Chapter 2

Crawler Avenue was located about 20 minutes north of the City Centre. The easiest way to Club Mystique would be to take Chantress Lane through Dromp Enterprise Square, but I was neither stupid nor suicidal enough to try my luck at that cursed place. It would cut my travel time in half, but ever since the high rise building, belonging to the city’s wealthiest man, suddenly disappeared along with all his employees and his son and daughter, no one in their right mind would go near the place. One day it was there, the next, the 38-storey glass and fortified steel mountain was gone, leaving a perfectly paved square in its place. That had happened four years ago, and Douglas Dromp still offered a 100 million to the person who could bring back his family and the hired help. The place gave me the creeps.
I jogged around the corner of our humble two-storey brick office, which was located in the oldest part of the city.
My baby was parked in an underground garage under the neighbouring building, which had been empty for the past 20 or so years. She was a classic 2036 Shepson in cherry red, made just before the barrier fell and changed automotive design forever. Though she was an old lady, she still had a great kick to her, and the feeling of sliding into her cream leather seats always made me smile.
I was just about to pull out when I saw a dark shadow in the review mirror.
I rolled down the window and leant out to glare at the looming figure. “For flamingo’s sake, Fahim! Don’t sneak up on people. I nearly made you one with the pavement!”
The tall man with skin the colour of creamy coffee stared silently at me with his dark, dark eyes.
“Where have you been anyway? Tom’s been looking for you for a week now.”
“Jinn.” The word seemed to seep from the air around me, something which had a tendency to make people jump. After a while, you got used to it, though.
“You’ve been drinking for a week?” I frowned. Fahim didn’t drink.
The tall man slowly shook his head, clearly holding back a frustrated sigh. “Jinn”. The Arabic word rolled off his tongue but didn’t quite disperse from the air around me. It was hovering there, waiting. Fahim took Middle Eastern mysticism to a whole new level.
“Ah, genies! Nasty business. Where did you find them?”
“Neighbour’s hot tub.”
“Eh, that’s a bit unusual, isn’t it?”
Fahim nodded once. “Something is disturbing the balance. The spirits have become restless.” Without another word, he turned around and disappeared into the shadows.
I stared at the darkness for a moment, not quite sure what to make of that statement. It probably wasn’t anything good, but right now I had a case to solve, so whatever it was, I would let Fahim deal with it.
I drove out of the garage and headed north. Driving through the city was always interesting. It never looked the same. Ever since the barrier fell and magic flooded back into the world, nothing had been the same. Granted, I hadn’t been around when it happened, but the historic accounts were pretty descriptive. Apparently, it hadn’t been normal when houses suddenly transformed into gingerbread dwellings and having an ancient forest absorb a big chunk of China Town overnight would have raised an eyebrow or two. Everything must have been so boring back in the old days.
I watched the city glide by outside my window until the big, grey office buildings were replaced with expensive looking shops and private homes – all hidden behind massive walls.
I turned into a wide street and pulled up right in front of the club. My car was nice enough to blend into the luxurious surroundings, and it was still early enough that I could get a free spot.
The club was located in an old gothic mansion that was tucked in between two sleek, glass apartment buildings. The mansion had been spruced up with laser projectors in bright purple and blue colours. A mixture of rock and techno blasted from the black, metal doors, but there was no one in sight – well no one besides a grumpy looking security guard in a suit. It was too early in the evening for the A-listers apparently. The fact that it was a Wednesday wouldn’t stop them. Lucky people didn’t need to get up early to earn a decent living.
I took a deep breath, and immediately a strange smell hit me. It was faint, but it was unlike anything I had smelled before. A sickly, sweet smell which filled the air, kind of like rotten fruit, but it was mixed with some kind of herb or spice. It was so subtle that humans probably wouldn’t have picked it up, but it was strong enough to upset my stomach.
Curious, I locked the car with a short beep and went up the steps to the main doors.
The security guard gave me a measured look. Apparently, he wasn’t impressed with my creased jeans and coffee stained blouse because he blocked my way when I tried to go through the doors. “Can I please see some ID, Miss.”
“Sure.” I pulled out my PI license which featured an unfortunate photo of me in mid-sneeze. The lady who took it had taken great pleasure in denying me a retake. I comforted myself with the belief that she had been intensely envious of my stunning looks. The dark circles under my eyes HAD been less noticeable that day and my skin hadn’t been as ghostly pale as it usually was. She had plenty of reasons to envy me. “Here you go.”
The bouncer kept looking back and forth between the plastic card and my impatient face. “Are you here to speak to the boss?”
