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Authors: Ken White

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BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
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appeal to me anymore. Human cops are mostly there for little things. The
real action is on the night shift and that’s Vee only.”

not like that in Area Seven,” he said. “Omaha PD is almost completely
integrated these days. No vamps walking a beat during the day, of course,
but they work inside the stations. And there’s both human and vamp cops on
the street at night.”

you said, it’s different in the...what did you call them? Outside

I guess their main goal at the beginning was to secure the borders, land and
sea. Hell, we didn’t see a vamp in Denver till six months after the war

sense. You want to put a fence around the pasture so the cattle don’t wander

could be it.” He fell silent as Katie brought our beers. I noticed she kept
looking at Shuster’s pendant as she put the pint glasses on the

like a candle to a moth,” he said after she left.


tapped the pendant. “I saw you looking at it too.”

shrugged. “Not like I haven’t seen pendants before. I was interested in the
design, though. It’s unique.”

is,” he said, taking a sip of his beer.

your company is owned by a Vee?”

shook his head. “No, I told you, I’m a consultant. Freelance.”

why the pendant?”

do work sometimes for the GGO.”

don’t know what that is.”

smiled. “Sorry. Governor General’s Office. They issued this to me so staff
knows I’m legit when I work at the Governer General’s headquarters, or any
of the Area offices for that matter.”

what you’re in town for? Governor General business?”

like I told you, I’m freelance. The GGO is just one of my clients.” He
paused. ”But hey, the pendant greases the wheels anywhere I go, so why not
use it? It’s not like anybody is gonna ask me what kind of GGO business I’m
up to.”


answer your question, I’m in town for another client. You notice all the
people with the bright, colorful name tags?”

I’m a detective. I see things like that.”

laughed. “They’re all from Kinner-Hardwick. Middle managers. The company is
instituting some changes in their hiring practices, and they brought me in
to roll it out.”

is a big insurance company, offices all over the country. The people with
the name tags all looked happy to be here. Maybe they thought of it as a
vacation. Hopefully they didn’t plan to take in the nightlife. Or wander far
from midtown.

I’ve got a week of meetings, presentations, seminars. Afternoons with the
humans, evenings with the vamps.” He sighed. “Pretty goddamn boring stuff,
to be honest, but the pay is good.”

that’s what counts.”

my business, that’s all that counts,” he said. “So what about you? Loving

not bad,” I said. “Like you, I’m my own boss. When cases work out, when the
client leaves happy, I’m happy. Probably not as lucrative as your line of
work, but at least I don’t have to sit in a conference room.”

exciting life of a private detective,” Shuster said. “I hear you did some
work for the Area Governor’s Office here a while back. What did you think of
Bain? I’ve found him a real pain in the ass to work with.”

was like any other client,” I said. “Interesting that you know about that,
though. I didn’t know my business was common knowledge.”

laughed. “Hey, Charlie, remember?” He tapped the pendant at his throat. “I
work with the GGO all the time. And most of the Area Governors. How do you
think I tracked you down?”


shook his head slowly. “No,” he drawled. “I picked up the telephone, called
the Area Six operations center. Identified myself, asked them to find out
what they had on you. Were you still alive, were you still here, that kind
of thing.”

paused. “The vamp system is like a well-oiled machine. Everything you want
to know about almost anybody is in their system. Twenty minutes after I
called, they got back to me with what I wanted to know. And more.” He paused
again. “Tough break, losing your partner like that.”

it was.”

did you and Thomas end up as partners anyway? He was a pretty well-known
figure in the right vamp circles, even up to the GGO. War hero.”

saw the medals after he died,” I said. “He’d been assigned as the new camp
commander at Delta-5, where I was interned, after some guards killed a few
prisoners. Met him one night while I was sitting outside my barrack. He
wandered up, we started talking.”

laughed. “Hell, I didn’t even know he was a Vee, let alone the camp
commander. He was in civvies. Crazy bastard liked to walk through the camp,
talking to people, checking conditions, gauging the mood of the detainees.
No escort, just him.”

sighed. “Anyway, we hit it off, had a lot of the same interests, same sense
of humor. He stopped by pretty regularly over the next few months, never let
on who he was. And then when they shut down the camp, I got called to the
Admin building. He was sitting behind his desk, in uniform, laughing at the
expression on my face. And then he made me an offer. A partnership in a
detective agency. Equal partner, him handling cases at night, me during the
day. It was a good deal. I took it.“

didn’t see the details, but I guess you were successful in finding out who
killed him.”

nodded. “Yeah, and with the help of the Area Governor’s Office, I punched
their tickets.”

in full,” he said as Katie brought our burgers to the table.

you need anything else, just give me a wave,” she said. She was still
sneaking glances at the pendant.

what are you working on these days,” Shuster asked before taking a big bite
of his burger.

too exciting,” I said. “Vee divorce case, a petty theft. Long as we have
cases on the go, I stay busy.”

stared at me as he chewed. He swallowed and said, “You know, I could
probably talk to some people. A lot of my clients, including the GGO, are
always looking for good people.” He paused. “Good human people, I mean.
You’d be a freelance contractor, like me. Your own boss. With a better
variety of jobs.” He paused again. “If divorce cases and petty thefts aren’t
satisfying enough for you, of course.”

kind of happy where I am.”

