By Azure Dragon Single guitar strings filled the dim club as a ghost-like voice fell in with the melody. Rich Spanish words filled the area as other instruments came in. On the floor in front of the stage people began to dance in time to the increasing beat. Mean while lights rose on the stage highlighting the source for the ghost-like voice that was actually a lyrical masterpiece. The singer tapped their thigh in time to the music while they held the microphone with their other hand. The lights flared off their black hair bringing out rich blue hues and accenting dark eyes. From the upper floors of the club, the owner watched as the girl sang out. Her icy blue eyes were dark with memories as she watched the band. Lilly drew in a deep breath as her gaze shifted and she found Julian sitting at his usual table. Cash was with him tonight and looking all business. It didn't bode well for her at all. A sigh escaped her dusted pink lips as Lilly turned at the sound of a knock on her door. "The Prince needs a word with you." "I'll be right there." Lilly kept her tone even and waited until the door clicked shut behind her. Only then did she allow herself to relax. Her features fell into a worried frown and her shoulders hunched. She turned to the window as the music changed again and took on a reggae beat blended with Spanish- pop. There was something captivating in that singer that had nothing to do with charisma and everything to do with something dark. Lilly made her way down into her club and nodded to those she knew. Most of the patrons were watching the show and paid little attention to her. One of the nice things about being able to control her Presence was being able to disappear in a crowd. Making her way to Julian's table she hesitated as Cameron suddenly appeared as well. He didn't look happy either. Cameron not happy was nothing new but this was different. "Good of you to join us Lilly." Julian looked up and stood as she came along side the table. " This won't take very long." Lilly reluctantly joined them and forced herself to pay attention to the matters at her. In her ears rang the sultry tones of the singer. The room felt heavy around her shoulders as Vala sat alone and in silence. There was no band members, no music, no conversation. Just the silence as she sat in front of the dressing room table. Her gaze was locked onto her reflection and she kept staring into her own eyes. She knew their true color but many called them black, and it lead to many whispers about her. For some reason she couldn't quite fathom her having black eyes bothered people. Perhaps it was the midnight blue of her hair or the ghost-white fairness of her skin. As she sat thinking it over Vala realized that she hadn't encountered that hostility here. This club seemed to hum with the other side of strange. It permeated the walls and hovered in the air like a scentless perfume. A gentle knock shook her out of her reverie. " Yeah?" Paris poked his head into her room and grinned at her, " Hey Val, we are heading out now, want to come?" "I have to stick around and talk to the owner, but thanks." Vala stood and shrugged on her cover shirt. "Why do you always wear black?" Paris inquired when she zipped up her boots. " People might like you better if you wore more color." "I don't ask you why you never have girlfriends, so don't hassle me about my clothes." She snapped and it made him grin. Paris and she walked down the hallway to the main center of the club. It was quiet now that the patrons had gone home. There was a scattering of staff that were cleaning and putting away. They didn't even glance up at her. "Here boss." Paris nodded to a booth and they sat down. " So what do you know of the owner?" "Nothing really. I spoke with the booking agent who said that if I wanted to ask about a continued gig I would have to ask the owner. I know it's a woman and that she has quite the reputation. Did you know that Indigo's group has been playing at one of this woman's clubs for three years now?" Paris arched a brow, " Three years? That would be nice." "Tell me about it." Vala sighed and rubbed her face. " You guys sounded a bit off tonight." "Yeah I talked to Craig about that and he said it was all Tyler's fault." Paris rolled his eyes and shook his head. " I guess we are going to have to talk with them about this." Vala glanced at him, " No need, I'll see to it." "I thought we agreed this was a joint responsibility. Besides we have talked with Tyler and Craig repeatedly about this." Paris said sharply. "I know, I know. Perhaps it is time to throw down the gloves and make them listen." Vala said sternly. Paris gave her a look and she shrugged. " I don't have much choice Paris." "I thought you were dealing with things." She grinned, " One cannot deny their nature, no matter how much they want to. But I will curb my enthusiasm for you okay?" She sighed, " Depending on how things go with the owner we might be here a long time. I need to have you guys working as a unit or it's