It was looking bad. I didn't like this at all.
What was I going to do?
I think both my thumbs were left thumbs.
There was no way to be sure. Not this time of morning. Curse my recently uncursed luck. Wanda, my witch doctor, was practically paying her mortgage unhexing me. As long as I still had one thumb on each hand did it matter?
Maybe they were both right thumbs? Who had the right to say? I'm not an armchair thumbologist on my best day, let alone a professional one on a work day.
I shoved this discovery away in my head for later and got back to work. After all, I was spending someone else's money at a decent clip.
Surveillance is a drag, but paying attention to other people paid my bills, so I stopped comparing my thumbs to each other and started looking into the mirror that was aimed at another mirror that was reflecting what was going on at the Davis estate directly through my eyeballs into my brain, which translated that information into what I was seeing before me, but which only really existed within my mind.
This process was called optics, a term I learned from late night basic cable documentaries. How I do enjoy them.
I'd been laying on the floor of my car contemplating my thumbs and looking at the mirror's reflection for four hours so far and all I had to show for it was a check for five hundred bucks. I often wonder why so many in my field love to complain. I enjoy my job, even when I don't. How can you hate anything at $125 per hour?
My name is Thomas Jeffrey Washington, and I'm a discrete detective. A discrete detective is like a private detective, but more so.
Most private detectives are listed in the phone book, so you can call 'em up when you need them. Also, they tend to know very little about monsters and evil magics.
I don't even have a phone. I know how to handle most monsters, and evil magics don't bother me much either. There’s ways around them.
I may not have a phone or a phone number, but I do have some phone letters which I won in a poker game with some local Frankensteins. Phone letters are letters which, when translated into numbers and then dialed into any common telephone will cause the call to be routed to the phone nearest me at the time.
I also have an office located in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. Chinatowns are always at the center of a city's supernatural activities. It’s a known fact. If you don't believe me, go wandering around your local Chinatown late at night.
The sign on my office door doesn't say "Discrete Detective" since that runs contrary to discretion. Instead, my office door has a sign reading "The Soulconomist Monthly." Above the door hangs a small framed painting of a red rose, the secret sign of my true profession.
As far as the world is concerned, I'm a magazine publisher that never publishes anything. Not even by mistake. That leaves me with just enough time to do other people's laundry.
Today's load came compliments of a Mr. Davis, a local distraught husband. He dialed my letters a few days ago and was concerned about the behavior of his wife, who had recently become in his words "Weird. Like too weird. I can't explain it the way I'm already explaining it let alone a way other than that way".
I trusted that Mr. Davis was telling the truth because the enchanted lie detecting skull which I kept on the shelf didn't start spitting fire. It's a dramatic way to detect lies, for sure - but that's Hoodoo for you.
I asked him if she had been spending her nights standing on the roof, signaling to the sky with a flashlight because that's usually a bad sign. A real bad sign, usually. When he said that no she hadn't, I sighed real long to express my relief and lit a smoke, then I stared at him like I was sizing him up or looking into the depths of his being, but really, I was thinking of more questions to ask him.
This move usually resulted in the potential client revealing some undisclosed piece of information that would give me a rough idea about how many times I could be expected to get pistol whipped before I got my check.
It worked as usual.
"There is another thing, I, uh, may have forgotten."
Like a charm. They don't teach you stuff like that in mail order detective school; you have to learn it on the streets.
"She's been trying to summon a mummy."
He went on to explain how he reached this conclusion in a rather convincing manner which left me no choice but to believe him.
For an average man, Mr. Davis had an oddly refined and detailed grasp on the ecology of mummies. This, while unusual, wasn't impossible to grasp. Many people have strange hobbies and interests. That's just a known fact.
I told him I would look into it, and get back to him.
After he left, I cross referenced "mummy", "daytime surveillance” and "five hundred dollar retainer" into a special database which I kept for personal reasons.
Four times, roughly. Might have to get another bottle of aspirin.
I felt bad for Mr. Davis. A woman with mummy trouble is one of the worst things that can happen to a marriage, or so I kept hearing. I've never been married, but I have been preemptively widowed.
I was once a regular man. Then a mummy stole and ate my fiancé.
Ever since, Supernatural and Spiritual bullshit has been a pet peeve of mine. Lots of things out there make thinking the world is a normal place difficult. As long as those things keep knocking on people's doors, people will keep knocking on mine, and I'll go out and knock on that first thing's door. Every time. As long as my fees are met. That's a fact.
I didn't fall into discrete detection and by extension, evil fighting for any noble reason -strictly vengeance related ones. Turns out that I had a knack for it, though. It sure pays the bills well.
I'm no hero. I just don't like Evil. It's unnecessarily dramatic, and it gives me a headache.
All of a sudden my attention shot from my navel to between my eyes in the blink of an eye, because that's how long as such a thing usually takes. People like to underestimate the speed at which consciousness can shift. Easier to sell books that way.
I heard it before I saw its re-reflection in my mind's mirror. It was clearly the unmistakable sound of a delivery truck shifting gears at a stop sign. I was expecting a brown van or a postal truck, but what I saw was far worse and made me wish I had my gun in addition to my keen perceptive facilities and affability.
