I was typing in a few reports for my brothers and going over their books. It's routine work. Damn, I miss my old job, but these tough economic times had forced the paper to lay me off. Only temporary, said Lou, but I haven't been called back yet. Benny was sitting in the room with me, tapping his fingers on his chair's armrest.
"Benny can't you quit doing that. Why don't you pull your chair closer to me and give me a hand with this paper work," I spoke, the annoyance coming out in my voice.
"And what spoil my rep as a tough private dick. Sam Spade never helped Effie with the paper work. Gee, sis, don't you ever read."
I puffed my lip out and said in a pouting voice, "Oh, come on…give your poor sister a break."
Benny let out an over dramatic sigh and pulled his chair beside mine and started filling out the case files. He was actually pretty good at it, but I wouldn't tell him that. Why inflate his ego?
We were working at a pretty steady pace, making plenty of head way. A knock came on the door and Benny jumped up so fast that I thought his ass was on fire.
"I'll get that; it may be an important case."
In a quick pace, he went to the door and opened it. There stood my old college friend, Jane Nelson. She had dropped out of college after she learned that she could make a fine living turning tricks for the local politicians. We had even used her to make a few compromising pictures of men for divorce cases. Her eyes were stained red, her clothes were modest even by a nun's standards, and skin was paler than Dracula's last date.
"Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.
"Something terrible has happened to me, Candy, I…"
Benny went to the coffee pot and poured her a cup of java – he's a real gentleman. He handed her the cup and she took it to her lips. The warm drink seemed to give her color and she went on.
"I'm not as tough as I thought Candy. I met a weird strange gothic looking guy and he told me that he wanted to see me for a night. He flashed a couple hundred dollars and told me he would pay six thousand for one night. That's a lot of dough for one night, so I went with him to a cheap motel and…"
She stopped talking, so I pulled a bottle of Jim Beam out of the desk and told Benny to add that to her coffee. He did and she two a few sips and continued.
"Don't laugh. O'Malley at the police station laughed."
Benny placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke in soothing voice, "We wouldn't dare laugh at you."
"Thanks, Benny," she patted his hand, "The weird little Goth turned into a demon or monster. He had horns growing out of his head. Oh, and those terrible red eyes and green skin. He took his clawed hand and tore my dress off. He was on top of me and I was too scared to scream or move. It was awful and…"
We were too shock to interrupt her. She spoke with such conviction that I was at a lost as what to say. After awhile Benny broke the silence.
"I think we had better call Ed or Bart."
"Good thinking, Benny," I answered.
I called Bart at home and told him Jane's story. I hung up and said, "Bart's on the way, Jane."
Jane's face cracked a smile and some of that old spark came back in her eyes. Bart's the smartest of my brothers and for this problem I figured he would be the most useful.
Bart must have exceeded the speed limit, because he was there in half his usual time. He came in, took off his hat, and flashed a smile toward us. Jane smiled with a look of infatuation in her eyes, and why not? Bart was like the old cliché, tall, dark, and handsome. He took after his mother, while Benny and I took after our mother. Ed looked like dad.
"Jane, did your assailant give you a drink or something to eat?" asked Bart.
"I…I can't remember. Wait, he gave me a box of chocolates and he told me to try one. It tasted old and nasty."
Bart walked over to the file cabinet, pulled out a manila folder, and started reading.
"Yes, I worked on a case with David Wilmot once where we had to stop a student of alchemy. He had discovered a copy of James Chandler's book called Treatise on Alchemic Potions. The potion that the alchemist gave to his victims caused them to think that he had changed into a werewolf."
Jane's eye went wide. "You mean that he slipped something in the chocolates that only made me think he'd turned into a demon?"
"Yes. You look relieved," answered Bart.
"I am. It is a good thing there aren't really demons in the world."
"There demons in the world, but they aren't like those in mediaeval nightmares. David bought as many of the copies of Chandler's book that he could find and destroyed them. You can't order it off Amazon or any of the other dot coms, but our library could have a copy of it. I want you to stay with Benny or Candy until we catch this kid."
Jane looked at Bart and smiled, "Anything you say, Bart."
I broke in and said, "I think she would be safer with you, Bartholomew."
Bart gave me a funny look. "Fine, Jane probably would be safer with me."
I was sitting in my apartment watching Gilligan's Island on my TV set, when my phone rang. It was Bart and he told me of a fantastic story involving a modern day knock off of an alchemist and how this shit-ass had molested Jane Nelson. He wanted me to go to the library and find out who checked out the copy of James Chandler's Treatise on Alchemic Potions. He wasn't for sure if the book was in the library, but he said if it turned out to be a dead end I would still get a kick out of going there. I asked why he couldn't go and he informed me that he had to look after Jane. I'm sure he's overburdened with that job. He always had the hots for Jane. She was classy enough, but too full figured for my tastes.
