I walked out of the house through the kitchen door and into the adjoining garage. My electric car was there and Journeyman was already sat in the passenger’s seat, looking comfortable. I knocked on the window once but he ignored me. I knocked again and he still didn’t respond. The asshole clearly wasn’t in a mood to go anywhere so I walked up the driveway to the gate and opened it myself then rushed back into the car and pressed the ignition. The car started soundlessly and we felt a light thrumming from the engine. Journeyman just sat there in the passenger seat with a frown. He hated riding in cars. He despised their very existence. ‘Monstrous gas-breathers’ he called them. He only agreed to ride with me because my car was fully electric.
We drove out of the gate and after locking it up behind me, I sat back in the car and gave him a questioned look.
“We’re going to Westlands,” he said.
I did my best to suppress a frown but he caught onto it and raised an eyebrow.
“What?” he said.
“I hate that place,” I said. “It’s loud and noisy and everyone in those nightclubs is a total dick.”
“We’re looking for the Vampire Banger,” he said. “We’re not going to find her at the supermarket. Now nut up and let’s go.”
I kept quiet after that. The silence must have been too loud for Journeyman because he awarded himself the pleasure of controlling the stereo. He played around with the tuner until he landed on a radio frequency that I didn’t recognize. Heavy metal rock music blared from the speakers. I cringed as he turned the volume up.
“Really,” I said, raising my voice to be heard over a blaring guitar riff.
Journeyman sank back into his seat and did a head-bob to the beat of the drums.
“Yes, really,” he said. “We have to get into their mind-set if we’re going to step into their territory.”
“Isn’t a little stereotypical to assume that all vampires listen to rock music?”
Journeyman looked at me mid head-bob and laughed.
“Of course it is,” he said. “But stereotypes don’t happen by accident. Come on Kabirium, get your head in the game.”
We drove down Waiyaki Way under the neon glow of halogen street lights. I kept to the speed limit and hugged my car to the inside lane, keeping an eye out for drunk drivers on their way home. Drunk drivers who didn’t enough wits about them to time their exit from the clubs with the departure of the Breathalyzer cops from their perches.
I turned the car off the highway and into one of Westland’s many back roads, past small offices and business centres as well as high hedges to keep the public out. All closed for the night and making themselves hard to see so that the freaks of the night can take all of the attention. I slowed the car to a stop at every T-junction and Journeyman shot me a dirty look every time.
“You don’t have to stop at every single junction,” he said. “It’s 4 in the AM, the streets are empty.”
“And what if some crazy comes barreling down the road from the other side?” I said.
“You’ll feel it coming,” he said.
“Feel it coming?” I said. “I think I’d rather feel my foot on the brake pedal.”
“Just get us there before the Vampire Banger leaves,”
As we approached Nairobi’s unofficial centre of club-life, the traffic started to increase. I saw people staggering towards their cars and others struggling to get theirs out of parking lots. I guided my Smart car over potholes and turned left towards a gate that Journeyman pointed out. The night watchman, clad in a thick sweater, large overcoat and a beanie stepped out through a pedestrian access by the side of the gate. He frowned at me through the windscreen, clearly unhappy to have been woken from his sleep, then walked over to my window.
“Hakuna parking hapa,” he said through a crack at the top of the window. He squinted to see who else was in the car and then his face lit up when he saw Journeyman in the passenger seat. “Ah, kumbe ni wewe? Ingia, ingia, spot yako iko hapa.”
“VIP parking, my boy,” Journeyman said. “It pays to hang with me.”
The night watchman opened up the gate and waved as we drove into the half-empty parking lot. I parked the car in the corner and we pulled out of the car. Journeyman led the way as we walked out of the lot. He gave the watchman a cheerful wave and a grin as we walked through. The watchman waved back at Journeyman but gave me a condescending look.
Journeyman made his way across the street, ignoring the peddlers selling street food and the kids in ripped and ragged clothing with their hands stretched out and their palms to the sky. Scantily clad women crossed Journeyman’s path on several occasions and drunk men bumped into him but he paid them no heed. He kept his head low and I followed him as we elbowed our way through the crowd until we were at the ground floor entrance of what was a business complex during the day. Several signs hung above the entrance advertising their particular business and room numbers.
