Chapter 1 - A Sticky Situation
It was 4:48 PM on a dull grey Friday and despite the stack of bills angrily impaled on my desk I was about ready to give up waiting on the new client my charming young secretary had penciled in for the end of the day, turn off the neon sign and get reaquainted with my good pal Drunken Stupor, with whom I had a dinner date at 5 sharp. I could hear Carmen's keyboard clicking idly, though what she was doing (at 9.50 an hour, no less; I'm too good to that woman but lets face it, my business would be even more boned without her) this close to closing time was beyond me.
The silhouette in the frosted door made me reconsider in a moment, as any good private eye always regrets his job less when seeing a curvy long haired shape through frosted glass. The knob turned, and she stepped inside, one long leg at a time. Both Carmen's and my eyes clicked to her immediately; she was definitely a sight for the sorest of ocular cavities, and as she made her slow, hesitant way to my secretary's desk, we both shared a mischevious wink. Our day was looking better already.
She was short-maybe 5'4" at the outside, with a body that pulsed with living sin. Her hair fell in dark, carefully permed ringlets that tumbled around her spa-tanned skin, and her carefully manicured fingernails were wringing nervously at a brown manilla envelope. She had a long trenchcoat on that did little to hide her curves, and a pair of sunglasses were sticking out of the pocket, but the dress that showed from beneath was raw coutre, probably with a name I couldn't pronnounce. "Mind if I smoke?" were her first words, and Carmen, god bless her, said with all the professionalism she could muster in wet panties "Not at all."
The woman pulled out a menthol and fondled it nervously, and looked around my admittedly unimpressive office. "Not quite what I expected from your website."
"Bandwidth is cheap, Mrs...." I started in, though Carmen shot me a jealous look. I came up behind her and lit her cigarette for her, close enough to feel the nervous heat rolling off that tight little body in waves. I couldn't resist grinning at my wife, who by now had retaken her seat.
"Mrs. X, but call me Serena," she replied. "I'm paying cash and I want this discrete-even from the IRS. That's why I came to you," and here she gave my dismal office a pointed glance, most notably the stacks of bills on my desk, "instead of someone more reputable-say, someone who would report his findings to the proper authorities."
"We speak the same language, Mrs. X," I said smoothly, and she finally seemed to ease up a little. She slide out of the heavy trench and plopped it across the back of her chair. I could see Carmen taking a discreet peek up her dress, and I made it a note to ask her what color her panties were as I took another rickety chair and straddled it backwards beside her. "So what can I help you with?"
"Well, it seems I'm missing a husband and...well, a trinket. A family heirloom, of no value to anyone but myself..." I could already smell trouble, but as I lit a cigarette of my own and I watched my secretary lick her red lips I decided the trouble would be worth it. "The husband can take a flying fuck into the arctic for all I care, but I need the trinket back."
"Mmmm." I dragged off the cigarette. "So you want something, presumably worthless, and you don't want it reported to the IRS?" She flinched a little, and I knew my blind toss had hit it's mark. She fidgeted some, uncrossing her legs with the whisper of silk against flesh, and I could see Carmen, the consumate minx, squirm a little in her computer chair. "Probably also need it aquired under the table, without your husband's knowledge." I licked my lips, and breathed deeply of the woman's scent as she held me pinned with those dark, glimmering blue eyes. I smelled some perfume with a name long as the Amazon and something else. Something familiar-desperation. I gave her a comforting smile. "I can probably handle both for you." Actually, the aquisition might be a problem, but I knew a group of specialist that would work for dope.
"Oh, thank you," she breathed, and I could smell the gin on her breath. Probably working up her courage all afternoon to walk into a place on this side of town. She leaned in and suddenly that red mouth was hot and slick against mine-just for a second, perhaps before she realised what she was doing. "I'll do anything...anything to get it back. Here." She pressed the envelope in my hands. "This is everything I know. Please...hurry."
Carmen quietly inserted herself in that moment, stepping beside us and wiping up the lipstick with her little pink bandanna. She kissed me as well and said "Don't forget your hat," she said, warmly and wickedly. "I'll have Serena stay here for now, so I can get the relevant case details out of her." Which was as good as code for 'I'll have her panties off by the time you get back, sucker, and you have to go to work.' I guess I lost that round, but really, I don't call that losing. Besides, I had bills to pay.
