Hellbender by Laurie R. King

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Authors: Laurie R. King
    “Hellbender” originally appeared in a short story collection called Down These Strange Streets .  Editors Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin asked a number of writers to do stories of urban fantasy / crime: SciFi noir, hardboiled paranormal, fantasy PI stories—anything in which the investigator (cop, PI, amateur) works a case with supernatural elements. The book’s original title was to be Fantastic Dicks , which rather set the tone for the stories, and although they later backed down from the name, by then it was too late: “Hellbender” had already begun to take shape in one writer’s fevered brain.
    I suspect Gardner and George were expecting a Laurie King story in which Sherlock Holmes met, say, Count Dracula’s granddaughter. Instead, they got a tale in which the investigator himself brings in the supernatural elements.
    Some day , maybe, a Mike Heller collection?
    –Laurie R. King
    For publications, book excerpts, and information, go to www.LaurieRKing.com
    Copyright Laurie R. King.  Originally published in Down These Strange Streets (eds. Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin), October, 2011, ISBN 978-0-441-02074-4

    by Laurie R. King
    I looked across my desk at my new client, wondering what she’d say if I fished out the bottle and offered her a drink.
    Might be a little early in the morning, I decided. Might be a little straitlaced.
    “Miss Savoy, I—”
    “Ms.” The pretty sniff she gave didn’t really go along with the sharpness of the correction, but I let it pass, and turned my eyes onto the sheet of paper. On it were eight names. Next to each was a date, stretching back eight months. The first seven lines were typed, a printout. The last one and its date, two weeks past, were handwritten.
    “Ms. Savoy, I have to say, I’m not really sure what you’re asking me to do. Which of these people do you want me to find?”
    “All of them!”
    At that, I raised my eyes to hers. They were big and blue and welling with just enough tears to get the message across, but not enough to threaten her makeup. The color had to be some kind of an implant, I thought—although you’d swear her hair was a natural blond.
    Interesting fact: People of her kind just weren’t born blond.
    “I don’t do class-action suits, Ms. Savoy, and this many names will keep me busy for weeks. How about we start with one of them, and see how far we get?” I could see from her clothes that she didn’t have the sort of money we were talking about here—her shoes and coat had once cost her something, but that was a whole lot of cleanings ago.
    “Well, that would be Harry. He’s the last one to go—the last one I know of—but I’ve known him the longest.”
    And, she might have said, he was the one that mattered most.
    “Okay, start with him.”
    “Well, he disappeared two weeks ago. I was supposed—”
    “Tell me a little about Harry, to begin with. How long have you known him?”
    “Pretty much my whole life,” she said, sounding surprised. “Harry’s my brother. Harry Savoy.”
    “Uh-huh,” I said, a noise that I tried to make noncommittal, but that came out a little disbelieving.
    “No, really. We were both adopted, a year apart.”
    I made the noise again, although this time it may have had a little more understanding in it. I knew the kind of people who adopt more than one of this woman’s kind: You probably do, too. And call them well-meaning or saints or just delusional, they’re usually very religious. Which is funny, considering that those who’d rather stamp her kind out altogether call themselves religious, too.
    “I was two and a half when I was adopted, but Harry was almost five. I never knew exactly what his early life was like, except that it was hard. For one thing, he was more . . . that is to say, you can tell that I’m . . . ?”
    “Yeah.” Although it was true, a lot of

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