Ever Rain: Nine Kings Episode I

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 7

“It’s been longer than I expected, old girl.” Kellerika shook an older sun dress free of its dust and sat it on the ironing board. The evening of her big date with Evan had arrived. He avoided the typical boy thing of texting and went straight to a phone call. Big kudos in her book. They had talked for over an hour that night. Her exotic accent. Where he went to college. Why she dropped out of Georgetown. Everything except Dylan and the Order. She dodged those matters like a pro.

She laid her dress on the board and steamed it flat. “Guess he’ll have to wait until date nine or ten to see the heavy metal tees and ripped jeans.”

Kell had wrestled with the notion of going casual, but she really like this guy. “He deserves a fighting chance before he gets scared away.”

Somewhere underneath her repressed parental baggage and all that Freudian garbage, she harbored the feeling that Dylan might have been afraid of her true self, too on one level or another.

Kell turned her dress. “Or, he could’ve just been an asshole.”

The reminder on her cell went off. Its face read: 6:45pm.

“Crap!” She put the finishing touches on the front of the dress and spun it to examine the wrinkles in back. “Screw it. I’ll sit on it and ruin it in fifteen minutes anyway.”

Kellerika hustled out of her sweatpants and tee and jammed her head through the hole in the yellow flowery number. She tugged a portion that clung to the back of her thigh.

“Shit.” She rubbed the stubble on her leg. “Too late now.”

Kell jogged to the sofa in her living room and looked out the bay window into the parking lot. A maroon pickup made the turn into her lot. Evan.

“He doesn’t need to be that close on our first date.” She ran back, turned off the bedroom light and raced to the front door to slip into some sandals. A truck door slammed outside.

A fluttering sensation in her belly. “Keep it together. I know it’s been a while.”

Footsteps on the pavement.

“Just don’t piss yourself.”

A cheerful ring from the doorbell. Kellerika unlocked it and opened up. “Evan! Hi.”

He had spruced up his otherwise loose dusty blond hair. An ivory…

or was it cream? Shush. It’s friggin’ white, Kell. Move on… shirt that did little to conceal his developed physique.

“Hey, Kellerika.” He brought a red rose from behind his back. “For you.”

She hesitated. Thoughts of Dylan pushed their way forward. The ghost of relationships past fought to hold her arm at her side.

“Uh,” she shook her head and took the token, “thank you. Very much. It’s lovely.”

“Ready to go?”

She closed the door behind her, and then threw it wide open. “Dang it!”

Evan took a step away. “All right?”

She scurried inside and came back dangling keys in front of her face.

He laughed. “How about now?”

Warm blood rushed into her neck and cheeks. “Of course.” She patted his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

She hopped inside the cab and buckled up. “Nice truck.”

Evan eased in beside her and started it. “Thanks. I have to confess, it’s not always this clean. Had it detailed yesterday.”

She watched her neighborhood pass by her window. “I also have a confession.”

His brow shot up. “You do?”

“I don’t always wear dresses.”

Evan made the turn onto the main road. “I’m honored.”

She smiled. “So am I.” She eyeballed his collection of old CDs. “Tangerine Dream? Depeche Mode?”

“Ah.” He tapped them with his free hand. “Not into electronic music?”

“Suppose not.”

He merged onto a divided highway. “Maybe I’ll introduce you to them on our next date.”

A giggle escaped her clenched lips. “Optimistic, are you?”

He sat in silence.

“So, tell me about this mystery dinner you have planned for us.”

Evan slowed the truck at a red light and glanced over at her. “I’ve never been to one myself, but some of my friends told me about it and said it was amazing.”

“Uh huh.”

He guided them through the light and back up to speed. “There’s supposed to be three entrees to choose from, salads, soups, desert, and the murder mystery show, of course.”

Kell grinned. “Fancy. Must be pretty expensive.”

“Maybe.” He turned the truck onto a side street. “I think it’s worth it, though.” He pulled into a parking lot in front of a squat and otherwise abandoned building.

A couple of Kellerika’s warning bells went off. “What are we doing here?”

“This is it.”

She glanced around confused. “Is this some kind of joke?”

He laughed as he got out. “No. They rent out a different restaurant space for each show. So, it’s never the same show in the same place.”

Her defenses relaxed. “Ah. Mysterious.”

Evan picked up on her slathering of sarcasm. “Very funny, gorgeous. Outcha go.” He propped her door ajar with a hip. “You trust me, don’t you?”

Kell eyed him from head to toe on the way out of the truck. “Just this once.”

As he got the front door, more and more vehicles pulled into the lot filling it up in short order.

“See,” he said, letting her pass, “more people.”

She greeted the hostess. “Fine. You win---this once.”

Evan gave them his reservation.

