"Soul Stains"" from THOSE WHO FIGHT MONSTERS - March 2011
A chill was trying to worm past her skin and deep into her bones, but Dawn Madison didn’t even shiver. She’d first learned how to handle the willies as a Hollywood stuntwoman, and her later “career” as a vampire hunter had taught her the rest, even if it’d been a while since she’d been in the hunting game.
“Something’s sure as shit here,” Kiko said, sensing her disquietude. The psychic P.I. was more than a foot shorter than her, a little person, former actor, and former hunter. Today he was garbed in his version of a business suit: cargo pants and a white dress shirt covered by a dark pea coat. Since their last and final hunt together, he’d grown out his blond hair a bit, grown back the soul patch on his chin.
The old Coconut Coast showroom was quiet now that the staff had wrapped up their post-show duties and left. With its faded burgundy velvet-curtain glamour, booth seats curled around scratched mahogany tables—your basic old school luxury and tackiness rolled into one—the Bahia Resort and Casino was one of those Vegas stalwarts on the north end of the Strip that cried out for a corporate takeover. But the owner, “Tigerman” Lee, had held on to it, even though the place had to be on its last legs.
They called him Tigerman, apparently, because of the gray sideburns he wore like feral slashes under his cheekbones. He may have been over sixty years old, but as he stood next to Kiko, he still seemed like someone Dawn wouldn’t want to mess with in a dark alley. Actually, he didn’t seem all that keen on her, either, what, with the marks on her face. Gifts from her final hunt.
His voice was a cigarette-hewn rasp. “The past two years, there’ve been a few sightings here in the showroom, but Gigi Calhoun’s more active backstage.”
A ghost haunting the Bahia.
Or maybe it wasn’t that at all, and that’s why Kiko, the PI, had come here—and why Kiko had brought in his old friend Dawn.
They’d already done their own background check on Gigi Calhoun. She was a secret vampire who’d sold her soul in preparation to recycling her declining Hollywood career after she’d “died” spectacularly in the auto accident that had supposedly decapitated her. With the help of the vampires and their servants, her body had sure looked headless enough to the Coroner and medical Examiner; the Underground had fooled the press, fooled everyone into thinking she was dead and gone. Gigi’s legend grew as she wiled away her time Underground. But, unfortunately for her, Dawn and the team had wiped out the Hollywood hive before the actress and singer could complete her release cycle; that would’ve included plastic surgery, a name change, then reemergence Above as a similar star—but one who only used vampire Allure to remind everyone of the original Gigi Calhoun.
Tigerman’s gaze had taken on a longing softness, just like every other fan who’d nursed a fervent need to never see his idols die. “When Gigi first headlined here in the early Seventies, Vegas was like a woman just finding out how powerful she could be, wearing her neon like jewels she got from all the men buzzing around her. Gigi opened this place, sang and danced on this very stage. Then she…”
“Died,” Dawn said, going along with the lie.
“That’s why you think she came back here,” she added, “even in the afterlife? Because she had a special attachment to the Bahia?”
“I like to think so. And, pretty soon, ghosts might be all that’s left. Maybe I’ll even be one myself when they finally strong arm me into giving up this place.”
Kiko was wily enough to walk past Tigerman, “accidently” brushing his hand against the owner’s. He was trying to get a reading with his psychometric abilities while the elderly man’s mind was on Gigi.
When the psychic frowned, Dawn knew he’d come up blank.
“Why do you think Gigi waited so long to show up here after all these years?” she asked. “Why didn’t she come to the Bahia to hang out just after her death?”
“I thought that’s why you two were here—so you could ask her about that stuff. That’s what most of you paranormal types do, with your societies, right? But I don’t mind. Gigi’s been a draw, bringing us a little more business since word got out about her.”
Kiko wandered toward the stage, avoiding this subject. He’d told Tigerman that he was a garden-variety paranormal enthusiast, creating the impression that there’d be some free publicity from an article Kiko said he’d write for a trade journal.
Bullshit. He and Dawn were only here to find out if Gigi was the last surviving remnant of the vampire Underground they’d destroyed in Hollywood. If she was, they’d deal with her…
From the book: Those Who Fight Monsters
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