There was a boy...
A very strange enchanted boy.
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
- Nature Boy
The Sun's dark Secret
Constantly staying in the shadows and constantly keeping his surrounding surveyed, he stalked through the midnight alley on silent paws. Few were out of the streets at this hour. Either, you had already gone home, or you would have found a cozy spot in your favourite bar, ordering in yet another drink. The town was so silent, and still filled with life. Sitting on the roof just outside, his tail wagged forth and back as in slow motion. His nose was met by the smell of cigarettes. He would never appreciate the stink, but the distinctive smell still meant one thing to him: home.
The first thing he had done after arriving to New York was buying a trench coat, beige with a belt, just like the one Humphrey Bogart had worn in Casablanca. He had a hat already, not the same fedora model as his movie idol, but his old cowboy hat was too precious to him to part from.
The city had been hard for him to take in the first days, and it had almost been as if the big buildings had prevented him from breathing properly. It could have been all the cigarette smoke or the exhaust from the many cars, but Smoker was convinced that it was the narrow streets, the all too tall buildings and the lack of big fields that had caused it.
When he first had gotten the invitation to move to the "big apple" it had been a chance to see the world. He had nobody at home, no wife and no children. His mother had been pesting him about grandchildren since the day he turned twenty, but he had kept himself happy and her unhappy. He lived for his work, and whatever revolved around it. He didn't want a wife to be there and take the time his work needed. So when his boss had asked him if he wanted to be transferred to the department in New York, he had said good bye to his mother and packed his bags quicker than necessary.
He walked with heavy steps down the grey street. The department was a few blocks down the road but the damp weather somehow made the short way unbearable. In his mind, Smoker roamed the familiar Texas fields, and even if the air was polluted, if he closed his eyes, he could picture the scenery.
Taking a step out from the pavement, he felt the wind of a car passing him close by. The honk the car gave away created a soft ringing in his ears as he entered through the small iron door. There was no sign above it except a small emblem, not bigger than a square decimeter, depicting the American Stripes on a shield with a golden sun. The sun had a face, the icon of an old Inca good. It was carved into the wall, only visible for those who knew it was there.
Inside of the door, there was a dark corridor. Turning the lamp switch on and off, Smoker grumbled as the light didn't switch on, leaving the hall way in darkness. Still, he wasn't surprised as the department he was entering was not happy to display their business.
Keeping a hand on the old brick wall so he wouldn't fall over in the dark, Smoker advanced. After a turn in the hallway he encountered a door and heard soft voices from the other side of it. A knock on the door made those voices aware that he was there. The light that hit him in the face as the door was opened him turned him blind for half a second and he had to turn his head away and blink several times before he could see properly again.
The room was filled with smoke and Smoker erupted a violent coughing as he entered, his eyes filled with damp tears.
"Don't you have any fan or something in here?", was his opening phrase, looking around in the big room. Seven men looked up at him, everybody in white shirts tucked into dress pants. A few of them had their police badges fastened on their breast pockets, and all of them had a leather holster in their belts. The one who had opened the door for him aimed a small gun at his temple. Sighing, Smoker raised his hands towards the roof.
Spread onto the round table in the middle of the room was a big map of the inner town with several sketched markings and circles made by one of the men who stood leaning over the map. Everybody's eyes were fixed on the newly arrived man, their bodies tense. Two of the men moved and placed themselves in front of the table, making Smoker unable to see the map's markings. They were obviously very careful about who saw what, and Smoker knew why.
The tallest of the men separated from the crowd and stood before Smoker.
"Name.", was his simple greeting from what Smoker assumed was his new boss. The other men looked over his shoulder to see what for a man who was interrupting their work.
"I am William Smoker from Dallas Police Department, the Facies Commutabilis division. Check my pocket for ID."
The gun stayed put against his temple, as the tall man reached into his pocket and grabbed the grey haired man's wallet. Grunting, the man flipped the ID opened and held it up towards the lamp to take a careful look at the emblem stamped on Smoker's police license, the same mark that was carved into the stone on the wall outside of the local.
Tossing it back at Smoker, the tall man turned his back against the newcomer. Smoker himself hesitated a millisecond before he snatched his arms down and caught the ID. The pistol aimed at his head was removed and tucked back into the guard's holster. Still, the man's eyes never left Smoker.