As I reached over behind my desk for my sawn-off 870, seeing Serena's blush as she realized that Carmen and I were an item, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. Looks like it was going to be an interesting case, and if I played my cards right, I might not even lose money this time.
Naturally, I'd never even mentioned price.
I caught the bus to 54th street; I wasn't made of money and christ knows I couldn't have afforded a cab. Settling into a seat on the back of the dingy bus behind some immigrants chattering in Portugese, I broke out the case files and had a glance through it. There was a photo of the husband, a potbellied bald little spitfuck that had no business diddling "Mrs. X" in any just universe, which probably meant he was loaded. Insurance files on the trinket, which was insured at three quarters of a million. That made me whistle. The fact that it had not been claimed yet was telling-it was clearly worth more than .75 million dollars to my client. The blurry photo revealed it to be some kind of jeweled tiara in a weird fish motif and it was categorized under 'archaelogical find.' Interesting.
And here was a happy surprsie - an advance marked 'for expenses' with five $100 bills tucked in another envelope with lipstick on the seal. It smelled like her perfume, and a little like fear. I took a moment to savor it and thought of my lovely little wife spreading our client's creamy, trembling legs on top of my hardwood desk. That thought kept me warm as it started drizzling the minute I stepped off the bus. The envelope went back into the large interior pocket of my coat and I headed through the Cooze district's maze of one way streets and reeking alleys until I came to my bar.
They called this bar the Prancing Unicorn, but despite that it wasn't a gay bar-just a run down two story joint wedged between a headshop and a 24 hour bail bondsman. The door was propped open to let some cool evening air in; as usual, it was still stuffy inside despite the dozen or so lazily circling fans overhead. There was almost no crowd; the money demographic for this place is second shift at the tube factory so it wouldn't fill up until midnight or so. For now it was just two wasted Italians arguing over the TV and a single soggy drunk looking dejectedly at an empty pitcher. I breezed past him, gave a nod to the bartender John, and wandered over to the piano and laboriously plunked "Chopsticks" on the out of tune keys. With a click and a grating sli-i-i-i-i-de, the wood panel behind the piano slid out of the way, revealing a staircase leading down.
The hooch door is the city's worst kept secret, and leads to the back parlor where most of the real business is conducted at this bar. Anyone can go there if they need a little privacy, whether for a shady business deal or a quick hummer-Carmen and I had used it for both in our time. Today it was business rather than pleasure, but I had a few calls to make first.
I rang her phone first. Voice mail. Bitch was probably eyeball deep in fresh pussy by now; I'd never get ahold of her until she was done. I really needed those case details, but we took a vow on our wedding day to support one another's hobbies. Instead I took a deeper look at the case files Serena had handed me, shuffling through the insurance papers while I smoked another cigarette. Ah, here was an interesting item-a certificate of authenticity was included, from the "Dunwich Historical Society" dating the item back to the 1700s. In the insurance documents, it was stated that the certificate would be necessary to make any claim on the item. So the husband can't file without the cert, and the wife can't file without the tiara. Hm. Not that I assumed this was about the insurance money, but it never hurts to consider every angle.
John sent me down a shot of scotch on the dumbwaiter, and I sent him up a crisp hundred, which would hopefully bring my tab down to the point he stopped dipping his nutsack in my drinks. That would be nice, wouldn't it? I held the shotglass up to the light and checked for pubes, then downed the shot in a rush of smoky caramel fire. That helped drive the chill from my bones, and I continued flipping through the case info.
Here was another interesting item; court documents for a civil case between the Miskatonic University History Department and several members of the Marsh family. Apparently this was a hotly contested item. The suit was for posession of the item under the precedent set by various Native American tribal artifact suits, claiming it was a sacred relic of the Marsh family and citing documents linking it with the town's founder, Obed Marsh. I shuffled through the stack of legalese and came to the ruling, which granted posession to the university. "Family trinket" indeed.
