Title: Lightning Strikes
Trigger warning: Mental Health issues (I probably should have warned for Giles’ PTSD long before this).Series: Bookends. All the Companion pieces in the series are listed here... It might not make much sense on its own.
"And I must caution you that you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?"
Giles looked wearily across the interview table at Detective Constable Paula Stephens. There had been a great deal of ceremony in loading a new brand cassette tape in the machine and announcing the full names of Giles, herself and her colleague Detective Hasan as being the only people present at that date and time. It was four o'clock in the morning and Giles just wanted to go home for a long shower, but after several courteous, yet mildly intimidating, hours spent 'assisting the police with their enquiries', the arrival of the two detectives seemed to signal they were upping their game.
"Do you understand, sir?" she repeated, to which Giles nodded, but Stephens wasn't satisfied. "For the audio tape if you please," she prompted.
"Oh, sorry, yes." Giles leant forward and addressed the tape recorder very deliberately. "Yes, I understand." He sat back in his chair. "Does this mean I'm under arrest?"
"No, Rupert," Detective Hasan cut in briskly, "Not at the present. The caution is just a necessary formality as we are recording this interview."
Stephens gave a stereotypically reassuring smile. "Don't look so worried, Dr Giles. We just want a formal statement about what happened. It's just to clear up a few ambiguities. I'm sure you appreciate the gravity of the circumstances mean we all want to get this straightened out as quickly as possible."
Giles removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Should I have a lawyer present?"
"That's certainly your right, sir," Stephens stressed. "But lawyers can be quite expensive, especially if there is really nothing for them to do and we can clear this whole matter up between ourselves, discretely."
"We just want to understand what happened last night," Hasan added, looking through a manila file of notes. "You told the uniformed officers you had gone out for a walk? In your own words, can you tell us everything that happened?"
Giles privately doubted they'd have enough tape to record everything that had happened. He was tired and shaken by the events and though the police had been treating him with the utmost respect since they'd picked him up, he really just wanted to go home to bed.
"You had gone for a walk?" prompted Hasan as Stephens sat back in her chair, apparently leaving all the questions to her partner.
"Yes," Giles replied, wondering if 'good cop, bad cop' was a universal thing across all cultures, or just those that had cable TV?
"Nowhere in particular really."
Hasan persisted. "You were observed going past St Mary's church and up onto the heath. Would you know what time that was?"
"I don't know. Late-ish, I suppose."
"Are you in the habit of taking 'late-ish' 'no-where in particular' walks at night?"
Giles thought about it earnestly. "Actually, yes."
"The officers who responded to the 999 call, reported that they found you at 23:10."
Giles decided that as that was more of a statement than a question, he didn't need to respond.
"Isn't that really very 'late-ish' for a walk?" Hasan asked with heavy sarcasm.
Giles shrugged. "I've always been a bit of a night owl. What can I say?"
But light comedy wasn't really cutting it with either of his interrogators. Stephens was looking impassive and Hasan gave him a very cold smile.
"Well, Rupert," he countered. "You could start by saying exactly what happened once you got up onto the heath."
As he couldn't really duck the issue much longer, Giles took a basic swing at some of the facts.
"It was a clear night with good visibility so I explored for a little while and then went up to the Neolithic stone circle - the Singing Stones it's called - and that's where I found her."
Hasan's manila folder contained a number of glossy photos of the crime scene which he laboriously spread out in on the table facing Giles, positioning the girl's face centrally. Her open eyes looked up at him accusingly but Giles ignored them and continued his summary.
"I called for an ambulance and the um, police naturally, and then I waited." There was no reason to mention the frantic call to Buffy's voicemail.
"Did you see anyone else up there?"
"No. Not another soul." That at least, was true.
"No one or no thing suspicious?"
Giles shook his head then leant forward for the benefit of the tape recorder. "No. I did not."
"And you are certain she was dead when you found her?"
"Oh yes, quite. She was cold to the touch." Again, another truth.
"And how exactly did you know her?"
