Also, no title yet. God damn I'm bad at titles. Story starts after the break.
“Officer, she's a nice girl. I'm sure she had a reason for it.” I looked up from where I was sitting and groaned, running my hand down my face. Great. I recognized that voice. And he wasn't someone I wanted to deal with right now. I was already having a bad day. The cops had taken all my jewelry – it was cheap shit, but I felt naked without it.
“How many of them did she kill?” He asked, quietly. I snorted. I couldn't see him yet, but I could picture him leaning over, shielding his mouth. If my hearing was as bad as his, maybe I'd think that was stealthy too. But unlike my old friend, I hadn't tried to wrestle a banshee.
“Kill?!” The officer sounded surprised. Clearly he'd never read my record. “She was just in a fight. “Apparently there were four men, three of them thugs with a record as long as my arm. They're all in the hospital-”
“Not the morgue?” My friend sounded surprised. “She's getting soft.” I sat up and looked out the cell door as he approached, his boots making his footsteps heavy. He cut an imposing figure, over six feet tall and wearing enough leather to make him look either like a biker or someone with a very specific fetish. That he was pushing seventy and was still in fighting shape was a miracle. Not many people made it that old in our business.
Admittedly, I wasn't dressed so differently from him. Black helped make sure the blood didn't show, and leather was just practical when you weren't sure if you were going to get stabbed or not. At least the corset looked good on me. Too bad my pale skin made the scars stand out more.
“Silvia.” He said, looking grim.
“Nathan.” I returned. “You're still alive.”
“I keep putting off my retirement date so they can't get me the day before I quit.” He smirked. “Now come on. It's time to go. I don't even know how they kept you in there.” I looked across the cell at the two other people they'd thrown me in there with. They were cowering as far away from me as possible.
“I was enjoying the company too much to leave.” I smiled. “Besides, if I broke out I think they'd make me pay for the damages.” He shook his head.
“They shouldn't have tried to lock up a witch.” I shrugged. They had some special cells for that. This wasn't one of them. I could have broken out in seconds with my Curse. I stood up and walked over to the bars.
“So why are you here? I'm stuck here until they decide I self defenced those guys into the ER, but I doubt you're just checking on me because you were worried.” He glanced at the officer, then back to me.
“I need you to come with me. I want you for a job.”
“A job?” I raised an eyebrow. “We haven't worked together since that thing in the Amazon. Remember? I almost got my leg torn off by a sea serpent, you got stabbed a few times while I was delirious, both of us had a great time.”
“Yeah. I remember. Every time it rains.” He shrugged. “Don't care. I need a killer. I got someone who needs help and I have obligations. We aren't going to work together. You're going to work with her.” He tilted his head behind him. There was a small, soft-looking woman behind him. She wasn't exactly out of shape, but she didn't have much tone. She was wearing a skirt. That told me right away she wasn't really a fighter.
“A client?” I was even more surprised. “What's she hunting?”
“This is a bodyguard job,” Nathan clarified.
“That's not my usual line of work. I'm a monster hunter.” I stepped away from the bars and sat down. “I'll take my chances with the public defender.”
“I already paid your bail.” He nodded to the officer. “You owe me, and this is how you're paying me back.” The cop stepped over to open the door. My cellmates ran for it.
“You can't leave us in here!” One of them yelled. “She's goddamn witch! I've got rights!”
“She's leaving, you idiots!” The cop took out his baton. “Get away from the bars!” The thugs backed away. I rolled my eyes. I wasn't that dangerous. Was I? He unlocked the door and shoved it open. “Get out of there, lady. You don't have to go with him but you can't stay here.” I stood up and sighed as I walked out, glancing at my new client. She looked afraid of me.
“Tanja Wendell,” Nathan motioned to me. “Meet Silvia Wolfe. She's your new bodyguard.”
As we walked out, I tried to keep behind Tanja, but she always slowed down and ended up letting me lead. It was annoying. Her red hair annoyed me too. I'd tried to dye my hair, but it was black, and the one time I tried to bleach it I ended up losing most of it. That was one hell of an awful haircut. She hadn't said a word to me yet.
“Silvia.” Someone said. I felt my hackles raise as I turned to glare at the police chief's pet witch. She was leaning in the doorway to her office. I was surprised she hadn't come down to bother me while I was in lockup. Probably too busy trying to pin everything she could on me.
“Gloria. Have you figured out how to turn lead into gold yet, or are you still working at the Dancing Dragon in your spare time?” I smiled sweetly. She had been a stripper for a few years. I still owed the vampire who told me that. Every time I mentioned it she turned beet red.
“I heard you were in prison. Again.” Gloria folded her arms. “I didn't think you'd be able to make bail without having a real job.”
