At the edge of the city, far down a road that Buffy had never used before, she found a private airport and a pilot who introduced himself as John Howell. He was a middle-aged man of small stature, and though he was friendly toward her, he seemed to approach everything with an air of great intensity. Clearly Wood found him trustworthy, but Buffy decided to spend a little time alone with him to let her instincts feel him out before they were in the air and at his mercy.
“Where’d you get a plane like this?” she asked as they strolled into the hangar to take a look at it. She couldn’t really tell one from another, but she’d been informed that this plane, typical as it seemed, had the rare quality of necro-tinted windows -- an absolute requisite for long-distance vampire transportation.
Howell came to a halt at the plane’s nose and laid a hand on it beside the painted word Romulus, the only ornamentation on it that Buffy could see. “Wolfram & Hart,” he answered.
Buffy sprang back, hand poised to grab for her stake, but the pilot didn’t show any surprise or fear. “It’s alright,” he said. “I’m not with them.”
“Did you steal it?” she asked warily, keeping her fighting stance.
“Yeah, I stole it.”
“Sounds like an interesting story and I want to hear it now, not later.”
Howell shrugged. “I flew for them sometimes. Freelance. Most of us pick up that kind of work here and there, and there wasn’t anything strange about them that I could see at the time.” He sat down on a stepladder near the plane’s wing, and nodded to a director’s chair for Buffy. “There was some rioting when the battle busted out, well, I guess you know about that. Everyone else was going for liquor stores and electronics, I thought, hell, the company just went under, they’re not gonna miss this baby.”
Buffy settled into the chair, patting her concealed stake and leaving it in its place. She took another look at the plane, streamlined and shining under the hangar’s bright lights, trying to see it from the perspective of a passionate aviation expert. “Wood told you why we need it?”
He nodded. “I know about the tinting. I know about Angel.”
It wasn’t the kind of reassurance she wanted. Angel might have a reputation bigger than the underworld he’d commanded, but to her, he was still a secret. Her secret. If Howell knew his weakness, he could hurt him.
“What are we paying you for this?” she asked.
“Would it help to threaten you too?”
He chuckled. “Are you afraid I’m some kind of spy for the law firm?”
“No, I’m afraid you’re a smuggler for Jabba the Hutt.”
At that, Howell’s laughter rang out loud and clear. He stood up and pointed a finger at her. “If I am, just remember Han shot first.” Still grinning, he patted the plane like a horse and turned back toward the hangar’s office. “Go get your boss. The Romulus is ready whenever you are.”