Saturday, August 13, 2016

Vampire Lovers, Part Two

So I went home and slept for a few hours until Rachel called me. She was working at a job in the suburbs. I told her everything.
            “You actually rescued someone? “ She laughed. “And you didn’t get hurt?”
            “It wasn’t like I had to wrestle anyone.” I knew Rachel’s laughs pretty well by now. She was pissed off and worried, but she didn’t want to show it. “Thanks for the vampire gear, by the way.” I hadn’t needed it, but I was glad to have it.
            “Well, hang onto it for a while. I’ll call you later.” She hung up.
            After a shower and a bowl of cereal, I called the motel and asked to be connected to Jillian Donovan’s room. I wasn’t sure how deeply vampires slept, but—
            “I’m sorry,” the clerk said. “That guest has checked out.”
            Huh? “When?”
            “An hour ago. That’s really all I can tell you.”
            I turned around. The sun was streaming through the blinds in the window behind my dining room table, where I set up my laptop every day and do most of my work. “An hour ago?” It was 11:30 in the morning.
            “I really can’t give you any more information. Guest confidentiality, and all that.”
            “Right. Thanks.” I hung up.
            Now what? I’d had a whole story worked out about being worried after the attack and offering to drive her home tonight, but Jillian had left—in broad daylight.
            Which meant she wasn’t a vampire.
            I debated calling Page. But after minute my reporter’s survival instincts took over, and I realized I needed more facts before outing her. So I did what I should have done in the first place: I ran a check on Jillian Donovan.
            Within 15 minutes I had her address—Edgewater neighborhood—occupation—video production consultant—and her Facebook page. It was marked to “Private,” but the profile picture matched. So much for no photos.
            Now I was thoroughly confused. I called Page and got his answering machine. I was actually grateful to have some time to think over what to say, so I told him to call me this evening. Then I saved what I had Jillian in a file and stood up to stretch.
            After checking my email and doing a few odds and ends on other cases I had going, I peered into my refrigerator and realized I needed bread and a few other groceries. So I grabbed a shopping bag and headed downstairs.
            Out on the sidewalk a car door slammed. I ignored it for a moment, then remembered last night. When I turned around, I saw the same two men walking toward me.
            The muscular guy wore a different T-shirt, and the bony guy limped a little. When I looked at my front door and got ready to run, Bony Guy lifted a hand. “Wait! We just want to talk!”
            They’d intercept me anyway. And I’d left my Taser inside. So I waited as they approached, hands at their sides.
            “You Tom Jurgen?” Bony Guy huffed and puffed, out of breath from chasing me half a block. Not like last night. “We need to talk to you.”
            I backed away. “How did you find me?”
            He glanced at his partner. “Adam got your license plate. You’re a P.I., right?”
            Damn it. How much did they know about me—and Jillian? “Why did you attack that woman last night?”
            “We didn’t attack her!” Bony Guy stomped a foot on the sidewalk. “She just ran away before we could talk to her.”
            “You tackled her to the ground. I saw it. That looked like—”
            “And then she kicked me in the balls! What did that—”
            “Shut up, Dego.” Adam thumped him on the chest. “Look, Jurgen, we only want to talk to you.”
            I tensed. “What about?”
            Adam handed me a business card. “Call our boss. He’ll explain.”
            PATRICK HURST, the card read. DI PEST CONTROL. A phone number, email address, and website were listed below. “What’s this all about?”
            “We’re sorry we scared her.” Adam nodded at the card. “Just talk to him. Okay?”
            I slipped the card in my pocket. “Okay. I’ll call.”
            He patted Dego on the shoulder. “Come on.”
            I watched them drive away. Then, even though I was hungry, I went back home to call Patrick Hurst.