I shuffled more papers and made my next call. Let me tell you, being a private dick isn't all car chases and stripping the panties off hot heiresses-half of my goddamn time is wasted jockeying the desk or manning the phone. The sexy salt in my wound was that my lovely wife was probably doing the panty stripping right now. The call was to my buddy J-Rock, who, despite his unforgiveably stupid name, was a man with his ear to the ground on the movements of stolen property. It wasn't a gangster name; he was an independent insurance adjuster with a penchant for talking like street trash. Still, a good man to know for cases like this. I made the requisite noises for his answering service and they promised he would call me back.
Well, it was a start anyway. John sent me down another scotch and I nursed it for fifteen minutes or so waiting for my phone to ring, but it didn't happen so I stepped out of the speakeasy and into the street. There I lit another cigarette and started hoofing it towards the bus stop. At least the rain was letting up.
The bus stop was empty when I sat down, but before I had even finished my smoke two big motherfuckers stepped up in front of me. They were goons, they even walked like goons, even though they wore Miskatonic U. Varsity jackets and nice chinos. Both were white and had pale blonde hair, coarse cheekbones, deep set eyes, bulging foreheads. And their smell was off too, odd somehow. Salty and alien, like the seaweed they used to wrap market fresh lobsters. They had to be brothers or...something. One of them held out his hand to me and said "Mr. Goldberg."
"Vance to my friends," I said. The guy was using my #2 credit card name; I'm about as Jewish as a pulled pork sandwich. That was a telling bit; it isn't the name on my website. I took his hand and shook it, though the clammy touch of his palm gave me the skin crawlies. "And who do I have the honor of addressing?"
"Mickey Marsh, and this is my little brother Randolph." One lump gestured to the other, who simply grunted. A Miskatonic ring, platinum with onyx insets, glittered at me.
"Class of 2009," I said, tilting my head to look at the ring. "And those are wrestling letters, I bet. How's Coach Brawner?" I faked a vacous smile here. The weight of my shotgun on a draw clip tucked under my coat was a great comfort to me at this stage of negotiations.
"We've hunted you up for business, not pleasure, Mr. Goldberg." This was Mickey, Lump #1. "We're looking for our little lost sister. Serena Marsh. We have reason to believe she has contacted you."
To cover my nervous tension I lit another cigarette, drew on it to give me time to think. "And why would your little sister come to the big city looking for a private dick?"
Lump #1 furrowed his pallid brow in consternation. "I do not know," he replied, "but her computer records indicated she recently viewed your website."
"If that were the case," I said, "why didn't you go to my office? And during business hours, for fuck's sake?" Alarm bells were going off hard in my head here. Honestly, if I had half a brain I would have just ratted Serena out, but damnit...I had taken her money. And I had a feeling that this would be a most unpleasant fate I was turning her over to.
Lump #2, the one called Randolph, finally spoke up. "ENOUGH!" he spat, and he made it sound weird, like he was saying it around a mouthful of something wet and disgusting. He reached out for me with his ham hock hands, fingers flexing hungrily, but his brother intersposed a meaty arm and drew him back.
"Randolph," said Lump #1 sternly, and then looked back at me. "Turn over whatever family materials she has handed to you, and we will allow you-and her-to go in peace about your merry business." Ah. So it wasn't about the little sister, it was about the fucking money. Now we were speaking the language of 'Vance Goldberg' and I stood up, lifting my chin, facing them down with the arrogance that only comes from having no fucking idea what you are dealing with.
At the time, I didn't exactly take very detailed notes-but here's how I think it went down. I was in the process of telling the Lumps to back the fuck off when one of them-I think Lump #2-jacked me hard in the jaw with a fist the size of an 80's cell phone. I'm no pussy, I can take a hit, but I felt my knees buckle when I ate that big canned ham sandwich. I was reaching under my coat for the shotgun when the other one hit me in the guts. I had a hand on the gun for a half a second and then my world dissolved under a meaty rain of punches that ended with the bitter taste of wet pavement. I heard papers rustling and knew they were taking my case files, and when I started to protest one of them kicked me in the ribs and put an end to that notion right fuckin' quick. As I laid there looking at their shoes (High top nikes, what is this, 1994?) I saw the flash of police lights and the two morons took off.
The sad part is that it wasn't even the low point of my day.
