In Warm Blood is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series. Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it. For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
IN WARM BLOOD
Down on the south side, the security on the front door of The Griffin was diligent and made the entry line long and slow. Rather than bother with the mass of lemmings that dragged themselves out to drink and dance the night away, we entered through the stage door at the rear of the building. Blending in with some of the people going in the back was simple. Once we mixed in, acting like we belonged backstage got us to where we needed to be. We had to push through lots of people that seemed to be oblivious to getting in anyone else’s way. There were young and old, pretty and tough-looking, colorful and grungy, which I think were the ones responsible for the stronger smells, but we did get there: the dressing room of a band called “Once Upon a Time.” “OUT is in” their fans liked to chant.
Homer got to the door first and chose to knock then enter, rather than kick the door in or let me kick the door in. Once again, my teachings went unlearned. It saddened me a little and I sighed as Overknight and I followed him in. We walked into an odd mix of new smells. Looking around, I could see it was the smoke from different incenses and cigarettes that made my nostrils sting, but it seemed to counter the smells from outside the room.
There were a couple of assistants, working on whatever their tasks were, while the other two guys and three girls seemed to be more relaxed as they looked at themselves in mirrors or checked their guitars or tapped drumsticks or talked about their upcoming show. I couldn’t tell who was ready to go onstage and who wasn’t. Obviously, the three of us stood out from them as much as they looked different from us. After all, they were supposed to be “The Realm’s Most Dangerous Band” according to all their posters.
“Hey, who called for an order of cops?” the guy with the drumsticks asked as I shut the door behind us.
“I ordered Chinese, man,” one of the guitarists said.
“Good evening,” Homer said, flashing his badge. “We just have a few questions that should only take a few minutes and we can get out of your way again.”
“Be quick, man. We’re on in fifteen.”
“Fifteen? That’s barely enough time to finish these off,” one of the guitar players proclaimed, holding up a half-empty bottle of whiskey. “Grab some glasses, officers. Help us out.”
“It wasn’t me, chief. I got an alibi.”
“She said she was seventeen, I swear!” another guitarist said, letting the first refill his glass.
Funny bunch. “Robin Diana Wilson,” I said with a little more volume and authority.
“Oooooh,” a few of them chanted.
“Sounds like trouble for the girl wonder,” one of the band’s girls taunted the one beside her.
“I guess that would make you her,” I said to the brunette sitting in the barber chair with her back to the mirror.
“No need for all that,” she said, downing the rest of her drink and handing the glass to her hair stylist. “You don’t look nuthin’ like my daddy. He was th’only one in the habit of usin’ all three, and then only when he was riled.”
“But it is your name,” Homer confirmed.
“Robin Elektra now,” she said.
“They must not be fans, Robin.”
“You came into The City on a work visa as a musician, what, five years ago?” Homer continued to probe.
“Yeah, from north Texas,” she responded. “What of it? You came here to take surveys at the mall and look at you now: asking big boy questions. Your parents must be so proud.”
“Alright, look,” I stepped in, “we don’t have five years for Homer to catch up to current events and get to the point of this.”
“Awww and I was just starting to have fun,” Elektra said, pushing out her full lower lip in a mock pout as she finished.
“I’m sure you were,” I said, “that’s rock and roll, but one of my ass pains is that I need to find Stark White. One of yours is me until you get me heading in the right direction.”
She laughed and said, “I agree, he is an ass pain. He must’ve stolen something really pricey this time. Let me guess: something rare and magical.”
“Yeah, a woman’s life,” I said, shoving Whitney‘s amethyst pendant into her hand. “He ambushed her with a sniper rifle and a magic bullet and shot her down in the street.”
“Holy shit,” Elektra whispered as the room got even quieter. She stared down at the Monarch’s Hope, sparkling in her supple hands. “I..I guess he’s finally lost it. He’s been a selfish piece of crap for years…but I never thought…I never thought he’d go that far.” Elektra was getting more agitated, sitting there shaking her head in disbelief as she stared into the purple light. Her deep red lips trembled. “Hell, I even thought he might straighten out and become a decent guy one day, but…”
“It looks like this is news has become upsetting for you,“ I said. I had learned that sometimes it could be helpful in an interrogation to act sympathetic. “It’d probably help you feel better if you just start spewing info…and then we can bounce and you can go do your little show.”
