Habbardashed, part 2 of 3

The Best Unknown Supernatural Mystery in the World

by Robert Beers

San Francisco’s fashion mavens are dying in odd and gruesome ways. It is up to Tony Mandolin to find out who is doing the killings, and he will need Landau Bain ‘s help, but Bain, the Bay Area’s most powerful wizard has been drinking

Contact info for Robert Beers
* Website – http://asmbeers.wixsite.com/robertleebeers
* Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Beers/e/B00JCRVS3U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1505455713&sr=8-1
* Audiobook – http://www.graphicaudio.net/a-tony-mandolin-mystery-1-a-slight-case-of-death.html



Chapter 4

Mandolin.” Pat’s voice held that tired note I’d heard all too often. I already knew what the reason for the call was.

We’ve got another body,” I said that in lieu of hello.

He sighed and then began adding details. Like Alphonso, the victim was another business owner in the fashion district, but this time it was a designer, not a tailor. The manner of death was undecided because there wasn’t any blood or even bruising. Later on, Ursula found the cause, the victim’s entire digestive track had been stuffed with fabric. That trail also led to the manhole cover.

Frankie did not take the news in stride. “OMIGAWD!!” He staggered backward, his normal bittersweet chocolate complexion fading to milk. “It wasn’t Elise, was it? Callen? Fremont? Please, not Fremont!

Once I got him calmed to the point where I could get a word shoehorned into the conversation, I said, “I don’t know, big guy. Monahan didn’t tell me.

Well, why not?” His exclamation remained at peak volume.

How do you tell a person who’s entire world revolves around things like current fashion, pop culture and treating celebrity as if it’s a path to godhood, that the name of a celebrity victim isn’t as important as the evidence of how they died?

I said, “Well, you can ask Monahan that the next time you see him, all right.

Frankie sniffed, “I certainly will. Oh god, I hope it isn’t Fremont.

I didn’t know any of the names Frankie was bringing up, my world not revolving around the latest crop of fabric drapers. As far as I was concerned, fashion should have stalled around 1942. If it was good enough for Sam Spade, it was good enough for me.

It wasn’t Fremont. Whoever the stiff was, she wasn’t a name the big guy knew in the world of fashion, so probably a newbie. Her name had been Simonee. I had to wonder, was that last vowel real or not? I was also seeing a trend that could lead to the lovely pattern of a serial killer. Such loveliness I could do without.

♦ ♦ ♦

I decided to take my thoughts and me to The Snug, my neighborhood bar and grill. Tiny, the owner is also the bartender and the cook. He’s also the only friend I have who’s bigger than the big guy, but that may be because his other job is that of being Odin, the Norse God Allfather. However, today I was more interested in an ear than opinion, and Tiny’s good for that. His usual style of commentary is a grunt or two.

The best advertising any place can have is word of mouth. If you have a decent atmosphere, congenial staff, and damn good food and drink, people will come. So it was that my hoped for quiet place at the bar to drink and think wound up being packed to the gills. As I pushed open the door I was confronted with what seemed to be a standing room only situation.

Yo! Tony!

That was Tiny’s voice, but I had to crane my head to see the bar. When I did catch a glimpse, he was pointing at a spot in front of him.

With several excuse me’s and a couple of coming through’s, I squeezed my way to the bar and saw my Shangri-La, an empty stool. Several of the standing customers gave me less than friendly looks as I sat down.

One fellow with an expensive watch, not a knockoff, you can tell, muttered, just loud enough to be heard over the buzz of conversation, “Nice for some, we were here first. Why does he get special treatment? Look at that getup he’s wearing.” The guy’s date, or wife, she didn’t look paid for, agreed in similar tones.

Tiny growled, “When you help save my life and my sons, I’ll hold a stool for you as well.

I didn’t bother listening to the false apologies but occupied the holy land with all due speed.

Thanks, Tiny,” I said, “I owe you one. How long has this been going on?

