Tasting dry clay, Steve spits. Dark spot, bits of dirt mixed with saliva, mark the mottled gray ground. Crimson gore oozes within a crevice, flowing over pebbles and into crags beneath his hand. Warm. Lifting his hand, he tastes it.
Spotting a shadow, he climbs to his feet keeping his eyes on the smoking figure. It moves differently, less graceful, taking determined steps circling around him beneath the raging storm of violets. It slips away into the shadows, and another dark form blossoms over the desert. Watching the hazy figure slowly move around him, he recognizes the rhythm and flow of the slender legs. Kandy. Maybe she cannot reach this far, caught somewhere within the shadows between two worlds.
Kandy’s shadow dissolves into a puff of smoke, disappearing.
Another shadow, taller, erupts onto the dead landscape. Each step, determined like the first dark figure, carries dark form closer. It is a wraith dressed in the long skirt, only this one has a face of hazy dark shapes forming a broad chin, a stubby nose, and dark pits for eyes. And this one has short hair smoking as if on fire.
From its eyes violet smoke pours, billowing to the sides, tendrils worming around its ears and disappearing. The smoking eyes match the storming purple clouds overhead. It seems at home in this dead world.
Concentrating on the dance floor, Steve steps into the shadows.
Pale etherial shapes appear, walls un-crumbling from the floor up. A ghost-like ceiling unveils in a wave. Columns grow out of the floor, the stage appears in a puff, and beside it, the broken dance platform. Ghosts, clumps of them, take to the dance floor of Club Necropolis. As color returns, movement increasing in speed, the ghosts become people, some standing nearly still while others run, clanging up the steel stairs to the exit.
Fear covers their faces.
Caught in the stampede, pushing and shoving, Steve slips off the dance floor, shoes skittering on the concrete. Swinging an arm, he fights his way free and up against a wall. Spinning around, he watches the crowd pushing their way onto the stairs, some falling crushed against the steel steps by others climbing over.
Some remain on the dance floor, confusion flooding their faces. They watch the panic at the stairs, while a few glance around searching for the source.
Standing beside a stone column at the edge of the dance floor, Julio glances over at the broken podium then back at two men standing beside him.
Bursting from a cloud of smoke, Kandy appears, her face like stone. Turning towards her, Steve notices a slender black rod swinging up at him. His arm flies up in defense, but too late, the rod glances across his head sending him falling back.
Rough ridges push into backside. Cold concrete presses against palms.
Peeling eyes open, Steve finds a dance floor bathed in bright floodlights leaving the stage at the back lost in darkness. He sits against the wall gazing at the red streaks of blood on the wood floor. Two men and a woman kneel on the floor beside a streak of blood. The woman waves her latex covered hand in circles as she speaks to the men.
Behind them, at the edge of the light, Detective Silver stands with his arms folded. His grim face contemplating the crime scene.
Steve’s eyes grow heavy, and he closes them.
A lavender scent waves over.
Opening his eyes, he finds heavy maroon drapes held open by snug gold chords. Outside the window, a row of dark, glossy rectangles breaks a dirty white surface, a building across the street.
A tap and the floor rumbles. Another tap, and the floor shakes. Black heels strike the floor. The woman walks to the window and stops, hands on her hips.
Gazing down, Yasmine twitches her nose. “I’m sorry to disappoint you,” she says. She pulls at her snug blazer. “I’m not yet ready for my bath.”
“My apologies.” Climbing to his feet, he feels his head slosh over. The throbbing is bearable. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Mister Reynolds, how goes your investigation?”
“Steve Reynolds is the name of a drug addict. It seems I stole his name.”
“I think the name suits you.”
He ambles to the window and gazes down at the street below.
Light rain patters on the street. Under the lamps, halos glow in the mist. Two cars rest on the far side under one lamp, and between two lamps another sits in the shadows. Kandy’s black muscle car.
Watching and waiting is the unglamorous side of contract killing. Yasmine, a young female Itoril rising to the top, attracts attention. Not only that, her methods of bringing Itoril out in the open by celebrating vampires enrages the elders accustomed to hiding from the world. Of course, Yasmine having attained status means her opponents cannot simply sweep her away. They wait until they have evidence against her, something terrible like killing other Itoril for venom distribution.
Standing at the window, he feels as though Kandy watches him.
Heels clicking, Yasmine approaches, her ghost reflection appearing in the window.
“What happens when the magistrate dies?”
“The council members elect a new magistrate.”
“And if the election is held tonight, who would they choose?”
Yasmine takes in a long breath and exhales.
On the street, the muscle car comes alive, pistons hammering. With a throaty roar, a brief spin of tires, the dark chariot carries Kandy through Roseland.
Turning away from the window, Steve looks the room over. It is an office, back wall lined with bookshelves and a heavy desk taking up the center of the room. A reading lamp splashes the dark oak desktop and an open book. Near the corner of the desk, a computer monitor bathes the desk in a bluish-green light.
On the far wall, lit by a lamp, hangs a large portrait of Yasmine, nearly nude in her chain mail dress. The painting feels alive, the warm brush strokes and stippling creates a living resemblance of the woman. As if pulled by the painting, he stands a foot away before he realizes he walked across the room.
Beside the painting, a shelf holds a black sword stand, a pair of carved dark hands holding a the slender, curving blade of a sword. He dares not touch the weapon as it is considered rude, and in some cultures, an aggressive move. Instead, he leans closer and examines the waving pattern forged into the blade by a master.
Standing up straight, Steve spins around and clasps his hands behind his back.
A smirk on her face, Yasmine watches him.
“You are the next magistrate.” Reaching up, he touches his head finding the soft bump where Kandy hit him. “Unless they pin vampire ice on you and take you out first.”
“Sounds like all the pieces are coming together.”
“Given that they haven’t already executed you, then you must have a strong sponsor and good bodyguards.” He glances around the empty room. If cameras roost, they are hidden.
“Don’t worry, I told my guards how much you enjoy watching me undress.” She bites on her finger, fang hanging over lip. She flashes a girlish grin. “So delightfully naughty, you are.”
“How do I make an appointment with the current magistrate?”
“I’ll make an appointment for you. Look for the bike messenger.”
Gazing at Yasmine’s playful smile, he considers Kandy watching from the car where he had the discussion with her moments earlier, a day ago, somewhere within Kandy’s memory. Does she know he stands inside Yasmine’s home? It might explain the attack at the club. At least now he knows how his unconscious body ended up at the crime scene.
Recovering from his thoughts, he realizes Yasmine’s blazer is on the floor and her blouse hangs open exposing her bright red bra. Shaking his head, he steps back into the shadows. Yasmine pales away, and the room dissolves. He leaves the ghost behind.