Journeyman let out a low whistle and placed his hands on his hips. Took a long look around the trashed club and shook his head slowly.
“The Hand is on a warpath,” he said.
I stepped through the velvet curtain and took in the carnage around us. Tables were overturned and about a half dozen bodies lay on the floor around us. A stark contrast to the underground utopia we’d seen a couple of nights earlier.
“This is crazy,” I said. “What makes you so sure he’s the one who did this?”
Journeyman kicked a canister on the ground that looked like a smoke grenade.
“Call it a hunch,” he said.
A body a few feet away from us let out a low moan and turned over onto its side. Stretched out its hand in our direction in plead for help.
“Oh my God,” I said, and rushed to his side. It was one of the waiters, wearing all black with a red bow-tie. I crouched by his side and took a closer look. His skin was yellow and flaky and had puss-filled blisters on it. I reached a hand forward to inspect but Journeyman held me back.
“You don’t want to do that,” said Journeyman.
“We have to help him,” I said. “We could save his life.”
Journeyman shrugged and pulled me away.
“He’ll be fine,” said Journeyman. “Vampires heal pretty quick. It’s just a little sun-burn. It’s not as if he’s lost a limb.”
I looked at Journeyman with contempt, surprised at how little sympathy he had for this suffering man. Vampire or not, he looked to be in a lot of pain. How could he just stand there and do nothing about it?
“There has to be something we can do for him,” I said.
“What, like take him to the special vampire-ward at the hospital? Trust me, the best thing we can do is let him lie there and heal on his own. He’ll be fine in a couple of days.”
“What happened to them?” I asked.
Journeyman pointed to the fist-sized black canister that he’d kicked when we stepped in.
“That’s a UV grenade,” he said. “Not strong enough to kill them but strong enough to fry their skin.”
I nodded, looked around and saw a couple of other canisters on the ground.
“But why?” I asked. “What could possibly warrant doing this to…”
“You were about to call them people, weren’t you?”
Journeyman picked a chair off the floor and sat on it. Took out a cigarette and lit it up.
“They came for Sharon,” he said. “The Hand realized that he can’t get to me directly so he wants to use her to get to me. We have a bit of a past, the three of us.”
I considered picking up a chair as well but the place looked like a crime scene. Last thing I wanted to do was disturb the evidence.
“You seem to have a past with everybody,” I said.
“The perks of being a popular guy.”
The way he was so calm in a room full of half-dead vampires should have disturbed me but I was no stranger to his psychopathic behavior.
“You’re going to help her, right?”
Journeyman flicked ash on the ground and squinted his eyes at me.
“Who? Sharon? Fat fucking chance. He can have her for all I care.”
“Don’t be a dick,” I said. “You have to help her. It’s your fault that she’s in this mess.”
“You know, you and Sharon aren’t that different. You always find a way to blame me for anything that goes wrong.”
“You just admitted that this is happening because of you. You have to do something about it.”
“And why should I?” said Journeyman. “You heard what she said. She’d be happy to see me dead. When someone tells you that you’d rather just let them die first. The Hand is doing me a favor.”
“You’re pathetic with women,” I said. I couldn’t believe that he couldn’t see it. It was so obvious that even The Hand could tell. “She’s still in love with you.”
Journeyman opened his mouth to say something then closed it again.
“I don’t know why, but she still loves you,” I said. “That’s the only reason why The Hand would have taken her. He thought that taking her would unhinge you when you go after him. But look at you. You couldn’t care less. He credited you with more humanity than you actually have.”
I left Journeyman behind and walked out of the club. His attitude disgusted me so much that I couldn’t stand to be around him any longer. I Didn’t want to give his lack of humanity a chance to infect me and turn me into something as heartless as he is. I sat outside in my car for about an hour, plotting my next move. If Journeyman didn’t have the guts to go and save Sharon then I’d have to do it. But I had no idea where to start. This was Journeyman’s world. He was the one who knew where all the seedy shit went down in this city. I was just a side-kick. A tag-along. Someone to bounce his bad ideas off of. What good was I on my own against a guy who had an army of ninja-assassins at his beck and call? What I really needed was information. A way to get at The Hand. That’s when I realized that I did have one option for information; Black Ivy.
I hoped Journeyman would change his mind and come join me but when it became clear that he wouldn’t show up I started up my car and drove out of the lot. I was on my own for this one. My heart beat in my chest like a drum. This was my first time going on a mission without him. It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time.
When I arrived at Black Ivy’s Bar and Bistro I decided to use the front door this time. I found the parking lot empty and that was the first sign that something was wrong. At this time in the afternoon the lunch-rush should have been there but there was only one other car in the lot. The survival-instincts in my hind-brain screamed at me to turn around and go back home but I ignored it. I’d already made it this far. It didn’t make sense to turn back now.
The tables on the outside porch were already set up with green table cloths and cutlery, expecting someone to come in and order a meal but no waiting staff to serve them. Empty tables and an empty restaurant. Maybe they ran out of man-meat to sell. Inside was just as empty as the outside. A ghost restaurant. Some of the tables had half-eaten food on them as if there were people here for a moment and then they just up and disappeared. I got the feeling that I should disappear too but curiosity dragged me towards the back room. I walked towards it and just as I passed the bar a hand grabbed me across my mouth and dragged me down behind the bar-counter.