We stepped into a foyer made of marble floors and my eyes stung from the fluorescent glow. We made our way down the steps towards the basement. The farther down we went, the darker it got and after the first flight we were in pitch darkness. I had to slow my speed to make sure that my feet landed on each step. Journeyman didn’t slow, taking each step with the sure-footedness of a mountain goat.
After one flight of darkness I could see a red glow down at the bottom of the next one. We reached the bottom, turned right and saw a tall dark man in a blue suit standing next to a wide doorway with velvet curtains draped across it.
“Hello Bruce,” said Journeyman.
He shook the tall man’s hand and whispered something into his ear. The man cast a sideways glance in my direction. He nodded three times, took a step away from the doorway and pulled the velvet curtain back. Journeyman stepped though the doorway and I followed him in.
Inside, loud rock music filled the air. Not quite the headbanger’s ball that Journeyman was playing in the car but to me it still sounded noisy and obnoxious.
There were tables spread out across the room, all facing a small, slightly elevated stage where women in leather girdles danced to the music. In the corners were booths that awarded some privacy. Black was the dress-code of the night. A few of the men sported leather jackets and shin-high leather boots. The ladies wore black wigs and chain links connected from their hips to their hands. I felt out of place in blue jeans and a white polo.
Journeyman scanned the room, winking at a few people and frowning at others. It always amazed me how he managed to inspire such love from some people while simultaneously inspiring hate from others. He pointed to a booth in the far corner and started across the room towards it. I followed him and when we got there he sat down on the red pin-cushioned seats.
Sat across from us on the other side of the table, a couple was locked in a tight embrace. The guy had the girl’s head pulled back with a fistful of her hair and his mouth was buried deep in her neck, right beneath her chin. They ingnored out prescence and kept holding onto each other. Watching them was making me uncomfortable but Journeyman kept his eyes on them with the casual attention of someone watching the evening news.
Journeyman cleared his throat and the girl opened her eyes and saw us. She groaned and tapped the guy on the back of his head. He made a sound that sounded to me like a growl but didn’t move. She tapped him again, harder, and he detached himself from her neck and I reeled back, forcing myself to ignore my gag reflex’s insistent urge to purge my dinner onto the floor.
Two large blots of blood swelled up from where the man’s mouth had been. They started to roll down her neck, onto her collar bone and into the cleavage of her low-cut, red top. The man looked at us with his lips curled back, blood dropping down from the sides of his mouth. He hissed and bared his teeth. Long, pointed canines gleamed at us with a glow of red on them.
“Sharon the Vampire Banger,” said Journeyman, drawing each word out.
The man with Sharon hissed again, and blood dripped off of his chin onto the wooden table. I jumped back in my seat but Journeyman didn’t so much as flinch.
“Nick,” Sharon said to the scary man with the fangs. “Would you give us a moment please?”
Nick looked at her, then across at Journeyman and me, and shrugged. He picked a serviette off of the table, wiped the blood off his mouth, dropped the bloody serviette in the middle of the table then stepped out of the booth.
“I told you not to call me that,” said Sharon.
“Not call you what?” said Journeyman. “Isn’t that your name?”
“I told you not to call me the Vampire Banger,” she said.
“But you do bang vampires?”
“It was just that one time.”
Journeyman raised an eyebrow and nodded towards Nick, who was watching us while he stood by the bar at the other end of the club.
“What about him?” said Journeyman.
Sharon smiled and her eyes lit up. She tilted her head back and showed her neck in Nick’s direction.
“Oh, him?” she said. “He was just hungry. Now what do you want? It’s almost daylight.”
“Strait to business, huh?”
“Yes, strait to business, you asshole.”
Journeyman feigned mock hurt and cast a look in my direction.
“At least she hasn’t shot you yet,” I said.
Journeyman grinned and turned back to Sharon.
“An attempt was made on my life,” he said.
Sharon crossed her arms across her chest and tilted her head to the side, giving Journeyman an up-and-down look.
