Chapter VIII: Bounty-huntingShortly after my adventures in the haunted hotel, I dragged myself out of the sewers. I was spending so much time wading through figurative shit that I wanted to spend as little time literally doing it as possible.
Hopefully that's the last I'll have to go down there.
I covered the manhole, and stepped out of the alley, turning to get by bearings.
'Convenient', I murmured, remembering the bail bond I'd picked up from the diner. Maybe there'd be more clues to Lily's whereabouts inside. I checked the door, wondering whether the place would be open this late.
Kilpatrick's 24 hour bail-bonds the sign read. We NEVER close!
Like the rest of Santa Monica, the inside of the building was dingy. Badly-lit, with the sickly odour of stale sweat, the front office was hardly inspiring. Neither was the man hunched over the filing cabinet. I cleared my throat noisily, and the man jumped up, spinning around, oily smile on his face.
'Ah, I see!', I exclaimed, feigning interest. 'So this is your business then?'
I made a great show of looking around. To the left. To the right. I went so far as to lift the lid of an empty pizza box.
'Employees? I don't see many around here, Arthur, do you?'
'Bounty hunting huh? Sounds like a fun line of work.'
The less I have to hear about your balls the better.
'So, is your bounty hunter as good as you used to be then?'
I attempted to keep the guy talking as I covertly gazed around the room, wondering where I might find information about Lily, or Rolf Toter, the man whose name was on the bail bond.
'Oh really? That's a pity. If he's gone AWOL, why not get another bounty hunter?'
Ah-ha. Computer in the corner. He must have a databse on the system with that kind of info available.
I turned my attention back to Kilpatrick, an easygoing smile spreading across my face.
'Why not? Got nothing else planned this evening.'
Kilpatrick, despite his car salesman veneer, seemed to know his trade. Inspired, I decided to broach another matter with him.
'Before I go', I casually enquired, 'you heard much about that incident on the pier?'
'A serial killer? Got any info besides his modus operandi?'
Kilpatrick shrugged. 'Not really pal. All we know so far is the two guys had a record. Beyond that, only thing linking 'em is what state the bodies are. Didn't go quick, that's fer sure.'
'Interesting. OK then Art, I'll go hunt your bounty hunter, shall I?'
I left the building. The computer system could wait. With Kilpatrick being in the office all night, I wouldn't be able to use his computer system without him knowing. Be better to get on his good side first, then I could use it on a whim. If not...well, I seemed to have a way with people these days.
I made my way over to the apartment complex, and used the keycard on the door opposite Mercurio's. I considered dropping by, then decided to let him sleep off his aches.
Nice place for a bounty hunter. Must be good at it.
I surveyed the room for any obvious clues as to his whereabouts. Idly wondering why Kilpatrick didn't do this himself, I picked up a billfold that was lying on the coffee table, and a silver ring that had dropped down by the sofa.
As I walked past, I hit the play button on a dictaphone on a side-table, listening to the message as I looked at a poster of a model. The name 'Imalia' was written in bright red writing along the bottom.
'Still working on the McGee case...he seems to be running a tattoo parlour here in Santa Monica off Main Street...
I walked into the kitchen, opening the fridge, inspecting cupboards.
'...I'm recording everything on the laptop...
I walked over to the sofa and sat down, opening the laptop lid and powering on the system.
'This is Carson signing off...no wait, that sounds stupid...
The player stopped. I looked intently at the screen.
Access denied: Please enter password
Carson had protected his system pretty well. The usual passwords weren't working. Bountyhunter seemed like a long shot anyway...what could it be...
Tapping my finger on the table, I absent-mindedly looked around the room. My eyes focused on the poster.
No. It couldn't be.
It could. Entering the world 'Imalia' gave me complete access to the system. According to the notes, Carson had made a few visits to the tattoo parlour, but the place had been closed. Acquiring a key to the place, he'd gone in, but McGee wasn't there. He figured he'd try there one more time for any indication he may have skipped town.
The key to the tattoo parlour had been left on the TV set. I took it, then left, locking the door behind me.
The tatoo-parlour was situated next to the medical centre. Whether an amusing coincidence, or an unfortunate necessity, I wasn't wholly sure. Using the key I'd borrowed from Carson, I stepped into the building.
The inside was a complete mess. The wallpaper peeling, the furniture chipped and badly scuffed. A quick investigation of the waiting room and tattooing room gave no indication of where McGee or Carson had gone. The only other place was the cellar, past an inner wall which had been removed to show the insulation inside. Downstairs, the only evidence that someone lived here was a pallet in the corner, and some photographs attached to the wall.
Quick cash for modelling. Call Gimbles Prosthetics.
Just as I looked at the advertisement next to the odd glamour-shots on the wall, the phone began to ring. My brow furrowed, my eyes narrowed. I no longer believed in coincidence. I looked around the room, but no sign of any security camera was apparent.
I picked up the receiver.
'Hello there!', bounced an over-excited voice. 'Is Mr Mcgee there?'
The lie came to my lips without thought. 'I'm afraid he's not here at the moment, but I'm his receptionist. Can I help you?
'I'm afraid I don't know', I responded, concern in my voice. 'He had to leave fairly urgently. Family emergency. May I ask what this is concerning?'
'Lucrative? Well, McGee's loss is my gain! Maybe I could do some modelling for you?' It was a long shot, but the trail here had gone cold. Maybe I could pick it up again from there. Something seemed strange about Gimble's story, but I couldn't place it.
'No time like the present', I chirped. 'Where is your office?'
'Alright then, I should be there in ten minutes. See you soon!'
I placed the handset back in the cradle.
Call Gimble's Prosthetics? Wait long enough, and Gimble's Prosthetics will call you.