A few minutes after dropping Willow off, the helicopter, being sent on another errand for the production company, took off. It flew off towards the ocean, paralleling the large seawall that the old woman and Tara were walking along.
Tara heard the sound of the rotors, and flinched when she recognized the copter from the bridge, knowing full well anybody aboard might recognize her. At the same time, she wondered if the beautiful redhead was aboard...
The woman, walking a few yards ahead of Tara and having reached the end of the seawall, had opened an umbrella for shade against the sun. Unfortunately, as the helicopter passed her, the backwash from the rotors had caught the umbrella, pulling it inside out...and pulling the old woman into the sea. She barely had time to cry out before splashing into the water.
"Hey!" Tara called back towards the beach, hoping the crew still assembled there would here. She ran towards the end of the wall and looked down.
The old woman was foundering in the water. Fortunately, she was in the lee of the wall, where the water was relatively still. Taking a deep breath, Tara jumped in feet first.
Coming up, she was relieved to see the water was only about chest-deep, although her wet clothes and jacket made it hard to move. She walked-swam over to the old woman, who was coughing and sputtering but otherwise seemed to be doing okay for the moment. "It's okay, I got you," Tara said as she reached the lady, scooping her up into her arms and making her way towards the beach. "Don't worry, it's okay!" Absently, she noted that the old woman didn't feel as frail or as thin as Tara thought she would.
So intent on making her way back to dry land, and trying to keep the old lady out of the water, that she didn't see the lady's free hand tearing wet latex off her face and neck, pulling prosthetic appliances off her teeth. Tara looked over to see how her charge was doing...
...saw a beautiful young woman looking back at her and chirping, "Hi!" Tara was so surprised by this apparition that she dropped the woman into the water. She resurfaced, laughing off the incidents and Tara's exclamations of shock. "No, no, it's makeup, it's a makeup test!" She reached up and pulled off the grey wig, revealing youthful blonde hair.
Tara's shock melted into sudden recognition. "Wait a second - I know you, don't I? You're..."
Extending a hand, as if they were meeting at a cocktail party, she said, "Buffy Summers." The two of them collapsed in laughter as they shook hands.
"They must be crazy to cover up a face like yours!" Tara said.
"Oh, no, it's just for the end of the film, when I play my old-lady self."
"Come on," Tara said, still giggling, tugging on Buffy's old-lady dress. "Let's get out of here."
"No, wait: rescue me!" Buffy pleaded.
"Rescue me! I always wanted to be rescued."
Tara looked down at herself, self-deprecatingly. "I'm not exactly Sir Galahad, y'know."
"Girl'll take what she can get," Buffy replied, smiling, then suddenly jumping right at Tara, who automatically caught her.
Chuckling again, Tara started walking back to the beach. "This is just like in the movies."
Leaning her head back, letting her hair trail in the water, Buffy replied dreamily, "I am the movies."
As they reached the shore, Buffy still in Tara's arms, several crewmembers came running over. Buffy smiled and winked at them to show that she was okay. However, she jumped when she heard a female screech: "Buffy! What are you doing, scaring me to death???"
"Uh oh, the boss," Buffy cringed, jumping down. Tara let her go and followed, intending to explain what happened and get Buffy off the hook...until she saw that the leader of the pack (which included the actor Riley Funn and Faith the stunt coordinator), obviously the director of the movie...was the redheaded woman from the helicopter.
"Oh boy," Tara muttered. She wondered how she might fade back into the scenery.
Buffy stalked toward Willow, steaming nearly as much as Willow. "Aw, hell, Willow, it was perfect, and now it's all ruined! Where were you?" As the two closed to arms' length, she lowered her voice. "I even got Riley's autograph, and he didn't even know!" (Behind Willow, Riley clapped a hand over his eyes in mortification.) "You'd've been proud of me," she finished meekly.
Willow placed her hands on Buffy's cheeks, gazing at her with affection. "Faith," she called.
Indicating Buffy, she commanded, "Stick her in a hot bath and a warm bed...and I want to see her in full makeup and costume before dinner."
Blankets provided by crewmembers wrapped around her, Buffy let herself be led away to the nearest bathtub. After a few steps, she stopped and turned back towards Tara. "Hey! Thanks again!" she called. "It was really gallant of you...saving an old lady like that."
Most of the crew went back towards the hotel. Willow, however, hung back and called to Tara, who was slowly walking in the opposite direction. "Hang on there a minute, would ya? I want to thank you, too," she added as she walked towards Tara, "and I suggest you don't run away." Tara was silent as Willow drew near, simultaneously afraid and fascinated by this pixie-ish girl who apparently ran the show in fuchsia top, loosely-tied button-down workshirt, faded jeans and sneakers. Warily, she circled away as Willow approached. Bemused, Willow noted Tara's reticence. "What is that, a habit with you?"
"Used to stutter a lot, too, but I gave that up."
Willow smothered a smile. This girl, soaking wet, no makeup, on the ragged edge of exhaustion, starvation and God knew what else, was magnificent. Not now, Will, she admonished herself. "I'd like to know what happened up there, on the bridge, with you and Darla - that was her name. What happened on the bridge?"
"I'd like to know myself," Tara shot back. "All I know is, she tried to run me down." She backed toward the seawall, climbing the stone steps and sitting down, her legs suddenly deciding they couldn't hold her up anymore.
Willow seemed surprised and concerned as she sat down next to her. "Well, I dunno why she'd do that. That wasn't what I sent her up there for."
"I didn't get a chance to ask; she was coming at me too goddamn fast!" Tara took a breath to calm herself. "If you want to get home for Thanksgiving, you gotta figure the guy's coming at you fast wants to kill you," Pause. "Or worse. Learned that from the Cong."
