I ENTERED THE PUB to the sound of rock music playing louder than necessary from speakers that hung in each corner of the room. I stood in the doorway and gave the room a quick scan, finding Abner Lemonzeo just where I thought he’d be, in the back booth.
He sat, just like yesterday, with two men in suits. The same two men.
Have I mentioned how much I hate vampires
Abner looked up as I approached, his face going from surprise, to fear, to annoyance.
“Norman Oklahoma,” he said. “Tell me we aren’t going to have a repeat performance of your gun slinging skills.”
“That’s all gonna depend on your two friends here, Abner.”
There was something off about the scene I’d walked in on. I don’t know what the three had been talking about, but for a moment there I could have sworn that the two biters had looked more than a little shaken. It hadn’t lasted long. My presence seemed to shake the two out of their funk and they glared up at me with faces like thunderstorms. The both rose. The blond was sitting the closest; he was the stone face that had stepped up to me yesterday.
I cleared leather on both guns before they could make it to their feet.
“Back off, fellas,” I said. “I’d hate to ruin another pair of suits. They look expensive.”
“Sit down, gentlemen,” Abner said.
The two biters, ignoring us both, stepped out from the booth, towering over me.
“Trust me, boys,” I said, pointing the guns at them, one on each. “My bullets will cost way less than them fancy duds. Why don’t you make yourselves scarce while I talk to Abner here.”
Abner sighed. “Please excuse us, gentlemen. I’ll talk with our brash friend and then we’ll resume our business.”
Stone Face stepped up to me and I placed the barrel of one gun under his chin. I thumbed back the hammer.
“You feeling froggy, son?” I asked.
“This is not over,” the biter said between clenched teeth.
“You get that line from a comic book?” I said. “You best vanish, son. My trigger finger gets mighty itchy when I’m around your kind.”
The biter didn’t move.
“I feel it’s my responsibility to inform the both of you that after yesterday I made sure I wasn’t gonna get caught with my pants down this time.”
“Meaning?” asked the one with the black hair. He stepped in closer.
I pointed the second pistol in the black haired biter’s face and thumbed back the hammer.
“Meaning,” I said. “I’m packing silver today, boys.”
Concern flashed across their faces so quickly that I almost missed it. It made me smile.
“Now,” I continued. “There’s nothing more I’d like right now then to kill the both of you dead here on this barroom floor. But I need information from your partner here, and as a courtesy to him, I’m not going to leave a couple of stinking biter corpses behind. But,” I pressed the barrel of the gun deeper into Stone Face’s chin. “It’s all up to you two boys. What do you want to do?”
“I suppose we can give the two humans a moment,” Black Hair said. “What do you say, Thomas?”
Thomas, the bleach-blond, stone faced vampire, continued to stare me in the eyes. His look, if anything, became harder and for a moment I thought he was going to come at me. Instead, he backed away and the two left out of the front door.
Still, I didn’t put my guns away and sit down until I was sure they were gone.
“What’s this about?” Abner asked as I slid into the booth.
“A woman was taken last night,” I said. “From behind the Happy Hamburger.”
“And?” Abner said, looking disinterested.
“And,” I said. “It was goblins that took her.”
“Goblins?” Abner said, sitting back. “That’s interesting.”
“And ogres,” I said. “I tussled with a couple just a few hours ago.”
“Goblins and ogres?” Abner tried to look surprised, but didn’t quite pull it off. “Now that’s a trick.”
“I have to ask, Abner,” I said. “You involved in this somehow?”
This time his surprise looked genuine.
“No, Norman. I am not involved. I may spend a small amount of my time on activities that some might consider to be outside of the law, but I do draw the line at kidnapping.”
“Scruples, Abner?” I said. “I had no idea.”
“We all have our lines, Norman.”
“Any idea who might be able to pull something like this together?”
Abner sat there in silence for a moment. He had something he wanted to tell me, I could see it in his eyes. He was just trying to decide if he should tell me, and I’ve learned that the best way to get someone to talk was to just sit and stare at them. If they have something they want to say, they’ll say it. People love to talk.
“Okay, look,” he said after almost twenty seconds. “I can’t tell you for sure who may have taken this woman.”
“Maggie Keaton,” I said.
“Okay,” Abner said. “Maggie Keaton. Anyway, as I was saying, I don’t know who took her. Not for certain. But it’s no secret between the two of us that there’s not a lot that goes on around here that I don’t know about, right?”
“Sure,” I said, frowning.
“Well, there’s a cult that’s started up in the area.”
“Yeah, the Brotherhood of Minos. Bunch of guys in robes who worship some sort of Bull God. One of their guys came to see me in prison last year. Wanted to buy some land from me, but couldn’t meet the asking price. Said if I sold to them they would ensure my place in paradise when the Bull God smites mankind for their sins or some such nonsense.”
“They sound delightful,” I said.
“They are small, pitiful, and desperate. Otherwise I’d have had someone on the inside by now,” Abner said.
“Desperate can often equal dangerous,” I said.
