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Authors: Ken White

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BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
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“Yes,
Mrs. Dillon is a nice old lady. Unfortunately, she’s not a smart old lady.
If she was, she wouldn’t leave her drug-addicted nephew alone at home to
steal her jewelry.” I paused. “Once I find the ring and ID him as the one
who stole it, I hope she has the smarts to either press charges with the
police or kick his ass out of her apartment.”

“Charlie!”
Cynthia said, frowning.

“He’s
a junkie. He’ll land on his feet.”

“He
needs help.”

“Yes,
he does, but not a home full of things to steal,” I said. “He can detox in a
jail cell. If he comes out clean, he has a chance to get his life together.
If he chooses not to take that chance, it’s nobody’s problem but
his.”

“Always
thinking like a cop.”

I
shook my head. “No, when I was a cop, there were places a drug addict could
go. Detox centers, treatment centers. Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Now
there’s the street or jail. He’ll be safer in jail.”

Cynthia
nodded, but she clearly wasn’t convinced.

“Anyway,
let’s see how it plays out. It may take me a couple of days to find the
ring, assuming it hasn’t already been sold. And who knows, maybe it wasn’t
the nephew who stole it.”

“I
hope you’re right.” I wasn’t right. There was no doubt that the nephew had
stolen and hocked the ring. I knew that. But sometimes you have to keep
peace in the office.

“Let
me take a look at the Maxwell file, then start checking pawn shops. Maybe
I’ll get lucky.” Before she could reply, I went through the big wooden door
in the back of the reception area.

The
Triangle Building, oddly enough, is triangular, with Expedition Avenue on
one side and Second Street on the other. The offices at the very front of
the building, overlooking Hennessy and Expedition Square, are triangular as
well. My office included.

The
back wall, beside the door, had a couch and a couple of armchairs. I’d slept
on that couch for a couple of weeks when my apartment was trashed by cops
after Joshua’s murder, and if I ever had to do it again, it would be time
for a new couch. Otherwise, I don’t use that part of the room
much.

My
desk was on the left, looking out through a big window onto Expedition
Avenue, Hennessy and the west side of the square. The other desk, a desk
that I still thought of as Joshua’s, was on the right. I’d cleaned it out
and sent his personal effects to Phillip Bain. If I ever kept a trainee long
enough to work completely without supervision, I might even start thinking
of it as somebody else’s desk. Eventually.

I
slid into my chair, poured a cup of coffee from the carafe Cynthia had left,
and opened the Maxwell file.

As
usual, Sara had done a terrific job of formatting the report. If I didn’t
know that Cynthia would be deeply offended, I’d have Sara do all the client
reports. The text read well, the photographs were indexed and referenced by
number in the text. Each photo was identified by number, time, date and
location. Samuel Maxwell was getting his money’s worth.

How
he was going to react was another thing. Like I’d told Brenner the night
before, some clients refuse to believe the evidence in front of them,
especially in divorce cases. They hire you because they suspect something is
going on. But when you prove them right, they don’t want to hear it. Some
take the report and don’t do anything with it, hiding it in a file cabinet
or safety deposit box. Others ask you to keep at it for a few more days, a
week. Like the husband or wife is suddenly going to stop cheating, or it
would all turn out to be a misunderstanding.

I
was betting that Maxwell would take the report and use it to put his wife to
the curb without a penny. He seemed like that kind of guy. But sometimes
they fool you.

I
jotted a note thanking Sara for her work and stuck it to the front of the
report. She and Brenner would do the meeting with Mr. Maxwell.

Though
I’d done the initial interview with him and set up the job, Maxwell had been
very specific about his desire to work only with an agency that had a
vampire on-staff as the primary investigator for his case. It was
understandable, I guess, but he also could have gone with one of the
vampire-only agencies in the city. He didn’t. He chose us. And when you
choose Night and Day Investigations, there’s always going to be a bloodsac
in the mix somewhere.

I
finished my coffee and left the office, dropping the report on Sara’s desk
for the meeting tonight. “I should be back later this afternoon, probably
mid-afternoon,” I said. “Any calls, take a message and I’ll get back to
them.”

Cynthia
nodded, her eyes on some papers on her desk. Probably still worrying about
Mrs. Dillon’s wayward nephew.

 

I
was able to hit three pawnshops before eleven and busted out with all of
them. They didn’t have the ring and didn’t recognize it from the picture. I
even showed them a photo of Mrs. Dillon’s nephew, Joey. No luck.

It
was unlikely that he’d gone too far afield to pawn the ring. He’d be getting
his heroin downtown, probably from one of Eddie Gee’s dealers, so he’d want
quick cash. A trip to a midtown or eastside pawn shop would take time. And
junkies are all about instant gratification.

I
had a long history with Eddie Gabriel, before the war and more recently.
Eddie had been a two-bit hustler, a con man, drug dealer and petty hood
before the war. The war had been a stroke of good luck for him. After the
internment camps closed, downtown was wide open. The Vee mobs were
established uptown, mixed mobs were spreading out through midtown, westside
and eastside, but downtown had nothing but small-time independents. Eddie
saw an opportunity and took full advantage of it.

What
I knew, and his peers didn’t, was that Eddie was also feeding information to
the police department. He wasn’t exactly a snitch in the usual sense. Eddie
was a businessman, and he used every tool he had to get ahead of the
competition and remain the downtown kingpin. If that meant giving the police
something that would hurt his competitors or help him, he didn’t see a
problem with it.

The
Downtown District cops hated him. They couldn’t touch him, not for anything
big. Orders from police headquarters in Central District. The cops downtown
could arrest his dealers and bust his whores. But they couldn’t go after
Eddie directly.

