Lying deep in the heart of the Twin Cities is a powerful magical community made up of people from all over reality. I am one of the few people who, for a fee, can keep this hidden and often violent community from boiling over into public view.
"Looking deeper into the week it looks we're going to see some snow making its way into the Twin Cities come Halloween. However it doesn't look like there will be enough to make it hard for those little ghosts and goblins to make their way to your door. So be sure to stock up on enough treats for the kiddies."
I clicked off the radio, the weather report was all I had really needed. I really didn't care about the trick 'r treaters since I wasn't going to be home. There was going to be a massive party at the Mystic Wolf on Samhain, known to most as Halloween. Not everyone was going to be there since it wasn't a major holiday for several pantheons, but the party was still going to be huge.
It was going to be Jamie's first Samhain party and I knew it was going to be the wildest party she had ever been to by far. She kept thinking that it would be like a normal Halloween party. It seemed that no matter how many times I tried to explain it to her that I couldn't get her to understand that this was going to be like a New Year's Eve party on steroids. For many pantheons October 31 is their New Year's Eve add in the fact that the vast majority of the people who were going to be at the Mystic that night were from varying magickal, divine, and infernal realms, (I doubted that anyone from an elemental realm would be there) or were pagans from this side of reality things were going to get wild. Plus Brisbane had given me a heads up on a new liquid memory drink he had come up for that night, the 'Sugar Buzz', which was based on his earliest memory of getting hyped up on candy he had collected trick or treating.
Well at least she was taking the whole costume thing seriously. When I had gotten in after hitting the nearby Thai place for take-out I had seen her browsing a website full of costumes. I was also happy to notice that most of the costumes showed a fair amount of cleavage and or leg which meant they would look great on her. Of course there was no chance of her competing with Aphrodite or Freya in the looks department. The two of them usually came in outfits that could easily spark a riot at some parties. Still I was looking forward to seeing her in whatever costume she chose. I may be a half-daemon but even I'm affected by a good looking woman.
I heard a knock on the outer office door which was answered by Jamie asking whoever it was to come inside. I wasn't too worried about what was being said, Jamie was good at her job so there was nothing to concern myself with until she called me on the intercom.
The intercom buzzed. "Boss?" she said across the line.
"I have a Sasha Sumer out here, she said she needs to talk to you." That sort of surprised me because I thought I knew who she might be talking about, and if it was who I thought it was something was seriously wrong.
"Is she about five seven, Arab looking, and insanely beautiful?" I asked.
"Then send her in right now, it's almost definitely important."
'Are you thinking she's one of the waitresses from the Mystic Wolf?" Shadow, my crow familiar, asked me, his voice in my head only.
"Who else," I replied to my familiar as the door opened.
"Mr. Black? I need your help," she said as she entered my office. As she stepped inside her human facade was replaced by her natural, daemonic form, that of a lovely succubus. Sasha wasn't her real name, it was just the one she had currently adopted to fit in. Only one human knew her true name and that was Brisbane. To know a daemon's true name was to have power over them, so they didn't give it out very often.
"Well, have a seat and we'll discuss your problem," I said motioning her to the chair across from me. She tucked her wings in and sat down with some hesitation, obviously both nervous and upset.
"Well first let me thank you for seeing me, I..." I cut her off.
"Don't thank me," I said. "You've come to me as a client so you can thank me after this is all settled. Now what is the problem?"
"Well a friend of mine has disappeared, and I'm terribly worried about her. I want you to find her for me." I was immediately surprised by this. For one thing I knew that it was rare for daemons from the infernal realms to really form attachments to others, my dad being an exception, but this was something different. I had never seen a daemon this upset about missing a friend before, even my dad hadn't been this upset when my mother had been killed over three centuries ago.
I nodded to show that I was going to take this seriously, I may find this situation unusual, but that didn't matter. Sasha was just another client right now which meant I would treat her with the same respect I do all my clients. I took a notepad out of a desk drawer and got ready to start the initial questioning that would help me find a place to start. "So what is your friend's name?" I asked her.
"Kara Odinsdattir," she said quietly. My first response was to drop the pen I was about to use to take notes with. If she had just said what I thought she had, those two words had just turned this into the most outlandish case I had ever started.
'The hell!?' I heard Shadow exclaim in my head. 'It can't be.'
