The streets of Halcyon City were teeming with life. I blended into the ever present crowd that inhabited the sidewalks. The cold rain washed over me as I walked down to the Red Light District to meet my informant. She was in the part of town where no one in their right mind would want to go, but some of us had no choice. My need for her drove me further downtown. The herd started to thin as I walked further down the street. It wasn’t too long before I reached the corner of 9th and Main, where Tracie tended to work. Several of the women that worked the corner propositioned me, but I ignored their advances. My mind was set on Tracie and not the whores on the corner.
            I saw her standing underneath a canopy that jutted out from a nearby building. I could tell that the cold was getting to her, but I had gotten used to it. I joined her under the canopy, which protected us from the downpour.

“Do you have the files?”
            “Do you always get straight down to business, Donovan?” Tracie flashed a smile at me. Despite her situation, she was still full of light.
            “Someone might be listening, Tracie. I don’t want them to get you.”
            “Always looking out for others.”
            “It’s probably just the ex-detective in me.”
            “Then let’s go somewhere they won’t find us.” She placed her arm around my own. “Besides, I don’t have the files on me.”

 Tracie led me down the street to an old apartment building. We made our way up to room 510. Tracie let us both in and took off her coat. She turned around to address me. “I think that I might have some dry clothes for you. You don’t want to catch cold. If you can, anyway.”
            “Not especially.” She headed into her bedroom while I hung my coat next to hers on the coat rack. As I paced through the apartment, I took every thing in. I was so close to finding out if this was the last step to finding him. After years of searching, I was so close to finding my wife’s murderer. Tracie came back with a shirt and a pair of jeans.
            “These should be your size.” I took them from her and headed into her small bathroom. I placed them on the toilet seat and headed over to the mirror and sink. My reflection hadn’t changed in so many years I still looked as if I was in my early thirties. I sighed a bit as I turned the hot water on. My mind started to drift back to Linda. We had married so young, but that didn’t matter to us. We cared for each other so deeply. I had snippets of memories of her when we first got married. I remembered how she made me feel just when we were together.
            I placed my hands underneath the running water and woke myself up with a splash of scalding water. I grabbed the light blue hand towel and buried my face in it. I heard a light knocking on the bathroom door. “Are you all right in there?” Tracie’s muffled voice made its way into the bathroom.
            I quickly put the towel up and turned the water off. “I’m fine. I’ll be right out.” As I heard her turn to leave, I peeled off my rain soaked clothes and put on the dry ones that Tracie had given me, and headed back into the living room. Tracie was standing in her kitchen with nothing but her silk robe on. She looked up at me as she put a kettle of water on the stove.
            “Do you want some tea?” I nodded and looked at the manila folder lying on a couple of magazines. I looked back at Tracie, who had come to stand beside me. “Yes, that’s the information.” I started to make my way over to her coffee table when I felt her small hand slip into mine. “Are you sure that you want to go after these people? They have so many ties within the city. You can’t go up against them alone.”

