The Unnatural Inquirer

The Unnatural Inquirer

Nightside 8

Simon R. Green

In the Nightside, the night never ends. Hidden away in the dark, magical heart of London, dreams go walking in borrowed flesh, and temptation and salvation are always on sale. You can find anything you want in the Nightside; if it doesn’t find you first.

Hot neon, dark shadows, more sin than you can shake a credit card at, wild clubs, and madder music. Put on your dancing shoes, and dance till you bleed. The night goes on and on, and the fun never stops. And someone, somewhere, has a bullet with your name on it.

My name is John Taylor. Private eye, lost soul, looking for salvation in the damnedest places. I have a special gift for finding things, but mostly what I find is trouble. Hire me if you want to know the truth. I can’t guarantee to deliver justice, or even a happy ending…but when the bodies have stopped dropping and all the comforting illusions have been ripped away, at least you’ll have the truth to hug to your bruised heart.

I’m John Taylor, and this is the Nightside; and this is not a story for anyone who believes everything he reads in the papers.

ONE

The Wrath of the Loa

One of the many problems with working as a private eye, not counting all the many people who want to kill you, often for perfectly good reasons, is that you have to wait for the work to come to you. And since I refuse to sit around my office, on the grounds that all the high tech my secretary, Cathy, has installed intimidates the hell out of me, I seem to spend most of my time sitting around in bars, waiting for something to happen. Not a bad way to spend your life, all told. But in the end, cases are a lot like buses; you wait around for ages, then three come along at once.

I’m a private eye of the old school, right down to the long white trench coat, the less-than-traditional good looks, and the roguish air of mystery that I go to great lengths to maintain. Always keep them guessing. A good, or more properly bad, reputation can protect you from more things than a Kevlar jump-suit. I investigate cases of the weird and uncanny, the sins and problems too dark and too nasty even for the Nightside. I don’t do divorce work, and I don’t carry a gun. I’ve never felt the need.

I’d just finished a fairly straightforward case, when trouble came looking for me. I’d been called in by the slightly hysterical manager of one of the Nightside’s most prominent libraries, the H P Lovecraft Memorial Library. Their proud boast: more forbidden tomes under one roof than anywhere else. I’d leafed through some of their proud exhibits in the past and hadn’t been impressed. Of course they had the Necronomicon, in forty-eight languages, including Braille, and one of the few unexpurgated texts of The Gospel According to Pontius Pilate. They even had Satan’s Last Testament, originally tattooed on the inside of the womb of the Fallen Nun of Lourdes. But a lot of it was strictly tourist stuff. The Book of Unpronounceable Cults, Satanism for Dummies, and Coarse Fishing on the River Styx. Nothing there to expand your mind or endanger your soul.

I’d been called in because twenty-seven of the Library’s patrons had been discovered wandering through the stacks wide-eyed and mind-wiped. Not a trace of personality or conscious thought left in them. Which was unusually high for a Monday morning, even in the H P Lovecraft Memorial Library. Using my gift,