Sunday, June 18, 2017

The First Rule, Part One

The corpse was covered in bruises and blood. Male, early thirties, his face was white from blood loss, but bending down I could see two small punctures in his neck.
“Vampire.” Detective Anita Sharpe pulled me back to let the tech team in.
“Yeah.” I sighed. This was going to cause problems.
The Chicago CP and the Chicago vampires had a shaky truce. One that I’d helped negotiate. No indiscriminant killing of vamps by the cops, in exchange for no large-scale attacks on humans. Vampires needed blood to survive, but they couldn’t slaughter humans like Huns rampaging the countryside. As long as the blood was kept to a minimum, we could live uncomfortably together.
Now I was on the deserted top floor of a four-story parking garage on the west side of the city at 2:30 a.m., with Sharpe—my partner on the Silent Force, my name for the vampire squad—looking at a body that clearly violated the treaty.
And I was the go-between—the liaison between the vamps and the CPD. The vampire ambassador.
I’m Tom Jurgen. A private detective. I used to be a reporter. And I’ve been getting involved in cases and stories involving vampires, demons, aliens, and other paranormal beings for longer than I can remember.
“You’re going to have to call her.” Sharpe pointed to the pocket of my windbreaker.
Anenome. The queen of vampires in this part of the city. She and Clifton Page, another long-undead vampire, had split the map apart to deal with the treaty. But something all the problems seemed to lie on Anemone’s side of the line.
“Right.” I pulled out my phone. “Any idea who he is?”
            “Once the techs are done we can go through his clothes.”
“Okay.” I pulled out my phone. “She’s probably awake. Maybe writing her poetry.”
Sharpe rolled her eyes. “Riiight.”

“Tom? How are you?” Anenome’s voice was a soft whisper. “I’m just doing a painting of the moon. I hunted earlier.”
            She likes to hunt in the early evening, preying on older people who can’t fight back. As far as I knew, she hadn’t actually killed anyone in months. At her age she didn’t need as much blood as a younger vampire to keep her undead.
            I sat in my Honda on the street, watching the ambulance the body away. “I need to ask about a dead human. Found in a parking garage in your territory. Tonight.”
            “Oh, great.” She sighed. “I suppose you expect me to do something about it?”
            “It looks like a clear violation of the treaty. Neck wounds, drained of blood. My people are going to take this seriously.”
            “I don’t know anything about it.” Her voice rose. “But in the spirit of the truce, I’ll make inquiries.”
            “Thank you.” Telling a vampire queen what to do is scary, but it’s now part of my job. “I’ll have to call Clifton, too. Just so you know.”
            Anenome groaned. “Give him my best.”
            I shivered as we hung up. We aren’t friends, or even allies, but we’d reached a kind of equilibrium in our relationship. We sort of trust each other. But it’s a narrow balance.
            Dealing with vampires is always precarious.
Rachel and I had been up late watching Orange is the New Black when Sharpe’s call had come. She was working at her laptop on my kitchen table as I came in.
            “So?” She saved her work as I locked the door. “What’s going on?”
            “Vampires. Again. You didn’t have to stay up.”
            “I had too much coffee.” She shrugged. “Plus, I didn’t want to get ahead without you.”
            Rachel’s my upstairs neighbor. And my girlfriend. Red hair, hazelnut eyes, sort of psychic. “Let me get a beer.”
            Back at the table I told Rachel everything I knew about the murder. “I have to call Clifton Page. Just to keep him informed.” I pulled out my phone. “You staying?”
            “Let me work on this brochure a while. We’ll see.”
            Page was awake. Of course. “Tom. What can I do for you?”
            “There’s been a murder. A human. In Anemone’s territory, but I thought you ought to know.”
            He paused. “What can you tell me?”
            “Not much.” I gave him what I’d seen. “I’ll probably know more tomorrow.”
            “This sounds . . . I don’t know. I’ll contact some people myself. I probably don’t have anything. But I’ll call you if I do. Before sunrise or after sunset.”
            “Right.” I wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight. “Thank you.”
            “Of course.” Clifton Page was more than 100 years undead, but still a gentleman. “Good night.”
            Rachel closed her laptop. “Bed.”
            “Good idea.” I finished my beer.
            She stood up and stretched. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m going to fall asleep in two seconds.”
            “Whatever.” I turned out the lights.

