Chapter Five: Business
As soon as Tea walked in to ‘On the Grind’ she got a bad feeling, she remembered reading that several suicides had taken place here and wondered why it was still open. The entire place seemed like a normal urban club, long bar, cabaret tables and a dance floor as big as an apartment. Here the many new and old faces in the neighborhood, danced, whined and dubbed under sweltering lights. Looking around she noticed a few of the industry faces, various rappers and R&B singers who had come and gone, as well as club owner Jason ‘Jae’ Banks, he sat with a young man who had twists and a slightly older bald man with broad shoulders. They sat in a booth a piece of paper between them with a pen next to it. Probably some knew young thug, rapping about nonsense. Upon looking closer, she noted that the man in question looked familiar, but couldn’t place him. Oh well
“Hey, Tea.” Calvin sat at a table at the other end of the room; he wore a causal gray suit, with a red tie and topsiders.
Tea thought he looked over dressed for a friendly meeting with an employee; she was wearing a red and white plaid shirt, with black jeans, and a wool trench coat. “Hello is this where we’re sitting?”
“Yeah, it’s all us.” He smiled as she sat down. “Order anything you want, I’m buying.”
Tea sat down uneasily, something small in the back of her head told her to leave. It wasn’t just Calvin, but the overall vibe of the place. “I’m not really hungry.”
“Come on, you said you were supposed to cook for Marcus but he had to go.” He hid a grin.
“Yeah.” She looked down at her hands. “I’ll just have a cranberry and ginger ale.”
“That’s a little odd, you sure you don’t want some wine or something?”
“No, that’s fine.”
Calvin hailed the waiter and placed their orders. “As steak rare for me and a cranberry ginger ale for the lady.”
“So when will I be doing the Janelle Brown interview, has she flown in from Chicago yet?” Tea sat up business was all that was on her mind and a panging feeling that she had to talk to Marcus.
“Well, she’ll be here next week, and don’t worry I’m sure you’ll nail it.” He smiled at her and leaned across the table. “And then you’ll be riding the wave of success that follows.”
Under the table, Tea felt something brush across her leg she moved back in her seat abruptly, she didn’t like the way he was talking everything seemed like innuendo. “Excuse me.” She got up from her seat and went into the ladies room; inside she ran the water and washed her hands and her face. What am I doing here; I should be home finishing dinner. Her exhalation was loud after she opened her eyes; she caught a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye. I have to go. Shaking her head she walked out of the bathroom. When she emerged her drink was being set down on the table, she grabbed it from the waiters hand, downed it and then picked up her coat.
“I’m sorry boss but I have to get home and finish dinner, before Marcus gets back.” There was urgency in her voice even she was not prepared for. The panging again told her to leave quickly.
“But who’s to say he’ll even appreciate it.” Calvin shrugs. “I mean he did leave, after all.”
“Well when he gets back we’ll talk about that.” She put on her coat in a hurry and turned to him. “Goodnight.” and walked toward the door.
Calvin’s eyes were hard on her back; he stood up looked in Jae-Banks’ direction then toward the empty stage. He grunted in frustration and then put on his coat.
Tea walked out of the restaurant and on to the street wearing her wool trench coat. She snuggled up against it in the winter air; it was a gift from Marcus for her birthday. Her heart sank, she didn’t want to be out here and she didn’t need to be, but as soon as her mind changed, a hand touched her back causing to whirl around in a defensive position so quickly Calvin almost fell.
“Sorry, sorry.” He put up his hands in a placating gesture. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You should damn sure know better than to sneak up on a black woman in the street.” She frowned.
“Shees, I wonder how you would’ve reacted if I was Marcus” He cocked his eyebrow.
“I wouldn’t have because he knows better than to sneak up on me.” She put her hand on her forehead. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I shouldn’t be out here.”
“Well, since you are why waste the evening; I’m sure Marcus won’t mind.” He smiled. “Busy as he is.”
Tea exhaled slowly and loudly, she was angry now, she didn’t know why but Calvin’s jabs about Marcus’ absents made her mad. “Excuse me, Sir, I have to leave, I’ll see you Monday about that Janelle Brown piece.” She began to walk back to the train station. Why did I even come out here…? Just because Marcus left, doesn’t mean he’s creepin’ I’ll ask him what’s going on when he gets home. I know he loves me so what ever he’s doing he can tell me.
“That’s if it’s not taken when you get in.” Calvin’s voice had an annoyed tinge to it.