Giles folded his arms and looked cautiously at both of them. "I don't believe I said I did."
Stephens jumped in. "Let me stop you there, Dr Giles. You see, that sort of thing doesn't help. Not in the long run." She smiled as if he were a slow child and adopted a soft tone in her voice. "Because obviously you did know her, and that's not something you'd want to deny now and have challenged later in court. You can see how that would look bad to a jury?"
Her colleague added coldly, "We have a witness that saw both you and the victim, walking past St Mary's church and heading up onto the heath at around 9:30, that's some two hours earlier. How do you account for that?"
He didn't particularly want to but also wondered if he really needed to. Rubbing his hands together, Giles straightened them as if in prayer and rested his chin on the tips. He didn't have to account for mythical witnesses if he didn't want to.
"Of course," began Stephens. "There may be reasons you don't want to admit it to knowing her, perhaps it's a little embarrassing, why you were with her, but we've seen it all before. There is literally nothing you can tell us that would shock us."
He couldn't stop himself from barking out a short laugh. These detectives were no more than thirty-five years a piece, and even if they'd witnessed numerous horrors of police life, there was no way he could explain the supernatural terrors of his previous evening to them without a degree of shock.
Hasan grew impatient. "Let's start again at the very beginning again. What was her name?"
"I don't know. I never set eyes on her before yesterday," he stated truthfully. They had no evidence and would have to prove things, and Buffy would hopefully pick up her damn phone before custody sergeants and magistrates became involved.
"You're a lecturer in college. Was she one of your students perhaps?"
"No. I know all of my students and she wasn't one of them."
Stephens produced a sturdy plastic evidence bag from under the table and laid the tagged hunting knife down for inspection. Giles winced as he recognised it and immediately loathed the fact that both officers had registered him doing so.
"Is this yours?" she asked sweetly.
"Are we going to find your fingerprints on it?"
That was quite a moot point as he couldn't remember and Giles began to wonder if his best strategy were to actually deploy his right to silence. He'd certainly forgotten about that bloody knife in all the excitement and of course they were going to find it. God knows what they were imagining him capable of.
"Are you reluctant to answer because you're not sure or because you are hoping any prints will be too smudged for a positive match?"
Giles risked a sarcastic glare at the younger man but the policeman grinned and talked to his colleague as it were only the two of them.
"I think that might actually be an ivory handle, Paula. It's a beautiful thing isn't it? I doubt that, once handled, anyone could forget a knife like that."
"Did you find any knife wounds?" Giles retorted, with a degree of triumph he immediately regretted as they swooped on the implications of his question.
"We've yet to receive the medical report, but you however, know there were no knife wounds? That's very interesting. Do you have any further insights as to the cause of her death?"
"Oh well," Giles bluffed. "At the time I wondered if she'd been struck by lightning."
"Struck by lightning?" Hasan repeated incredulously.
"Interesting you should say that, sir. There were reports of sudden strange lights, noises and a mysterious fire raging across the heath."
"There you are then."
"Except there was no storm last night. And certainly no fire. The officers who attended didn't find any evidence of anything burning at all."
"Did you see any strange lights or some kind of fire when you were up there with her, Rupert?"
Giles ignored the suggestion. "Not when I was there on my own, no, not now you mention it."
"And yet you think she might have been struck by lightning?"
"Or maybe not. I don't know. I could tell she was dead but I'm not a medical doctor. I was in shock but I managed to call the police straight away. I don't think all this is necessary."
"I understand, sir. It must have been quite traumatic for you, especially in a tragedy like this. Finding a dead body can be very upsetting. Though I gather it's not the first time that has happened to you, is it? When you resided in Sunnydale, California, you also found the body of a Miss Jennifer Calendar. That was another shocking business by all accounts. Where was it you found her body?"
They'd done their homework and he hated it. He hadn't thought about Jenny in years and hearing her name brought a flood of guilt at how he'd neglected her memory. Climbing the stairs, seeing her and grinning. Then seeing her lifeless eyes, the eyes that said you didn't protect me. At least that time he'd remember to close them before calling the police.
