Chapter 1: The End
"What time is it?" I asked as I sat against the wall of an alley, while rain poured from the sky.
"Who cares?" Noel replied and leaned on the wall against me.
"What time is it?" I repeated.
I brooded on that for a minute.
"Six...seven...eight...nine...ten...eleven...eleven-twenty six. Six hours and twenty six minutes before we get killed by...angels." I mused. "Sometimes I think that the world runs on irony..."
"Bet you never saw that one coming." Noel joked. "You never did tell me why you came back to Nightingale, James."
"Like all stories, Noel, it started with a woman."
It was a Friday afternoon. One of those Friday's where you're not doing anything but everyone else is. It was late in the evening, past the time where the sun sets and the moon reals its ugly head and the door to my office had only opened twice today; once when my assistant and I came in and again when she left to meet her boyfriend.
I sat on my lazy desk chair and lay back as far as it would go and watched an old episode of The Price is Right on the old fat assed TV that hung on a wall mounted stand.
My name is James Oblivion. Tall, dark, and handsome when compared to a pack of dead beavers. I didn't have any scars, other than the battle scars I got whenever I tried playing with my assistant's cat.
My office was spacious enough. It had a bathroom, which was a plus, other offices in the two story building didn't. I was at the end of the hall; my neighbors were a lawyer and a tax accountant, both of which had a lot more clients than I did. Two of the three offices downstairs were empty, but the third was an information center for tourists. I have no idea how that place stays open as there haven't ever been a tourist or anyone that needs direction in this neighborhood. I was located in one of the best bad neighborhoods in Arizona.
The few clients I've had, this month, have all come at night. Nobody wants to be seen hiring a detective anymore. I try my best to be romantic and dangerous when talking to clients. A little noir goes a long way. But I wasn't that great at it, even after watching all the movies and playing all the games.
I heard heels walking up the stairs, outside of my office. They were hurried but had already passed the lawyer and the tax accountant.
A figure stood on the other side of my front door for a second before it flew open. A girl stood on the other side, looking a little less vicious than a starving tiger.
She was a cute girl: pale complexion, dark hair with dark clothing. Average make-up. 36-26-34, or so she claimed. Stood at about 5'-6" (5'-10" with her heels). Her name is Evelyn Baldoki, she was not only my assistant but she was also my friend, parent in crime, and currently was pissed off as all hell.
"All men are assholes." She said and walked in then slammed the door closed and began to walk in then fumbled as one of her heels came off. She groaned, picked up her heel, and kept walking into the bathroom with one heel on, which looked really interesting.
"You're here early, had a good time?" I taunted her. Two seconds later, I had to dodge her black pump that flew at my head.
She slammed the bathroom door closed and I turned the TV's volume up.
My door opened again, two minutes later. I didn't hear anyone coming, well I did but that was why I had the volume up and a noise reducing bathroom door installed.
A woman, 5'-9" high, in heels, slender, full make up, nice dressing pants and blouse, stood there.
She was a very attractive lady, that's what most people would have seen, I saw the reason why I won't be evicted this month.
"Mr. Oblivion?" She asked, not looking shy or intimidating.
"If you're a client then yes, if you're a bill collector then no." I replied.
"Detective and comedian." She pointed out.
"I'm many things; detective is just one of them."
"Is that so?" She said and stood by one of the two chairs on the opposite side of my desk. "May I?"
I gestured with one hand and she sat down, after inspecting the seat for a second.
"How can I help you, Ms...?" I began.
"Grant, Malorie Grant." She said, not meeting my eyes. She stared at the time of my nose, which was smart of her.
There was something odd about how she said her name: familiar but not personal.
"Okay, Ms. Grant, since you won't tell me your real name, we'll just call you that."
She stared at me before smiling. "I'm impressed, how did you know that that wasn't my real name?"
"I can read your mind, remember." I joked but she didn't smile. "What can I help you with, Ms. Grant?"
"Mr. Oblivion, you grew up in..." She began but stopped when my assistant's moan came from the bathroom.
"Bad date." I informed her.
"Uh-huh..." She began. "As I was saying... You grew up in Nightingale, am I correct?"
"Maybe..." I replied.
"How would you like to go back? At least this once."
"Just for one case." She persisted.
"You're needed, Mr. Oblivion."
"We can pay well."
"No, Ms. Grant." I said and could practically feel the money slipping through my fingers. "I have absolutely no intentions of ever going back to that freak show, and you don't have the influence or money to make me."
I never wanted to back; I had no real need to. Sure, money was almost none existent and I went through the last of my Ramen this morning. But some stuff is worse than starving.
"Name your price, Mr. Oblivion." She said and pulled a checkbook out of her purse and put it on my desk and leaned over it with a pen in hand.
