The writing on the glass door said "Arriway Private Investigations - We can find anyone anywhere" between the spider web cracks. At the moment, he didn't feel like he'd been living up to any of those words. The office hadn't seen a client in three and a half month after all, and the only reason he was sitting here was because he'd had the choice of paying rent on his apartment or the office the last time the bills came up and he'd chosen the office; the pallet he currently slept on was folded up in the closet.
He stretched and groaned slightly as his left shoulder popped audibly. He wasn't quite sure why he'd bothered getting up today. The soft pattering sound of rain hitting the gutter on the other side of the window behind his head only served to reinforce the thought.
"Definitely a rollover kind of day," he muttered to himself, rubbing a hand over eyes that desperately wanted to close in sleep.
"Hey, boy! You in here?"
He sighed, recognizing the voice right away. How could he not? He heard it entirely too much, the voice of the old man who managed the building his office was in, which was the reason (he told himself) that he hadn't told the old buzzard off yet. "What is it, Mr. Jason?"
A balding grey head pushed its way through the cracked open door; the top part of the man's body followed. "So you are in here, Ken boy. Some kid here to see you. Said it was real important."
He refused to let his hopes be raised. "Does he look like a client, Mr. Jason?"
A sharp snort came from the cadaverous old man face. "He looks like he just climbed up off the street."
"At the moment, I don't care if he's paying me to find his lost drugs. I need money."
"You're a boy after my own heart, Ken," the old man replied. "I'll let me in."
The old man stepped aside, and the door opened the last few inches it could to admit a very young man in a long trench coat. Rain-darkened blond hair plastered itself to his hair and neck, and impossibly large cornflower blue eyes stared straight at him. His face was solemn in a way that looked out of place on it. 'He looks just like a doll. I bet he's the most popular male prostitute in the city. Wonder why I haven't seen him about before. So why was the old man so certain he's street?'
"Can you really find anyone?" the young man interrupted his thoughts. His voice was soft and almost feminine, with just a touch of masculine deepness; it matched the figure he cut perfectly, too perfectly it seemed.
He nodded once. "That's what the sign says."
Just a bit, the young man's face lit up. "I need you to find my partner, please." He threw himself down in one of the chairs, either not noticing or ignoring the busted leather covering on the seat, leaning over the desk enough to stare at Ken with those huge earnest eyes. "Please! The police won't help me, even though she's been gone over twenty-four hours."
'Partner, eh? What does this kid need with a partner? Probably his pimp.' "Do you have a picture?"
Excitement lit up the boy's eyes, and for a moment, he thought the kid was going to hug him. "So you'll help me find her?" He nodded. The young man reached into the pocket of his trench coat and pulled out a battered-looking photograph, setting it on the desk before him and pointing to one of the four people displayed in it, another of which was the youth himself. "That's her. That's Claudia."
The even younger looking woman staring unhappily out of the image looked even more doll-like than her partner. At first glance, she looked perfectly Caucasian, the Aryan poster child with perfect blonde hair, but a second glance changed that opinion. Café au lait skin and tight ringlet curls spoke of a mixing of something a bit darker than Aryan somewhere in her family tree, and dark, dark eyes hinted at perhaps a bit of Asian blood thrown in the mix. "A bit of a mutt..." he muttered aloud.
"You can tell from the photo?" The youth blinked cutely. "She's half Creole and from near New Orleans, but her mother was Japanese." He settled back into his seat looking very calm and composed. "She vanished on a... mission three nights ago. She wouldn't leave me behind, so something must have happened. I went to everyone I could think of. Using a private investigator is my last resort." He looked up, hopeful again. "But you can find her, right?"
"That's what the door says." 'Mission...?' "You know this kind of an investigation does not come cheap, right?"
He nodded. "I can pay."
"What's your name, kid?" 'I've been around Mr. Jason too long. Now I'm calling everyone "kid."'
"Michael... It's Michael Brooks."
"And the girl in the photo?"
"Claudia LeRusso. My partner."
Michael bit the knuckle of his forefinger lightly in a way that made certain parts of Ken's body tighten; it was probably designed to do just that, he decided. The kid just did it automatically after so long. "Mr. Arriway..."
"It's just Ken, Michael," he interrupted in his most trustable manner that almost always made people open up to him. "Mr. Arriway was my father."
Michael didn't smile at the joke. "Ken, if I ask you something, can you promise me it will never leave this office?"
"Sure." 'Great, I've probably got a pair of runaway lovers on my hands or something. Damn...'
"First off, will you help me try to find my partner, Ken? She's like the only family I have left. I can't lose her."
'The poor kid looks like he's probably used to depending on her to be the strong one. He's certainly doesn't seem comfortable making decisions. Plus, he seems to be completely focused on her; when she vanished, it must have torn him to utter pieces.'
"I will do everything in my power to find your partner, Michael."
"And do you promise you won't tell mine and Claudia's secret to anyone?"
'He looks a lot like a kid when he does that. Just how old is he?' "I won't tell, I promise."
The boy spoke haltingly, staring at his own hands in his lap. "Mr. Arriway... Ken... do you... believe in vampires?"
26 October 2001
Yay!! Another chapter! I'm enjoying this! I've been working on these characters for longer than I've been writing fanfiction, and though they all gone through a lot of major revision, they're my babies. Ken is the youngest of all the characters I created for this; under various other names, he's only a year or so old. Claudia is the oldest, but only by a few months; she and Michael were created my freshmen year of high school, 1994. Do your own math.
Anyway, next chapter coming in the very near future. Keep an eye out for it!