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Liz Stokes has to deal with a lot in her new life as a partner in the Dead-tective Agency. Murder, hexes, and a partner who’s going through some unexpected changes are a few of the new challenges her vampire partner Vincent and she face as they try to solve the mystery of Tim’s death. The trail leads them among the pointy-hatted inhabitants of the supernatural society as they try to beat Ruthven to the answers to their questions without killing each other.
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Copyright © 2017 by Mac Flynn
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Continue the adventure
Other series by Mac Flynn
I stood there bent over the sink, the picture of defenselessness. My head was shoved under the running faucet and my hair was soaked. Beside me on the counter lay the object of my desire: the shampoo. I blindly reached for the soapy goodness and my hand bumped into the plastic container. It clattered to the ground and a swear passed mylips.
“God damn this god damn damned sink,” I muttered.
This was part of my daily routine. I would awaken late in the afternoon and wash my hair, or try to. The task wasn’t easy when the sink was the size of a pail and you were naturally a little clumsy. I pulled my head out of the sink and looked through my wet mop of hair for the AWOL bottle. The fleeing culprit had fled across the linoleum and wood floors, and paused near the coffin table.
With my head bent down and a distinct sway in my gait I shuffled over to the coffin and snatched the bottle from the floor. Behind me was a trail of wet drops from the ends of my hairs. I knocked loudly on the coffin and leaned close to the lid. “You’d better be grateful for me washing my head in the sink!” I shouted. I would have felt bad, but it was almost night and time for him to get up. Besides, it was true. I avoided using the bathroom so I wouldn’t touch his sensitive side, namely the soul in the clear bottle hidden in the medicine cabinet.
“I will thank you when you no longer disturb my rest,” Vincent shotback.
“Maybe you need to get in touch with your sensitive side a little more often. It might do us both some good,” I countered.
“It is not as simple as that,” he argued. I noticed the drops of water from my hair and grinned evilly. I leaned over the top of the coffin where his head lay and listened to the drip-drip-drip of the water as it hit the hollow wood of his bed lid. Vince’s voice replied in an even, tense tone. “Is the sungone?”
I glanced out the window. “It’s pretty much-ack!” Vincent flung up the lid and it collided with the side of my face. I stumbled back and titled my head backwards to my Medusa strands fell about my shoulders. My free hand clutched at my throbbing ear and I glared at the vampire who sat up in the coffin. “This is the thanks I get for cleaning your coffin lid?” I garbled through myhand.
“That is the thanks you deserve for disturbing my sleep. Again,” he countered.
Vince lifted one foot out and my devious mind forced me to toss the smooth, plastic shampoo container beneath his foot. His shoe made impact on the round tube and his leg kicked into the air as the container rolled out from beneath him. He landed with a hard plop back into his coffin. His head hit the bottom and he lay there for a moment stunned.
I burst into a wild cackle of victory. My breaths came out in sharp gasps as I looked on Vince’s wide eyes and his mouth slightly ajar. “Going-wheeze-back to-wheeze-bed?” I chokedout.
Our little ruckus happened a couple of days after our last adventure with the death cult of Astaroth, and was sure signs that cabin fever had set in. The only cure was to get ourselves into more trouble, and it came knocking on the door just as Vince rose from his coffin to commit murder-suicide.
Knock-knock rang the sound on our ancient, weathered door. We both turned our heads to the entrance, and I glanced back at Vince. “You order a hooker?” I askedhim.
He dutifully ignored my comment and dove one hand into his pants. Out popped the dark glasses, and in a moment they covered his red eyes. “Answer it,” he orderedme.
I snorted. “Why should I answer the door? You’re dressed, too,” I argued.
“Because, as you duly noted last time, I am not the face of our business,” he countered.
I wrapped one finger around one of my wet, limp strands of hair. Even terrifying as I was his face was rather ghastly in its paleness, so I answered the door in all my wet-hair glory. I swung open the entrance and found an old man with a cane on the other side. He wore a wrinkled brown suit that matched his wrinkly face, and on his head was a brown bowler. The little old man peered at me through bottled glasses and I have to admit I took a little bit of delight when he startedback.
“What the hell have you done to yourself?” the man asked me. That was not the voice of an oldman.
I tilted my head to one side and blinked at our guest. “Mitch?” I guessed.
He snorted and pushed past me into the room. “Who else?” he countered.
