Sneaking weapons into a club isn’t something I normally consider given the authority of my position, but when I’m carrying enough hardware to make a distraught postal worker appear like cuddly toy bear I have to think through my options. Walking in shadow-time is easy enough, but that’s where Steve lives. I keep hearing his voice, a whisper calling my name. His scent lingers in the damp air. He steals memories, and the best I can figure is he took mine that night when he lay bleeding on my checkerboard floor. He did something before disappearing into violet smoke, and he’s been haunting me ever since. There’s only so much shit a girl can deal with.
The line at Necropolis is longer than usual full of young people wearing clothes too skimpy for the cold Autumn night. They bounce about or hug each other for warmth. I’m in my black party dress, and why not? At least I have my coat on. Behind me, a young man holds two young women in his muscular arms. He has that cocky look on his face like he’s God’s gift to the world. I’d love a bite of him, and his lovely ladies. Pulling my gaze from the morsels, I scan the street for danger. No Itoril thugs or creepy wraiths. The scent of rain mixed with cheap body spray hangs in the air.
Hearing my name, I spin around spotting the doorman, Axe, waving me over. Passing irritated faces, I march to the front of the line.
“What’s in the bag?” says Axe, wrinkling his brow. A vein rises on his bald head, but his body glow remains cool.
I press a hundred dollars into the doorman’s palm and say, “What bag?”
Axe laughs and says, “Just try not to wreck the place.”
Necropolis swallows me, doors banging shut. Striding down the stairs, the electronica works into my legs, and I bounce to the beat. If not an executioner, I’d be a dancer. Can’t beat getting paid to dance all night.
I don’t know if it’s even possible to push Steve into another head. Memory thief. Is it truly him? Or does the wraith have him? Sucking the memories out of someone has to be the most invasive intrusion imaginable. Finding another victim isn’t tough. Original Steve Reynolds, Torx, is apparently a mind he’s at least lifted the name from if not indulged in. I’m certain Torx will take to the vampire ice rumor and arrive looking for a good time.
If the wraith doesn’t accept my offering, then it’s going to end one way or another. Kill the wraith, and be free of the torment. Or die and be free of it all. Retirement is permanent for executioners.
There’s plenty of open space on the dance floor at the early hour. On the stage, a disc jockey with a tired expression works his machine. Hopefully the main band is loud enough to hide the screams, if it comes to that. Maybe Torx can handle a little bite. Passing the dance floor, I dive into the dark back hall coming to a closed black curtain.
Peeling the curtain aside, I find a dressing room lit by circles of glowing bulbs around mirrors on the left wall. At the back, a shower drips on the tile. Lockers occupy the wall on the right where a young woman sets a black purse on the floor of an open locker. Walking to the locker on the near end, I open the door. It squeaks, so I close it and try another. It’s tall, nearly big enough for a small person to squeeze inside.
The woman, one of the podium dancers if I remember correctly, glares at me. “You’re not supposed to be in here. I’ll call security.”
Opening my bag, I pull out my shotgun and lean it, barrel up, inside the locker. Holding my katana, I pop the blade free checking friction, and push it closed. I lean the sword into the other corner. On the shelf, I set several spare ammunition clips for my handgun.
“You can’t do that.” The dancer folds her arms in defiance, but her scowl gives way to fear. The girl glows hot like a human and smells just as nice. “I’m calling the cops.”
“You do that.” Shrugging out of my coat, I hang it on the hook inside the locker and close the door.
“I will,” says the dancer, stomping her foot.
I fasten my lock and give it a tug clanging the door. “Did you want to borrow my phone?”
The scowl returns. “Bitch.”
“Sugar and spice,”I say, singing. Raising my hand, I hold the chain dangling the locker key from my fingers. “Take it.”
“What am I supposed to do with that?”
“You can show the cops my weapons or return the key to me at closing.”
The dancer appears uncertain at first, but reaches out and snatches the key. She loops the chain over her head and stuffs the key into her cleavage. “Okay,” she says, “but if I don’t see you dancing out there, I’m calling the cops.”
It’s a deal that doesn’t cost me any money.
Bag scrunched under my arm, I climb the back stairs to my second stash location, the VIP lounge. Slipping through the curtain, I enter the lounge lit by candles perched on the wall above leather sofas. A row of small lamps glows over the bar opposite the sofas. Standing in the corner, the bouncer dressed in a tight black shirt nearly blends in with the dark walls. He nods at me. I don’t recognize him, so I smile showing off my pearly whites. Fang flashing is the customary way of establishing position. He doesn’t show me his teeth; he accepts my dominance. Only a fool wouldn’t.
At Necropolis, VIP refers to Itoril. The only humans that ever enter the lounge are club staff, entertainment, and menu items. Here, Itoril are free to be themselves. In the old days that sometimes meant stupid activities like shooting each other in the gut to see which one could take the most pain. Since then, Yasmine started enforcing a no-weapons rule, but that doesn’t stop me.
