1. The Missing Girl
"Twenty years since the Embrace..." when I say those words out loud, it kinda stuns me. And yet, twenty years is only a fraction of the un-lifetime most Kindred experience. Those that aren't killed by hunters or fall prey to the schemes of other vampires.
There's an old saying that I think sums up my experiences in the last twenty years: Things change, things stay the same. The more things change, the more they stay the same. As always, the Camarilla seeks to keep the existence of vampires and other supernatural beings hidden from the eyes of mortals. Mostly, they do a good job. Occasionally, mortal hunters show up, looking to destroy the 'spawn of Satan.' They usually end up being shipped back to their masters in pieces. The ones who really piss us off, we turn and then kill. Show them how things are from our side of things. They tend not to appreciate the gesture, miserable wretches.
The Anarchs, a group of Kindred who pretty much oppose everything the Camarilla does on general principle have their bit of territory in town and defend it vigorously. Years ago, the Prince decided it wasn't worth the bloodshed to try to drive them out and instead offered them a deal - The Cam would stay out of their territory if the Anarchs would allow us to get on with the business of running things. Despite the occasional blow up now and then, the two groups tend to leave each other alone.
And of course, the Sabbat. You know in the movies how vampires are portrayed as mindless, blood-lusted monsters that will pretty much kill anything that moves? That's the Sabbat in a nutshell. Or, more succinctly, idiots. They want to enslave all humankind and destroy the Camarilla and Anarchs as well. You can never clear a city of them, either. They're prolific about siring. The young punk who tries to mug you tonight is tomorrow night's newest shovelhead. I take a certain joy in slaughtering them when I have the time.
Most nights, however, I'm busy running down leads and talking to my contacts. Snitches, mostly. After a few years of being the 'go to girl' for the Camarilla, I decided to go into business for myself. Greenfield and Associates Private Investigators. Little bit of a mouthful. Espcially when the phone rings dozens of times a night but I like it all the same.
Now the really funny part is - and this still makes me smile even after fifteen years in business - is that I'm actually legit. I took all sorts of night school classes and courses over the net relating to the private investigation industry. There's a genuine license in a frame hanging on the wall behind my desk. In my office. Yessir, Morgan Greenfield moves up in the world. Due to my loyal service to the Camarilla, I was set up with a whole floor of office space in the fifth floor of the tower complex owned by the Prince. Having the big man living a few dozen stories up doesn't bother me anymore. Much, anyway.
I don't like to boast, but over the years, I've managed to get the streets wired pretty tight. Not nearly as tightly as the Nosferatu's intelligence network, don't get that idea, but tightly enough for my purposes. Puts my competition in the shade pretty handily. Of course they have the advantage of being able to work a case during the day. When I'm literally dead to the world. Which is where my Associates come in. A number of ghouls in service to the Camarilla and well-paid kine do a lot of work for me during the day. And when I need to, I trade favours with other Kindred, usually the Nosferatu for that crucial bit of intel that can break a case wide open.
A week ago, a woman walked into my office. She was the madam of an extremely exclusive and upmarket 'gentlemen's club.' The type of place where just being in the same room as one of the girls costs you about a grand. OK, maybe I exaggerate a touch but not by much. The madam's name was Larissa Sinclaire. And for a wonder, she wasn't a fellow Kindred. Mortal, exceedingly beautiful and in her day, she must've had men literally begging to spend time in her bed. Even now, in her mid forties, she was still quite the stunner. She was dressed in a conservative grey business suit and wore a look that told me she was barely keeping herself together. I had a feeling about this one already. Likely, one of her girls had gone missing and the police had blown her off. What's one less call girl, right?
I stood up behind my desk as she walked into the office on black high heels. "Can I offer you a drink?" I asked.
"Whiskey, if you have it," Larissa replied with a husky voice. I could tell she'd been crying earlier. I pressed the intercom button on my desk, "Thomas, bring us in a bottle of whiskey and two glasses." Man, after years of doing somebody else's errands, it felt good to have somebody lower in the hierarchy doing mine.
Thomas, my ghoul soon entered carrying a silver tray with a bottle of well aged whiskey and glasses. Though Kindred can no longer stomach mortal food or drink, I poured myself some alcohol to maintain the illusion that I was normal woman. Hopefully, Ms Sinclaire wouldn't notice if I didn't actually drink any. Thomas turned silently away and glided out to the reception area.
