Deep in the Twin Cities is a powerful and often violent magic underbelly that is barely contained. For a fee I am one of the people that keeps everything from boiling over. Now a kid has gone missing and the farther I go in my investigation the more convoluted things get.
Black Shadow Detective Agency: The Missing Apprentice Caper
By A Sigurd Olson
The August afternoon was almost unbearably humid as I sat in my office with my feet up on my desk listening to the game on an antique radio. I had a low-ball glass that had contained a two fingers of bourbon an inning ago close at hand. On the perch just a few feet away was my familiar, a crow named Shadow, who had been passed down my family line for centuries. I was bored from not having had a case in three weeks. I wasn’t hurting for money; considering I owned the building my office is in. I was just bored.
The St. Paul Saints were up to bat in the bottom of the sixth against the Winnipeg Goldeyes, and had a comfortable lead. The home team had been in a bit of a slump and I was hoping this game would snap their six game losing streak, especially since I had a hundred bucks on the line. I’ve always rooted for any team that held the name of the St. Paul Saints ever since the first on had formed back in late nineteenth century.
The Saints’ catcher, Rich Mecardo, struck out just as the phone in the outer office rang. I heard my secretary answer the phone. "Black Shadow Detective Agency. What can we help you with?"
I went back to listening to the game knowing that Jamie would page me if the phone call required my attention. Jamie's a good kid, she's just the kind of secretary a guy like me needs. She's level headed, brave, and I can trust her to think on her feet. The other thing that helped was that she's always calm around my friends and clients, which was the main reason I hired her. There is also the fact that she's very pretty and has never commented on the seven year old Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar that hung on my wall showing the month of September. Never once.
I hit the intercom button as soon as it buzzed. "A Maurine Wells for you on line one. Says she has a missing persons’ case for you."
"Thanks, I'll take the call." I then looked at the mostly empty bottle on my desk. "And Sweetheart? Could you stop by the pharmacy and pick up a couple of bottles of cold medicine? Take it out of petty cash."
"Yes boss, I'll go over to Grand Street Liquors for you," she said sarcastically. At least she had stopped complaining about me calling her sweetheart.
I picked up the hand set of my phone and punched the button for line one. "Investigator Jason Black speaking."
“Hello Mr. Black,” came a feminine voice. “My name is Maurine Wells and I was told that you might be able to help me.”
“Depending on what your problem is, I’ll do my best,” I answered. I was hoping that her problem was one I could help with since I was starting to go a little stir-crazy. “Now my secretary tells me that someone has disappeared?”
“It’s my son, James...” There was a definite break in her voice. “He’s disappeared and I have no idea what’s happened to him”
Now I’m not one to take pleasure in another’s misfortune, but this was going to get me out of the office and for that I was glad. “I take it you’ve talked to the police?”
“Oh yes. The detective took a look around my son’s room and said he found some stuff that made it seem like it would be your type of case,” she replied.
I wondered what kind of stuff had been in her son’s room that the police had sent her to me. Very rarely will a detective send someone my way, at least not openly. “What kind of stuff did they find that would cause them to send you my way”
“Well the detective said that there were some books on my son’s shelves that were about magick or something.” It had to have been Wallace who had gone out to her house then. He was the only detective on any of the local forces who could even spot true books of the occult. He hung out at the Mystic Wolf and had studied a little magick. He knew a couple spells that were useful in his line of work. He also knew enough to get himself in trouble, but was smart enough to come to me if he got into that sort of territory. The weird thing was the last time I talked to him, he was in homicide. What had he done that had gotten him stuck in missing persons?
“This detective, was he on the older side of middle age, and a bit on the heavy side?”
“Why yes. How did you know?” There was some surprise in Ms. Wells’ voice.
“Wallace stops by to pick up a couple of my business cards every once in a while.” At least one detective from just about every town and city in the Metro area had a couple of my cards floating around. Those cards were my main source of advertising. When I feel up to it and something major happens, I’ll occasionally tick off the police by showing up to a fresh crime scene, and start handing out the cards myself. Doing that always makes me the first suspect, but that’s just the way things work.
“Now before I come over to your place to start the investigation I need to know one important thing. How old is your son?”
“He turns seventeen in a couple of months. Why?”
“I just needed to know if I was looking for a legal adult or not. It gives me an idea of what I can do once I’ve found him.”
“I just want him back home,” she said in a frail voice. “I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
“I’ll come over then to start my investigation," I said.
“Please do. I haven’t left here since he disappeared”
“Where is ‘here’?” I asked.
“It’s 416 Summit Ave,” she told which made me very happy. The entire length of Summit is a filthy rich part of town, meaning the kids who live there tend to have the means to get themselves in all sorts of interesting trouble.
“Give me half an hour and I’ll be there with my standard contract,” I told her. I switched off the game, and got ready to go out. Opening my gun safe I pulled out my shoulder holster and slid my Colt, whom I had named 'Ace of Spades', into it. I also pulled out a couple of magazines with different types of bullets one of blessed silver, the other cold iron. I then slipped into my light suit jacket and took my fedora off the coat tree and put that on. Despite the fact that it was the twenty-first century the old noir detective style had never gotten out of my system.
Once dressed I grabbed my satchel which had all the tools of my trade and put a copy of my rich person contract in it. I keep several different ‘standard’ contracts on hand. I charge by what I think people can afford. Since this woman lived on Summit I picked out my thousand dollars a day contract with a five-day retainer, she had the money to pay me so I was going to take it. I also had contracts for much less, for people who couldn’t pay me much. I even once took a case for a quarter for a little girl whose dad had disappeared. Turned out that the dad had been disappeared by the mob. The police still don’t know what happened the night the five men involved had been ripped apart and their bodies smeared across the room. There had been bullet casings all over the place. Not one bullet had even touched me. It had been labeled as a cold case some seventy years ago. Just wish I could have done more for the kid.
Shadow broke into my thoughts. 'I know you always think about that case when you take on a case involving a child, but you have to let it go.'
"You say that all the time."
‘Do you think that this case will work out?’ Shadow asked; speaking directly into my mind.
“I can always hope,” I replied. “Sure it’s probably nothing more than a spoiled, rich kid running away to get attention. But it’s possible that he’s gotten in way over his head and fallen in with the wrong crowd. But with any real luck it will be something completely different.”
‘If I had any use for money I’d lay twenty too one odds that the kid’s a simple rich-shit runaway.’ Shadow could be a pain and sound like my bookie at times. However he was always helpful in his own way, plus he had been in the family for more generations than I cared to think about. In fact, he could no longer remember how old he was himself.
“I wouldn’t take those odds,” I replied. “He probably is just a runaway. But it’s a case and I’ve been sitting on my ass for far too long. Now let’s not keep Ms. Wells waiting.”
Before I left the office I scribbled a quick note on the memo pad on Jamie's desk to let her know where I had gone. She was always worried about me, and bitched her head off if I didn't let her know what was going on. As irritating as those chewing outs could be, I loved her for 'em. Showed me that she was just about as loyal to me as any familiar could be. Plus she could do some things that no animal familiar could ever do no matter how clever. Shadow couldn't organize a spread sheet for the life of him.
Thank you for reading Chapter 1 of
Black Shadow Detective Agency: The Missing Apprentice Caper
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