knows what was happening to her sister.
“I was also informed that Willow had tried performing a locator spell on Dawn, but was unsuccessful. He’s probably cloaking her.”
“If he hurts her, Giles, I swear I will beat him to a pulp and leave him for dead in the wilderness.”
The Watcher winced, remembering her threat to kill him if he harmed Dawn during their fight with Glory. His Slayer was mother bear when it came to her sister. “Yes, well, save a few kicks and punches for me and I’ll drive the getaway car.”
Their eyes met for a moment before Buffy looked away and asked, “Did Andrew and his team follow up on the other chartered flights out of Dublin?”
“Yes, no sign of Ethan or Dawn. We are lucky to have Watchers on the ground in the cities the other planes flew to. They confirmed the passengers were who they claimed to be.”
“So that means they are either here, back in Ireland, or are on their way to somewhere else right now, having thrown us on a wild goose chase with the charter planes.”
“The latter doesn’t bear thinking about,” Giles shuddered as he finished up his coffee. “Andrew’s running a trace on the names of our two suspects, but without photos, we’re running blind. The car was hired by Finn Gates, but searches for both names at hotels around Iceland returned nothing.”
Buffy finished her coffee and set the mug down. “Could be we’re just dealing with a couple of nature freaks. Only one way to find out. Let’s go,” she urged, grabbing the uneaten pastries on their plates and wrapping them up in a napkin for later.
“I’ve instructed all those who might be possibly involved in this case to cooperate with your investigation,” Benedikt stated as he handed the Watcher and Slayer a pair of security badges with their pictures on them. He led them to the office of the agents who had processed the customs paperwork for the two men. “Jana will come and get you in half an hour and take you to meet the technicians who worked on the plane. Should you have need of me, just ring me on my mobile.” He then knocked on the door before entering and introduced Buffy and Giles to the customs agents. Once everyone was settled, Benedikt left to address other matters.
Their investigation confirmed that two men named Finn Gates and Henry Page had arrived from Dublin and entered the country around 4:00pm the previous day. Finn Gates was tall, muscular, had blue eyes, light brown hair, and a scar running diagonally down his cheek. Henry Page was shorter with a thin build, his hair dark but with streaks of grey, had brown eyes and a goatee. Neither of them had anything to declare, and brought outdoor camping equipment with them.
“Explains why they didn’t check into a hotel last night,” Buffy muttered once they were on their way to the hanger.
Giles nodded. “Henry Page fits Ethan’s description, with the exception of the goatee.”
“I can see it.”
“It just sort of adds to his dastardly persona,” Buffy shrugged.
“A girl can read.”
“Indeed.” They followed their guide down to the hanger. “If Henry Page is Ethan, the pseudonym makes sense.”
“Philip Henry and Deirdre Page,” Giles said. “They were part of our gang and were killed by Eyghon during your junior year in high school.”
“He’s a creepy bastard. This other guy, though, doesn’t make sense, does it? I mean Ethan is a sell sword, but actively working with someone? Isn’t he a bit too caught up in his own drama to have the patience to collaborate with someone else?”
“Normally, I’d agree, but if he is hiding Dawn magically, he’s using an awful lot of energy and this Gates chap is probably just muscle. Ethan’s not above hiring help when it’s needed.”
Those members of the crew that saw Gates and Page, confirmed the descriptions given to the pair by the customs agents. Some noted that the older man seemed tired and worn while the younger man was impatient to leave. Most commented on Gates’ scar, saying it was a deep, clean slice about five centimeters in length, but not new. And, of course, no one had seen a young woman.
As Giles and Buffy were about to head back to Benedikt’s office to thank him for his help in the matter, a burly young man of about twenty, who clearly looked like he could have stepped off a Viking longship, came up to them.
“Excuse me. I have something for you,” the man said as he approached.
“Go on,” Giles encouraged.
The technician dug into his pocket and pulled out a necklace, placing it in Giles’ hand. “The dark haired man, he looked at me before turning away to follow his friend. He then placed his hand in his pocket, slowly pulled this out, and dropped it on the ground. I thought about returning it to him, but the look on his face before he did it... I don’t know. I just felt like I shouldn’t.”
