By Carla Kozak
Page 1 of 4
Summary: Searching for answers, Angel visits the L.A library and finds a connection to Sunnydale.
Disclaimer: All of the characters from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox Television and the WB television network. I am merely a BTVS enthusiast who has woven these characters into a story of my own.
Note: Note: All of my stories are connected to each other in some way.
Further Note: I have used various excerpts from the poem "Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats throughout this story. Also lyrics from the hymn "Rock of Ages" (traditional English translation from the German version of the original Hebrew, which dates back to the middle ages.) Marc Cohn has a beautiful version of this on the CD FESTIVAL OF LIGHT, compilation (of various artists) produced by Robert Duskis and Bob Appel, © 1996 Island Records. Finally, there are some alternatives to "The Dreidel Song."
PRELUDE: The Widening Gyre/Children of the Wanderers
The neighborhood had revealed several surprises. Over all, yes, it was seedy and low rent. But there were little nooks and crannies of warmth and light, and the library was one of them.
It was open late a few nights each week, and on one of these, Angel wandered in. There was a quiet murmur of activity throughout: a group of teens around a magazine-strewn table, two elderly men reading newspapers, small children laughing over books.
The clerk at the front counter gave him a welcoming smile, and after a low-voiced consultation, directed him to the librarian's desk across the room.
She was helping one of the teens, and when she stepped back to her desk, a girl with long dark braids approached her with an open text book. Angel stepped up to the desk to await his turn.
The librarian looked up immediately, also welcoming. "May I help you?" she asked.
"I can wait," he said, indicating the girl and her book.
"Work these on your own for a while, Tamar," she instructed. "I'll check them when you've finished."
"Okay, Mom," the girl answered, and returned to a nearby table.
"She was just here by force of habit," the librarian smiled at him. "Now how may I help you?"
Angel returned the smile. He had a feeling the woman mothered many of the children in the library, but there was enough similarity of feature between her and the girl to note a genetic connection. "I'm not really sure," he said. "I guess I'm just fishing for some suggestions. Do you have any reference books on ... well, mythological beasts, or creatures of local legends? I can't really explain it better than that."
"We have some things here--folk and fairy tale compendiums and source indices, dictionaries of said beasties, books of urban legend and unexplained phenomena. There's a bunch of stuff on the Internet, too, but of course one can never be sure of its accuracy--although with this topic, who knows how accurate anything is? But are those the sorts of things you had in mind?"
"They'll do for a start. I've already done some Internet searching. I was hoping for some older things, or at least references to them. I understand that most of what I need is probably in larger libraries, but I was in the neighborhood," Angel explained.
"Well, you can get started here, and if any of the bibliographies mention other books that you might need, I can help you locate them," she said, leading him toward the reference section. "Are you looking for a particular legend?"
"What I'm really hoping for is something that might have been in, say, a central European community originally, but then cropped up in other areas, over time."
"Ah, a wild golden goose chase," she said.
"Probably," Angel grinned. "But with luck, maybe I'll find a pattern. I guess it's the pattern that I'm really looking for."
The woman perched on a table, leafing through a thick volume. Angel noted that what made her otherwise unremarkable features noteworthy was the glint of intelligence, or perhaps extraordinary perception, in her dark eyes, and a humorous quirk in her smile. "That's where this might come in handy. Because it lists folk motifs, and you might be able to determine if similar tales in different areas are coincidence, or a story that traveled, or maybe something more intrinsic to the human condition. Like the Cinderella story--it has variants all over the world. I guess mistreated children are an unfortunate fact of life everywhere. But you said you were looking for creatures. Some of those will be listed here too, of course--unicorns, mermaids, wolfmen, vampires. Is that the kind of thing you want?"
"That's exactly what I want. Thanks, I'll start with this book." Angel sat down with the book in front of him, taking his notebook and pen from the deep pocket of his duster.
"Good luck. If you have any questions, just ask."
"I'm sure I'll have several," Angel said. "Thanks again ... Ms., Mrs. ... I'm guessing most people don't call you 'Mom'."
"I don't know, some days it seems like that's all I hear--and in imperative tones, too," she smiled. "I'm Naomi Rosenberg--just call me Naomi. Everyone does, unless they call me Mom."
"Okay, I know Rosenberg isn't an uncommon name, but do you have any relatives in Sunnydale?" Angel asked.
"Yes, I do. My cousin Ira and his wife Sheila live there. Do you know them?"
"I know their daughter, Willow," Angel answered, thinking it was kind of strange that of the fewer than 10 people he knew in the world, he should meet the cousin of one of them.
