Celeste Crenshaw has survived her parents’ grisly murders, grueling and gender-biased police training, a battle with rogue vampires, and even her own death. While immortality might seem a dream come true, can she accept the strings attached?
Celeste spends the start of her immortal life being mentored by the Elders of the Hollow Earth. They release her once they feel certain Celeste has honed her supernatural powers. But little do they know, Celeste isn’t wholly committed to granting eternal life to those deserving. Upon a return home to her immortal lover, and the Kansas City Detective Squad, she battles mortal foes, not so unlike the demonic undead. And when a fellow detective falls victim to a murderous gang member, Celeste faces a gut-wrenching decision and the possible wrath of the Elders.
“A new, original, fresh, fascinating and fun take on the Vampire genre. THE IMMORTAL DETECTIVE by D. B. Woodling is a “must read” pick for the legions of vampire fiction fans and an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Fantasy Fiction collections. Exceptionally well written…”
~Midwest Book Review
I found Liza McCuskey strung out in an alley between a strip joint and a pawnshop. The report listed her as twenty-two, but she looked every bit of forty-five. The color of her hair reminded me of chili peppers and hung limp against bruised and bony shoulders. Her face wasn’t a ray of sunshine; it forecasted Noah’s flood. I flashed my shield, which convinced the john pressing her against a building to take off. She was hesitant to talk until I showed her a crisp twenty-dollar bill. She reached for it, feigning goodwill the way addicts always do.
“Not so fast, Liza. You tell me what you know about Gunner’s murder and there’s more where that came from.”
She shook her head, so hard her entire body shook with it, then she wrenched her head sideways and puked. A man wearing a T-shirt advertising the club swaggered from the strip club’s rear entrance, whistling as he unzipped his pants and peed a steady stream. I assumed he was the bartender.
“When you’re done there,” I called out, “bring her a club soda–room temperature, no ice.”
He wagged his penis, then zipped up. “I don’t know if you noticed, princess, but we don’t do curb service.”
“You do tonight. Make it fast and the KCPD might even throw you a tip.”
He scurried back inside, and I hoped he planned to return. Liza hitched her short skirt back down over skeletal hips, losing her balance twice. Her fishnet stockings were ripped here, torn there, and could have snagged a small shark. If she had worn panties when she came into the alley, she didn’t have them on now. I pointed to her hand. “What happened there?” It looked like a defensive wound to me. “Did that happen recently?” She hid her hand behind her back. “Maybe around the time somebody stabbed Gunner to death?”
“Like I told those other cops, I got nothing to say.”
“I think you were there, Liza. Witnesses saw you with Gunner an hour before a passerby discovered his body. And that knife wound on your hand isn’t just a coincidence.”
She turned her back and faced the building. The bartender crashed through the rear door. Wearing a scowl and a snippet of actual barbed wire for a nose ring, he pressed a plastic cup in my direction, then exchanged the club soda for a ten-dollar bill and took off.
I bumped Liza with my elbow. “Here, drink this.”
She gulped the entire glass, and I fought the urge to get her something to eat. She belched then swiped a grimy hand across her mouth and headed toward the street.
“Have it your way,” I called after her. “Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when the next cop you meet arrests you for murder.”
She stopped dead and whipped around to face me. “I didn’t kill him.”
“But if you know who did and you don’t come forward, you’re considered an accessory after the fact. Which means prison time, Liza. That’s one hell of a way to get clean.”
She began to tremble, so violently her knees buckled, and I could hear her teeth chatter. “I talk, I’m dead. That motherfucker is crazy.”
“Then tell me off the record: No written statement. No subpoena to testify.”
Her dull eyes brightened. “I still get the money?”
“That depends on the information. I want a name.”
“I don’t know his name. You gotta believe me,” she whined like a kid advised of bedtime.
“I don’t believe you, Liza. But let’s start with a description.” I’d made two attempts to make sense of the jumbled thoughts inside her head. Reading her mind was a lot like wading through the waste in Chernobyl.
“I didn’t see him real good, okay?”
“But you were in the car?”
She nodded and looked away.
“Then help me understand; if you were in the car, why didn’t you see him?”
“Because I had my face buried in Gunner’s balls.”
“You were performing oral sex?”
She sniggered. “Yeah, if that’s what you want to call it. I give him a blowjob, he gives me crank.”
“And what happened when the killer began stabbing him?” She hid her face in her hands. “Come on, Liza. I’m trying to understand why you didn’t see the person who opened the door, or leaned in the window, and stabbed Gunner to death?”
Tears began to stream down her face. “Blood was squirting everywhere, Gunner making this horrible gurgling sound, and I-I tried to get down, get on the floor. But then. . .the guy with the knife grabbed my hair and yanked me up, and all I could see was that knife. I pushed my hand toward him, you know, like when you tell somebody to stop.”
“And that’s when he stabbed you?”
“Yeah, that’s when he stabbed me,” she murmured.
“How did you get away?”
“A car pulled up across the street. A bunch of guys got out and he grabbed the drugs and the money Gunner had on him and ran. They weren’t after him or anything, he just ran.”
“Where did you run, Liza?”
“Into the bushes until the guys went inside a house and I knew for sure the guy with the knife was gone. Then I went home.”
“Before you answer, remember everything you say is off the record. Most of all, you have to know that the killer didn’t intend to leave any witnesses. He wants you dead, Liza. For all we know, he could be out there right now looking to finish the job. I’d like to find him before he has the opportunity to do that. So tell me his name.”
“I told you. I don’t know it.”
Because she’d returned to working the streets, it was possible Liza didn’t know the killer’s name or he hers. But drug addiction was a powerful motivator. Maybe she was willing to risk her life for her next fix. I dug around in my pocket and withdrew all the cash I had. “Then give me a description,” I said, walking toward her and fanning various denominations. “You must have seen something.”
“Okay, okay,” she said, staring at the cash. “Gunner pushed me off him when the guy started stabbing him, you know, to try to fight him off. Before I made it down to the floor, I saw the back of the guy’s head. He didn’t have any hair, and he was white.”
“He had a tattoo, but I couldn’t see all of it because his jacket covered some of it and his neck was all scrunched up, you know, from leaning in the window.”
“To the best of your knowledge, what did it look like?”
“It was fucking weird. It looked like an up and down line on the top part, a sideways line below that.”
I handed over the money and gave her my card. “In case you remember anything else or decide to clean up your life.”
Excerpt from The Immortal Detective by D. B. Woodling. Copyright 2023 by D. B. Woodling. Reproduced with permission from D. B. Woodling. All rights reserved.
Acquiring an early appreciation of prose written by Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and the audacious Stephen King, Woodling chose to follow in their intimidating footsteps, evidenced by The Immortal Twin (CamCat Books 2020) and The Immortal Detective, released by CamCat Books, March 2023. She recently completed a supernatural small-town murder mystery and has a Hollywood whodunit in the works, with Book Two of The Immortal Detective series vying for her attention. Woodling is a multi-genre author, and The Immortal Detective is her eighth novel.