When we arrived at Hannoy’s house, I was half-prepared for an old gothic mansion, complete with organ music, or maybe a smelly pesthole decorated in over-done layers of black.
In fact, his place of residence was off-puttingly normal, even benign. It was a smallish two-storey building, quite old-fashioned in layout, with an impressively large and well-trimmed lawn by LA standards, complete with two defiantly undemonic garden gnomes.
Okay, the presence of the gnomes was disturbing in and of itself, but not in a particularly vampiric way.
“All it needs is a white picket fence,” Kate muttered as we made our way up the path to the front door.
“And the Brady Bunch theme song in the background,” I returned. “That’d really complete the picture.”
“Whaddya think?” Kate asked as we stepped up to the front door. “Keen and Casual?”
I smirked. “Sounds good. Who’s who?”
She looked me up and down. I adjusted my rumpled clothing defensively. “Like you have to ask. Do you ever do laundry, Doyle?”
“Not as a matter of course,” I admitted, yawning slightly. I’d been on the go for a little too long, and thanks to Faith, it wasn’t like I was getting regular, undisturbed sleep at nights.
“Easy, pal,” she said half-seriously. “Don’t get too casual.”
“Sorry. Starting to run low on energy, I guess.”
Kate didn’t respond, rapping sharply on the door. I remembered guiltily that she’d been working on this case for quite a lot longer than I had. Though the firm had its occasionally moments of high activity, often coupled with the risk of being slaughtered by clans of demons, it was no match for the endless grind of police work when it came to exhausting a person.
Frankly, I was amazed Kate could still stand. But she still looked pretty sharp, and I wasn’t going to be the one to suggest she take a break. ‘Sides, we both knew that if our positions were reversed, I wouldn’t listen to her any more than she would to me.
The best thing I could do for her would be to wrap this thing up fast. With any luck, Hannoy was our man, despite his pristine house and psychiatrist friend. If he was, Keen and Casual would trip him up.
With any luck.
A lot of cops work on the old Good Cop/Bad Cop system for handling suspects, despite the fact than anyone who’s ever watched a bad crime drama knows that it’s a set-up. Kate and I had worked out a variant, nicknamed Keen and Casual.
Kate’s job was to be the perfect little detail-obsessed detective, taking notes about everything and following the suspect’s every word. My job was to appear bored as hell with the whole affair, and to ignore her and the perp totally, just letting my eyes roam around the room. Ideally, Kate kept the perp on his toes, while I could check out for anything incriminating in the place, using her continual questioning as a cover.
Kate banged her fist loudly on the door a couple of times. I leaned against the wall and admired the gnomes. Come to think of it, Keen and Casual wasn’t too different from our behaviour normally.
As Kate raised her hand a third time, the front door opened. The nondescript man on the other side of the threshold smiled politely at us. “Yes? Are you from the shelter? I’ve got the bags right here…”
“No, sir,” Kate said formally. “My name is Detective Lockley. LAPD. We’d like to ask you some questions.”
I scratched my neck and gave him my most world-weary stare. “Doyle. What she said.”
“Oh.” The man seemed taken aback. “Is there something wrong?”
Kate reached into a pocket and pulled out a notepad. She flipped it to a blank page and gazed intently at non-existent notes. “Are you one Ernest Patrick Hannoy?”
The man nodded agreeably, smiling at us. “Yes. I’m sure there must be some kind of mistake…you see, I paid the parking ticket several weeks ago and…”
“Sir. We’re not here about the ticket.”
Hannoy looked confused. “Excuse me?”
Kate opened her mouth to give an officious response, but I interrupted, drawing my jacket tighter around my shoulders. “This could take a while, pal. Are you just goin’ to leave us standing out here like lemons?”
“No, no, come in,” Hannoy said, his face still painted with a mix of confusion and concern. “Please, do.”
Kate and I exchanged glances as he led us down a corridor and into what looked like his living room. This was starting to look like a bust already. Hannoy was reacting just like any other regular citizen would when abruptly confronted by grim-faced detectives. There wasn’t the slightest amount of guilt on his face, only innocent distress at the suddenness of our invasion.
He was a pretty big man, the detective in me noted, which meant it would have been easy for him to pin his victim and break her neck. But then again, the girl in question was a skinny thing. Hell, Wesley could have taken her with both hands tied behind his back.
