Why a big crime city like Vegas didn't have their own Paranormal Investigator, Danny didn't have a clue - considering the current political positions of the demons residing there - but he didn't complain. Besides being there for work, he hadn't been there as a legal adult before, and his boss pretty much paid for everything to get him there.
“The only connection we've made between the three is that they were at Death Valley the same night they were killed.”
Danny glanced up at the Coroner as he spoke, pulling the other bodies out of their drawers. The other two looked almost identical to the freshest body in front of him - pale, naked, and a large gaping hole in their chests where the heart should have been.
Tilting his head to the side, the investigator placed a gloved finger against the cavity, inspecting the skin around it. A clean cut, with no visible signs of supernatural nature - charred flesh, rips and tears...
“I know of a few creatures who would go for the heart,” he mumbled. “The cut is too clean to be any animal, though. That narrows down my list a little. Have you checked for any satanic rituals in the area?”
“Lots of dead chickens, but no human sacrifices that we could tell.” The Coroner stepped next to Danny as the younger man bent down to inspect the inside of the body. “What are the possibilities?”
“Still too many at this point. I was just crossing off wild animals. I'd have to do more research.”
He straightened, stretching his arms above his head. He hadn't much time to recover after the long trip, as soon as the bus pulled into the station, there was an escort waiting to bring him to the morgue. He stunk of sweat and whatever else sort of odor that was emitting off his neighbor. More than anything he wanted to get to his hotel room where he could shower and sleep.
“I'll need a list of the victims’ closest family members with contact info. You said they were all at Death Valley at the time of the murder?”
The Coroner nodded as he took off his gloves and tossed them in the nearest bin as he walked out of the room.
“One of the hottest clubs in town that isn't exclusive to get in. We have the security footage of the victims alive and well during their estimated time of deaths.”
“Can I see those as well?” Danny followed the older man, also tossing his gloves in the bin.
The Coroner stopped at his desk, grabbing a few files and handing them out to Danny, who took them appreciatively and flipped through the top one.
“Well, normally I'd have no problem with it, but there are a few at the precinct who aren't as open about you being here as I am.”
The younger man expected this. Even though the paranormal have been publicly accepted as real, there are still some who refuse to believe in it, especially law enforcement. It was hard to understand that their latest victim was actually from space, or some prisoner really did burst into flame the moment they're hit with light, or their next door neighbor was a demon, just trying to live the simple life without hurting anyone.
Danny’s arm started burning at that last thought, just like it always did whenever the word demon came up. Rubbing it through his itchy wool sweater his sister made him didn't ease the irritation either.
Nodding to the Coroner, he shoved the files under his arm and held out his hand.
“I'll see what I can dig up,” he said as the two shook hands. Right now all he wanted was to get to his hotel and shower.
“I'll call you if anything else pops up, Inspector.”
With another nod of appreciation, Danny left the office the way he came just thirty minutes earlier. With the amount of animosity he's used to receiving when going to a new area, he was more than thankful for the Coroner for being so easy to let him inspect the bodies before they were dissected. Kindness wasn't unheard of in his line of work, but it was rare.
He stepped out into the hot sun, groaning as he wondered why he wore a sweater in the first place. Sure, it was chilly in Los Angeles where his office was stationed, but he should have planned ahead for the blistering heat of the desert.
Sometimes it was hard being the gracious older brother, never able to say “no” to whatever his sister asks of him. After having lost their parents a few years prior, she'd taken it upon herself to act like the motherly figure and fuss about his well being.
He pushed up the sleeves and rubbed the spot that was still bugging him.
“I get that way, too, after leaving that place,” he heard. Glancing at the street, he found the guy who was driving him around. The kid didn't look older than sixteen, but he swore he was twenty five.
Danny was twenty-five and he had more body hair than that kid - which was saying a lot because he hadn’t been able to grow hair as fast as any other man. Yeah, he knew there were creams and injections he could take to cure that, but, shortly after entering his twenties, he realized a hairy chest was no longer top priority.
He nodded in agreement to the kid, not really planning on going into detail with what he was actually feeling and why.
“So, where to now, boss?” the kid asked as they hopped into the larger than life SUV. Danny tried three times before he was able to slide into the passenger seat, whereas the kid did some sort of karate move as he bounced and twirled - probably added in a flip or two, who knows? - and he was already buckled by the time Danny reached out to pull the door close.
“Hotel, if you don't mind,” the weary man replied, opening the top file to begin reading.
“Oh, yeah. No problem. You're going to love it -”
And that was where Danny left the too-talkative cadet while he immersed himself in his work, absentmindedly rubbing his arm as he did so.
