Although organized crime is on the rise, and politicians are becoming ever and evermore corrupt, there is still a darker side to this city; a side that like the far side of the moon, will always be hidden to the world.
This dark world is here among us. Conventional borders and territorial boundary lines do not keep us away from this side. There are no train tracks to cross, no fences to climb or rivers to traverse. Each of these would normally reveal that you have left the comforts of your home neighborhood and entered into the shadier part of town. No, this world is all around…and most don’t even know it!
This shrouded side is neither a politically-imposed refuge like our shantytowns home of the lost and confounded, nor a gated-community like Hyde Park where the Bagpiping Barons and Wealth-inherited Weasels live. Yet, this dark side is there, too. It is a hidden world all around.
Last night I had the misfortune of crossing that ethereal boundary and boy was I under-prepared.
I was following a reliable lead on the mysterious disappearances of several young women from various neighborhoods. I had heard of something dark behind the story, but did not know the details at the time. My lead led me to a quaint joint that was across town. It was a social venue, but not very lively. There was a band playing. I asked the bartender for a drink. He pointed to a sign saying that he was legit, “No Alcohol Served Here.” I took him on his word. I asked him if he knew anything about the missing girls. No answer. I asked if he knew if anything strange had been happening lately. No answer, but a cocky-sounding grunt. Man, I was getting no where with this guy. No drink and no answers…which panned out to no good night and no story.
I found my way to a corner both to enjoy the music and survey the joint of anyone that might give me some leads. The music was a bit light for my taste. I could tell that the clarinetist seemed to agree with that. He appeared a bit restless with the choice of song sets as. He seemed to be playing just a little louder than the band director wanted. They kept giving each other the evil-eye.
As soon as I sat down at the table, a tall dark bloak sat down next to me. I could immediately feel something not right about him. Yet, I gave my hand out in friendship. Maybe knew something.
“Knighten Foraine’s the name.”
He simply eyed me up and down, and said, “Interesting. Can I buy you a drink?” Apparently, he couldn’t read the sign.
This invitation was clearly unsolicited. That may fly in France among the Absinthe houses populated by the Parisian Art community; but not in America! Fortunately, a fellow gentleman put a broad hand on the unwelcome flagrant and told him to go bite the curb. It seemed as if things were about to escalate, when the establishment’s owner slammed down an empty mug that he had been cleaning. Both men looked back at him. The owner’s eyes were like daggers on the unwanted stranger. To my relief he sulked away. The more friendly stranger sat down. He introduced himself as Benny. He order us both a meal. He told me that I had just tangoed with a real life Vampire! My blood ran cold…at least for the rest of my night I would be less desirable to any more of these foul fiends.
Since Benny seemed to know somewhat of this dark world that I was trying to learn more about, I asked him if he knew anything about the missing girls. He shrugged me off and said I should be talking about any of this. I tried to get me to “run on home”. Knighten Foraine never backs down from a story, though. He knew something and that meant that I wasn’t going anywhere until I found out. I was going to stick to him like soot on a chimney-sweeps underpants.
When the band ended their song, I turned to clap and acknowledge their performance. As I turned back around we had been joined by a fox. Yes, you read that right…a forestland frolicking furry fox. And if that was not out of the ordinary enough, he SPOKE…in an Irish accent!! Readers, if you are having trouble at this point whether you should continue on or put down that paper—-I know how you are feeling. I urge you to continue. Why? Because this is all true. I stake my reputation and value as a citizen of America, that I am telling it just how it happened.
Returning now to the fox. Please, follow me on this. It actually was a talking fox. He said his name was Kyle (yes, foxes can have names, too); he was a kitsune from legends (well actually half-kitsune…which meant only one parent was kitsune, the other was, well…you know…one of us.) Okay, now if this is too much for you, put the paper down just long enough to take a long drag of your tobacco pipe to calm your nerves because you don’t want to miss what is about to happen. I asked him if he knew anything. He did know something, unfortunately it was nothing of importance something about the moors just South of Dublin and something about buried faerie treasure, yoddy, yoddy, yoddy.
The kitsune’s long monologue was interrupted when a member of the band, the unorthodox clarinetist, slammed himself down on the booth seat. Immediately, I could tell that he was a pistol ready to fire. I made a mental note not to get on this guy’s bad side. The clarinetist began swearing up a storm about how the band director was the worst person on Earth. I must admit that most of what came out of his mouth would not be appropriate for this newspaper, or was simply unrecognizable as words. His accent was thicker than the kit fox. He must have just got off the boat. Once he calmed down a bit, I was able to ask if he knew anything. Again, not much luck. He said his name was Henry. He did know about some strange activity regarding the Vampires. He apparently moonlighted (or daylighted, since his band gigs where at night) as Vampire Hunter.