Kate sat down primly on Hannoy’s couch. I slouched down next to her, taking in the surroundings while she fumbled with her notepad. Nice, homey surroundings…a lovingly-restored old liquor cabinet with expensive crystal glasses…couple of pictures on the walls, one featuring the good doctor and Hannoy grinning like idiots at the camera, a day-old copy of the paper lying on a table…there was an article about the killing on the front page, but it didn’t look like it had received any special treatment. If anything, the detective in me felt it was too normal for a guy with a history of mental illness.
But then again, if he really was cured then I very much doubted he’d want to be near anything that might remind him of his particular fantasy. But then again, the detective in me wasn’t sure if it was a façade of normality or real stability…
In case you hadn’t noticed, the detective in me is a bit of a suspicious bastard
“Can I get you a drink?” the target of my paranoia asked pleasantly, but with a touch of nervousness.
Hardly surprising, when confronted by Kate’s needle-nosed stare. The schmuck looked as eager to please as a puppy, and if Kate wound him up any more, he was going to be useless for questioning.
“Sure,” I said easily, just to loosen him up a bit. Besides, maybe there was something decent in that liquor cabinet. And I hadn’t drunk out of out anything that wasn’t plastic or glass for years.
“No,” Kate said sharply, shooting me a rebuking glance that wasn’t entirely acting. “We’re on duty.”
I shrugged sympathetically at Hannoy. “On duty.”
He smiled a little and sat down on an over-stuffed chair. “So…what can I help you with?”
Kate checked her notes - unnecessarily, she’d read the file about eight times before we drove here - and cleared her throat. “Mr Hannoy, you were once the patient of a Doctor Martin, correct?”
Hannoy smiled again. “Yes. He was my doctor, and he is still my friend.” His brow furrowed abruptly. “Has something happened to Greg?”
“No,” Kate said shortly, and continued in her carefully-clipped tone: “You were recommended to his care by the courts, weren’t you, Mr Hannoy? For some…incidents in which you were involved.”
All expression fled Hannoy’s face for a second or two, and then he sighed. “Oh. Oh dear,” he said sadly. “It’s about this, isn’t it?” He picked up the newspaper and turned its cover to face us. VAMPIRE KILLER STRIKES LA, the headline informed us.
She nodded. “Yes, it is. Mr Hannoy, we’re going to need you to provide your whereabouts for our investigation - “
Hannoy rose to his feet sharply, his face still expressionless, but now I could read disgust behind his stiff features. “I don’t know how you got my name and address, Detective, but I assume you would have read Greg’s reports before you came here. The…incidents occurred a long time ago. I was a troubled young man; I received counselling, and I have medication now - I take a dose every day. I’m not sick any more. Those reports confirm it. And now, I would like you to leave.”
I interrupted before Kate could spout off some section of the penal code in response. “Mr Hannoy…Ernie,” I said gently, “Dr Martin told us all of that. He also gave us your address, since he trusts you and knows you didn’t do this stuff, and that everything’s fine. But we gotta ask the questions anyway, man. Now why don’t you sit down, pour yourself a drink, and give us something to put in our report. Then we can all go back to normal, Ern.”
Hannoy eased himself slowly into his chair.
“Now, how about that drink?” I said, smiling at him.
“No,” he and Kate said together. They blinked. Then Hannoy continued, “I don’t think I could keep it down. This…this business just brings back a lot of bad memories, you understand?”
“We sympathize,” Kate said, having finally seemed to pick up on my attempts to keep our suspect cool. “Can you just tell us about your movements on the night of November 17th?”
Hannoy closed his eyes. “Uh…I…was working late. I’m in insurance,” he added, by way of explanation,” and we had a big new client, an important referral. I don’t remember what time I got home; there was some movie on, bad science fiction thing. ‘Attack of the Lagoon Creatures’, or something. Total trash.”
I winced with remembered pain. “‘Invasion of the Swamp Beasts’, wasn’t it?” Faith had insisted on watching it. “Ten-thirty, it started. And yeah, it was trash.”
Kate glanced at me with surprise, and scribbled something down on her pad. Probably some carefully-honed jab about bad taste to unleash on me at a later date. Then again, it might have just been the time.
Hannoy nodded in agreement. “That sounds about right. I watched it for a couple of minutes while I heated up something in the microwave, and then I ate, and then I went to bed.”
“Uh-huh,” Kate said, jotting this down. “Anyone who can verify this?”
“Um…my secretary, Claudia, can tell you about the client, but I was working alone. Sorry.”