He grunted as he put a pint of suds under my nose, “Some Chronicle writer said my place was one of the top ten small bars and grills in the Bay Area. The next thing I know, crowds.” He waved a hand twice the size of mine at the mass of humanity behind me, and then leaned forward, saying, “I had to ask the Wizard for help, and since he owes me…

I nodded and drank. The Wizard, capital W was Landau Bain, not the only magic slinger in the city, but the only one of consequence. He was also an on and off again alcoholic and as cranky as hell, which made getting on his bad side just about the most dangerous thing anyone or anything could think of. Fortunately for me, he liked me. If Bain was hanging around The Snug, that could really help me with this case. It could also be a huge waste of my time, since Bain only helped when he felt like it, regardless of any proof he may or may not owe you a thing.

The way both of the victims died stunk to high heaven of some kind of magic being involved. Willit’s folk, being able to follow the trail made it undeniable, and the perp being down in Below sealed it. If I had to go there, having Bain along would make my chances of survival decent, instead of, it’s a million to one, and it won’t work at all.

Tiny did his hosting and bartending duties, somehow managing to make it look like being essentially in three or four places at one time not only possible but easy. By the time the crowd thinned down to the point where some tables were actually empty, I’d drunk enough beer to feel mellow and I’d also begun to work out the outlines of a plan. Whether it was cunning or not, was something else entirely.

Busy night, Tiny was back behind the bar and working on pulling another draft, this time not for me.

Yep,” I replied, not really listening. That outline was taking shape to the point it had precedence over all other things.

Tiny nodded, “Ahh, you’re working, and right now, It seems.

I nodded back, and asked the question, “Is Landau here now?


Hope started to walk sadly away.

But I can get him.

Hope flew back into my arms, giggling.

♦ ♦ ♦

Sounds like a nasty form of thaumaturgy,” Bain reached for his mug and drained it in one final pull. Then he raised it and said, “Tiny, another, if you please.

I didn’t reply but just nodded. I know I’d heard the word used for nasty magic before.

The ploy didn’t work. Bain scowled at me and growled, “Go ahead, ask the question. I don’t have the time to waste telling you something you’re not understanding completely, and you need to understand this completely, or else.

I nodded, “I’ve heard the word, but you’re saying it has more than one form?

Tiny put another foaming tankard at Bain’s elbow without comment.

Sipping this beer, Bain waved his other hand, “Several, perhaps several hundred if you want to be picky. This looks like one of the voodoos, perhaps the use of a simulacrum, or a doll as the focus of the spell.

I just looked at him.

He grunted, “Like I said, nasty.

He drank deeply this time and belched. Then he said, more to himself than me, “Also powerful. It takes some major mojo to reach that far and still have enough left over to manipulate whatever you’re going to use as the means of death. Perhaps…” His voice trailed off and he shook his head, “No, only a suicidal fool would do that, or maybe a prodigy… one who just doesn’t know the rules…” He leaned back, putting his forefinger to his lips, “Yes… that could be it…

The phone rang. Tiny answered it and from his end, I heard, “Snug… grunt… yeah, he’s here… huh?… oh, yeah, I’ll tell him…” Then he hung up and over to where Bain and I sat.

I looked up at Tiny and he said, “Been another killing in the Fashion District. This time it was a photographer.

So, let me guess,” I said, “This one was killed by photography equipment, right?

Tiny grunted, “Yep.

♦ ♦ ♦

Chapter 5

I seriously doubted I would ever be inclined to own a camera tripod ever again. Our new victim was Michael DeSimone, the city’s most sought after fashion photog there was. A whole slew of his stuff had graced just about every publication ringing the bay. He had even begun doing work for the main international fashion houses, names even I had heard of. Mister DeSimone would never click again, not in this world.

How does somebody do that?” Monahan asked, “I mean, I see it, but is it even possible?

I had the same questions running through my gray matter. Desimone had been tripoded to death. The thing entered him from behind and the tip of it stuck out his mouth. His body hung there in a sick, stiff parody of life. The three legs of the tripod set at their widest stance, holding him erect.