Officer Friendly wanted to know if I wanted to press charges and I didn't; if this was a family affair, I was being paid by the client to keep it that way. Anyway he offered to give me a ride to the hospital and I declined; it was time to get back to the office and make sure everything was all right. I called Carmen and got a voice mail again. Greedy bitch-must be a hot little number she was playing with. I admit it, the prospect of all that soft warm flesh waiting for me when I got back was a better painkiller than the two tylenols I dry swallowed.
Fuckers had taken my money too, the whole damned envelope. I couldn't even get a cab with just the cash in my wallet. It took me almost an hour to get back to the office, which doubled as our apartment. I smoked a cigarette in the foyer and looked in the mail slot and got my first dribble of real, steel tasting fear-it had been forced recently and messiliy. There was a wide gap where the lock had been pried away with a crowbar. "Fuck me," I breathed around my cigarette. Very carefully not touching the metal, I flicked open the hinged box and discovered exactly what I expected-nothing.
I felt my adrenaline kick into overdrive. If they had been here, the trouble was uglier than I expected. The nagging aches in my jaw, ribs and nose were tuned out behind a crackling screen of furious nerves as I took the stairs three at a time, shotgun in one hand and cigarette in the other. My office was on the seventh floor and by the time I crossed the threshold pretty much all the pain had returned, along with burning lungs as an added bonus. The elevator dinged at the far end of the hallway, going down. Otherwise the hallway was silent.
It took me a moment to get ahold of my breathing, my eyes flitting restlessly from doorway to doorway. Only my frosted glass door was open, though lights were under the cracks of two others. Suddenly a lifetime spent telling the neighbors that the strange moans and slapping noises in my apartment were normal didn't seem like such a great idea. With care, I crept towards my own front door, shotgun held at the hip. There was no footfall sound to give me away, but it would be masturbation to insist it was because of any great stealth techniques; there was a heavily padded carpet. As I got closer, I listened carefully.
There were some rustling sounds like a box being turned over, and then clattering. I heard a muffled curse. The door was close now, and I could smell a strange, bitter scent. The lights were on and burning brightly, every light in the place must have been on. As I got closer, I leaned up against the door frame and found I could catch the conversation much more clearly.
"Fucker doesn't even have a credit card reader," came one voice, thick, with a rural East Coast accent. There was a rustle of soft chuckles at this comment.
"His wife is pretty hot though," came another. I recognized it immediately; Lump #2, AKA Randolph Marsh. Now I was really pissed. Its one thing to kick the shit out of me at the bus stop-that's just business. But throw my wife into the mix and the genre changes. This was officially a horror story now, cocksucker, though of course time would prove to me later how right I was.
That told me my girl wasn't there, thankfully. The conversation went on.
"No sign of our dear sister either," came another voice. Lump #1. Murder welled in my heart like a throbbing hardon.
"He's probably still in the hospital after the way you guys worked him over," came a never voice, more nasal, yet somehow very tightly controlled. It put me in mind of the way some very educated guys speak a foreign language-correct even to the slang, but rote somehow. "We've got time. Randolph, why don't you run down and keep a lookout in the foyer? Keep me posted if anyone shows undue interest." Sounds like he was the one in charge. Still, my course of action from here was crystal clear.
I slipped back to the stairs and watched through the cracked door. Sure enough, Lump #2 came lumbering out of my office and bumbled towards the elevator, thumbing the call button. Perfect.
I took the stairs at a dead run again, no longer even a little tired, just pissed off. I beat the elevator down by a full minute, enough time to shoo Mrs. Merryweather back upstairs and pull my shotgun. I shucked a shell into the chamber and stood by the elevator. Also, I made very sure to have a big shit eating grin on my face. If Lump #2 played his cards right, it wouldn't have to be the last thing that he saw.
The elevator dinged and the door opened. Lump was standing there with my #1 Husband mug in his hand, and his jaw dropped when he saw me standing there. I widened my grin and smacked the coffee mug upwards with the barrel of the shotgun, sending the steaming liquid into his face. His broken backed dog howl was more satisfying than I'd care to admit, but there was no time to enjoy it. I rushed him then, using momentum and surprise to substitute for force, and with my left forearm shoved him all the way to the back of the elevator. It shut behind us and I smashed the emergency stop button, the barrel of the shotty pressed up under Lump's chin.
