“Someone’s at the door,” said Evan.
“Yeah,” James replied.
“You gonna answer that?” asked Mallory.
“No,” said James.
“Are you expecting company? Are you in trouble?” asked Evan, reaching for his sword belt, which would have more accurately been called the every-pointy-thing-imaginable belt.
“Yes and maybe, but these days it seems to be the rule instead of the exception,” said James.
“He’s still knocking. Or she. It sounds like a meaty fist though. I don’t know. Answer the door or tell them to go away, I don’t care, just do something,” said Mallory.
“What would require the least effort?” James asked.
“Oh my god,” Evan said, going to look through the peep hole. It was a man in a business suit one size too big for his meager frame.
“For Mr. Thunder Wasp,” the man said. The knocking didn’t stop.
“I thought you changed that stupid name,” said Mallory, digging her amulet out of her shirt.
“I did, but it’s only been a week. Not everyone reads the forums or wiki posts,” said James going into his closet looking for his helmet.
“Please open, Mr. Thunder Wasp.”
“Guys, plan?” Evan asked.
“Open the door on three, then bum rush him I guess,” said Mallory.
“He might not be alone and we’ll be caught in the kill box that is that hallway,” said Evan.
“Thunder Thunder Wasp Wasp. Thunder Thunder Wasp Wasp,” said the knocker.
“I’m coming,” said James, wearing his super helmet, pit stained t-shirt and fuzzy slippers.
“I didn’t know you updated your costume along with your name change,” said Mallory.
“Bite me, Marble Girl,” said James as he activated the helmet’s sensors. “He’s alone. But he doesn’t look right. He’s… cold.”
“Great. On three,” said Evan. Mallory called on her amulet’s power and transformed into a polished stone version of herself. James turned the knob on his stun gun from incapacitate to discombobulate.
Evan opened the door. The man knocked the empty air for a second more. Then pulled out the weirdly shaped knife that was in his chest, and collapsed to the floor. After a stunned moment, Evan dragged the man inside and shut the door. Mallory picked the knife up.
“Magic,” she said, her voice shaky.
“What the heck was that about?” asked Evan.
“Was that a knife in his chest? How did he get here, knife in chest, without anyone stopping him or calling the cops?” asked James.
“Maybe they thought it was a Halloween costume,” said Evan.
“It’s April,” said James.
“Hey a note,” said Mallory. Evan lifted the man a smidge and pulled the note out from under him. It was written on an old piece of parchment, blood stained and smelling of old vellum.
“A note? What’s wrong with an e-mail? This mysterious pen pal of mine clearly knows who I am if he sent a dead guy here,” said James.
“You make the weirdest enemies, dude,” said Evan.
“What’s it say?” Mallory asked.
“It’s an invitation from a Mr. Smoke to some kind of underground soiree,” said Evan.
“Like, literally underground?” James asked.
“No. It’s at the Cassini Club,” said Evan.
“I heard of it. Classy place downtown. Out of the way so only those who are in the know can get in,” said Mallory.
“Sounds like your kind of place,” said James.
“That’s such a new money kind of joint. Not my thing at all,” said Mallory.
“So, obvious trap is obvious. Do we go?” asked Evan.
“What do you think we should do?” asked James.
“I say we send one person in as a civilian,” said Evan. “The other two will infiltrate from above and below. There’s a sewer junction a few blocks away that we can…”
“Ew no. No more sewers. I’m done with sewers forever,” said James.
“So,” Mallory began, “we go in the front door in costume, get recognized instantly and taken out, or we go in civilian wear, have our faces captured by whatever camera systems they have and when crap inevitably goes down and we bust the place and split, they go back to the tapes and see who we really are. It’s a lose-lose.”
“That’s the thing about the Cassini Club. Everyone wears masks there,” said Evan.
It was a simple matter for the three of them to get inside. Wearing fancy suits and masquerade style masks, they fit right in with the usual clientele. But the note wasn’t exactly specific on where they were supposed to go to meet this mysterious Mr. Smoke. The club was filled with smoke, a clear violation of Washington State law, and had very little light to navigate. Other than the bar and the stage, everything was covered in a low red glow, meant to invoke a red light district or something.
“There’s a guy over there with the biggest cigar I’ve ever seen. I bet that’s him,” said James.
“Go check it out. We’ll cover you,” said Mallory.
Evan nodded in agreement but something wasn’t sitting right with him. It was a quarter to ten at night. It should have been busier in here. And the bouncer had been real friendly, letting them in without much fuss, not even checking their IDs even though two of them were underage. What was the point of springing for fake IDs if no one wanted to check them? James hurried back.
“It’s not him. He’s waiting for his boy toy to show up and I’m really not that desperate for money so… now what?” asked James.
“I guess we wait. Unless you guys want to bail,” said Mallory. Someone tapped a microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Please welcome to the stage, Mr. Smoke,” said the MC.
A curtain lifted, revealing a stage with a lone microphone and a man in a fine suit and bowler hat with cane.
“I’ve got a few words for all our honored guests,” said Mr. Smoke. Evan, James and Mallory froze. “This is my goodbye. My exit, stage left. My 13th symphony. What a wonderful night for such an occasion.”
“Everyone get out now!” Evan screamed.
Mr. Smoke exploded. His body became wisps of black tendrils fanning out to fill the room. Unfortunately, Evan and his friends’ night had only just begun.