From the Author
From the Inside Flap
I step out of the cab near the end of thealley, navigate my way past the refuse that lines the tall brick walls toeither side, and stride confidently but carefully towards the huge,leather-clad man guarding the door.
He does not eventry to hide the sneer carved onto his face as he watches me stroll down thealley. As I reach for the handle of the steel door he stops me with an openpalm that nearly covers my entire chest.
"Where do you thinkyou're going, leech?"
I really hate beingtouched. "Inside," I growl as politely as I can, which means with barelysuppressed hostility.
The man shakes hisbig, shaggy, greasy, reddish-brown, head. "Not gonna happen."
"Fine, maybe youcan help, Mr.....?" I ask him with a sigh.
"Meat? Oh that'scharming. Is that short for dead meat or something?"
"Ain't short fornothing."
I sigh again."Fine, Meat, do you know Martin Goldstein?"
"Why the hell wouldI tell the likes of you if I do?"
I'm not the leastsurprised at his contrariness. Weres are an unpleasant lot at the best of timesand me being a vampire does not bring out their best behavior, and me being metends to bring out outright hostility with a high probability of violence so Ineed to tread carefully.
"Meat, it isimportant that I talk to someone about Mr. Goldstein. Now if you don't want totalk to me then I will need to talk to someone inside. So you can A: answer myquestion, B: let me inside so I can ask someone in there, or C: continue to bean enormous pain in the ass in which case I will go through you and talk tosomeone inside."
Meat gets the typeof grin on his face that says he really wants to go with option C, but he surprisesme by answering my question.
"Yeah, I knowMarty."
"Now we are makingprogress. When was the last time you saw him?"
"Yesterday, kissingyour mother on the corner of screw you street and kiss my ass avenue."
Damn, I walked intothat one. I don't know what's worse; getting slapped with a "your mother" jokeor the fact that I just got out smart-assed by a talking dog. I have to workreal hard to suppress my mounting irritation.
Meat is playing mebut all I need to do is show some restraint and patience and I can get him totell me about Martin or let me inside. Unfortunately I have neither of thosethings so I shoot him dead in the face with my bear spray.
Meat immediatelybegins howling and clawing at his face. I step away from his wild thrashing andmove around him to the door he is no longer doing a very good job of guarding.I glance behind me and see he is quickly shifting so I nonchalantly point myarm behind me and give him a second blast before stepping into the dimly lithall of the werewolf bar.
I turn and throwthe thick bolts of the door, securely locking it to keep the extremely pissedoff werewolf outside while I ask my questions. The gloomy entry hall opens upinto a reasonably well-lit interior. There are not many patrons, being only midafternoon, but they all cease their talking and shoot me full of hostile glaresas I enter.
"Don't worry,fellas," I tell the small crowd. "I won't be staying long so don't everyonestart peeing on the furniture."
Several of thepatrons do stand up now and look about to do more than just glare at me, butfortunately the man behind the bar restores asmall measure peace in the room.
"Calm down, guys.Drinks are on the house as long as the blood-sucker is here--beer only. How'd you get past Meat?"
The owner andbartender is Rick. One of the more decent weres I've met. I did some work forhim a few years ago so I figure that gives me a shot at not getting summarilytorn to shreds like a cat tossed into a dog kennel. I also hope it will get mesome information.
"I snuck past whilehe wasn't looking. I think he had something in his eye, or eyes."
"Leo, what the hellare you doing in here, you have a death wish?"
"I am hoping youcan tell me about Martin Goldstein."
"Martin?" Rickechoes in confusion. "Something happen to Martin?"
"I never said therewas anything wrong with him. Why, do you think there is something wrong withhim?"
"You only climb outfrom under your rock when something's wrong. Since you're asking about Martin Iassume something's happened to him."
I ponder how much Iwant to tell him and realize I will have to let slip a tiny bit of my paltryhoard of information if I am going to get any in return.
"He didn't comehome the other night and his family asked me look into it, that's all."
"I see, so youaren't looking to pin those killings on him them? I won't give you one of oursno matter what he's done. If there's a problem, we'll take of it."
I should have knownthey would already know about the alley killings. Their information network maynot be as sophisticated as ours but it worked.
Rick continues."Did Katherine come to you? Why didn't she come to us if she was worried abouther dad?"
"Maybe she wantedhim found and not just taken care of. It wouldn't be the first time someoneoverreacted and made a mistake."
Rick shook hishead. "Not Martin, no way he was involved."
"So you know Martinpretty well then?"
"Not really. Hisdaughter comes in here more than he does and that's usually just on business.He's not big into the werewolf scene. He's a pretty antisocial sort but not inthe dangerous kind of way. "
"So he's not muchof a brawler and bar hound kind of guy like most of you?"
Rick gave a snortof amusement. "Marty ain't much of a werewolf. I've never seen him at a shifterparty, never seen him mad, and never seen him as anything but the littlebookworm accountant that he is. Like I said, no way Marty did those losers. Notthat anyone should really care."
CONTINUED ON BACK COVER