It’s possible,” Bain said. “I saw enough impalings when I was dealing with Vlad Drakul. There’s no bone between either point in the body, just soft tissue.

But…” Monahan pointed at the scene in general, “There’s no sign of struggle.

There wouldn’t be,” Bain muttered, and then held up a hand, stalling Monahan’s question, “No, don’t bother. The answer would only give you nightmares.

Monahan nodded, “Understood. More of that weird crap.

Bain said wryly, “Yes, weird crap. Captain, please don’t take offense, but if you have not done so, you may wish to see if the three victims were involved in any fashion events as perhaps judges?

Monahan, still aghast at what he was seeing, and the man had seen a lot, nodded and turned to tell someone to begin checking that, and then he stopped and stared at Bain, “Wait… Vlad… Drakul? Do you mean—?

Bain nodded and waved the rest of the question away, “I’ll tell you the story when we have the time.

Pat made a face, and then nodded once, saying, “I’ll bring the scotch.

Bain murmured, “That’s a good man.

I agreed, “Yes, he is.” Then I added, “I’ll bet you, dollars to doughnuts the trail leads right back to that manhole cover that’s the entrance to Below.

♦ ♦ ♦

I really hate being right so much of the time. Bain, Frankie and I stood looking down at the manhole cover. Willit and his tribe led us straight there and then took off at high speed, not one of them willing to stay any length of time within reach of the Wizard.

Most people think the 1906 earthquake destroyed the old San Francisco underground network of tunnels and sewers. No, just most of it. Those that were protected and maintained by the Bay Area’s non-human community were left in fairly decent shape except for some sweeping up. The entrances leading into Below were chief among them.

Even Frankie had room to stand upright in the old drainage tunnel once we were through the opening. Bain had him slide the cover back in place so no uninvolved parties became curious.

I describe the rather complex route getting to Below takes once you drop down from the street in the case notes of when Frankie got cloned, so I’m not going to repeat them here. I’ll just say it took some time before we were standing just outside the permanent portal opening into Below. On the other side, it looks like someone plucked an old European town from the 1500’s and dropped it into California. Well, it looks that way as long as you ignore what the inhabitants do to your eyes. You see, very few of them are human, or even look human. Flowing past us in an ever-shifting current of weird were ogres, elves, trolls, goblins, boggarts, giants, dwarfs, orcs and assorted mix-breeds, and those were the ones whose names I could recall.

A few of the townsfolk glanced our way, but none of them seemed interested enough to check us out. Believe it, or not, that took a load off my mind. The last time I was down here I wound up being involved in a bit of a riot.

This way,” Bain said, pointing to his left. He’d dressed up for the trip by putting on some sort of heavy cloak with a couple of Edwardian-style capes and adding an old worn leather satchel under the cape with its strap slung over one shoulder. He also had on a wide-brimmed hat that hid his eyes and carried a tall staff. There were carvings in the dark wood, but when I tried to focus on them they shifted and writhed in a very disturbing way.

Frankie and I had our normal working clothes on, trench coats and fedoras, with assorted nasties stuck away here and there. Frankie also had his black leather utility belt with its six flapped pockets, full of stuff the creatures of faerie would rather he didn’t know about. I’d decided to make sure the five-seven had a crap load of extra cartridges. Bain did his special mumbo-jumbo with them so those faerie folks who normally sneer at a human gun would be in for a very unpleasant surprise. Each cartridge carried close to 30 rounds so that’s a lot of surprises.

I noticed Bain was leading us down a different street than the one we took the last time. The buildings and storefronts had a considerably more prosperous appearance and every window had its glass. Some of the shops had tables and display cases right in the street, and the merchants, coming in a staggering variety of species, were all competing for each passerby.

Ho, large one, Come in and see my wares!

Frankie turned at the shout and said, “Who, me?

Nay, I was yellin’ at them Twinks over there,” The merchant pointed at a gaggle of tiny winged flower faeries floating before a team of jugglers tossing flaming heads back and forth. “Who d’ya think I was callin’ to?