“Excuse me?” Tea swung around, hands on her hips. If Calvin was trying to bring the sistah out of her, he was succeeding. “What does that mean?”
“It means that you should come back and have dinner with me.” His grin was like a Cheshire. “Please.”
Was this guy serious he’d threaten to take her big story away if she didn’t let him romance her? This asshole. “Look, you’ve been hitting on me for months and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to make any waves but now you’ve crossed the line, I’m reporting you to the company EEO.” She started down the stairs again.
“You’re making a very big mistake Ms. Stewart.” The emotion left his voice and fell into a matter of fact tone.
She got down the steps passed the station attendant in the booth, paid her fare, and walked to the end of the platform to wait for her train. The station was empty for a Friday night; it was also hotter than it should’ve been in the winter. She looked down the tunnel for signs of an oncoming train but there were none. Letting out a sigh she began to peel off her coat, at that moment she caught a sign of movement out of the corner of her eye. Snapping her head to the right she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Probably just a rat. She shuddered a bit at the thought and then looked back to see the lights of a train coming through the tunnel. Finally. Just as she sighed relief, the train stopped, still in the tunnel and the lights on it went dead. She looked hard at the train and then ran up to the turnstile to look for a station attendant, but there was no one in the booth. Wasn’t there a guy here when I first came down? The sound of the train moving through the tunnel made her turn her head as it came barreling into the station lights on and glaring. Hmm that was odd.
She boarded the nearly empty train as soon as it stopped. Now to get home and have that over due talk with Marcus she bit her nails at the thought took a deep breath and exhaled. It’s going to be all right girl, relax, you don’t think he’s cheating you’re just worried about him. As she told herself this, the train’s lights flickered oddly, and then the conductor’s voice sounded.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it seems that we’re having technical difficulties, please be patient.” As the voice went off the train began tremble. There was another person in the car with her, a sleeping man, who seemed undisturbed by the motion of the Train. Hmm I guess some people can sleep anywhere.
Must be another train Tea sat calmly fanning her self as the temperature in the car increased and with it the trembling. She looked out of the window expecting to the lights of a passing train but instead saw a pinkish light pulsing outside. What the hell? Shooting up from her chair, she walked over to call button, which happened to be directly above the man.
“Excuse me.” Pressing the button down, she spoke. “Hello, is something going on outside?” The tremors continued causing Tea to bump into the man. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry.” She stepped back, brushed off her clothes, and upon looking at the man put her hand over her mouth in horror. The body slumped on the seat, lifeless, its eyes sucked out of the sockets blood running down the corpses face.
“Oh my God.” Tea backed away and then noticed the crimson liquid standing out on her onyx shirt.
“Please be patient the train will be moving shortly.” The automated voice boomed over the loud speaker.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” She ran toward the conductor’s door but froze in her tracks once the lights switched off. The door before her slid open and in the darkness two red lights stood steadily behind it. Approaching with caution, she attempted to get a better look inside the booth. “Hello?”
A myriad of red lights began to flicker on and then blink. Tea stepped back; she had a terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was as if someone dropped a stone of pure fear in a lake and ripples began to course through her, odd clicking rasps came from the conductor’s booth and the red lights poured out like roaches from a crack in the wall. She gasped and ran to the train car doors attempting to escape this torrent of unseen menace. Finding it to be locked she turned back around, the lights flickered on and she was face to face with something not at all human, save for it’s shape.
It came close to her, beady red eyes and sharp jagged teeth, a smile too wide for a human jaw. It was completely bald no hair or eyebrows, however the face was strangely familiar even for its warped state. And then it spoke. “I told you, you’d be sorry.”
The lights flickered off again and a scream echoed through the empty train.
The Geist clutched his heart, something had happened, he didn’t know what it was yet or where but it wasn’t good. Mirage and he stopped short of the Black Diamond recording studio and emerged near the ‘On the Grind’ nightclub.
“Why are we here?” Mirage looked at him. “I thought the studio was a couple of blocks down.”
“I don’t know, during our transfer something stopped me here.” He looked around. There was a pang in his chest and a voice whispering in his head. He clenched his fists and looked around rapidly.
“What’s wrong?” Mirage put her hand on his shoulder.
“I hear something, I don’t know from where but it’s near by.” The voice got louder ‘Help’ it called.
“What do you hear?”
“A voice, once still and small now it’s alarming.” His voice began to crack as the second speaker faded. “I can’t concentrate.” His eyes moved in a myriad of directions until they caught site of a train station and with out hesitation he leapt off of the building, and on to the streets. No one stopped to look at him but they all gave him plenty of space when he ran hands cradling head into the train station.