            “I have no choice.” I pushed a strand of her dark hair behind her ear and allowed my hand to rest on her cheek. I felt the steady rhythm of her breathing as we both stood there. Tracie looked up at me. Her dark brown eyes made her soul vulnerable to me. She represented everything that I held dear and everything that was slipping away from me. I took a step backwards and turned back to the folder.
            Tracie looked somewhat defeated as she stopped the whistling kettle. I grabbed the folder and put a couple hundreds in its place on the table. I made my way over to the door and paused. “I’ll take a rain check on that tea.”
            “I figured you would.” A mix of sadness and disappointment resounded in her voice as I lifted my jacket from the coat rack. I turned the door knob and headed out of her apartment. I shut the door behind me and headed down the hallway, putting my jacket on in the process. I stuffed the folder in my pocket and went back out into the rain. I quickened my pace until I reached Christie’s. Several girls had already taken the stage when the hostess took me to a table in the back.
            “You’re waitress will be right with you.”
            “Thank you.” I was left with the information and a dark corner to read it in. I laid the folder on the table and placed my jacket on the back of the chair.
            “What can I get for you?” The waitress looked no more that eighteen years old.
            “Guinness in a bottle.”
            “All right.” She made her way to the bar with my order. I turned my attention back to the file. Within the manila folder was a copy of a report from Blanc Industries. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed several employee profiles along with something about a ‘special project.’ A sweating bottle of beer was set down in front of me, but the hand that set it down didn’t belong to an eighteen-year-old waitress. The young man it did belong to stuck out like a quarter in a jar of pennies in a club of Christie’s caliber.
            “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you tucked away in your mansion?”
            “You’re funny.” A mocking smile spread over his lips. “You probably shouldn’t be here, either. You might hurt some one.”
            I grabbed his collar and drew him in close. “Just because you’re the mayor’s son doesn’t mean that I can’t break you.” My patience had worn thin with the young Lupescu. The two of us stared at each other in the eye until he turned the tables. With his right hand, he pulled my hand from his collar and pinned it up against the wall behind me. With his other hand he grasped my neck and pushed me to the corner of the club.
            “It’s nice that you think that.”
            “All brawn and no brains.” I grabbed my gun from my back and aimed it at him with my free hand. I felt his grip loosen and eventually he backed away from me. He grabbed his beer and took a few more steps backward.
            “Be careful.” He turned to leave and bumped into the waitress on his way out. She steadied her tray and placed its contents on the table. I thanked her and took my seat once more. I rubbed my throat and took a swallow of the cold liquid. The alcohol coated my esophagus. If it had been earlier in my life the poison would have affected me. I set the bottle down and leaned back in my chair. I watched as another girl took to the stage. I let her take me away from it all until the last bit of alcohol passed over my lips.
            I closed the file and got everything ready to leave. I placed a couple bills on the table and headed out of Christie’s. The rain had stopped and all that was left were gray clouds and an ocean of water on the street. I took to the streets of Halcyon City. I knew that some of the people could sense that there was something wrong with me, but most of them didn’t care. I got the occasional request for a cigarette, among other things.
            At that moment I stopped. The lingering copper smell permeated the air through the present smell of leftover rain water. It was faint, but was still able to capture my attention. I made a left and disappeared into the dimly lit alley. I made it to the end of the alley and found the source of the overwhelming scent. I placed my fingers on the cold wet pavement and then brought them up to my senses. The red stained my fingers as I rubbed my index and middle finger against my thumb. The copper smell became more predominate. I drew my attention away from the blood and pushed myself to a standing position. I grabbed a handkerchief from my jacket pocket and cleaned off my fingers. “You know, there are better ways to get my attention.” I turned to see Lupescu standing just inside the entrance to the alleyway.
            “I thought that I’d be a little more subtle this time. Wouldn’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves, now would we? Especially considering what we are.” Dmitri shook his hand a bit, revealing the location of where he cut himself.
            “I guess you take after your old man then; always the hunter, never the hunted.” I knew that I couldn’t go for my gun this time. “Do you want to annoy me some more or does this trap have a point.” I could hear a smug laugh from the young man.
            “I’ve learned so much since our last meeting, but your ignorance never fails to amaze me.” Dmitri took a few steps further into the alley. I could hear his knuckles begin to pop as he drew closer. In an instant I grabbed my magnum and swung it around to a leaping Dmitri fully formed into an over grown ball of fur, fangs and claws. I knew that I couldn’t take any chances. I leapt out of the way leaving the wolf to crash into the pavement. I aimed the barrel of the gun toward his back and allowed the trigger to release a bullet. The tiny piece of metal pierced the wolf’s back causing him to howl out in pain. Dmitri turned his front half toward me.
            “I didn’t think that you could move that fast.”
            “You’ll find that I have many more surprises.” I dodged to the left as a massive claw came down toward my torso. Dmitri snarled at me again and tried to dig his four inch claws into me once more. I crashed into a dumpster as I dodged for a second time. My gun became level with him once more and I let five more bullets find a new home within Dmitri. The young man fell to the pavement in a heap, reverting back to his human form. I knew that, despite being downtown, the police would be here at any moment. I placed the gun back in its holster and headed into the nearby apartment building. The rain water that had collected on top of the building was now seeping through. I headed further up the stairs, being careful not to slip. Making it to the roof, I looked over the edge and saw that a police cruiser and an unmarked car were already parked at the entrance to the alleyway.
            A couple of beat cops and two homicide detectives were hovering over Dmirti’s body. I watched as the female detective crouched over the unconscious body and placed her fingers on the side of his neck. “We have a pulse.” She stayed crouched beside Dmitri. The sirens of the ambulance adverted my attention from the detectives. “Hey!” The female detective had noticed my sudden movement and pulled her government issued pistol out of her holster. I moved back further onto the roof. I heard her scream at me again, but I wouldn’t stop for her or anyone else. I ran letting the crisp night air flow over me. I ran until I came to the rooftop of my own apartment complex. I sat down on the ledge, placed my elbows on my knees and buried my face in my hands. Despite the rain, I could feel the impending sunlight that was going to rise in just a few moments, but it didn’t concern me as much as the world that surrounded me. So many things were controlled by the city’s demons. Even I had been swayed by them. I found the strength to lift myself up and headed down to my apartment. I read the numbers 103 as I dug my keys from my pocket.
            I made my way into my apartment and shut the door behind me. I was once again in darkness. Throwing my keys down on one of my end tables, I headed into the kitchen. The counters were bare, save for a coffee maker and a stash of different kinds of liquor. I grabbed a glass from the pile and placed it on the counter next to the refrigerator. I grasped the handle of the refrigerator door and opened it. The small light revealed several packages of synthesized plasma. I took one from the ice box and shut the door. Running my fingers over the chilled liquid, I noticed the company logo and name, Blanc Industries. I knew that I’d never escape the Blanc family. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t escape them. I knew that some part of me didn’t want to. I had to seek them out. I had to stop them, whatever they were doing. I opened up the package and filled the glass. I threw it into the trash and carried the glass into the living room. I placed it on the end table, delved into my pocket and pulled the file out of my jacket. I threw it down on the coffee table. After hanging up my jacket, I took my place on the couch. I leaned back on the cushion and took the glass in my hand. I let the liquid coat the back of my throat as I sat there. The tension that I built up throughout the day drained, as I became more comfortable. I finished the glass and headed into my bedroom. Going around the room, I made sure that every possible entry way that sunlight could come through was covered. I peeled off the clothes Tracie lent me and slipped into bed. It was the only true warmth that I felt. I found myself drifting into a coma like sleep as I lay there. As I drifted further into unconsciousness, one image came into my mind. The only happy memories that I possessed pertained to Linda. But even those memories turned into something that I regretted.

To be continued in Chapter 1

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