“All right, Mr Hannoy,” Kate told him, writing as she spoke. “Would you mind if we took a look around your house briefly? Again, just a formality.”
Hannoy looked alarmed at this. “Don’t you need a search warrant for that?”
I did my best to reassure him. “Ernie. We can go out and get a warrant, and then come right back, and it’ll just take longer and waste even more of everybody’s time. You’ve got nothin’ to hide, I’m sure, Kate’s just bein’ thorough. We’ll be out of here in no time.”
“Well, okay…I guess,” he agreed, but without much confidence. We all stood, and he led us around.
Kate didn’t ask many questions and neither did I. Judging from her expression, she was getting the same ‘dead end’ vibes as me. Encouraged by our failure to rip up his furniture and peek through his drawers, Hannoy began to talk more about his house, preening a little, showing off his residence as if we were any two ordinary guests.
It really was a nice house, older than most, but nice. As it turned out, one of Hannoy’s hobbies was restoring old furniture and architecture, and he pointed out numerous little details to us, like the wooden ceiling that had been untouched since its construction however many years ago, or the finely- painted skirting-boards.
I was bored out my mind by the time Hannoy wound the tour to a close. Hell, I was half-wishing for a real vampire attack, just so he’d stop talking. “…of course, with such an old house, and with so much of it being wooden, well, it’s perfect breeding ground for woodworm. The ceiling’s particularly bad - I’ll have to get in an exterminator, one of these days…to say nothing of the damp…oh, and here’s the lounge, which, um, you’ve already seen.”
I did my best to turn my sigh of relief into a cough. “Thanks. Nice pad. Cheers.” I headed for the front door.
But that wasn’t enough for Kate. “What about those stairs, back in the hall?” she asked. “Where do they go?”
“My workshop, where I do most of my furniture restorations,” Hannoy said cheerfully. “Do you want to see?”
“Certainly.” I quietly cursed my partner - um, former partner. Admittedly, she was supposed to be the keen one, but did she have to take it so blasted far? There is such a thing as over-acting.
“I think I’ll pass,” I said hastily, as Hannoy headed for the hall, already warming up for Furniture Care 101. “My legs are tired from all that walking.”
Hannoy looked slightly disappointed at the halving of his audience, but continued on without comment. I smirked at Kate as she followed, but she didn’t deign to respond.
Alone, Hannoy’s droning mercifully muffled by the walls, I surveyed the ‘lounge’. Whatever happened to plain old ‘TV Room’?
My eyes came to rest guiltily on his liquor cabinet. I was tired, bored and desperately in need of some kind of fix. A cigarette would have been best, but there was no way I could finish it before Kate came back. So booze it was.
Just a few sips… I promised myself. After all, I rationalised, Hannoy was probably so obsessed with the ancient cabinet that its actual contents paled by comparison. He’d never know.
I crossed the room and pulled the doors open, selecting a brown whisky bottle and pulling out its cork, sniffing to savour the fluid’s rich scent.
My nose twitched. That didn’t smell like brandy. In fact, it smelt like…
“Kate,” I called sharply, trying to keep my voice under control. “Could you come here a sec?”
I heard footsteps clumping down the hall towards me, and Kate entered the room, Hannoy following behind her, still nattering about furniture.
“Yeah, what is it?” She stopped when she saw me holding the bottle. “Jeez, Doyle, you’ve got a serious drinking prob -”
I ignored the rest, focusing on Hannoy as he stepped into the doorway behind her. His eyes flicked to me and then to the bottle, and then his face went absolutely blank, just like it had when he first realised why we were there. Like a machine, absorbing new data.
“Doyle?” Kate demanded. “Are you listening to me?”
The empty look on Hannoy’s face was abruptly replaced by one of predatory cunning, and then his arm was around Kate’s throat. She tried to drag her sidearm from its holster, but he struck it out of her hand with his free arm, tightening his grip on her with the other. My eyes followed the weapon as it slid across the floor and bumped against a wall.
“Don’t try anything,” Hannoy said, in that pleasant, slightly boring voice of his. “Or I’ll break her neck. Like that other little girl.”
My hand tensed, reaching for a pistol…that wasn’t there.
Hannoy smiled happily, noticing my confusion. “No gun? Leave it in your other pants, did you? Or maybe you aren’t a cop at all, then? A would-be Van Helsing to my Dracula?” He giggled.
“I thought you were on medication - a dose a day, wasn’t it?” I countered. “Doesn’t seem to be workin’ very well.”