The somber and elusive hostess curled an index finger. “Very well.” Her twenties era silk shawl floated on a breeze. “This way.”

Kell trailed behind the hostess as she led them to a secluded table for two near the front of the house close to the stage. An old theater had been converted into the dining room.

The hostess placed two menus at either seat. “Your server will be along shortly…” She stopped at the neighboring table. “I hope.”

Kellerika settled into her chair. A solitary lantern flickered near the center of their table. “Fine linens.” She picked up a fork. “Fine silver. Well done, Mr. Burton.”

He picked up his menu and glanced it over. “I did my best.”

“Your best will do.” Kell glanced through her own. “New York strip, lobster tails, or oven roasted cauliflower.”

Evan peeked up from his. “The strip is sounding pretty tasty.”

She sat her menu on the table. “I’ll go with the lobster.”

A stately gent sporting an old-style three-piece suit and pencil moustache stopped at their table. “Good evening, folks. My name’s Ellis, and I’ll be taking care of you.” He glances at their menus on the tabletop. “Have we made our selections, or do you want some more time.”

Evan glanced in her direction, and Kell obliged. “I think we’re ready.”

Ellis plucked a pen from his coat pocket. “What will it be?”

“I’ll have the lobster tails,” she said.

Ellis didn’t miss a beat. “Soup? Salad?”

Kellerika had another peek at her menu. “French onion and a salad, please.”

“To drink?” His eyes never left the pad.

“Soda’s fine.”

He turned his attention on Evan. “And, for the gentleman?”

Evan collected the menus. “The strip, no soup, and a salad with blue cheese crumble. Soda to drink, please.”

Ellis finished his notes and collected the menus. “Excellent choices. I’ll be back with some drinks, soup, and salads.” With a swift bow, their server departed. Somewhere between the soup and salad course and the entrees, the house lights dimmed.

A cone of light popped to life, illuminating a woman in masquerade mask rimmed with purple sparkles and feathers. “Ladies. Gentlemen.” She extended an ebony arm to either wing of the stage. “Boy and ghouls of all ages, we welcome you as our most esteemed guests to our humble abode.” She strode to the front of her stage. “Sit back. Relax. Enjoy your meals while we soften the mood with a little music.”

Another smaller cone of blue light fell on a baby grand and an older man in a tux. His hands fluttered into a rendition of Etta James’s At Last.

Ellis came back to check on them as Kellerika carved another morsel from her first of three tails. “Everything all right here?”

A gunshot. Ellis slumped to his knees and collapsed to the terrified shriek of the singer onstage.

Evan jumped in his seat. “Holy shit.”

“Call the police!” The singer ran off into the shadows in a panic.

Sirens wailed from the front of the restaurant. A group of four guys in uniform rushed into the room blowing whistles.

“Nobody move!” The tallest in their group marched down to the center of the dining room. He aimed his nightstick at Kellerika. “There! Our victim’s over there.” The coppers tromped over to her table, a spot light followed. Tall Cop knelt next to Ellis. “He’s been shot.” He rolled the server onto his side. “In the back, what’s more.” He aimed his baton back toward stage right. “Fan out and scour the area.” He rose and strode toward the center of the hall. “His killer couldn’t have gotten far.”

Another server toted steaming platters by Kell’s table. “So sorry for the,” she looked down to the body, “inconvenience. I’ll have your deserts out for you in a few more minutes.”

Kellerika finished the last bite of her legumes and blotted her mouth. “They really take this show part seriously.”

Evan bobbed his head through a bite of his steak.

A short, stout gent in a brown tweed coat and matching fedora waddled his way to their table. “Who killed this man?” His beady eyes scanned the room. “Who let him die?”

A ten-year-old boy appeared next to Kellerika’s corner of the table. One of his blue eyes had been covered in a milky film. Several teeth were missing. A small bug of one sort or another scurried from his left nostril and ran down the boy’s lacerated neck. “Yeah, Kell. Who let me die?”

Her chair slid into the nearby wall. Toby?

“You said you’d bring me back home.” Toby took a step forward. Sounds like snapping celery from his backward kneecaps.

Evan stretched a hand across the tabletop. “Everything all right?”

Kell’s eyes darted to him. A brief nod, and then she focused on Toby again. I tried. I went by the book.

A piece of the boy’s cheek fell to the floor with a wet plop. “Where am I, Kell?” His good eye drifted to the flickering lantern light. “There’s grayness everywhere. It’s still after me, Kell.” Toby’s gaze found hers. His eye now solid white with a nine carved into it. “I want my momma.”

She crept a hand toward her steak knife. Your mom still loves and misses you, Toby. Her fingers clenched around its handle. I’ll try and get you out of there.

Tears streamed from the boy’s eyes. “Why am I not in Heaven?”

