Chapter 3: There’s nothing quite like a girl
Copyright © 2015 by Brian Bixby
I don’t know if it’s the alcohol or the thought of Val Thompson screwing up my life that causes my head to spin. But I do know what’s causing the headache I’m developing. It’s a shriek I’m hearing. It’s a shriek that cuts through the room until it collides with the sheriff.
“MMMMAAAACCCC!” The shriek wraps itself around MacGregor, who looks amused and discomforted at the same time. It then disentangles itself from the sheriff, gives him a big kiss, and then turns to me. It’s female, I think, because it can’t be a guy in drag, not with that high-pitched voice and reed-thin neck. It speaks to me. “Hi, you must be Agent Eberhardt. I’m supposed to . . . SEFFIE!”
Something vaults over the bar, lands directly in front of me, and sweeps up the shrieking girl. It shrieks back “D.C.,” as if the first shrieking girl only has a location, not a name. The two shriekers make all sorts of bubbling noises at each other in pidgin English before they disengage.
I finally have a chance to look at the both of them. The second shrieker is P. Sanderson, who’s changed to jeans and a flannel shirt and suddenly seems to have a lot more dark hair on her head. While the first shrieker is a thin, nervous-looking girl with streaked hair surrounding her face and a nice set of legs between a short black skirt and black heels.
The nervous-looking girl turns to me again, drops her eyes, looks up again, and says to me, “Sorry about that, Agent Eberhardt. I’m Eurydice Young from the San Francisco office. Val Thompson ordered me out here and told me I should report to you as team leader until Agent Laveau arrives tomorrow.”
“Ah, um, yeah, right.” I try to disentangle this all in my head. What I thought was “D.C.” is Eurydice’s nickname, presumably something like “Deecee,” just like “Seffie” appears to be Sanderson’s nickname. And Young is a trained magician, all right, but why is Val sending in agents all the way from San Fran? In fact, why is Val involved at all? Yeah, she’s been here before, but so what?
I put my questions aside. Time to get professional. “Good.” I turn to Sanderson. “Seffie, I understand . . . “ and then I stop. Something has made Sanderson even madder than before, and caused Young and MacGregor to drop their jaws in horror.
Sanderson steps right up to me until our noses are almost touching. “My name is Sanderson,” she says in a low voice, “and that’s what you call me unless you want me to show you how I break the arms of trouble-causers in this bar.”
I guess I’m not in the magic circle that gets to call Sanderson by what is obviously her nickname. And I’m sick of her attitude. So in an equally quiet voice, I say to her, “Have to break you own arm much?”
There’s a very long pause, and then Eurydice Young starts giggling. Sanderson turns, sees her, smiles (obviously an unnatural expression for her), and then backs off until she’s standing side by side with Young. In a mock chiding voice, she says, “Shut up, Deecee, your boss wants to talk to us.” Young stops laughing and turns to face me, a smile still on her face. Sanderson also turns to face me, dropping her smile. She’s still angry with me, though not quite as much as she just was.
Stuff her anger, I have work to do. “As I was saying, I understand you found the body, Sanderson. Let’s go to the crime scene and you can show me what you found.”
MacGregor speaks up. “The body’s been moved to the morgue.”
I stand up. “That’s okay. It would only be a distraction from what I want to do at first.”
MacGregor and Sanderson drive off in the police cruiser, while Young and I follow, each in our own rental cars. Pity, that, because I wanted a longer look at Young’s legs. We get out of our cars at the motel, and Young starts to walk to catch up to the other two, but I intercept her. In my best serious voice, I ask her, “Do you customarily wear 3-inch heels to work, Young?” This incidentally gives me a chance to check out her legs some more.
She blushes, looks down, and mumbles, “Valerie Thompson was insistent I get here as soon as possible, so I just took off in what I was wearing.” She looks up at me, her face turning even redder. “I was taking a day off and going on a date.”
Well, I hope you’re disappointed enough to want to find relief in my arms. But I don’t want to be too obvious, and we do have a job to do, so I ask her, “What are your specialties?”
“Empathy and spirit tracking,” Young promptly announces with a nervous smile.