For years I'd resisted the idea of cultivating a ghoul. To me, they always seemed like too much trouble. You had to feed them your blood on a monthly basis and that look of utter devotion they got in their eyes really creeped me out. Still, being able to function during the day and not have to worry about the constant struggle with the Beast Within did give them an advantage over Kindred. And Thomas was a sharp kid.
Larissa raised the whiskey glass to her red-painted lips and drank. As her throat swallowed, I could see the vein slowly pulsing in her neck and felt the old familiar hunger stirring. I'd ask Thomas to let me feed from him later. Of course, being his Master, I could just damn well take what I needed from him and some Kindred would do exactly that with their own servants but I always asked first. Call me old fashioned.
"So, what is it I can do for you?" I asked and eased back in my high-backed leather office chair. Larissa put down the glass on the desk and said, "One of my girls is missing. The police have been less than helpful," she frowned, a few lines appearing on her otherwise smooth forehead. She opened her purse and removed a studio shot and handed it to me. It was of a young redhead woman. "Her name is Lorelai Anders, works under the name of Christelle," she continued.
Even from the still image, I could see that the young woman was also exceedingly beautiful. Flawless porcelain skin with a dusting of freckles, deep jade green eyes and hair that fell to her shoulders. She looked quite a bit like Amy, the two hundred and something elder Toreador who'd shown me the way in the early years of my unlife, after my sire had been executed for Embracing me without approval.
"She didn't turn up for work last night. And usually she's very good about letting us know if she can't come in," Larissa said as I completed looking at the photo. I pictured Lorelai/Christelle lying on a slab in a morgue somewhere, stabbed repeatedly. I suppressed a shudder.
I took up my notebook and pen. "I need to ask you a few questions," I said. She nodded.
"How many regular clients does she have?"
"Three. They all pay very well," she said.
"Is there any possibility that one of them may have done something to her?"
"That's always a possibility but we thoroughly vet every prospective client for exactly this reason. None of them have any history of violence towards women."
I made a note to send around a Ventrue friend of mine to have a little chat with them all the same. A Ventrue would be able to use their Dominate ability to simply make a person tell what they knew. Very handy for me. "I'm going to need their names and addresses so I can have them interviewed."
"Of course. You understand, my clients value discretion above all else, so please be careful."
"Oh, I understand discretion very well," I said and accepted the list of names and addresses from her. I pressed the intercom again. Thomas reappeared, that sulky emo look in his eyes. Kids these days. "Get Kelvin on the line and ask him to have a little chat with these gentlemen. We're looking for a missing girl. Ask him to find out what they know." Wordlessly he took the list and exited.
I turned back to my new client. "What about your other girls? Would they know of anything strange going on with Lorelai?"
Larissa took another drink, "Doubtful," she said. "Lorelai keeps to herself." I made a note to send around Thomas to talk to the girls. He had the kind of non-threatening appearance that wouldn't make them freak out. Hopefully. I glanced at digital clock on my desk. Midnight. Plenty of time to do some groundwork. I hashed out the terms of payment with my new client and bade her farewell.
I called Thomas back in for the third time in about twenty minutes. He hid the irritation well but I could feel a slight anger welling up within him. I smiled, revealing my fangs. "Don't worry, love, it'll all be worthwhile in the end."
"Of course, Master," he said with a slight mocking tone. I pushed a piece of paper across the desk at him. "You'll have a bit of fun with this, I think. Go chat up these ladies of the night and see if you can get any info on our missing girl."
"And after?" he asked, taking up the paper.
"After you come back and I may have a little something for you," I said. And I wasn't referring to sex either. Some Kindred, despite being rendered impotent by vampirism, insist on carrying on intimate physical affairs with mortals. And their blood-junkies even. Look, as much as I value Thomas and his abilities, I am not going to whore myself around for his gratification. With the amount of money he makes working for me, he could have his pick of girls.
As he turned to leave, I asked, "What'd Kelvin say?"
"He said he'd get right on it." Oh, that was going to cost me.
"And in return, he wants what?"
"Said he'd contact you should he require a favour in the future," he said and walked out.
I picked up the phone and began calling up my various contacts in the local medical clinics and hospitals. I faxed through copies of the girl's photograph and told them to call the office if they heard anything.