“Oh goodness.” Mirage headed down after him, moving through the air as if she owned it. Her graceful motions led her onto a lamppost and then somersaulting into the station after her partner.
Underground they noticed the station attendant was dead in his booth, the stench of the other worldly hung heavy in the air. “Something’s down here.” The Geist grunted. Well a lot of something’s.” He was kneeling and clutching his heart now, while the voice stopped the churning in his breast became more intense.
“That’s obvious, what I’m worried about is you?” Mirage helped him up. “What’s the matter is this some new magick you’ve been working with?”
“N-no it’s like an urgency, there’s something here I need to find” And then the familiar image of mocha and chocolate hit his minds eye like a brick. “Tea.”
“What, what about her?” Mirage finally got him to his feet. “Isn’t she at home?”
“I…I don’t know, No she’s here in these tunnels.” He stumbled forward. “I feel it.”
“Are you sure?” Mirage ran to his side.
He looked at her, with eyes hard and heavy with conviction. “As sure as I know that I love her with everything that I have.”
Mirage exhaled and stood up. “The lovers bond is a kind of Magick too it seems.”
He started forward again. “If you recall all Loa have a significant other.” He exhaled heavily and let go of his chest. “And they are bonded through all.”
“Are you implying that…” He cut her off.
“I’m not implying anything, but I’m telling you I can feel her.”
She walked in step with him. “Ok…So what was she doing down here and what is she in danger from?”
“Well my guess is she was trying to catch a train, as it is a train station”
“Wise ass.” She murmured
He suddenly. “And as for second question I’m sure we’ll find out, if we head down this tunnel.”
They jumped onto the train tracks as their boots sloshed in the muck, rats and other denizens of the underground stepped out of their way. With each movement, a new sticky wet sound became audible.
“Oh God what are we doing here?” Mirage whined
“We’re looking for Tea and hunting whatever is down in the tunnels.” He turned his head toward her. “Now keep forward and don’t look down.”
“Shut up.” She pushed him forward.
They continued to walk avoiding the third rail and the creatures that scuttled by until they came to a stop; the Geist put his hands in front of him as if an invisible wall blocked his path. “There’s a tear here, it was opened and closed recently.”
“Can you open it up again?” Mirage put her hands on her hips
The Geist gave a dismissing wave as darkness spilled from his fingertips. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t ask me that.” He slapped his hands together in a sign of prayer, mumble something and then thrust his hands forward. “Ashe!” red lines appeared in the fabric of reality bathing the entire station in crimson. As he pulled apart the tear, the unmistakable rumble of an oncoming train caused Mirage to lurch forward into a foul smelling puddle.
“Hurry, or we’ll be killed.”
“Patience, is a virtue.” He whispered, still prying open the doorway which was almost big enough to admit them both.
Two blaring lights approached their position. “Patience, is a virtue cultivated by those with time.”
The Doorway was now a large wound in reality, red mist seeped out like blood. “Hurry, get in.” He yelled.
Mirage, dove into the fissure, The Geist spun around and followed, the train sped past with no knowledge what other realms inhabited the same space.
The black impala hit the streets as stealthy as a ton of metal and plastic could. Detective Roger Drake had the windows rolled down for a cross breeze, the events during the earlier part of the night had him spooked him royally and the fact that the Geist claimed that the suicides were in fact murders haunted his thoughts. He didn’t want to believe that something other than the norm was going on despite that the amount of suicides most definitely pointed toward something strange. He stopped in front of ‘ On the Grind’ and got out. It looked like your typical black nightclub, rap music spewed from the open doors as he walked toward the door, the bouncer a broad shoulder man with a decidedly surly disposition stood in his way.
“Name?” he asked in a baritone voice.
“Detective Roger Drake, NYPD.” Roger flashed his badge. “I’m heading the investigation of the suicides.”
The bouncer looked at him thoughtfully and then removed the velvet rope granting him entry. That shouldn’t have taken that long; they usually see the badge and cooperate. Walking in, he noticed the major players in the black community, reveling in their fame…or infamy. He walked over to the club owner, rapper, producer, Jason ‘Jae’ Banks. Banks spotted him right away and walked over calmly. “Hello detective back to ruin everyone’s fun?”
Roger gave him an angry glare. “Only if some ones idea of fun is murder.”
“What?” Banks snapped to attention.
“I got a tip from an anonymous source that one of your ‘suicides’ may have been a murder.” Roger didn’t want to bring up the assumption that they were all murders that would’ve been insane.
