Title: The Trouble with Harriet
Disclaimer: All series characters and good stuff belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. I am responsible for some original characters (although I stole names from Hitchcock) as well as the lame dialogue and most of the plot. The idea, of course, is stolen from the classic movie, The Trouble with Harry.
Summary: Buffy really needs a vacation, so when the chance arrives, she takes it, even though with a wandering corpse on the loose it’s almost, but not quite, a busman’s holiday. This is set in my cheerful, AU version of Season 6 where everyone sort of gets along and Spike and Buffy are a couple.
When Buffy and Spike met in the kitchen, it was to report nothing except some squirrels (nesting in the attic) and Harriet’s cell phone, which held only a handful of numbers, most with labels like “doctor” and “carpenter.” But when Xander bounded back inside, he was beaming in a way that seemed out of place for someone who had been scrounging through trash bags.
“Did you find anything else, Xander?” asked Buffy.
“Did I ever! There was a Doc Savage action figure, still in the box and shrinkwrap, some Star Wars collectible Burger King glasses, and three Bab 5 plates. And a Firefly t-shirt.” He waved the t-shirt in front of Buffy, who backed away from the scent of decayed banana that clung to it. “Anyone who would throw this stuff away doesn’t deserve to be told it’s worth money.”
Buffy looked into his wistful eyes and decided not to argue. “If I agree with you, will you tell me what else you found?”
“Just garbage.” He shrugged. “Apple cores, some meat, about 20 of those frozen microwaveable dinners, ice cream…”
Buffy searched for some way to turn this information into a clue. “She must have had company or an eating disorder, if she ate 20 frozen meals since the last garbage pickup.”
“Nah. She didn’t eat them.” Realizing Buffy and Spike were staring at him, Xander expanded on the statement. “They were thrown out without ever being opened. Same with most of the ice cream. And the meat was still in that butcher’s wrap stuff.”
Buffy and Spike exchanged glances. “The body was really, really cold even after it got all the way to Sunnydale,” she said.
“And all that stuff is the kind of thing you’d keep in a freezer…” Spike ran into the kitchen and yanked open the freezer section of the fridge.
“Too small.” Buffy opened the door to the basement. “I bet she had one of those big freezers, the kind people who buy their meat in bulk use, and…” Her voice faded away as she clattered down the stairs.
Spike and Xander followed and found her in front of an ancient white appliance closer to the size of a sarcophagus than a coffin. The lid was up and she was peering into the depths.
“Something big was lying in here.” She popped upright, her eyes gleaming and her face flushed. “There’s an imprint on those jumbo bags of frozen corn and peas, and look what I found stuck all over the turkey.” She held up several strands of grey hair.
“Now we know why Harriet was so cold,” said Spike.
Buffy nodded. “Someone put her in here.”
“And someone took her out again.”
“One someone, or two someones?” Buffy sagged against the bulk of the freezer. “This doesn’t really help at all. It just makes it all more complicated.”
Spike looked hopeful. “We might have to run through a few more of those seven hundred dollar retainers.”
Xander stared into the freezer. “Hey, do you think they’re still going to want these frozen pizzas?”
“Eww!” Spike and Buffy chorused as they raced up the stairs.
It was late afternoon. Buffy sat in front of Harriet’s computer. She was alone. She had left Xander in the living room reading a comic called “Star Wars: A Long Time Ago” and drooling over the pictures of Princess Leia. She hadn’t taken it away from him because for the first time since he arrived, he’d gone ten whole minutes without uttering the phrase, “in the original packaging!”
Spike was researching the contents of Harriet’s liquor cabinet.
She needed a strategy. So she picked up her cell phone and called Willow.
“You want me to help you hack into a computer?” Willow sounded distracted. “Uh, what kind of security does it have?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, well what happens when you turn it on?”
“I haven’t done that yet.” Feeling silly, Buffy pushed the power button. “How’s everything going there?”
“Fine!” Willow’s tone was too bright.
“Except for?” asked Buffy as the desktop loaded.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just…Dawn has a job.”
“Working at the cosmetics counter at a department store.”
A handful of friendly icons were inviting Buffy to perform various functions. She clicked on one. “Uh, Will, I don’t think she had any security. I’m reading her emails.”
“Oh.” Will’s voice was muffled, as if she was trying hard not to laugh. “You could check her browser history too. And her bookmarks. You do that by…”
“Yeah, I know, Will. I’m not so stupid I don’t know how to do that.” I’m just stupid enough that it didn’t occur to me to do it. She thanked her friend and hung up before it occurred to her to ask more questions about Dawn’s new job.
Well, as long as Dawn didn’t actually blind or otherwise maim someone with excessive use of makeup… Buffy pushed the thought away. No point in looking for trouble. Dropping the cell phone on the desk, she started reading emails.
A half hour later, she placed a call to Ms. Wiggs. “Did anyone ask Arnie or Jim where they were the day Harriet died?”
“Yes, the sheriff and I both did. Arnie said he went to show a house up north somewhere. He has a realtor’s license, although I’m not sure he’s ever sold anything. In fact, I saw him drive back into town around eleven-thirty.”
“How did he look?”
“Um, like Arnie. He was wearing a suit and said he’d have to take it to the cleaner’s. He’d gotten caught in the rain.”
“What about Jim?”
“I don’t know if anyone saw him in the morning, but he was in the local restaurant drinking and complaining to anyone who would pay attention for most of the afternoon.”
“How about Sally?”
“I don’t know if anyone asked or noticed.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/409167.html