"Hello, Randolph," I said. He started to struggle and I shoved hard on the shotgun, making the flesh of his throat dimple around the barrel. That made him go still right away. "Big, but not stupid. I like that in a goon." Coffee was streaming down his face like hot, black tears, and his eyes were wide and pale. "Let's have us a chat, shall we?"
"Your dead, you fucker," he rumbled.
I smiled sweetly at him and pressed harder, right on the adam's apple, and watched him gag. "Maybe, but we aren't here to talk about me. Hands on your head, or am I going to have to fuck start your pee hole?" I reached down to caress his nutsack with my free hand, and that made him jump faster than the gun to his voicebox. It's a miracle what a little gay action can do for a detective in a tight spot. Uh, no homo.
He put both hands on his buzzcut. "I'm gonna get you, Goldberg. We're going to fucking find you, and the crown." That was interesting, but I had more pressing concerns.
"Where is my wife?" I snarled in his face.
"She wasn't there when we got there," he snapped back. "I saw the photos you have lying around though. Maybe I'll come comfort her after they bury what's left of you."
"Maybe I'll come comfort you in your jail cell," i said, and touched his dick again. I had no real incentive this time but it made him jump and that made me feel better. "You lie to me, I won't even wait-I'll fucking rape you right the fuck here in this elevator."
"My brothers are right upstairs," he replied, but I could see the fear in his eyes. I believed him about Carmen. She was a smart girl, probably out the fire escape the minute they kicked in the door. With her new little friend in tow, no doubt. Besides, this cretin didn't have the brains to lie to me and get away with it. Still, I had to fuck with him.
"You ever had a dick in the ass? It feels pretty good when you learn to relax." Here I was breathing hard, letting him smell the scotch and menthol on my breath running over his neck around the cold gun barrel. "Sort of like taking a shit in reverse, you know? Warm and invasive and rubbing all up on your prostate..."
Beads of sweat were breaking out on his forehead and I was having fun for the first time since I left my office before. His lower lip quivered, but the jury was out on whether it was a snivel or a sneer. "I...you...aren't you supposed to be asking me questions?"
I pressed my hand against his crotch, leered, breathed on his neck some more. "I'll, uh, ask the questions! What the fuck is your game? Why are you wrecking my office?"
He was squirming like a worm on a hook now, trying to avoid both my hand and the shotgun barrel at the same time. "Fuck you!" he said desperately.
I twitched my hand. "I feel you getting hard down there, sailor." I couldn't, but he wouldn't really be able to tell that. "You must be enjoying this."
"NO!" the big man squealed and I laughed in his face. That was when he started sobbing. Good. Now he was less likely to tell this little story to his brothers. No time to ease up though.
"What is the signifigance of this artifact?" I pressed, and he choked. I thought it was on snot. "Why are all of you looking for it? Why are you willing to ditch your sister to find it? AND WHY THE FUCK DID YOU KICK THE SHIT OUT OF ME AT THE BUS STOP!?!?!" Then I squeezed his nutsack and twisted-hard. He twitched and slobbered and fell to the floor.
I was about to sit on his chest and press the interrogation, but he stopped and arched his back up like a man being electrocuted. His eyes rolled back to show the whites and I saw black mucous oozing out of each nostril, forming a dark ring around his now foaming mouth. I didn't even have time to think 'What the fuck?' before he started babbling around the foam.
"RED STAR RISING...KEYHOLE TO OBLIVION...R'YLEH...IAH...IAH...CTHULHU FTAGN" he rasped, bit by painful bit. "LOST DAUGHTER...MUST BEAR THE SON...TO OPEN THE WAY..." Now lump was reaching up for me, hungrily, where before all he had wanted was to get away. I had not noticed before, but his fingers were webbed all the way to the fucking cuticle. "SPAWN OF THE VOID...CROWNED WITH A DRIFTWOOD CROWN..." And here there were bits of red coming up in the white foam, and a steady backbeat of Lump #2 beating his head against the floor of the elevator.
I have to tell you, folks-at this point, I was absolutely shittin' it.
