“There’s no fourth door,” a slightly drunk werewolf was saying. She waved her arm in expansive gestures to support her theory. “Satellite 3 is out there, Satellite 2 is in here, Satellite 1 is in there. Three, two, one. What would be next, Satellite Zero?”
“No no no,” replied her companion, also a werewolf, at about the same level of intoxication as she was. “The point is, each room is a satellite, so they have to be orbiting something.” He cast a hazy look at the door to Satellite 1. “I bet it’s a meth lab.”
Oz had explained to Howell earlier that he was likely to overhear a few conspiracy theories about the fourth door, but Howell had departed not long ago, pursued by his own paranoia, so Oz kept his amusement to himself as he sat at the bar until the couple had exhausted that topic and moved on to another. He didn’t want to join in anyone’s conversation, but he didn’t exactly want to be alone, either.
Seeing Willow again had rattled him. She had been cordial, if distracted, and had spent only a few minutes with him and Howell before taking her astral form away to visit Faith’s house. He wished he could tell how she felt about seeing him again.
The conspiracy theory couple made their way to the door back out to Satellite 3. They were the last patrons there except for himself, Oz realized, and he checked the ornate clock over the bar. “I can get out of here if you’re trying to close up,” he said to Kell, who had her feet up and looked like she was doing a crossword puzzle.
She shrugged, but then put down her book and pen and stood up. “Hey,” she said, leaning over the bar. “Didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but you guys weren’t that quiet and you can’t really hide an astral projection in here. I just want to know if something’s coming up that all of us should be worried about.”
“I don’t know yet,” he answered. “If anything, it’s probably already here.”
Kell nodded sadly. “The killings...”
“And whether or not it was one of us, we’ll get blamed for it. Yeah. I’m on it, but stay safe, Kell.”
Before she could respond, there was a loud crash coming from outside the room. Satellite 2 was soundproofed enough that it was a surprise to hear anything at all from Satellite 3, even with the supernaturally sharp hearing that Oz and Kell shared, and they only had to exchange one worried glance before both headed to the door and down the stairs, dismissing the bouncer as they passed him on the way.
The crash was followed by angry voices, and by the time they got into the main room, most everyone there had backed up to the walls, forming a spectator circle around a tipped-over table. The werewolf couple who had just been talking upstairs was there, the man standing before the woman as if to protect her from an unfamiliar girl in a short dress and smeared makeup. “She’s a monster!” the girl screamed, pointing. “She’s a werewolf!”
The werewolf woman wasn’t saying anything at all, and the man’s words were too fast, with too many interruptions, to be coherent. He made one threatening step toward the girl in the dress, and another man came up to push him back. About five different onlookers accused them, and each other, of being drunk.
Oz wasn’t sure if there was a hope of calming anyone down, but he knew it was his last chance before the fight became physical. The werewolves would recognize him, so he turned to them first, holding out his hands disarmingly and moving slowly to get between them and the others. Before he had made it there, though, he saw to his surprise that he wasn’t the only interfering pacifist.
“Hi Oz,” said Buffy over her shoulder as she stepped in front of the girl who had been screeching accusations. Angel, at her side, looked at him and nodded once.
“Buffy, Angel,” he greeted them each in turn. Having three people in the middle instead of one was a significant advantage; already the combatants didn’t seem to know who to be yelling at. “Been a while. How’s LA?”
Buffy shrugged, looking and sounding as casual as if nothing of interest was happening around them. “We get by. Thanks for letting Angel stay with you, by the way.”
As she talked, she shifted her feet and moved her body subtly so that nobody behind her could walk through the conversation and get at their opponents. Angel was doing the same thing, gradually widening the zone of neutrality that they had created, and Oz realized that he had been doing it himself. It was working. People near the back were dispersing, bored, and the ones at the center of the dispute seemed reluctant to continue it without a mob to back them up.
“No trouble,” Oz responded to Buffy.
Angel caught the double meaning and grinned at him. “I don’t make much noise.”
There was the sound of a woman stalking away in a huff, and Oz quietly noted their victory. Then someone touched his shoulder, and he snapped back to wariness until he registered that it was Kell. “The boss is watching,” she said in a hushed voice. “He wants you and your friends to leave.”
Oz looked up and around. He didn’t know who Kell’s boss was, but there was an unfamiliar grey-haired man in a suit jacket near the door to Satellite 2, leaning against the wall and looking very, very cross. It had to be him.
How their actions could have offended him, Oz didn’t know, but it wasn’t time to ask questions. “Okay,” he said to Kell, then motioned at Buffy and Angel. “You guys ready to bounce?”
They both looked confused, but acquiesced easily once they saw that the fight wasn’t about to rekindle. Oz led the way to the exit, and Kell accompanied them, casting the occasional worried look in the direction of the glowering suit. When they were all safely outside the door, she said at a normal volume, “Thanks for not making a fuss. You’re not 86’d or anything, we just can’t negotiate his rules when he’s here.”
“I’ve never seen him before,” said Oz. “Who is he?”
Kell raised an eyebrow at him. “Dameon Wolfe,” she stated. “He owns the place.”