“Yeah, well not all of us know how to work a pole-” Nathan cleared his throat. I stopped.
“Can you try not to get arrested immediately after I've posted bail for you?” Nathan looked back at me. I nodded and shut my mouth before something stupid could come out of it. Gloria just looked more and more smug. I tried to ignore her.
“Fine. Let's get the hell out of here before Mackie comes out to yell at me.” The police chief had been on leave when I got arrested. I was sure that wouldn't last. There must have been something pretty damn important going on if he wasn't here yet, and that'd mean he was in a bad mood. Even when he was in a good mood it was hard to deal with him.
“Good.” Nathan kept walking. I retreated away from Gloria, hoping I was only imagining laughter.
“So you going to tell me what this is all about?” I glanced at Tanja. “She hasn't said a damn thing about why she needs a bodyguard.”
“I'm still deciding if you're an acceptable substitute.” Tanja said. I frowned at her.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“It means the first time I met you, you were in prison. And within five minutes of getting out you tried to get in a fight. I don't need a bodyguard who is going to get me into trouble. I need one to keep me out of trouble.” Tanja wasn't facing me. She was looking straight ahead. She looked disgusted.
“Like I said before, I'm not a bodyguard. I'm a monster hunter.”
“And it's monsters I'm worried about.” Tanja didn't elaborate. We stopped to pick up my things. A box was dropped unceremoniously in front of me. The seven rings went on first – it used to be eight, but I gave a werewolf the finger. It didn't take kindly to that, and now I wouldn't be doing it again. I hadn't even managed to kill that one, but I gave it a pretty damn good scar. A few pounds of cheap silver bracelets came next, along with some necklaces. Unlike Nathan I didn't wear a cross. It only helped if you believed in it.
“Trust me, Silvia is good at killing monsters. I taught her everything she knows.” Nathan smiled. I rolled my eyes.
“I hope so.” Tanja looked worried. “Come on. I'll give you the details on what I'll be doing.” It annoyed me a little that she didn't say we. I was used to top billing.
Tanja's office was at one end of a strip mall, next to a dentist. There was no sign, just the address. I looked around. “How do people even find this place?” She unlocked the door to let me in. Nathan had left us at the police station to go do whatever was keeping him so busy. My car was still back at the bar where I had gotten arrested, so Tanja had driven us in her little Japanese thing. It had been an awkward ride. But I probably wouldn't have found the place if she hadn't done it.
“I'm in the phone book. And most people actually prefer their private investigator to be discreet.” The front room had a few chairs and magazines that actually looked new. Guess she hadn't been here long enough for them to age properly for a waiting room. The window had a nice view of the desert outside. And that's about all we could see. I guess the rent was cheap this far from the middle of Phoenix, at least.
“Mmm. I was expecting something more... exciting. With electronic spy gear and shit.” She ignored me and opened the door to her office. Unlike the waiting room, this was packed with paperwork. She motioned to a chair and then sat behind her desk.
“I got a job a few weeks ago by a concerned father.” She pulled a folder out of a drawer and started going through it. “His daughter left home a few weeks ago and never came back. He went to the police already, before you ask.” She tossed a photo down. “She isn't dead. Or at least wasn't when they went looking for her. You ever heard of the Sacred Heart cult?”
“Yeah. Bunch of freaks bought out an old high school. No one knows much. I haven't been following it too closely. They usually don't pay me to kill cultists, just monsters.” I looked at the photo. Young girl, black, looked nice enough. Not even any piercings.
“Okay. Well her dad wants us to get his little angel away from the cult. He's convinced they're doing something... bad.” She shrugged. “I've been investigating them. Last night someone took a shot at me.” She poked a finger through a hole in her jacket. If that had missed her, she was goddamn lucky.
“Oof. Look, Tanja, I don't know what Nathan told you, but it's not like I can stop a bullet. Did he even tell you about what my Curse is?” She shook her head.
“All he told me was that he trusted you to do the job.” I sighed.
“Okay. If I'm going to work with you we better get all this on the table.” I touched the bracelets on my left arm. Green light filled the room as my Curse forged them almost instantly into a new shape. “Figuratively and literally.” A handle wormed its way into my hand, the bracelets turning into a blade as long as my forearm. I put it on her desk.
“Hm… a form of transmutation.” She touched the blade carefully. Clearly Tanja didn’t want to cut herself. “A bit crude, but that speed was impressive. What else can you make?”
“Big swords. Small knives. That’s about it.” I shrugged. “It’s handy.” She frowned.
“I don’t like violence. If all you can do is stab people that won’t help me.” Tanja sat back. “I run a decent agency, Miss Wolfe. No beating people up in alleyways or hunting down monsters. My last few cases have all be following cheating spouses around.”
