|Image by Igor Morski|
I didn’t start out some kind of superhero, bent on protecting New LA. My relationship with this city is love/hate. I’m definitely not her minder. But I do look after my friends. That’s what kick-fired this whole damn story. One night. A new job. And, looking after Cate.
. . . by the time I was working on round two of the best mushroom pesto linguine in the universe, Cate, my newly single BFF, had purged. She even moved from victim mode to outrage, (all directed at the ass hat Joey) and that was a step up on the emotional scale, in my book anyway. I took a third serving and smiled. With a lifestyle like mine, which included martial arts training on my nights off, I loaded up on carbs when I could. Yum!
After doing the dishes – Cate wasn’t one to leave a spoon out of place – I had a quick shower, leaving enough hot water for her. While she dressed in her ‘uniform,’ which consisted of very little other than glitter and coconut shells, I opened the gun safe and slipped my Ruger .9 mm into my calf holster and smoothed down my jeans. I was licensed to carry, and I always did at work, more for the trip there and back, than anything else. New LA wasn’t really a city of angels, not good ones anyway. Cate threw on a light coat and we headed for the bus. I looked up and down the street, frowning. Something prickled my skin.
‘Joey won’t come here, if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s scared of you,’ Cate said.
'Good. The dirtbag should be afraid.' I was going for reassurance.
She changed the subject. 'Any news on Daina?’
Speaking of scared. Daina was our mutual acquaintance, the most recent missing coeds in a wave of unexplained murders, at least that’s what the press called them. Not all the bodies had been found.
Cate sighed. ‘Nothing.’ The bus pulled up as we arrived at the stop. ‘Do you think she’s still alive?’
I shrugged. ‘Can’t see how, but we can hope.’
Yeah, that’s how the night began. Off to work at Club Poseidon.
Innocent enough . . . but by midnight, not so much. I was in the elevator, on my way up, I thought, ready to take over the door, but that’s not what happened.
… In the elevator, my fingers hovered over the console. There was a dark smudge on the button below UP that hadn’t been there before. Without thinking, I swiped it, bringing my finger to my nose. Blood? As I did, the elevator kicked in. It took me a second to realise it was heading down. What the hell? I hadn’t even pressed the damn thing. I hit the UP button several times, but nothing happened. I was definitely going down.
The lights went from white to deep-green as the elevator descended. A moment later, it stopped. The bell dinged and the doors slid open. Noise hit like a tidal wave. The visuals were a blur, my senses bombarded. I stood, stock-still, as the undeniable smell of blood, laced with fear and aggression rushed up my nose. A gasp forced its way out of my throat and I slammed my hand over the UP button, hard enough to crack the console.
The doors remained open. I flattened myself against the side of the wall, unable to blink, or tear my eyes away. It was a ghoul’s carnival, a page right out of Hieronymus Bosch. Run! The command coursed through my body, but there was nowhere to go. I jabbed the UP button again. Nothing.
The music bounced off the walls. Amid blue lights and flashing strobes, naked bodies danced, gyrating to the rhythmic beats, but that’s where any similarity with upstairs ended. People’s faces were streaked, dark liquid dripping down their chins, and throats. Around the walls, victims hung from chains. People? Mannequins? I saw some move, struggling against the restraint. The far wall was taken up entirely with the floor to ceiling aquarium. It must run right up to the club level, but ... this was different. The unearthly waters teemed with sharks, in a wild frenzy as they fed on chunks of flesh and bone. What were they feeding them? The bodies on the wall? Some of the chained victims looked dead, some not; all dripped blood. It flowed down their limbs into crystal goblets.
Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.