When I woke up at 8:30 the bed was empty. I took a quick shower, dressed, and checked my messages.
            Nothing from Anemone or Page. A quick one from Sharpe at 5:32 a.m.: “Call me at eleven. I’m getting some sleep.”
            So I ate some cereal and worked on my other cases for a few hours—mostly phone calls and internet searches. Sharpe called me at 10:46.
            “Jurgen? We’ve got a name on the vic.”
            I switched pages on my laptop. “Okay. Good morning, by the way.”
            “Yeah, happy Wednesday to you. Listening? Adan Shank, address in Lincoln Park, 32 years old, fifteen parking tickets and three drunk and disorderlies. His car was in the garage on a lower level. I’ll send you the data. We’ve already had people talk to his parents and a girlfriend. You get to do the in-depth stuff. Let me know what you find out.” She hung up.
            That was the kind of relationship we had. So I sipped my coffee and checked my email.
            There it was: a dossier on Adan Shank. The details were sketchy. Born in Oklahoma, his parents immigrants from Greece. Graduate of a community college. Employed at a car rental agency in Chicago, two years ago to the present. His address. Cell number. No landline number. His parents, and a girlfriend. License plate number, belonging to a nine-year-old Subaru. Various cards—library card, gym club membership, discount cards for Walgreen and Jewel and others.
            I started with an internet search of his name, using a few resources available only to private detectives. After filtering out all the results for “Adam” Shank and other variations, I found a credit report on the low side, a complaint from a past landlord, and two addresses in Chicago associated with his name.
            But internet searches will only take you so far. After copying the information, I picked up my cellphone. I started with Adan’s employer.
            The manager sounded annoyed. “I already talked to the cops. You want to rent a car?”
            “My Honda’s fine right now. Is there someone who knew him I could talk to?”
            “We don’t have time for that. I asked Tina, she’s his friend, and she doesn’t know anything. Sorry, I’ve got someone here.” The manager hung up.
            I found numbers for landlords at both addresses. The most recent one barely knew Adan, although he said the checks usually came on time. The previous landlord ranted that Adan had run out on his last month’s rent, and the security deposit barely covered the cost of the damage to the carpet in the apartment.
            Okay. I thought for a moment, then realized I was putting off the two most obvious places to start: Adan’s parents and his girlfriend.
            As a reporter I’d had to call up grieving parents and partners more than I liked. I didn’t enjoy it, and neither did any other good reporter, but it was part of the job. So I took a deep breath.
            Adan’s parents didn’t answer, so I left a message. His girlfriend Jenny Calvano picked up. “Hello?”
            “Ms. Calvano? My name’s Tom Jurgen, I’m a consultant with the Chicago Police. I’m very sorry to disturb you—”
            “It’s about Adan, isn’t it?” She sounded tense and close to breaking.
            “I’m afraid it is. If this is a bad time—” Well, that was a stupid thing to say. “I can call you later if you want.”
            “No. I can . . . a few minutes maybe. I already talked to some detectives.”
            “I know, and I’ll probably go over the same details. I’ll try to keep this brief. Adan was . . . on the top floor of a parking garage. Do you know any reason why—”
            “He wasn’t buying drugs.” Her voice was ragged. “That’s what those cops asked me. We smoke a little weed, that’s it. Nothing that would get him involved with anything violent.”
             “Okay. Are you aware of anyone who’d want to hurt him?”
            “No. No, we’ve got a bunch of friends. He likes the people he works with. You might talk to Tina, she works there with him, she knows some of his friends better than I do. I don’t know everyone. Sometimes he goes out without me, with guys from work or whatever.”
            “Did he tell you he was going out last night?”
            “Yeah, but he didn’t say with who. We don’t live together. Well, weekends, but I don’t see him every day.”
            “Would it be possible for you to give me a list of some of his friends he might have been out with?”
            She sighed. “I suppose. Give me your email address?”
            Half an hour later I had an email with six names and phone numbers—including Tina, Adan’s co-worker at the car rental agency.
            I poured myself a cup of coffee and started punching numbers.

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