Sunday, June 18, 2017

The First Rule, Part Two

Tina answered my call but couldn’t talk, so she promised to call me later. I left messages at two other numbers, talked to two friends who were shocked by Adan’s murder but didn’t have anything to offer, and got hold of Will Hernandez, the last name on the list.
“Yeah, I heard about Adan on the internet.” Will kept his voice low, as if he wasn’t supposed to be talking at work. He worked at an electronics store, selling computers, TVs, and assorted gizmos. “I talked to him a day ago.”
“What did he say?”
“Look, I don’t know you.” He didn’t sound hostile, just skeptical. “So I don’t know what I should say.”
“I understand that. You can call detective Anita Sharpe at the Chicago Police—”
“I don’t want to talk to cops.” He hesitated. “I’m not sure if I should talk to you, but maybe—look, Adan used to be a boxer. In college, a little bit afterwards. He wanted to keep it going, but he couldn’t. So he started looking for ways to fight. Not professionally, just . . . fight.”
“With who?”
“I don’t know. Look, I haven’t talked to him in weeks, all right? He’s not an angry guy, he just likes to show off.”
“Okay.” I added “boxing” to my notes. “Thanks for talking to me.”
“I’ve got to go.” He hung up.
I looked at the time on my phone. One o’clock? What happened to the morning? I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich.
Rachel called me as I was eating. “Anything on the new vampire thing?”
“Not yet.” I set it down. “Lots of phone calls, waiting for calls back. The usual glamorous life of a P.I. How’s that brochure coming?”
“Oh, it’s done. I’m working on a web page for a startup selling frozen tuna and salmon and fish like that. It’s boring.”
“Want to come down for lunch? I’ve got—” My phone buzzed with another call. “I’ve got another call. Come down if you want.” I switched. “Hello, Tom Jurgen speaking.”
“Hello? It’s Tina Kolb. You called me? About Adan?” She was whispering. Maybe she was in the rental agency’s break room, with the manager close by.
“Yes, thanks for calling me back.” I clicked on my laptop. “I apologize for bothering you today. It must be difficult—”
“Yeah, I can’t believe it.” Tina groaned. “But what can I do? I’m taking a late lunch.”
            “Me too.” I shoved my sandwich back. “So I’m trying to find out why Adan was on the empty top floor of parking garage with his own car parked on a lower level. Can you give me any ideas?”
            “I’m not sure what I should tell you.” She kept her voice low. “I don’t—I didn’t know Adan that well. We were friends, but I don’t want to get into any trouble. You’re with the police, right?”
            “I’m a consultant. Mostly I’m a private detective, but I work with them on certain cases.”
            “What kind of cases?”
            I couldn’t talk about vampires. Not yet, anyway. “Unusual cases. I’ll try to keep whatever you can tell me confidential. But in all honesty, I can’t promise that.”
            I half expected her to hang up. Instead she took a long deep breath. “Okay. All I know is that Adan used to be a boxer, or wrestler, or something. Sometimes he’d come in with a bruise on his face, and when I asked about it, he’d sort of laugh and said he had a few good rounds last night. I don’t know what he meant, but it sort of sounded like he’d been fighting. For fun.”
She swallowed. “I’ve got to go back to work. Can I call you later?”
“Of course. Thanks for talking to me.”
Rachel opened my door as I set the phone down. “You said something about lunch?”
            I looked at my sandwich. “I’m having turkey and swiss cheese. Let me see what I’ve got.” Rachel’s a vegetarian.
            “That’s okay. Just give me some coffee. I’m not sure I slept last night. Or the night before.” She yawned. “So what’s with the vampires?”
            “I’m not sure.” I looked at the clock. “Six hours until sundown. I might get some answers then.”
            Then my phone buzzed.
            “Hi, I’m Jeff Tollin.” One of Adan’s friends that I’d left a message with. His voice quivered. “You called me?”
            “Yes. Thanks for calling back.” I introduced myself. “I only called to see if you could give me any information about Adan Shanks. I got your name from a friend of his. He’s, uh . . .”
            “Dead. I know.” He swallowed. “Look, I can tell you some stuff, but not on the phone. Can we meet somewhere? Tonight?”
            “Sure.” I tapped at my computer. “Where? When?”
            “My place.” He gave me an address on the west side. “Uh, around 8:00?”
            “That’s great.” It was 2:00 now. “I’ll be there. Thanks.”
            “What’s that?” Rachel cocked an eyebrow.
            “Jeff Tollin. Friend of the victim. I’ve meeting with him at 8:00. But before that I’ve got phone calls at sundown. You want to hang out here?”
            “I’m going to take a nap.” She kissed the top of my head. “Upstairs, so don’t get any ideas. Call me before you go anywhere.”