"Let me make sure I have this right. Am I correct in thinking that Kara's last name, Odinsdattir, is Icelandic in origin?"
Sasha nodded quietly. "Yes," she said in barely more than a whisper. She seemed almost ashamed of the answer.
"Am I also correct when I translate it as 'Odin's Daughter'?" I asked.
Again she gave me another barely audible 'yes'.
I leaned across my desk to get a better look at her, if she was lying to me I would know. "So what you mean is that this friend of yours that you want me to track down for you is a valkyrie, correct?"
This time when she said, 'yes', I could see tears welling up at the corner of her eyes. I dropped back down into my chair. Never in all my years would I have thought I would ever see a daemon from one of the infernal planes brought to tears, but the reason for those tears was completely unreal. My client, a daemon who's nature caused her to fit neatly into what most people thought of as a classic 'demon', was asking me to find a daemon from a divine plane, or what many people would call an 'angel'. This was so utterly beyond belief that it couldn't have been made up. Had anyone else told me about this case I would have called them liar, but this was no lie. I would never have expected that a succubus could even cry, not even fake tears, but these tears were not fake, they were genuine. She wasn't just upset, she was scared.
I reached into my desk and pulled out a couple lowball glasses and pulled out a bottle of what I sometimes referred to as nerve medicine, more commonly known as cheap bourbon. I poured a couple fingers of the liquor into each glass and pushed one over to her. "Here, this might help calm you down?"
She took the glass and took a quick sip. "Thanks," she mumbled.
I picked up my pen and got ready to write again. "Okay how about we start with the relationship between you. What do the two of you mean to each other?"
Instead of saying anything the succubus reached into her jacket pocket and took out a picture. I looked at it, then looked at my client, then back again at the picture. I was having a hard time believing the picture, but if it was genuine it explained a lot, and from the way Sasha was acting I knew it was genuine. The picture showed Sasha and the valkyrie hanging on to each other in what could only be described as a loving manner, and both obviously smashed beyond belief, in the Mystic Wolf during some party. "Which party was this?" I asked her.
"Last Spring Equinox," she said taking the picture back.
"What happened between the two of you?"
"Well I was off duty and the two of us got to talking, and drinking, more talking, more drinking and, well, you saw the picture. I remember getting in her car and going to her place. When we got there we did a lot more drinking. The next thing I remember is waking up next to her in her bed. I was so drunk that I don't remember what happened, and she says she doesn't remember either, but whatever did happen I don't regret it," the succubus reached out her hand and I gave her back the photo. "Since then we've been, well, close."
'No, no, no!' Shadow yelled in my head. 'Valkyries don't get involved with succubi! It's... It's...'
I raised a hand to shush him. "How close?" This was going to be an interesting conversation. I wanted to know what kind of relationship could form between two daemons from such different realms.
"Well when I'm not at school in this realm I'll usually try to spend at least some time with her." I remembered her saying something about going to college when I had met up with Detective Wallace from the St. Paul PD a few months ago. "She is also a regular customer and she hasn't been around for a couple of days which is what got me worried in the first place. She's normally in at least once a day." I cut her off a bit too soon.
"Is it possible that she just left for somewhere and didn't tell you about it?" I asked. I didn't want to waste my time and her money searching for a valkyrie who had simply returned to Asgard.
"Not a chance. You see I have a key to her house and well someone ransacked the place." I simply stopped writing and looked at her again.
"Why do you have a key?" Right now that seemed important because it was possible that someone had taken serious displeasure at the idea of two daemons from different realms fraternizing.
"As you may remember I'm going to school for elementary education." I nodded. "Well I'm planning to start my student teaching in January. Since Brisbane has been giving me more freedom to leave the Mystic Wolf and spend time in this realm I've been looking for an apartment..."
"And she's been letting you stay with her while you search." I said.
"Yes... She's been great about letting me crash in the guest room." The hesitation was obvious.
'Talk about a lie!' Shadow screamed.
I turned to look at the bird. "Shadow. Stuff it," I snarled.
I then turn my attention back to my client. "You haven't been sleeping in the guest room have you?" I was fairly sure I knew the answer already. I didn't like it when clients lied to me, but in this case it was understandable to some extent.
"What? Yes I've been using the guest room." Her voice was clear, either she was a good liar or she was telling me the truth. However seeing as she was a succubus I wasn't inclined to believe her.
