I knew she was trouble the moment the moment she stepped inside my office. Gorgeous blondes with tired, determined eyes and cores of steel always were. The question was, was she trouble for me? Beyond the usual run, I mean. Trouble's what pays the rent and keeps me in blood, after all.
Whatever her problem was, she had to be pretty desperate to set foot in this part of town. Personally, I like it here--the rent's cheap and hardly anyone squawks if someone goes missing--but I can take care of myself. Although looking at her and the way she was standing, I suspected she probably could too. Especially when we were only two days away from the full moon.
Did I mention she was a werewolf?
Some vampires complain about the stink. Personally, I don't mind it. Reminds me of a dog I had when I was a kid. I don't often run into things these days that remind me of my childhood, so I tend to savour the things that do.
She knew what I was too. I could see it in her barely-concealed expression of disgust as she looked around. There ain't a lot of love lost between her kind and mine. Still, she'd come to me, so I sat back and waited. She'd get around to talking sooner or later and hey, I've got time.
At last she stopped looking at the bookshelves and look directly at me. "I need your help."
"That’s what I'm here for."
The blonde took a deep breath. "My husband's missing."
I nodded understandingly. It was an old story. One I heard a lot here. "Run off with another wolf?"
"No!" She looked shocked. "Josh wouldn't do that."
I actually hear that line less often than you might think. Mostly by the time they're desperate enough to cone to me, they've already resigned themselves to the truth. The ones who do say it tend to be a little younger and more trusting than the woman in front of me. She didn't seem like the kind to lie to herself. Still...
"Impending fatherhood will sometimes do strange things to a man," I offered. "Make him do things he wouldn't do otherwise."
The expression of shock returned. At this rate, she was going to leave my office with her face frozen like that.
"How did you know? I haven't even told Josh yet!"
"Two heartbeats," I said. "And I can smell the baby."
She looked fascinated and repulsed at the same time. "Well, Josh didn’t know, so that's not why he disappeared. And he wouldn't run off have if he had known."
"All right. So what do you think happened to him?"
"I don't know. He just didn't come from work one day."
"Where's he work?"
"He's a nurse at SCH. I asked around and they said he worked his shift and left as usual. But he never made it home." She hesitated."He did say--a couple of days ago--he said he thought someone was following him."
"No one he knew?"
She shook her head. "No, but he said they were human. Or at least they weren't werewolves." She looked at my directly. "Or vampires."
"And he didn't owe money to anyone? Or have any enemies you know of?"
"All right," I said. "I'll look into it. You said his name is Josh?"
"And you are...?"
"Nora. Nora Sergeant."
We shook hands on my rate, and I sent her off to make a list of anyone else she could think who might know something. Then I began to do some digging of my own.
My first stop was Henry's bar. One of the side effects--benefits, I call 'em--of keeping my distance from the community is that I don't really know what's going on. Henry, however, had a finger in everything. If there'd been a mix-up between vampires and werewolves, he'd know about it.
Freddy let me into the back room with a nod. I have free run of Henry's bar; one of the advantages of being his father, vampirically-speaking. It was Friday night, so I knew Henry would be there, supervising the poker game.
He was leaning in beside the mayor when I went in, so I put my back into holding up the wall, and settled in to admire his technique while I waited.
There's a reason half the elite in Boston come to Henry's to get their gambling fix, and it's all related to Henry's manner. He's a great host; he charms everyone and knows exactly what to say to take the sting out of major losses and defuse the occasional accusation of cheating. Plus he never forgets your favourite drink. Which is why wasn't long before a pretty girl came up to me with a cup of something that could pass for red wine from a distance, but very definitely isn't. Bagged, not fresh. Henry believed in catering to the tastes of his guests, even when he didn't understand them.
I was nearly finished my glass before he finally broke away from his table and nodded me into the back-back room; the one that serves as his office.
"Sorry," he apologized as he came in. "The chief of police has been trying to cheat the mayor all evening, and it's been hell keeping it under control without anyone realizing what's going on."
"Trying to make up the money the mayor stole from his budget," I said.
"Or getting revenge because the mayor's sleeping with his wife," Henry suggested.
That one surprised me. I couldn't imagine how the newspapers had missed it. But like I said, Henry hears about everything.
"Speaking of revenge," I said, "have you heard anything about a dust up between vampires and a werewolf recently? Any killings? Kidnappings? Cage fights?"
Henry shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "I hear there's a new witch in town, and a couple of thugs went after a few homeless guys the other night, but that's about it. Nothing with werewolves. Why?"
"New case," I said. "Wife's worried because her husband hasn't been home in a couple of days."
"Husband's a werewolf?"
"They both are. Probably works better that way."
"Sticking with your own kind always works better," Henry said dryly.
It was an old argument between us and I didn't see any point in revisiting it now, so I just shrugged. I understood why he thought the way he did, and he'd never understand why I lived the way I did until he'd been through some of the things I'd experienced. I'd call it the folly of youth, but most of the older vampires agreed with him too. So maybe I really was as twisted as they all thought. It was fine with me, as long as they left me alone.
"Oh, there is one thing," Henry said. "A couple of my girls--our kind--reported someone was following them a few nights ago, so I sent Freddy and Rick out to trail the people trailing them. They said the girls were being followed and it looks like the people doing it are some sort of cult. There's a group of them living in a house in Dorchester. They've got it decorated a lot of half-assed mystical symbols and New Age stuff. Freddy and Rick were wondering if they'd somehow figured out what we were, but they couldn't find any evidence. The girls haven't seen them since, so maybe they gave up on vampires and moved on to werewolves."
He gave me the address, and since I didn't have anything better to do, I went to check it out. It turned out that they had moved onto werewolves, and that Nora was right--Josh hadn't just run off. I found him in a cage in the basement. Apparently they were planning on keeping him there until the full moon, then using him to turn themselves. Josh and I between us managed to fight our way out pretty easily once I had him out of the cage. We left them alive and more than a little scared, and I stopped by the bar afterward to ask Henry to implant a few convenient suggestions that it was time to move on to greener pastures.
Nora and Josh were plenty happy to see each other. It was kind of heartwarming, actually, seeing them hug. I wasn't expecting a dinner invitation after that--I mean, all I did was what Nora hired me to do--but Josh insisted and Nora went along with it. And why not, right? I mean, there aren't a lot of non-vampires out there I can be myself with. It's kind of interesting talking to people who know what I am.
This might even be the start of some kind of friendship.