“You’re telling me that you think that someone could be killed in my club and I wouldn’t report it?” Banks scowled. “Or anyone else for that matter?”
Roger smirked. “Well I know how you all get down, ‘no snitching’ and all that.”
Banks stiffened and raised his voice. “I’m a business man before anything else, I left that street shit back in Bedstuy where I grew up and waving around false accusations can get you sued for slander.”
“All I wanna do is have a look in your VIP area.
Banks looked past Roger at a couple sitting at a table not too far from them. The man a bald broad shouldered gent with a goatee nodded at him. Banks looked at Roger and began to lead him to the VIP area. “Take your time detective”
Roger walked through the door into the alcove with all the accoutrements for a private party, circular couch large table in the middle, several buckets for champagne, it was odd that a place so nice had seen such death, it was a wonder the club was still open and even stranger still that the area was still used. Those thoughts rolled over in his mind as he looked at the carpet, the number seven was embroidered on it, he didn’t even here the two sets of footsteps enter the area.
“I’ve always wondered how they made the carpets this soft.” Came a voice full of jovial confidence.
Roger whirled around to see the couple that had sat at the table earlier, the man was a head taller than Roger and much broader, his age was hard to place but he did look familiar. The woman was amazing, every rappers dream. Caramel complexion, breasts that could feed every starving child in Africa, lips that could suck the life from you and a back side that could be used as a shelf. Roger shook his head and tried to get back to himself but couldn’t, it was as if she was the most beautiful woman in he had ever seen.
“You know if I were a jealous man, we’d be fighting right now.” The man smiled. “But I know my baby belongs to me alone so it’s cool.”
The young woman’s smile beamed at Roger and he could see or rather feel something sad in it that made him shiver. “That’s right baby I’m all yours.”
“I’m sorry you are?” Roger finally said coming to his senses.
The man extended a hand. “Bruce, Bruce Armstrong co-owner of this fine establishment, this is Tatiana Greaves. Tatiana smiled wider at him showing perfect white teeth. “And you’re detective Drake yes?”
Roger shook his and nodded. “Yeah, I’m here on a tip that one of your suicides may have been a murder.”
“Oh, wonder who told you that and I wonder why?” Bruce looked at Tatiana who shrugged. “Well check if you like the cops were already up here at the beginning of the month and found nothing that suggested murder.”
“I bet, but I’ll have to look at these rooms just to be sure.” Roger took out a pocket forensics kit and began investigating the rooms looking for anything that was out of the ordinary; the rugs were completely spotless despite the fact that people had died here. “These carpets are spotless.” Roger said looking at a strange pattern that was formed in the carpet around three number sevens.
“We have a very reliable cleaner.” Bruce said from behind him.
“Why the sevens?” Roger turned toward him.
“It’s a lucky number for me.” Bruce nodded. “A holy one too.”
Roger smiled. “You’re a good Christian man then.”
“As much as anyone else.” Bruce smiled back. “Used to go to Bethesda Baptist in Brooklyn. Till my wife left me.”
“That’s my church.”
“Well maybe I’ll see you around then, I just started going back.” Bruce smiled wider.
Good to know Roger thought, his eyes followed the pattern and then his heart began to drop and the strangest feeling of dread enveloped him. It was as if the dread of those who had killed themselves were now visiting him and beckoning him to join them. He bolted up with a start and his stomach did a 180.
“Something wrong detective?” Bruce cocked an eyebrow.
“I don’t know, I just…” Roger stopped mid sentence and vomited on the floor.
“Oh goodness.” Tatiana stepped back wearing a disgusted look.
Bruce rushed over to him. “Detective are you ok, would you like some water?”
Bruce placed his hand on Rogers shoulder and when he did Roger felt the most indescribable need to flee. It was as if every feeling of reproach he’d ever had came crashing down on him like a waterfall. He flinched away from Bruce and turned toward him and the door. “Sorry, no…I have to leave.” Roger stumbled a bit on wobbly legs, the edges of his vision were going black and he desperately needed leave despite finding it increasingly hard to stand up.
Bruce put his hand on Roger’s back and all at once he collapsed like a rag doll.
Inside Bruce smirked at Tatiana. “Get him up.”
“You’re the big strong man, why can’t you pick him up?” She pouted.
He gave her a hard glare and she got to the task of lifting Roger up with little effort. “Well did you have to make him vomit, you ruined the rug.”
“I didn’t do anything, the true nature of this area is not for the weak of will or the faint of hearts.”
