17 September 2010
WORKING GRAVES: HABEAS CORPUS
By Curtis C. Chen
"Are you a vampire?"
Conrad studied the man asking the question. Tall, slightly overweight, standing with that posture particular to law enforcement. It was almost as good as being able to read his aura, which was nearly impossible amid the flashing lights of the nightclub.
"I don't believe we've met," Conrad said.
The man held up a metal star imprinted with a number and the words SAN FRANCISCO POLICE. "I'm Puff, the magic dragon."
The badge holder wasn't worn enough for it to be something the man carried around every day. So he couldn't be an actual plainclothes detective. But the badge was real. A uniformed patrolman, trying to bluff his way through an unofficial investigation? Why?
"I'd like to ask you some questions, Mr. Vansek," the man said.
Normally, Conrad would have signaled his bodyguards to remove an unwelcome guest from the club. But Conrad was curious about this little man doing his best to seem big.
"My answers may not satisfy you, officer," Conrad said with a smile, "but please, ask away."
"We should talk in private."
"I trust these men with my life. They can keep secrets."
"You sure?" the man asked. "Because I'd like to talk about Mira Sorkowitz."
Conrad's smile evaporated, and he rose from his seat. "My office is upstairs."
One guard led the way, followed by Conrad, the policeman, and the other guard. They halted in the brightly lit corridor just outside Conrad's office, and the trailing guard tapped the policeman on the shoulder.
"Lift your arms," the guard said.
The policeman rolled his eyes. "You think I'd bring a gun here?"
"Ain't looking for guns."
Conrad moved around to face the policeman. "I'll answer your first question, officer. Yes, I am a vampire."
"Yeah, I got that, thanks," said the policeman. "Your aura's lit up like a fucking Christmas tree back here."
Conrad was startled. "You have the sight?"
"With a capital S," the policeman said. "I can see spirits."
"Remarkable!" Conrad said. "And how did you meet the white witch?"
"I worked with her daughter."
"I didn't know she had a daughter."
"Two." The policeman looked away. "They're both dead now. Long story. Anyway, Mira told me if I ever needed help, I should come find you."
Conrad grumbled. "I owe her a favor. But what can I help you with that she could not?"
"Taken from her house last night. No physical evidence, but she left a message for me. Written in her own breath."
Conrad shuddered. A conjurer's breath was more precious than her blood, and the white witch would not use it for simple messaging except as a last resort. Which meant that whoever had taken her was even more dangerous than she had been.
A powerful new player like that would make a great ally.
"Leave us," Conrad said, waving off the guards and unlocking the door to his office. "Let's talk inside, officer...?"
"Jay," the policeman said. "Griffin Jay."
"Delighted to make your acquaintance, Officer Jay."
Griffin chuckled. "You don't know me yet."
Photo: Badge and Bar by Sara Bassett, March, 2008