"SEA TOUCHES SKY...SKY TOUCHES SEA...THERE THE TWAIN WILL MEET." His voice swelled to fill the elevator like a rising tide, and involuntarily I took a step back. Blood was spreading from a wound in his scalp, and I scurried to keep it off my boots. His voice dropped to a rasp, then a rattle, and he lay still at last, with one final whimper. I can't be sure, but I think it was "I'm not gay." With his last breath, he denied his boner.
His chest stopped rising after that, and I didn't think I was going to miss him. Which is good, because shortly after that, the smell of crackling pork fat rose off him in a stinking cloud, and his pale flesh turned black and rendered down into a thick muddy stain on the grimy floor, pooled around a Miskatonic varsity jacket. No bones, no organs-just a goddamn stain on the carpet. In this business I like to think I've seen it all. But this was a new one.
"Fuck me," i said. It was all I had. I thumbed off the emergency button, stepped out of the elevator. There was no crowd. What the fuck was I gonna do now? They were going to come looking for him soon-he was ugly and maybe a little bi curious, but still family. So, with some effort, and maybe a slight wrench in my overall mental health, I pushed the weirdness of it all down to a tightly secured footlocker at the bottom of my mind and lit a cigarette. God, it tasted good.
The first thing to do, I thought rationally as I exhaled over the stinking stain on the elevator floor, was confound the investigation. Not the police-I had a gut feeling that the police wouldn't be involved if the Marsh family had anything to do with it. But they would do their own investigating and I had no desire for 'Vance Goldberg' to be spread out over a fish god altar and fucked to death with a ritual athame.
With the tip of my Winchester multi-tool I pried the elevator control panel loose and used the pliars to rip out a large chunk of wiring. That would force them to use the stairs to start with. I knelt just beside the grisly Lump stain and very carefully gathered up his clothes, storing them all in one tied off pants leg and keeping the ick well away from my body.
My phone rang. J-rock. No time now; I let it go to voice mail.
With some effort I pried open the elevator door and slithered out. Mrs. Merryweather was standing there with a resigned look on her face. "Is it out again?" she said with a sigh.
"Yes," I told her, hoping the bacon frying adrenaline in my guts didn't show in my voice. "I think those little Negro boys down the hall wrecked it again."
The tired old racist explanation was a slam dunk for her and she launched into a familiar tirade while I helped her up three flights to her apartment. From her living room, with her still ranting about the Civil Rights Act in my left ear, I dialed Carmen again and nearly applauded when I got her on the first ring.
"Babe, listen. Trouble," I said.
"I'll say," she panted in my ear. "Bitch just won't stop! Uh-uh-UUUUUNGH jesus serena! Business!" I had to grin despite everything.
"Where are you?" I asked her.
"Serena's hotel." She listed a hotel and room number.
"Listen, stay there, but get ready to check her out," I told my lovely wife, while Mrs. Merryweather lit a cigarette and offered me a demerol for helping her up the stairs. She's such a sweet old lady for a racist.
"That bad?" My wife's tone was instantly serious despite the apparent cunnilingus.
"Worse," I told her. "You have a gun?"
"You know it, my love. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but you may need it. I'm on my way." I hung up quickly and checked my voicemail.
"Yo, Pee-to-the-Dee!" That was what J-Rock called me, short for, wait for it, private-to-the-detective. Goddamn moron. "I ran the numbers on that item. It hasn't been claimed, but there are a number of sealed contractual clauses you aren't going to get short of a Federal subpoena. That policy is a hundred and nine years old, dude! Chulte FInancial, out of Boston. They were not happy that I called about it either. You okay, bro? Hey, hit me up later, I got some killer X for you and your ol' lady. PEACE!"
I sighed and closed my phone again, regretting not closing up shop when I had the chance. Mrs. Merryweather was talking in my ear "...and I mean, the whole point of the game is to run, shoot and steal! Why would anyone think it WASN'T a UN conspiracy?"
"Damn right, Mrs. M," I told her. "I've got to go, though. Thanks for the, uh, enlightening lecture."
"Of course dear. Would you like a cookie?"
Of course I did. Would a racist cookie taste so sweet on my bleeding gums? Yes. Yes it would.
Last edited by by-the-throat
on Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:54 am, edited 2 times in total.