Coming without Journeyman was clearly a bad idea. With no backup, I had nobody to save me. I fought and struggled against the hand that held me but it was too strong for me. With one twist it could snap my neck and that would be the end of me. Panic took over and I thrashed my arms and legs, trying to get my control back. But the neck-breaking jerk never came. Instead my assailant just firmed up his grip and tried to keep me steady, hushed in my ear and whispered to be quiet. The assailant didn’t want to kill me. He just wanted me to shut up.
I calmed down and steadied my breathing. Stopped flailing my arms and let them drop. We were behind the counter, bottles of booze above us. One of the hands that held me let go and pointed towards the kitchen. I strained my ears in that direction and heard movement, barely audible on the other side of the swinging door. Sounded like footsteps and a struggle. Then there was a muffled scream and something heavy being dragged across the floor. The door to the kitchen flung open and a figure dressed in a black suit pushed through. If he’d bothered to look left or right he might have seen me hiding there behind the bar but he had something else to hold his attention.
Behind him, Black Ivy came through the door, held in The Shadow’s grip on her leg, being dragged across the wooden floorboards of her own restaurant. She kicked and thrashed her free leg at him but he was just out of reach. Her face had bruises on it. Like she’d put up a fight and lost. Instinctively, I tried to get up and help her but the strong hand held me back. Probably a good thing that he did. Journeyman could have taken that scumbag easily enough but I didn’t stand a chance.
After Black Ivy came another Shadow. He lashed out with a savage kick that caught Black Ivy in the ribs. It should have hurt, but it just made Black Ivy angrier. She spat at his shoe and clawed at the floor as the other Shadow dragged her past the tables and out the front door.
The hands that kept me back held on for about ten seconds after The Shadows had dragged Black Ivy out of the restaurant then let go. I turned around to see a mammoth of a man squatting behind me. No wonder I couldn’t get out of his grip. This guy could have held a horse down if he wanted to.
“What the hell just happened?” I asked him. The big guy shook his head and shrugged. Stood up to his feet and towered over me like a mountain. “And why the hell didn’t you do anything about it?”
The guy shrugged again and picked a bottle of whiskey from the shelves behind the bar. Picked up a glass and poured himself a double shot. Downed it in one gulp then poured himself another and one for me, which he slid across the counter.
“Not my fight,” he said. “I’m just a bartender.”
“You won’t be a bartender for long if The Shadows kill your boss.”
The big guy sipped his drink and smirked.
“This is Nairobi,” he said. “There are bars everywhere. I’ll find another gig.”
His level of loyalty didn’t surprise me. Nairobi is a place lacking in people you can rely on.
“I guess it would be too much to ask of you to help me find her?”
He snorted into his drink.
“The only that I need to find is a new job,” he said.
I swirled the drink in my hand and took a long sip. The burn of the whiskey in my throat was oddly comforting. I hadn’t realized it but the adrenaline was still running through my veins. The alcohol calmed me down and my hand stopped shaking.
“The least that you can do is give me some information. Where are they taking her?”
“Damned if I know. The Shadows don’t have what you would call a fixed abode. Helps them stay stealthy.”
“What about The Hand? Do you know anything about him?”
The mountain of a bartender put down his drink and looked me in the eye. Shook his head and tsked three times.
“The Hand is the one who sent The Shadows after Black Ivy?” he said. “I definitely need to find a new job because I know we won’t be seeing her again. That guy is bad news. I used to work at his casino down on Mombasa Road. High-end place. Minimum buy-in is 1 million shillings cash. And the waitresses have to work topless. He used to say that it’s because men who are distracted by tits are easier to swindle on the black-jack tables. But what’s really fucked up about that place is what goes on downstairs. Every now and then I’d see someone get dragged down there but I never saw any of them come back up. One night I had to go down there to pick up a crate of beers. I didn’t see anything but I did hear screaming from the lower levels. I brought the crate back up, finished my shift and never showed up for work again. Not even to pick up my final pay check. If that’s where they’ve taken Ivy, then she’s fucked.”
I digested what he’d just said for a moment and pondered my next move. If that casino was where they’d taken Ivy then there was a good chance that Sharon was there too.
“A casino on Mombasa Road, right?” I said. “What’s it called?”
“You can’t seriously be considering going down there,” he said. “They will fuck you up.”
“Listen, you don’t have to come with me but don’t try to stop me. Now tell me the name of the casino.”
The bartender chuckled and leaned forward on the counter.
“Kid, you got a big pair of balls on you,” he said. “The Hand is going to have fun pinning them to the wall.” He sighed and closed his eyes. Opened them up again and looked at me with pity. “It’s called the Ling-Ling Casino. Turn left right after the Mobius showroom. You’ll see a big-ass sign. Can’t miss it.”
“Thank you,” I said, and turned towards the door.
“Just one thing,” the bartender said to my back. I turned around to face him. “When they catch you and force bamboo sticks under your finger-nails, try not to tell them that it was me who sent you there, alright?”
I nodded and my eyes fell to the bottle of whiskey on the bar counter. Walked over and picked it up. Carried it out with me. If I was going to go through with this, I’d need some liquid courage.