Just putting it out there. You’re an old friend and I’d like to see you do

the offer,” I said. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

that, we concentrated on our food for a while. I remembered Shuster from our
army days as a fast eater. He’d grown up in a group home after his mother
gave him up for adoption, and I guess the only way to make sure all your
food got into your stomach and not somebody else’s was to eat it fast. He
still ate quickly and was done with his burger well before me.

glanced at his watch. “Hate to eat and run, but my first presentation is in
an hour and I need to get ready for it.”

I’ve got things I should be doing too. You’re here for a week?”

about. I fly back to Omaha on Monday morning.”

have to get together again before you go.”

he said. “I have your home and office number now, so let me check my
schedule and I’ll give you a call. With any luck, I’ll have some free time
and you can show me around town.”


waved the waitress over. “I have to leave, but I want to get this on my
credit card before I go. Can you do it so my friend here can order something
else after I’m gone?”

is fine,” I said quickly.

on Charlie, indulge yourself on my dime. It’s all a business expense for me
anyway. Have another beer, order some dessert.” He looked up at Katie. “Can
you do that, darlin’?” His credit card was already in his hand.

not really how we do things,” she said, frowning.

but you
do it,” he said, smiling wide. “It’s like I already gave
you my credit card, you rang it up and then I decided to have something
else. Same tab, same card. Charlie here will sign my name, won’t you,
Charlie? And give you a nice tip.”

cash us out,” I said. “I’m not going to need anything.”

sure?” Shuster said. “I don’t remember you ever turning down another

laughed. “I’d like nothing better, but I have a long day ahead of

yourself,” he said, handing her the credit card. As she walked away, he
looked at me. “Go ahead and scrawl my name when she comes back, add a tip.
Twenty percent.”

about the card?”

it at the front desk under my name. I’ll pick it up later.”

guess you
in a hurry.”

He held out his hand. “I’ll give you a call, old buddy.”

shook, he smiled, and walked away.

anyone else, it might have seemed a little weird. But that was Shuster. He’d
had the same little quirk twenty years earlier. Some of the guys in the
platoon called it Shuster’s Syndrome. When he was feeling generous, he liked
people to enjoy his generosity. If they didn’t, he copped an attitude. He’d
never show any animosity and it didn’t impact your overall relationship with
him. But when he was paying the tab, you either let him or he’d have
someplace else to be.

finished my burger about the time that Katie came back with the check. As I
scrawled Shuster’s name, I glanced at the credit card. It was a business
card, of course. On the front of the card, where the name goes, there was
one word. Champion.

seemed like an odd kind of name. Champion. A name better suited to a carpet
store or insurance agency, not a fancy consulting firm that did work for the
Governor General’s Office. But maybe some business consultant had told him
it was a solid, stand-up name.

gave me a smile as I drained the last of my beer, stuck the credit card in
my pocket and walked out of the restaurant. It wasn’t quite one o’clock yet.
I’d have time to hit another four or five pawn shops before I went back to
the office.

was halfway across the lobby before I remembered that I still had Shuster’s
credit card in my pocket. I turned and went back to the registration

to the Hiatt-Regency,” the young man said. ‘Donald’ was embroidered on his

One of your guests left his credit card in Boyle’s and I wanted to drop it
off so he could get it later.”

problem, sir,” Donald said. “What’s the guest’s name?”

Shuster. S-h-u-s-t-e-r, Marc with a ‘c’.”

sir, one moment.”

quickly typed the name into the terminal in front of him, then frowned.
“That’s Shuster, first name Marc?”


shook his head. “I’m sorry, we don’t have a guest registered under that

Champion, or Champion Consulting.”

typed that into the terminal. “No, sir, nothing under that name

he hasn’t checked in yet. He’s here doing presentations for the
Kinner-Hardwick people.”


turned and pointed at the people in the lobby with the name tags. “Them. The
Kinner-Hardwick people.”

stared at me for a moment. “Maybe you have the wrong hotel, sir. Those
people are with the King’s Bounty Restaurant Group. It’s their annual

just had lunch with him in Boyle’s,” I said.

sir, Boyle’s is open to the general public. Maybe you misunderstood your
friend.” He paused. “I’m sorry, sir. I wish I could help you.”

pocketed the credit card. “No problem. Thanks for your time.”

I waited for the valet to bring my Jeep around, I thought about Shuster’s
disappearing act. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but then again, sometimes
Shuster didn’t make a lot of sense. He had a off-beat sense of humor and
he’d been fond of pulling the occasional prank twenty years ago. Maybe the
thing with the credit card was another prank.

thing that had changed was my profession. We do skip-tracing at Night and
Day, tracking down deadbeat dads and the occasional deadbeat mom, as well as
background checks. When I got back to the office, I’d have to see what we
could find on Champion Consulting in Omaha.

first, I had a few more pawn shops to check. Mrs. Dillon lived on Fifth
Street, about eight blocks south of Hennessy. I had started in the morning
with the pawn shops closest to her apartment, and was slowly working my way
outward from there. My rationale was that her nephew, Joey, would hit the
closest place to get the cash he needed to support his habit.

BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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