Not bad. We could use a spirit tracker on this case. I can sometimes do that job, but to have a magician with that specialty to do it is much better. Empathy probably won’t come in handy on the job, but should make it easier for me to get Young into my bed. Empaths have trouble resisting the sexual needs of others. I give Young a pat on her back where her skin is exposed as a sign of approval (and as a modest way to spark a sexual interest in me), and we go into the motel.
The crime scene is in a different wing of the motel than the one I’m staying in. And it has much better furnishings and decor, too. Much better furnishings. I’d take them in preference to my room, even with the bloodstains on the bed. I comment, “Nice place.”
Sanderson replies, “This is the wing the prostitutes live in when they’re sticking around for a while. The management furnishes the rooms appropriately, which is why all the beds in this wing are king-sized except for Monica’s.”
I have to ask. “Why not Monica’s?”
Sanderson raises her eyebrows. “Because you do what Monica says when you’re one of her customers. And the only time she uses a bed is to sleep in it.”
I resist asking Sanderson how she knows this, and turn my attention to the room. The place does stink of demon and death. I turn to Young. “Can you pick up the demon’s trail, Young?” Don’t call her by her nickname while we’re on official business and in front of other people. Save the nickname for chances to improve our intimacy.
Young hesitates and turns to MacGregor. “Okay if I disturb the crime scene, Mac?”
He nods. “Sure. I’ve already gone over it.”
“Thanks.” Young gets an abstracted look on her face and closes her eyes. She goes back to the door, and then starts tracing a wandering path from there to the bed. Every so often she makes a noise or gestures, because she’s recreating the path of either the demon or the victim, possibly both from what she’s doing. It looks like they were just a whore and a john engaging in some kissing and fondling.
Abruptly, Young freezes. Her eyes fly open, staring blankly ahead, and her face contorts in horror. Her body jerks repeatedly. And then she puts her hands to her chest and tears open her shirt and bra, revealing her breasts.
Sanderson takes a step toward Young. I start to tell her not to interfere, but before I can get the words out, she’s at Young’s side and grabbing Young’s head with her hands, turning Young to face her. The two of them stare at each other. As Young’s features relax, so does the worried expression on Sanderson’s face.
I finally get the words out. “You shouldn’t have interfered, Sanderson. Young was just doing her job.” And giving me a nice view of her body, I quietly add to myself.
Young turns to me, shaking her head. “It’s not like that. I mean, normally you’d be right, Eberhardt, and you shouldn’t have interfered, Seffie, but . . . I don’t know how, but somehow the demon had set some sort of trap on his path. I was just following it along, when suddenly the path was controlling me. This is going to sound silly, but it’s as if the demon knew someone would be tracking him. If Sanderson hadn’t interfered, I would have been made to torture myself.” Her voice finally cracks from its calm tones at the end. She looks down at her bare chest, reaches down to pick up the torn clothing on the floor, and holds it to cover her breasts. There are tears in her eyes as she tells me, “I’d better go change,” and heads towards the door.
Sanderson pipes up. “I’ll help her.” And the two of them go out of the room, leaving MacGregor and me behind.
MacGregor waits until they’ve gone before he asks, “Demons can do something like that?”
I make a noncommittal noise. Yes, some can, but no, not ones who go around picking off random strangers, like Rashelle’s theory about this one. They don’t have that kind of power and they aren’t that clever. Eurydice Young may be a trained agent, but she’s probably still just an inexperienced girl who can’t disengage her empathy while she’s tracking. Some women are like that. You can’t explain it to them, either.
Though I have to admit, there’s something weird about this case. I can sense the demon’s past presence here, but I can’t make out what kind of demon it is. I get down on my knees by the bed and smell and touch the blood-soaked sheets, and still can’t pick up enough of a magical trace to figure it out.
I stand up and ask MacGregor, “Where’d the description of the perp come from?”
MacGregor’s smile has returned. “Sanderson talked to Angel’s ghost.”
Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. No one’s been able to raise a ghost off this demon’s victims up to this point, not even some of the Office’s topflight necromancers. An untrained magician like Sanderson wouldn’t be able to, that’s for sure. Probably the demon has an ally who pretended to be the victim’s ghost and fooled Sanderson, who was gullible enough to believe it. In which case the physical ID is worthless. I’m wasting my time here, at least until Amelia shows up. She at least can track a demon without getting her emotions engaged, and probably tell you the demon’s name, hair color, and favorite means of torturing humans just by the traces.