The DI Pest Control office on the northwest side looked like a legitimate business. A big sign above a one-story building, two white vans with the DI logo in a gated parking lot, and three assistants taking calls inside. A young African-American woman took my card and picked up her phone. Moments later I was sitting in front of Patrick Hurst’s desk.
            Hurst had short gray hair and big heavy arms. His face was long and hard. He leaned back behind his desk and held my card up with both hands. “Tom Jurgen, huh? Private eye?”
            “You wanted to talk to me. What can I do for you?” 
            He dropped the card on his desk. “You’re working for Clifton Page. Right?”
            “I don’t generally give out the names of my clients.” Cops and lawyers and angry spouses had asked the same question, with varying degrees of success depending on the situation and how loud they yelled. “So what do you want to talk about?”
            “Oh, for Christ’s sake.” Hurst snatched up a photo frame from his desk. “Look at this.”
            A family—mother and father in front of a house, two small children smiling at the camera. Both the father and son looked like the Hurst sitting in front of me. The little girl was smiling with braces in her teeth.
            “Your family?”
            Hurst gazed at the photo. “My mom and dad, and my sister. I was nine years old. She was seven. Why it didn’t kill me, I don’t know.” He ran a hand over his eyes. “That was 28 years ago, and I visit their graves every Sunday.”
            He set the picture face down on his desk. “I’ve been hunting that thing ever since. Now I know where it lives.” He folded his arms over his chest. “And you can help me.”
            My client. Destroying a family. Who was I working for? But I couldn’t just sell Page out based on a photo and a sad story. I’ve worked for disreputable clients before, just like lawyers who defend the scum of the world. Some of them are scum, but my only job was getting the facts.
            “I’m sorry for your loss.” It’s an empty phrase, but I needed to say it. But then I had to ask: “So you want me to help you kill Clifton Page?”
            “I want to stop it from killing anyone else!” Hurst pounded a fist on the desk. “Look, how many people do you imagine it’s killed by now? I don’t know how old it is, but they need blood every day to survive!” He glared at me like an angry husband. “Come on, Jurgen. You can’t be on the side of a monster like that.”
             I wasn’t sure whose side I was on. I thought about all the people I’d seen over the years who’d been killed by monsters—vampires, shapeshifters, demons. Maybe Hurst had justice on his side. Or at least revenge. This was getting more complicated than I’d imagined.
            But Page was my client, and he wanted me to protect Jillian. And she wasn’t a vampire.
            I sat back in my chair. “So what would you want me to do? I mean, if I was working for Page.”
            He leaned forward. “Help me get close to it. Help me destroy it.”
            Oh hell. “You know where he lives. Your people were there last night. What do you need me for?”
            Hurst’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “To get me inside. Or draw it outside. Where I can kill it.”
            I remembered Jillian running down the sidewalk. “Is that why your people tried to kidnap that woman in the middle of the night?”
            He frowned, angry. “They were only supposed to talk to her! Give her my card, like they did with you today! She didn’t have to run!”
            “They didn’t have to tackle her.”
            Hurst shoved his chair back. “Are you going to help me or not?”
            I stood up, nervous. And not just for my own safety. “I don’t think so. Sorry.”
            He crumpled my card in his fingers. “Then get out.”
I drove a block away, parked, and called Page again. Still no answer. Vampires apparently sleep very soundly in the daytime.
            So I spent a few minutes debating the ethical pros and cons of my next obvious step. In the end I didn’t seem to have a choice. Hurst had found me in less than 12 hours. I’d found Jillian Donovan, so Hurst could too. And Page had asked me to help protect her.
            “Hello?” She picked up on the second ring.
            “Jillian Donovan? This is Tom Jurgen. I drove you last night—”
            “Yes, thank you. Um—how did you get my number?” She sounded suspicious. With good reason.
            “I’m, uh, not really an Uber driver. I’m a private detective. Clifton Page hired me.”
            “Okay?” Now she was really puzzled.
            “Those men last night? They work for a man named Patrick Hurst. He has . . .” I wasn’t sure how to put it without panicking her. “He’s looking for Page.”
            “Oh, god.” She gasped. “Is he some kind of—vampire killer?”
            At least I didn’t have to pretend now. “He says Page, uh, killed his family when he was a child.”
            Silence. Then a cry of disbelief. “Cliff doesn’t do that anymore! He doesn’t hunt! He . . .” Her voice faded. “Wait a minute. What did he hire you for?”
            I hesitated. “You’d probably better ask him about that. I’ve tried to call him, but—”
            “You can’t wake him in the daytime. I’ve tried.”
            “Here’s the thing.” I wanted to keep her calm, so I kept my voice steady and low. “Hurst wanted me to help him kill Page. So I’m concerned he may approach you. Or, you know, something worse. He claims they weren’t trying to kidnap you last night, just talk, but he seems a little unhinged. You might want to get somewhere safe where he or his men can’t find you.”
            “Oh, god,” she said again. “I have to get to Cliff’s place. Can you take me there?”
            “Is that a good idea? They know where he lives. And he won’t be awake until—”
            “I’ll feel safe there. He won’t let anything happen to me.”
            I hated the idea. Jillian might feel safe, but I wouldn’t. Still, Page would want me to do what she asked. “All right. Tell me where to pick you up.”
            She gave me her address. Which I already had, but I didn’t want to creep her out by letting her know. “Twenty minutes,” I told her.
            “Hurry,” she said.

No comments:

Post a Comment