The sharp ring of metal jolted Raine awake.
The dark overpowered him for the briefest of moments, then he recognized the familiar sprawl of Oki’s Veins. He pulled himself upright, a groan escaping his lips. His body revolted against him, his joints seizing and popping as if awakening from a long slumber. Slowly, the sounds of the city filled the space around him and he tested his breathing. No broken ribs. For this small reprieve, he was thankful. As he tried to stand, he twisted onto his hand, slipped in grime and almost sprawled in the refuse. He caught himself, despite the tremors racking his body.
Leaning against a dumpster, he stared out to the street, breathing in the harsh odor of urine, until the tremors subsided. The lines had dwindled, but there were a few stragglers outside, smoking at the edge of the alley. Apparently none of them had seen him or if they had, they’d refused to care. He looked to his right, noticed the side door to the Key Note Club was ajar.
He stood, immediately regretting the movement. His muscles screamed for him to rest, to hold back. Instead, he attempted to smooth out his suit. Ripped in several places, it barely hung together. He lifted his tie in one hand and shook his head at the crimson stained fabric. As he did, bits of his hair clung to his forehead.
He raised a hand and tugged at a substance in his hair. Pain sliced through his skull, but he ignored it. Rubbing the sticky material between his fingers, he noticed a sliver of glass resting on the tip of his index finger, glinting in the artificial light. He brushed it off on his stained pants and went about trying to brush back his hair with his fingers. Every time he did it, his scalp screamed in protest, but soon he felt at least somewhat human.
Pushing through the door, he crossed through the kitchen, keeping an eye out for his targets, but found no sign of them. Unfazed by the brawl, the band played a jazzy tune that had gotten most onto the dance floor. Smoke hung in the air, coating everything like the taste of a lover’s lips long after they’re gone. His eyes darted over to the empty section, still in shambles, and he grimaced.
Raine looked for the girl in vain. The stench of wasted liquor burned his nostrils. When the music hit its stride, he shoved the remains of a table aside. A sharp hiss escaped his lips, then he withdrew his hand. A thin layer of blood slid down the side of his palm. He checked the wreckage and found shattered glass throughout. He clenched his fist.
Using the back of his hand, he shoved the broken glass out of his way. Nothing. He took in the scene once more, spotted some fabric under a busted chair. Ignoring the sharp pain in his left knee, he crawled over the rubble and snatched up the scrap of Turrell’s suit.
Not some normal, run of the mill tailor. No, too smooth, expensive. He ran his fingers along it, tucked it into his pocket, looked over his shoulder and spotted a petite blonde behind the bar staring at him. He flashed a sheepish grin.
Raine stood, grimacing at the crack resounding from his knee and the pain sparking through him. He hobbled over to the bar. “Long night, eh?”
The girl, wearing a form-fitting send off of a double-breasted suit, returned with an uncertain look. A nametag hung from the lapel. It read “Mila.”
Mila picked up a glass and cleaned it. Her dusky eyes didn’t quite settle on him, but she spoke in a low voice, “Looks like you’ve come out with the raw deal.”
“Yeah, seems so. Those guys must have a real problem with my face.” He motioned to the bottle of rum.
A slight twitch of her head shot down his request. “You don’t have to worry about that. I doubt they’ll recognize you any time soon.” Her gaze flipped over his shoulder.
Raine caught a glimpse of a stiff elderly man staring at him. He turned back and shrugged. “That bad?”
“Worse,” she said to the countertop.
“I found a little something belonging to Mr. Louden—”
Mila cut in, “I can get it to him.”
Raine shook his head. “I’d like to deliver it myself, if you don’t mind.” He slipped his fingers into the pocket on his shirt and slipped out a folded fifty. He dropped it onto the bar.
Mila tossed a white towel on it and, for the first time, she looked him straight in the eyes. Uncertainty flashed across her features, but she stashed it away as soon as it had come to her. “He tends to rotate between the bars. This is just his Tuesday night.”
“Got any other rotations I might happen to run into him at?”
She shook her head, her blonde bangs swishing with the movement, then reconsidered. “The Carnivorous Flamingo.”
“By the Times?”
“That’s the one. I’m not sure when. I used to tend there for awhile, but they live up to their name.”
“This is a much classier joint. Thanks for the info, Miss Mila. I’ll be sure to come back to see you.”
She smiled, though her eyes darted back and forth all the while.
He pushed from the bar, then turned back. “When the shit was going down, there was a guy here. White hair, weird eyes. You know him?”
Her face twisted as her brow creased. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Didn’t see anyone like that during your escapade.”
He paused, then gave another quick smile and knocked on the oak bar. “Right. Have a good night.”
She nodded, the concern still spread across her features. “You too. Maybe tomorrow’ll be a better day.”
The band had fallen to a slower tune, something mournful and lost. The singer approached the bar, grabbing the attention of Mila. Raine caught a glance from her as he passed the dividing wall to the exit.
He pushed against the glass door and stepped out into the humid night. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and felt one slip through a new hole.
“Excuse me, Mr. Morgan.” A languid voice came from behind him. Raine turned and stared into the proprietor, unfazed by Raine’s haggard appearance. Dressed in a stiff black suit with salt and pepper hair slicked against his skull, the man had the air about him that no one escaped justice. He continued, “I’m going to need you to pay your tab. And the damages.”
Raine started to open his mouth but stopped. The man stared at him, mobile as stone. Raine sighed and reached for his wallet.