In the image of your dreams
Let me come to you
All it will take is a word
Close your eyes and breathe it out
“He should have been here by now.”
“Watch carefully. I’m sure he already is. That man is more slippery than…something that is very slippery.”
“You have a gift for the simile, don’t you?”
“My mom always used to say so too. Never quite figured what she meant though.”
“There he is!”
“Look there, right beside Louise. There she is in the red dress.”
A very quiet voice speaks in their heads, “Boys! Shouldn’t you be focusing on him?”
“Yes ma’am!” A pause and then, “I hate it when she does that!”
“Me too, and what’s worse, she can hear us right now bitching about her too.”
“Enough then. Let’s get to work. There he goes. He’s walking around that girl…No! He is talking to her. I saw…Wait! He is…She is…What the…!”
The same voice speaks, still in their heads, slightly sharp now. Only slightly, though. “What is happening?”
“He slipped his arm around her waist and now is walking off with her. I swear to God, she doesn’t know him! How does he do it?”
The voice speaks again, patiently, “There is a reason why he is called who he is. Do not let him out of your sight.”
“He is with her now. There’s no way he can slip out of sight!”
The voice, with more than a hint of ice to it this time, “Boys…You screw this one up and you’ll end up in the Himalayas for the winter, playing valet to the Yeti.”
A look is exchanged.
The square is in one of the hundreds of Venetian quarters, with the mandatory canals and quaint little buildings. There is a chilly bite to the air and most people are snug in extremely stylish winter apparel. There is a pleasant smell of coffee and cheese in the air, though this does not manage to drown the dank odour that Venice will never manage to lose. There is an air of casual bonheur as people mill around the square, stopping for a coffee or a slice of pizza at one of the numerous bistros around. Snatches of gossip and laughter fill the air, pretty people in a place full of mirth and rich aromas.
There is one figure that should draw the eye; a woman in a red dress, the only one who isn’t wearing something warm. Yet she seems quite comfortable. A closer look reveals an extremely beautiful woman in perfect physical shape. Curves wrapped with smooth and glowing skin that is exotic in its light brown tinge. Her dress is designed to accentuate and reveal rather than conceal. In a square full of red-blooded Italian men, she should be the centre of attention, at the receiving end of many flirtatious remarks and admiring glances. But strangely, hardly anyone notices her.
Perhaps that is all to the good, because beneath the attractive veneer one would notice several disturbing things. The woman’s eyes have irises that are long and vertical, akin to those of a cat. Her nostrils flare in a predatory manner each time someone passes by. Her skin and dress appear almost unreal in their shining cleanliness. There is something about the woman that seems odd…and very, very dangerous.
She is waiting for someone. And she does not want to be noticed. One of her many gifts is the ability to fade. Only someone looking for her would be able to find her. She is curious to see if he will be able to do that; the man with that warm, deep voice that was so intoxicating! She has been replaying the conversation she had with him 15 minutes ago, over and over. She thinks of that deep voice saying her name…
“Oui…? Qui est-ce ?”
“You do not know me, chérie. But rest assured, we will get better acquainted in the time that comes. Enough about me, let’s talk about you! You’re here in this city looking for some… adventure; a fresh, sensual experience… n’est-ce pas?”
(his gift stirred matter, as reality stirred in anticipation. the misty tendrils of time-space quickening, waiting for words to tell them what shape to weave)
“Who is this?” Louise was startled. Demons were sensitive to wordscapes and could feel the shift in the world around them. Louise’s fear added to the heady mix of the scape.
“I’m the adventure you have been so unconsciously searching for the past three years of your life Louise. You’ve left quite a trail, but still have not found what you’re looking for. That search, ma chère, is over.”
(the direction had been given. the scape was directed at the demon’s mind, at her concept of reality. The tendrils moved with speed that defied time and space)
“But… how? Comment tu sais… vous savez?” The scape was working its magic and Louise was more than a little befuddled.
“The ‘tu’ is indeed so much more endearing. Why would you bring a ‘vous’ between us? Or anything else for that matter?”
“Monsieur, state your purpose or hang up. I do not talk to strange men who act familiar in such an inappropriate manner.” She was fighting it. But a wordscape is always an impossible foe to beat. It curls around you, pulling you into the reality it defines.
There was the sound of warm, rich laughter. “Now Louise, shed the pretence! Fine, I’ll humour you. Meet me at the square before your hotel. All your questions will be answered. However, be warned that you are watched. They are wise to your antics. And if it weren’t for the lure of much bigger prey, your adventure would have been brought to a regrettable end much before you got anywhere close to Europe. You might even have been stopped in Australia, considering Amra is on the case.”
“Ah! You know her? Good!” The voice on the phone grows firm. It was time to close the game. “Then I do not need to say anything more. So, the square in 15 minutes?”
“Impossible! I need to get ready!”
“The red dress will do chérie. Just bring your exquisite self to the square in 15 minutes. And we’ll figure out this mess. And do not bother to bring any of your toys. They won’t help.”