"Ah, wonderful Willow. Carrying on the family tradition of genius, and such a sweetheart, too," Naomi's smile broadened. "Or she was, five years ago. I know Sunnydale isn't that far away, but I swear it's been that long since I last saw her."
"She's still wonderful," he assured her, before turning back to his book.
Angel worked with the resources at hand for a while, but found himself looking up frequently to observe the little world around him. It was a pleasantly diverse and civilized world, a nice contrast to the usual chaos. He looked at Naomi's daughter, Tamar, who sat near him in perfect concentration, and realized that she was quite a beautiful little girl, with delicate features and rather striking coloring--and something about her rang a bell in his memory.
Her head was bent over her homework, dark braids falling over her shoulders to reveal the innocent and vulnerable nape of her neck. Angel checked himself, as he did routinely: was he noting this with some sort of beastly appetite? No--he breathed a small sigh of relief--his reaction to the girl was, if anything, protective. His soul was in control of his emotions, all was as it should be.
"Finding any patterns?" Naomi too was doing a routine check, of her professional domain.
"Several," he said. "I should have known this wouldn't be easy."
"Research never is, especially if it's worthwhile," she laughed. "Not in the beginning, anyway. But I always find it miraculous when a good theory calls up substance from shadow. Give it a little time."
"The only problem is I'm not sure how much time I have."
"Then I'm hesitant to give you more suggestions of things to read, but you never know where you might find answers," Naomi said. "I've been wondering about transcripts from oral history projects. A lot of folklore shows up in some of them. I guess I'm bringing it up because of a personal connection--I did one myself, on my great-grandmother. Turned it into my graduate thesis, and even had parts of it published."
"She must have had a colorful life," Angel said.
"I'll say--even more so than the usual trials and tribulations of 'young immigrant adapting to a new land.' She died when I was young, but I remembered the stories she'd told me. I got my grandmother, my great-aunt and my mother together, and we shared every detail we could remember about her. She'd met a vampire once."
"Excuse me?" Angel interjected.
"See, that's the thing," Naomi responded. "She was an artist--a musician, that is--and while she had a healthy ego, she didn't have an artistic temperament. She was very focused and down to earth. But that was one story she insisted was true--when she was a young woman, she'd been pursued by a very handsome vampire."
"Could I read your thesis?" Angel asked. "That's just the kind of information I'm looking for."
"Sure, I'll bring it in. You can read it here."
A boy, about 13, dashed into the library just then. "Hey, Mom," he greeted Naomi, and then approached Tamar.
"Do you want to come home now with me and Dad, or later with Mom?" he asked her.
Tamar stood up, gathering her books together. "Now. I want to practice." She picked up a violin case that had been stowed under the table.
Angel smiled at her. "You're a violinist?"
She nodded, smiling shyly.
"There are musical genes on both sides of the family. The ones from my branch missed me, but more than made up for it in Tamar," her mother commented. "Of course, she's named for that great-grandmother--great-great-grandmother in her case--I've been talking about, who was a rather well-known violinist in her day."
"Tamara Perlmutter," Angel said.
Naomi regarded him with astonishment. "I didn't think she was that well-known."
"I worked in Lithuania, a few years back. Did some research into the pre-War artistic community. I took a guess on the similarity of names. There were plenty of articles about Tamar's great-great-grandmother--she commanded a lot of attention." Angel hoped he'd covered up his gaff. It's all true, he said to himself--in a manner of speaking, anyway. No need to go into the details of his work, or just how many years back he'd done it. His explanation would fit well under his guise of free-lance journalist.
"Hmmm. So she'd always said," Naomi assented. "What a bizarre coincidence. I'd love to see those articles. But surely they weren't in English?"
"No--I read them in Russian. I'm no expert with Cyrillic, but I can scan a newspaper."
Tamar gave her mom a glancing kiss goodbye. The boy said, "I did most of my homework in study hall. I'll help Dad with dinner."
"Don't forget to include a vegetable," Naomi hinted, and he rolled his eyes.
"Well, I try," she said fondly, watching them leave. "That was my son, Aaron. My husband and I have barely let the kids out of our sight lately. All those disappearances. I know we're being mother hens, but I don't care."
"I don't blame you a bit," Angel said.
It was due to those very disappearances that he was pursuing his research. Just a few, and seemingly unconnected, but still--when first one child disappears, and then another, and yet another, in various parts of a city, even one as large and sprawling as Los Angeles, people are put on the alert. Angel had been on it since the second child was reported missing, but he was still in the dark. The folklore link felt right, somehow, though he hadn't yet found quite the right story to guide him.