no good." Paris shrugged, " We could always get a new drummer." "Where the hell would we find one that could learn out stuff in time?" She asked sharply. A shadow fell over their table, " I know a few people." Vala glanced up and drew in a sharp breath, another one! Outwardly she smiled and offered a hand. " Vala Ittarius." " I know and this young man is Paris." Lilly nodded to him. " I watched your show it was very good." Paris stood up, " I'll leave you ladies to talk. We'll work things out later on Val." He left them via the main stairway. Lilly sat down across from Vala and gazed into her eyes. They weren't black like she had originally thought, but in fact a deep, rich magenta. Her skin was flawless and pale enough to be considered ghostly. It suited her and she wore dark colors to draw attention to it. A silence radiated from her as well as a strong fire that was carefully kept under control. "I take it your are the owner." Vala stated dryly. " I am. My name is Lilly Lantry." Lilly smiled slightly, " I take it you are not Spanish." Vala smiled, " What makes you say that?" "Your name, Vala, it is Gothic in origin meaning 'Chosen One.' Plus your coloring suggests a Romanian or Carpathian descent." Vala was quiet for a moment before sitting back, "Observant and knowledgeable a are combination." Lilly shrugged. " You seem to be having problems with your band members." "Nothing that has not been dealt with before. Our drummer Craig is very selfish and will put himself before the band. Before now I have been able to just realign things to fit him. But now it's getting out of hand. Our bassist, Tyler, is Paris' boyfriend and Craig is beginning to strain everyone with his narrow views." Lilly heard the exhaustion in the girls voice and nodded. " Well if you need someone I know a fair number of people." Vala watched the woman across from her very closely before answering. " I take it we are staying then?" "I like your show and a fair number of our patrons do as well. How does the next six weeks sound to you?" "Fine." Val sat forward in her seat. " Do you mind if I come in tomorrow with the band and rehearse our next couple of sets?" Lilly placed a small envelope onto the table, " Any time after noon." "Thanks." Vala moved to stand and tucked the key into her pocket. "Miss Ittarius," Lilly stood with her. " I noticed your band name is Obsidian Angels." "What of it?" "There is another group by that name in one of my other clubs and I was wondering-" "If we could change it?" Val interjected and sighed. " I can speak to Paris about it." "Thank you and see you tomorrow." ** Lilly closed the door of her office and sighed heavily as she sank into her arm chair. This evening's meeting with Julian was chasing through her brain and she was annoyed by it. There was nothing new in the troubles he kept bringing to her. Always the same, always a problem with the new comers or the changes in leadership. Sometimes she wondered at Julian, wondered if he could actually do the job. At times like that she also remembered how he had dealt with Caitlin when the time had come. There were very good reasons he was the Prince of the City. ** Vala jolted from her sleep and stared into midnight blue shadows. Her small room was deep in them and only by looking at her watch did she know it was past noon. Blinking several times to clear her eyes she sat up and gazed around. What had woken her so sharply? Then it came again. A fierce pounding on her door. She untangled herself and staggered to the door. Opening the wooden surface she flinched at the glaring sunlight. "There is a serious problem." Was the first thing Paris said to her. "Yeah it's still daylight." She backed away from it and sank into a nearby chair. Drawing her knees up to her chest she yawned hard enough to make her eyes water. " What brings you here so...harshly?" Paris closed the door behind him and began to pace. " Craig was found dead a couple hours ago. I was wondering where you were all night." Val blinked again and felt her face drawing together, her lips thinned out, brows drew down. " Are you saying you think I killed him?" Paris didn't pause, " It wouldn't be a first time for you." "Now hold on one fucking minute here. That situation with Rob was chaotic and it was self defense. I didn't like Craig anymore then you did, but I wasn't about to kill him." "You said you were going to deal with him. We all know what that means from you." Paris paused as he reached the wall again and turned to her this time. " Damnit Val, we could loose our gig. This is of course assuming we still have one?" She nodded. " Lilly seemed more then happy to keep us on." "Good then I think you would want to help us clear this up." Paris grabbed her coat and tossed it to her. " The police are at the club." "The club, why?" Val stared at her coat. "Craig's body was found at the Haven in one our rooms about two hours ago. I just got a call from one of the detectives. Tyler's down there now, talking with them." Val stood up and