It’s only been a week or so that the Underground has been open to the public again and already it’s busy. Seems like the notoriety of our little New Year’s "incident"—whether they know the truth or the fiction—is enough to bring the normals back for excitement. Sometimes a little too much excitement. When I spotted Tiffany she was being manhandled into the alley behind the club by a little bruiser punk and some extra pale Killing Joke fan. She was clearly out of her head and out of her league—those were supernaturals. I followed them out to the back.
“What do you boys think you’re up to?”
“Leave us the fuck alone, Malthus.”
The punk had his half-breed demon hands all over the girl. The pale one could barely keep his fangs in his mouth. Too bad they were about to experience Infernus Interruptus.
I hissed in their faces hard enough that the vamp cowered away from me in fear. The half-demon swung at me and missed. I leapt up on the dumpster and slammed his face into the metal. I’d say it made him uglier but that’d be hard to do. Mostly it just made him bleed. I like that. I assume the vamp does too, in his way.
The vamp told me his name was Armond Augustine III. I tried to taunt the halfhorn’s Real Name out of him, but all he told me was Big Johnson. “More like Little Prick,” I said, as they ran off to hunt in a different neighborhood. Curious how that shit stain and the mosquito ended up together. But not my problem anymore. I’ll add their names to the 86 list.
I called up the Physicker and left a message on his machine. “If some little half-demon shit with a broken nose comes by, tell him Malthus said Fuck You and forbid you to treat him. Thanks.”
* * *
As I escorted Tiffany back to the tender loving care and dangly earrings of her friends Amber and Jennifer, I passed by Levi, making eyes at some guy across the bar who was stroking his pocket calculator. I thought it was a Love Connection. It was more like Weird Science.
“I think you have something of mine,” the guy said. Levi knew immediately what he was talking about. So he whipped it out right there and slapped it on the table. The guy looked down at it–long and hard. “What did you do to my scope?”
“Made it better,” bragged Levi.
Apparently they were all kinds of Nerd right there in the bar together. Chuck Wollery was ready to send them off on their second date until the guy threatened to turn Levi in to Agent McCall. No amount of sweet talking was going to get that scope back. Levi struck a deal and at least got Marcus’ name. No idea if he got his beeper number at least.
* * *
Donny came through the stockroom to her office while I was grabbing cases of Budweiser. Said she got a call from another bar friend of hers, Seamus Lee Chang, who runs the Four Leaf Clover down in North Beach. “I think your buddy Jimmy Hot Head was at it over there.”
“Jimmy Raindance? What’d he do?”
“Busted a plate glass window with a bar stool.”
“Sounds like Jimmy. Did Chang say why?”
“Some thugs were out front, trying to steal a car or something. Said Jimmy jumped out the broken window, kicked one, roundhouse kicked a second and knocked the third one out at 100 feet with one of his buddy’s Florsheims. Did the whole Dirty Harry thing with a pair of aviators in front of the entire bar. ‘Crime doesn’t pay’ and rode off.”
“Cory Hart would be proud. Guess Chang is pretty pissed off, huh?”
“Not really; said he called some French lady who said she’d pay for it. Plus all the preps thought it was the best thing they’d seen since The Terminator. Lots of ’He’ll be back’ jokes and extra rounds of shots.”
I grinned “I can get him to break the windows here if you want, boss.”
She gave me the finger and walked back to her office and slammed the door behind her.
* * *
His keys had barely finished rattling in the door of Scott’s tenderloin-adjacent 3rd story walkup when someone put a hand on his shoulder. A quick judo flip and Allison Argent was on the ground in pain. “Why haven’t you returned any of my calls for the past two months?” The light on his answering machine blinked furiously. Scott apologized and offered her a Bartles and Jaymes.
Seems Allison was under investigation for her role in the murder/disappearance of the children on New Year’s Eve. All because she pulled a file she shouldn’t have? Seems like a lot of production for a minimal amount of suspicion. Scott offers to tell her bosses the truth about who requested the file, but that’s when someone pounded on the door: a bevy of cops in riot gear. “We know Allison is in there. She’s under arrest for suspicion of kidnapping and probable murder of those 24 children.” Scott politely asked for a moment with a swift slam of the door in their faces.
“Those aren’t cops. Let’s go. Keep your eyes shut and hang on.”
He grabbed the girl and made like King Kong —somewhat literally—down the side of the building on the fire escapes, cops in hot pursuit. They chased them down an alley where he threw trash lids at them; he spotted the cop cars blocking the taxi stand at the hotel next door, so he tried to shimmy up the fire escape. One cop, gun drawn, got his hands on him as Scott was kicking away a rusted section of ladder. They tussled and the gun landed on the ground, discharging and grazing Scott in the shoulder. But it was enough time for Scott to do some kung fu leaps down the side of the building into a waiting cab, which pulled away.
Allison, gratefully, lost consciousness in the back of the taxi. Thank the lord for small mercies.
* * *
The Physicker had been having a quiet night out at the Sutter Street Tavern. Mostly enjoying his Molson and trying not to think about anything. Unfortunately the crap that happens to people like us tends to fascinate the rest of the world. He caught a glimpse of Anita Watkins on the Channel 2 News at 10 o’clock. She’s still been doing press conferences about her daughter and the other 23 missing children. She looked thin, understandably depressed. I can’t imagine what it’s like to keep hearing “the investigation is still ongoing” and “we’ll let you know as soon as we know something” from the police. The rest of the bar started talking animatedly about the “Black Widow Killer” and all those poor children, and what was anybody doing about it.
I imagine at that moment, the Physicker put down his beer, sighed deeply, and went to go call his answering machine.
* * *
Slowly the gang filtered in and we swapped stories.
“You let him walk out with it?”
“But I can make another one,” Levi protested. “I understand it enough to make one that can track them!”
I was barely able to contain myself. “Yes, but now so can they.”
Levi’s eyes went wide with understanding. “Oh…”
“Exactly. You let him walk out with a tool that can spot people like me without…”
I stopped because coming into the side door of the club was a shape shifter with an unconscious woman over his shoulder. Of course; where else would trouble come but into my nightclub? I ushered everybody into into the employee lounge in the back, where we deposited Allison on a couch.
Scott told us about his cunning escape while the Physicker patched him up and scanned the girl for damage. Johnny pointed out that there were a lot of cop cars involved if it wasn’t actually the police. “You probably just ran from the cops. That’s bad ass, but still.” We debated what to do with the girl for a bit; maybe take her to our safehouse. Suddenly the door crashed open and Donny walked in, fuming.
“I hired you to run my nightclub, Malthus. I would ask that you go do that now.” The woman can put the fear of Satan into me with her voice, but I did point out that we had a situation here, and pointed at the unconscious Allison. “I’ll deal with her. You go deal with my club. We need somebody at the front.” I went back out as she started drawing protective sigils around the couch, muttering about the girl’s terrible hair and clothes. “This is going to take all night,” she said, pulling out a box of makeup and accessories.
Levi checked the police band radio to hear if the cops were still trying to find Scott and Allison. Nothing. (Maybe Scott was right, and those weren’t cops.) The reports instead were all about some kind of incident at Ocean Beach. Reports of screams earlier, the area cordoned off, hinting about something gruesome that they wouldn’t quite say over the radio.
You know when you feel like you’re being handed a clue by the universe? This felt like it. I got my closing duties at the club all finished and we hopped into a couple of cabs—the Physicker off to see if Odile was able to join us, the rest of us following Jimmy on his hog to the grand opening of the Chthonic Playland at the Beach.
I doubt anybody there will be laughing except for Laughing Sal.