The merchant looked like a cross between a frog and a bipedal bulldog if such things wore Victorian men’s suits. I had an instant flashback to Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. It hmmph’d and put its hands on its hips. “I don’t sell to teenies like that, but, you sirah, you be a fine specimen of… whatever you are.

I’m human,” Frankie offered.

Really?” The merchant looked up, bending backward to do so, “Never would’ve guessed.

Frankie looked back at me, “Do you think…?

Go ahead,” Bain muttered, “I’m still focusing.

I doubt Frankie’s “Oh boy” will ever go down in the annals of top negotiation techniques.

With a wide smile, showing way too many knife-like teeth, even for a mouth about 18 inches across, the merchant stepped aside and beckoned the big guy into his shop.

I followed, partly because I was as curious as hell, and mainly because I didn’t trust the merchant one iota. He had far too much resemblance to Medb’s frog demons for my comfort. The only reason I didn’t balk entirely was because Bain seemed unconcerned.

After crossing the threshold, I could see why the little winged faeries wouldn’t be considered a customer, I doubt even I would have been able to wear anything the merchant carried, and I’m no slouch in the height department, being 6’3” in stocking feet. But we’re talking Frankie here and he’s a guy who makes football players look small. The place was kind of what Wilson’s Leather would look like if Wilsons catered to the huge and the dangerous. Besides the leather, there was the extremely sharp edged steel, the nasty-looking stringed instruments, and the assorted feathered shafts. Mister Toad was an outfitter for the barbarian in all of us.

Oohing and awing as if he was a kid in Disneyland, Frankie wandered through the shop in a Brownian randomness, lightly touching the occasional leather piece and testing the edge here and there.

So, you appreciate my wares, eh large human?” The merchant asked, with a touch of pride.

Oh, you bet I do,” Frankie breathed, stopping to look at a selection of full-length black and brown leather greatcoats, the kind with additional capes that reached all the way to the elbow. “I’ve always loved fine leathers.

Well then,” The merchant waddled over to where the big guy stood and, stretching upwards on legs that should not have been that long, reached out and took one of the black coats from the display, “Why not try one on for size? If it fits, I will give it to you in exchange for you telling all where it came from, eh?

Put that back!

The command rattled every window in the place and knocked over a small display of throwing knives.

The merchant cowered backward, the coat falling from his nerveless fingers. I noticed they had little pads on them, just like the fingers of a frog.

Bain, his eyes blazing, and that is not a metaphor, stalked into the shop, every item in his path shifting to the side and out of his way.

Wizard,” the merchant whispered, in a voice that said, oh crap, I’m in deep shit now.

Jackson,” Bain growled, “Leave the shop, now. Do—not—touch—a—thing.

The merchant, pasting about as smarmy a grin on his face as I’d ever seen, and that includes car dealership commercials, dry-washed his hands as he waddled towards Bain. Frankie was just beginning his backward retreat. “Please, sire wizard, I meant no offense. This one had no idea the large human was part of your retinue.

Bain hissed, “I’ll explain and deal with this later, Jackson. Now, get out of the shop!” He pointed and Frankie was propelled out and through the door, right along the open path Bain had created.

The Merchant’s eyes widened to where they were the size of salad plates, “You… dare?” Then his eyes widened even further and his throat sac began to swell.

I remembered seeing this back when the Vampire Viscount’s castle was invaded by frog demons and called out to Bain, “Cover your ears!

I shouldn’t have bothered. Bain raised his staff and slammed it down into the boards of the floor. The top of the staff blazed with light and twisted around as if it was turning to stare at the merchant.

Bain snarled, “I don’t mind you leeches cheating your customers and gouging them by charging a dozen times what your crap is worth, but when you try to trick one of my people into wearing a coat with half-assed compulsion spells woven into it, that is when I get pissed off. And you, you slimy little fly-eater, you’ve Pissed Me Off!

The light flared into a blinding glare, and when the spots stopped dancing before my eyes. The merchant wasn’t there. Nothing was there except for assorted piles of ash and slag.

Frankie said it for all of us, “Tony, let’s not ever piss off the wizard.

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