stretched, "Alright let me get dressed." Paris was quiet on the way over and still didn't speak as they entered the Haven. Once inside Vala removed her shades and looked around. There were day staff clustered to one side and Lilly was sitting in the centre of them. She didn't look happy, in fact she looked down right miserable. Vala watched her for a moment before sighing and making her gaze move. They slid over the floor, which was glowing with golden and black tiles, uniformed officers were scattered about. They slid over to the stage and stopped. Craig's body wasn't there, but she saw the ghost of it. The milky white residue of a body hung in the air where he had been strung up. "Where's the body?" Vala whispered to Paris. "I don't know. He was already in a bag when I got here." Paris whispered back. "Don't look now, but we have company." Vala glanced to her right side and saw that Lilly was approaching. She was in a dark pants suit that was tailored to fit her perfectly. Her hair was swept back off her face and her expression had changed to a different kind of upset. "Good morning," Lilly stopped a few paces back. "I am sorry about your band mate. I would be happy to find a replacement if you need one." "Thanks but I have to talk with the band first." "I think it's fine." Paris said quickly and nodded toward the stage. "That is the lead detective." Lilly glanced over, "That is Frank Kohanek." She spoke in a dark tone but turned to look back at Vala. "Come and see me when you are finished." "Miss? Can I help you?" One of the uniformed cops noticed she was standing there and came forward. "I knew the man who...I want to speak to the person in charge." Vala inflicted her tone with all the strength she could manage. It took all her energy and she felt it wearing on her. "Right this way." He motioned toward the stage. Vala motioned for Paris to stay and followed the cop. He walked up the edge of the stage and made a sound. Frank and his partner turned in unison. Vala kept her reaction inside as she recognized yet another one. This city was practically crawling with them. It surprised her and yet at the same time seemed perfectly logical. This was a sea port and they did have a history of travelling on boats. "Excuse me?" She blinked several times before coming back to focus and stared at the men in front of her. Frank Kohanek was rough around the edges with curious, intense eyes and unruly dark hair. She stepped back as he waved a hand in front of her eyes. She noticed he didn't wear a ring. "Did you know the victim?" He asked. "Yeah, he was my drummer." "You are in a band?" The dark man asked, he was the one writing things down. "Yeah. Obsidian Angels, although we are changing the name." She couldn't help noticing how vague her tone sounded. It was as if she was standing somewhere and listening to a stranger. "Would you like to sit down?" Frank asked as he noticed her tone. Vala shook her head, "No, I just came to help." "Well can you tell us where you were last night?" Frank asked. "I was sleeping in my hotel." Vala realized her gaze was glued to the residue of Craig's body. She kept expecting something to change. That's when it happened. Her shields opened and she felt her blood rush through her veins. Her eyes burned for a moment as the ghost residue melted into a body. Craig hung from the ceiling as he choked to death, his struggles were weak, as though he was lacking strength. His tattooed skin was too pale and he had shiny wide eyes. His hands kept alternating as they reached for someone. She couldn't see the face when she turned her head. Her vision was confined to Craig as he choked to death and she didn't feel a thing about it. "Vala?" She shook her head and the vision clouded over and disappeared as the guards went up again. "Sorry, did you say something?" Paris was kneeling beside her and had a hand on her shoulder. "I said are you okay? You look a little whiter then usual." "Why are you kneeling?" Vala looked around and realized she was sitting on her knees on the floor. Her hands were shaking and she felt her eyes burning. It felt as though sand had been rubbed into them and then set on fire. "Where are my glasses?" She wanted to search for them, but her hands weren't working properly. "Here." Paris reached into his pocket and drew them out. "You dropped them when you fell." Vala slid them on and felt some of the pain ease. She turned her head and focused on the room. Both detectives were nearby, but not intruding. The uniformed ones were snatching sidelong glances but not looking. Everyone was acting scared. "Did something happen?" "You were talking about Craig's murder, something about him being choked." "Oh, I don't remember now." Paris smiled gently, "You never do boss, but maybe that's a good thing." "I suppose." Vala pushed to her feet and felt the floor move. Paris grabbed her arms. "Where is Tyler?" "He is talking with Lilly, she is quite anxious to have us play tonight. I told him to talk with her, seeing as you were