P. N. Elrod's novels of The Vampire Files blend the seductive shadows of classic noir into a sanctuary for a most unusual private investigator-vampire Jack Fleming. In Elrod's newest novel, Jack is under the gun when the New York mafia wants his hide, and the love of his life is wanted for murder.
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September 01, 2005
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Excerpt from Song in the Dark by P. N. Elrod
Chicago, January 1938
I SLOUCHED in the backseat of Gordy's Cadillac, the one that had just slightly less armor than a German tank, keeping clear of the rearview mirror out of habit, not because I cared one way or the other. The driver, a stone-faced guy named Strome, probably wouldn't have said anything about my lack of reflection even if he'd noticed. He almost certainly had other things on his mind, like whether or not he would be the one delegated to kill me tonight.
It was really too bad for him, because I got the idea that he'd begun to like me. I already had his respect.
A scant few nights ago Strome had seen me apparently dead, an ugly kind of dead, then had to contend with my quick and mystifying return to good health. I gave no explanations to him or any of the others who were aware of my experience, and soon he'd accepted that I'd somehow survived. So far as he knew now I was still healing from that bloody damage, yet able to walk around and carry on with what passed for normal life, which in his eyes made me without a doubt the toughest SOB in Chicago. Strome couldn't have known about my supernatural edge; anything to do with vampires was well outside his view of the world, which was fine with me. Like others of his ilk, even if specifics about the Undead escaped him, he was aware that I was dangerously different. He knew which questions not to ask, and that made him a valuable asset to the mob. And me.
Most of the time he and his partner, Lowrey, were bodyguards to their gangland boss and my friend, Gordy Weems. We all tripped and fell down on the job a few nights ago, leaving Gordy with a couple of bullets in him. He'd survived, too, barely.
While he'd been out for the count, his lieutenants decided that someone had to step into his shoes to deal with the running of their mob during the crisis and elected me to take his place. I thought it to be a singularly bad idea, but took on the burden for Gordy's sake. I wouldn't have been any kind of a stand-up guy to have ducked out when he needed the help. I'd been too cocky assuming the mantle, though. Because of my edge, I'd come to believe in my own indestructibility. I thought I could handle anything.
Circumstances and a drunken sadist named Hog Bristow taught me different.
I got my payback on him. Bristow was dead. Ugly dead. I'd killed him, and now I had to give payback to someone else about my actions. Even Gordy couldn't get me out of this one. It was serious gang business, the resolution of which would take place in his soundproofed upstairs office at his nightclub.
Or the basement. I'd been there once or twice. Not on the receiving end.
"Turn on the radio," I told Strome.
He obliged. Dance music flowed from the speaker grille. "You want this or something else " he asked.
"That's fine." Music helped to distract me, to seal over the fissures inside. I had lots of those going deep down into blackness full of sharp, cutting horrors along the way. If I focused on the radio noise, then I didn't have to think about certain things, like what Bristow had done to me after hanging me upside down from a hook in a meat locker.
That's what this ride was about: the repercussion over what I'd done to him once I'd gotten free.
It wasn't fair that I was being called on the carpet for that bastard's death, but the mobs had their own rules and ways of doing things. Bristow had powerful friends back in New York; they'd give me a few minutes to give my side of the story ' Gordy had wrangled that much for me ' then I'd die.