Rain pours down from the sky, thick black clouds having rolled in to shed
their watery load over Chicago. A solitaire figure makes his way through the
streets from his hotel to a brightly lit frontage of bars... pausing a long
moment on the darker opposite side if the street, in the light of a streetlamp.
His hands reaching up to flip the collar on the greatcoat he wears, catching his
reflection in a rain-spattered puddle.
Typical, he thought. All I need is a fedora, and I could be in a thirties detective comic book, tracing gangsters or such. Ah well... Passing his gaze over the lines of bars, not really caring which he ended up going in, but one name catching his eye, the one Lex had mentioned... what the hell, might as well find out. But that would have to wait 'till later. Something caught at his eye, and his hindbrain, propelling himself into another bar without even taking note of the name.
Inside, the ambiance matched that outside. Men and women sequestered in booths, some at the bar nursing drinks, only a couple of booths unoccupied... and one with a lower light than another. Pausing to fit a filter to his cigarette and light up, he made his way to the bar, ordering a double. Why slow down, after all?
His attentions returning to the dimmed booth, squinting through his glasses before removing them from his nose, and heading over to a figure he was sure he knew, slipping into the booth uninvited.
"What the... Paul?" The other man's voice was subtly different from his own, but the similar accent marked them both out as probable tourists.
"You're a long way from Scotland, Alex..."
"And you're a long way from those lunatics you're around..." The other's hand scratched involuntarily at his left wrist, though if this made it any better was impossible to tell.
"Please don't tell me you're buying into what the others are saying... you're hardly in perfect circumstances yourself, remember."
"Keep it down, and hope you have money for another drink. Or five. You're going to need it, since Mark hasn't shown."
"What do you mean?" The dark-haired man sipped at his vodka, fixing a worried gaze upon the other.
"I mean, Jenny and Luke are... Damnit, Paul, they're dead."
A moment's silence, and the vodka slips down Paul's throat as if it were water. "How... why? And are the rest all right?"
Alex paled as he spoke, his right hand quivering. "Professor Richards is in a coma. Allie's in the hospital. She's living as some of us do, whilst she heals."
"Sweet bloody Christmas..." The dark haired young man rose without another word, returning soon to place a double Scotch in front of the other, and taking a less than healthy gulp from his own vodka.
"We heard bad rumours. Stuff so hot we couldn't wait for an assist. I studied what we got the best I could, but the very idea scares me.
The hoarseness in Paul's voice could have been the work of the spirits. But hearing of such tragedy was the more likely cause. "What was it?"
"You know I can't tell you." A feeling of pressure on his left knee. The dark-haired man reached down, pocketing the metallic cylinder as subtly as he could. "It's all in here. All the evidence we got, and my findings. I just hope your lot can make some sense of it all."
"I will do... Hellfire, Alex. I'm sorry."
"They got two of us... they're not getting any others. Do them justice, find out what that crap is. I'm catching an early flight back to Edinburgh, I suggest you get out of here as soon as you can."
The rest of the vodka slipped down Paul's throat. "I will do. Thanks... for trusting me enough to give me this."
Paul rose from his seat, exiting the bar, and flicking the cigarette to the ground, crushing the soaked butt under his heel. Walking a short way in the rain, he passed through the door of the club Lex had indicated. If he remembered the rest of the night, something was going to be very, very wrong.