MJ 6A: Case of the Curse Pt 1

bymadam_noe©

"Yes I will help you with this case. I'm retired and I have never been so bored in my life! I won't ask for a cut, and I won't sleep with you because the moment I do is the moment you turn tail and run."

"I do not," I ground out and to underscore my point I slammed my purse on the counter and sat on a bar stool, trying not to claw the expensive ivory marble that offset the dark walls.

"Yes, you do." He added crushed into and poured two Gin Rickies.

I snatched one and drank it down like I'd come in from the Gobi after three days of walking. "Why are you being difficult? I'm horny, I have a few hours to kill, we're both single- are we both single?"

He laughed. "Marly, in two years there hasn't been any woman but you. That you don't get that is the reason I won't sleep with you. I'm sick of being a piece of meat you use when it's convenient."

I snorted. "I use you? What the hell did you snort for breakfast? Remember the last time? You swooped in on my case, jacked it to hell, fucked my brains loose expecting me to trot home to Chicago and you'd stay in L.A."

He took a deep swig, his eyes on me all the while, evaluating and measuring. "I saved you from becoming a memory, and then if you'll recall, I helped you get free of Montgomery."

"And just who got me indebted to him?"

"An assassin named Smith?"

I was seeing stars and my .357 on my hip was starting to itch. He set the glass down and flashed perfectly even, white teeth. Caps, I knew; he was Southside Irish and Southside Irish never had perfect teeth.

"Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you?"

"Because I know the only person in town who could fence those rubies."

"Person?" He never used the word.

"Dana Carter. Let's go, I'll drive."

"My car'll get towed."

"Let it, it's a piece of crap. Besides, I look dead sexy in the Mustang."

I watched him come around and grab for a leather jacket. The man looked dead sexy in anything, he'd look dead sexy dissecting a cat.

That snapped me back to reality, but watching his ass swagger down the stairs to the garage pushed me back from reason.

***

"Fuck."

Finn grinned at me. We were standing at Clark and Fullerton by Weiner's Circle. Inside yuppie tourists were being screamed at for asking for a straw and had no idea that it was a gimmick.

He looked like a early punk's wet dream. He'd let his hair loose and though I'd never felt strongly one way or the about long hair, it was hot. He hadn't shaved and it looked like he'd rubbed himself with burnt cork. He wore a black Misfits t-shirt, the leather jacket, and above Harley boots well-scruffed with use he wore leather pants that looked painted on.

He must have stopped by his old studio and had someone do makeup. He wore black eyeliner and managed to not look feminine at all, it just made his eyes look huge and luminescent. A clip-on earring dangled from one ear, a long saber that could probably cut.

I looked down at my simple black jeans and t-shirt and sighed. I looked like I always did; like an off-duty cop.

"Like it?"

"Nice makeup," I grumbled.

"Cheer up, not everyone there is Goth." He referred to Neo, the Goth club we were headed into, our only lead.

The night before we'd met Dana Carter, the woman least likely to ever be suspected of being a fence. She was in her late twenties, barely five feet tall, girl-next-door gorgeous with a brown paige boy and subtle curves. She'd seemed to know Finn intimately and smiled at him but was tooth-grindingly polite to me.

She hadn't seen the rubies pass through and could safely say no one had tried to hock them, though she knew of Eleanor Bain. Apparently Ellie had taken dribs and drabs of daddy's jewels over the years and had hocked them for drug money.

Dana even pointed us towards Neo, a spot not know for selling drugs, but the Goth scene hot spot of the city where apparently Ellie dwelled and was known.

I'd spent the day looking over her credit card records her father had given me and coming up with nothing, agreed to go to Neo.

At first I'd tried to hide it from Finn but then he'd showed up before dinner time in my office with an offer; let him tag along and if the case dropped, petered off, or got FUBAR, he would cover my fee. I wanted the money bad, and he'd known this, giving me an alligator smile before leaving without even trying to feel me up.

I felt like a heel walking with him to the club. It was down an alley and we showed our IDs to the doorman who looked like he and Finn could go further up Clark to Spin for dancing. Spin was a gay club where drugs flowed much more freely in the women's bathroom.

Once in the door I fell on nervous habit and lit a cigarette. Some band I didn't know was playing over the speakers and on the dance floor it looked like escapees from Halloween were having slow-motion spasms. I had nothing against Goths, it just wasn't my scene.