busy and I was busy. But if you want we can skip the police and go to her office." "That might be a good idea." Vala let Paris support her as they went up the stairs toward Lilly's office. A young man in full black with a silver belt buckle was coming down. His hair was long and touched his waist in a dark golden wash of silk. His features were sharp and matched his figure, he was attractive to look at it. "Where is Miss Lantry's office?" Paris asked as they passed him. He glanced once at Vala and then at him. "I'll take you." He lead them to an ornate dark wood door that was graced with a carved wooden handle. He even knocked on the door for them. His gaze shifted again to Vala. "You look a little pale." "It's still daylight." She managed to respond without wavering on her feet. He grinned at her and made him beautiful. "I know what you mean." The door opened with a woman in a dark gold suit. She looked once at the man and then at Vala and Paris. She stepped aside and waved for them to enter. Lilly was sitting in a blue satin chair across from Tyler who was sipping a glass of water. Lilly stood up. "What happened?" She crossed to them and took Vala's other side. She must look like death warmed over if Lilly was getting uptight. Vala found herself seated on an 17th century chaise and handed a glass of water. Tyler was standing back with his hand on Paris' shoulder. "Craig's death hit her hard." Paris said lightly. To those who knew what that meant they would relax, but for Lilly it made her look again at Vala. "Perhaps we should wait to talk business." Lilly commented as she returned her seat. "No. No we can talk about this." Vala sipped her water. "What is first on the list?" "I have spoken to Tyler and Paris about looking up a new drummer. Like I said last night, I have several possible names." Lilly kept her eyes focused on Vala as she spoke. "Sounds fine, as soon as the cops clear out we can look at them. You said something about changing the name?" "Yes. There is already a group playing one of my East Coast clubs by that name." Her gaze shifted to Paris and Tyler, who were sharing a single seat chair. "If that is alright with you of course Paris?" "Whatever Vala decides is fine." He sounded tired. Vala glanced at him, "Did you get any sleep?" "Not yet." Lilly interjected. "We have an extra room if you would care to use it." She stood up and went to her desk. Pressing a button on an raise stand she looked up as the door opened. It was the man with the shining hair. "Lucas, would you show Mr. Ducane the guest room?" "Of course." He motioned for Paris to follow him and stepped into the hall. Lilly sat down again and was quiet for a moment. "I hear that you have been in the band a long time." "Since I was thirteen." Vala found herself wanting to talk. "Paris and I were the original members and we have gone through many others. For some reason we seem unable to keep our bass guitarists and drummers." "This may seem like an odd statement, but if things go well in the next six weeks, you will have a permant show at my club." Vala glanced at her, "So soon? I mean that would be great but it seems rather sudden." "I like your style Vala. People like you and Paris belong here at the Haven." "People like me and Paris?" Lilly was quiet a moment, "You have a dark past Vala, I can see it in you. As for Paris he too has many secrets. I don't care about the past. What I am offering is a future for both of you, should you want it." Lilly paused again. "Many artists have started here and then moved onto great things." "Miss Langtry I know that you mean well. But you are just going to trust us like that? I mean just offer us a job at your club?" "Why not?" Lilly spread her hands. "I have seen you play, I know you are good. As to trusting you and Paris, I think Miss Ittarius, you'll find that I am a very good judge of character." Vala caught the undertones of Lilly's words and felt a chill run through her. She nodded in response and let out a sigh. "Alright Miss. Langtry, I will speak to Paris. Now as to the name of the group?" "I was reading through your lyrics and they are all very mournful and dark. I can see why you choose Obsidian Angles." Vala nodded. "Well if you are basing it off of our music, the second choice for our name had always been Midnight Ember." "I like that, if fits with the group's image. I'll have Margot change the billing name." "If there isn't anything else Miss Langtry I will return to my hotel room." Vala rose and headed to the door. "I'll return after the police have left. Tyler is free to pick the next drummer, I don't mind." "Are you alright Vala?" "No. But I will be by tonight." She nodded and closed the door behind her. Once in the hall she stared at the end and felt her head begin to ache. She was not doing well anymore. Perhaps is was the stress of the new gig or Craig's murder. But something was wearing her down. A weight had glued its self to her and that usually meant one thing. Things were going to get a whole lot worse.