Based on White Wolf’s World of Darkness game Demon: the Fallen (prior to the moment of possession).
Jack Shepherd took a long drag on his cigarette, eyeing the tumbler of cheap bourbon on the desk in front of him. He longed to grab it and knock it back in a single gulp, but he resisted the urge. He glanced at the empty bottle beside it and frowned malevolently. He did not have the money to replace the bottle. His glass contained the last whiskey he would get until he found a new contract. It had been weeks since his last client and there was no telling when the next one might walk through the door of his roach-infested office. There was no telling if a new client would walk through the door. The rent was two months passed due. Again. He had been served a final eviction warning. Again.
“Can’t catch a break in this rotten town,” Jack grumbled aloud, “not even in this whole, God-damned world!”
He sighed miserably and pulled open his desk drawer. It was empty except for his most prized possession. A gleaming .44 magnum revolver. He stared at it.
“Here we are again,” he muttered to the weapon, imagining putting the barrel to his head. “Just you and me.”
Idly, he tried to recall the first time he had contemplated putting an end to his pathetic existence. It was difficult to remember through the hazy fog of years of alcohol abuse. Had it been when he had been dishonorably discharged from the L.A.P.D.? No, his depression had contributed to that rosy outcome. It had to have been before that.
A sudden flash came to mind. Brett O’Malley, his partner on the beat all those years ago, dumping out his hip flask into a sewer. How long had it been, Jack wondered? Brett had been trying to do Jack a favor, but even his intervention had not been enough to stop the downward spiral. It was that same night, Jack decided. Staring at a bottle of whiskey, he had decided to kill himself. That was the first time. Or was it?
There came a knock at the door. Jack blinked stupidly. The knock came again.
“It’s open,” he yelled gruffly.
A middle-aged couple walked in. The look on their faces told him that they wanted to turn and walk right back out. It was only out of desperation that they approached the desk. But then, it was always desperation that brought new clients to Jack Shepherd, P.I.
He snuffed out his cigarette as a courtesy and reached for his glass.
“You must be Jack Shepherd,” the dame began uncertainly.
“The one and only,” Jack confirmed.
“Our daughter, Bethany, is missing,” she continued, a mother’s naked fear in her eyes.
Jack nodded and took a sip to hide his smile. That new bottle was closer than he had hoped.
They went on to explain that the girl had already been missing for months. The police hadn’t found much and Jack knew from experience that, even if the case hadn’t been officially closed, no one was looking anymore. If they had ever tried to find her at all.
“Can you help us?” the father asked anxiously.
Jack tipped up his fedora and lit a new cigarette.
“I can guarantee two things,” he answered. “First, I will get you answers, although you may not like them. And second, my fee is non-refundable.”
The Ross couple left a photo of their girl and paid half the fee up front in loose change and crumpled single dollar bills. They obviously weren’t rich, but this would forestall Jack’s eviction for a week. And get him a new bottle of paint thinner-quality bourbon. He took their money.
After his clients showed themselves out, Jack got to work. He flipped open his dated cell phone and made a call.
“Hi, I’m looking for Dr. Janine Taylor,” Jack explained to the receptionist who answered. “Tell her Jack Shepherd is calling.”
“Jack,” came Janine’s voice a few minutes later. “Still alive, are you?”
“Just barely,” Jack replied. “I’m on a new case, missing girl. Have you gotten or heard of any teenage Jane Doe in the last couple of months?”
“No one like that,” Janine replied. “I haven’t heard anything.”
“Well, that’s good news, I suppose,” said Jack. So much for a quick payday. “Thanks, Janine. I owe you one.”
“No sweat, Jack. You keep that girl away from my morgue. And yourself too, for that matter.”
“No promises,” Jack concluded. He hung up and dialed again.
“O’Malley,” a familiar voice answered.
“Hey Brett, it’s me,” Jack greeted him.
“Well, well, well,” Brett returned slowly. “It’s been a while, Jack. Glad to hear you’re still alive.”
“Yeah, well, no rest for the wicked, I guess. Listen, I’ve just been put on the Bethany Ross case, missing person. Did you guys ever find anything?”
“That rings a bell,” Brett replied. “Gimme a sec.” Typing noises in the background. “Oh yeah, I remember the picture. Wasn’t my case, but… Not much in here. The parents didn’t have anything to go on. Kid didn’t have any friends. Beat cops turned up a rumour of a girl with a similar description taking drugs down Santa Monica way. You still near there?”
“Yeah, I am,” Jack replied with interest.
“That was already weeks ago. I’ll be honest, this case is cold as ice. No real evidence of anything. The girl is over eighteen, so there’s a good chance she just decided to live her life without telling her parents about her choices. You know how it goes.”
Jack frowned. He knew all too well. His years on the force had shown him first hand the callous indifference that humans felt for each other. He had wanted to make a difference, still wanted to, he admitted to himself. But what could anyone do in the face of a cold, uncaring universe?
“I do, thanks Brett.”
“I’m glad to know you’re on the case. I hope you find her. Never enough happy endings around here. And take care of yourself, would ya?”
“Right,” Jack concluded noncommittally.
He made his way into the Santa Monica sunshine, wincing and grumbling at the brightness and heat of the day. He got into his 2001 Chevy Malibu and tried the engine. The decrepit vehicle sputtered and choked, but the engine caught in the end. He headed to the pier to follow up his only lead.
Jack had some unusual good luck when he came across a group of homeless teens hanging around. They seemed more talkative when he reassured them that he was not with the police. They recognized Bethany from the photo and told him that she had gotten herself addicted to some fancy, new street drug. Some sugar daddy named Valencio had been providing her with a regular supply. Apparently, he was the night inspector at the docks on Terminal Island.
Jack followed up with the docks commission, but they didn’t have anyone on their books with a name like Valencio. Only thing for it was to head down there and poke around. He got on the road again, cursing at the traffic every inch of the way. It was getting late when he finally parked his jalopy, but Jack figured the timing might help him bump into Valencio.
The harbor was surprisingly quiet, with just a single freighter docked. Jack could make out a few people either loading or unloading the ship. He headed toward the nearest building, trying to keep the noise to a minimum.
Noticing a window, he crept up and had a peek inside. Before he could get a good look, he felt a heavy impact on the back of his head. He stumbled, flailing his arms to ward off another blow. He reached into his trench coat for his magnum, only to remember that he had left it in his office.
“Of all the lousy…” he grumbled as he spun around, reeling from the first hit. He had just enough time to see the outline of a burly man before he was struck again and saw only darkness.