Here's a snippet from "Basement Blues", just for Sample Sunday (and a huge thanks to Mary Beeson from mystic thoughts who put the idea into my head to start with).
The woman sitting in my office chair was stunning. White blonde hair carefully slicked into a chignon, dolce and gabanna bag, smartly tailored blue pants suit. She was also dead, which I was having a bit of an issue with.
Not that I'm prejudiced - my own partners are what you might call life challenged, and I have a little condition of my own - but the smell was getting to me. She'd sprayed some very expensive perfume over herself, and the average human wouldn't have noticed it through the scent. I am not average. I'm also not human, and the scent of decomp was growing stronger by the minute.
Eventually I lunged for the window, pushing the sill up and leaning out for great gulps of fresh night air. It was either that or throw up on our latest client, and I was fairly sure that suit was designer. I couldn't afford the bill.
"I'm sorry," Susan Armstrong said from behind me. Her vocal cords were starting to rot, giving her a husky, slightly grating voice.
"It isn't your fault," I said, still leaning as far out of the window as I could. I didn't have to turn around to know that she was crying. I could smell it.
Sunset had been nearly twenty minutes ago. Astrid was late and Ruth was in the field. I needed at least one of them here. I never know what to do with a crying woman. How to handle a crying zombie was so far out of my league I might as well be on Pluto.
A noise outside the main door caught my attention, and I started to relax. At least one of the girls was in.
A moment later, Astrid stuck her head around the door jamb and took in the scene.
"I think we need to go upstairs," she announced, and disappeared again. Vampires have a strong sense of smell - not on the same level as mine, but still acute. She would have smelled the corpse - now wobbling to her feet on 4 inch heels - from the lobby.
Our building has a roof terrace. It was late enough that nobody else was using it - no office drone in their right mind hangs out after sunset in this part of town - and although small it is open to the night air, which was a major requirement right now.
We sat Susan down at the little plastic garden table with the cracked white chair. Astrid produced a pack of cigarettes, and I almost pounced on her to get one. I hate the smell of tobacco smoke, but even in the fresh air Susan was pretty ripe.
"Hope you don't mind," Astrid said as she lit up. Her tone left little doubt that it wouldn't matter much either way. Never get between a vampire and her nicotine fix. Actually, never get between a vampire and anything they really want.
"Hell, go for it," Susan shrugged. "It's not like it'll kill any of us." She smiled bitterly.
"How did you hear about us?" I asked. Our agency wasn't known for advertising. The paranormal community is pretty small and very firmly in the closet.
Our walk-ins were usually humans who had no idea what we were.
"Your on-line ad." Susan rummaged in her bag while Astrid and I looked at each blankly.
"We have an ad?" I whispered.
"We're on-line?" Astrid whispered back.
"Here." Susan held out the print-out of a web-page.
""Human or superhuman - or just plain inhuman - we can solve your problem. Blue Moon Detective Agency." Seriously?" Astrid rolled her eyes and passed the sheet back to Susan. "Bloody awful tagline."
"You do understand we can't cure you?" I said. That solve your problem thing was worrying me. I could imagine a number of ways potential clients could take that.
"I imagine a good splash of butane and a match would cure me just fine," Susan said dryly. "At least according to Hollywood."
Astrid shrugged. "That works on most things. The movies can't get everything wrong."
We both sniggered.
"So - you want us to find your killer?" I asked.
"I know who killed me," Susan said.
"Do you need help bringing him or her to the police?" I was groping at straws here, and knew it. Astrid sighed.
"Now that would be impressive." Susan raised an eyebrow. "Hello, zombie? I ate the bastard."
"Much as I'm enjoying watching Billy stuff both feet in his mouth," Astrid said, nudging me to close my mouth, "why do you need to hire us?"
"I think my basement is haunted. I need you to find out why, and what I need to do to stop it."
Okay. I didn't see that one coming.