First chapter of Part 3 of Demon Hunters.
I walked into the building that housed my office on Sunset Boulevard on an unseasonably cool June morning. It had been almost three months since my office was rebuilt after nearly being brought down by a monstrous zombie. The whole building still smelled new as I walked through the doors. The scent of fresh paint and cut wood lingered in the air like a faint ghost and the walls and floors gleamed with sharp brilliance. It was like stepping into a brand new world.
Since all the madness with the Morgan Sanguine case, my life had settled back into normal mode. Of course, normal for me was still more chaotic than most other peoples’ lives. My caseload remained steady, but despite that, and an unpleasant encounter with a rare Were-tiger, I felt rather good about my life.
My demon was still rattling around in my head and I was still a lightning rod for all manner of horror and atrocity you could think of. The one thing that made me happy above all that mess was the fact that Gwen had sold her home in Blue Haven and moved to Los Angeles to live, which put an automatic spring in all my steps.
She found a nice condo in Studio City, which was actually quite nice. I helped her get used to the area. Showed her all the points of interest, for both the tourist and native. I showed her where to get the best produce and the best places to go for a late night fast food binge. We were inseparable for weeks, but I couldn’t play momma bird forever. I had to get back to work and Gwen was set to find a career of her own. Due to the conflicting schedules of both goals, we found we had less face time to enjoy, but we did enjoy what time we had. She had said she was close to finally landing a job but she didn’t go into much more detail than that.
As I walked up the stairs to my office, I was quite impressed with the work done on the building. My landlord wasn’t burdened with a reputation for being very generous and I was sure he was going to lowball the whole job, but it looked as though he had spent real money. He not only had my office rebuilt but he gave the whole dump a makeover, inside and out. There was new molding along the walls along with brand new paint. I walked up the stairs to my office and noticed the fresh new carpeting he had installed. I also noticed how quiet it was. I felt like I was the only one in, but as I stepped inside, I saw Ivar at his desk poring over a pile of books.
“Morning.” Ivar looked up.
“Good Morning, Jake. You’re in early.”
“Yeah, I tried to sleep in, but I just couldn’t do it.”
“That is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern.”
“If you say so.”
“How is Gwen? I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“We’re good. She’s been busy looking for a new job.”
“She’s having trouble?”
“It’s tough going from a small fish bowl like Blue Haven and into an ocean like L.A.”
“I’m sure she’ll find something. She seems very bright.”
“She is. What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Just my usual referencing exercises. We had a couple of visitors.”
“Already? What did they want?”
“One wanted to hire you for a background check. It didn’t seem he understood the nature of our business. The other wanted you to gather evidence for some lawsuit he’s preparing. They both left numbers.” I walked over to my desk. It was oddly clear of clutter and papers. Gwen had taken to stopping by periodically and straightening up for me. I looked over at my phone and saw a slip of paper with two numbers and two names. One name had background check next to it and the other one had lawsuit. I picked the phone up and started dialing the background check number first.
“You’re actually calling?” Ivar asked with some level of surprise.
“We gotta pay the bills somehow. The little demons and imps of the city have been annoyingly quiet lately. I can do a quick background check. Pick up an extra check. It might just cover the electric bill this month.”
I sat down with the phone to my ear. A voice came on suddenly. It was thick and low.
“Hi. Jake Corba here. Is this William Bertram?
“Yes. Thank you for getting back to me.”
“My pleasure. You came by my office this morning?”
“Yes. I spoke with your assistant. I need you to run a background check on someone I’m thinking about hiring.”
“Are we looking for anything in particular?”
“Just a general check. Prison record, whatnot.”
“Okay. I can do that. Would you be able to come in and sign some papers?”
“Of course. I could come by this afternoon.”
“Great. Any time after two will be fine.”
“I will see you then.” It sounded like he was about to hang up, and a curiosity came over me.
“Mr. Bertram? Before you go, I’d like to ask you something.”
“Why me? There are lots of companies that do this kind of work. I’m just some no-name private investigator. How did you even find me?”
“It’s actually the oddest thing. I told the applicant I needed to run a background check, and they actually referred me to you.”
“They did? Who is this applicant?”
“Gwen Thorne. Do you know her?” I smiled a little to myself.
“The name sounds familiar. I’ll have to check. Come by around two and we’ll get you taken care of.”
“Okay. Thank you.” He said and hung up. I leaned back in my chair and just as I was about to open my mouth, the door swung open and Gwen came in.
“Good morning you two.” She softly patted Ivar’s shoulder as she made her way over to me. She was wearing a blue dress that danced gracefully with every step she took. I could sense the faint aroma of perfumed flowers in the air as she got closer. I got up quickly and wrapped her up in my arms and hugged her tightly.