Giles glanced at the necklace and quickly closed his hand around it. “Thank you.”
“It’s of great value, I thought.”
“It is,” Giles confirmed.
“When you find him, please return it. It was clear he didn’t want to part with it, and I didn’t understand why he’d leave it.”
“Thank you...” Giles realized he didn’t know the name of the other man.
“Gunnar, Gunnar Haraldsson.”
“Thank you, Gunnar, this definitely helps in our investigation.” Giles shoved the necklace into his pocket and extended his hand. The airplane technician shook it with a firm grip.
Buffy watched the exchange with curiosity. She’d only gotten a tiny glimpse of the necklace, the chain was delicate with a heavy round pendant of some sort, but clearly Giles recognized it, which meant that they were on the right track. Her mood improved dramatically on this new information.
Giles turned and followed their route back to the security offices.
“What is it?” Buffy asked him.
“A necklace,” he responded with finality, not wishing to discuss it further.
“Duh, Giles,” she snapped. “It’s Ethan’s isn’t it?” He increased his gate. “Giles?”
He kept walking.
“What’s going on?” She yelled. “Don’t get all moody on me, Watcher! Does it belong to Ethan?”
Giles walked on, refusing to answer. Buffy caught up to him and grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around to face her. The look on his face was one of grave concern, bordering on terror.
“You’re scaring me! Tell me, Giles, Dawn’s in real trouble isn’t she?”
Giles hadn’t elaborated and no matter how hard Buffy pushed, he refused to tell her any more. He clearly wasn’t going to talk about it at the airport. Once in the car, Giles pulled out his mobile phone and brought up his contact on speed dial.
“Andrew, we need to know everything we can on Finn Gates as soon as-” He stopped short, listening to what the other man had to say on the other line. “Yes, fifteen minutes. Thank you.” As he pulled into the parking space at the hotel, he looked at the Slayer and stated, “My room.”
The moment they entered Giles’ suite, he walked over to his briefcase, pulled out his laptop, and started booting it up.
“Care to share now, Giles?” Buffy asked in a rage as she flopped down on the sofa with her arms crossed.
He looked up from his computer, one eyebrow raised. Walking over to her, he reached into his pocket to retrieve the necklace and gave it to her. She inspected the pendant. It was silver, about the size of nickel, and by the looks of it, ancient. The side facing her displayed a head with two faces.
“Janus,” she stated, as though a prayer had been answered. It was the first definitive breakthrough in their case. Looking at her Watcher, she knew there was more to the story. “So it is Ethan.”
“Ethan’s involved, certainly, but I highly doubt that he orchestrated the kidnapping. You see, that pendant is an ancient Roman coin called a Denarius from 114 BC. His father made his fortune selling classical antiquities and Ethan stole that coin from his father’s collection when he was a young teen shortly after discovering he had magic. It’s been with him ever since. He swore his devotion to the god on that coin and it has since become his talisman.”
“I’m not convinced. What makes you think that Ethan isn’t the mastermind?”
“The young man in the hanger was right. Ethan would never willingly give this up nor would he ever leave it behind. In fact, he charmed it so that he would always find it in case it was lost.”
The Slayer’s mind raced and she dropped the necklace on the table as though it were something obscene. “Wait, so he knows where we are right now! Giles, this isn’t good. We’ll have to leave it here. We can’t track Dawn if he can trace our every move through the coin. Oh! Maybe you can reverse the spell and have it lead us to him? Like a locator spell?”
“Buffy, the spell has been broken for some reason. There is no magick surrounding it anymore,” he informed her, his voice eerily low. “I believe Ethan is also in grave danger. He’s not leading us on a merry adventure to exact revenge. He’s trying to leave clues.”
She raised her eyes to meet his, dark green meeting light, understanding the gravity of the situation. “So, whoever Finn Gates is, he’s got a powerful chaos mage spooked. Not good.”
“No, say what you will about Ethan, that he’s a selfish bastard and only looks out for himself, but he’s no coward.”
“No, he’s really not,” she agreed. “Let’s just hope he’s got a heart somewhere underneath there and is looking out for Dawn too.”
On to Chapter 3