I remember the first time I met him. He was fidgety, nervous. He had never hired a Private Investigator before. But his daughter's mysterious death simply would not sit well with him, and he needed more information.
I had worked as a low-level Pattern Analyst for the KGB, and when the Soviet Union dissolved, I jumped at the chance to get out of the decaying country. I found myself in Boston, a city with a surprisingly large and tight-knit Russian community, and it was only natural for the skills of my previous life to come into play here.
I began with the information listed in the autopsy report he had been given, that she had died of an overdose of Ecstasy. I examined the credit card bills she had, the cell phone bills, and I began to correlate the data, compiling information on all of her friends.
Each interview I conducted led only to more questions. She had no history of drug abuse, she was a college student focused mostly on succeeding in school, not worried so much with popularity. As time progressed, and my information found solid leads, but no solid answers, my retainer needed to be increased.
I followed her routines, looking for clues in the people she had met while out with her friends. I paid them to come with me. They felt like whores at first, being paid to go to a club, but when they realized I was there looking for others, looking for people she had met and might know more of her death, they were turned off.
But it wasn't until the mafiosos were getting seriously investigated that I got my big break. A body had to be exhumed, some kind of unexplained death, and I was able to get the paperwork through to have her body exhumed as well. I paid a medical examiner quite a bit of money to take a peek, but it was no good. The body was poorly enbalmed, there were no bodily fluids to be examined properly.
I began noticing the same groups of people at the clubs. Strange groups that held together in some tight-lipped, closed circle, but were vastly different. There were jocks and preps, loners and freaks and geeks, all the old American Stereotypes. They stonewalled me when I asked them questions, answering but not answering.
I added dossiers on all of them, what little I could manage, the interconnections between people started creeping up. Maps of the city, covered with colored thread, spiderwebbing across the bare walls of my bedroom.
And while I was doing all this, I went through seven cameras.
It was strange, at first, how my photographs of this tight group of otherwise completely separate individuals all managed to come out blurry. I tried flash, I tried no flash, I tried digital, I delved deep into photography, taking crash courses to learn to develop on my own. It didn't help that they smashed two of my cameras, that another was confiscated - club owners hate it when you take pictures of their illegal practices - but still, I could not get the pictures to come out.
The mystery was beginning to get to me. I was staying up later and later, subsisting entirely on coffee, talking into the wee hours of the morning about meaningless concepts over the internet, examining and moving and reexamining the information I had. Sometimes I would misplace things, they would be missing from where I thought I had left them, only to reappear later. Sometimes the things wouldn't be as detailed as I had once thought, sometimes I could never find them at all.
I began to suspect that someone was entering my room. Crazy, I know, but I began leaving little traps for him to set off. Mousetraps, tripwires, and, remembering an old KGB tactic, leaving a silent alarm to be tripped very near a loud one, so that my target would set off the hidden one while avoiding the obvious one.
Eventually, my alarms were set off. I never saw the intruder, never knew when he came in, but I knew he was there. I bought a video camera, my money growing thin as the frantic father still had nothing to go on. I kept setting it up, but I was so stressed out that I never managed to get it right. I left the batteries out, I forgot the tape, it never seemed to work.
But I realized that my mysterious intruder was too smart for me. He found the camera and was sabotaging it. I bought three more, emplying my previous methods, keeping one hidden, one very hidden, and one very very hidden. I found my man, it was one of the geeks from the club. I knew a little about him, but didn't want to tip him off. He came only at night and, much to my consternation, didn't appear correctly on video. In the exact same room, under the exact same conditions, both before and after he appeared, I was normal. He was blurry.
I started researching far deeper into photograpy, reading up and testing every crackpot theory about people not showing up properly. Even reading into the Occult and their weird theories about ghosts and vampires, nothing escaped my notice. The walls of my apartment were now completely bare, everything but my maps, my data. It was some kind of sick game he was playing with me. Connections I had never noticed before were showing up; he was *helping* me now.
I tried to catch him in my apartment. I tried waiting up for him. But whenever my cameras picked up his movements, I'd turn around and he would disappear. Review of the videotape would say he was there - and then he wasn't. I kept looking for reasons to explain what was going on, and only my researches into the Occult were getting me any kind of answers - and they were truly bizarre answers that it offered. It all came down to one night.
I was in my room, holding tight to my coffee addiction. I had my cameras on streaming video in a tiny corner of my computer screen, my music loud and blasting in my headphones to keep any Siren's Song or Hypnotic Command from affecting me. Camera one sent a ping, the door had been opened, but I didn't dare take my attention off of Camera four.
In he crept, in his black suit as always, I could tell that much from the fuzzy video and what I had seen of him before. Slowly, quietly, he approached - any sound would register on the black-noise modulated recording equipment I had hooked up. I saw him slowly approaching from behind me, but I dared not move. I clutched the kitchen knife in my hand, wondering just what I would do when I found him.
He continued to creep forward, inch by inch, coming up behind me. I had to carefully judge when to act - move too soon and he might disappear on me. Move too late, and he might realize I was watching him and act first. I moved the mouse around, switching songs, trying to make him think it was all normal. I turned the visualizer on my audio player on, hoping to distract him for a moment, and I turned as fast as I could, pulling the knife up into a stabbing position.
He was there, waiting for me, smiling. He grabbed my arm with lightning speed, forcing me down with strength I had not imagined possible. He bared glistening white fangs and buried them in my neck. The world floated away, all my cares disappearing into bleak, black oblivion.