Three victims, all within five years of each other, who apparently liked to go clubbing. Each one was at the so-called Death Valley club in downtown at the estimated time of their murder, but it was a place each one frequented at least three times a week.
Danny disliked these cases the most, and yet they happened more frequently. What was it about clubs that people were attracted to? They were loud, way too overpopulated; and did anyone bother to examine the health issues tied with those places? They were dirty, smelly, and apparently deadly. These people probably contracted some sort of virus that ate at the heart or something...scientific, not supernatural, though he wouldn't mind the former either. He's played around with his fair share of bacteria and viruses, and he did know a few that would attack the organs like so.
Except the reports in his lap stated there were no abnormal antibodies present. There was no nicotine, any type of drug (legal or otherwise), no alcohol...in fact, these three people were probably the epitome of health…
So why were they missing their hearts? He knew that if a creature was going to eat it, it wouldn't stop to think if the heart was healthy or not. Not even something who was consciously aware of such things would bother to test it out first.
If they weren't eating it, then maybe as a trophy? There were some who believed the soul was in the heart...
Danny’s face fell. The soul… Glancing out the window as the city blew by them, he couldn't help but remember his childhood, one he wished he could forget…
His arm hurt again, and he rubbed the scar there. Fire, death, chaos...and, in the center of it all, a power-hungry demon, obsessed with ruling over the world and turning the human race into its personal slaves - it was a scene right out of a sci-fi movie, and not a very highly budgeted one at that. He and his sister managed to banish him to whatever hellhole he came from, but that didn't stop the nightmares Night after night for two years Danny and his sister were subject to night terrors, until their parents moved them to Los Angeles, thinking the city life would be better suited than the quiet of the mountainous small town.
It hadn’t helped, though, not really. Sure, the nightmares stopped, but then they started noticing things in their everyday lives. They first became aware of more supernatural occurrences when kids from their high school started dying in mysterious ways. At first it just seemed like a human serial killer had popped up, straight out of the movies, some had claimed. Then, after four kids had been killed, Danny channeled his adolescent obsession for mysteries and decided to investigate; he discovered another demon possessed another teen’s body and was feeding off the other kids.
Apparently the demon had followed them, from their hometown of Bishop, and it clued him in that there were others, possessing human bodies to walk around undetected, killing and wreaking havoc as they saw fit.
Danny had a hunch that one of those demons was now wreaking havoc in Vegas, and Death Valley was its headquarters. If that was the case, he'd be able to wrap this up and get an early start for the trip back home.
The vehicle stopped in front of a shabby motel. it was perfect for a drug deal, or other illegal acts involving sex, money, and the like, and Danny found himself wishing his chief wasn't so cheap so he could stay in a place that didn't promise a possible murder attempt. If he were lucky, his culprit would be staying in the room next to his...it was a possibility.
“I’ve already taken care of check-in,” the kid spoke up as he pulled into a parking spot. The blue door in front of them was labelled with a 12, the numbers nothing more than a pair of flimsy pieces of wood that barely hung on the door with a rusty nail.
Danny grunted his acknowledgement, and he hopped out of the hulking vehicle before the kid could say anything else. All he wanted to do was take a shower - hopefully the bathroom was somewhat clean, but, at this point, he’d be willing to wash in whatever grime could be waiting for him in the tub. He was barely aware of the kid following suit, hopping out of the SUV, but the paranormal investigator didn’t have the energy to question what his escort was doing as he moved to grab his bags from the backseat.
He sniffed again as he watched the kid unlock the door to his room and push it open. He crossed his arms and let the kid do his show of doing his protection thing. The kid slowly made his way into the room, and even though Danny really wanted to follow - anything to get out of the heat and into a, hopefully, air conditioned room - he stayed behind and let the kid pretend to be the hero. Besides, if anything was waiting for him in that room, simple weapons that the kid had on his person wouldn’t be able to stop it.
Moments later the kid walked out and nodded at him, pocketing his gun and immediately grabbed one of Danny's bags. Following the kid, Danny was mildly surprised to see his room was clean and decent. There was a faint cigarette smell but that was the only thing he noticed. Luck was smiling on him so far, and he hoped he wasn’t pushing it by praying for a just-as-clean bathroom.
“Oh my God, Daniel! You had me so worried!”
Danny moved his phone away from his ear as his sister proceeded to shout at him. He let her shriek into the empty space of the car he was renting as he searched for the infamous Death Valley.
“You promised to call the second you arrived in Vegas.”
“I was working as soon as I pulled into the bus stop, Mave, ” he replied as he put her on the speaker. He was trying to get through the Strip without hitting anyone.