That was Angel's first visit to the library; he became a frequent patron. It was almost December, and the early sunset allowed him a fair amount of time there. He liked the atmosphere, and felt he worked better if he got out of the small office from time to time.
He'd directed Cordelia to it as well, though of course she had complained initially. Angel grinned at the memory: he'd left her a message to bring some of his notes there, and she'd stormed in, agitated.
"Oh, God. Not another library. What is it with you guys? Can't you think up anything new--and a little less boring?"
Martin, one of the desk clerks, looked up and laughed. "Hey, there are worse places. And believe me, I'm speaking from experience."
Cordelia, having dropped the files Angel had requested at the table where he was sitting, snorted in derision. Angel wondered briefly how it was that attractive women could look good even while doing unattractive things. But he just said, "thanks for the files. You don't have to stick around."
Cordelia, however, had found a distraction. "Hey. There are some great magazines here. I used to get a lot of these."
"Well, you still can," Naomi had walked over to see who was causing the minor disturbance in the reference section. "Do you have a library card?"
"You mean I can borrow these magazines--for free?" Cordelia asked, in disbelief.
Naomi grinned. "That is the philosophy behind the idea of the public library," she said. "Martin would be happy to help you apply for a card. You'll get it right away. Borrow whichever ones you want." And so Cordelia, too, began hanging out at the branch--and often seemed to have questions for Naomi, Angel noted.
He had given her some background on Cordelia: how they'd known each other in Sunnydale, and each had been surprised to meet the other in LA. How Cordelia had become the victim of an unexpected reversal of fortune, and was doing her best to be independent.
"She needed a job, and I realized I could use an assistant. I can't pay her much, but at least she's managing rent and stuff." Not too much stuff, he figured--especially as Cordelia wasn't accustomed to being on a budget. He worried about her, but was discovering she had a tough inner core.
"I'd hate to see her turn too tough," Naomi said. "The city can do that to people. I can imagine how difficult it's been. I'm guessing she's not used to being a little fish, and there's no bigger pond than LA."
Once again, Angel was impressed by Naomi's perception. She sure had pegged Cordelia correctly.
"Is she trying out for acting and modeling jobs?" Naomi asked him.
"Yes. That's another good thing about working for me--the hours are flexible," Angel said.
The librarian was all business now. "We have all sorts of resources that could help her out with that," she said, wandering off to collect some of them.
Thus Angel and Cordelia became part of the extended family of the library--the children who followed Naomi around begging for stories, adolescents with crushes on Martin, parents who knew that the branch was the safest place for their children until they finished work and could collect them, older "regulars" who had been reading their papers and exchanging gossip there for years. Angel found himself helping kids with their math homework, and aiding Aaron in an extra-credit design for a medieval European village. Cordelia and Tamar, with an audience of envious young girls, followed the directions in a book and French-braided each other's long hair. And the days grew even shorter.
One Thursday, shortly before the library closed for the night, Naomi issued them an invitation.
"Jake and I are having our annual Chanukah party this Sunday evening. I hope you two can come. It's a large and interesting mix of people, and we always have enough food for several armies."
"Well, I'm not sure--" Angel and Cordelia both began to decline, but Martin and the other members of the library staff encouraged them to attend.
"It's a tradition," Martin said. "Best party in town, and you know I'm a party animal. You're gonna love it."
"We have friends, relatives, people from here, and from the kids' music school, and Jake's colleagues and medical residents," Naomi looked at Cordelia when she said this.
"Medical residents? Doctors? Guys?" Cordelia asked.
"They'll be in need of some of their skills when they meet you," Naomi assured her. "You'll have them gasping for breath."
"And if you're not looking for a date, the latkes are fine, and you'll want to see the magic in my fingers when it comes to spinning a dreidel," Martin said dryly.
Angel and Cordelia exchanged confused looks.
"I'm not sure about the latkes," Angel said, "but I think a dreidel is a four-sided top, used in a game of chance."
"Well, duh. Everyone knows that," Cordelia told him. "You know, from the song."
"Well, duh. I don't think I ever learned that particular song."
Angel felt a small hand slip through his, and looked down at Tamar. "Latkes are potato pancakes," she said. "And the song is stupid. I'll teach you how to play dreidel."
"Now there's an offer I can't refuse," he smiled at her, amused to see she was blushing.
Later that night, in his apartment, he finished the book he'd borrowed from Naomi. As he read of an encounter with a vampire, from Tamara Perlmutter's point of view, Angel had to wonder if the circles of his existence were broadening--or were they closing in on him?
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