The directions are easy to follow, and Steve finds a brick building with large black letters spelling out the name, Roseland Sisters of Sorrows Sanctuary. Roseland is a city resting in a valley between two mountain ranges. The area is known for its microbrews. Why recall such a thing? He knows the city like he knows the value of a dollar and the basics of a combustible engine propelling the cars on the street. The real mystery: who is Steve Reynolds?
As he opens the door, Steve imagines a number of possibilities waiting on the other side: standing in line for evening soup, waking up from a dream and telling his wife about his strange adventure, a woman at the front desk recognizing him, or angels descending the staircase to guide him home. Even a Sister smacking him across the head with the bible shaking his memories back in place seems more likely than what he finds. Somewhere in his groggy state standing before the arched doorway, stumbling into the shadows between the cool outside and the warm indoors, the world swirls around him sending his head sloshing. Then everything orients within his thoughts, and he finds the unexpected.
Three apparitions occupy the room. In the back, lounging on a sofa, a ghost smokes a cigarette held between her fingers. She wears a white top and matching short skirt. She sits at an angle, legs crossed, foot kicking the air. White boots hug her legs all the way up to her thigh. On the right, a bartender wears a white vest barely hiding her breasts, and white bow tie around her bare neck. Hand held out, she serves a martini to an apparition dressed all in black. Like the first, the third ghost wears boots that are too long and a skirt too short.
High on the wall, the lamps within red glass cylinders cast an eerie glow within a haze of smoke. In the back corner, a curtain of beads hangs in the doorway. Sparkles dance down the beads catching light and movement beyond the curtain. The black-and-white tiled floor reminds Steve of a chess board. The two women, one in all black and the other all white, are chess pieces. Two queens command the battlefield in dark smoky ruins, a sanctuary of sin.
The apparitions move in slow motion. The black queen takes her martini glass, and the bright red lips on the bartender’s face curling into a smile. Even the smoke spewing from the white queen’s sparkling pink lips moves against time.
Steve steps inside, his shoes silently gliding across the tile. Taking in a deep breath, he notices the lack of a cigarette scent. Stopping in the center of the room, he spins around. The hands on the clock above the bar indicate three minutes before ten. His watch shows nine minutes after nine. The second hand on the sanctuary’s clock turns at a constant rate, nearly half too slow. Not constant, he realizes watching the slender second hand pass the twelve. Movements increasing in speed, the pair of ghosts at the bar come alive, less transparent. The black queen’s hips rock to each side as she lifts the martini glass to her lips.
The floor shudders, and shakes again. It is a beat increasing in speed, and he realizes it is a drum, music from the room beyond the beads. The black queen’s hips move with the beat as she dances in a circle, holding her glass up, spinning around, appearing less like a ghost.
Sound crashes the room, music pounding into his head. He breathes in the heavy cigarette smoke and coughs. Watching the black queen dancing in a circle facing him, he meets her cruel gaze.
The black queen looks like Kandy.
Her face darkens, a predator spotting easy prey. The sinful smile reveals terrible teeth, two fangs on top and a smaller pair on the bottom. Her eyes appear iridescent, red burning through hazel.
The music fades into the distance, and the room grows darker. Kandy becomes transparent as her movements slow. The bartender and the white queen are ghosts again. Darkness creeps over the room eating the furniture and the walls. The shadows eat away at the floor, a storm of dark purple clouds erupting in its place. Retreating from the disappearing floor, Steve races for the fading exit. Without reaching for the knob, he runs through the insubstantial door.
Sounds attack his ears, a nearby car engine and the background roar of the city. A chill settles upon him, and he shivers feeling streams of sweat slide down his face. Headlights glare then fade, a car passing on the street.
Looking back, he finds the building as before. Hanging on the bricks the sign reads, Roseland Sisters of Sorrows Sanctuary. He touches the door feeling the rough wood. Kandy knows him. He wants to go back inside and demand answers, but his stomach churns from the disorientation of time in slow motion. Is amnesia playing with the senses stirring up memories? Opening the notepad Detective Silver gave him, he reads the directions verifying this is the correct address.
“No way in hell I’m staying here.”