"Now here's the problem," Rebecca said as they were in her room, the day after. "The only way to get to that succubus is to talk to the sex shop guy from yesterday, and since he saw us, there's no way he's gonna let us in again."
"And we don't really want to go in again, do we?"
"What we need is someone to go there for us. A guy would do better, don't you think?"
"Yeah, sure, but who are we gonna ask that? Raj?"
"No! Definitely not, I can't ask him something like that!"
"You know, Becca, you're very protective with him..."
"I know... but I already feel bad dragging you in this mess, I don't want to inflict that on another close friend... even if he thinks we're not so close anymore..."
"But I told you already, I do not mind. I want to help you, why wouldn't he help you too? I think you could trust him."
She sighed. That question tortured her every night. "Maybe... anyway, who does that leave us?"
"What about Jerry? He's very nice, I'm sure he wouldn't say no."
"No, that wouldn't do... he's too nice, actually. I mean, can you picture him in such a place?"
"No, I guess not..."
"What we really need... is someone who looks sketchy and confident. Someone who doesn't give a damn, someone who would fit right in, and who could talk his way out of the most bizarre situations..."
The two friends looked at each others with wide eyes, enlightened by the same idea at the same time, and they claimed in unison: "Crowley!"
"But how do we contact him?" Rebecca asked. "It's Saturday, we won't find him at school..."
"I... I have his number," Sally confessed.
"Is there something you're not telling me?" Rebecca smiled teasingly. "Is innocent and pure Sally O'Flaherty seeing boys, now?"
"No! No, it's just... he walked me home last night, and he was pretty nice, and he gave me his number, in case we wanted to... go out again..."
"Girl, I think he fancies you."
She blushed violently. "You think so?"
"Oh yeah! Kay then, let's call him."
"Now let me get this straight," Randy said as he took a sip of his Coke. Sally had called him, and about an hour later they were at his place, a tiny and messy flat in a tower in the North of Richmond. Well, flat was too much honour for this place. With its cracks on the walls and suspicious stains on the carpet, slum would be a better qualifier. There were boxes of fast food and empty bottles scattered around, and he always had the music on. "This guy who got smoked in Soho, this... Sean, he's your cousin, Rebecca?"
"From my mother's side."
"And you want to know how he died, because...?"
"His parents want to know. They live far away, near Liverpool, and they tried to call the police here, but they haven't been very helpful... so I figured..."
"You'd play Miss Sherlock Holmes for them?"
"Well, yeah. But there's just this place, we can't get in there, it's scary and the owner... well he kicked us out already. All we need to know is what happened in the room where Sean was found."
"And what's in there for me?"
"Um, well, I dunno," Rebecca said, a bit destabilized. She hadn't expected him to ask for a reward. "Do you, like, want money? Can give you, like, twenty pounds?"
"Nah, I got a better idea..." he then looked at Sally and smiled mischievously. "I want a date with pretty Miss O'Flaherty."
"Agreed!" Rebecca replied right away.
"Becca!" Sally scolded. Her face was redder than her hair.
"Oh, come on, you said you wanted to help, didn't you? Besides, I dare you to say you wouldn't enjoy it..."
"Stop it!" she said, half amused and half embarrassed.
"Well," Randy said, "we got a deal?"
As the night before, the sex shop owner was sitting at his counter, reading his magazine, chewing his gum in utter boredom. Not like anything was happening this afternoon, there were maybe one customer per hour, maybe two. Everyone was going to the fancier shops up the street now, this place was only good at night, when the best – and shadiest – business would come. Even though no-one's been coming since the incident hit the news. A dead body is bad publicity. At last a customer entered, a young bloke with a leather jacket and a Pantera shirt. Great, he sighed. Sure he liked metal, but he knew for a fact that these guys were not the biggest spenders.
"What can I help you with?" he asked.
"Just need some info," the boy said with a heavy American accent. Ah, a tourist, he thought. Better for business. "I heard you had, like, a dead body in there, didn't you?"
"So what about the dead body?" the owner asked defensively.
"Let's just say I'm a fan of those kinds of stories. Can you tell me more on what happened?"
"Sorry, kid, this is a respectable establishment here, not a horror tour. So if that's all you're here for, you can just feck off of my... my... my..." suddenly, the owner forgot what he was about to say. He didn't even remember his own name at that moment. He had made eye contact with the boy, and oh God, these green eyes of his were so beautiful, so intense, he lost himself in them.
"I really need some help," the boy said, his voice echoing in the owner's head like a fragment of a dream. "Are you willing to help me?"
"Of course, sir," the owner said with a slurred voice.
"Excellent. I want to know everything about Sean Bradford."
"I rent rooms upstairs for the local prostitutes, in exchange for a cut of their earnings. This man, Bradford, he was a customer. Came here with one of the girls. I don't know what happened then, just know we found his body the morning after."
"Who is this girl?"
"Lili Harris is her name."
"Is she coming back here?"
"No, she's doing business somewhere else now, a few streets from there."
"Please write down the address."