Virtual Virgin

EVERYONE HAS FAMILY issues, but my issues are that I don’t have any family. My new business card reads “Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator,” but my old personal card could have read “Delilah Street, Unadoptable Orphan.”

I was supposedly named after the street where I was found abandoned as an infant in Wichita, Kansas. (I guess I should just thank God and DC Comics it wasn’t Lois Lane.) I’ve googled and groggled (the drinking person’s search engine) the World Wide Web for Delilah Streets and not a single bloody one of them shows up in Wichita.

Whoever my forebears, they gave me the Black Irish, Snow White coloring that is catnip to vampires: corpse-pale skin and dead-of-night black hair. By age twelve I was fighting off aspiring juvie rapists with retractable fangs and body odor that mixed blood, sweat, and semen. Really made me enjoy being a girl.

My growing-up years of group homes are history now that I’m twenty-four and on my own. I had a good job reporting the paranormal beat for Wichita’s WTCH-TV—until the station’s jealous weather witch forecaster forced me out.

Now I’m a freelance investigator in wicked, mysterious post–Millennium Revelation Las Vegas. Vegas was wicked, of course, long before the turn of the twenty-first century brought all the bogeymen and women of myth and legends out of the closet and into human lives and society. Now, in 2013, Vegas is crawling with vamps and half-weres and all-werewolf mobs and celebrity zombies and who knows what else.

My ambitions on hitting town were simple.

One, staying alive. (Being turned into an immortal vampire doesn’t count.)

Two, being able to make love in the missionary position without having panic attacks. (Whoever thought someone would aim for the missionary position?) Position hadn’t been an issue until recently and neither had sex, until I finally found a man I want to make love with, ex-FBI guy Ricardo Montoya—aka the Cadaver Kid. He’s tall, dark, handsome, Hispanic, and my twenty-four-hour partner. Scratch this one off the list. Phobia solved. I am now fully adjustable and ready to rock and roll.

And, three, tracking down Lilith Quince—my spitting image—to find out if she is a twin, double, clone, or simulacrum. Or if she is even alive. Seeing her/me being autopsied on Crime Scene Instincts V: Las Vegas one rerun-TV night in Wichita brought me to Sin City in the first place.

Lucky me, Lilith became the most desirable corpse ever featured on the internationally franchised show. When that CSI episode made Lilith Quince into a macabre international sex symbol, it inadvertently made me, Delilah Street, a wanted woman. And not necessarily wanted alive, but as the naked and dead image of another woman. So not me.

The CSI cameras showed a discreet maggot camping out in a nostril that held a tiny blue topaz stud like my very own, so Lilith’s corpse, dubbed “Maggie,” became the It Girl of 2013: Maggie dolls and merchandise are hot and so are bootleg Maggie still pictures, outtakes, and my hide, if anyone could snag it—dead or alive. One werewolf mobster almost did already.

At least ambition number four is now also a done deal: Identifying the embracing skeletons Ric and I discovered in Vegas’s Sunset Park just after I hit town and just before the town hit me back, hard.

I discovered more than Ric and corpses in Sunset Park. I found an ally who has heavenly blue eyes and is seriously gray and hairy. That’s my dog, Quicksilver. He’s a wolfhound-wolf cross I saved from death at the pound. He returns the favor with fang, claw, and warm, paranormally talented tongue.

(I have a soft spot for dogs—especially since Achilles, my valiant little white dust-mop Lhasa apso in Wichita, died from blood poisoning after biting a vampire anchorman who was trying to bite me. Achilles’s ashes rest in a dragon-decorated jar on my mantel. Lhasa apsos are a Tibetan breed, Grasshopper, so I haven’t given up the ghost on him.)

Oh, where that mantel is might be of interest. It’s in the Enchanted Cottage on the Hector Nightwine estate. Hector rents the place to me cheap because, as producer of the many worldwide CSI franchises, he’s presumably guilty of offing my possible twin on national TV. Hector doesn’t really have a conscience, just a profit motive. He’s banking on my finding Lilith or becoming her for his enduring financial benefit.

The only thing Hector and I have in common is loving old black-and-white films. The Enchanted Cottage is a setting from a 1945 movie of that name and I suspect

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