I wasn't alone, I saw with relief. However at the bar. The heart of any club, the people seemed to be old punks and young Goths, people who fit. At the back end were tables on carpeted risers. Around those crowded tourists like me, slurping fashionable drinks by candlelight.

"Who first?"

"Dana said to ask for Scoobs, aka Stephen Meyer. Let's get a drink."

I followed him up the step to the bar and took the beer list he handed me. Mmmm, Unibroue Maudite, a canny little Canadian beer I'd come to love. They had bottles and Finn bought me one and got himself something domestic and bland. He liked good beer but he never liked to drink as much as I did.

When our beer was set down there was a break in the head-throbbing music and Finn slipped a twenty to the bartender and whispered in his ear. An exchange was made and he came back with my beer.

"So?"

"He's in the bathroom."

"Let's go." I turned and started to head towards the back but he grabbed my arm.

"Men's room, sweetheart. Be a good girl and wait for daddy."

"You're only one year older than me and you're a sick freak."

He just grinned then swaggered off like a leather fetishists wet dream. I slugged my beer and leaned against the railing overlooking the dance floor.

After a long moment a young man easily ten years my junior sidled up to me. His head was shaved clean, his goatee was an homage to LeVay, his eyes were khol-lined, and he wore old-school motorcycle goggles as a necklace.

"Hey."

I slugged my beer. And looked him up and down. Skinny enough that he likely didn't eat meat; his clothes were expensive, and he smelled like Old Spice and whiskey.

"So, visiting Chicago?" he tried again against my tough-guy silence.

Now that irked me. I was in the damn papers often and this dickhead didn't recognize me.

"You know Eddie Harwood?" I finally said and goggles shook his head. "Stormy Michaels?"

"Oh, excellent porn star! I heard she got capped by her boss's old lady."

"That's what they say, but I disagree." I lowered my beer and hoped he'd recognize me.

Instead Finn clapped him on the shoulder. "She's got a thirty eight on her somewhere, you might wanna leave, kid."

"who you calling kid?" Goggles said and then turned around and looked up at Finn.

Finally he skittered off and Finn was smiling. "Scoobs will meet us outside, by the cat shelter across the street in five. Finish your beer."

I raised a brow. "Thought you'd talk to him in the john."

Again the Devil's smile. "If did you'd never believe anything I reported back."

I chugged, the absolutely worst thing to do with a great beer, and followed Finn out. Outside in the alley he stopped and pulled me close. My heart started to pound and all I could think was how dare he wait until he wore eye makeup and leather pants before he'd do me.

A large hand skimmed over my ass and I felt myself go soft, but then the ass just pulled my Camels from my back pocket.

I grabbed for them but he twisted away. "Come on, I've been jonseing for a few days."

He pulled one out and I snatched the pack back pulling one out for myself. I reached into my bra for my lighter and his hand was there. "Let me help you."

Irked I smacked his hand away and lit my own. "No games, Finn, it pisses me off."

He grinned and snatched the lighter from me before leading the way out.

It was nearly one a.m. and across the street the shelter where you could adopt cats was closed. In front lounged a man who resembled every drug sealer I'd ever met in that he looked nothing like they did in movies. This one was white, wore glasses, was medium height, medium build, had brown short hair and was as memorable as Milla Jovovich's singing career.

Exactly.

"Scoobs this is Marly."

"Cool," Scoobs said and gave a sniffle that said he;d been sampling his own goods. Well, that meant early retirement.

"So what can you tell me about Ellie Bain?"

"Haven't seen her in a couple of weeks. She buys for parties, mostly E and lithium when she was short."

"Lithium?" I asked glancing at Finn. That was an odd street drug.

"I take some things in trade, school kids give me their Lithium for a little dank. Ellie was a little wacko, you know, super happy then super sad. She was on a scrip for lithium but I think she'd trade some away with somebody else cause she'd only come to me when she was strung out. Last time I saw her she asked me for Heroin."

"You sell her any?" Finn asked evenly, no judgment, the perfect voice for a vice cop.

"Hell no, I deal in party drugs and what kids trade. I'm a good time guy. I just do this to pay for college."

"Don't let your tuition go up your nose. So that was it? She asked for heroin and you said no. You tell her where to find any?"

He shook his head. "I honestly don't know. She said something about JuJu, check with her."

"JuJu?"

"Vampire chick, lives in Andersenville by the Hop Leaf. Her real name is Julie something or other. She's bi, but she's crazy."

"She do heroin?"

"Nah but she used to hang with this guy Azreal, he did it."

