“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. ― H.P. Lovecraft
It was a normal day for 5 people who would soon find themselves baffled by a coincidental invitation.
John sat up in his small apartment.
The curtains pulled down, showing no sign of having been used for weeks. Walls spotted and yellow from nicotine and The air were heavy with dust.
He was sure he had heard a noice at the door, but he did’t expect nobody.
It had been almost 8 years since the war ended and he had been discharged from the naval service. The shocks still came and so did the dreams, but it no longer haunted him every night. For almost 4 years he had been able to function normally and had found sleep during most nights.
He looked over at the door where an almost too white piece of paper lay on the floor.
He got up, steadied himself and picked it up.
It was an invitation to the Cotton Club in Harlem at midnight, he scratched his hair while looking at it. What was happening in Harlem during the night was rumored to be almost worse than the french warzones.
He walked back over to the bed, sat down and took out a cigarette from the bedside table, lit it and then poured a small whiskey.
A few hours until his shift started, he finished the drink, put out the cigarette and dressed, all the while wondering about that club.
Tian Sha hoped his mother wasn’t in a foul mood. After working 10 hours at the drawing board with the other engineers, trying to figure out what was wrong with the machine design, he wasn’t really in any mood for her nagging. He opened the door to the drycleaning shop and immediately heard his mother yell his name and then seeing him, started rambling in chinese about his late arrival and how he no longer helped his dear old mother and how she it was a miracle she hadn’t died from the hard labour, while sat around a table drawing doodles.
Tian let out a sigh, put his bag behind the counter and donned the apron.
A few hours later he all but fell down in his chair, finally home in his appartment.
He looked down at the invitation in his hand, it had been slipped under the door apperently, the white gleaming paper had a fine impression of his shoe print on it, when he had stepped on it.
He put down the invitation and went to prepare something to eat. Perhaps a night out would loosen him up, even though Harlem wasn’t a good place to be after dark.
Francesca, or Fran as she had nicknamed herself, angrily tossed the bloody apron in the bin and tore off the gloves. The morgue was silent, save for the slight electric humming from the lights.
Once more she had been instrumental in helping the New York police with perhaps solving a murder and once more her superior had taken the credit for himself. She wasn’t just a secretary, she had been the one finding the bloodspatter and fingerprints. She had been the one determining that this wasn’t just natural causes, but in fact a poisoning.
She stomped her feet and went over to the cold room where the next body was kept. Went in, closed the door and started screaming in frustration while banging her hands on the closed door.
A few minutes later she straightened her clothes and hair, walked out of the cold room, picked up her back and coat and punched out for today.
She hoped Lilliana was working late, she could use a little alone time.
Fran paused just a second outside her appartment door, looking at the bright white pieces of paper that had been slipped under the door.
She nudged them with her feet and opened the door, picking the pieces of paper up.
An invitation for each of them to the Cotton club at midnight.
She put Lilliana’s on the dining table and walked into her own room.
A new dress might be needed, it did say formal attire. Perhaps it would be good if Lilliana came home early anyway.
Victor straightened up and looked over the selection of rifles that had been put out for him.
He didn’t really need another one, but after his succesfull journey to the amazons his sponsors had been almost showering him with gifts and money. Those soft office people had been terrified out in the outskirts of the jungle, even though their camp had been just on the other side of the ridge.
Mr. Byrd had been so happy with the trip, that Victor had gotten almost double the agreed payment for the trip. Especially when Mr. Byrd had almost personally killed that dreadfull lion, albeit it had been drugged within an inch of consciousness, no reason to risk anything. But it had roared and growled and Mr. Byrd would receive the trophy witnin a few weeks and Victor could now celebrate and would very soon be able to fund his own expedition, following in the footsteps of the Darfur anglo-egyptian expedition.
He smiled to the salesman and pointed at one of the rifles, a new hunting rifle that would fit his collection.
The clerk nodded and promised to have it sent by the afternoon to the shooting range so Victor himself could try it out before buying.
He took a cab home and immideately saw the bright white piece of paper on the floor just inside his appartment.
He looked it over and mused, he was intriqued by the formal invitation, The cotton club wasn’t really his kind of place, too loud and Harlem wasn’t really white man territory, but the place was rumored to serve some good booze, not that terrible bathtub gin which was becomming more and more common. Getting some proper whiskey wasn’t easy these days.
Lilliana walked briskly after the young man, whom she had tried to speak to all afternoon. He had deftly avoided her, using his family name to get into places, she was not welcome, at least not as a reporter. They were not well looked upon by most of the high society class of New York.
Lilliana smiled to herself. Most famous and rich always had something to hide and as a high society reporter, she was good at finding out the secrets.
This time, the young man, son of a senator, had chosen to visit an underground speakeasy, gallivanting with easily available women, drinking and using some high class drug.
That was a few days ago, now she just wanted to hear his own side of the story that her pictures told.
He had denied looking at the photos and talking to her, at first. Last night he had finally broken down and grabbed her wrist while yelling that she would get into trouble if she didn't disappear from sight. She still had a few red marks on the wrist from that.
That had been photographed as well and put into the folder containing the full story. Now she was just hoping to get a statement from him, before the story would hit the streets tomorrow morning.
Lilliana smiled at the doorman, made sure her dress was proper and then handed the doorman the concealed 2-dollar note and got inside, no questions asked.
Most of the doormen around downtown New York knew her, like they knew most of the reporters.
Later that evening Lilliana opened the door to her apartment, which she shared with another woman, Fran, short for Francesca.
Fran was already home and from the look of things she had been busy finding a nice evening dress for herself, and apparently also for Lilliana.
She looked around the living room and kitchen part of the place and noticed the bright white invitations on the kitchen table.
Fran smiled at her and motioned for Lilliana to read to note, while she took out another dress and tried it on.
Lilliana read through the short note and looked at Fran.
There had to be some stuff done before they could go anywhere, hair and makeup on both of them, had to find to right shoes, the right gloves, the right gloves, a purse.
It was going to be a long night, oh well, no rest for the wicked.