I walked out of Dreadfull's and into the perpetual night. I glanced up at the stars in the sky, saw no familiar ones, and kept on walking. The hustlers, hookers, dealers, pimps, and petty criminals were out in force but that's nothing new. Most of them knew me or knew of me and were smart enough not to bother me. A pretty red head slouching under a gaslight lamp noticed the bottle in my hand and asked if I wanted company. I responded in the negative and kept on walking.
My apartment building is nothing special. It was six stories of brick with plumbing and heating that worked most of the time, just a block off a trolley car route. There were a pair of punks hanging out in front of it, human by their looks and under twenty. "If you haven't gotten the fuck out of here by the time I come back down, I'm going to kick your asses down the street," I said as I put down the bottle and reached for my keys.
One of them sneered and the other drew a switchblade. I pulled out my forty-five and they started running. Punks. I opened the door and headed up to the third story.
My apartment is small, but clean more often than not and reasonably comfortable. I put the Fire on the counter and headed back down stairs and out the door. The Aerie was overhead, slowly cruising through the night sky. I gave the gothic monstrosity the finger and headed down the street.
Slade's place wasn't too far away. It's a hotel in full blown, overdecorated Art Deco style straight out of the Roaring Twenties. Fuck if I know what it's doing in this neighborhood, but its possible Slade had it rebuilt that way. He's been around for a while. Anyway, its pretty much they headquarters slash base for his gang. As gangs go, they're not bad.
The guy at the front lets me through and I head up to the mook at the front desk, who goes by the name of Larry the Brick. The Brick's best days are behind him, he's put on a lot of extra weight but he's still a big guy. The charcoal pin stripe suit doesn't make him look much slimmer. "Jack," he says. "You hear to see the boss?"
"Yeah," I said. "It can wait, but not long. There might be trouble."
Larry nods and picks up the ivory handled rotary phone and dials. He waits for a while. There's an answer. "It's Tombstone," he says. "Says he's got something important to say." He nods and hangs up the phone. "Go right up."
The grand staircase is posh and fancy, but the goons waiting at the top are merely overdressed. The smarmy, short guy on the left wearing a the white Italian suit is your standard issue jumped up punk who thinks the fact that he's acquired a few more muscles and a substance dependency makes him king of the world. The slab on the right is guy who hasn't much changed since he was following the popular kid around at school and beating up the weaker kids.
"Hey Tombstone," says the vampire, strutting up to me. "Remember what you said to me last year?"
"Yeah, Lafleur, and I stand by it. Your beady little eyes might be red now, but your days are still numbered. You're still just a god damn punk."
He balled his fist up, but didn't swing. He knew how that would go down. I walked passed him and down the hall to Slade's door. I knocked.
"Come in," came the whisper that was really in my brain, not in my ear. I hate that. I turned the door knob and walked inside. He's got a couple of fancy sofas and love seats in his office, one of which held a pair of pale girls in slinky dresses. The brunette was out of it and the blond was licking blood off her neck. It was a pretty sight, one enough to stir some activity downstairs now that I had Fire in the veins. Slade himself wasn't wearing a jacket or tie, but leaning back in his chair behind his polished oak desk.
"Like what you see?" he asked. Slade was my height, but not quite as bulky. His hair was short and perfectly in place. He was clean shaven, dark haired, pale, and red eyed. His fangs sometimes showed when he smiled.
"Not bad," I said, pretending to not really care. "Seen better."
"Sure you have," said Slade. "What's so urgent?"
"One of the Mayor's guys hired me," I said.
"Really?" asked Slade. We went way back. I owed him and he was a bigger fish than I was, so it wasn't like we were equals but he didn't feel the need to push that.
"You know anyone to fake that?" I asked. "He had a card and paid up front in cash."
"I don't know anyone who faked that and didn't regret it shorty thereafter," said Slade. The Mayor's funny. A lot of shit he doesn't much care about, but what he does care about he comes down with both boots on those who fuck with it. "So probably legit. What he want?"
"He wants me looking for red dust."
"Shit," said Slade. "My boys aren't selling it, but that's because I can't get a connect yet."
"Might be a lucky thing," I said.
"Yeah," he said.
"What do you know about it?"
"Not much," he shrugged. "It's new, gets you high and keeps you there, gives you lots of energy. Why the fuck the Mayor would care about it I don't know." Our beloved Mayor turns a blind eye to drugs and alcohol. He also turns a blind eye to most street crime, which tends to make the various rackets the de facto governments of their turf.
"Maybe there's more to it than that."
"Have to be," said Slade. "I'll keep my boys out of it and pass anything I hear along." That was the truth. After all, if Slade wasn't selling it that meant the guys who were selling were his rivals.
"Good to here," I said. "I'll let you get back to what you were doing."
"Heh," he said. "Be careful out there Jack. It's never good when the Mayor takes an interest."
"I haven't forgotten. A man never forgets his own death." I turned and left, closing the door behind me. Slade was right, this was going to be trouble, but fuck it I had nothing better to do.