On the northern side of Roseland, Old Town sat in the corporate shadow of skyscrapers. Brick buildings housed craft shops, pubs, and apartments where artists and bartenders lived. Evening shoppers in search of the next must-have statement weaved around packs of hippies. Marijuana smoke so heavy, the haze threatened light from streetlamps. Caught between Old Town and downtown Roseland on a nearly vacant side street, Augustus found his destination. It was another brick building which he might have missed if not for the sign stopping him in his tracks.
Kandy Fangs seemed like an odd name for a record store. The kay and eff had unnatural descenders with a candy swirl dripping like blood from fangs.
Augustus checked his note, and sure enough, this was the correct address. Through the window, he could see rows of tables holding cardboard boxes. A young couple thumbed through music albums within a box. Augustus felt like moving on, but the odd shop title pulled him toward the door like a mosquito to a lantern.
The scents of fresh wood and floor cleaner welcomed Augustus, and a snappy tune calmed his nerves. Danceable, he thought, Susan would have enjoyed it. The couple talked excitedly over an album. Behind a small counter in the corner, a woman sat quietly on a stool. She flipped through a magazine without a glance at Augustus approaching her.
“Been open long?” asked Augustus. Doubts about Jack Mills ever coming here began to sink in.
The clerk flipped a page and continued reading. “Two months,” she said.
“I’m checking up on some information about Jack Mills,” said Augustus. Glancing over, he checked to see if the young couple might overhear. The two argued over which band was most likely to play in Roseland. Lowering his voice, he continued. “Jack was the father of my late wife.”
“Sorry for your loss,” said the woman. Flipping the pages, she scanned headlines.
“This probably isn’t the right place, but I’m trying to track down on old debt of Jack’s. You see it seems I’ve covered one of his debts.” Pausing, Augustus considered apologizing for disturbing the woman and leaving, but his lips continued moving ahead of his thoughts. “A man took our son. I need to find my boy.”
Looking up, the woman met his gaze.
“All I have are a few scraps of Jack’s old gambling debts. The dog track and boxing, mostly, but somewhere he met a man. The one who took our son.” Leaning closer, he whispered, “My wife believed this old man is a vampire.”
Augustus bit his lip. He wished he could take it back.
Not a blink, the woman studied him. Her cool eyes peered deep into his for a moment before scanning him up and down.
“I apologize for disturbing you,” said Augustus. He shook his head. “It’s just that I’m at my wits end. The police are now telling me the Sisters of Sorrows have adoption paperwork. They say there’s nothing they can do about my boy. If only I could find this man. Ithuriel might be his name, but I’m beginning to doubt that name is even real. My wife, Susan, actually referred to him as a patriarch.”
The woman pushed her magazine aside. She reached under the counter and produced a business card. While she scribbled a note on the corner, Augustus glanced around. The couple had moved to another aisle where they scanned through a box of albums. Taking the card from the woman, Augustus looked it over.
“An antique dealer?”
“A historian,” said the woman. Leaning closer, her expression darkened. “And an expert on vampires.”
In the corner of the card, the store initials possessed fangs biting into the printed text. The clerk didn’t appear much like a vampire, but the bright store lights made it impossible to tell if she had iridescent eyes. Her closed lips hid her teeth. The store logo could be simply that, a logo without a link to vampires. How many customers overlooked such a loud statement? Hiding in plain site seemed possible, but the real vampire could be behind the scenes.
“Show that to the historian,” said the woman.
“I appreciate your help,” said Augustus. He offered a smile, but it felt cold. As he turned to leave, he paused thinking about the sign outside that had stopped him. “I’m curious about the name of this store.”
“It gets the kids talking,” said the clerk. Her closed-lip smile seemed warm. “And talk brings them in on this dead street.”
“Thanks, again,” said Augustus. Raising the business card, he waved.
Outside, he met cool air and cringed at the pungent marijuana smell. Somewhere out there, his baby son rested in a stranger’s crib.