“They told me I’d find you here.”
“Ah, Mister Reynolds,”says Detective Silver, waving his hand. “I’m taking one last look before we release the scene.”
“I remember what happened.”
Steve gazes down at the dance floor where Julio stood, at the nearby stone column. The stains are gone, but he spots an open folder in the detectives hand where a photograph reveals the blood.
After the talk with the magistrate about collective decisions, Fate and her tapestry, it feels as though he has been running on rails since the beginning.
Given the expense and complication of producing vampire ice, the venom issue must be a plot to convince the elders that they need change. That part seems straightforward. He has not seen any vampire ice. The vials at Torx’s apartment could have held anything, and Torx gets his fix straight from Kandy. The forgetfulness nature of venom takes care of the rest. It’s Stratton’s other implied message that chills his bones. Will the magistrate accept his end?
He clears his throat. “I was hit on the head.”
His notes mention how Julio describes the incident. Two ghosts, a spray of blood from nowhere, and then nothing. There are very few that fit the description. Maybe Zee, but two others were present during the crime. Kandy and the wraith circling around the chaos, somewhere on the other side of the shadows.
“Do you remember who attacked you?”
He shakes his head as the image of Kandy striking him burns his soul. “Like a ghost.”
Silver points at the dance floor. “What about the other victim?”
“Sorry. I wish I could be more help. I just wanted to let you know what I recall.”
Silver nods. “Come by the station tomorrow. We have a lead on your identity.”
“I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but it sounds promising. We’ll try to clear it all up together.”
Steve wishes the detective good luck and climbs the stairs to the exit. The night air greets him with a chill. It feels strange that his own life might be within grasp, but his true identity is stranger still. He is a memory thief. Walking towards the Sanctuary, he flips through his notepad, scanning the pages.
There is no bottled venom, or vampire ice as the kids refer to it. Torx and Sabrina get their drug straight from the fangs. Given the memory loss symptom of the drug, and with a little psychological nudge, Torx would believe he accepts deliveries from Julio or others at Necropolis pinning Yasmine as the supplier. Is Kandy behind it? It almost seems that way, except she is a traditionalist with no interest in politics. And she is a killer. No matter how much she hates the idea of a young female magistrate, she would never take part in political treachery. A killer kills, and for Kandy, Yasmine is not much of a challenge. No, it seems more likely that someone takes advantage of Kandy’s lust for blood and her willingness to exchange a hit of venom, an activity frowned upon, but not necessarily illegal. More likely someone is trying to frame Kandy.
That leaves two other suspects: Stratton and Zee. The magistrate seems hell-bent on proving a point to the elders, and the wobbly bandmate shows up at interesting places including Torx’s apartment and popping out of a closet at the Sanctuary with a gun.
Among the pedestrians on the sidewalk ahead of him, he spots a slender shadow defying the light, a wraith. The creature turns its head, gazing back. Wispy smoke reveals shapes of its slender nose and broad chin. The eyes are dark pits. The wraith turns away, continuing its march.
Glancing back, Steve finds the same street full of pedestrians from memory. This is the place the wraith followed him, only now in front, a memory within a memory. Could the wraith be his shadow? It seems impossible, but there it is right where he remembers walking. As if reading his thoughts, the creature glances back a second time just as he had done before in its place.
A chill shakes him right to the core.
Instead of paying the doorman, Steve steps into the quiet place and slips into the Sanctuary of Sin. Beneath violet clouds, he passes through the ethereal walls and finds his way to the dressing room. He returns to world standing behind Sin.
Wearing only black shoes, Sin stands bent over a table gazing into a brightly lit mirror. She applies lipstick smacking her lips together.
Gazing at the smooth curves over her backside, at her breasts hanging over the table, he feels embarrassment wash over from walking in on someone in a compromising position, into her private life. She hums a tune beyond her own awareness as she reaches behind and scratches her buttocks. It could be worse had he caught her on the toilet, but not as terrible as the thought crossing him.
Drink in her memories.
A beautiful young woman, an exotic dancer entertaining Itoril, must have interesting memories. Nasty thoughts come rushing in. What she likes during sex, her bathing preference, even her favorite foods seem like tantalizing appetizers on the way down, deep into her secret place. It’s all there for the taking.
Stealing memories isn’t just wrong, consumption means they also become part of him. All the secrets, the fear, the good and the bad become his memories like Torx, the original Steve Reynolds the drug addict, and whatever other memories are already mixed inside. All those secrets become his burden.
The dancer’s gaze meets his in the reflection. Holding the lipstick before her face, she watches him for what seems like eternity. The urge to consume her memories erupts, and he tastes them like the scent of home-baked goodies floating in the air. Going to school, eating strawberry ice cream, and hugging a stuffed toy bear. What would it be like to have a daughter? Go trick-or-treat. Watch her grow up, become a women. Would it even be possible to follow the transition? With all the memories getting mixed up distorting time, the only way might be to take in the memories and watch them like a movie.
Just one drink.
Devour her memories and know what growing up is like.
A shudder rushes down his spin, and he bites his lip holding back temptation.
The dancer spins around. Taking no effort to cover up, she stands there looking her intruder over. Her eyes flash to the closed door and back. “How did you get in here?”
“My apologies.” Taking in a deep breath, he quiets the urge. He glances down at her bare breasts, and pulls his gaze back up. “At the end of the first song, you must tell me to get the hell out.”
Her face contorts into confusion.
Counting five hundred-dollar bills, he sets them on the table. “That’s all. Just tell me to leave.”
Turning to the door, he grabs the knob. It refuses him. Realizing the problem, he pushes the button in the center popping the lock. He exits into a dim hall and closes the door to Sin.
Palm to his head, he wipes sweat.
The original plan likely involves the shooter surprising him inside the room, but Sin’s warning changes that. Using himself as bait might allow him to surprise the shooter, unless of course, the shooter has already thought of that. Or Kandy. What if the shooter is bait? Tracking down Kandy and getting caught wearing a different suit is too much of a risk.
Waiting is a risk. Kandy or the shooter may come along at any minute. He has the ability to walk through the shadows. Can he move forward and find the right moment in time? That’s just it. Time. Nothing slows down in that other world. It’s perception. Like visiting the memories of the dancer, all he has to do is find the right one. The memory of the shooter waiting in the room. That he can work with. It’s right there in memory.
[Next: 24. Executions]