"Azreal? Why can't any of you be named something normal?"

Scoobs shrugged. "I gotta get back to my post, customers are waiting."

"Julie in Andersenville who use to boff Azreal the heroin addict. These are the people that might be housing a missing millionaire?"

Finn blew out a puff of smoke. "If she's hooked money makes little difference. Hell, probably gave away the damned stones for some dope."

I shook my head. "It feels like there's more here. She had access to uncut diamonds waiting to be finished and set. You know as well as I do that's as good as gold on the street. Instead she took some very old rubies her family believes is cursed. It has to mean something."

"You don't believe in curses?"

I shook my head. "I believe in bad people, stupid people, and innocent people. I don't believe in curses or vampires."

"Only one thing to do now, Jackson. Let's find this JuJu chick and ask."

"It's almost one, Finn."

"Vampires don't sleep at night. Don't you know anything?"

***

We found her in a slow, painful, roundabout way; old fashioned detecting. By almost four we discovered her name was actually Juliette McManus and she lived over the Hop leaf, a great little bar sadly overcrowded by yuppies and it closed at 2a.m. Useless in my world.

We'd found her by tracking Azreal, real name David Hernandez, currently incarcerated as of six months earlier for possession with intent to distribute. The apartment was his place but JuJu the wonder sucker lived there. She apparently worked for cash doing God knew what as his name was on everything.

We didn't bother buzzing, instead Finn jimmied the lock even faster than I could. We headed upstairs hearing an apartment playing something with a soft beat, muted treble, and sexual bass.

It was JuJu's place. Feeling lucky I tried the knob and it opened.

Inside it was like Spirit Halloween's clearance section exploded into a yuppie one bedroom. The walls were black plastic, the tchotchkies were all plastic and seemed themed around skulls, bats, and wizards from lampshade to radio.

The furniture was pushed aside and on the floor a woman rode a man like a bloodied horse. He was build well, athletic and straining, and across his chest paper-thin cuts oozed. The chick riding him lapped the blood like a dog after spilled beer and her long dark red hair was getting blood on it. She was pale, thin, and covered in tattoos over track marks.

Seated on a couch smashed against the wall with the door were two blonde women right out of Buffy central casting. I drew my gun and jerked my head. They scrambled up on expensive shoes carrying little purses worth more than Finn's car. One smiled at me and I was shocked to see fangs, real vampire fangs.

After they left the man playing the role of Thunder the Wonderhorse finally blinked awake to see me and Finn in the doorway, backlit, my gun exposed.

"Heya, finished yet?" I asked.

Finally vampire girl, I assumed this was JuJu, rolled her head towards me slowly and her eyes followed. "Not yet," she said and then she vomited up a surprising amount of blood.

***

JuJu's lover was hugely incensed. Not by the anonymous crazy sex, the cutting, or the blood drinking, but the vomiting was what got him. While I tossed JuJu in the shower and made sure she didn't drown, I heard Finn arguing with and ultimately paying off the guy. I also heard him ask how JuJu had found him; turned out he was an escort.

Finally the sun was coming up and she was wet, wrapped in a black fluffy bathrobe with ironic pink bunny slippers, clutching a Garfield mug of coffee, and shrinking away from the rays.

"You're not really a vampire, you know that, right?"

"I'm not?" She flashed me the fang but while she'd showered I'd found the case and adhesive for the things.

"Real vampires don't drink...coffee."

She pouted, her eyes barely focused. "Who are you again?"

I glanced at Finn who stood in the doorway, arms folded and legs crossed at the ankle. With the coming sun he'd added aviator sunglasses. I snorted. "You look like George Michaels." I turned back to her. "We're friends of Ellie's, and we're looking for her. We thought she might be here."

"She missed the meeting tonight. And what happened to Shari and Tina?"

Finn raised an eyebrow. "Tina Feldman? Bob Feldman's daughter?"

Bob Feldman owned more auto malls than anyone else in the state and his daughter regularly made the paper for her exploits. Seeing her in a cramped apartment above a bar watching sadomasochistic sex was a little jarring. Then again, we were on the trail of a precious jewels heiress.

JuJu sniffled. "Yeah, good girls, like to party, they have money. But those bitches are uptight. Ellie was fun. Ellie understood about the needs, and she liked the blood. She liked it more then the men."

Finn snorted behind me and I flipped him off. "When is the last time you saw Ellie?"