But, he knew for sure that if some Vampires were responsible for missing girls he would be the first to know about it. I don’t know his connections in the Vampire community, but they seemed quite solid. With that, he was back on the bandstand playing another set.
My friend Celena Glistine (I call her CG for short) walked in unexpectedly. I don’t even know how she knew about this place. CG and I go back quite a ways, but it is too complicated to explain in this article. Just know that I was very surprised to see her, yet she did bring a bit of comforting light to such a darkening place. Somehow, Kyle knew my friend, but she was not liking his vibe at all. By the way, Kyle if you are reading this column (I just assume that if you can talk you can read, too) the name is Knighten, K-N-I-G-H-T-E-N. Knighten Foraine. It is not Knight. It is not Knightly. It is not Knight of the Round! It is Knighten!
Anyway, the last member of this party showed up. A cop from the Southside. He introduced himself as Krzysztof He had just got off his beat. He looked a bit tired. I asked him that same questions. He wasn’t very hospitable. I felt that he was a hard-jawed officer that kept things close to the chest. He looked at me like I was just some kid.
After I was about to give up on these guys, and go looking for answers on my own, Benny sized me up and said, “Look kid, there are things out there that you could only dream of in your worst nightmares. You don’t got what it takes. Go home before you get hurt!”
“I can take what ever is dished out to me. I might have been born with a slightly tarnished silver spoon in my mouth, but I have been able to swallow whole pieces of chopped liver for breakfast. You dish, I’ll take it.”
“Really? You’re foolin’ yourself kid.”
“I’m not a kid!”
“Prove it. You take a hit on this guy. One black eye, and we will back you up. We will tell you everything you need to know. Heck! We’ll even take you to the bowels of Hell if you ask.” The ornery clarinetist had just returned and was standing at the end of Benny’s pointed finger. He looked more disgruntled than ever.
Krzysztoff stepped into the mix. “Wait! You can’t do this…”
“Step out of the way, I can do this.” I said.
“Possibly you might, but we haven’t place bets yet. I got $10 bucks that Henry lays him flat!”
Benny took him up on the bet, “He looks like he has some Spirit. I will see your $10.”
It felt like an auction at the Stock Yards. What was I getting into? Once the bets were made, Henry spit on a cloth from his pocket and rubbed it on the side of his chin. “I’ll give you one free hit right here.”
The place had cleared out and our party were the only ones left. Half of us were cheering for Henry the other half for me. I thought, one free shot, Knighten you better give him everything you got. I could tell he was a bit over-cocky and if I egged him on he might move just enough off balance. From the way that he moved, it didn’t seem that he was much of a weakness to anything. I didn’t let that stop me though. I knew from my college days that I had brought down many opponents to the mat. They didn’t call me the Knightcap for nothing. I had made many an opponent drift off to sleep with one punch; this guy would be no different. I squared him up, feinted forward and saw him reflex the intended blow. I then released an astounding cross-over stepping in with all my weight. It was like punching right into a bag of flour. I took only a half step back. With all my force, I had not even phased him. In fact, I just enraged him. His face went as red as his trademark hair. I could see Death in his eyes. He was about ready to send me to my Maker just from looking at me, when I suddenly thrust out my hand to make peace and bow out. To my relief he took me up on it. He squeezed my hand like uncle Marvel used to do. He left it throbbing on releasing my hand.
“A bet is a bet.” Krzysztof said to me. He held out the $10.
“What do you mean? I lost. He clearly doesn’t have a black-eye.”
“Listen kid. My father always told me, ‘You don’t question when a man makes the Tatras move JUST an inch.’ Here’s your $10. A bet’s a bet.”
“I don’t need the money. You keep it, give it to someone widow in your neighborhood. Goodness knows she needs it more than I do in these trying times.”
“You’re all right, kid.” He said affirmatively. “Fellas, the kids in.” The rest of the group instinctively knew what he meant.
I had done it! With a bit of luck and one sore hand, they were going to help me get this story. Readers, if this is the last column I write it is not that I do not have anything more to write. It will be because I am going into the treacherous dark, where I might not return. If this dark world takes me know this, you can bet that I am biting on to this story like a British Bulldog and I won’t let it go until it squeals out the truth like a whorish hog.
Knighten P. Foraine,
Field Reporter for the Ripley Register