A gun is more a symbol than a weapon, anyone who carries one agrees to that statement, often without realizing it. I usually carry a Colt snub nosed .38 caliber five shot something or other. It has a dime plating and some special modifications. A dime plated gun is twice as good as its nickel plated equivalent. Everyone knows that.
The modifications I made allow me to use regular bullets or the ones I make special. The special ones are nothing more than enchanted silver plated wooden stakes. These bullets let me shoot at people, Draculas, werewolves, wolfulas and wereulas with confidence but would do nothing against mummies. You got to burn mummies. Nothing burns like a mummy. The illegality of flamethrowers is the bane of mummy hunters everywhere.
As I was lamenting the absence of a ballistic solution to my souring day, an old bread truck with "H.O.S” crudely painted on the front door stopped unnaturally right in front of the Davis house.
H.O.S Stood for Harry's Occult Shop.
Occult supply stores are a nuisance at best. Harry's is terrible. It was the kind of place that happily encouraged poor people to trade money for hope without ever encouraging them to stop.
The place was filled with all manner of weird crap; they even had an old mummy locked in the back storage room. Far as I knew, the mummy had yet to be activated and was still dormant. Mummy activation was a difficult process. One that I'm glad I don't have to explain to myself right now.
Far as I knew that mummy was unactivated. Far as I knew had never been far enough, ever, and I doubted it would be now.
If Mrs. Davis was looking to summon a mummy, she would need one that was unactivated. Once the mummy was activated, it could no longer be summoned. That's household knowledge.
This fact meant two things. Mrs. Davis was summoning a mummy, and she was almost ready to perform the mummies alive ritual. I didn't know its proper name, so I used one from a cartoon I once had the pleasure of viewing. Cartoons usually know what's going on, least in my experience.
Well, this is what I get for bragging about how easy the first five hundred dollars of today came along. The back end on this one was going to be brutal.
A situation like this has two options. I didn't have time for options, I only had time to make a plan and then do something. So I transformed myself into a cat. An orange one to be specific.
Being able to transform into an animal of some sort is an old gag, I choose to be a cat because it makes my jazz records sound better. There are other advantages of course.
Since I did something the next step was to make a plan, so I made one. There was no time to wallow in the fact that I had just done things backwards. My plan was to sneak around the Davis house to see if I could earn my fee by acquiring information that will facilitate solving the case.
By the time I got where I was headed the Harry's truck was long gone. I was able to see into the living room by being sneaky, a natural byproduct of being a cat.
What I saw was five mummies, all inert and unactivated plus one activated mummy which appeared to be instructing Mrs. Davis on how to perform the Mummies Alive Ritual. A human needs to activate a mummy. If mummies could activate mummies, no one would be safe from mummies.
The head mummy is going to need to eat a lot of finances to pull off a Mummies Alive times five. A Mummies Alive times five meant everything was going to get ten times worse before it got nine times better and could be dealt with in as reasonable a fashion as such a thing could be resolved.
I detest resolving problems; it means you didn't solve them right the first time.
As I was peeping, the activated mummy stopped his instructions and worse than looked at me. He looked double right at me. That means he looked at and through me. That means he knew I was I mummy hunter and not an orange cat who enjoyed Duke Ellington records when he wasn't snooping on mummies.
The stench of a mummy hater is strong; I'm surprised things got this far before I was noticed. I had seen enough to know what to do so I turned and fled. Fast as I could.
That mummy knew what I was, and I couldn't do anything about that. I had to get back to my office, open my mail, get my sack of dimes, hope no one is using my favorite pay phone and call Sam. Sam would call Danny. Danny would take a break from sleeping with models and rent his flame thrower to me. Good guy that Danny.
There was no choice but to leave the car behind. Sam would get it later. I knew he could be trusted to do so because it was his car.
Sam Oddly was a good friend of mine and the owner of my favorite bar. He has ways way beyond my ways of handling the weird. I've trusted him with my sanity more than once, and he lent me his car often.
Danny was a professional character. By that I mean he made his living paying writers to put him in their stories and was a fixture at Sam's bar. He was up to eight feet tall, depending on how he was feeling and constantly surrounded by beautiful women. Some of whom he slept with. Some of whom even slept back, if you see what I'm saying.
Danny was over 349 years old. No one was sure how he did it. "He's in all those stories. That's how." was what Sam always said.
Like I said, Danny had a flamethrower and was also an avid and successful zombie killer. We frequently enjoyed exchanging pleasantries, shooting the shit and playing the juke box. Sometimes I go meet him intending to borrow his flamethrower and end up drowning my teeth and forgetting my name.
I arrived back at my office and entered through a special cat door, I then re-assumed my human form and sat down at my desk with the intent fish my dime sack out of my whiskey drawer, so I could go dial up Sam.
Then something unfortunate happened. Suddenly and without warning or notice two men came through the door, one even had a gun. The other had an odd smell. This was problematic for far more than the obvious reasons. I didn't even open my mail yet.
After an embarrassing scuffle and a sub standard display of my usually dependable pugilistic skills, I felt the familiar sting of being hit on the head. My perceptive facilities dimmed and the void took me once again.