I checked out a few other cases, made some phone calls and sent a few emails. Then I napped too. Vampire cases keep me up all night, and I needed the extra sleep.
            I woke up around 5:30 and waited for the sun to drop. I checked my email., drank some lukewarm coffee, and made sure twilight filled the sky before making my first call. Anenome.
            “Tom.” She laughed. “Can’t you give a girl a few minutes to dry off from a shower? I’m naked here.”
            Vampires take showers? I tried to keep my mind on business. “Adan Shank. The guy in the parking garage? You had all night to ask questions.”
            “Just give me a minute.” I heard rustling noises. “I’d send you a selfie right now, but I really want to go out and hunt.”
            I squirmed. “I don’t need any selfies, but thanks for the offer. Have you got anything for me on Adan Shank?”
            “Actually, no.” She sounded surprised herself. “No one is talking to me.”
            “No one? You’re the vampire queen. You’re the toughest vamp in Chicago, aren’t you?”
            “You should hope I am. But it’s not like I can send a group email to every vampire with a cellphone and expect an instant response.”
            “So will you keep asking?”
            Anenome sighed. “After I hunt.”
            I pretended not to hear that.
            Clifton Page called me a few minutes later. He didn’t have anything either.
            I was feeling frustrated. “You and Anenome have been able to keep the truce going for months. How do you communicate? I assume you don’t have town hall meetings every month.”
            He chuckled. “We do have email. Some of us, anyway. And we have—other methods of communicating that I’m not going to share with you. But we really don’t have thousands of vampires living here, or even hundreds. Maybe just dozens, especially since Asmodeus was killed.”
            I shuddered. Asmodeus—the vampire king who launched the war on Chicago. Yeah, he was dead. I’d killed him, after he’d slaughtered Detective Elena Dudovich, my one sort-of friend in the CPD. Killing Asmodeus had led to the truce, so at least something positive came out of all the deaths.
            I still missed Dudovich.
            “So you should be able to get the word out to all of them, though, shouldn’t you? Or most of them?”
            He sighed. “This ‘king’ and ‘queen’ thing is mostly a fiction for you humans to feel better. The only authority we have is fear. As long as they’re afraid of Anenome and me, the truce will hold. If that stops . . .”
            He didn’t finish. He didn’t have to.
            “Will you keep asking?”
            “Of course. I’ll be in touch.”
Jeff Tollin opened the door. “Hi. Tom?”
            “Yes.” I stepped aside for Rachel. “This is Rachel. She works with me.”
            “Okay.” He backed up. I tried to ignore him checking out Rachel’s tight jeans and boots. “Come on in.”
            The two-bedroom apartment was small, neat, and clean. The window looked across at the street at a Mexican restaurant.
“I work over there.” Tollin lowered the shades. “My roommate’s gone for now. He works down the block.”
            Tollin was heavyset, with a blond beard and a thick nose. He offered us sodas and then sat down with one of his own.
            “Here’s the thing.” He sipped. “Adan used to be a boxer. In college. I think he got a partial scholarship, but he wasn’t interested in going pro. But he missed it, so he started boxing at this one gym where I met him.”
            “Do you box?” Rachel asked.
            He grinned, embarrassed, as if Rachel was flirting with him. “A little. Mostly I lift weights.” Then he glanced at me and went back to the point. “Anyway, he was a pretty good boxer, but he told me once he was into something a little more . . . extreme.”
            “Like krav maga?” Rachel looked at me. “What? I took a class once. It almost killed me.”
            Good. I didn’t need her to get any better at slugging me.
            “No.” Tollin looked at the floor.  “Did you ever see that movie ‘Fight Club’?”
            “Only the trailer.” The first rule about Fight Club is, you don’t talk about Fight Club. Or something like that.
            “I did.” Rachel sighed. “Brad Pitt. I’ll rent it for you sometime.”
            I leaned forward, “Is that what Adan was doing? Fighting with . . .” Vampires?
            Tollin shook his head. “I don’t know. He was really like, ‘You don’t talk about Fight Club.’” He shrugged. “That’s why I didn’t want to talk on the phone.”
            I nodded. “Okay. Anything else?”
            Tollin shook his head. “Just that it’s weird, what they said about him being found in a parking garage. Like that might have been one place to meet. And fight.”
            I nodded. “Yeah.”

Back at my apartment I called Clifton Page again. “Do vampires have fight clubs with humans?”
            He didn’t ask what a fight club was. Maybe he’d seen the movie. Maybe I was the only person in the city, human or undead, who hadn’t.
            “Some humans seem to enjoy the idea of testing themselves against us.” He hesitated. “And a willing victim is rare. So it happens.”
            “Are you aware of any going on right now?”
            Another long pause. “It’s the kind of thing I’d try to stop. My people might enjoy it, for obvious reasons. Some of your people might for their own reasons. But there’s too much risk of a backlash if it goes to far or happens to often.”
            “Bad for business.” I have watched “The Sopranos.” I thanked him and hung up.
            “So?” Rachel gave me a beer.
            I shrugged. “Human-vampire fight clubs are apparently a thing. Who knew?”
            “Nothing surprises me anymore. You calling Sharpe?”
            “Yeah.” I had to report, even if I didn’t have anything more than a theory.
            “Jurgen.” She answered on the first buzz. “How did you know?”
            “Know what?” My blood pressure jumped. Rachel’s the psychic, not me, but—
            “There’s another one.”

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