“Oh yes,” Hannoy agreed. “I pour out a dose every day. Makes lovely fertilizer for my garden, you see. After all, there was never anything wrong with me, no matter what Greg said.”
“Of course not,” I said flatly, shooting a quick glance at Kate’s gun. I could probably reach it…“You’re just Joe Average.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far,” Hannoy said. “But what reasonable person wouldn’t revere the masters of the night, and wish to be like them? The ultimate predators, lethal and majestic, culling the mortal herd…”
I shrugged. “This is LA, pal. The vampires haven’t got anythin’ on the gossip columnists when it comes to feedin’ on the weak.”
Hannoy’s arm tensed around Kate’s throat, and she gurgled in pain, but his face remained calm. “Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Still, at least you didn’t immediately leap to the ‘There’s no such thing as vampires!’ defence. There may be hope for you yet.”
“Right. Someday I’ll grow up to be a certifiable loony just like you. Is that what you’re gettin’ at?”
He sighed. “None of them understood, you know. It was always so easy, to tell them what they wanted to hear. To pretend to be one of them…move among them, feed off them…”
“Them who? Sane people?” I asked, edging closer towards the weapon.
“Humans,” he sneered. “Weak, pathetic humans. And don’t think I don’t know what you’re trying to do, sir. Move away from the gun.” He took a step forward towards it, dragging Kate with him. For a moment, his body was moving ahead of hers, just like I had hoped for.
I let my arm whip up, lobbing the whiskey bottle at him in a powerful underarm throw. The glass bottle weaved awkwardly through the air towards Hannoy and smashed into the wall behind his head, showering him and Kate in dark blood.
Just like I had planned, the abrupt noise and rain of fluid distracted him long enough for Kate to pull free and dive for her weapon. But it didn’t distract him the way I had expected. He stared at his blood-speckled hands and began to lick them in a frenzy.
Both I and Kate, coming up from a crouch with her gun ready, hesitated for a second, surprised and disgusted.
Hannoy realised his peril and ducked back into the hallway. Kate fired a shot anyway, and I followed it, bounding after him. I dodged out into the passageway, just in time to see Hannoy scrambling up the stairs to his attic, covered in blood and trembling with rage or fear or desire. Maybe all three.
“You can’t stop me!” he shrieked. “No human can stop a vampire!”
His earlier cool demeanour was gone, and judging from his frenzied voice, he was cracking up fast. I wasn’t sure what he was running to get from his attic, if it was a weapon or an opera cloak autographed by Bela Lugosi.
I didn’t plan to find out.
I changed to demon and leapt straight up, slamming my body against the ceiling. The old, woodworm-riddled ceiling.
Against half-Brachen muscle, it didn’t stand a chance. The wood splintered up around me as I smashed through the ceiling and landed on the attic floor next to my homemade entrance. My skin felt like old sandpaper, and the splinters on my head and shoulders made me feel as if my spines had reversed direction, but I was still mobile.
Across the furniture-filled room, a trapdoor started to open. I dashed towards it, dodging around the antiques, as Hannoy flung it open and clambered furiously upwards. He pulled himself upright just as he reached me, and I put the wanna-be vampire down again just as fast. He slid across the floor from my punch and slammed up against a wall.
“Who said anything about humans trying to stop vampires?” I growled, advancing on him.
But then I paused, slowed by the expression on his face. Something like worship.
“I knew…I always knew you were out there…” he whispered. “You creatures of the night…not human, better than them, faster and stronger…”
Not human. The words stung like a knife.
“Shut up,” I snarled angrily. “You’re under arrest.”
Hannoy looked…betrayed. That was the only way to describe it. Then the sick sonofabitch threw himself at me, struggling and clawing, trying to get his teeth into my throat.
Brutally, I shoved him backwards. He came back again. I hit him in the face, hard. He got up again, blood running from his mouth. I smashed my elbow into his chest, lifting him off the ground, but he kept coming back for more.
Finally, I threw him back, smashed a chair to splinters, snatched up the largest splinter and -
“Doyle!” Kate snapped. She was standing by the trapdoor, gun levelled. Levelled at me.
I looked down at Hannoy. His face was a bloody pulp, and he was wheezing for breath.
The makeshift stake sounded very loud when it hit the ground.
“Sorry, Kate,” I stammered. “I was…I got carried away…”
Kate didn’t answer, just tucked her gun away and reached for her radio.
I returned to human, and dropped to my knees to try and keep the person that I had nearly killed breathing.