The overwhelming odor of rotten meat engulfed Kellerika. I don’t know. I’m so sorry. She took a quick swig of her soda to hold back the wave of nausea.

“You lied to me!” His voice had deformed into something untamed and demonic. “You failed to save the boy.” A small hand slammed down on the edge of the table. “You weren’t even there to save your beloved Roger.” A long, black tongue snaked from behind his charred lips. “My siblings and I will take a special pleasure in defiling your mortal shell over and over before we”---his hair shot out on end as a blast of phantom wind raged---“drink your eternal soul like the blood of a martyr!”

Kellerika swatted her knife through the fading phantasm much to the surprise of her date.

Evan sprang from his seat and rounded their table in a flash. “Jesus!” He searched under the table for her attacker. “What was that about?”

Kell tossed the knife to her plate and slumped against the edge of the table. “Thought I saw a spider. Fucking hate spiders.”

He pulled out his phone and unlocked it. Evan swept the its cone of light around the immediate area. “Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”

Her hip pocket went off and buzzed against her leg setting off another nervous jump. Kell fumbled it out and took the call. “Hello?”

“It’s Stazia.” Her boss sounded concerned. “I have another lead for you.”

Kell waved Evan off. Everything’s fine. Nothing important. “What’s that?”

“This one’s closer to home for you,” Stazia said. “Missing boy in Pennsylvania. Similar circumstances. It sounds like our case again.”

Kellerika hummed an affirmation into the phone. “Thanks. I’ll look into it later.”

“Very well,” Stazia said. “Just use your given credentials to gather as much as you can.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Kell mouthed a thank you to their server as bowls of chocolate mousse were presented. “I’ll get back in touch once I’ve finished it.”

Evan spooned a bite from his serving. “Still good?”

She hung up. “Just something for work.” A nervous smile. “Boring legal stuff.”

“I see.” He went in for another bite. “So, I know you hate legal work. You’re apparently afraid of spiders, and you’re not too keen on wearing dresses.”

Kell chuckled.

“What else can you tell me about you?”

She drew designs in her mousse with her spoon. “Dunno. You already know I’m originally from Finland.”

“Yup.” He was halfway through his desert.

She took another bite. Silky and delicate with a deep cocoa finish. “You know I’ve been here for several years.”

Evan set his spoon in his empty bowl. “What about siblings? Pets? Friends?”

“Oh, that.” Kellerika’s chest deflated. “I’m an only child. My mom has two cats. My only real friend right now is a guy I’ve known since high school, Deke.”

Evan picked up the bill and handed the server his card.

“Thanks for that.” Kell nursed the remnants of her soda. “What’s your story?”

He eased into his seat. “Not much to tell, I’m afraid.” He crossed his arms. “Let’s see. I’ve got one younger sister, Angie.”

“How much younger?”

Evan held back a burp. “Three years. My folks have a dog. A border collie named Shiloh.” He signed the receipt and slipped his copies into a shirt pocket. “You already know I’m in college.”

She got up with him. “Mmm hmm. Digital animation.”

“Right.” He ushered her toward the exit. “I played baseball in high school. Tinker around on guitar from time to time.”

Kell propped the door open for him. “Any best buds?”

“Meh,” he said. “I have a handful of old high school friends I still stay in touch with over Facebook and stuff.” He unlocked the doors. “Nobody local that I go out of my way to spend time with.”

The couple made their way back toward her house. Small talked continued and turned to subjects of hobbies. He played video games here and there and collected old fantasy maps. Kell divulged her love of sketching and heavy metal music.

Evan pulled the truck into a space and put in park. “Well home sweet home.”

She fiddled with the hem of her dress. “I had a wonderful time tonight.” Her gaze found his. “Thank you.”

He leaned closer. “My pleasure. We should do it again sometime.”

Kell went in for the kill. The kiss had caught him off guard, but he didn’t fight it. Not in the least. She pulled the back of his neck closer. His hand landed on a knee, causing her to gasp.

Evan pulled back a little. “Too soon?”

She pecked him on the lips. “Not exactly.” She leaned back into the seat. “I’m not saying never. Just,” her thoughts lingered on her unkempt legs, “tonight’s not a good night.”

He laughed. “No harm. No foul.”

Kell leaned in and pecked him on a cheek. “It really was fun, and I’d like to do it again sometime.” She popped her door ajar. “Okay?”

Evan’s hand tapped the seat. “Of course. Just say when.”

She shut the door and set a hand on the mirror. “Call me?”

He slid the pickup back into drive. “Count on it.”

Kellerika stood on her sidewalk and watched until his taillights dipped over the knoll down the road. Parts of her that had lain dormant had been awakened once again. “Man, this feels good.”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.