“You look fine to me,” she said.
“That’s because I’m hard to kill,” said Journeyman.
“What happened?” asked Sharon.
“The Shadows,” said Journeyman. “They’re after me.”
“The Shadows? The Shadows have you all worked up? Even I could take them down on a bad day.”
“I dealt with them, thanks for asking, but I’d like to be able to walk down the street without leaving a trail of bodies in my wake. So call them off.”
Sharon uncrossed her arms and leaned forward on the table.
“You think that I sent them after you?”
Journeyman held her gaze and they stared at each other for a moment. Sharon dropped her gaze first and spread her fingers out on the table.
“Journeyman, you think too highly of yourself,” she said. “Why would I want you dead?”
“You did threaten to kill me,” said Journeyman.
“I did no such thing,” said Sharon.
Journeyman reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He pressed a few buttons on the keypad, navigated into his inbox and started to read from it. “Journeyman, you piece of shit, I will kill you. Do you hear me you asshole, I will kill you.” Then he looked up and stared at her.
Sharon leaned back and a sheepish grin spread across her face.
“Was that text from me?” she said.
Journeyman just looked at her, his jaw clenched.
“Well,” she said. “It sounds like something that I might have said. Why would you even keep a text like that?”
“For moments like this,” said Journeyman. “Now call off The Shadows before the body count gets too high.”
Sharon crossed her arms across her chest and raised her chin.
“Get serious,” she said. “I sent you that text in a fit of rage. I send out ten texts like that every week. If I followed through on all of the threats that I made to every asshole that broke my heart, I’d have nobody left in my little black book. It wasn’t me.”
Journeyman placed his hand to his chin and thought about what she’d said. But he didn’t look convinced.
“Seeing as you’ll be dead soon,” said Sharon. “How about a round of shots to toast your upcoming demise?”
She raised a hand and waved at one of the waitresses walking around. A dark-skinned woman with purple highlights in her braided hair, black jeans and a tight-fitting black t-shirt came over to our booth and leaned over it, letting her breasts hang low in Sharon’s direction.
“Hello Monica,” said Sharon. “My friend over here may not live to see the next moonrise. I want to give him something special to see him off.”
“You’re always looking for something to celebrate,” said Journeyman. “Is this your way of saying goodbye, or good riddance?”
Sharon smiled and turned back to the Monica the waitress.
“A bottle of Chablis, please,” said Sharon.
Monica nodded and went to the bar. She came back with her tray and on it was two shot glasses and a large bottle with a black label and filled with a red, viscous liquid inside. She placed a shot glass in front of Sharon and one in front of Journeyman. Sharon twisted the top off of the bottle and filled both shot glasses to the rim.
“To your health,” said Sharon, and raised her glass to her lips.
“Wait,” said Journeyman. “If we’re celebrating my good health, we can’t do it alone.”
He passed his glass to Monica who was still standing by the booth.
“You first,” he said to her. “Consider it a tip.”
Monica froze at first, unsure of how to react and then she lowered her gaze and turned her body away.
“Oh, I can’t,” she said. “I’m working.”
Journeyman smiled and kept the glass held out towards her.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “We won’t tell your boss.”
“This bottle of Chablis is extremely rare,” said Monica, stroking the bottle. “Imported from Monaco and imbued with the blood of Transylvanian virgins. It’s much too good for me. Tell you what, you two enjoy this specimen and I’ll help myself to a sip of the cheap stuff at the bar, on you.”
“It’s okay Monica,” said Sharon. “It’s just one shot.”
“Really,” said Monica, taking a step back from the booth. “I can’t. I just…I have to…” then she turned on her heel and ran. She ran right across the club, weaving around the other patrons and through the violet curtains at the exit.
We watched her streak out of the room and Sharon’s smile turned to a frown. She was still holding her shot glass and tipped its contents onto the floor under the table with a look of disgust. Then she picked up the bottle of Chablis and tossed it clear across the room at the bar. The bartender ducked to dodge it and it crashed into the top shelf and shattered. Bottles of over-priced booze crashed to the floor.
I turned to look at Journeyman and he leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“Poison,” he said.