“Toys! Monsieur, I hope you know what you’re doing. I am not someone you can…comment dire…ah…mess with.”
“I do not mess.” There was a smile in that. “Come soon, chérie. Let’s play.”
(in a sudden swirl, the invisible tendrils swooped and as the scape wove itself to completion, she forgot the alarms that had gone off in her head at the first sign of weaving.)
The woman in the red dress comes back with a start to the present. Her loss in concentration has caused her camouflage to fail. A couple of men have paused to stare and smile at her. Irritated, she starts walking to another part of the square. Just as she starts negotiating her way across the lane, her nostrils flare as she catches the whiff of subtle but unmistakably masculine cologne. Priding herself on her knowledge of scents and perfumes, she is surprised to realise she has no clue about this one. She starts to turn to see where the fragrance is coming from.
“Don’t turn, don’t say anything. Just act normal.”
The voice on the phone! Louise makes a mighty effort to restrain the urge to turn and see this mysterious man.
“Normal! What is normal about any of this?”
“Louise, everything will be explained. Come now. Let’s go take a stroll. There is a café I want to take you to. First dates after all are such lovely affairs!”
He places a hand on her waist and starts leading her forward. She turns to look at him. She sees a clean cut, pleasant looking man with an exotic tint to his skin. In spite of nothing remarkable to his frame, looks or his clothes, he still exudes an air of complete self-assurance. He looks at her and smiles. She can’t see his eyes behind his dark glasses, but can feel them smile too. She nods her head and starts walking with him. Café or no café, she is going with Mr. Mysterious. She could feel her heart begin to quicken with the excitement of a situation where, for once, she was not in control. This was going to be some ride! She would go along with his games for a while. And when she tired, she would take him. This one would be a veritable feast!
Both of them seemed oblivious to the two men hurrying in their wake. To the rest of the world, they look like just another couple in Venice, the city where love can indeed be felt in the air.
“Where did they disappear?”
“I don’t know! What the…!”
The voice, much colder now, and definitely angry, speaks again. “You boys are going to regret this! Find the bastard now!”
They hear a woman scream. They turn and run towards the noise. People start converging to the source of the sound. They quickly make their way through the crowd. In a professional way, they jostle just the right people in just the right places to make maximum ground. Soon they break through to the eye of the storm, the end of a cul-de-sac. The body of the woman in the red dress lies there. Only, she is not so beautiful anymore. She looks very plain, and very, very dead; like she has been that way for a long time.
One of the men bends to examine her body and sees a little note slipped into a fold of her dress, and quickly pockets it. There are sounds of the authorities approaching, distinctly loud. The men disappear into the crowd.
The two men are standing in a small, bleak room. A very petite woman sits before them, looking over a huge desk.
“So… You lost him.”
“Amra… You already know that.”
“Give me the note.”
The note exchanges hands; from a sweaty, slightly trembling one to a small, cold and very firm one.
She passes the note beneath her nose, sharply inhaling the faint scent of extremely distracting cologne. “Bastard,” she says under her breath, but without rancour. She unfolds the note.
Amra! It’s a pleasure as always to work with you. Louise was getting ahead of herself. Succubae do tend to go crazy when they are let loose by their summoners. Such a trail, Amra. Your definition of ‘acceptable losses’ is getting more and more unacceptable by the day. I do not need to remind you of the sheep you are supposed to guard.
Stop chasing me, Amra. You will never catch me. However, if you’re ever to consider marriage, do let me know.
Amra raises one thick eyebrow. Does he dare!
I know this retired Hungarian butcher who would be most interested in a tiny, tight-arsed, cold bitch for a wife. He does tend to get behind on the meat-carving at times.
She flushes a very delicate red.
Enough personal insults. I’m sure you would love to fling some at me too. What I really do want to tell you is simple enough. Louise and her ilk have to go. I do not know why you’re letting them run amok when your gang should and could have cut each one of them down way back in the 19th century. But you need these demons to do your dirty work. That will stop Amra.
I need to close this love letter now. My words do not come cheap, as you know. And there is so much to be done. I am after Smithy next. I’ll see you wherever his skinny derriere turns up. So be good and try to do what you really should be doing, instead of chasing poor innocent wordsmiths who are just trying to make the world a better place. Who knows, you might even get Smithy yourself!
Amra takes a deep breath.
“He is right, you know. We really should be chasing down those soul-suckers, instead of wasting our time on him. In our field, we could use all the vigilantes we can get.”
“Winston, I shall hire you as my personal adviser when I come upon such bad times as to need your counsel. For now, Gabriel and you can make your way to Kathmandu. Rope is done with her term and will brief you on our friend the Abominable Snowman, and everything you need to know to handle him for the next 12 months.”
“Make that 18 months. Go now, before I decide I want to send you as the Yeti’s food and not his watchers.”
Two very sullen men make their way out of the room.
Amra leans back in her chair and reads the note again. And again. She inhales the fast-fading fragrance on the note once more.
“Laugh while you can, you son of a bitch. You will soon be mine. And when I have your balls in a vice, you too will scream. And let’s see how much your words will help you then.”