The Fall of Innocence
Natalie Moss



I simply loathe Monday morning Planning Meetings. Bright and early, we crowd into the tenth floor boardroom and try to outdo each other in the whole “who’s more evil” thing. This particular Monday morning, Larry caught the Senior Partners’ ears or whatever with an idea about bringing on the Apocalypse by sacrificing every child in some godforsaken town in Utah and I broke a heel. Those shoes cost me $200!

The week was not starting off well at all.

On the way back to my office, I ran into Nathan, who wanted a quick word. I like Nathan. He’s a bit more open about our work at Wolfram and Hart than Holland ever was. If you listen to Holland, we’re just another law firm with a somewhat unique client base. Besides, Holland had the bland toad look so many managers get here at Wolfram and Hart, while Nathan has that whole Silver Fox thing going for him.

“Lilah,” he said, “the Senior Partners are not completely happy with the surveillance on the Hyperion Hotel…”

“I told the Technical Department over and over again…” I answered. I mean, if you can’t pass the blame to a colleague, who can you pass it to?

“This is not a technical problem, Lilah.” he said. Obviously, he could smell a blame hand-off at thirty paces. I composed my face into Look # 42: through attentiveness.

“The Senior Partners are generally pleased with the technical quality of the surveillance tapes,” he continued, “but they need to know more than what time Angel drinks his morning blood. They also need to know what Angel and his people are…you know, feeling.”

“‘Feeling’, Nathan?” I was shocked. I had never heard that word used in this building before in any context except maybe “I can feel the knife in my back”.

Nathan smiled that embarrassed grin one gets when trying to explain a logical absurdity. “They mean how Angel and his people are really reacting to our attentions,” He laughed. “I know, Lilah, I know, we here at Wolfram and Hart do not do ‘feelings’, but the Senior Partners place a great deal of stock in those sorts of things. And, since this is rather special, it falls in Special Projects’ basket.”

How delightful.

I promised to get back to him later that day with some idea of how to gauge the “feelings” of the Angel group and went into my office.

It was clear we weren’t going to be gauge their feelings through the micro-cams we’d scattered throughout the Hyperion. I called Files and Records and asked for the Angel file to be brought up. Then, remembering her rather “all-inclusive” approach to record keeping, I quickly called back. Doubtless Files and Records was already organizing some of the bigger demons on the payroll to bring up all thirty-seven cabinets of Angel’s case file. To her audible disappointment, I told her I meant the ultra, ultra brief Executive Summary only.

When it arrived, I dug through the twenty pound box for our copies of the good stuff. I put my feet up, admired my legs, waited for all the Monday morning stress to melt away and started going through the Angel Investigations’ personnel files.

Clearly, Angel was not at the top of my list. He was a player and, even though he was a vampire, he was also one of the Champions of Humanity, at least for the moment. He was also unbearably rigid about his do-gooding. On the other hand, every once in awhile, he let the mask slip, and when he did…hmmm! Very nice. Oops, have to watch that. White skirts don’t handle stains well.

Alright, let’s see who else is on the list. Cordelia Chase. Oh yes, St. Cordelia. I love her eyes, and some day I must add them to my collection. She’s a beauty and a bitch, a combination I’ve always found very alluring, especially in the mirror every morning. Once upon a time I would have done…well, not anything, but quite a lot to see if her skin tasted as good as it looked. Since she became a seer, though, she’s almost as insufferable as Angel. Still, I really wouldn’t mind getting to know her so much better. Let’s put her in the maybe column.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, ex-Watcher, ex-Demon Hunter, ex-everything. Thin and reedy with a feeble chin, puppy dog eyes and delusions of grandeur. Obviously another of Angel’s charity cases. The file says he’s starting to show some chops, though, so he’d probably shoot himself before talking to me. Maybe…but no. Not in a million years. There are things I won’t do for the firm. Well, not without a diamond bracelet thrown in.

Next is Charles Gunn. Yummy! Every so often, you just have to go with handsome and muscular, and Gunn was that by the cart load. On the other hand, he was born and raised in one of LA’s less-pleasant sections and once led a gang of demon-hunters. No, he had the street smarts to smell me coming a mile away. Perhaps some other day, Charlie.

