The Night Beat
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Chapter 1

We pulled up to the scene of the crime. Such as it was. An alleyway in downtown, filled with trashcans and darkness.

“What do you think?” Jack asked as we got out of the ugly sedan that was supposed to fool the criminal class into thinking we weren’t undercover cops. So far as I could tell, it had never worked in the history of law enforcement, but we kept on perpetrating the illusion.

I looked around. There was an amazing lack of activity. There was also a lack of anything that looked even slightly crime-like. Not that this meant anything. “See, that’s what I love about you. We haven’t even taken a look at the crime scene, and you’re already asking me what I think about it.”

He shrugged. “You have good instincts.”

Yeah, if he only knew. Then again, I didn’t want him to know.

I sniffed. “Something smells awful.”

Jack pointed. “Well, those overflowing trashcans might be the stench culprit. Can your tender senses take it? Don’t want you fainting on me again.”

“Like you didn’t love it.”

He grinned. “Yeah, well, I’ll admit getting to act all heroic was kind of fun. But, damn, you come out of a faint nasty.”

Jack had been lucky I’d come out of the faint feeling sick, not hungry. Then again, I was lucky, too. Good partners are hard to come by. Good-looking ones who are also single and might, possibly, one day be interested in a high-excitement relationship were as rare as virgin groupies. Which, per some of my friends, meant very rare to potentially extinct.

I shook myself to get my mind back on the matter at hand. What I’d smelled wasn’t trash. “Why are we alone here?”

“No idea.” Jack pulled his gun as he reached into the car to grab the radio. “Darlene, this is Detective Wagner. Weren’t we supposed to have a couple black and whites here?”

The radio crackled. “Yes. Two cars, four uniformed officers.” Darlene sounded mildly worried. I was already past that.

I sniffed again. I didn’t smell anything living, though the trash could be interfering. But the stench I was picking up wasn’t trash, and the odds of anyone alive being in this alley were slim moving to none. I moved into the alley slowly, all senses on the alert.

“Victoria, get your damn gun at the ready!” Jack didn’t make it sound like a suggestion.

He was right, and I knew it. But I took out the special gun I kept at the small of my back. It was smaller, but the projectiles were more effective. I sniffed the trash bins as I went by. I also activated my wrist-com. I was far enough away from Jack that he wouldn’t hear. “This is W-W-One-Eight-One-Niner.”

“Good evening, Agent Wolfe.” The Count’s voice was silky as always. He had unperturbed down to an art form. In all the years I’d known and worked for him, he’d never once lost his cool. “Status?”

“Four uniforms and two squad cars missing. Downtown alley, loaded with trashcans and stink. Special stink.”

“We have so many varieties of special stink, Agent Wolfe. Truly, make a selection and advise.”

“Snacked on the uniforms as appetizers and ate the cars for roughage kind of stink.”

“Ah. Do you require backup?”

“Ya think? It’s just me and my partner here. My human partner.”

“Yes, the human partner you pant after.”

“Funny. The human partner I want to both keep alive and keep in the dark. I’d like to see the sunrise, too.”

The Count sighed. “It’s overrated. Fine. Aerial support on the way. Underground support already activated by Agent Goode.”

Good old Monty. I thanked the Gods and Monsters for his rebel attitude. He didn’t like to follow orders but he was all over following me. He said I always landed the best cases. If his parts didn’t fall off on a regular basis, we might be an item.

“Great news.” I was at the end of the alley. No more trashcans, no sign of anything. Murky darkness in front of me. I pointed my gun into the center of it. “This is Prosaic City Police, drop your weapons, put your hands up, and come out slowly.”

No movement, no noise. No surprise. I sighed. I couldn’t risk a look over my shoulder. I hoped Jack was still at the other end of the alley, covering me. “Fine, have it your way. This is Necropolis Enforcement. Drop any non-organic weapons, put your arms, flippers, claws, tentacles, or any other extremities up, and walk, slither, stomp, crawl, et cetera, out of the darkness or be exterminated with extreme prejudice.”

The murky darkness started boiling up and moving. It was still murky and dark, but it was forming into a shape. I stared at it as the hair on the back of my neck started to rise. My nails extended and so did my teeth. Some things you can’t stop, even if you want to. Fight or flight is in every living being that’s got mobility. And even beings like me have a fear of the dark, the old dark, built into us.

“Count?”

“Yes?”

“We are in so much trouble.”


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