I
didn’t mind Eddie myself. He was likeable enough, and he knew when to
cooperate. Sure, he was a criminal and responsible for a lot of bad things.
But I’d been in the business for a long time. There are always going to be
criminals. Eddie was a criminal you could work with.

After
the third pawnshop, I was done. This June had been especially hot and it was
no fun walking the streets of downtown in a black suit. I couldn’t even take
off the jacket or my pistol would be hanging out there for everyone to see.
Carry permit or not, hand cannons made people nervous, whatever was running
through their veins.

I
had enough time to change, so I wouldn’t show up at lunch smelling like a
goat. I went back to the Jeep, drove to my apartment, and took a quick
shower. After putting on a fresh suit and shirt, I hopped back in the Jeep
and headed toward midtown.

If
you spent your days in midtown, you’d almost forget that there had been a
war, that people had spent years in internment camps, that there were
vampires sleeping in some of those fancy high-rise apartment buildings. It
was another world.

The
hotels were doing good business, the offices in the skyscrapers were busy,
the classy chain stores and small boutiques always full of customers. Even
after dark, midtown was still busy, the only difference being that many of
the people on the street, in the shops, and working in those offices were
Vees.

I
pulled up at the Hiatt-Regency and left my key with the parking valet. I’d
figure out an excuse to get Sara to cover it in my expense report for the
week. Business lunch with a prospective customer or something.

The
lobby was relatively crowded with people wearing stick-on name tags on their
jackets, shirts, and blouses. Another convention apparently. I slipped past
Bob and Sandy and Frank on my way to Boyle’s Tavern at the back of the
lobby, near the registration counter.

It
was still early for lunch, but Boyle’s was already half full, mostly people
with name tags. I was standing in the door, scanning the crowd, looking for
someone who matched my memory of what Marc Shuster looked like, when I felt
a hand on my shoulder. I turned.

Shuster
hadn’t changed, at least not that much. Little gray at the temples, the
beginnings of bags under his eyes. But he had the same bright blue eyes and
big smile.

“Interesting
suit,” he said as we shook hands. “I can recommend a good tailor in Omaha if
you want to send me your measurements.”

He
clearly knew what he was talking about. My suits are a hundred bucks off the
rack. His was a light-gray tailored number that probably cost him ten times
that.

But
it wasn’t the fancy suit that caught my eye. It was the little silver
pendant, nestled at the base of his neck.

 

Chapter
Three

 

I
don’t know where the idea of pendants came from. Maybe the human employee of
some Vee got tapped dry by another Vee who didn’t know that particular human
was more than food.

However
it started, not long after they released us from the internment camps, you
started seeing people wearing pendants. On one level, they were designed to
let Vees know that the person wearing it wasn’t just free-range blood on the
hoof. On another level, they often signified ownership, like a brand on a
cow’s ass. The pendant said that this human is mine.

Some
people kept them hidden with a high collar or a turtleneck. Everybody had to
make a living, but there was an element that thought making that living as a
Vee employee was like betraying humanity. And in the early days after
internment ended, people were found with their heads kicked in and their
pendant stuffed in their mouth.

You
didn’t hear much about that kind of thing anymore. I guess attitudes were
changing. Or maybe people decided that killing other humans wasn’t going to
get rid of the Vees.

There
was no standard look to the pendants. They were all about the size of a
small egg, and always nestled close to the base of the throat, where they’d
easily be seen by a Vee looking to tap into the mainline. But the designs on
the face of the disks were different, chosen by the Vee who’d issued
it.

Some
chose bright colors in swirls and shapes. Others covered the disk with
writing, symbols, weird runic designs, family crests. Whatever suited their
fancy. I used to have one in my wallet, given to me by Joshua, that had the
insignia of the Area Government Security Force etched into it. It wasn’t
about letting other Vees know that I was his property. It was about letting
them know that I was his friend. The disc had been confiscated after
Joshua’s death.

I
hadn’t seen one like the silver pendant that hung at Shuster’s throat. It
had some sort of holographic face, with the letters ‘GG’ seeming to float
above it. Definitely a step up from the usual.

Shuster
was staring at me. “What?”

“Nothing,”
I said quickly. “It’s good to see you, Shuster.”

“It’s
always good to see me,” he said with a quick smile. “So, you want to stand
here all day or you want to get some lunch?”

He
brushed past me and I followed him into Boyle’s. We were quickly
seated.

“Welcome
to Boyle’s,” the young, pretty waitress said. “My name is Katie.” Like all
the serving staff, Katie wore a green outfit that was reminiscent of the one
worn by the leprechaun on a box of Lucky Charms, right down to the little
top hat.

“Hey,
darlin’,” Shuster said. “I’d like a Guinness and the biggest, thickest
burger you have on the menu. Rare, swiss cheese, everything on it, fries on
the side. Can you do that for me?”

“We
sure can,” Katie said. I noticed that she wasn’t looking at his face. Her
eyes were on the pendant at his throat.

“Wonderful,”
Shuster said.

She
turned to me. “And for you, sir?”

“I’ll
have the same. Make my burger medium.”

“Got
it,” she said. “I’ll be back with your beers in a minute.”

As
she walked away, Shuster smiled after her. “I love a woman in
green.”

“As
I recall, you like a woman in anything. Or nothing.”

“Yeah,
I like a lot of things,” he said. “So, Charlie Welles, private eye. Who
woulda thunk it back in the 716
th
. I figured you for a
lifer.”

I
shook my head. “Nah, got tired of hauling soldiers off to the brig for bar
fights or smoking weed in an alley. Probably could have gotten into CID, but
it would have been the same thing, just bigger crimes. All the military
police showed me was that I liked police work. And if I liked police work,
the obvious choice was to join a police department.”

“Police
department here didn’t have any openings for a man of your experience after
the war?”

BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
11.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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