HELL FROZEN OVER
By Jeremy Patrick (email@example.com)
CONTINUITY NOTE: Portions of this story take place during Buffy’s junior year of high school, before the events described in the second-season episodes Surprise and Innocence, while other portions take place approximately two weeks after the end of the sixth season, but before Spike has regained his soul.
FIRST PROLOGUE: FOUR YEARS, SIX MONTHS AGO
The glass shattered on the tile floor, sending broken shards scattering as a small puddle of apple juice spread rapidly in all directions.
“Damn it Katie!” Michael Tintsman yelled. “Just . . . just go to your room! And watch your feet."
“Michael, calm down,” said Maggie Tintsman, watching Katie carefully pick her way across the tile floor, careful to avoid the merest drop of the juice. When she saw Katie enter her bedroom and shut the door, she continued. “She’s only six--she’ll get the hang of it.”
Michael rubbed his eyes with his fingers and then swept his hands through his short buzz cut. He loosened his tie before removing it completely and draping it over Katie’s now-empty chair. In their small suburban house outside of Washington, D.C., it was hard to find real solitude when something got on your nerves.
“I didn’t mean to yell,” said Michael, somewhat apologetically. “But it’s the second time this week. I know she wants to be a big girl, but there’s nothing wrong with her drinking out of the plastic cups for a while longer. And do you know what it would cost me to get this suit dry-cleaned if she would have spilled it on me?”
Maggie ignored him and started sweeping up the wet pieces of glass into a small dustpan. She was almost finished when the doorbell rang.
“Finish your dinner, hon, I’ll see who it is,” she said. The last few weeks had been stressful around the house, ever since Michael wrote a negative report on the performance capabilities of a proposed project, causing his employer, the Department of Defense, to halt its pre-production planning. Although he did the right thing, most of Michael’s fellow employees saw it otherwise—they had worked for years to develop the project to where it was, and having it “killed” so close to final approval was galling. It was one thing to work in a place where you didn’t get along with your co-workers; it was another thing entirely to work in a place where they actively despised you.
Michael picked tentatively at his meatloaf. It was just an hour after sundown. Maybe he could take Katie
out for an ice cream and cheer her up. After all, he thought as he heard his wife invite somebody in, it really wasn’t her fault. She’s just a kid, and kids always try to act more grown-up than they really are.
Maggie poked her head in through the kitchen doorway. He thought she was still as pretty as when he married her, even if middle-age had come for them both. “Hon, it’s someone here to see you. They said they work for one of your contractors.” She paused and then continued. “I’ll go talk to Katie.”
Michael pushed his plate away and draped his napkin over it. It was highly unusual—and probably against Department regulations—for independent contractors to visit an employee outside of working hours. If this is about the project, he thought while standing up, I’ll really give them a piece of my mind.
On his living room couch sat two perfectly ordinary looking fellows in well-made three-piece suits, each with a briefcase and wearing dark sunglasses. They sat stiffly, carefully eyeing everything in the room. They stood up as soon as he walked in.
“Michael Tintsman?” queried one of the men.
“We have a message for you. ‘Next time, leave well enough alone.’”
With that, each of the two men removed their sunglasses. Suddenly their faces seemed to meld and contort—their foreheads became more prominent, their lips curled up into a snarl, and their teeth grew into fangs. The flesh on their fingers pulled back, revealing sharp claws.
“Look at him,” said one of the visitors to his companion. “He’s scared like a little girl.”
The other one laughed and then reached forward and grabbed Michael by the collar with one hand and threw him across the room. Michael sailed through the air, hitting the wall on the far side and landing splayed out on the floor.
Maggie heard the commotion and came running into the room. The other stranger grabbed her by the neck and lifted her into the air. She gurgled and gasped, trying to free herself from his hand. Her legs kept pumping, as if she were running through the air, but he held her firmly. He shook her from side to side slowly, and within seconds the life ebbed out of her and she stopped kicking. He threw her lifeless corpse on the floor, smiling the whole time.
Michael was in a daze. Lights and voices flashed all around him, but he couldn’t seem to make anything out. He knew he was in danger, and that Maggie and Katie had to be protected. He tried to raise himself off the floor, but it was as if steel weights were holding him down. “You sure we’re s’posed to leave him alive?” he heard a disembodied voice say.
“Yeah. Angel said to take care of anyone else but to leave him kicking. That way he’d really get the message.”
“I think there’s one left.”
“Well, let’s get her. I’m hungry.”
Mercifully, Michael Tintsman blacked out completely before he could see what happened next.