"I am Sengoku, your boss. Remember that, Smoker.", the tall man said and talked over to the big map. His index finger moved across the various markings the men had drawn on the paper.
"Apparently, you've been called here from what ever dirt hole you came from to help us." It wasn't hard to understand that this Sengoku liked the power that came with his profession, and Smoker couldn't do anything but nod with his teeth clenched.
"I've been informed that you have started the hunt for the being that is nicknamed 'Dark prince'... Sir...", he added with a bitter tune. "I watched the execution of the so called 'King'. I never knew he had a son."
"Neither did we, until a while ago.", a man from the group around the map table said, owning himself a vicious glare from Sengoku. Immediately, the man became a little paler. A small note started to form in Smokers mind: Never Upset Sengoku.
"He has, and he is now in his early twenties.", a tall, freckled redhead continued. "That means that he was never any real threat until recently, but if he decides to go all out, we have problems. This kid has a real power. I am not taking about rabbits, foxes, or even bears. There's a real reason behind his name.", the redhead said, and looked over his shoulder, as if a mysterious creature would appear out of nowhere.
"And that being?", Smoker nudged him with a slight hint of impatience. He threw a look at his new boss, but the man had returned to studying the big map, seemingly ignoring the two of them for the moment.
"The Black Devil.", the redhead whispered, and gestured Smoker to follow him.
"I am Ian Harris", the redhead said and reached his hand out for Smoker to shake it.
The two of them walked away from the group, and into an even darker room. The other man stopped before him, and opened a drawer from a wooden closet and handed Smoker a photo. The grey haired man's eye widened slightly at the sight of the sight of a body not really resembling a body any more.
"We told the normal police that it was knife wounds, but you see those 'cuts'.", Ian said, and pointed at the bloody lines along some part of the poor soul's body.
"They're from claws, claws man. And it's not a back yard kitty we are talking about here." He shook his head and swallowed, once again looking over his shoulder.
"What... What the hell happened?", Smoker breathed.
"It was my partner, Murph. Something with really big claws killed him. And ate him." The redhead's voice shivered, as did the picture in his hands. Looking at the moving picture, Smoker noticed something in the shadows behind a corner.
"What's...", he asked, focusing his index finger on the shade.
"I did tell you; it's the Black Devil, The Dark Prince."
Looking out towards the group of men, Ian leaned forward and started to talk in a soft, but steadier voice.
"Those out there, Sengoku included, is all in for money and power. If your looking for justice or any solution to this...", he said and put the photo back in the drawer. "you'll have to do it yourself... partner."
After several hours with Ian, Sengoku and his men, Smoker finally stepped out on the street and closed the door. The grey haired man breathed in air, and thought for himself how strange it was; this very morning, he had problems breathing in what he considered dirty air, but now, after a whole day inside a smoke filled room, he rather enjoyed it.
Looking back at the door, Smoker shook his head and pulled up the collar of his coat. The sun had hid herself behind a couple of grey clouds, and it didn't look as if she was going to come back for a while.
'New York, New York' indeed, he thought for himself as he walked down the street without a specific goal. He didn't want to go back to the apartment yet; there was too much time to kill before he could return to his bed, and Sengoku had told him to stay away from the official police force. Looking at his situation, Smoker found that he only had one valid opinion. The question now was where the hell he could find a decent bar.
"Portgas!" The blond bartender scowled at the black haired kid who sat in the far corner of the room. Sanji stood leaning against the door post into the storage room, and looked furiously at the grinning boy hiding under the brim of his hat. He knew very well what he had done, and he knew that Sanji knew as well. He only called him Portgas when he was mad.
"You've been sneaking in my food supplies again! Stop stealing my food, or I'll kick you out for real this time." Lighting his cigarette, Sanji walked over to the boy and crouched down beside him. Dragging a deep breath from the cigarette, Sanji's index finger flipped up the brim of Ace's hat and exhaled the smoke into the tanned face.
Immediately, Ace's hands flew up to cover his nose, and small tears threatened to break through the corner of his eyes. The boy grunted and tried to dry of the smoke from his exposed nose with his dirty sleeve.
