After her mentor August Corbin vanishes on his way back from an easy case, Abbie Mills takes over the detective agency that he’s been running for years. Aside from tracking down leads on her missing mentor, Abbie’s life soon settles into an almost boring routine of catching cheating husbands in and solving petty crimes that the police won’t touch.
Two years later, Ichabod Crane walks into the office and changes everything in a matter of moments
“My wife — She has been taken.”
Notes: This is a mix of Neo-Noir fiction and urban fantasy in that there’s a hard-boiled detective and a case that needs cracking because of corruption of the supernatural kind. I can’t promise a continuation of this (because I have several big projects I’m procrastinating on right now), but if I do continue it, it’s going to eventually be shippy as heck.
Sleepy Hollow is a small town. Everyone knows almost everything about their neighbors and gossip might as well be currency around town. As one of the few private detectives in town, Abbie Mills knows a lot more than most.
She knows who’s sleeping around.
Who’s skimping out on alimony.
And when Ichabod Crane walks into the office that she used to share with August Corbin, she knows that he’s going to be trouble.
Dressed in a threadbare blue coat and a pair of black pants that certainly have seen better days, the man sitting across from Abbie’s cluttered desk looks as though he’s lost. He glances around Abbie’s office with a nervous tension infusing his limbs and starts bouncing his left leg hard enough to send the vibrations through Abbie’s desk when he slouches in his chair.
“What do you need from me, Ichabod?” Abbie asks, not unkindly. Leaning back in her own chair, she crosses her arms over her chest and watches Ichabod look everywhere except at her. “The last time I saw you in town, Corbin –“
Corbin was alive and Sleepy Hollow wasn’t half as strange as it is now. Abbie squeezes her eyes shut for a long moment, forcing a wave of unhelpful emotions back before they can overwhelm her. She reaches for the mug of coffee on her desk and takes a deeply fortifying gulp of it before looking closely at the man sitting across from her.
The last time that Abbie saw Ichabod, he was on his way back from the police station. His shoulder-length hair was healthy and neatly pulled back from a clean-shaven face. He was dressed in a uniform that fit and he looked at home on the street.
That was two years ago.
“You don’t look too hot,” Abbie says, moving her mug away from her mouth so that her speech isn’t impeded by it.
And she’s right.
The man in front of Abbie now is a far cry from the distinguished officer that she remembers as a town staple. Now, Ichabod’s features are pale and washed out. His dark brown hair is stringy and it hangs lank around a face that is far too gaunt to be healthy and it looks as though he hasn’t shaved in a month or three.
“My appearance doesn’t matter,” Ichabod says softly, fingers flexing over the chair’s armrests as he shifts about in the seat. “I’m here on important business. If you can’t help me, perhaps I should go elsewhere.”
Abbie hides her frown behind the rim of her coffee mug. With Corbin gone, Sleepy Hollow doesn’t look too kindly on someone like her running around as a detective. With her past, the only thing keeping people from ‘suggesting’ that she work elsewhere is the memory of her former mentor.
She can’t afford to drive Ichabod off before he has a chance to tell her what he wants from her.
By the time that she sets it down on the table with a dull clatter, there’s a professional smile on her face that she knows doesn’t reach her dark eyes. “Okay,” Abbie says. “Tell me what you need me to find.”
Ichabod’s gaze grows even more haunted.
“My wife,” Ichabod replies. “She has been taken.”
“Your… wife?” Abbie repeats. “You mean Katrina?”
Abbie remembers Katrina. She likes the red-haired nurse for several reasons that aren’t limited to her “no questions asked” policy at the hospital when she or Corbin would come in banged up to hell and back. Abbie hasn’t had one of those days in a long time, but that’s no excuse for not noticing that Katrina hasn’t been seen in town lately.
Ichabod’s long nose wrinkles with a frown and he blows out a frustrated breath of air that makes Abbie want to grin despite the circumstances. “I don’t have any other wives so yes, I mean Katrina.”
Ignoring the look that Ichabod sends her way is difficult. Abbie is used to meeting challenges head on and with a fair amount of cutting commentary, but there’s something about the way that Ichabod holds himself in his chair that makes all of the witty remarks dry up on Abbie’s tongue.
“Why aren’t you going to the police for this?” Abbie asks, leaning forward in her chair so that she can get a better look at Ichabod’s drawn features. “I’m just a PI. You worked for the force. If someone took Katrina, maybe you should try there first.”
Ichabod shakes his head.
“No,” he says. “I can’t do that.” Ichabod starts jiggling his leg again, and he avoids Abbie’s gaze neatly, turning his face to the side and staring at the framed photograph on the wall as though he’s seeing right through them. “That’s the last place I can go.”
The words — and the empty tone that Ichabod says them in — cause Abbie to frown.
“So how can I help where the police can’t?” Abbie asks, genuinely curious. “If your wife was kidnapped–“
Before she can finish speaking, Ichabod cuts her off.
“Katrina wasn’t kidnapped,” he says and this time, the shaking in his voice is audible. “She was taken by something.”
Again Abbie finds herself repeating Ichabod’s words. “Something took her?”
Ichabod inclines his head in a sharp nod. “Something snatched her out of our bed in the middle of the night while we were sleeping.”
“How long has it been?”
Ichabod’s gaze grows shuttered.
“Several months,” he says, muttering through his clenched teeth. “I’ve searched for her on end and have exhausted all of my resources. I have some… clues, but they aren’t enough.”
Abbie reaches up and starts to mess with her hair, winding the dark brown strands around her index finger as she tries to figure out the best thing to say. “Katrina has been missing for months, but you refused to go to the police for help. Why?”
Ichabod blinks at Abbie as his pale eyes fill with confusion. “Why?”
Resisting the urge to throw her hands up in the air and call it a day, Abbie huffs and starts tapping her fingers over the top of her desk, tapping out a thudding rhythm that distracts her from what she wants to do.
“Yes,” Abbie says. “Why did it take you so long to go to the police?”
Leaning forward and bracing his forearms on his thighs, Ichabod fixes Abbie with serious look in his eyes. “I caught a glimpse of what took my Katrina,” Ichabod confesses. “It was — Whatever it was took her through the mirror in our bedroom. The police wouldn’t believe me.”
“And you think that I’d believe you?” Abbie scoffs. “I’m sorry, but you have to –“
Ichabod shakes his head hard. “Two years ago, your mentor vanished,” he says, speaking fast. “There were no witnesses and when we found his car, there was nothing out of place except for several cracks in the car’s mirrors. With no sign of foul play, no one bothered to look harder.”
Abbie feels a chill sweep through her body. “You don’t think they’re connected…”
“They must be,” Ichabod says. “I’ve always suspected that something wasn’t quite right, but there was never any evidence.” A wry smile twists at Ichabod’s mouth. “Now, my life is evidence.”
The smile slides off of Ichabod’s face as he directs a searching look at Abby’s face. “Will you help me?”
Abbie should say no. Cracked mirrors and mysterious creatures aren’t proof of anything. Not in her world, but it’s been two years since Corbin vanished and there’s nothing that Abbie wants more than answers. If Ichabod Crane thinks that she can help and that the two cases are connected —
“I have some contacts on the force that might be able to help if I leave out a few details,” Abbie says, thinking about Andy with a soft sigh on her lips. “Now tell me everything. In order.”
Abbie reaches for the recorder that is a holdover from Corbin’s things and flicks it on. “Don’t leave anything out.”