“Yeah, I’m here to buy his pet emu.” The sarcasm rolled right off him. For all I knew Thomas actually had a pet emu.
The guy handed my license back and pushed one of the massive doors open – with one hand.
I raised an eyebrow and quickly gave him another scan. His toned body looked perfectly sculptured underneath the dark suit, but not overly buff.
Pretending to fortify myself, I took another deep breath, and the odd scent hit me again. Whatever he was, he wasn’t human.
Filling away a mental note to ask the others at work about it, I walked into the dark depth of the club.
A huge staircase was the first thing I saw when I entered. Right in front of me, the massive white marble monstrosity led up to what looked like a dark corridor. Two big rooms were located on either side of me with the music pouring out at ear deafening levels.
I spotted a wardrobe section just before one of the rooms, and hoping to get this over and done with, I marched over to the petite Goth manning the counter. “Hi, I’m here to speak to Mr Pelletier.”
“Miss Hamilton?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
Her black lips lit up in a pretty smile. “Mr Pelletier is expecting you. Unfortunately, something urgent has come up. He asked if you would be so kind as to wait for him in the bar whilst he sorts things out? It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.”
The prospect of having to wait in the bar was not appealing, but I had come this far and who knew when he would have time to see me if I didn’t meet him now? “Okay. That’s fine. Thank you.”
The woman handed me a black card. “Thank you, Miss Hamilton. Please accept our apologies for the delay. This card will provide you with anything you want from the bar. Just show it to the bartender.”
“Thanks.” Suddenly a bit more impressed with the service, I walked into the room on my left.
It was a big room with tables along the sides and a large, raised dance floor in the middle. Electric blue leopard skins covered the black floor, and purple animal trophies were mounted on the walls, their lifeless, dark eyes watching you from above. The bar was a big steel beast, spanning one wall, and four busy-looking bartenders were working away behind it. Why they were looking slightly stressed out was a bit of a mystery. The place was practically empty. Only a couple of the tables were occupied, and all the fancy dressed guests seemed to be content with staring sorrowfully into their expensive drinks. The whole thing was rather depressing.
A bit reluctant to become part of the sad setting, I slowly walked up to the bar. One of the bartenders gave me a smile and headed over. “Hi, what can I get you?”
I put the black card on the counter. “The strongest you’ve got that’s non-alcoholic, please.”
His smile widened to reveal two dimples in his 5 o’clock stubble. It even reached his turquoise eyes. “No problem. I know just the thing.” He went to work, adding the colourful content from one bottle after another.
I had another look around the place, but nothing unusual stood out. Well, nothing that would help me solve the case.
One of the guests was looking at his glass which was slowly spinning in the air – five inches above the table. Another guest was etching runes into her table only to wipe them away with her hand, leaving a smooth blank surface.
No one seemed to take a particular interest in the magical displays which lead me to believe that the bar was mixed abilities inclusive. A couple of the guests looked human, so it was unlikely to be one of the places catering exclusively to the rich and magical.
“Here you go.”
I turned around and stared at the drink in front of me. On the counter stood a small piece of heaven – or the universe to be more precise. The long glass looked like it was filled to the brim with a small galaxy. The dark liquid had streaks of purple flowing through it and small liquid globes in different colours floated around in the drink. Tiny bright stars were visible among the planets. This was definitely the most impressive drink I had ever had.
I leant closer and studied the minor miracle before me. “What is this?”
The dimples made their appearance again. “It’s a personal signature drink.” The way he said ’personal’ would probably have made most women blush like a shy schoolgirl, but I had been up since 5am and didn’t have the energy required to blush. It didn’t help that all I’d had to eat was that tuna sandwich which still seemed to haunt me.
“Thanks.” I took a tentative sip of the small wonder. The taste started out sweet but then kicked my system like a row of tequila shots. “Wow, are you sure there’s no alcohol in this?”
The guy shook his head. “No, alcohol. You won’t get drunk by drinking The Universe.”
I eyed him sceptically and took another sip. The same thing happened, but it didn’t seem to cloud my senses, so I took a big swallow and enjoyed the kick it gave me.
The barwonder looked like he wanted to say something, but whatever it was, I never got to hear it. Something behind me had made his smile disappear, and without a word he stepped away from the counter and started drying a glass, eyes fixed on his task. If that wasn’t a clue that trouble was coming my way, the increased pressure in the air around me definitely was.
“Miss Hamilton?”
I tightened my fingers around the glass, giving me a better grip before I turned around as casually as I could.

Read chapter 3 here!