"Your own bed wasn't it, Rupert?" Hasan stressed, clearly enjoying the discomfort he was causing. "And they say lightning never strikes twice."
He was in a police station and waiting for Buffy. Focus, old man, focus. Having a blackout in front of police officers was not likely to get him a ride home and an apology from the Chief Constable.
"It's really not the same thing," he mumbled.
"We don't know that. Tell us what really happened last night."
Hasan's voice grew formal. "Can you confirm that you are the same Rupert Giles that was released six weeks ago having been detained under the Mental Health Act of 1983?"
"Sir?" Stephens' voice was concerned. "Are you alright, sir?"
Angelus smiled at him. Enjoying his pain. Taunting him that Buffy wouldn't come for him when that had been the secret he'd been holding out for. That or death. And she hadn't come. He'd lost the game of chess and she hadn't come. She wasn't coming now either.
But now was another beast entirely, and now, as Dr Daniels had taught him, was something to be tamed. Giles blinked, regulated his breathing and felt the coldness of the table under his palms as he pulled the faces of the detectives back into focus with supreme effort.
"I was detained for depression," he specified slowly. "I'm not some knife-wielding serial killer."
"Of course not, sir. I'm just checking the facts of your situation with you."
"My situation?" Giles looked at her.
"Until we get a cause of death we have to consider every option. You yourself said there was no-one else up on the heath. And at the moment your refusal to admit knowing the girl is creating an atmosphere of mistrust that isn't helping. We only want to understand what happened. How did the girl die?"
"I don't know." He was tired of talking to these people and saying nothing.
"Why did you choose to walk to such a remote spot as the Singing Stones? Did she ask you to accompany her?"
In the circumstances, Giles found that terribly funny, though Detective Hasan didn't.
"You were seen with her, two hours previously, walking up to the heath. And by someone who knew you, not some vague description from a stranger, so there really isn't any point denying that any further."
The female detective tried her soothing tone again.
"Maybe she went on ahead and you were supposed to meet her at the stone circle?" she suggested. "And did something happen to her instead? Something awful that you couldn't prevent? Something you hadn't expected?"
"She was cold when I found her," he re-iterated because they couldn't refute that and Giles knew the moment he'd touched her cheek, that it was going to play havoc with estimates on time of death. It was why he'd called the police, and why they in turn, hadn't been able to outright charge him with anything just yet.
"Perhaps she was someone you met in the hospital?" Stephens continued, ignoring the cornerstone of his defence. "Someone who also had a history of depression? That might explain everything. Perhaps you were trying to help her, to talk her down? That's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Often people pick remote, sometimes romantic places. Especially around here."
Giles found a dulled voice. "You think she committed suicide?"
"I blame the Brontës," her partner chipped in. "Every Cathy wants her Heathcliff at her side. Especially at the end."
His brain worked through the policeman's inference. "And you think I helped her in some way?"
"If she was hurting and it was what she wanted..." Stephens was back being his friend. "And then also, maybe it was something you thought you wanted as well? It's completely understandable if you changed your mind. In fact, it's a positive thing really. Good for you."
The door to the room unexpectedly flew open and a uniformed inspector strode in, announcing, "Interview terminated at 7:15 by Inspector Fourcade." He hit stop on the recording machine and pulled the tape out. Both detectives rose in surprise.
"Bag it and seal it, Stephens. It's out of our hands now. We've been invaded by the bloody army."
"The Spook Squad have taken over the crime scene, citing the Official Secrets Act and imposing a Media blackout. Some Captain Appleby or other in charge. He's asked for everything to be handed over to them." He jabbed an angry finger towards Giles. "Including him." With that, Fourcade left as abruptly as he'd entered, his pride clearly hurt at the usurpation of the county's juiciest murder case in years.
Hasan considered their former chief suspect with malicious amusement. "There now, see the trouble you've caused?" he chided. "You should have confided in us, Rupert, when you had the chance."
And Giles, with a sinking feeling, wasn't entirely sure he disagreed.