"Damn it, Sanji!", he whined. "You know I hate that! Gah!"
Smirking around his cigarette, Sanji took another drag of it. He walked over to the counter again and opened a cupboard on the inside of the bar. Ace continued to sneeze, still trying to get rid of the awful smell, but looked up at his so called boss with curious eyes.
Sanji finished rummaging around among his bottles and returned to his well-polished counter with a equally shining bottle made of crystal.
"If you want me to stop, then stop stealing my food. You know that I'll give you anything to eat if you just ask me!", Sanji sighed, and began pouring the liquid into a shallow glass on a foot, made from the same material as the bottle. It was one of the few crystal glasses still unbroken in Toujours Bleu. Thinking for a second, he dived back down to his cupboards and returned with a steel mixing glass, shaking it in the air.
"And I know that my food tastes better cooked than raw, even for a glutton like you, so why the hell do you steal it? You selling it?", Sanji muttered as he poured a white liquid from the mixer and blended it all with a long spoon and pushed the glass with liquor over to the black haired boy.
"No.", he answered and took a swallow of the drink. His face twitched slightly at the strong alcohol, but there was also something else in his grimace. He took another mouthful, and you could see the boy's brain progress. Hoovering over the glass, he sniffed the drink.
"What did you...?", he asked with a doubtful glance at his friend.
"Whiskey, a little sugar, some cream. Ah, and catnip.", was the answer he got, accompanied by a smirk.
Ace's face twitched slightly again, and he had problems controlling himself. Jumping down from the high bar chair, he waved his index finger at Sanji.
"I am gonna get back at you so hard for this, sir.", he laughed. The whole sight wasn't as threatening as it was amusing. Sanji's cigarette curled upwards along with his mouth, and he only shook his head. Ace was sure a handful, but the kid was unique, and in more than one way.
Suddenly, the bell above the front door indicated that someone was about to enter the bar. Ace swung his head around, looking at the stair leading down to their basement bar with big eyes, as the catnip slowly starting to take effect.
Sanji slapped him on his shoulder, sending a sharp remark that he better be serious if it was a customer. The blond stretched his back and straightened his black tie. Just before the inner door he threw a last warning glance at Ace, all too well remembering about his earlier remark at getting back at him for the catnip. They never had any customers this early, and he cursed slightly under his breath for his bad timing for the prank.
The door opened and a broad shouldered man with grey hair entered. Despite his hair colour, it was clear that he wasn't old. The man looked around, as if searching the bar for something special, but finally rested his eyes on Ace. As with almost every new customer, the man seemed have problem comprehending that the tanned, black haired boy was welcome in the bar. At least this one didn't shout something along the lines off 'the devil will eat your heart out for allowing the black devils to drink in a white bar'. Sanji kind of had enough of that kind of people.
"Welcome to the Toujours Bleu, dear sir. I am Sanji Black, the owner of this bar. What drink to I have the honor to serve you?", Sanji asked the man as he sat down two chairs away from Ace. The smile was back on his lips. They really needed every customer they could get.
"Normally, I'd say a beer, but I don't know what you people drink here in the city.", the man mumbled slightly awkward. Sanji did nothing but smile, nodding understanding.
"First time here in New York?", he started the conversation, as he took out a new mixer from the cupboards. With swift hands he picked a bottle of Canadian whisky, and poured it into the steel shaker, keeping an eye both on the liquor and on the man on the other side of the counter.
"First time anywhere.", the man answered, drawing circles on the counter. Looking at him, it seemed as if the man had a frown glued onto his forehead; it just wouldn't go away.
Sanji took out a glass, the classic clean cut cocktail model, and mixed the whisky with some of his favorite bitter, pouring it from a small bottle directly imported from Trinidad and Tobago. Lastly, the bartender added just a mouthful of Vermouth and a cherry for a sweeter flavor.
"Then you'll have to try this one.", the blond smiled and pushed the red cocktail over towards the waiting man. Said man looked at the drink with hesitation. Even if he hadn't told Sanji he was from out of town, he could easily see that the hunk was used to nothing but beer and straight alcohol.
Carefully the man sipped on the drink, and as he swallowed the liquid, the frown disappeared from his face. Removing the glass from his mouth, he took a careful look at the drink, and then taking another mouthful, giving it a real swirl around in his mouth, letting it touch each and every part of his tongue.
