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|by Jim Eaton
Afterwards, in the dusty little corners where London's secret servants drink together, there was argument about where the Angel case history should really begin. On crowd, led by a blimpish fellow in charge of the Cruciamentum archive, went so far as to claim that the fitting date was forty years ago when 'that arch-cad Ethan Rayne' was born into the world under a treacherous star. Rayne's name struck a chill into them. It does so even today. For it was this same Rayne who, while still at Oxford, was recruited by Eyghon the demon as a 'mage' or 'sorcerer' or, in English, servant of Evil, to work against them. And who with Eyghon's guidance drew Rupert Giles toward chaos. And whose eventual undoing - thus the line of reasoning - brought the Watchers so low that they were forced into fatal dependence on an American group, whom they called in there own strange jargon 'The Scoobies'. The Scoobies changed the game entirely, said the blimpish fellow: musch as he might have deplored power tennis or bodyline bowling. And ruined it, too, said his seconds.
To less flowery minds, the true genesis was Rupert Giles's appointment as watcher to the new Slayer, which occurred in the September of 1997. Once Giles had got Jenny under his skin, they said, there was no stopping him. The rest was inevitable, they said. Poor old Giles: but what a mind under that burden!
One scholarly sort, a clairvoyant of some sort, in the jargon a 'seer', even insisted, in his cups, upon January 26th 1854 as the natural date, when a certain Richard Wilkins brought a wagon train to a sun-bleached valley called El Boca del Inferno, at the top of the San Fernando Valley, and a few days later founded the town of Sunnydale. With Wilkins's arrival, said the scholar, Sunnydale became known for it's Hellmouth, and in consequence, one of the centres of demonic activity. If the Master had not tried to open the Hellmouth - he said, not entirely serious - then there would have been no Slayer, no Scoobs, no Ascension: and therefore no reason for the brooding ensouled vamp to set up as an universal uncle in LA.
Whereas the hard men - the grounded Watchers, the demon-hunters and the spell casters who made their own murmered caucus always - they saw the question solely in operational terms. They pointed to Giles's deft footwork in tracking down Acathla's rock; to Giles's deft handling of the girl's parent; and to his wheeling and dealing with the reluctant Powers that Be, who held the mystical purse strings, and dealt with rights and permissions in the secret world. And that wonderful moment when he used a chainsaw to open the frat house. For these pros, the Angel case was a victory of technique. Nothing more. They saw the shotgun marriage with the Scoobys as just another skilful bit of tradecraft in a long delicate poker game. As to the final outcome: to hell. The king is dead. Long live the next one.
The debate continues wherever old mystics meet, though the name of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, understandably, is seldom mentioned. Occasionally, it is true, somebody does, out of foolishness or sentiment or plain forgetfulness, dredge it up, and there is atmosphere for a moment; but it passes. Only the other day a young probationer just out of the Councils newly refurbished training school at Sarratt - in the jargon again 'the Nursery' - piped it out in the under- thirtise bar, for instance. A watered-down version of the Angel case had recently been introduced at Sarratt as material for syndicate discussion, even playlets, and the poor boy, still very green, was fairly brimming with excitement to discover he was in the know:'But my God,'he protested, enjoying the kind of fool's freedom sometimes granted to naval midshipmen in the wardroom, 'my God, why does nobody seem to mention Wyndham-Pryce's part in the affair? If anybody carried the load, it was Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. He was the spearhead. Well wasn't he? Frankly?' Except, of course, he did not utter the name 'Wyndham-Pryce, nor 'Wesley' either, not least because he did not know them; but used instead the cryptonym allocated to Wesley for the duration of the case.
Peter Collins fielded this loose ball. Collins is tall and tough and graceful, and probationers awaiting first posting tend to look up to him as some kind of Greek god.
'Wyndham-Price was the stick that poked the fire,' he declared curtly, ending the silence. 'Any Watcher would have done as well, some a damn sight better.'
When the boy still did not take the hint, Collins rose and went over to him and, very pale, snapped into his ear that he should fetch himself another drink, if he could hold it, and thereafter guard his tongue for several days or weeks. Whereupon the converstaion returned once more to the topic of dear old Rupert Giles, surely the last of the true greats, and what was he doing with himself these days, back in retirement?
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