Something about the floating club reminded him of Wonderland. Not Disney’s Wonderland, either, but Wonderland according to Lewis Carroll: dark, sumptuous. Treacherous. It was the sort of place where anything could happen…and probably did. He had a feeling if a deranged, bloodthirsty monarch suddenly swept in and started demanding people’s heads, no one would bat an eye.
The other patrons had begun to note their presence. Darius leaned down to speak into Bez’s ear. “Maybe we should get a drink.”
Bez nodded. Nervous energy rolled off her in great, uncontrolled swells. “I could definitely use a drink.”
This time, her arm tightened around his. She visibly steeled herself, then led the way deeper into the club.
The further they went, the more sinister the place felt. Music pulsed from speakers hidden in the dark, velvet-lined walls; an unsettling mashup that evoked both Rob Zombie and Thelonious Monk. The lighting was nearly nonexistent. An art deco chandelier gleamed overhead.
Darius looked a little closer. It was illuminated purely by candlelight. The tiny dancing flames were a lovely shade of purple.
“Neat trick, isn’t it?”
Darius jerked in spite of himself, remembered at the last minute to keep a grip on Bez’s arm. He turned. A man stood behind them. He looked a bit like the White Rabbit…or possibly the March Hare. His couture suit was impeccably cut, his long pale hair slicked back from the sharp lines of his face. He studied them with bright, assessing eyes.
Bez gulped audibly. “Kristof.”
“Bez.” He didn’t take his eyes off Darius. “Perhaps you would care to explain why you brought a mundane to my club.”
Bez coughed. “He’s not a…that is, Darius is a friend.” Her voice caught on the word. “I just thought—”
“Darius.” Kristof peered at him a little closer. His eyes widened slightly. “Darius deCompostela? Fuck me, is that you?”
Darius cringed. Bez’s jaw slackened. She turned to him. “D? Is there something you’re not—”
The man snapped his fingers, and the room froze. Bez froze too, her mouth stuck around the not. Her eyes were an unnerving shade of white.
Darius blew out a breath. “Seriously?” He glowered at the other man. “What’s it been, fifteen years? Your poker face hasn’t improved.”
Kristof met his glower with a sneer. “And you’re still turning up where you don’t belong. Fucking busybody.”
“Two-bit stage magician.”
They glared at each other. Finally, Kristof’s lips twitched. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
He extended a hand. After a moment’s pause, Darius clasped it. “That it has.”
“It’s good to see you, D. Especially after, well.” Kristof retrieved his hand and smoothed it over his hair. “I didn’t even recognize you. I thought you didn’t have dealings with the community anymore.”
Darius shook his head. “I don’t. Not usually. I’m here on a case.”
“Ah, yes. The mundane detective, handling mundane problems.” Kristof tsked. “Waste, if you ask me.”
“Which I didn’t.” Darius glanced around the frozen club. His gaze settled on Bez. “Look, unfreeze this shit, would you? It’s weird. And if you could do me a solid and make sure she doesn’t remember your little outburst…”
Kristof gave him a Cheshire-esque grin. “Still hiding, are we?”
“Under every rock I can find.”
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