When she was human, capitulation had been Ireland's albatross. It was a personality defect. She had to feel she was on top, and she always wanted a show, a gesture of compliance. It was fairly easy to play her. One just had to appear to have been backed into a corner and surrender.
She might've been Franklin's girl once, but she fell for it every time. Franklin sighed and leaned against the wall. He put a cigarette in his mouth and searched his pockets for matches.
It had been slow-going, getting the PI gig off the ground. The straights couldn't see beyond the whole Count Dracula schtick and couldn't accept that the tooth-jockeys were real. So, despite the fact that he'd had twenty years on the force, knew the city better than most couriers, and had contacts in most levels of society and industry, he still couldn't get ahead. His name was forever linked to the last case he'd tried to take on--the Scarlotti Vampire, and the dismal debacle that had become his investigation.
It had been a mistake from the beginning, and had developed into a nightmare that had cost him his job, his friends and his fiance. Now, two years later, he'd gotten himself back on his feet. He'd started the PI gig and won back a lot of his friends. And now Ireland--Vixen, rather--had also walked back into his life.
"Fine." He said after a long, melodramatic pause. "You need my help. You pay for it. Five-hundred a day, two-day minimum. Half up front. And being some tooth-jockey's honeypot doesn't make a bit of difference."
Vixen stood stock still, like a cat eyeing a spider creeping along a hardwood floor. She lifted one hand upward and reached into her coat, the manicured fingernails disappearing beneath the micro-fibre fabric at her bosom. Franklin swallowed, involuntarily. Vixen pulled out a manilla envelope and laid it down on the desk. "Will this do?"
Franklin reached for the envelope. He opened it and swallowed again. "That'll book me for a week. What's the job? I don't do con-jobs, blackmail or squick-photos." He let the envelope fall flat on the desk again, making the point that he hadn't yet agreed to it.
"Oh, Robert, do you think I'd stoop so low?" She leaned forward; the folds of her trench-coat fell open revealing a tiny blood-red number that covered just enough to leave little to the imagination while still being legal. Franklin felt himself stare, then cursed himself.
He shook his head. He was feeling faint. One part knew it was the narcotic pheromones Vixen was exuding. The rest didn't care. The swell of her breasts, the elegant arcs of her nipples pushing through the damned-near-sheer fabric, the way her lips pursed so invitingly... If she was a full-blood leech, she couldn't help it.
But they were all manipulators. That's what vampires were. "You'd stoop that low In a heartbeat, honeypot." Franklin moved around the other side of the desk and cocked the lever on the window, letting a cool breeze of Springtime air into the office. It dissipitated some of Vixen's miasma. "We've played enough. What do you want me to do?"
"It's a missing persons case." Vixen said finally, crossing her arms in front of her, and pouting prettily.
"Take it to the police, then. After seventy-two hours, you can file a missing persons--"
"No police." She interrupted, weakly.
"Call Lt. Braeburn." Franklin said. "I'll give you his number. His unit's got the best trace record this side of--"
"No police." She said again, this time using The Voice. "because I'm hiring you to find Alonzo Scarlotti."
Franklin felt the floor lurch beneath him, and something of the old, gibbering terror welled up from within.
Thirty-five hundred up-front would pay the rent and the back-rent on both the office and the apartment... But she was asking him to track down the creature who'd ruined everything that was Robert Franklin.
Alonzo Scarlotti. The Scalotti Vampire.