“A hooker?” I suggested.
“No, but you’ll wish it was when you find out my bill,” he told me. He pulled off his wrinkly mask and hat, and looked to Vince. “You were wanting to know more about Ruthven and his making trouble still, right? I’d hate to think I went all this way downtown for nothing.”
Vince raised an eyebrow, but nodded. “Iam.”
“We are,” I correctedhim.
“Well, I happened to learn that he had some dealings witha-”
“-witch,” Vince finished forhim.
Mitch frowned. “That’s right, but how’d youknow?”
“Astaroth provided us with some information. What else can you tell us about Hilda?” Vince askedhim.
Mitch chuckled. “He probably told you and then tried to kill you, right?”
“Yeah, death by Japanese porn,” I toldhim.
“Just his style, which is to say he doesn’t have much of one. Anyway, I got a little more than he does, but because you know the first part I’ll give this half-off. The witch he was talking about is dead now, and if my info’s right, which it always is, she was a good friend of Tim’s.” He wagged his eyebrows at Vince. “I’m right, right?”
“Yes, but where and why was she killed?” Vince persisted.
Mitch shrugged. “She was killed at her hut outside town. I’m not quite sure about your second question except that I heard it was about a spell book. There’s plenty of those on the market now, so I don’t know why Ruthven would throw a fuss over anotherone.”
At the mention of a spell book Vince’s pale face grew paler. He tore off his glasses and paced the floor between his coffin and the couch. Mitch and I watched in curious fascination for a few moments until Mitch coughed. “I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about.”
Vince paused in his pacing and pulled a wad of bills from his other pocket. He held them out to Mitch. “I trust this will cover yourfee.”
Mitch’s eyes flickered between the roll and Vince’s face, but he didn’t take the money. “I’d pay you that much if you’d tell me what youknow.”
“There is only the money or nothing. Take it or leave,” Vince orderedhim.
Mitch frowned, but snatched the roll from Vince’s hand. “You sure don’t help a friend out much, doyou?”
“I may when I find one, now leave,” Vince replied. The vampire resumed his pacing and ignored the two of us still present in theroom.
Mitch donned his mask and faced the door. He strode up to me and nodded back at Vince. His voice was so low even I could barely hear the words. “Make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”
“Because he likes you so much?” I teased.
He snorted. “No, because he’s my best-paying customer.” He plopped his bowler hat on his head, tipped it at me with a winning, wrinkly smile, and closed the door behind himself as heleft.
I turned my attention to Vince. He had stopped his pacing and now looked out the window. I don’t know why he bothered; the city was too bright to see the stars and the view was of the next decrepit brick building over. I walked up to him and stood by his side. “Mind telling me what this is about?” I askedhim.
“Tire treads,” he commented.
I blinked at him. “Is the tire in your mind a little low on air? What does that have to do with anything?”
He half-turned to me and looked over his glasses at me. “When we fetched the car the tire treads had mud onthem.”
I shrugged. “So Tim took it out for-ooooh. You’re thinking that maybe Tim went to see this witch at her house before he died and there might be a clue there we canfind.”
A ghost of a smile passed over his lips. “You may yet become a decent detective.”
I snorted. “You mean ‘dead-tective,’ don’t you? Anyway, when do we leave?”
“Just let me finish washing myhair-”
My shoulders slumped forward and I dragged my fingers through my hair. “Fine, rightnow.”
Vince was gracious enough to let me comb my hair with a proper comb, but the shampoo was not to be. Ten minutes later found us in the old death-mobile on our way to-well, someplace. The slummy streets with their trash piled high between buildings made way for the suburbs. On either side of us neat, identical houses lined brightly-lit streets, and cars sat on the curbs without fear of being robbed of their tires. Far ahead of the road lay a small hill covered in wild growth, the last outpost of natural land within ten miles.
“Where does-er, did this witch live?” I askedhim.
“In a shack at the outskirts of the city,” he replied.
“And was she really a witch or was she just a witch with a ‘b’ instead of a ‘w’?” I wondered.
“Witches exist in the world, and she was one of them,” he assuredme.
“So can they curse people and stuff?”
“It is called hexing, and theycan.”
“So we should be worried about being turned into a frog? Well, if she was alive, thatis.”
“Witches don’t waste their energies on minor insults.”