'Liar! She's lying!'
"Shadow! I said stuff it!" Shadow can often be helpful but there were times I wish he wouldn't talk. This was one such time.
I then looked at Sasha again. "Sorry about that. Now back to you. Look I personally don't give a damn if you have been using the guest room or not. However someone else might." I didn't want this to be a case of Odin being an ass and getting pissed with one of his servants spending what could be called 'quality time' with a daemon from another realm. However old one-eye had some interesting ideas of what was acceptable behavior when dealing with the relationships of others. The guy had once been a jerk to his own son, Thor, and told the guy that his wife, Sif, was sleeping around. Thankfully Thor trusted his wife, and rightfully so, considering that I've seen her chew him out for forgetting their anniversary on a couple of occasions. However Odin can be an ass at times, especially if he felt a valkyrie wasn't doing what he wanted them to. Hell he had put Brynhildr into an enchanted sleep for basically mouthing off. Well more than that really, but that's the way she tells it.
"Look I don't care if you believe me or not, but I'm telling you the truth that I've been using the guest room." She sounded pissed that I had accused her of lying to me. "Look I know what I told you about sleeping with her would make it sound like that it's repeated but it hasn't." She then quietly added. "Not that I wouldn't mind it."
"Okay I'll believe you." It wasn't my business what my client's relationship with the valkyrie was. She was going to be paying me to find her friend and the money was what really mattered. "Now let's get back to what you found at the house."
"Well as I said the place had been ransacked. Everything had been thrown around, and a lot of it was broken, there were also holes in the walls and a lot of nasty burn marks. Truthfully I doubt you could have made much more of a mess out of the place if you had set off a bomb in it." That was a bad sign. If someone had made a direct attack on a valkyrie, who were skilled warriors, and won it meant that they were dangerous. "I looked around a little but I knew right away that I should call you so I didn't touch anything. I didn't want to disturb anything for you."
"Thank you." I was glad she hadn't called the cops. Those idiots would have really mucked the place up and it would have been much harder to find anything useful.
"Now before we go any further I need to bring up the matter of payment, and I'll need you to sign the contract," I said.
"Okay," Sasha started with a swallow. "How much is this going to cost me?"
"Four hundred a day plus expenses, and I'll need a five day retainer up front," I told her as I pulled open a desk drawer and reached for my standard, middle of the road contract. I charged by what I think people can afford some people can afford to pay me a lot, others not so much. Sasha was a waitress at the Mystic Wolf which, considering how much Brisbane told me their tips averaged out to, meant she had fairly deep pockets.
"Okay, that won't be a problem," she said as she cut me a check. "Can you just hold it for a day so that I can make sure that there is enough money in the account for the check not to bounce?"
"I have no problem doing that," I said. "Just date the check for tomorrow and it won't be a problem."
"Thank you." She handed me the check.
I put the contract in front of her. "Now please read this carefully and sign it. I don't need your true name, your human one is fine since it is on all your legal records." She read through it carefully, and signed on the line I indicated. I wasn't sure if she would understand all the legalese the contract was written in until I realized that since she was in college it was a good chance that she would have figured out a fair amount going through loan applications.
"Here you go," she said pushing the contract back to me, and held her hand out for me to shake.
"Okay you've just hired yourself a private eye," I said shaking her hand. "Now let's go a little deeper into what has been happening between you."
"What do you need to know?" she asked.
"How about we start with the basics of where she lives and what she does for a living." First rule of being a detective is always start with as much information as you can. "I know she works for Odin but I'm fairly sure that he doesn't pay well enough for her to not need another job if she's living on this plane."
Sasha gave a trace smile. "She always complains about Odin not paying enough, so you're right about her needing another job. She's a paramedic for St. Paul, and she loves her job."
Well that gave me one place to start with, I could track down her coworkers and see what they knew. "And where does she live?"
"She has a house in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul." Fairly nice part of the city, not the best part of the city, but nice enough without being too expensive. She then gave me an exact address which wasn't too far from the Como Zoo.
"Did the two of you ever go to the zoo?" I asked her, more out of curiosity than anything else.