The bartender, Nathaniel, dresses like people did nearly a century ago complete with puffy sleeves and a bow tie. Nobody else dresses in costume. Spotting me approach, Nathaniel raises a bottle offering o-negative.
I can taste it teasing my tongue already. Nathaniel takes good care of his customers, always remembering favorite drinks delivered with a broad smile. I always appreciate good service, and it’s one of the things I like about Necropolis.
I say, “I need the balcony room for the evening.”
Even frowning, the man still appears happy. “Kandy, dear,” he says, “that’s Yasmine’s room.”
“Tell her I’m sorry, Nathaniel.” I fan ten twenties on the bar.
His smile returns, and he swipes the dollars away. “I’m certain she’ll understand.” He pops the cork from the bottle releasing the scent of blood. “Enjoy.”
Taking the bottle, I spin around and march into the balcony room closing the door behind me. A sofa sits beside a table against the glass wall overlooking the dance floor below. Music pounds through the floor calling me. Taking a chug from the bottle, I taste the sweet blood splashing in my mouth. The donor must be young, and female with good eating habits except for a chocolate weakness. She tastes too damn good. I take another gulp, and march over to the sofa.
I set the bottle on the table. Throwing the bag on the sofa, I open it and remove my pistol. Sliding the clip, I check my ammunition. Hollow point. I have my doubts that it will be enough to stop a wraith, but any Itoril getting in my way will think twice. Satisfied, I push the gun into the sofa cushion.
The music ends, and my heart sinks.
Pushing the backup clip between my cleavage, I squeeze it into the pocket sewn inside my dress. After stuffing the bag under the sofa, I stand at the window pressing my palms against the cool glass.
For a moment, I stare at my reflection–my ghost in a party dress. Something Steve said creeps into my thoughts. Time is an illusion, and memories are the ghosts we cling to making it appear we have a past.
The stage crew warms up the instruments, plucking at the guitars and banging on the drums. They test the sound system as the disc jockey pushes his cart off stage. People stream down the steel stairs, some onto the dance floor and others lining up at the bar hidden beneath my feet.
Steve will be here. I know, because when he stole my memories somehow some of his dripped into mine. His past is my future, and my ghosts are his. They’ll all be down there, original Steve and the memory-eating wraith. Or maybe it’s not his memories mixing with mine. Could the memory from down there on the dance floor originate from me? It’s my ghost he took twenty years ago, and he’s been haunting me since.
He knows all my secrets. How I like being touched. My desires. That’s how he got to me. He charmed me with my own thoughts.
Pulling the paper, the kill order, from my pocket, I unfold it and read it again. It’s just his name handwritten on the page. I should have finished the job twenty years ago. Tonight, I’ll end it.
Grabbing the bottle, I take a sip and cross the room. Opening the door, I find Zee leaning against the bar with a wine glass in hand.
“What the hell, Zee?” I slam the bottle on the bar. “Why are you passing fake venom?”
“Covering your ass, babe.” Swaying to the side, he clinks his glass against my bottle.
“Hell you are. You’re passing that shit around my haunts.”
“Yasmine hired Steve Reynolds about your venom thing. She probably already knows all about it.”
Nathaniel pours whiskey into three glasses. I glance around, but I don’t see anyone else besides the bouncer. One of the other rooms must be occupied.
Zee wobbles to one side, his eyes zipping in the opposite direction, and sways back again, confusion filling his face. “She hired that drug addict?”
“The other Steve. The guy hanging out with us the other night at Midnight Dream. Amnesia guy.”
Zee shakes his head, confusion twisting into that concerned look reserved for crazy people.
I push the kill order into his hand, crumpling paper. “This guy. Twenty years ago, you delivered this order and helped me track the guy down at my club where I executed him.”
Unfolding the paper, Zee reads the note. Shrugging, he drops the paper on the bar.
“He’s back from the dead.”
“Shit, babe. You’re starting to scare me.”
“Don’t worry. I’m taking care of it.”
“You’ve never failed, and I don’t even know what guy you’re talking about.”
I grab the bottle and gulp down the remaining contents.
Leaning against the bar, Zee shakes his head. “I never delivered that order.”
“Twenty years ago, Zee. I executed him at my club. Or thought I did.”
“You never had a club,” says, Zee. His face sags, and he flashes a look at Nathaniel.
Spinning around, the bartender disappears into the back room.
“Sanctuary of Sin,” I say, determined to knock some sense into the old Itoril.
“Before the Sanctuary of Sorrows, that building was a record store.”
Not again with the record store.
“Your record store where we used to jam in the back.”
I stand still watching Zee, and I see on his face that he sees the frustration on mine. I can also tell he’s going to call the magistrate. There is nothing more dangerous than a fully-armed executioner out of her mind talking about imaginary clubs and twenty year-old kill orders.
“Please, Zee. Give me a little while and I’ll have my mark. Then everything will be right as rain again.”
Picking up the note, Zee reads it and holds it out. “Babe, for all I know, you wrote this kill order. And that has me scared to the bones.”
[Next: 28. Final Dance Part 1]