“That’s as maybe,” Abner replied. “But, as I said, I have no in with the group, therefore I have no idea what they might be up to.”
“The Brotherhood of Minos.” I said.
“Yes. Are we done here?”
“I suppose we are,” I said.
I couldn’t quite hide my disappointment as I rose from the booth. Abner had given me squat. Sure, this cult could be behind her abduction, and I knew a certain comic shop owner that might know more about them, but until I knew where they were, it was an empty lead. Just more smoke to chase.
Then I thought of Oz. I almost cursed. I was just talking about Oz yesterday. A plan took shape in my mind.
I met Diana on the sidewalk. She had just arrived.
“Get anything on who took Maggie?” She asked.
“Not really,” I said. “But I have an idea. Let’s get back to the station.”
We were there in a matter of minutes. Once inside I went straight to Pat’s office, Diana close behind.
“Our guy talking yet?” I asked as I entered and found Pat behind her desk.
“Sure,” Pat said. “That’s all he’s been doing for the last three hours. He’s just not making any sense.”
“How about his fist?” I asked. “He open it yet?”
“No, Norman,” Pat said. “Nothing has changed since you left. What’s going on? What’s got you all in a lather?”
“Where is he?” I asked.
“I had him moved to one of the cells,” Pat said.
“I need to see him,” I got up and left the office.
“Norman,” Pat said, following me out, Diana close behind. “What the Hell is going on?”
“I have a plan,” I said over my shoulder. “A way we can find Maggie.”
“Okay,” Pat said. “You in a sharing mood or are you going to continue with this whole mystery thing?”
“Come on, Pat,” I said. “Everyone needs a little mystery in their life.”
I could feel her eyes boring into my back like tiny rays of pure scorn but I ignored the feeling as we entered the cell block.
“This have anything to do with your meeting with Lemonzeo?” Pat asked. “What did he tell you?”
“Okay,” I said as we stopped at Anthony’s cell. He was sitting on his bunk, staring at the ground, not making a peep. His fist still clenched around something. “Abner claimed that he had no idea who took Maggie.”
“Maggie!” Anthony stood up. “Maggie! They came from the earth and took her! Little green men! Red mist! They took her down with them!”
“Well that got him going,” I said.
Anthony looked at each one of us in turn, his eyes begging for help. When he found none, he returned to his bunk and silence.
“You believe him?” Diana asked.
“Yeah, I believe little green men took her down with them,” I said. “What have we been doing all this time?”
“No, do you believe Lemonzeo?” Diana said.
“I do,” I said. “I can usually tell when Abner’s lying. Anyway, he did tell me about cult that’s made its way to town.”
“The Brotherhood of Minos,” Pat said. Then seeing my expression of shock, continued. “They’re harmless. They stand around outside school functions and pass out pamphlets. Most people around here ignore them.”
“Dang, Patsy,” I said. “They could be the ones that took Maggie—”
“Maggie!” Anthony shot up once again. “They came from the earth and took her! Little green men! Red mist! They took her down with them!”
“Give it a rest, Anthony,” I said. Then I turned back to Pat. “You know where they hold up?”
“No,” she said. “They aren’t in town anyways. And there’s no new churches popping up outside of town. Just figured they commuted in from Kansas City.”
“Why Kansas City?” Diana asked.
Pat shrugged. “Big city. Lotsa crazy.”
“They came from the earth and took her,” Anthony said. His voice almost pleading. “Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them.”
“Come here, Anthony,” I said.
Like I told Pat and Diana, I had a plan. Like most of my plans it probably wasn’t the best. I’m sure a wiser man could have come up with something better, but we work with what we have. I just prayed that it paid off; otherwise I’d be spending another night in jail.
Anthony didn’t move.
“Come here, Anthony,” I said again.
“What are you doing, Norman?” Pat asked.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s an old investigative trick. Anthony, come over here to me.”
Anthony still didn’t move, but he did look up and meet my gaze. That was something.
“Anthony,” I said. “I need you to come over to me here at the bars please,” I said.
Then Anthony, in a jerky, stumbling manner, stepped up to the bars of the cell. I made a fist and punched him square in the jaw.
“What the Hell!?” Pat shouted as Diana grabbed me by the wrist, pulled my arm around my back, tugged said arm up so high that it threatened to slip out of its socket, and then slammed me forward into the bars.
“You have the right to remain silent,” Diana began.
I wasn’t paying much attention to her. I was focused instead on Anthony and his right hand. He stumbled about a bit.
“Explain yourself, Norman,” Pat said.
But before I could even try, Anthony’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he dropped to the floor like a wet bag of sand. Once unconsciousness took him, Anthony’s left hand opened up and that which he had been holding onto so tight sat revealed on his palm.
“You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you,” Diana continued.
“Look,” I said as she pressed me into the bars. “Look at his hand.”
Then, as the two looked and could finally see what Anthony had been holding on to, the pressure against me relaxed.
There in Anthony’s open hand was a lock of what I presumed to be Maggie Keaton’s hair.
“I know how to find Maggie,” I said. “But I’m going to need a little help.”
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