“So you’re telling me you’re a witch?” I teased. Vince yanked the car for a hard left and my shoulder slammed into my door. “Will you watch it! I’m not made of steel like you, youknow!”
“You are nearly as durable as I,” he countered.
I rubbed my bruised shoulder. “Yeah, real durable, like an inflatable toy at a cat shelter. Anyway, should we be worried about any booby traps or roommates or something? I mean, we always have trouble with whatever wedo.”
“There may be protection spells remaining around the cabin, but Ruthven’s men may have disabled most of them in their effort to murder her,” he pointedout.
“Lovely. So how well did Tim know this witch? Would he really have told her something that we need to know?” I askedhim.
“That is what we need to find out,” he replied.
The road changed from well-paved to maybe-paved-at-one-point-in-its-history. The car bumped through potholes the size of Vince’s coffin and hopped over humps that made Officer Romero look small. The fine houses with their manicured lawns were replaced by older, run-down frame houses with empty windows and weed-choked lawns. Dead trees hung their long, skeletal branches over the road and rusted cars without tires sat on the lawns and on the dirt that made up the curbs.
“This city sure is rotting,” I whispered more to myself than my partner.
“Ruthven’s influence,” he commented.
I turned to him with an upraised eyebrow and nodded at the haunted houses. “What’s Ruthven got to do withthis?”
I noticed Vince’s hands tightened on the wheel. “Ruthven has long had his hands on the city’s pulse. He squeezes the life from every living thing until there remains only a dried corpse.”
I shuddered when I remembered the look in Ruthven’s eyes as he tried to convince me to come with him. “So he’s in more than just the supernatural part oftown?”
I leaned back and scrutinized my partner. “Not to go too far off-topic, but you’re pretty chatty tonight.”
“You asked to be more informed. I have given you information,” Vince toldme.
I leaned toward him and narrowed my eyes. “Where’s my partner? That grumpy old vampire who wanted to kill me this morning?”
Vince stiffened. “It will not help me to have an ignorant woman at my heels.”
I snorted. “That never stopped you before.” I glanced out the window and watched the apocalyptic scenery fly by. “You know, for everything Ruthven’s done I think his goons are a lot worse than he is. I mean, they’re the ones actually doing the bad stuffand-”
Vince slammed his foot on the brake and cranked the wheel to the right. The car slid to a stop beside a rusted hulk of an automobile in front of a house that resembled the home from Psycho. I wrapped my fingers around the dash until we came to a full and complete stop, and then I whipped my face to Vince to glare at him. “I take it back, you’re still the same old vampire. You’re still trying to kill usboth.”
Vince leaned back in his seat and stared straight ahead. His lips were pursed together, but his hands slid into his lap. “Ruthven is a monster. Never forgetthat.”
I held up the ring that bound us to each other. “Aren’t we monsters, too? Being bound to a vampire, and being a vampire, isn’t exactly natural.”
“Ruthven is different. He has no remorse, no sympathy, no-”
“You just described yourself,” I interjected.
Vince started and there was such a look of shock in his wide eyes that I regretted my words. I looked away from him and out the window. “I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t have said that.” Vince’s reply was to pull the car back onto the street and drive us up the hill with the small forest. I risked a glanced at him and saw his jaw was stiff and his lips were set in a thin line. “Really, Vince, I didn’tmean-”
“I heard your apology the first time,” he interrupted. His voice was as cold as the time we had the conversation in the warehouse, after which he tried to killme.
The rest of the drive was tense and quiet. I looked to him from time-to-time, but he only watched the road. The old houses on either side of the road gave way to a forest full of half-dead, darkened trees. Their rotting roots slid into the road and we bumped over them with all the grace of a hippo over packing peanuts, but without all the enjoyment of watching the bubbles burst. Brambles and rotting leaves covered the space between the leaning trunks, and the warm glow of the streetlights vanished. Only the headlights from the car provided us light on this overcast night.
The city disappeared behind us, and still we climbed the meandering road up the hill. The path narrowed so that branches occasionally scraped the side of the car and sometimes the wheels slipped on the muddy ground beneath the tires. The mud reminded me of the tell-tale signs of mud we found on the car, and Vince’s assumptions about Tim’s visit before his death. At tense times like these I missed him the most, and not just because he would have been in my place doing these terrifying adventures. He was a good friend who went before his-well, I guess he was really old, but he went before I could say my goodbyes tohim.
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