“ But he bugged out when you touched him.”
“Never said I was for the weak of will or the faint of heart either.” He laughed.
“So what does that say about me?” She smiled.
“It means that I spent a lot of time working on you.” He turned toward the door. “Now let’s get back out there, we’ve gotta convince that kid Kenny to sign with us.”
“You want me to sit with you all?” she asked, hope in her voice.
“No. I want you to work on our friend here.” Bruce rubbed looked at Roger and for a moment his thoughts turned in ward and then. “Deal with him accordingly.”
Tatiana pouted again. “Why do I have to do all the work?”
Bruce turned toward her and cradled her chin. “Because I need to concentrate on the boy we’re trying to sign is a pure one and therefore harder to corrupt.” Despite the fact that he owned her, Bruce was in actuality highly attracted to and fond of Tatiana although he’d never admit it to her; a turning of the tables would be bad.
“That’s what you said about me.”
“He’s also smart, so he’s got one…no two up on you now, you’re not exactly pure anymore are you he grinned.”
She scowled. “Whatever.” Then she crossed her arms. “What about the vomit, shouldn’t someone clean it up?”
Bruce was exiting the area. “What vomit?”
“The vomit right ther…” She turned saw it was gone and followed after him to the doorway. “Where did it go?”
He stopped at the door. “It’s been a while since anything’s happened here, so the club will take any bit of fear and despair it can get.” He turned his back on her again. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have business.” He walked out leaving her holding Rogers unconscious body.
When Roger came to he was in a strange room, there was a strong smell of incense and strange distance music coming from somewhere. He could barely keep his eyes open let alone move. In front of him was the girl Tatiana he had seen previously, she was doing a strange dance, moving her hips and working her curves her back was facing him and it mesmerized him. She turned around and regarded him with a smile.
“You like what you see?” she said sensually.
He cracked a wide smile, he loved what he saw she was beautiful undeniably so. “Y-yes.” He flinched at his voice, it was ragged and somewhat alien.
She scowled at him and the anger in her eyes made his head hurt. “Men, all the fucking same….” Her voice became menacing. “I can’t believe I wasted my life trying to attract you, how stupid was I?”
“W-hat are you…?”
“Good thing I know how to play the game now.” She smiled wryly. “ Instead of letting you tell me what I should be, I’m going to tell you what you should be.”
Roger cringed under its weight. “W-what are you going to…”
She smiled mischievously. “Nothing that will hurt you, I was just told to deal with you.” She came closer to him reached her hands toward his pants and took them off. She took him in her hand pulled up her dress and mounted him. Roger exhaled in pleasure, she began to move and as she did she spoke in his ear. “I am the lady from the deepest abyss; I give you fortune at the cost of your heart and pleasure at the cost of your soul. There is nothing you can deny me, nothing you won’t do if asked of you, I am your mistress and you shall obey me.”
A moan escaped Rogers lips. “Yessss.”
“You will never come to this place again, in fact you will not be able to think about it without being made ill.” She cooed.
Roger grunted in response as she began to rock faster. “Anyone who asks you about it you will disregard them.” She continued. “You will however focus on a particular a duo who roams the city, those clad in magic.”
“The Geis-t and Mir-age.” Roger groaned as she clamped around him.
“You will hunt them as perpetrators of crimes against the cites homeless, you will kill them if you can.” She smiled. “You will go to your friend Marcus he knows something question him, do you understand?”
“Why would Marcus…?” he moaned.
“Do you understand?”
“Yes who?” her smile widened
“Good, now I grant you release.” She arched her back sending Roger into convulsions. He cried out and then lay still. She climbed off of him, pulled down her dressed and looked at him in disgust. “Light weight, guess something’s are just too good.”
When Roger woke up it was 3 am and he was in his apartment, the night’s events a vague memory. He thought about where he needed to be, the image of a club flashed in his head and then flew out of it. His heart sped up and his stomach turned. He decided that it was a nightmare and got out of bed but stopped upon realizing his sheets were soaked throughout with sweat and other bodily fluids. He thought about what wet dreams at his age said about his psychological state and then stood up slowly. He pulled out a fresh pair of clothes and headed to the shower then stopped on his way at the living room coffee table. On it was a copy of the local newspaper and one of the stories depicted the mutilation of a homeless man in a park in Bushwick and then something clicked in his head, he knew where he needed to be. Marcus knows something about this he thought, he lives out there, he knows something and I’m gonna find out what.” He walked into his bathroom and shut the door.