Which left me with the new one, Winifred Burkle, also know as “Fred.” I hate the practice of calling women by men’s names; it reminds me too much of field hockey, scabby knees and unattractive kilts. It’s all just a little too butch for my taste. The file noted she had been a librarian and a grad student before she disappeared. Apparently she reappeared from wherever and Angel took her under his wing (oh, that is too precious; I’ll have to tell Nathan that one). She stays in her room at the Hyperion most of the time. Hm! In addition to possessing a genius-level IQ, Winifred also incessantly writes arcane symbols on the walls, mumbles to herself and is a high functioning paranoid-delusional. She could almost be a full Partner here.

The file had a picture. Oh my, yes. Lovely face and her eyes! Have you ever seen the eyes of a doe just before you plunge in the knife? All frightened and wide-eyed? Winifred was the very image of that kind of innocence.

I so enjoy the innocent. They have so far to fall.

Now to figure out a way to meet her without Angel and his pets getting in the way.

*****************************************************************

That night, I had a chat with the leader of our surveillance team (actually a gang of demon street thugs for hire, but everyone wants to be a PI these days) and it seems Winifred has a serious taco Jones. Every night she crawls out her window and sneaks off to this restaurant down the street, where she wolfs back three or four at a sitting. Then she sneaks back in, assuming no one’s the wiser.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned working at Wolfram and Hart, it was that someone is always watching.

Obviously Winifred chose this particular restaurant for its location, because it certainly wasn’t for its décor or hygiene. Fly-blown, probably rat infested and quite frankly disgusting to anyone higher on the food chain than a roach, it would have been at least bearable if the cook hadn’t insisted on standing around staring at my boobs while I tried to drink the sludge he called coffee. Nice man. Somehow I know we’ll meet again in Other Places, where I will gladly fry his testicles in polyunsaturated oil for all eternity.

This pleasant reverie was broken by the sound of the bell on the door. I looked at my watch. 3:00 AM, and here’s our Winifred, trying not to look ever so sneaky. Her mousy hair kept hiding her lovely face, but I have an eye for that sort of thing. Besides the doe-eyes and the exquisite jaw line, she had one of those slim whipcord bodies that only comes from constant exercise. If she had been under my wing, I would have chopped all that hair off so I could see her face and had her in something ever so tight to show off those pretty muscles. Perhaps a bob cut and a nice vinyl bodysuit… Ah, I could have gone on like that for hours, but I remembered the firm’s motto: Business Is Business.

As I walked over to her table, she was jamming a taco into her mouth, but she stopped chewing and looked up when my shadow crossed in front of her. The image of her hair covered with the remnants of what was undoubtedly a rat taco is something I will carry with me always.

“Ms. Winifred Burkle?” I said. “My name is Lilah Morgan. I’m an Attorney with the firm of Wolfram and Hart.” Then I gave her Look #22: sincere interest.

Thankfully, she stopped chewing that disgusting mess, but when she tried to say something, the remains of the taco sprayed across the table top.

“Words to live by.” I said as I sat down.

Her eyes darted all over the place, as if she expected someone to take her away at any moment. Finally, she said, “You’re that lawyer Angel told me about. He said you were an evil bit…that you were bad. And that I wasn’t supposed to talk to you.” Her accent was pure Texas. Maybe we should have dug Lindsay out of retirement for this one. After all, he was the firm’s shit-kicker.

So Angel hadn’t filled her in on the big picture yet. Interesting.

I smiled and said, “You know, Ms. Burkle –may I call you Winifred? - many people in our society have such an unjustified prejudice against lawyers. We’re the victims of stereotyping, the same as librarians. Most people think librarians are boring, uptight, and perhaps even a little insular. That’s not true, though, is it?”

A tiny little smile shone through the mop of brown hair. “No, I suppose not.” she ventured.

“And it’s the same with lawyers,” I said. “We play a valuable role in society. Now, I know your friend Angel doesn’t like my firm, but that’s only because we’ve had to confront him occasionally on things he’s done to our clients.”

“I know Angel!” she squeaked “And he would never, ever do anything…”

What is it about Angel that creates such loyalty? Is it just a case of humidity in the silks, or is there something else going on?

“No, of course not,” I quickly said. “But still, perhaps you’ve noticed that Angel is a bit different from other people?”