"She missed last time too. Every Saturday. She's the one who made it weekly. She didn't show last week or this week and I needed my junk. That's why we got Robert, he has the good stuff."

I wanted to investigate further but truthfully I was tired, Finn was too, and if she'd shot up we had maybe ten minutes before her mind retreated to an amphibian state and made her think her pants had exploded with happiness.

"What is it you're doing here?"

She blinked watery eyes. "We're vampires, we were feeding."

Behind me Finn laughed and I ignored him. "Vampires? What about the other girls?"

"I'm sanguinarian, they're psychic. They feed on the energy. I used to be like them but then I met Ellie."

"So Ellie likes very kinky sex."

"Down boy," I replied to Finn's observation an turned back to her. "So Ellie liked it kinky? She come to you for heroin ever?"

"She did it every now and then, like me. Mostly hash, some E, party stuff. She was using heroin more and more."

"Do you know where she is?"

"Probably looking for more for our House."

"House?"

"The girls...a vampire coven. She wanted more, then we could get more guys."

"Where would she get more member for your house?" I asked.

She sighed and sipped her coffee. "Here, there, I dunno. She found the Bobsey Twins and they're useless. Look, she calls me, not the other way around. She asks me to get things arranged and then shows up for our meetings."

"What things?"

"I get the drugs, the men, then she shows up. She invites the others, not me. I don't know where she is...she's missed twice and I'm paying these guys out of my own pocket. They're not as good as hers, but I do what I can."

"Where do you find these guys?"

"Escorts, Boystown, they're usually bi, or bi for the right price."

I felt slightly repulsed, and I showed it.

"Where did she find her men?" Finn asked softly. He'd snuck up to my chair, an amazing feat in motorcycle boots.

"I dunno. They were high class, nice, well-spoken. When they came the Bobsey twins wore masks. They negotiated where we could and couldn't cut them."

I glanced at Finn. Dirty sex for hire was his department, not mine. "Got any names?" He asked.

"Nick something or other. He was a favorite. Tall dark and yummy, like Peter Murphy with a personal trainer. Ellie seemed real chummy with him, they talked about being in high school together."

The last was said in a whisper and I could see we were losing her. Finn and I saw ourselves out into the morning light with a sigh.

"Why are the men so important?"

"If you were going to take off away from a family curse, wouldn't you feel better leaving with me at your side?"

"Between certain death and a life with you?"

He gave me a dirty look. My mind was working and I hit on something, but I needed to d this alone, without him tagging along.

"Let's both get home, get some sleep, and tomorrow we'll start fresh."

Finn pulled me close and chucked my chin up at him. I hated this; I hated to give into that girly feeling of "ooh, he's bigger and stronger, yum!" but it was hard to fight evolution.

"You know my bed is big-"

"will you fuck me?"

"Soft-"

"Will you fuck me, Finn?"

"And your bed sucks. Marly, this is not about sex, it's about holding y6ou close and-"

I stalked off, too pissed to let him finish. Oh, sure, now he'd be all cool and calm and aloof, Mr. Chastity himself, but come tomorrow...

Tomorrow I had to interview a man Finn would be jealous of, and the last time he'd come with me to interview a man who took money for sex it ended in the most emotionally-wrenching, physically-satisfying threesome of my life. It had been fun, but I was gonna try really, really hard to keep my sex life compartmentalized.

Perhaps Finn was right; maybe I did turn tail and run when we got close. And maybe that meant getting close was a bad idea.

***

Nikolas Meyers was something to behold. At 6'5", pale, with hair he looked like a Viking naturally, but with his affected clothes, eyeliner, and dental-augmentation, he was like the king of the Goths.

His hair was just brown enough to not be pale, saving him from looking like a zombie. It hung long, thick and wavy down his back, hair I'd kill for. Mine was thick and difficult to work with at best. His made me want to kill him.

I'd made the connection simply searching the Internet for Eleanor Bain. They had been listed together twice in the society pages, a record for her.

He sang in a band that did gigs around town maybe 4 or 5 times a year in small under 100 capacity clubs. Luckily for him he'd never had to work in any of his 29 years; daddy built skyscrapers and mommy was a charity hostess at their castle in Kenilworth, a tiny, tiny northern suburb with better per capita earnings than Dubai.

He looked slightly thin but healthy, or he would if he were not wearing a puffy black shirt Pete Burns would die for, and he had less necklaces on.

"So what can I do for you?" He asked I strolled around his Printer's Row loft, the must-have overpriced artistic lofts of the young and spoiled.

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