When Raven takes the case of a missing corpse, she goes underground, encounters a vampire, The Beast, her doppleganger, a dead man walking, Magbertius her nemesis, and is arrested for murder.
Papa Joe's Fantastic World
Raven Lenore's client, Mordecai Wilsey, a mortician wants her to find a corpse stolen from his mortuary. When Raven she calls upon the missing corpse's best friend, Peter Morgan, he talks about a vampire named Celia and that he saw the dead man alive and walking about. Raven sets up a surveillance of the mortuary and catches Celia VanGrimm drinking blood drained from a corpse. Raven is caught in the middle of a maelstrom of walking corpses, The Beast, underground Chicago and bloody murder.
On a hunch that either the perpetrator who stole Grebelowski's corpse would return to steal another body or that there really was a female vampire who hung around the funeral home, Raven staked the place out. She arrived right after sunset, parked two doors down from the mortuary, and waited for hours. Nothing much happened. A few pedestrians passed by. Around eight, Mordecai Wilsey came out the front door, locked it and went to his car. After that things were as dead on that street as his customers. Raven dozed.
Raven awoke with a start. "Damn. I shouldn't have fallen asleep." She checked her watch. It was after midnight.
She glanced over at the mortuary. She noticed a moving dim light in the cellar as though someone was down there with a flashlight. She got out of her car, approached the building with her automatic ready and peered through the window. A shadow moved inside. Someone was wandering around the basement.
A chill went up Raven's spine. Funeral homes gave her the creeps. Although she often had to deal with them, she never liked corpses. Nonetheless, she mounted the porch steps. One window had a broken pane and was open. She crawled in as the burglar probably had and played her penlight around. Ahead was a coffin surrounded by flower displays, whose sickening sweet odor made her nauseous. She shivered and hurried out into the hallway.
When she found the cellar door, she turned off her lamp and tiptoed down the steps. On the landing, a board creaked. The intruder's light went out. She turned on her own penlight again and called, "Okay you, the jigs up."
The first thing her light showed was a naked corpse on a metal table. It's skin was a pale gray, and the eyes stared at nothingness. "Shit," she cried. A sour taste came into her mouth. She moved the light around. The intruder, a young woman, crouched in a corner sucking a tube in a container. Her pale face and hands were the same ghastly color as the corpse. Big, round eyes with dark circles stared at her. A stream of dark red liquid ran down her chin.
"Okay. Who are you and what are you doing here?"
The strange girl was dressed Goth style, with dozens of earrings, spiked dog collar, tight jeans, a top that ended above the midriff, a pentagram tattooed on her breast and a skull with a bloody knife through an eye socket on one bare shoulder, pink hair cropped like a boy's, white skin so pale it was as though she'd never been in the sun. Nonetheless, she had a eerie beauty, with high cheekbones, full carmine lips, and dark eyes that flashed with amusement. She was a perfect fit to the description that Morgan had given Raven earlier of the vampire who was supposed to be stalking him.
The girl smirked. "My name is Celia. I'm just getting a little drinky. Who are you? You're no cop."
"My name is Raven Lenore. I'm a private investigator. I was hired to find out who stole a corpse from here a couple of weeks ago. Was that you?"
"What the hell would I want with a corpse?"
"What's that stuff you're drinking?" She guessed formaldehyde. Junkies can get high on it when nothing else was available.
"Blood from that corpse. The mortician drains it into jugs. Want to try some, Raven?"
"Blood. So you're a vampire."
"Sad to say, that's true." She grinned at Raven. "Want to donate yours? I won't take much, and it'll be warm and fresh, not like this stuff, which is going bad."
Raven flushed. She had an erotic thought of what it would be like to have that pretty girl's mouth on her throat. But she knew if she allowed a vampire to take one sip she would be the vampire's slave. She backed up a couple of steps and turned away so that she was not looking at the girl's eyes.
"Tell me, Celia. Why did you break in here?"
"I told you. For the blood. I don't like to take any from a person unless they give me permission. Why would anyone care that I drink this stuff? Morticians just dump the stuff anyway."
Raven wanted to run away. She did not like being so close to a vampire. She knew their powers. She had dealt with them before. Nonetheless, she persisted with her questioning. "So you don't have any idea who took John Grebelowski's corpse?"
"John Grebelowski? I didn't even know he was dead."
"But you knew him?"
"Only slightly. He was a friend of a former donor of mine."
Celia took one last sip and stood up. She took a step toward Raven. Raven backed up to the edge of the steps.
"Oh. What's the donor's name?"
"Peter Morgan. But I dumped the creep. He was into some kinky stuff. He wanted me to perform perverse acts in exchange for a pint or so of his blood. That's why I've resorted to this."
"I interviewed Peter. He claims that you were stalking him."
Celia chuckled. "That bastard. He would say something like that. What an ego." She took another step toward Raven. Raven turned and climbed backward two of the cellar steps.
"So, you aren't stalking him?"
"I don't want anything to do with him. Is there anything else you want to know?" She walked forward a couple of steps again. Raven went up another two steps.
Raven rubbed her chin. "I can't think of anything at the moment. How can I contact you if I do?"
"Can I keep this container of blood?"
"Sure. Why not?"
"You won't tell the cops or the mortician?"
"No. I swear." Although it was cold and damp, Raven began to sweat. Celia stopped her relentless move forward.
"If you want me, come to Graceland Cemetery after midnight. I hang out by Schoenhofen's pyramid sometimes."
"Thanks. I may look you up. Enjoy that blood."
Raven hurried up the steps taking two at a time, ran out of the building, leaped into her car and turned on the ignition. The engine turned over but did not start. Raven realized in her that she haste she had flooded it. She saw Celia leave the mortuary carrying the container of blood. She was headed toward Raven's car.
Raven pressed the gas petal to the floor and turned the key again. To her relief, the engine caught. She put the car in gear and peeled rubber out of the parking spot. Despite what the vampire had said, she did not trust the undead. She felt that they were like junkies and would lie or do anything to relieve their cravings.