Ladies of the Evening [horror]

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, I have been dabbling in horror recently.  This is my current Work in Progress, and is intended to follow Possession of Blood as the second story of The Nexus Chronicles, which is about a team of monster hunters working out of an extra-dimensional stronghold called the Nexus, located at the intersection of multiple — You know what, just start with Possession of Blood; it will become clear immediately!

*

The young woman was about half the size of the man she was attacking, and certainly less than half his weight. She flew at him like an angry bird attacking a cat, kicking, striking, throwing elbows at his face and neck. For all the effect they were having, he had no more chance of hitting her than of plucking a single snowflake from a blizzard. He threw a punch and a kick, missing her badly as she rolled away.

“Bailey,” came a rich sonorous voice as she prepared to launch into another flurry, “we are needed. My apologies, Sifu.”

“None needed,” the object of her attention said, removing his padded helmet to reveal the head of an Oriental man not nearly as large as the protective suit made him appear. “Your needs are the reason we are here.”

He turned to the woman, Bailey, and they exchanged bows.

“Thank you for your wisdom, Sifu,” she said.

“Thank you for your interest.”

Bailey turned to join the man who had summoned her, a tall Japanese man with stern features and an absolutely hypnotic voice.

“Nagoya-san, what’re we lookin’ at, then?”

Though Bailey O’Keefe hadn’t been to Ireland since her childhood, her slight brogue deepened when she was excited. As she was by the prospect of a case.

“It doesn’t seem to be much on the face of it, I’m afraid,” he said, leading her to a nearby elevator. “Some odd news reports are showing up, and Mr. Howard wants us to look into it.”

They entered the self-service car and rode it up a couple of floors to where it disgorged them in a much more ornate hallway, rich with tile and marble. Nagoya led her to and through a door marked “Deputy Director” in elegant lettering, and as soon as the receptionist saw them, they were directed on through as she flipped a switch, alerting Mr. Howard that a visitor was coming in.

“Ah, Nagoya, here you are,” the tall, thin, cadaverous man at the large desk greeted them. “Sit down, please. Been engaged in a bit of rough-housing, Miss O’Keefe?”

“Combat trainin’, sir. Master Jin really gives you a workout.”

“I’m sure he does. I’ve summoned the two of you to look into some disturbing reports we’ve had from the New York area. New York is a major city, so we have a field office there, and you can ambulate right in. The case involves some missing children, orphans, children of poor immigrant families, and the like. A number have gone missing over the past few months, and it’s been a perplexing problem for the local police. Not too perplexing, as these aren’t the sort of children they invest a great deal of effort in, but they’re missing, nonetheless. All the reports have been made within a few days of a full moon, which is interesting, but hardly conclusive, but several of the missing bodies have been discovered within the last few days, buried in shallow graves behind a beach on Long Island, and all of them have had their hearts surgically removed.”

“Sounds to be a matter for the police,” Bailey said, “some sort of deranged killer, then.”

“Quite possibly, Miss O’Keefe, but another possibility has been raised, and we do not have the luxury of ignoring it. A newspaper reporter by the name of,” he consulted a scrap of paper, “Ray Walker has been reporting that a witch or group of witches is conducting sacrifices using children that are specifically unlikely to be missed.”

“Does this man work for a reputable paper, sir?” Nagoya asked.

“Hardly. The South Docks Guardian was a stevedore’s union trade paper until it was purchased by the New World Press and joined the ranks of the tabloids and yellow press journals. It routinely trades in the most outrageous cock and bull stories, but even a blind dog trips over a bone now and then, and we can hardly afford to ignore this.”

“Seriously, sir?” Bailey asked. “If we’re goin’ to drop what we’re doin’ every time some tabloid raises a stink about witches, we’ll scarcely have time to do anything else.”

“I should have thought you’d be eager to get involved, Miss O’Keefe, given that a number of these children are Irish.” Howard said.

“Bloody waste o’ time, it is. If this is what we’re reduced to, maybe it’s time to pack it up an’ go home.”

“Miss O’Keefe, I don’t intend to waste any resource on this. If it isn’t a witch, you’ll sort it out, hand your findings to the local authorities, and return for further assignment. But if it is a witch, or more than one, who is able to use the magic of the sort associated with witches, then, one, the police will be completely helpless against her, and two, the only way that magic could have gotten into New York is through Nexus. Both of those factors render this well within our purview. Now, if you have no further objections, you will use the chronambulator to transfer into our New York office, from where you will seek out this Walker fellow, and find out what he knows or doesn’t know about the activity of these witches he is reporting on. Cover documents have been prepared for you. You are to be members of the Irish Defense League seeking information on the missing Irish children. I presume that whatever you find out about them will apply to the rest of them as well. Given your ethnicity, Miss O’Keefe will present herself as the senior member of your team. Mr. Nagoya will be an employee hired to provide access to Oriental communities. Miss O’Keefe, I want you to be clear on this. This charade is to enhance the believability of your cover story, and in no way is meant to imply that you have been promoted to senior partner on your team. Is that understood?”

“I never doubted it, sir.”

“Good. Your documents, coordinates for the jump, and the necessary accoutrements are waiting for you at operations. Dress is modern New York, and the field office will provide for any additional needs you may have. Take your own weapons. You may need the enhancements. Are there any further questions?”

“Bailey?” Nogoya asked.

“Not me,” she sulked. “I just shoot.”

“None at this time, sir,” Nagoya said.

“All right, then,” Howard said. “Clean up, kit up, and get on out there. The director wants this wrapped up, one way or the other, within a couple of days.”

To be continued…