"It's good", the man stated. "You made this?", the man asked, and nodded at his bartender. Sanji shook his head.
"It's a classic in this city, called Manhattan, made from top class whisky from our dear neighbor country. It has already become a classic, created by a mysterious bartender in Manhattan here in New York. Nobody knows who he is, but his last name, but he is still one of New York's most famous bartenders. This drink is also not just a famous must-drink, but it rests close to my heart as the mysterious bartender is my namesake, Black."
Sanji finished the small history lesson, and put the cap back his precious whisky, putting it back on the shelf behind him.
"You sure know your things." The blond wasn't sure if he spotted a slight hint that the man was impressed.
"I wouldn't be a bartender, especially not a bartender in New York, if I didn't know about the Manhattan. But, nevertheless; thank you, sir."
Sweeping the counter, Sanji watched the man finish his cocktail. He threw a glance at Ace, and startled when he saw the boy staring straight at the customer. The raven's nose twitched slightly, and it looked like he was trying to lean closer. On top of everything, he had drooled on the bar.
"Portgas!", Sanji said, half knowing, half hoping that the bloody kid's reflexes would do their job and snap him out of his state. The boy did jump a little, but then a fearsome grin started to spread on his face. It wasn't fearsome as in scary-film-late-at-night-scary, but more Ace-is-going-to-do-something-really-bad-scary. Often, the second kind was way worse than the first.
The gray haired man put his glass back on the counter, ignoring the Latino boy, but instead looking over at the part of the room that looked like it was under construction, not fitting into the image of the bar at all.
"Uh, one more of these, please.", he said, pointing in the direction of the glass, eyes fixed on the demolished part of the room. "What happened there?"
Sanji followed the man's line of sight, and for a second, his face lost it posture.
"It's a long story.", he sighed.
"I've got time, bartender, and I am already having another drink. Isn't it the bartender's job to have a conversation with their clients?" A faint smile was tugging at the corner of the man's mouth.
"Very well... Ace, out." The boy had once again started drooling, and the catnip had started to get more effect as he was starting to play around with his glass, knowing that Sanji would have his ass if he broke yet another one.
"Aww, just when it was getting exciting!", Ace whined. "You know that me acting out the scenes improves your story telling!"
One look from Sanji, made him look down at the counter and mutter a soft: "Okay boss." The raven left his seat and walked out, his walk accompanied with small leaps and a slammed door.
Sanji smiled as he watched the boy leave the bar. When the door closed behind his little refugee, he turned towards the customer, noticing that he also had his gaze on the peculiar boy.
"Now, you wanted another Manhattan?"
He breathed in the evening air, with all it's nasty smells. He wasn't born for this kind of environment, but still, he doubted that he would survive out in the jungle, or on the open prairie. He had grown accustomed to this dirty city, and at some point, he had started to love it.
Walking away from the main street where the Toujours Bleu was located, the sought peace in the heart of the city, in the alleys that was dark even during the day.
His tail wagged slowly, his paws found their way with steady steps. The only thing ruining his appearance was the nose that still twitched slightly from the catnip.
A/N: Happy birthday, my sweet Choppey-chan (AKA Green-san)! Here is your gift~
To: Choppey-chan … From: Lion-tan … Wishing you a Happy Birthday! Grattis på Födelsedagen!
This was originally a rip-off of Wrong side, set in modern day, but with the help of Choppey-chan, it transformed into this story. She later told me she had brainwashed me into writing urban fantasy. XD So, this gift is truly deserved as I brutally used her as a bouncer throughout this whole story.
And I've tried to research everything with drinks, New York, 1943, the war, a certain mythology and well, everything else, but I'm not perfect. So if you see something that's just totally wrong, don't hesitate to tell me! After all, this was over sixty years ago, and halfway around the world for me. Unfortunately, I have never been in New York, or any other part of the USA.
Finally, I would like to make it clear that all opinions in this belongs to the characters and not me. I hate racism, homophobia and discrimination, BUT this is set in 1943, a time of racism and when sodomy still was forbidden by law. Once again; these are not my own ideas of how the world ought to be.
Now, please send me with a review, with you passionate opinion!