The violet curtains at the entrance parted again and Bruce the bouncer stepped through, with Monica in tow. He had her held with a firm grip under her armpit. He took one look around at the shocked patrons and made a bee-line to our booth, frogmarching Monica towards us. She resisted and tried to twist out of his grip but he was too strong.
“Bruce,” said Journeyman. “Thank you for looking out.”
“I’m always on the lookout when you’re around,” said Bruce.
Monica had stopped struggling and tears streaked down her face. Journeyman still held the shot glass in his hand.
“Now Monica,” he said. “Would you like to tell me what’s in this? Besides the booze and the virgin blood, of course.”
Monica held her head low. Her mouth was open and her fangs were exposed. Vampires are instinctual creatures. Their emotions rule their behaviour and their fangs come out when they’re stressed, anxious, angry, or even happy. It makes for a confusing tell on poker night.
Journeyman pushed the drink towards her and she hissed and recoiled. Bruce squeezed her arm, forcing her to look at it.
“There’s nothing in there,” said Monica.
Sharon slammed her arms on the table and Monica jumped.
“Don’t bullshit me Monica!” said Sharon. “I’ve know you for years. For years I’ve been drinking her. For years I’ve spread my legs for you and let you sink those blunt fucking fangs into my thighs and this is the thanks that I get?”
Sharon stepped out of the booth and stood next to her. She grabbed Monica’s chin, pulled it upright and stared into her eyes. Sharon’s long nails dug into her cheeks and broke the skin. Blood started to drip down Monica’s chin and onto Sharon’s hands. She leaned forward and put her mouth to Monica’s ear.
“Explain yourself, you leech,” said Sharon. “Or I’ll tell the hunters where you live.”
“Sharon, I’m sorry,” said Monica. “I’m so sorry.” She was full on bawling now and the tears running down her face mixed with the blood on her cheek.
“I’d never hurt you,” Monica continued. “I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’ll always love you. The drink was fine. There was nothing in the drink. It was the shot glass…”
“This shot glass,” said Journeyman, and pushed it towards her.
“Yeah,” she said. “Some guy came in right before you did and gave me this.”
Monica reached into her pocket and pulled out what looked like lip gloss.
“He told me to wait until you ordered a drink and then line the rim of your glass with it,” she said. “He had a silver dagger to my gut.”
Bruce pulled up Monica’s shirt and exposed a patch of freshly burned skin right above her belly button. It was pink and slimy and was already starting to fester. The sight made me gag.
“I’m sorry Journeyman,” said Monica between sobs. “I never wanted to hurt you but I had no choice.”
Sharon gripped Monica’s face tighter and squeezed her cheeks together.
“Don’t be sorry to Journeyman,” said Sharon. “Be sorry to me. I wasted a whole bottle of Chablis thanks to you.”
Journeyman cleared his throat.
“I think that my life is more valuable than a bottle of bloody booze,” he said.
“Not in here, it’s not,” said Sharon.
Journeyman ignored her jibe and looked at Monica.
“Describe the man with the blade,” Journeyman said to her.
“Average height, thick build,” said Monica. “He was wearing a black suit, no tie, stunner-shades on his face and he had the blackest skin that I had ever seen. Blacker than the moonless night.”
“Sounds like a Shadow squad-leader,” said Journeyman
Sharon spat on Monica’s face and let go of her, then want back into the booth.
“Get rid of her,” she said to Bruce.
Bruce gave Sharon a curt nod and dragged Monica away from us and through a door that read ‘Staff Only’.
“What’s going to happen to her?” I asked Journeyman.
“It’s best that you don’t know,” he said.
Another waiter approached the table and laid bottle of wine down in front of Sharon.
“I’m so sorry for the disturbance,” he said to her. “Please, have this complimentary bottle of Virgin Red, on the house.” Then he bowed and scurried away.
Sharon picked the wine off the table and took a swig strait from the bottle.
“So,” she said in between swallows. “The Shadows really are after you. What did you do to piss them off?”
“I don’t know,” said Journeyman. “But Crazy Daisy might have the answers.”