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Copyright © 2019 by Arizona Tape
All rights reserved. No part of this publication or cover may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
The Case Of The Night Mark is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Individuals depicted in the images are models and used solely for illustrative purposes.
High Rock Street led the two towards a modern apartment complex that Sam used to pass every day when she was still on the job. She walked past it so many times but she’d never thought it would be the home to creatures that weren’t like her.
They took the elevator to the loft where, after a little pickpocketing from Lilith, they pushed the heavy door open and stepped inside Tomas’ flat.
Dark woods stretched through the place and grey walls highlighted the golden details. Tomas had expensive taste, Sam noted.
She compared a picture at the entrance to the photo Lilith showed her earlier. “That’s the same man, alright.”
“I know.” Lilith frowned. “That was never the question.”
“Right.” Sam tapped her head, trying to pull her mindset back to what they were doing. They weren’t exactly trying to solve a case, she was being used to hunt down a man. This was more private investigator territory, but for the sake of her sanity, she was just going with it.
She adjusted her coat and wandered further into Tomas’ home. It was light, vibrant, an open space in the middle of a tight-packed city. Whoever he was, he was wealthy. Filthy rich, even.
A little tune emitted from her coat and Sam pulled her singing phone from the side pocket. Melissa.
Lilith clicked her tongue. “Are you going to get that?”
“No, it’s not important,” Sam said, pressing the reject button and shoving her mobile back. She wasn’t going to take a personal call in front of Lilith, especially not one from her wife. That would just open up a whole can of misery and she wasn’t in the mood for that. If it was really important, Mel would leave a message.
Sam wandered further into the hallway, pushing the thoughts about her wife to the background in favour of the case.
She knocked on the dresser, the full sound confirming her suspicion. Solid mahogany, matching the other furniture in the hall, an expensive set that fitted the space perfectly. Probably custom made.
She turned to Lilith. “What are we looking for?”
“Anything that’ll tell me where this slimy bastard is.”
“Slimy bastard?” Sam echoed. “That’s an interesting choice of words. You don’t like him?”
Lilith’s jaw clicked. “None of your business. Just get to it.”
“Fine.” An exasperated sigh escaped from Sam as she inspected the rest of Tomas’ house. Just like Ian’s, there was a layer of dust coating the surfaces.
Sam swiped her finger through it. “Hmm. Interesting.”
Lilith appeared behind her. “What is?”
“I can see that.”
“Not as thick a layer as your Uncle Ian’s home.” Sam walked past a massive mirror in the hallway, surprised by the size. Tomas certainly loved looking at himself. That quickly became evident from the multiple expensive suits that Sam found in the wardrobe, all meticulously stored away with matching belts and watches in the shelves next to it.
“Wow.” Sam whistled as she ran her hand along one of the jackets. “There’s easily… Twenty, thirty grand worth of suits in here.”
The woman next to her let out a scoff. “Tsk. He always loved flaunting his wealth, using it to show off, to make others feel small, to trick young women into sleeping with him. Asshole.”
“That’s specific,” Sam noted, not daring to ask for clarification. There was anger radiating from Lilith, something that sizzled and fumed in the small space in front of the closet, something that she didn’t want to face.
She stepped away, introducing distance between her and Lilith. Just to be safe.
“I’ll, ummm… I’ll go check something out, else, somewhere. Over there,” she said, quickly scurrying out of the dusty bedroom and back down to the open living space. She didn’t like dealing with emotional people. All the crying, cursing, and tears were just not her thing. She preferred to deal with the dead, who spoke no ill, who cried no more.
That was Sam’s speciality. Dead people who needed their story told after they were no longer there. No arguments, no talking back, and no bothering her after hours. She had a funny feeling that was over now she was working with Lilith.
She rummaged through a couple of cupboards and looked under some pillows, mostly to pass the time until the other woman came back down again. She already knew there was nothing in the apartment that could tell them where Tomas was. No receipts in the bin, no agendas or bullet journals, nothing that dated the last time he was here or where he’d gone next.
Just as she was about to sit down, her phone rang again.
Hesitantly, Sam stared at the display. Lilith was upstairs and Melissa clearly needed to talk, otherwise she wouldn’t call from work.
Maybe if she cut it short and made sure not to divulge any personal details that the Nox could use against her, she could answer the call.
“Sam speaking,” she answered, keeping an eye on the doorway.
