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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

“What am I drinking?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know… It’s better that way.”Bookmark here

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

“Not a clue.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Is there a reason not to?”Bookmark here

“To enjoy it more.”Bookmark here

I raise a quizzical eyebrow and Bastien continues.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I don’t”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“How is it?”Bookmark here

“It’s dry.”Bookmark here

“And a bit refreshing right?”Bookmark here

“Finish your story.”Bookmark here

Bastien sighs theatrically.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

“I don’t drink.”Bookmark here

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

“You’re not going to finish?”Bookmark here

“You’re clearly not either.”Bookmark here

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

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

“Aren’t they?”Bookmark here

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

“Only when it comes to you.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“What about her?”Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

Without any response from me, Bastien continues.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“They maybe don’t kidnap her.”Bookmark here

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

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

That knowing smile of his is back.Bookmark here

“Is that really what you want to do?”Bookmark here

“It’s what we agreed.”Bookmark here

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

“Then try me.”Bookmark here

“You kill her.”Bookmark here

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

“That’s it?”Bookmark here

“That’s it.”Bookmark here

“How does this benefit you?”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Well…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.