She solemnly nodded. Clearly she had seen the mask slip from Angel’s face and got a close look at what was really inside.

“Well, there you go!” I said and we were happy girlfriends with a big secret about someone else. “Sometimes, when Angel’s in one of his moods, things happen that aren’t very nice.”

She actually giggled! “Sorry about being so jumpy,” she gushed. “When I first saw you standing over me, well, I thought maybe you were from my parents, come to take me back!”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I said. “Trouble at home?”

“No, it’s just that Mom and Dad, well, they never approved of my coming to Los Angeles. I never fit in back home. And when I…went away, I guess it must have made them crazy.” she said. “They’re a little over-protective.”

“Winifred, may I you a favor?” I asked, looking right into her eyes. “If anything bad ever happens with your Mom or Dad or even Angel, I hope you’ll think of me as a friend you can come to.”

And I gently covered her hand with mine.

When she didn’t immediately pull her hand away, I know I was on to something.

“Fred.” she mumbled, her head down.

“Hmm?” I replied in my witty fashion.

Winifred dimpled. “Everybody calls me ‘Fred.’”

I reached up and ever so slowly pulled the hair out of her face. “Not me. I never call an attractive woman by a man’s name.”

Bingo! She blushed and finally pulled her hand away and hid it under the table. Forget low self-esteem, this girl had no self-esteem whatsoever. The first person who showed her she was a lovely, interesting, albeit very eccentric, woman would have her soul in the palm of their hand.

Ahem. Of course, it would all be for the greater good of Wolfram and Hart and the Senior Partners. Yes indeed.

Time to pull back a bit. In a crisp tone, I said, “We represent some people interested in purchasing the Hyperion Hotel for a substantial amount of money. Now, Angel has that prejudice about lawyers and I haven’t been able to speak to him. I wonder if I could just get some minor details from you?”

So now she was helping a friend in a business deal. She happily opened up about Angel’s bunch while answering some innocuous real estate questions. Gunn still wasn’t sure about joining Angel full-time, Chase’s visions were causing her incredible pain, Angel was still recovering from the death of his one true love (memo to Files and Records: update the files on Summers, Slayer Buffy Anne; she’s dead), Pryce was cranky and tended to be a little rough with the others’ feelings. It all came bubbling out as light conversation.

The sky was starting to get rosy and Winifred gasped. “Oh my, I have to go!” she said.

“Listen, it was wonderful meeting you, Winifred,” I said. “I was hoping you’d like to get together again some time. Angel needn’t have to know. It’ll be just us girls.”

She gulped and said, “Well, I don’t get out…”

I smiled. “That’s it exactly, Winifred. A lovely woman like you should be out breaking hearts. We could make a day of it! Do some shopping, have some dinner and perhaps get dressed up and take in a show.”

She nodded earnestly. “All right, maybe you could call me, you know, on the phone?”

“That would be wonderful,” I said, and to seal the bargain, I lightly scratched her hand with my fingernail, the one sharpened to a dagger’s edge. A tiny bead of blood popped out and muttering, “Sorry! Damn nails,” I wiped it off with the tip of my finger. As she glanced down at the minuscule nick and muttered, “No, don’t worry, that’s all right,” I tasted it. Heavenly. Just like wild cherries.

As we stepped outside into the new dawn, we stood for a few seconds in silence. I suppose she thought I was just going to peck her on the cheek, as any new friend might, but when she tilted her head, I took her chin in the palm of my hand and turned her head. Our lips meet, and she tasted of forests and sunlight and wild things. Perhaps this was going to be a lot more fun than I anticipated.

She broke the kiss and, mumbling to herself, ran off.

I threw my things into the car and, on the way back to the office, reflected on the night’s work. Some telephone calls, some girlish confidences and the deal would be closed. I reflected on Winifred in a light linen sheath, on her knees in front of me, begging…. And in the meantime, I had a pipeline right into Angel Investigations.

What can I say? I love my job.

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Note to Files and Records: Please ensure this report goes in my private file, marked “Lilah Morgan’s eyes only.” If it doesn’t or ends up anywhere else, I’m afraid your employment with Wolfram and Hart will be terminated in a most protracted and ultimately gruesome manner. Thank you.