“So?” She quickly switched to her assistant mode. She wasn't as in tune with the paranormal as Danny, but she represented the normal human part of their investigation team, asking the obvious questions that he wouldn't normally think of. “How bad is it?”
“I’m eighty percent sure it's a demon.”
“You don't think it’s…” she trailed off, not wanting to voice the painful memories. Danny tightened his grip on the steering wheel as his arm itched.
“No, ” he said with absolute surety. “This is something else.” He licked his dry lips as he turned down a side street. “He killed chaotically. This one seems methodical and precise.”
His sister said something else, but the sight of the nightclub drowned out her words. Big and gaudy, the sign itself was a testament to what it was: a demon’s lair. The words “Death Valley” shone brightly in black and red neon, against a backdrop of neon flames. The building itself was three stories, nothing spectacular about the top two stories. The first floor was lit up around its outer wall, and people lined the sidewalk waiting for entry.
It looked like any regular nightclub, except filled with demons.
The building was at the end of the street he was on, so he pulled over and watched the front doors for a few minutes.
The sound of his sister’s voice startled him. He had completely forgotten she was still on the line. Embarrassed, he took her off speaker and brought the phone back to his ear.
“Sorry.” His voice cracked and he coughed to clear it. “I’m working now.”
“Please be careful. You know how you get when demons are involved.”
“I’ll be fine, Mave.” His voice cracked again, betraying his nerves. “It’s just recon. I’m not actually trying to arrest anyone yet.” A pause, and then, “I don't have a gun with me.”
“That makes me both relieved and more worried. Call me, anyway.” He didn't have to ask her to reiterate. They had a pact to call one another once either of them can feel themselves getting pulled too far into their own darknesses. They couldn't explain it, but it helped.
“I love you. Be careful.”
“Love you too.” He hung up, dropped the little device on the passenger seat, and let out a long sigh, feeling as if he had been holding his breath for hours. He understood her worry, he would be feeling it too had their roles been reversed. Luckily, the younger sibling was pregnant - only eight weeks along - and decided it was best for her to stick to desk duty.
He sighed again, rubbed his eyes, and tried to focus on the task at hand, letting go of all his thoughts of his sister and their circumstances. He had to forget about their past - He’s gone, the siblings made sure of it - and this was just a low-level demon making stupid mistakes. Danny dealt with situations like this all the time - hell, it’s his job, for Christ’s sake. He couldn't let Mavis bringing up old wounds get to him.
He took another meditative breath, reminding himself that this was no different than any other demon ignoring the laws of humans, a promise they made in order to exist on this plane.
He grabbed his phone and wallet and exited the car, locking it. Placing his fists into his pants pockets, he made his way to the front door.
A line of people stretched about half a block, and he wondered just how popular this place really was compared to the high-class places on the Strip. Surely these people would rather party in the Mirage or Luxor? Danny would, but he wasn't blinded by the concept of doing anything with demons other than killing them.
According to his research Death Valley was run exclusively by a pair of demons, Theo and Luke. Luke handled the entertainment, providing a show courtesy of his own band most nights. Theo was the business one, making sure no one broke any rules or cause any fights.
However, if a human wanted to live dangerously and make a deal, this was allegedly the place to go. Making a deal with a demon was technically illegal, mostly because it ended with the mortal giving up their life to pay the demon back. Danny highly doubted there were only three victims out there with gaping holes in their chests.
He bypassed the line, walking right up to the large bouncer - a man twice Danny’s size in both height and weight. He was a scary man, but a man nonetheless; Danny wasn't intimidated. A few people cried out their disapproval at his blatant cutting in line, but he ignored them. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, he was obviously underdressed for a party. He would hope some people would realize he didn't give two shits about drinking and dancing.
The bouncer raised an eyebrow as he watched Danny walk up to him, keeping silent until the younger man was standing in front of him.
“Good evening, sir, ” Danny began, plastering his most pleasant expression on his face and holding his hand out, fully aware the scary bouncer wouldn't shake it. “My name is Daniel Moore. I have an appointment with the owner of this establishment.”
“No one told me about any appointment.” He was a low talker. Of course he was.
“No, he wouldn't have. I’m taking over a case involving this building, and I have some questions I need to ask.”
“The police have already been here-”
“But I haven't.” Danny dropped the pleasantries and became forceful. “You tell them who I am and I promise they’ll want to speak with me.” Considering all demons on Earth have him and his sister to thank for them being on Earth in the place, he has never been denied an audience.
The man glared down at Danny, but the smaller man held his ground and glared back. After about five minutes, the bouncer pulled a walkie-talkie out of his back pocket and spoke into the speaker. Moments later another voice sounded and the man moved aside and let Danny through. With his pleasant expression back on, Danny thanked the man and entered the darkened entryway.
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