Chapter 39:

Knowledge is bitter and expectations are dry

The Sequence of Kai

Bars don’t stay open late in this town. A screaming girl shouldn’t change that, but around the right people, it will.

Just down the road from Mallory’s residence, the door swings open on the local. Something tells me the eponymous Claude Varane hasn’t dropped to wash the floors.

I gently step around the broken door and into the bar.

“It’s a good night for a drink in the dark, don’t you think?”

Bastien is sat near the taps, the moonlight illuminating his frame. Today, an ill-fitting scarf accompanies his normal suit. He’s secured two pint glasses and taken the liberty of pouring one for me.

I sit down beside him and take a sip. I can still hear Mallory from this far away.

“What am I drinking?”

“I don’t know… It’s better that way.”

“You don’t know what you’re drinking either?”

“Not a clue.”

He takes a big swig from his glass and puts it back down with a satisfied sigh.

“What appeal do you find in that? Don’t you know what you like?”

“I have my tastes, sure, but… when you seek out a specific drink, you’re predisposed to making sure it tastes like itself.”

“Is there a reason not to?”

“To enjoy it more.”

I raise a quizzical eyebrow and Bastien continues.

“I used to like Yuenlan, wasn’t the first beer I ever had but the first one I ever enjoyed. I had walked into a bar while I was working one of my earliest jobs for Amir, I was nervous, if you’ll believe that.”

“I don’t”

“Then don’t… At that time, I hadn’t developed my palette, I didn’t know what I wanted, just that I wanted something. The guy behind the bar asked what he could get me, I told him I wanted what he’d have after a rough couple of days. A pint of Yuenlan, straight from the tap, really did the trick. It was dry, but oddly refreshing. Relaxed the body, relaxed the mind. I went out after that pint and finished my job without a hitch.”

Bastien stops his story for a second to finish off the rest of his pint. He reaches blindly across the bar for another while he continues.

“Next time things weren’t going my way; I tried the same thing. New city, new bar. Ordered another Yuengling, took my time to enjoy it.”

He finally settles on a beer and sits back down. Tearing off the label without reading it, he places the bottle between us.

“But I didn’t enjoy it, it was dry. I went out that night and botched the job. I thought maybe it was that particular pub, perhaps they watered down their beer or didn’t clean their pint glasses well. That wasn’t the case, the next time too, it did nothing for me, and every time after that as well. It was never refreshing after that first time.”

He grabs the label-less bottle by the neck and flicks the cap off with his thumb. He secures two clean glasses for us and splits the beer between them.

“As you well know by now, it’s not that I don’t like beer, but at the time I thought that I didn’t. Wasn’t until nearly three years later I realized that. Another job wasn’t going my way and I found myself back in the same bar as the first time. The bartender, a woman this time, asked me what I wanted. Knowing where I was, I asked her to give me what she’d have after a rough couple of years. She placed the pint down in front of me and without expectations I took a sip.”

He takes a sip of the beer and encourages me to do the same, which I do.

“How is it?”

“It’s dry.”

“And a bit refreshing right?”

“Finish your story.”

Bastien sighs theatrically.

“That’s the problem with you immortal types, never appreciate the value of taking one’s time… The story ends like so, I never found out what beer she poured for me, and I was happier for it. It looked like Yuenlan, tasted like it too but who can say whether or not it was? Things will taste how they will, whether or not I’ve known them to taste that way before. They’ll just always taste better without expectations.”

“I’m sure things are better when you have the option of not knowing.”

“We’re talking about beer Kai, it’s not hard to peel off a label.”

“I don’t drink.”

I slide my pint glass over to him and he stops it with a frown.

“You’re not going to finish?”

“You’re clearly not either.”

“Patience, remember? It’s good for you.”

“Endurance and patience aren’t the same thing.”

“Aren’t they?”

“You certainly have more of one than the other.”

“Only when it comes to you.”

With a lecherous grin, he tips the remainder of my glass into his own.

“You’ve saved the lives of a lot of girls you know. Can never go back to fast food after you’ve had your first plate of caviar.”

“Your only plate. How’s that neck holding up?”

He pulls down his scarf to reveal the scarred patch of skin that’s sprawled across his neck.

“Doesn’t look great but it doesn’t hurt. That kid ended up good for something after all.”

He doesn’t leave it exposed for long. This is the first time I’ve actually seen the scar up close, he’s kept it covered since that day.

Finally, Mallory’s anguished cries stop, reminding us why we’re here.

“Kai, I want to talk about the girl we’re following.”

“What about her?”

“Got any ideas about her powers? I haven’t been this stumped in a long time.”

“It’s something to do with her eyes, can’t tell what exactly.”

“Yeah… she’s able to sense me when she shouldn’t be able to. Must be a heck of a power, Blake insisted that I bring her back alive. She never does that, usually, it’s just a location, she knew there was some value this time.”

I need to remember to ask Paul about this ‘Blake’ girl when I get back, not a name I’m familiar with.

Without any response from me, Bastien continues.

“She never sleeps, always turns towards me when I try to get closer. I’m stuck, I don’t know how to kidnap girls I can’t sneak up on.”

“They maybe don’t kidnap her.”

“Let’s stay within the realm of possibility, shall we? What exactly is your plan if you get to her?”

“We bring her back and find out exactly how her power works.”

That knowing smile of his is back.

“Is that really what you want to do?”

“It’s what we agreed.”

“Well, I think I can offer you a plan that’s more agreeable.”

“Then try me.”

“You kill her.”

It takes me a second to realize that he’s not going to continue.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“How does this benefit you?”

“I don’t like the idea of having a girl around who can see me when I’m trying not to be seen.”

“Won’t Amir be angry if you come back empty-handed?”

“Not as angry as he would be if he found out what I do in the shadows.”


Bastien downs the rest of his pint and checks the glass behind the counter. As it shatters on the ground, he stands up and straightens his tie.

“That’s enough questions Kai, either you agree to kill her, or we fight for the body. You heard those screams; wouldn’t it be better to end it now than to let her become a tool for one of our sides? Besides… Both of us want to see a murder tonight.”

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