“Hang on,” she said, holding out a hand to one of the young men on the far side of the large dressing room. “Covenant, can you hit me with the Divinity?”
“Sure, Rob,” he said, opening his hand to let an oddly shaped liquor bottle levitate across the room to her.
“Divinity?” Homer asked. “Draught of the Divinity--”
“Turn your head, stiff,” Elektra said firmly, “or wait outside. You want my help or not?”
“Let this one go, Homer, OK?” Overknight asked her grumbling partner. “Murder investigation. We‘re prioritizing.”
“I-I knew he…was getting worse…,” she said, taking a swig of the blue intoxicant with one hand and wiping hot tears from her cheek with the other. “Back when he first showed up around dad’s saloon, he just seemed like another guy that wanted to make a buck and get into my pants.”
“And you fell in love and--”
“Y’know, I never did,” Elektra told us. “Dad and I loved music. It’s got a magic all its own. It touches hearts and souls,“ she said, crying some more as she handed the Monarch’s Hope back to me. “Dad tried to explain that to him, but the fool could never feel that. Still, he got obsessed with the idea of chasing down magic and using it to make his life better. He took off to squeeze whatever he could out of the world. After dad died, it was just me. I finally let the saloon go and let my love for music bring me here. Lucky me, the last guy I ever wanted to see again had already beat me here.”
One of her friends handed her a tissue.
“Last time he got pinched, though, he called you,” Homer said. “He called a lot. What’s he to you?”
“He’s no friend of mine,” Elektra said firmly.
“Obviously,” Overknight said, “they used to date.”
“Hey, she’s good,” Elektra said. “It was only two dates, oh, no…one. He dropped in on me while I was at lunch once, ate half my food and said he owed me dinner, so we went out once. You guys should let her talk more. She‘s sharp.”
“We have to pay her by the word,” I said. “Keep going.”
“Yeah, well, my would-be boyfriend’s real name is Matt Stark and he called me way too much,” Elektra confirmed. “Fortunately, I realized years ago that he was a greedy SOB with
zero soul. All he ever cared about people was what he could get out of them for himself. I never knew him as more than a conniving weasel. He’d lie and steal to get whatever caught his eye, but if he’s started killing people…wow…Anyway, I finally went downtown to tell them to put him someplace with no phones…or lights. That’s when I found out about the new name and the newfound ambition. He cooled his heels for a while, but he did a favor for somebody connected while he was in, so--”
“He exploited it to become a bigger bad guy when he got out,” I said. “He probably started working for one of the rising bosses. He‘s definitely fast-tracked way beyond petty theft.”
“Yeah, the next time I saw him,” Elektra said, “he’d ditched the Harley, the boots, the denim and had started doing dirtier deeds to build bigger piles of money. He was trying to show-off with a gold limo, cash, shinies and a suit worth more than his narrow ass. He still turned my stomach, though, so I took that as a strong sign to send him on his way again.”
“Any idea where he went when you sent him off?” I asked.
“Or maybe he mentioned whose organization he’d joined?” Homer asked.
“No on the who,” Elektra said. “As for where, he bragged about a great view. He offered a phone number…He offered a lot of things, but I didn‘t want anything more to do with him. He was still obsessed with magic. He still wanted my dad‘s old harmonica,” she said, holding up a polished brass and chrome harmonica, “but neither of us would ever let him have it.”
“I see,” I said.
“Brick, doesn’t Heliopolis use gold limos?” Overknight asked me.
“Heliopolis…Yeah,” I said, “that’d fit. It’s one of the tallest luxury hotel casinos in town. That‘d account for the great view worth bragging about.”
“A crooked casino with housing for organized criminals,” Homer said.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” I told him. “I’m sure you’d have lost money in an honest casino, too, Homey.”
“Hey, I’ve got a system!” Homer protested.
“Anyway, that sounds like a good place to look for him next. Thanks for the time and the help. Have a good show.”
“You want to show your gratitude?” Elektra asked, her voice turning grim. “Find a way to put that dog down before he hurts anyone else and we‘ll call it even.”
“I promise you, White’s high on my priority list,” I said. “His time’s been running out since he put a hole in somebody close to me.”
“Oh,” Elektra said softly, sympathy in her eyes, “I’m sorry I hadn‘t realized. The girl he shot…you two were close?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “She was standing right next to me. Now, come on, you two. We’ve got a busy night ahead.”