Chapter 26–Two Conversations, One Decision

"Yeah, I guess he did. You should thank him when he starts stalking you again."

Rachel rolled her eyes. "And say what? 'Thanks for killing my mortal enemy for me, Andrew, ol' buddy ol' pal.' Yeah, I'm sure he'll respond very well to that."

"Well if he's saving your life–soul–then you should at least say something."

"But if he's only saving me to get back together with me, ulterior motives generally warrant no necessary thanks." Rachel replied with a disgusted look on her face. She set down the television remote on the living room table.

"That may be true, but still–even if you say 'Thanks, now stop hanging around or you'll be dust,' that would still be a thanks in some weird sense of the word."

"Yeah, and how exactly do you think that he would react to that? Would he say 'Of course I'll stay away from you, but your friends are another matter,' or would he go back on his word and still stalk me like he's been doing anyway? No, I'll just have to ignore him and hope that he starts becoming obsessed with someone else."

"Because we both know that he's that kind of guy."

"Right," she stated dejectedly.

"Look, John, thanks for coming over and all, but I really need to talk to Chris about this. Andrew has now killed two humans–that we actually know the names of–and we don't know where to find him. You just go home and I'll call you when I figure this out."

"Figure out what? Your mortal enemy is now dead, but you want to go out and punish the killer? I know that Andrew is crazy and all, but he just did you a huge favor! What more to you want?"

"What more do I want? I want to make sure that my family and friends are safe, and that includes you John. Andrew is, like you said, crazy on top of being obsessive. Now that he has depleted the number of people between him and me by one, how many more people does he still have to get rid of? Too many. Now like I said, I need to go see Chris and brainstorm about how to make sure that Andrew doesn't see anyone else in my circle of friends as a threat."

Rachel walked to her front door and gathered her purse and keys before pausing with her hand on the doorknob.

"Look, I'm sorry that I need to run out on you, but I'm doing this as much for you as for the rest of my friends. If you want to, you can be mad at me, but I'll just have to deal with that. Before you leave, lock the door behind you. There's a spare key behind the house under the eaves on the porch. She met John's eyes for a moment. "Good night John.

Rachel opened the door and walked onto her front porch into the welcoming night air. She did not look behind her, but she knew that John was still in her living room as he had been when she left the house. Only the knowledge of what she had to do kept her from going back into the house.

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"Chris? Chris are you home yet?"

Rachel knocked once more on the door in front of her.

"Chris, if you don't open this door–"

"You'll do what? Kick it down?" Chris opened the door and ushered Rachel into its warmth.

"I was going to say 'huff and puff and blow it down', but kick works, too."

Rachel sat down on the couch while her guardian poured herself a cup of tea for additional warmth. When she finished, she took her place opposite Rachel in a small armchair.

"So you saw the news broadcast, too." Rachel nodded. "This is a surprising twist of events, if I may say so myself–not entirely unwelcome, but disturbing nonetheless."

"That's a bit of an understatement, don't you think? Andrew just killed someone else, and left a trail behind to show for it. He's getting sloppy.

"No, I don't think it's sloppiness that accounts for his actions, Rachel, it's a warning. This warning, however, was for every other soul dealer that would have wanted to get his or her hands on you. A great many dealers out there knew about you and about the fact that Mrs. Baker was after you, and if she's to be found dead–with her blood drained as an added 'bonus'–all of those traders will be thinking twice about coming after you without the right amount of reinforcements."

Rachel was becoming more and more aggravated with Chris' logic. "So are you trying to tell me that there are going to be more of these soul-seekers after me in the future? If that's the case, you'll be wise to just kill me now." She stood up and paced around the room with nervous energy.

"That is not what I said, Rachel," Chris started, still calm. "I said if the traders wanted to come after you still after what Andrew left behind for them to find, they would be reconsidering coming back here since you evaded their most prominent soul collector. That is something that should come as a ray of good news."

"Right." Rachel poured herself a cup of tea so that her hands would be occupied with something. "So, since we needn't worry about at least some of the people after me, let's worry about the stalker that killed the one that we were worried most about. What should we do about him?"

Chris sipped her tea thoughtfully and responded after a long moment. "We need to see what he does now that your worst threat is dealt with. That is the best start that I can think of, and after that we'll have to play it one card at a time."

"So you're saying that we get to let Andrew roam free, acting out however he deems appropriate, and then we get to clean up the mess . . . Yeah, that sounds wonderful and responsible. That is, up until he kills someone else that he 'thinks' is a threat to our living out the rest of our lives together." She sat down in her seat once more, hot tea in hand. "There is no real way that we can deal with this, is there Chris?"

"NO, not unless you plan on getting rid of Andrew before he hurts someone else that you actually care for."

Rachel looked at Chris, the realization of the truth of her words hitting her. "Thanks Chris, I think I'll leave you alone. I've bothered you long enough, and you deserve a rest from irritating young slayers. Good night."

She stood from her spot on the couch and walked into the kitchen to put down her still-full cup before gathering her things and walking to the front door.

"Rachel." Rachel paused and turned around. "Don't do anything that you will regret. Think about every aspect of the situation before you rush headlong into a problem and end up with a mess on your hands."

Nodding her head in understanding, Rachel walked outside and looked up at the starry night sky looking for something to tell her how to act. When nothing appeared, she went home to an empty house, locked up after John had left.

She stood in her living room and stared out the open window into the dark, lonely night. Of one thing she was sure. The 'how' and 'when' were insignificant, but the 'what' was a given:

Andrew had to die.