"The Co-- The Viet Cong? Now what's a nice girl like you doing in a nasty police action like that?"
"We may have time for you to tell, seeing as we're going to be stuck together."
Tara frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, given how many cops are after you.."
"Wh-what makes you say that?"
"The look on your face and the way you ran back there," Willow replied, "and your charm bracelets." With a muttered curse, Tara tucked the handcuffs still around her wrists under the sleeves of her jacket. "Y'know, you're in great shape, you're quick on your feet, you could do it..."
"Do what?" Willow's reply was cut off by the squeal of a police siren. Tara turned back to the beach, where the town sheriff's car was pulling onto the set.
Sheriff Warren Mears was not in a good mood. He had not liked it when the town council and the hotel had granted this Rosenberg person permission to shoot her damn film on location here. He hadn't enjoyed having to seal off roads and provide security for the production. He counted the days to when he could basically tell the whole kit and caboodle to hit the road and not come back.
Now, he had just be handed an excuse to shut the whole party down early...only it was at the cost of someone's life.
Willow's flunky Anya intercepted him as he stalked across the beach set. "How's it going, Warren? You seem a little upset; what's the matter?"
"You clowns are outta here!" Warren snarled. "Pack up your cameras and go!"
Tara involuntarily hissed in breath when she saw the police car. Then she saw the expression on Willow's face.
Willow stood brushed off her pants, and said out of the side of her mouth, "Just remember: your ass is in a sling, just like mine. Maybe, I can save them both."
By now, Warren had walked almost to the seawall, with Anya and several other crewmembers in tow. "Rosenberg," he began without preamble, "I've had it with you! I don't give a shit what the city council says, you're outta here!"
Willow adopted her most winning smile, and in the most calming placating tones imaginable, sauntered down the steps to met the sheriff. "Warren...it's been a bad day. You're hot, you're tired...why don't we go to the hotel, I'll buy you a drink, and you can tell me what's all the hubbub."
Warren sneered. "Don't treat me like these other morons, Rosenberg. You know damn well 'what's all the hubbub. It's that old Dusenberg in the river with a dead woman inside it!" Barely pausing for breath, he ranted on: "I mean, you go out there, with no permits, no safety precautions, and you get someone killed!"
"Warren.." Willow began.
Warren cut her off. "No! No more of your bullshit explanations. Now get you and your traveling circus out of this town...before I figure out how to hang out with a murder charge!"
"No explanations, Warren" Willow replied, stopping Warren's stomping back to his car. "I really don't have any." Turning and pointing to Tara, she added, "But maybe she does! Go on, Warren, ask her!"
So much for getting my ass out of the sling! Tara thought bitterly as she climbed down the steps. "Hey! Don't b-blame me for-"
Willow rounded on her and cut her off. "Oh, why not, Darla? Is it because you're an unprofessional idiot? Is that it, Darla?"
Shocked into silence, Tara could only listen as a seemingly-mad-as-hell Willow strode back to Warren. "See, Darla's only interested in one thing: the cha-ching on her paych-check! Right? She's a ridiculous daredevil with a head full of cement! She screws me up, she screws you up, but she's not dead, yet!" Willow finished her diatribe with a glare at her crew. "Do me a favor, Warren," she continued, "slap the cuffs on this stupid bitch and heave her into a jail cell where even she can't get hurt!" She turned away from Warren and caught the eye of Riley, who gave the barest nod of approval.
Warren was having trouble catching up. He turned to Anya, who was trying to hide the fact that she, too, came in the middle of this movie. "That's Darla?" he asked, pointing at Tara.
Anya gave a slight shrug, then nodded. "Well, yeah. I mean, who else would it be?"
Warren, completely missing the irony in Anya's statement, strode towards Tara, who tried not to flinch. He touched her wet clothes and hair, staring at her. "How did you get out of the car?"
Before Tara could even think of a convincing lie, Willow piped in. "Are you on drugs? She couldn't get out of a pay toilet by herself; the divers got her out and brought her here in the chopper!" Tara shrugged deprecatingly.
Defeated, Warren slouched back to his patrol car. Anya, trying to be sympathetic, offered Warren a ride in the helicopter. Just before he got to his car, Warren turned back. "Rosenberg!" Willow tilted her head in an I'm-listening gesture. "In three days, your permit is up. After that, I'm arming my men with shotguns, and telling them it's open season on any nut carrying a camera!"
Anya and the other crewmembers laughed as Warren slammed his door and roared off. Willow waved Tara over. "That was very good," she murmured as she put her arm around the blonde's shoulders.
"Hey, all I did was listen."
"Oh, boy, would I love to find an actor who's mastered that art - and you are not to tell Buffy I said that," Willow added. "Anyway, the job is yours."
Tara's brow furrowed. "What job?"
"What, that of stuntwoman, of course. That was Darla's job: doubling as Buffy, who's playing a woman, playing a resistance fighter." Willow grinned as they walked back to the hotel. "Who's going to look for you, amongst all those?"
Tara was shaking her head in confusion. "What about the people who work for you, your crew? Are they going to see me and say 'Hi, Darla'?"
"You'd prefer 'Hi, Alice'? Don't worry about the people who work for me, my crew. They'll call you whatever I want them to call you." Willow must have seen the expression change on Tara's face, because she continued, "I know, that sounds callous. What happened with Darla..." For a second, her voice broke. Tara reached out to clasp her arm. Willow nodded her thanks and plunged on. "It's a tragedy. But there's nothing to be done about it, nothing! I need this location for three more days...and you need a place to hide."
They reached the doors of the hotel, which were decorated with ornate stained glass. Willow crossed in front of Tara and pointed at the doors. "That's the Looking Glass...through there is Wonderland. Have faith, Alice. Just close your eyes...and believe."