Death Perfected Excerpt 7

Elijah’s expression was unreadable as he surveyed the Alice in Wonderland aesthetic of Prague’s most notorious cybergoth club. The dance floor glowed under red lights, having been transformed into the Queen of Heart’s court. Lining the dance floor were topiaries and life-sized chess pieces. Elijah stared at the king’s piece, which appeared to have lost its head.

Only a few steps away, the bar had been sculpted into a likeness of the Mad Hatter’s table. It was littered with an assortment of China, teaspoons, and sugar cubes. Different shapes and sizes of teapots and miniature crystal bottles were assorted on the bar shelves.

Elijah himself had undergone quite the transformation as well. Leather pants gleamed on his legs and a white sleeveless shirt bared his thin arms. Vivian managed to slip a leather cuff on his wrist and spike his hair with a dab of gel. When he asked for the mirror, she quickly ushered him out of Vesely Manor.

She couldn’t risk Elijah losing his composure and barricading himself in the library. “How do I look?” he asked. Vivian flashed a diabolical grin.

“You should dress like this more often. Maybe not the shirt, but those leather pants…”“God, not the pants again.”Vivian wondered if Elijah noticed the eyes following her. Dressed as a macabre version of the Queen of Hearts, she captivated the gaze of at least a half dozen men and women.

She wore a red velvet corset and a large skirt split open, revealing scarlet pants underneath. Atop her head was nestled a tiara comprised of daggers.

Vivian smirked. Despite the heart-shaped eyepatch covering her right eye, she noticed the jealous scowl on Elijah’s face. It seems he did notice.

They drew closer to the bar, where Gavin was adjusting his costume. His fashion never failed to disappoint, especially since the mind-altering injury that left steel shrapnel in his head.

Perhaps it was fitting that he attired himself in the garb of the Mad Hatter. He wore a maroon velvet jacket, fingerless gloves, and a top hat set slightly askew.

“Don’t the leather pants look good on him, Gavin?” Vivian said, indicating Elijah.

“He isn’t dressed as an Alice in Wonderland character.”

“Come on, you have to give me credit for dragging him here in the first place. Look at the leather pants!”

“Kindly stop looking at my pants.” Gavin leaned over the bar and adjusted his spectacle.

“Oh, yes, very nice.”

Elijah grumbled and scanned the shelves of absinthe and sweet liqueurs before noticing something that didn’t belong there.

“Ah, so that’s where the king’s head went.” Meanwhile, Gavin beckoned Vivian to sit and he dropped his voice.

“How are you holding up, dear?”

“Oh, you know me. Just moving out of my bedroom and burning all the sheets.”“It makes me shudder to think you came so close to the Zizkov Fiend. After all, you and I know better than anyone what he’s capable of.”

“We were only scratching the surface,” Vivian said. “He’s in an entirely different category of freaks. You should’ve seen him, Gavin. One minute we’re talking about his presumably missing father, and the next minute, he’s staring at the walls and rambling.” She looked somberly at the drink that Gavin deposited in front of her.

“It isn’t very often I feel like my life is in danger. I didn’t even realize it until I saw that expression on his face.”

“What expression?”

“Rabid and afraid. He looked like an animal backed into a corner. To think I invited him into our home… I used to trust my gut instincts. Now I can’t stop questioning why he didn’t set off alarm bells in my head. What the hell is wrong with me?”

“It happens to the best of us. Your judgment is still as keen as ever, never doubt that. Besides, if you aren’t an excellent judge of character, what does that make me? Or Camilla? What about Elijah?”

“Elijah’s a tricky bastard.”

“Well, I’ll just have to take your word for it. Now is there anything I can do to help aside from mixing up a drink?”

“No, you’ve done plenty already. I can always turn to you for a few words of encouragement.”

Gavin nearly replied when his eyes darted curiously to the left. He chuckled when he recognized the woman trying to part her way through a sea of costumed ravers.

“Speaking of encouragement, how did you manage to bring Camilla along?”

Vivian glanced in Camilla’s direction. She wore a tight-fitting sky blue bodice over a short, patent leather skirt, which was plumped up by several lacy layers of white petticoats. Her knee socks stopped somewhere closer to mid-thigh than knee. Her chunky-heeled shoes were left over from Vivian’s Red Widow days.

“And how the bloody hell did you get her to wear that ensemble?” Vivian glared at Gavin. “Because it’s fantastic! She should try those heels more often. She has quite the amazing strut when you give that girl a proper pair of Mary Janes. Say, why don’t you give Elijah the grand tour? I’ll tend to Camilla before she mistakenly wanders into the Tulgey Wood expansion. Oh gods, she’s headed in that direction now.”

With a dire look on his face, Gavin abandoned his post at the bar and took off at full speed.

“What’s going on in Tulgey Woods?” Elijah asked, sidling next to Vivian.

“Would you like to find out?”

Excited for the first time in days, Vivian grabbed Elijah and pulled him toward the lounge.

“Not particularly—”

A few minutes later, he landed on a disproportionately sized throne in the middle of a smoke-filled chamber. He watched with vague intrigue as a fur-clad woman tended to the glass hookah pipe before them, asking for Vivian’s pleasure. She couldn’t believe the effort that Gavin had gone to for a single blowout night.

The carpeting resembled fresh grass peppered with enormous flowers. Half a dozen contorted mirrors were affixed to the walls, from which Vivian spied Elijah’s disgruntled face.

“Come on, would it kill you to have some fun?”

He turned a dry expression on Vivian, rattled by her choice of words.

“Never mind, don’t answer that.” She returned her gaze to the hookah pipe swirling with incandescent colors. “Maybe we should count the number of times we can work the whole death pun into our conversations.”

“Twenty-six and counting,” Elijah said.