"Every once in a while," she said. "For the most part Brisbane limits my time on this plane to going to school, along with the normal days he gives all of us succubi who work there. However I got him to give a few more days so I can have a chance to start looking for an apartment as well as get used to regular life out here. Kara even taught me how to drive a car, and Brisbane had someone create a legal driver's license for me."
"How about enemies?" I asked. "Do you know if Kara had any enemies? Well other than the typical ones of, and in, the Norse Pantheon."
"Well as far as I know there are only the general ones," she said. "I mean she's probably gotten people pissed off at her, she can be a little... err... abrasive, at times. But I can't imagine that she'd get anyone powerful enough to take her out pissed off enough to do this."
I nodded in thought. Taking on a valkyrie was nothing to be taken lightly, it meant pissing off a major God. However it didn't make sense for a valkyrie to disappear like this since Odin would be quick to get involved. If Odin had done this to punish his child for taking up a relation with Sasha he'd have gone after my client as well, or at least I thought he would. Plus he would have simply ordered Kara to cut contact, a smash and grab wasn't his style. Even Brynhildr hadn't been taken like that when she had openly disobeyed him. No, someone was either making a move specifically against Kara or they might be planning to go after other members of the pantheon soon.
"Anything different in the way she's been acting over the last few days?" I asked. It's possible that something had happened that she simply hadn't wanted to tell my client about.
"Not that I noticed," Sasha said. "However she's always been a bit hard to read. That's why she often times rubs people the wrong way. It can be hard for people to tell whether or not she's joking or whether she’s just being a bit bitchy and or sarcastic. Hell even I have a hard time catching whether or not she's being serious or not and we're close."
This was getting me nowhere. Sasha was doing her best to be helpful so that wasn't the problem. The problem though was that none of this added up. This had been a smash and grab, so whoever had done this was no one to be trifled with. It wasn't Odin's style, at least I didn't think it was. Still it was possible that someone, or someones, else in the pantheon had taken it upon themselves to punish Kara for her relationship with Sasha. I mean it's not like minor members of differing pantheons to have much to do with each other unless it is directly happening at the Mystic Wolf, and even then things tended to be a bit tense, especially among the European pantheons. However that still didn't explain the fact that no one had gone after Kara, but...
I was hit with a sudden revelation. The reason that whoever had gone after Kara had left Sasha alone could easily do with the fact that Brisbane would have immediately gotten involved. Going after one of his employees would have gotten a lot of people involved. Not only had Brisbane in a sense formed his own pantheon within the bar, but an attack on the bar, directly or not, would get just about every pantheon out there involved. If Sasha had been attacked and Brisbane able to point out the culprit whoever had done it would have to deal with a lot of angry gods and all sorts of others. No Sasha was probably safe from whoever had attacked the valkyrie.
"Okay all I need from you then is the key and where she's based out of for her job, and I can get started," I said.
Sasha quickly jotted down the number where I could reach Kara's supervisor and gave me the key. She then looked at her watch and I saw a look of mild panic cross her face. "Shit! I'm going to be late for class, and I didn't drive."
"Don't worry I'll give you a ride to school," I said.
"Thanks," she said. "I've got class in thirty minutes and we have a test today that I've spent the last three days studying for."
"Well come on then let's go," I said. As I stood up I reached into my gun safe and grabbed out my shoulder holster and slid my Colt 1911, 'Ace of Spades' into it, along with a couple magazines of specialty bullets. In this case I didn't know what I might be up against. I threw my suit coat on over the holster and then a trench coat over that. Lastly I grabbed my old fedora off the coat stand and motioned Sasha out the office door ahead of me.
'Not without me you don't,' Shadow said and hopped on to my shoulder.
As we left my office Sasha resumed her human facade. I told Jamie that I had taken the case and then giving her the check told her to take it to the bank tomorrow. As Sasha followed me to my '41 Buick Special, I asked her a few more questions regarding her relationship with the valkyrie, I didn't expect to learn anything useful for the case, I was just being nosey.
Once we got to the car Shadow hopped off my shoulder and took his normal spot on his perch in the back seat of the car. Sasha slid into the passenger seat and we left the parking garage. In the light traffic we reached the college and I dropped my client off as close to the building her class was in as I could, then headed off to work on her case.
Thank you for reading the first chapter of the third book of The Black Shadow Detective Agency series : The Angel and the Demon Caper
The full book plus a longer sample can be found on Smashwords
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