Infected universe short – Little Knives

A two part story with Chai and Holden. This one takes place months after Infected: Throwaways, but doesn’t really contain any spoilers, so you can read it regardless.

**

Little Knives

It was not what Chai was expecting, but what, in retrospect, had he expected? It wasn’t something he had honestly thought about. And yet, he still had unconscious expectations. Weird how that worked.

All he knew was it was an address that was in a part of Seattle where he had never been, which was strange, because he’d been sure he’d been everywhere in this city. But it was on the seedier side of town, although far from seediest – otherwise known as his old stomping grounds. It had that odd zoning that seemed like it was all commercial until, bam, an A-frame house suddenly appeared, as if dropped by a tornado into the middle of an industrial zone. You used to come across this more frequently, but now that space and cost were at a real premium, it was rare. Another fading sign of what Seattle used to be, and what it was becoming.

The best thing you could say was it appeared kind of cozy, and even though there was an equipment rental lot on one side, and storage warehouses on the other, it was seriously quiet at night. The businesses were closed, and everyone had gone home, if they had a home to go to. The day was probably hell, but if you were at work, you wouldn’t notice.

To call the yard postage stamp size was probably overselling it. Chai was pretty sure he could lay in the yard and spill over it, and he was by no means big. The fact that someone bothered to fence it was mind boggling, but hey, maybe it used to be a part of a neighborhood, before every house around it got sold and replaced. But still, that would be weird, right?

He walked up to the door and knocked, admiring how the thick, dark curtains hardly allowed any light to escape. This was honestly a great murder house. Probably not the spookiest house in Seattle by any means, but a nice place to hide your evil from the world. Chai wanted to believe he was being melodramatic, but honestly, since they got this case, he had this leaden feeling in his gut, like he’d guzzled a couple cans full of liquid mercury. This case felt familiar in all the worst ways, and Holden agreed. There was something about patterns repeating that made your skin crawl the more you saw them echo. Things should be better; time should have healed everything. But wounds ripped open and widened, and nothing really got better, just a different kind of bad. Chai could almost hear his therapist telling him he was concentrating on the negative again. These days, it was hard to be anything else.

Holden had told him he didn’t have to do this, but he felt, for his own peace of mind, he had to know for sure. He didn’t think he could honestly stop Holden no matter what, but this is what it took to allow him to sleep at night. He wanted to confirm it, see if what he thought was true was indeed factual. Chai was ready to knock on the door harder, with the head of his cane this time, but there was a shift of light beyond the peephole, and the door creaked open. Chai found himself face to face with a bland white man, coming up on middle age. He was in his forties, but it was hard to pin down if he was in early or late, as he had one of those chubby faces that looked younger as age started to settle into your bones. The one comfort Chai had taken from never being exactly as thin as he wanted to be was the slender didn’t age terribly well. At some point, thin became brittle and stark. What had Dee called it? Case hardened. Gravity was as merciless as time.

The man’s blue eyes glared at him, recognizing him from the phone’s tiny screen. He’d catfished him on Grindr, just so he could confirm the account and location. “You? How the hell did you find out where I lived?”

“That is a story I’d be happy to tell you, as soon as you invite me in.”

He shook his head. He had a close cropped beard that was trying and failing to hide a weak chin. “I told you, I don’t meet people at home -”

“I’m a private detective, and I think you want to talk to me. Unless you’d rather I call the cops right now. Your choice.”

Fear flashed through his eyes, as quick as lightening, but Chai had seen it, even if now he covered it up with irritation. “Call them for what? Hitting up a guy on Grindr -“

“Daniel Hernandez,” Chai interrupted, watching him carefully for his reaction.

There was no sign he recognized the name, but the fact that a detective was here, looking for someone, was not a huge shock to him. He was trying to cover up his lack of surprise with irritation, but it wasn’t enough. “Look, your friend isn’t here. Sorry to disappoint you.”

He tried to close the door, but Chai jammed his cane in the crack, and said, “You really don’t want to know how I found you?”

That got him. He narrowed his eyes skeptically, but he held the door open, and said, “Five minutes.”

Chai felt like telling him Fox didn’t need that long, but didn’t. No point in ruining the real surprise, was there?

He’d been hoping the house was kind of like a Tardis, and would be bigger on the inside, but it wasn’t. It was compact, and Chai didn’t think it was cramped, although he did wonder if his opinion would change the longer he stayed here. It was relatively neat and almost stereotypically male, with lots of earth tones and no real bright or pale colors. As much as he wanted to project on it, he couldn’t – maybe the guy just had poor taste. “Your name is Michael Trevor Sweeney, but you go by Trevor, because every other man is named Michael”, Chai said, as he sat on the arm of one of Trevor’s living room chairs. He didn’t sit in the chair because he didn’t want to get too comfortable, and he wanted to have his cane ready to use as a weapon if things really went south. But at least he wouldn’t have to rely on his still poor fighting skills. All he had to do was stall for a few seconds.

Trevor didn’t sit down. He crossed his arms over his somewhat barrel chest and glowered. “What the fuck do you want?”

“I told you already. Daniel Hernandez.”

“I don’t know who your friend is. he’s not here. You’ve got the wrong information.”

“You hit him up on Grindr a week ago. He had a thing for daddies, and you like darker skinned twinks. You met him at the Twilight Motel, and Danny hasn’t been seen since. To reiterate, where is Daniel Hernandez?”

Trevor scoffed. “I’ve got no fucking clue. We fucked and he left. I didn’t ask him for his itinerary.”

“You see, last week, when you hit Danny up on Grindr? He was using his roommate’s phone, because his was charging. He also ordered a Lyft with that phone. We tracked down the driver, and he said that he dropped Danny off at Twilight, and he said Danny told him he might call him back in an hour, but he never did. Not a big deal, that happens quite a bit. But from what we could figure out, mainly thanks to security cameras that I bet you didn’t know the Twilight Motel had in its parking lot, the only cars that left for several hours after the drop off was yours and two others. And we’ve tracked down the two others, and the explanation for their stays was completely pedestrian. If we thought they were suspects, we’d have skipped you. But they’re not, so that leaves you.”

“You keep saying we,” Trevor replied.

Chai couldn’t hide the smirk. Calculating the odds of getting rid of the inquirers, was he? That was certainly something an innocent person did. Just like screaming witch hunt all the time. “My partner. It’s easier to be a P.I. in pairs.”

Chai watched a muscle work in Trevor’s jaw, as he considered his options carefully. “But you came alone.” Almost a question, but again, not something a completely innocent person would necessarily ask first.

“Do I look like two people to you? Somebody’s gotta hold down the office.” Chai asked. It really didn’t answer the question, but Chai didn’t expect him to notice.

Trevor nodded, and drifted over towards his sofa. Chai wondered if he had a weapon stashed there. It’d be weird, but not necessarily out of the question. “I have to ask myself, if you think I’ve done something, why not go straight to the cops?”

Usually, that would be a fair question. But cops was the best case scenario for this guy, and he had no idea how to break it to him. “Because I was hoping you’d tell me where he was. There was no reason to get the cops involved before I got some answers, ‘cause nothing makes a guy shut up faster than police on the scene. Why? If you’d like to call the cops, be my guest.”

Trevor stared at him, possibly trying to judge his veracity. Chai let him. He’d never guess the truth. “If I demand you get out of my house, would you leave?”

“Of course. It’s your house. But then I’d call the cops.”

“What for?”

“You tell me,” Chai said. “What did you do to Daniel Hernandez?”

**
To Be Continued …

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