Totentanz, Chapter II

Cars... I hate cars. They force you into a small, compact space, which makes defending yourself all but impossible. But that's where I found myself; riding in Matthew's car as he took me... somewhere. I just hoped it had a change of clothes. Three-piece suits do not make good combat gear.

His thrall kept opening he mouth as if to ask a question, then she would pause, think better of it, and go back to staring blankly out of the window. The poor girl looked like a malnourished dog; gaunt, sad, and on the verge of passing out. Matthew didn't seem to notice, or care, and it wasn't my place to say anything.

So we rode in silence, to wherever it was I was supposed to go.

 

The Long Night. I remembered being here, and to be honest, could not contain my surprise that it was still standing. It was built into the basement of an old brick building, and I'm certain that the upper floors had been abandoned years prior. It made for a perfect place for someone trying to remain anonymous.

In short, a perfect place for a vampire coven. However, none of this was making any sense. I looked over to Matthew, wondering just what it was he was planning.

"I thought you said you hailed from Whitemoon," I said as he parked the car. "This place is owned by--"

"The Midwinter coven," Matthew finished for me. "The owner sent for you."

I blinked, stunned into silence. It couldn't be the same owner. I had been gone for years.

We got out of the car and made our way to the door. The doorman apparently recognized Matthew and let us proceed inside.

The club had not changed since I had been here last; same cheesy decorations of plaster skeletons and paper blood droplets, same plump bartender with the shaved head and too many tattoos, same 'goth' crowd pretending to be things they had no clue were actually real, let alone owning the club they frequented. The walls were still the same blood red, the furniture was still black, and the dance floor, where most everybody was at the moment, still looked just as ridiculous with everybody flailing about as though they thought they were dancing.

I leaned against the wall near the exit, surveying the crowd. From here, I could study each individual person here without any chance of someone getting behind me.

"I thought I felt it get cold in here," I heard a familiar, high-pitched voice say. "Guess it's just the frost."

I looked over at the short, pale girl who said it and could not help but smile.

"Talon."

She extended her arms for an embrace, wrapping them just under my ribs. Nobody would have been able to judge her power by her size; she could have lifted me with one arm, and probably thrown Matthew's car through a concrete wall with both. Not only that, but as the head of the Midwinter coven's branch of this city, she had connections from local government all the way to petty street crime.

Standing exactly five feet tall, she looked barely old enough to be unsupervised. Adding to her youthful features were eyes so blue that they made the sky jealous, and platinum blond hair that neared silver in hue. As she let go of me, she smiled.

"How long has it been?" I asked, managing a small smirk at her bubbly attitude.

"Eleven years, six months, fourteen days," she responded. "Too long."

"Aye."

My gaze returned to the crowd. "Mercenaries, Talon? I would have figured you as more of the 'do it yourself' type. Or has that much really changed in the last few years?"

"Well," she sighed, "this problem could extend the coven war into my city."

"Which you want to avoid."

"Precisely."

We were both silent for a moment, just listening to the 'ambiance' of industrial music playing. It was more like a conglomeration of overly loud electric guitars and a guy with twelve arms hitting anything that made noise with a drumstick. After a moment, Talon pulled a phone from her shirt, grimacing at whatever message displayed on the screen. "Hold on," she told me as she faded into the shadows of the patrons, and I was left to my own devices.

So I took a seat at the bar. The bartender looked like he was staring at a ghost.

"Hey, Paco," I said nonchalantly. "Shot of whiskey."

Paco blinked a few times, but didn't move.

"Paco?" I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head, wondering if he had just soiled himself. Finally he snapped out of it, shook his head and poured my drink.

I liked Paco. He was usually a man of few words. Large in presence and just physical size, bald, with a nicely grown goatee. Tattoos adorned his arms, and a tank top allowed him to show most of them off as they trailed across his chest.

"We thought you were dead," he said after handing me my shot.

"Well, I suppose you could say that. Being sealed in a coffin out in a cemetery usually implies 'dead.' But I'm back, much to my dismay."

I raised the shot to him, nodding, before downing it all at once, slamming the glass back on the bar, and letting out a quick whistle.

"Thank you, sir, may I have another?" I exclaimed with a quick smile.

"No time," I heard Talon's voice behind me. "We've got a situation."

It was Paco's turn to smile as he clapped a hand on my shoulder. "Next time, chap," he called over his shoulder as he walked away.

I looked over to Talon. She was holding my old midnight-blue duster.

"Time to get to work, hunter Frost."