It was largely agreed that Miss Woodhouse's party was a resounding success, right up until the moment when a large object smashed through the drawing room window and landed with a thud on the buffet table.
Emma's face was crestfallen as she hurried over to the mess. 'No no no,' she thought to herself. 'This is not at all the impression I wanted to make on Mrs Elton.' Fragments of glass were strewn across the carpet and a sharp breeze entered through the now uncovered window. 'Does nobody appreciate how hard it is to get a glazier in Highbury?' she muttered.
Her startled guests made their way over to the buffet table. They were led by Mr Elton, who pointedly avoided looking at Harriet Smith as he passed her. Before long, the crowd had gathered around the object whose intrusion had interrupted their evening.
It was human in shape, except that it was far larger than the average man, with green and scaly skin, and large spikes on its back and elbows. 'I say,' exclaimed Mrs Elton. 'My friends in Bath will be most amused to hear about this. I never expected such extraordinary entertainment, Miss Woodhouse.' Emma's face fell even further, and she looked to Mr Knightley for assistance.
'I shall fetch a broom,' announced Mr Knightley. 'Come, Miss Bates, you shall aid me.' He strode from the room, followed by the spinster who, for once, had no comment to offer.
The partygoers were so intent on the strange sight before them that nobody noticed when a young blonde woman entered the room clutching a small sharp stick. The woman pushed through the throng and examined the scene.
'Excuse me,' said Emma. 'Who are you?'
'Hi. I'm Buffy.' She gave Emma a sheepish smile. 'I'm really sorry about the mess.'
'Do you mean to tell me that you are responsible for throwing this dummy through my window?'
Buffy frowned. 'Dummy?'
Emma held out her hand towards the buffet table. 'This thing.'
'Oh that. That's not a dummy. Well, he wasn't the sharpest tool in the cupboard, but no – that's a body. Of a demon.'
Mr Elton drew back and, forgetting for a moment that he was not a Papist, crossed himself.
Emma sighed. 'Don't be ridiculous, Miss … Buffy. Do you have another name?'
'Miss Summers. I demand that you explain yourself. Preferably without resorting to absurdities.'
'Right. I was on my way here, to this party, when I found this guy outside. Anyway, we got into a fight, I kicked him, and he flew a lot further than I was expecting. Never mind though, he's dead now.'
The body on the table groaned and raised its head. Emma and her guests drew back and gasped. Buffy raised her stick and stabbed the creature in the throat. It let out another groan and its head fell back onto the table. 'Like I say, dead.'
'But what are you doing here?' asked Emma.
'She's from the former colonies,' said Jane Fairfax.
'That would explain her outlandish attire,' added Mrs Elton.
Buffy shot a withering glance at Mrs Elton. 'Hey, corset lady, I want your opinion on fashion, I'll ask for it.'
Harriet Smith smiled. 'I rather like this Miss Summers,' she said.
Emma crossed her arms. 'I'm still waiting for an explanation.'
'Right. Quick version: I've been sent here to kill a vampire. I hate to break it to you, but one of your guests here is a creature of the night.'
Emma raised her eyebrows. 'So let me get this straight. You kick a half-dead demon through my window and now you want to kill one of my guests. I can see why you have to turn up at parties unannounced. I can't imagine you receive many invitations.'
'Oh, you'd be surprised,' said Buffy, and began peering at the people standing around her. She walked slowly towards Mr Elton, narrowing her eyes.
'I recently had a very bad experience with a clergyman,' she said. 'Had to cut him in half with an axe.'
Mr Elton laughed nervously. 'You can't possibly think that I'm a vampire,' he said. 'I'm a pillar of the community.' Buffy's eyes narrowed still further. Mr Elton continued: 'Really, young lady, your search will be much more fruitful if you look to people who are less – respected, shall we say.' His eyes sought out Harriet. Buffy's eyes followed.
Mrs Elton sighed. 'Truly, Miss Summers. Do you honestly believe my husband to be a craven, blood-sucking beast?'
'Yeah, I do,' replied Buffy. 'But he's not a vampire. Just a weasel. You're safe for now, preacher boy.'
Buffy moved on and crouched next to Mr Knightley, who knelt on the floor, sweeping up the glass. He stood up, brushed himself down and held out a hand. 'Mr Knightley,' he said. 'Pleasure to meet you.'
Buffy shook his hand. 'I see you got the clean-up job,' she said.
'It's really no trouble at all,' he replied, 'I do like to be helpful.'
Emma walked over from the table and touched the man's sleeve. 'My dear Mr Knightley, you've cut yourself.'
He looked down. 'So I have. Not to worry. I shall clean myself up later.' He smiled broadly, his perfect teeth glimmering in the lamplight. Only they weren't entirely perfect.
'You been sweeping up with your mouth?' asked Buffy.
'Excuse me?' said Mr Knightley.
'Only I can't help noticing you've got blood on your teeth.'
'Oh dear,' said Mr Knightley. 'I was hoping it wouldn't come to this.' His forehead furrowed; his eyes turned amber and feral; his still bloody canines grew until they protruded below his lips.
Mr and Mrs Elton fled from the room; the remaining guests huddled by the doorway.
'Where is Miss Bates?' cried Jane Fairfax. 'We must find Miss Bates.'
Buffy punched Mr Knightley in the face, then kicked him in the chest, sending him careening into the opposite wall. He got up and charged at Buffy. A flurry of punches, kicks and chops ensued. The flurry ended with Mr Knightley holding Buffy in a close grip and preparing to bite into her neck. Her stick lay on the carpet behind Mr Knightley, far out of her reach. Harriet picked it up and kicked Mr Knightley in the back of his right knee. He let go of Buffy and fell to the floor. Harriet threw the stick to Buffy. She caught it and plunged it into the vampire's heart. He exploded in a cloud of dust.
Buffy rubbed her hands together and grinned at Harriet. 'Thank you,' she said. Harriet replied with an awkward curtsey.
Miss Fairfax entered the room dragging a barely conscious Miss Bates, who was mumbling to herself: 'Always thought him such a gentleman, terribly handy with a trowel, shall never recover from the shock…'
Mr Weston coughed. 'Indeed. I should never have believed it of Mr Knightley,' he said.
Emma's face was more crestfallen than ever. 'And yet, only now, I realise that I loved him,' she cried.
Buffy sighed. 'You were in love with a vampire? Tell me about it, sister. Been there, done that, actually got two T-shirts.'
'I suppose I ought to thank you,' said Emma, 'but whatever shall I do without him?'
'Not bleed to death when he's thirsty, for a start,' said Buffy. 'Look, I know it's hard, but you'll find a way. I had to send my boyfriend to Hell once. That was tough. I mean, he came back and it was all OK in the end, which I don't think is going to happen here, and I'm really not helping at all, am I? I think I'll just – you know – shut up and leave.'
'Back to the Americas?' asked Jane Fairfax.
'Something like that,' replied Buffy. She jumped onto the table and threw the demon's body out of the window. 'Oh, one last thing,' she said, turning around.
'What?' said Emma.
Buffy pointed at Harriet. 'You. I think you should have this.' She tossed the sharp stick; Harriet caught it and stroked it gently. 'You could save me a lot of work in the future by hanging around graveyards at night. Just be careful.'
'Why thank you, Miss Summers,' said Harriet, but it was too late. The young blonde woman had leapt through the window and disappeared into the night.