“Yeah, well, you bit off more than you can chew this time.” I shrugged. “Look, I don’t want to do this either. You don’t want me to stab anyone, that’s fine. I won’t. I’m doing this as a favor to someone else. I’ll try to stay out of your way unless someone’s pointing a gun at you. Fair enough?” She hesitated, then nodded.
“Hopefully I won’t need your expertise.”
“I hope so too. So what’s first?”
“I’ve been staking out their compound. We’re going to-“ My phone started going off. I awkwardly reached into my pocket as she silenced herself. I was about to just turn it off, but I checked the number and hesitated. I recognized it. It was Chief Mackie. Was he really going to call me and complain over the phone? Or maybe tell me I was going to have to come back and spend another night in the lockup. I gave Tanja an apologetic look and flipped my old phone open.
“Hello?” I asked, trying to sound innocent.
“Silvia.” His usual terseness.
“You know, Mackie, it wasn’t really my fault. I was only defending myself. And I didn’t kill any of them, so really I was holding back a lot.”
“I’m sure you’ve got a great story for whatever happened. That’s not why I’m calling. I got something I need an expert to look at.” I frowned, sobering up. He only called me like this when it was bad. The Phoenix Police weren’t exactly experts on monsters. I was.
“Just come and take a look. I’ll give you directions.”
Tanja was kind enough to give me a ride, since I still didn’t have my car. I found the place easily enough. All the cop cars and yellow tape made it obvious what house the action was at. I waved to Detective Yosun as I walked up to the barricade. A decent crowd had formed. Guess word got around quickly. The Detective let me through.
“The Chief called me up while I was meeting with someone,” I said. “What happened out here?” He shook his head and ushered me away from the crowd before talking.
“Chief Mackie asked us not to say anything. Guess he doesn’t want us spoiling anything.” Yosun led me inside. That was when I noticed Tanja following me. Well, too late to say anything to her now. I just hoped she could play it cool and let me do my job.
And then we walked into a slaughterhouse. The front room was almost dripping with gore. Blood was soaked into the carpet, sprayed across a couch. A man was collapsed on the floor, pale and unmoving. I could made an educated guess where the blood came from. I hesitated at the doorway.
“Silvia,” Chief Mackie said, from the other side of the room. He nodded. “What do you make of this?”
“Looks like a goddamn mess,” I said. “Is it okay if I…?” He nodded. I walked up to the corpse, blood welling from the carpet as I stepped on it. Good thing I was wearing boots. Even if they had already gone over things I didn’t really want to touch the body if I could help it. I squatted down and turned the head, looking for wounds. And found them just where I expected. Big fang marks in the neck.
“What do you think?” He asked. I looked up at him.
“It’s supposed to look like a vampire attack,” I said. At the same time as Tanja. I looked back at her. She motioned for me to go on.
“Sorry. It’s your show.” She said. I sighed and stood up.
“There’s too much blood for a real vampire attack. Vampires don’t make this kind of mess. The fangs are just about the right size, but the neck really isn’t where a vampire would attack. They usually feed from elbows or, if they’re comfortable enough with their victim, the thigh. Neck is usually too hard to get at in a grapple.” I looked around the room. “And vampires don’t just kill people. They’re monsters, but they’re predators. If they’re so hungry they end up killing someone, they’re too hungry to leave this kind of mess.”
“Mm. Not bad reasoning,” Tanja said. “There’s more than that, though.”
“Care to introduce us?” Chief Mackie asked. I sighed.
“She’s a… private investigator. We’re working together on something.” It was true, at least. Tanja produced a badge. Mackie grunted. She took that as asking for her to continue.
“There are clear signs this wasn’t a vampire attack. For example, there’s a contusion on the victim’s head. Vampires are able to charm their victims. They wouldn’t resort to blunt force trauma. Additionally, there are signs of a struggle from the blood splatter. There are also somewhere between four and five sets of footprints. Vampires don't attack in packs, and if they did, there'd be more than one set of fang wounds.” She paused. “Of course, your points are valid too.”
“How'd you learn so much about vampires?” I asked. She shrugged, keeping her distance from the body.
“I like to read a lot. There are some fascinating journals about the undead. The rest was simple analysis. There's not much more to say, really. The victim was clearly attacked here by a group of people he didn't know, there was a struggle, they hit him over the head, then made it look like a vampire attack. Clearly premeditated murder.”
“Premeditated?” I frowned.
“There's no sign of the weapons they used. Probably a baseball bat or something similar for the blow to the head, and for the fangs... I'm not sure there. It does look like fangs. Something purpose-made for it I suppose.”