I clicked off the TV, slipped my suit jacket on, and drove to the library. It had the typical library smell of old books and silence befitting a monastery. Well, the library is a place of worship for eggheads. I walked up to the desk and I saw the librarian. It was Sarah McFee, a girl I had a crush on in high school. She was still small and skinny, just like I remembered her. Only she was older and had her hair cut short. Her eyes fixed themselves on my person and she asked, "May, I help you with something?"
"Sure, Sarah, I need to know who checked out the copy of James Chandler's book called Treatise on Alchemic Potions."
"We don't generally give out that information…"
She stopped in mid sentence. It had dawned on her who I was.
"Edward Finn, the fellow who carried my books for me and protected me from the bullies. You know if it was not for you, I would have been picked on every day in school. Worse things would have happened to me, but you were always there for me."
I would have to smack Bart a good one for this. Sarah pushed up her glasses and smiled at me.
"How come you never asked me out? I knew you liked me and I would have said yes."
I was in shock by her forwardness and I felt butterflies swimming around in my guts.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and said, "Would you believe that I was too scared and shy to?"
"I can't believe that a tough guy like you would be afraid of anything."
Boy, this was awkward. I was gonna slap Bart twice for this.
"You married, Edward?"
She grinned wider this time. "Me neither. If you take me out Friday night, I'll give the information you want."
I shrugged my shoulders and tried to hide the excitement in my voice. "Sure, why not?"
She gave me the name and the address of the kid who had checked out the book. I would have to go to the office and have Candy run the name on the old computer for me. Damn computers, I never did learn how to work one.
Candy went Bart's house, so I was stuck in the office. I lit a cigarette and started playing checkers on the computer. My brains were wrapped up in the game, until Ed came through the door.
"Where's Candy?" he asked in a half pissed tone.
"She went to Bart's to check on Jane."
"I need her to run the name Craig Darby on the computer. I have his address, but a need to see a picture of him to see if Darby matches Jane's descriptions."
"I can do it after I finish this game of checkers."
"Do it now, Benny."
"But, Ed, bigone69 will think that I'm a quitter."
"Damnit, Benny, this is a serious case we don't have time for your childish antics."
I rolled my eyes and told bigone69 bye. He called me a few dirty names as I closed out. I typed in Craig Darby's name in a social network site and discovered that the little freak did have an account there. He fit Jane's description of being a freakish lookin' Goth. He had dyed black hair with black lipstick and a chain hanging out of his nose. I motioned Ed to come over to the computer. He walked over to the desk, leaned over my shoulder, and stared at the computer screen.
"That fits," he said.
"Yep. If I hurry I might be able to find bigone69 and challenge him to another game."
"Bullshit, Benny, we'll driving out to Darby's place and ask him a few friendly questions about alchemy."
I smiled, because I knew what Ed met by a few friendly questions.
We drove what seemed like for hours. Long winding country roads always make my stomach do flip flops and I thought I would lose my lunch all over Ed's car, but Ed stopped the car in front of a rundown shack. We got out and walked to the front door. The house was painted black and windows matched. We started to knock on the red door, but a woman screamed out before we could tap it.
"I know that voice," shouted Ed, as he knocked the door down like it was made of cheap cardboard.
I followed Ed in and found a woman tied to a table. The room was lit by candles and Craig's naked form was standing over the woman, saying all sorts of freaky shit. He looked up from the woman and lunged towards Ed, wrapping his skinny hands around my brother's throat. Ed grabbed the guy's wrists and squeezed them hard enough that I heard bones crack like twigs. Craig's hands fell from Ed's throat and a fast upper cut sent the gothic perv flying through the air. He landed hard on the wooden floor and didn't move a muscle. I walked over to the asshole and gave him a few kicks in the head for good measure. He didn't move. The woman tied to the bed was screaming her fool head off about demons. I knew that she was under the influence of the alchemic potion.
"Quick, Benny, hand me your switchblade! I have to get Sarah loose."
I did as I was told. Ed cut the ropes and wrapped a blanket around the woman. She was a skinny looking chick about Ed's age.
"You know her, Ed?" I asked.
"Yeah, this Sarah McFee the local librarian. Let's get her outta here."
Ed picked her up and carried Sarah to the car, while I looked over Craig's slumping form. I leaned over and placed my head to his heart. That asswipe was dead. On my way out, I knocked over a few candles. That'll get rid of all traces of Craig Darby and his twisted little playpen.
I drove home. Ed rode in the backseat with Sarah, holding her while she cried.