“Jake. I have a favor to ask.”
“I already talked to him.”
“Him? Who him?”
“William Bertram. About your background check.”
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t act so innocent.”
“Fine. I might have encouraged him to call you.”
“It’s fine, really. I just don’t get why.”
“I was hoping you might be able to creatively edit some of the things you find in my background check.”
“Like what? What could you have done that would raise any red flags? A nice girl from Blue Haven, like yourself.” Gwen turned away from me slowly.
“There’s a lot about me you don’t know. Not that any of it is relevant now. I was a different person then.” My interest was rising.
“Okay. You’re scaring me now. What am I going to find?”
“Nothing. Some youthful transgressions. A few black marks. A little federal conviction.”
“It was nothing. In college, I got kind of swept up in activism and some friends and I went out on a boat and intercepted some fishing boats that were known to kill dolphins.”
“We kind of hijacked it.”
“You hijacked a boat?”
“And then ran it aground,” Gwen looked up and caught me staring at her. “It was a small one. No one told me it was a felony. I got a year of probation. I didn’t serve hard time, but it’s still on my record.”
“That doesn’t sound, too bad.” I said with some reservation.
“I know that, but it doesn’t look so sterling to prospective employers,” Gwen said. “I just need you to kind of water it down a little.”
“Water down. As in erase?”
“If you could?”
“Gwen. That’s illegal. Incredibly illegal,” Gwen looked down darkly. I quickly put my finger to her chin and lifted her head back up. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks,” Gwen said with a broad smile. “Will you stop looking at me like that?”
“I’m sorry. It’s hard to digest. I can’t really picture you taking part in anything illegal.”
“You believe in ghosts, demons, trolls, werewolves, and all other sorts of things that go bump in the night, but me breaking the law is so out of reach?”
“All those other things I’ve seen. I just can’t see you hijacking a boat. It’s kind of bad ass.”
“I have a wild side.”
“That is becoming exceedingly clear.” I pulled Gwen in for a kiss.
“Before I met you I had a very interesting life.
“No doubt. So, what job is so important to get that I’m risking jail time?”
“Real estate agent.”
“Yes. I got my license a long time ago, but I got kind of sidetracked after I got married. I thought I’d pick it back up. I renewed my license last week and interviewed with Mr. Bertram a couple days ago.”
“And this would be a big career move?”
“Big enough. Bertram Real Estate is a huge company, at least from what I’ve learned. The important thing is he’s willing to take a chance on me. That is as long as my background check comes back clean and felony free.”
“Yes, don’t worry. I think it should be easy to bury a boat hijacking. Not much chance of you doing it again, is there?” I thought it came out rather cute, but Gwen’s expression soured and she stepped away.
“It’s not a joke.”
“I didn’t say it was.”
“This is important to me. When I was married, Henry didn’t like me working. He was always so backward about that. I got my real estate license for a reason. What better job is there than to help people find homes to raise their family?”
“Okay. I’m sold. You want this? We’ll make it happen.” Gwen beamed up at me and gently kissed my lips.
“Settled? We good?”
“Great. Now get out of here. I’ve got a business to run.”
“All right. I’ll see you tonight, right? Dinner?” Gwen asked as she headed for the door.
“Absolutely.” She blew me a final kiss and disappeared around the corner. I looked back down at the phone and picked up the little slip of paper next to it. The last number was for a guy named Felix Lesidous. I quickly dialed but instead of ringing, I got an earful of a loud beep and a message stating that the number had been disconnected.
“This guy came in today, right?”
“That’s gotta be a record. His phone’s been disconnected.” I said. Suddenly the door flew open and a scrawny looking guy stood in the frame. He was wearing a suit of questionable taste. It was poorly cut and seemed to be two sizes too large. His face was angular and pale with dark lines running up around his mouth. His thick brows were furrowed over his angry eyes as he marched up to my desk and pounded his fist down.
“You Jake Corba?” He asked.
“I’m Felix Lesidous.”
“I was just trying to call you. Your phone’s been cut off. You know about that?”
“That’s not important right now. I need your help.”
“Fine,” I sat down. “I understand you need me to help you with a lawsuit. Is that right?”
“Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Have a seat and let’s get to work,” Felix sat down in the chair across from me and settled in. I pulled out a piece of paper and found a pen. It had been a long time since I worked on a, as some would say, normal case, but I remembered getting as much information as was available was a good thing. “So, Mr. Lesidous, what is the nature of your lawsuit? What are we looking for?”
“I am suing on the grounds of wrongful damnation!”
Seems crazy? Well, it makes sense if you read the whole thing. Check it out.