Might as well clear up some details, though. “Sanderson found the body?”
MacGregor nods. “She was walking down the hall and said she could smell the death.”
At least she’s good for something. “And why was she here?”
MacGregor’s smile actually goes away completely and he takes a long time to reply. “Personal business, not my concern.” His eyes narrow as he purses his lips, and adds, “And while you can probably guess what that business was, Eberhardt, I’d recommend you stay away from that subject.”
Yes, I can guess; I pity the guy she bedded. And MacGregor seems awfully protective of his deputy. I remark, “Sanderson doesn’t exactly seem like a fragile creature.”
MacGregor’s smile returns as he chuckles to himself. “No, Eberhardt, that warning wasn’t meant to protect Sanderson. It was meant to protect you.”
I pick up Deecee Young from her rooms just after seven. Her rooms are also much nicer than mine; they form a proper, up-to-date suite. I’m going to have some words with Maura about being cheap when I get back from this assignment.
Deecee is dressed much like Sanderson was, flannel shirt and jeans. At least the shirt’s unbuttoned far enough to glimpse some cleavage. And she seems to have recovered her emotional equanimity in the meantime. But she’s still got something of that “little girl lost” look I find so attractive. Bide your time, Harry. It will come, quite possibly tonight.
I maintain a strictly professional attitude as we go out to my car and drive to our destination. I don’t trust Sanderson’s description of the demon’s host, so we’re going to go to the place the victim spent her last night before she went to her room. It’s a place called “Louie’s,” the one and only strip club in Farnham. Maybe we can find someone who saw Angel leave with her murderer. And maybe being surrounded by panting men and stripping women will give Deecee some ideas in my direction. Or at least other opportunities for me.
Louie’s turns out to be a surprise. The exterior of the building looks like a derelict warehouse. But inside, the place is reasonably decorated as if it were a higher class place than the sports bar I was in earlier. Though the three stages with acts running stand out. As do the waitresses, who are topless. They are of far better a class of women than I expected to see in this place.
I’m delighted that Deecee is not at all flustered by the place. Far from it, she takes a careful look at the nearest stage and its stripper and gives the waitress a bright smile when she comes with our menus. If anything, the waitress is flustered. I guess she doesn’t expect too many female customers to be happy to come to here.
While the talent on display is good, the beer list is not: it has less variety than the sports bar, and costs more. The wine list looks better, and I order a bottle for the both of us. When it comes, I hold out my glass with a smile and say, “Here’s to some fun times solving this case, Deecee.” I try to put a bit of sexual feeling in it.
It seems to work. Deecee brightens up and gives me a big smile, blushes slightly, and says, “Same to you, ah . . .”
“Harry,” I interject.
“Harry,” she replies, with an even bigger smile.
We take a sip, and I say, “You don’t mind being here? I wouldn’t think you have much acquaintance with strip clubs.”
She blushes again. “I’ve only been to one once, and that was in San Francisco. Things are . . . well, they’re a bit different there. But this I like.” And she turns to watch the strippers on the main stage.
I’m thinking everything is going so well, and then I get this uneasy feeling. Deecee Young really seems to be enjoying the show on the nearest stage. Indeed, she is just a little too happy with this place. And I have to take only the slightest of readings off of her to realize why. She likes the place because she likes the women. She’s sexually excited by them. Deecee Young is a lesbian.
All my fantasies about how I was going to maneuver Deecee into my bed collapse along with my manhood. I’m so disappointed I don’t catch what Deecee turns and says to me, so I ask her to repeat it.
Deecee’s still smiling as she tells me, “I’m so happy Valerie Thompson took over this case as manager, else I wouldn’t be here.”
I’m tempted to ask her to say it again. That can’t be right. Rob Fau is the region’s D.C. liaison. He should be the case manager, the person I ultimately report to for this assignment, no question about it. So I pull out my phone and call up the Office’s case log. And there it is, in bright pixels: CASE MANAGER – VALERIE T. THOMPSON. Val must have taken the case over from Rob.
I thought I was going to get laid tonight by Deecee Young. Instead, I’ve just been fucked over by Val Thompson.