"How much are you offering?" I said.
"Name your price, Mr. Oblivion. What will it take for you to come down to Nightingale and just listen to our request? "
"That isn't important, how much do you want?"
I thought about it. How much would it cost to put your life in danger and go back to where you swore you would never return as you were chased out by an agent of darkness?
I examined the woman sitting in front of me; no glasses but did have surgery done, one of those really expensive pens with the initials E.W. engraved in what might have been silver, purse was Gucci...who knows what that meant but it looked expensive. I raised my price accordingly then doubled it.
"Mr. Oblivion?" The woman asked.
"How much would it cost to put your life in danger, I wonder... Five hundred thousand? A million... Two?"
"Done." She said and began writing on the check.
"What?" I asked.
The woman handed me a check for two million dollars. The signature was in that nice and neat cursive that everyone wished that they could imitate.
"Full amount up front, cashable this very second."
"Ahhhh..." My assistant gasped from the bathroom.
"Is she actually doing what I think she's doing?" The woman asked me.
"Ms. Grant... It isn't about the money." I began, changing the conversation. "It's..."
"I know your story, Mr. Oblivion. We went through it several times before I came here. A demon chased you out? You must have really made someone mad..." She said.
"She wasn't a demon... She wasn't human either though."
"Words were exchanged; someone was thrown through a window. You know the standard stuff."
"What always happens to men."
"Yup." I replied and looked at the check as it seduced me into doing what I didn't want to.
Two million dollars could pay the rent for a very long time. It could also buy me some more Ramen...a lot of Ramen, and not the five for a dollar kind but the ones with the Japanese symbols in the front that cost 1.29 each... Hell, two million dollars could also fill up my fridge with real food, and while I was at it I could buy a damn fridge.
"If I go with you, I won't promise I'll do the job." I told her.
"That's all we ask, but we're pretty sure you'll take the job."
"...and I'll keep the money in any case.
"Of course. We're willing to give you double what you want; in this case an extra two million."
I raised an eyebrow at that: four million dollars. I couldn't get that much money if I bought every lottery ticket from here to California, in theory anyway.
Something nagged at me. What job would be so important that they are willing to pay four million dollars?
'If you can't spot the patsy in the deal, it's probably you.' My inner voice nagged me, I call it Nagnis.
"Fine, Ms. Grant, you win." I said, a little louder than I should because of my grumbling stomach. "I will go down into hell with you and listen to what you and your associates have to say. But if I don't like it then I'm out."
"That's all we ask."
My assistant gasped loudly one last time before letting out something that sounded like: "about damn time."
"Does she always do that after a bad date?" Malorie asked.
"Sometimes. This one must have been bad." I replied.
"Well I'm single now, and it's all thanks to that no good, cheating, son of a...oh, hello." My assistant said as she walked out of the bathroom and dried her hands.
"Hello." Malorie replied.
"Ms. Grant, meet my assistant, Evelyn Baldoki or something like that." I said. "Eevee meet our newest client, Ms. Malorie Grant."
Both girls shook hands, although I noticed Ms. Grant wiping her hand on her dressing pants afterwards.
"Do you want some tea or coffee, Ms. Grant?" Evelyn asked sweetly.
"Sure." Ms. Grant replied, "Some coffee would be nice."
"You got it, boss can you help me." Evelyn said and batted her almond shaped eyes at me.
"Sure." I said and stood up, but in my head I was muttering here we go.
"Why didn't you tell me that we had a client? Thank God I made it quick." She said as she put some coffee on the coffee maker.
"How do girls make it quick? Never mind, I don't want to know. We need the money, Eevee." I replied.
"I know that, she just doesn't feel right. Something is off about her."
"Yes there is, there's some stuff I haven't told you about my past, Eevee, stuff I wish I didn't know."
"Is she your past coming to bite you in the ass?"
"Yup, I want you to stay here."
"What? No, I'm going with you. You said I could join you in your next case, granted that was a month and a half ago, but you said."
"This isn't some stake out or information gathering, Eevee. Please just stay here."
"Fine." She said in that tone that meant that she'll think about thinking about it.
"I mean it."
"I know you do." She said and poured the coffee.
"Seriously, Eevee, I want you to stay here."
"Coffee's done!" She announced and walked away from me.
I sighed and walked back to sit in my chair behind the desk.
"I will follow you, Ms. Grant." I said. "But I can't guarantee that I'll accept the case or that I'll be of any use."
"That's all we ask." She beamed. "Is she coming with us?"
"Yes, I will. I'm as much as a partner as I am an assistant." Evelyn said.
"Oh okay, Ms. Evelyn. Were you born in Nightingale too?" Ms. Grant asked her.
Evelyn cocked her head slightly before asking. "What's Nightingale?"