The largest bar in Cleveland was called Satellite 3, and the longer that Oz lived there, the more he found out about it. Behind the establishment’s front door was an inclusive, popular drinking place with frequent live entertainment, a limited menu, and the alleged best bartenders in the city. The tables farthest from the stage were arranged around an enclosed stairwell leading up to another door, which was unmarked but had a bouncer lurking around it at all times.
Once Oz had made a few friends in town, he had been invited in and found a much more intimate setting, dimmer lights, and the actual best bartenders in the city. As far as he knew, there was no official name for the club behind the second door, but everyone who was aware of its existence tended to refer to it as Satellite 2.
The bar in there was curved around a tiny platform just large enough for a solo singer. Behind it was the third door, which Oz had thought was an employees-only area until the staff explained to him that even they weren’t sure who to talk to about getting permission to enter. They did, however, occasionally mention the boss having a meeting in Satellite 1, and it wasn’t hard to connect the dots.
Oz never bothered trying to learn more. The regulars at Satellite 2 were diverse, but with a high proportion of werewolves, and he had been accepted there into a kind of inner circle within Cleveland’s pack. The atmosphere among them was generally relaxed and warm.
A favorite topic of the inner circle was whether or not there was a fourth door.
Tonight, Oz didn’t need to go any deeper into the building than through the first door. The bartender nodded at him as he approached, then went back to arranging pint glasses until he realized that Oz was waiting at the bar rather than passing through on his way to the second door. “Looking for someone?” he asked after taking and filling his order.
Oz lifted the cold glass of IPA off the bar and replaced it with cash. “That guy,” he said, nodding further down the bar. “Thanks.”
Spike was alone, staring off into space and near the bottom of his own glass. He raised an eyebrow when Oz took the vacant stool next to him, and greeted him with, “Well, if it isn’t Small Dark and Variable.”
“Hey man.” Oz ran a hand through his hair, forgetting for the moment whether it actually was dark, or if Spike just hadn’t seen him since the last dye and couldn’t tell in this light. “Where’s Faith?”
“Home and sleeping, by now.”
Spike tapped his fingers restively on the bar. “Pair of fire demons did a job on us. She took ‘em out alright, but we thought she could use an early night of it. What did you want with her, then?”
“Wanted to talk to both of you, actually,” said Oz. “Giles called yesterday--”
He was interrupted by a cheerful, “Yo, Oz!” and turned to see a familiar couple, whom he had already smelled when they came in a moment ago.
It was the man who had spoken. “Tell me when we’re gonna start a band,” he continued. “You’re killin’ me here.”
The woman laughed and Spike rolled his eyes, but Oz replied, “Right now. This moment. All of us are in it. Only instead of playing music we’re going to solve those murders we keep hearing about in the Plain Dealer, and be ready to back up Buffy and Angel when they get here to fight whatever is doing it.”
“Bloody hell!” said Spike. “When were you going to mention this?”
“I just got here,” Oz pointed out. “Uh, you know Mr. E and Nina, right?”
Nina answered first. “Faith’s boyfriend.”
Spike nodded. “Angel’s ex.” He looked at E. “And...Angel’s ex’s boyfriend. Are you telling me he’s on his way here, with Buffy in tow, well aware of this configuration? He’s just a lit match looking for a puddle of gasoline, isn’t he?”
Oz, who had never had much reason to fret about how the configuration developed, explained, “I think he’s more the one who’s in tow. Giles said Buffy had a Slayer dream and she’s coming to check things out.” He hesitated, not sure if he was meant to keep any part of his conversation with Giles private, but this much they deserved to know: “He said she dreamed about werewolves.”
Mr. E and Nina shared a look with each other, then at Oz. “You know that killer is trying to frame us, right?” said Nina. “The bodies are all ripped apart, and people are already saying werewolves did it. Hell, people who didn’t even believe in werewolves are saying that.”
“I know,” Oz assured her. “All the more reason we need to get involved.”
She still didn’t look happy, but Mr. E nodded. “We’re here for whatever Buffy and Angel need from us,” he said.
“Cheers,” said Spike, but he was peering into his empty glass with a grumpy look on his face. “Lehane n’ me are here for whenever you need someone to walk upright under a full moon. I’ll go let her in on it.” He stood up with a swirl of his black duster and headed for the door, throwing them a wave over his shoulder.
“That’s a relief,” said Nina. “Now we don’t have to sit in this part of the bar.”