“Why didn’t you pick up earlier when I called?” Melissa asked, her voice slightly distorted through the speaker.
“I was busy,” Sam replied, picking at her coat. “I still am. Why are you calling?”
“We need to talk.”
“I can’t talk now.”
Her wife growled. “Then why did you pick up?”
“Because you called. I thought it was important.”
“It is. Why are you not at home?”
Sam frowned. “How would you know?”
“I didn’t feel well, so I left work. You’re not here so where are you?”
“Working on a case.”
Melissa sighed. “Which case?”
“It’s a…” Sam hesitated. How could she explain this? “It’s a personal case.”
“A personal case?” Melissa echoed. “You know what, it doesn’t matter. Can you come home so we can talk about everything?”
“I said, I’m busy.”
“Sam, please… I’m tired of us fighting. We need to talk.”
Exhaustion played in Melissa’s voice and some of Sam’s anger that she’d had been carrying the past days melted away. Despite everything, Melissa was still her wife and she loved her.
With a sigh, she agreed. “Fine. I’ll round up what I’m doing and I’ll head home.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“Bye.” Without waiting for a response, Sam hung up and shoved her phone deep in her pocket. She shouldn’t have picked up after all.
“Found anything?” Lilith asked, her sudden appearance startling the other woman.
Sam didn’t know if she’d heard anything, but it didn’t really matter. Lilith clearly knew where she lived and if she wanted to kill her, this abandoned house would’ve been the perfect place.
Sam brushed the dust off her hands as she rose from the couch. “Didn’t find anything.”
“I thought so.” Lilith gestured in the direction of the street. “Let’s go then.”
The two walked past the marble kitchen, back to the hallway with the massive mirror. Just as they were about to leave, Sam’s eye was drawn to the shoe rack near the front door. “
Look at this collection of shoes.” She noted as she stood in front of a well-kept rack of leather dress shoes in a range of colours. “This is a man that kept his footwear sharp.”
Lilith abandoned her search in the vases to look at what Sam was talking about. “They’re certainly well kept. And expensive. Aren’t those Arnold Regals? I think my father has some like that.”
Sam inspected the hand-stitched label on one of the pairs. “They are indeed. Look at the shine on them. All of them have mirror glossed toes and perfectly polished leather. That’s done by someone who knows their craft.”
She pulled up the tongue to inspect the insides. “Huh.”
“They’re worn unevenly. Look. The left shoe has a fuller imprint on the insole than the right one.”
Lilith picked up the navy pair and inspected the inside. “This one has it too. What does that mean?”
“Tomas has one flat foot.”
Lilith chuckled. “A flat foot?”
“Yes. The arch of his foot is collapsed and sits entirely flat. My niece has it.”
“So how does that help us?”
“I don’t know yet.” For a moment, Sam stared at the collection. She could feel she’d stumbled upon something important, she just hadn’t managed to put the pieces together. “One pair is missing.”
“So it is…” The other woman clicked her tongue. “Charcoal.”
“Charcoal. That’s the one that’s missing. Look. They’d go between the black and navy colours.”
“Hmmm…” Sam stared at the shoes, confident she was overlooking something. But what?
Expensive suits, polished shoes, a missing pair…
She turned to Lilith. “I didn’t see a polishing kit somewhere, so this had to be done by a professional. There’s dust everywhere, even on the shoes. But…”
“Not on the floor where the charcoal shoes were. You can see the rings of dust.”
Sam nodded. “Exactly. They were removed recently.”
“Tomas has always been a vain man. He came back for them.”
“Yes.” A smile curled around Sam’s lips as the pieces fell in place. “He won’t have left the shoes dusty. He’ll have got them shined. How many professional cobblers do you know?”
Lilith snapped her fingers. “Harry’s Shining Shack.”
“Harry’s. He’s the cobbler my father uses. He’s the best of the best.”
Sam nodded. The thought of an entire race of special, paranormal creatures hadn’t sunk in yet. Especially not when some of them were occupying the most boring professions.
She tightened her coat and nodded. “Okay, then that’s where we need to look, see when he last saw Tomas. Maybe he’ll even have an idea of where he was going.”
Lilith concluded, a smile stretching across her face. “Maybe. Well done.”
The achievement warmed Sam’s stomach. “Thank you. We’ll visit him tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Lilith echoed. “Why not now?”
Sam sighed. “I need to go home. Family emergency.”
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