It was hard to believe that there could be a block like the one at First and Harding, just half a mile from the glitter of the Fremont Street Experience, but there were actually a lot of them. In fact, there seemed to be more of this dirty, damaged Vegas than there was of the shiny, clean Vegas. Five old broken down store, a gas station that had been closed and boarded up for years, and an old abandoned motel that looked like something you might have found on Route 66, either the roadway or the old black and white TV show. Graffiti artists had tagged every building. The young man looked both ways for traffic before crossing the tired, cracked pavement of the street, but there were no cars nearby. That is not to say the area was deserted. Three blocks away he could see pedestrians walking and cars zipping past, but none of them turned in his direction. This certainly wasn’t a street anyone would want to be on after dark.
The small shop in the middle of the block must have at one time been a gun store. An ancient sign in the shape of a revolver, lined with now broken and inactive light bulbs, barely clung to the edge of the roof. The shop was set back into the block further than the others and the sidewalk sloped up toward the door, which like the large windows had been painted over with black paint. A neatly printed sign proclaimed “Sin City Detective Agency, est. 1976.” Opening the door, the young man stepped inside. It slammed shut behind him.
It was extremely dark in the shop turned office. The only lights were a dim bulb in a ceiling fixture and the bright rectangle on the floor just inside the door formed by the sun shining through the mail slot. Inside and to the right was a desk with two chairs sitting empty in front of it. Behind it was a woman, or a girl.
“Sit,” she said, leaning back in her chair.
“Is this the detective agency?”
She waved her hand as if to say “obviously.”
He sat down. His eyes adjusted enough so he could truly see her now. She was one of those Goth girls. She had black hair, shoulder length. She had a lot of earrings, a ring in the right side of her nose and a ring right in the middle of her lower lip. A large and ornate cross was tattooed on the left side of her neck. She wore a white long sleeved shirt and a black and white striped tie, and over this a leather bustier.
“You’re not a vampire, are you?” he asked, with a chuckle.
“No,” she replied with a straight face. “I’m not a vampire.”
“I’m the secretary,” said a voice from the back. “I’ll take care of you.”
The man gave an almost imperceptible sigh of relief at the sight of a thin blonde stepping out of a heretofore unnoticed door to the back. Except that she teetered on heels that were extremely high and that her dress was a bit on the short side, she seemed extremely normal. Thank God. The Goth girl got up, revealing a black and white checkered miniskirt and knee-high combat boots. She exchanged places with the blonde, who sat down, tucked a strand of her long wavy hair behind her ear and picked up a pencil.
“I’m Novelyne,” she said with a sunny smile and a lilting Irish accent. “What seems to be your problem? Mister…”
“Sachs, Brian Sachs. I’m trying to find my sister. She came to Vegas on the bus three weeks ago. She ran away, really. I’ve tried to find her on my own. This is the second trip I’ve made here to search for her, but I can’t find anything. I don’t know what I’m doing, I guess.”
“Where are you from?”
“Pocatello, um Idaho.”
“I see.” The secretary scratched out a few words on a yellow legal pad.
“I don’t have a lot of money, but… I have to find her. You see… I’ve seen things… here in Vegas. It’s not like Idaho.”
“No. It’s not like Idaho.” The secretary rested her chin on her hand, pencil still between her fingers. “What kind of things have you seen?”
“If I told you, you’d think I was crazy.”“Hmph,” said the Goth girl, and turning, exited through the same door that Novelyne had entered.