Just Another Judgement Day

ONE

Retro Voodoo and the Spirit of Dorian Gray

You don’t go to Strangefellows for the good company. You don’t go to the oldest bar in the world for open-mike contests, trivia quizzes, or theme nights. And certainly not for happy hour. You don’t go there for the food, which is awful, or the atmosphere, which is worse. You go to Strangefellows to drink and brood and plan your revenges on an uncaring world. And you go there because no-one else will have you. The oldest bar in the world has few rules and fewer standards, except perhaps for Mind your own damned business.

I was sitting in a booth at the back of the bar that particular night, with my business partner and love, Suzie Shooter. I was nursing a glass of wormwood brandy, and Suzie was drinking Bombay Gin straight from the bottle. We were winding down, after a case that hadn’t gone well for anyone. We didn’t talk. We don’t, much; we don’t feel the need. We’re easy in each other’s company.

My long white trench coat was standing to attention beside our table. I’ve always believed in having a coat that can look after itself. People gave it plenty of room, especially after I happened to mention that I hadn’t fed it recently. The trench coat is my one real affectation; I think a private eye should look the part. And while people are distracted by the cliché, they tend not to notice me running rings around them. I’m tall, dark, and handsome enough from a distance, and no matter how bad things get, I never do divorce work.

Suzie Shooter, also known as Shotgun Suzie, was wearing her usual black motorcycle leathers, complete with steel studs and chains and two bandoliers of bullets crossing over her impressive chest. She has long blonde hair, a striking face with a strong bone structure, and the coldest blue gaze you’ll ever see. My very own black leather Valkyrie. She’s a bounty hunter, in case you hadn’t guessed.

We were young, we were in love, and we’d just killed a whole bunch of people. It happens.

Strangefellows was full that night... the night he came to the Nightside. We thought it was just another night, and the joint was jumping. Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” was pumping out of hidden speakers, and thirteen members of the Tribe of Gay Barbarians were line-dancing to it, complete with sheathed broadswords, fringed leather chaps, and tall ostrich-feather head-dresses. Two wizened Asian conjurers in long, sweeping robes had set their tiny pet dragons to fighting, and already a crowd had gathered to place bets. (Though I had heard rumours that only the dragons were real; the conjurers were merely illusions generated by the tiny dragons so they could get around in public without being bothered.) Half a dozen female ghouls, out on a hen night, were getting happily loud and rowdy over a bottle of Mother’s Ruination and demanding another bucket of lady-fingers. It probably helps to be a ghoul if you’re going to eat the bar snacks at Strangefellows. And a young man was weeping into his beer because he’d given his heart to his one true love, and she’d put it in a bottle and sold it to a sorcerer in return for a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes.

In a more private part of the bar, a small gathering of soft ghosts were flickering in and out around a table that wasn’t always there. Soft ghosts—the hazy images of men and women who’d travelled too far from their home worlds and lost their way. Now they drifted through