As the tailor finishes the suit, Steve Reynolds reviews his notes in the pocket pad. Five thousand dollars, a payment or bribe for some unknown service. Delivery by bike messenger increases the difficulty in tracing the money to the source. Sabrina has never been to Torx’s apartment, but he clearly remembers her there along with the broken glass surrounding the beer bottles. Drugs. Itoril venom is a drug, and Sabrina is an addict. Yasmine owns Necropolis. They play by the book. Good at covering secrets such as an unsolved murder, missing a body, and his strange appearance after forensics finished their initial job. It all seems like it starts at Torx’s apartment, his first memory.
The apparent loss of time between Torx’s apartment, where he lost Sabrina, and Necropolis could mean something besides a hangover. The apparent time travel from The Sisters of Sorrows Sanctuary to The Sanctuary of Sin, and again at Necropolis where he met Yasmine soon after she bought the club. How long ago was that? Doesn’t matter. It all could mean his memories are not in order, and it all starts at Necropolis where they found his unconscious body. Besides, his very first memory involves Kandy pointing the gun at him.
It begins with Kandy.
He recalls the dance floor where Kandy swoons to the music. There lost in the shadows of time, she tells him her name. Kandy Fangs. Necropolis, the city of the dead. That is where Kandy, her killer eyes blazing, aims a gun at him, at the beginning, in the end. Somewhere within the murky darkness of time memories hide.
Steve checks the mirror. The charcoal suit appears neat. Like a federal agent. He tips the tailor a hundred and exits leaving his old clothes behind.
The evening air chills his brow. Traffic hums in is ears. He considers going back to Kandy’s place and demanding answers. If not for the memory of her threatening him, he would. Killers keep secrets. Glancing around at the stone buildings, he finds his bearings. The Sanctuary of Sin should be around the corner. Behind him, melting between two pedestrians, a shadow follows.
Focusing on the sidewalk ahead, Steve continues striding between two flows of pedestrians coming towards him. He feels like he paddles up river with the shadow creature floating closer. Much like the thing at Kandy’s place, this creature appears like a dark ghost pulling a trail of wispy shadows burning off like smoke. A wraith. Not like the memory ghosts. It could be something else, a distant cousin to the Itoril. The shadow might even be his absent hunger.
When was the last meal?
Except for the coffee earlier this afternoon, and the drink at Midnight Dream, he has no memory of a meal. If coffee or wine can be considered meals.
Turning the corner, he glances over his shoulder spotting the wraith, closer now, gliding along the sidewalk passing through people. Continuing into the darkness, he realizes the sound has slipped away. His shoes no longer tap the cement. The sounds of traffic is a memory fading in his ears. Even the cold air has abandoned him. And the darkness is a shroud dimming the street lamps beneath a raging sky of violet clouds.
He passes ghosts, memories frozen in time, and hurries nearly jogging for the corner. He glances back at the wraith. Instead of a hazy shape, he finds a dark figure wearing a long skirt marching on the sidewalk. The face is still featureless, but he feels the eyes eating into him. Passing the corner, he races onto the empty street.
Sound crashes down; engines, tires screeching. Light blazes. Leaping, Steve dodges the car and runs onto the sidewalk. He takes in a deep breath and looks around. A car honks at the stalled car, and both continue moving again. A handful of pedestrians stroll along the walks.
He searches the street. The wraith is gone.
Red showers down on the glistening moist pavement. Gazing up, he finds a blazing sign bleeding above the door. The Sanctuary of Sin. He looks the building over. Sure enough, it is the same as before except for the sign. Instead of the old sign for The Sisters of Sorrows Sanctuary beside the door, a man in a dark suit stands in front of bare stone.
Removing the pad from his pocket, Steve scribbles a note about the building, the red sign. Notes help keep the memories straight. He slips the doorman a hundred and steps into sin.
Music thunders from deeper within pounding the checkerboard floor with a chilling beat. The black queen, Kandy dressed in a short skirt, slinks over. Sin fills her smile, glossy red lips pressed together and eyes blazing with confidence. Behind the counter, a woman in a tuxedo flashes a smile then turns to something on the countertop. The clock on the wall claims midnight approaches.
Kandy waves behind her. “What’s your pleasure?”
Steve glances to the back at the beaded curtains hanging in the doorways, one on each side of the corner.
“Perhaps you’d like to start with a drink?” Kandy waves at the counter.
Meeting his gaze, her smile fades as she seems to study him. Her face brightens again. “Yes, Mister Reynolds.”
“How long have you worked here?”
“Since opening. Nearly a decade, isn’t it?” Linking arms, she tugs him in the direction of the counter. “How about a drink?”
The bartender tips a bottle pouring a deep red liquid into a wine goblet.
He recognizes the scent. A rare brandy.
“Drink up, Mister Reynolds.”
He tips the glass back, drinking down the warm, invigorating contents down.
Looking him over, Kandy studies him, her eyes lingering on the silk tie, the expensive shirt, the leather belt. Calculating. Rising, her eyes blaze with warmth. The room is nearly dim enough, and he finds the spark of the Itoril embers burning within.
“I know what you need,” says Kandy.
Some food, perhaps. A roast might go with the brandy, or chocolate might be better. Still no hunger pains. Maybe food comes between memories, meals cast aside as meaningless information.
Watching her hips in the tight dress, he can’t imagine anyone disobeying her command. Even knowledge of her nature is barely enough to discourage his feet from falling in place. Shoes tap the chess board. Her hair smells like cinnamon reminding him of riding in her car after she killed the man. No, not a man, an Itoril. Kandy is an executioner. Or will be. It doesn’t matter. Time is relative, and Kandy is always a killer.
Slipping through the beaded curtain, into a hall, the music grows louder. The deep percussions move the floor, each thundering heartbeat shakes the foundation, rattling the closed doors. Deeper within the beast, the chorus awakens, fallen angels crying their hymn of death, despair, and their allegiance to darkness.
Chills spill down his backside.
Selecting a door, Kandy touches the knob and spins around. The grin on her face could melt a man.
He wants to ask questions about this place, their history, but his fractured memories leave him lost. One thing is certain. This memory comes before Necropolis.
“Welcome to your sin.” Kandy opens the door.