“Well, well. You actually were able to retrieve the Crimson Edge,” she said, holding up a ceremonial ruby dagger. “It’s been in my family for centuries, you know. I thought I had lost it forever, but you’ve surprised me once again. Surely, there must be some way I can…repay you?” With that, her fur jacket dropped to the ground revealing a body that looked almost snow white compared to the dark night outside.
“You could just give me the money we agreed on.”
She laughed, he voice thick and surprisingly hearty, enjoying the moment. “Some things never change. That’s what I’ve always loved about you, so committed. An unwavering focus.” She sighed and slid closer, whispering in his ear. “But perhaps, this once, you could focus on me.”
With her free hand, she reached around and pulled him closer, but she stopped short. He had grabbed her other arm, the one with the knife.
“Maybe I should hold on to this.”
“After you worked so hard to return it to me?” She slipped backwards out of his grasp, twirling playfully. “You don’t think I would actually hurt you…do you?”
“I just like being careful. Don’t want you to slip and cause an accident. That’s what happened to your late husband, right? An accident?”
She pouted. “Sylvester didn’t know what was good for him. And such a lousy sense of balance, falling out of that window.”
“Aww, depressed, baby?” She put her hands on her hips, highlighting her features. “Well, I’m a great therapist, if you catch my drift.”
“And I bet you charge by the hour too”
Her body flushed the color of the blade. “What’s your problem tonight anyway? Spineless asshole! After everything I’ve done for-
“I’m gonna take a smoke. I trust you know the way out?”
He left, her voice muffled by the peeling walls of the office building stairs.
It was raining. It was always raining. Even so, Anderson didn’t carry an umbrella. It was something you got used to, the rain. The world was wet, no use trying to prevent the inevitable. Still, it made it damn hard to light a cigarette. He ducked under an awning and flicked his lighter open; the small flame a blemish of natural light against the buzzing flicker of lamp posts that lined the streets. Always wet, and always dark, as if the sun had just given up against the shroud of bleakness that blanketed the city.
His pager beeped. A single message: Call me. We got trouble.
He sighed, snapping the lighter closed, the unlit cigarette tossed into an ashtray. This was how it all worked, after all. A world of constants, of the status quo. No matter how much things changed, there would always be those elements that remained. The rain, the dark…and trouble. The rain and the dark, he could handle. Used to think he could handle the trouble too. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
He stuffed himself into a phonebooth and dialed the only number he had bothered to memorize. The Morgue. It picked up on the first ring.
Anderson’s heart dropped to his stomach and he clenched the phone so tightly he thought it would break.
“What do you mean, ‘they’re gone’? How can they be gone?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, man. We had them locked up but they’re not in the drawer anymore.”
“What the hell, Bob?” asked Anderson. “You’re the only one there. It’s not like they grew legs and walked away!”
There was silence on the other end.
“Bob? They’re hunks of dead meat. If you’re saying that-“
“There are footprints.”
Something made a noise outside the phone booth, like a sharp moan. Anderson looked but didn’t see anything. “I’m sorry, say that again. Footprints?”
“Yeah. Big, red, bloody footprints. Like with toes and shit.”
“Jesus, Bob, they don’t have toes. They don’t have anything.”
“Look, you want to come over here and check? It’s not like I misplaced a couple of three hundred pound sacks of rotting flesh. They’re gone, there’s footprints. What do you want me to say?”
“Don’t you have security precautions there? Like some big steel door or something?”
There was definitely something outside. Anderson could hear a metal scrape, as if a large object was being dragged down the street.
“You might want to get out of town for a bit.”
“I was just thinking the same thing.”
Anderson hung up the phone and took out his lighter. The booth was too cramped to be comfortable, but he lit up a cigarette anyways. He had spent a few days waiting for the two detectives to come back, but it didn’t seem like they were in any rush to get involved. He couldn’t blame them.
Anderson stood in the phone booth until his cigarette burned down to its last embers. He put the collar up on his jacket, and stepped out into the rain.
END CHAPTER 2