Nestled in between two rather exclusive restaurants on Gerrard Street, in the heart of China Town, is Club Jade.
Owned by the most successful business-man in the area, the infamous Sonny Lau, Club Jade has it's own very exclusive clientelle. Those people who might stand out just a little too much in your average establishment. Their stares a little too intense, their walk a little too predatory, their smiles a little too cold. These are people who have seen things that most others cannot even imagine. Put quite simply, they are dangerous.
And what do dangerous people do, when someone even more dangerous comes in the room? They pass a cursory glance, and return to their drinks and conversations, lowering their heads as if in disinterest. But underneath the tables, they unclip the holsters on their guns, and palm their knives.
Shana pushed open the guilded double doors that lead into the main bar.
Inside, the air smelled like incense and spices. The lights were dimmed, and glowed from behind elaborate shades and drapes of green and gold shiffon. Along the length of one wall ran a highly polished walnut bar, behind which three extremely attractive Chinese girls stood, pouring drinks and taking orders. Two steps lead down from the area surrounding the bar, and the main floor of the room was filled with expensive looking tables and chairs. Elaborate dragons and tigers were carved into the legs and arms, and delicately embroidered green silk cushions adorned all of the chairs.
After making her entrance, Shana stood still just long enough to attract everyone's attention. She smiled to herself, as the various patrons turned away from her with haughty indifference.
I wonder how many guns are pointed at me right now . . .
Once she was satisfied that her presence was known, she made her way towards the bar and placed a warm and friendly smile on her lips.
After taking a much needed and lengthy shower, back in her hotel room, Shana had traded her combat-ready outfit from the night before for a smart red three-piece trouser suit. She wore both the waistcoat and jacket fastened, concealing a colt .38 and a black handled drop point hunting knife. Effective without being oversized and conspicuous. She had slicked back her short blond hair, which was thankfully now blood-free, and applied a luscious red lipstick that matched her suit. Black stilettos completed the ensemble, and she was good to go.
Just another business woman here to see Mr Lau. No need for anyone to panick.
One of the bar tenders bowed her head slightly as Shana approached.
“Good afternoon madam. Can I interest you in seeing our specials menu?” asked the girl.
“Actually I was hoping to see Mr Lau.”
The girl flinched just slightly, but retained her professional composure. “ I am sorry but Mr Lau is in the back room.”
Oh great, it's going to be one of those conversations.
Widening her smile, Shana leaned forward over the bar. “Would you just tell him that Miss Stephens is here to see him.” The girl opened her mouth to protest, but Shana already had her hand resting on the bar, and she quickly grabbed the girl's wrist. “I will make absolutely sure, that you get into no trouble for disturbing him. I promise.”
The girl still looked nervous, but the cause seemed to have shifted from her boss to the hand gripping her wrist.
“Erm, okay.” she stammered.
Shana released her grip, and watched as the girl scurried off towards a door at the end of the bar. It looked just like a plain wooden door, but Shana was willing to bet that it was reinforced with at least a couple of inches of steel. Turning around she did a quick sweep of the room, to see if anyone looked as though they were unnecessarily interested in her conversation. A few people averted their eyes, but only one man's gaze held her own for any noticeable amount of time. He seemed familiar, but not enough so that she could place him specifically.
“Erm, Miss Stephens?”
The girl's voice drew her attention back to the bar. She offered another warm smile. “Yes?”
“Mr Lau will see you now, if you will follow me.”
Sparing one last look at the familiar man, Shana curled her lip at him and walked towards the end of the bar, where the girl was already holding open the door for her.
“It's the last door on the right.” said the girl, bowing her head again slightly.
Yeah, I know.
“Thank you very much.” Shana replied.
She walked through the doorway and into a narrow corridor. The walls were painted a rich mulberry colour, and adorned with watercolours, depicting various classic Chinese scenes. Bamboo forests, houses on stilts, temples and mountains. Once she arrived at the last door she reached for the handle, but stopped herself just short of turning it.
Time to play nice Shana.
She knocked on the door and waited. The sound of footsteps clipping across the polished wood floor came from the other side. The door opened, and there stood Sonny Lau.
“Shana, it's been too long.”
Sonny was dressed in a black traditional style Chinese suit. The cut and the material were immaculate, as if they had never seen a crease ever. His shoes appeared to be some kind of slip on loafers, black and polished to perfection, and probably worth more than Shana's entire outfit. He looked every inch the embodiment of a successful club owner, and his handsome, honest face gave him a naturally appealing aura.
“Hello Sonny.” said Shana, walking past him and into his office. The door clicked shut behind her and she turned, smiling. “So, how is the most dangerous Triad outside of the Chinese mainland?”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Ah, flattery. That means that you want something.”
Shana shrugged. “It never hurts to keep things pleasant.”
“I couldn't agree more.” Sonny gestured to a chaise lounge, next to a small table. “Please, sit.”
Although she was in no mood to make small talk, Shana took a seat anyway. It made no sense to piss off someone like Sonny by refusing his hospitality. He took two glasses from a cabinet and set them down on the table, taking a seat opposite her, and pouring a small amount of an amber coloured liquid into both glasses from a decanter.
“A toast, to the fantastic job that you did for my family last time we met.” he raised his glass, and waited for Shana to do the same.
It was unlike that Sonny would poison her in his own club, and she had done a fantastic job, so Shana raised her own glass and sipped the contents.
“Fuck, Sonny what is this?” she coughed, as the amber liquid scorched her insides.
He laughed again, it was an infectious laugh. “Old family recipe. Only for the very strong of heart.”
She set her glass back down. “You will have to forgive me if I don't finish it all in one. Listen, I have to get the point I'm afraid, because I really can't stay that long.”
He raised a quizzical eyebrow at her. “Got someone waiting for you back at your hotel, eh?”
“Actually, you pretty much summed up the situation there. It's a long story, but I kind of have this man cuffed to the radiator, and I don't trust him enough to think he won't try to get out if I take too much time.”
Both eyebrows raised this time, and a grin spread across Sonny's face. “I'm glad to see that you are finally starting to have some fun with your work.
“Yeah, well, a girl's got to do something to break up the mundaneness of werewolf hunting.”
Sonny raised his glass again. “I will certainly drink to that. So, what is that I can do for you?”
Ok, time to get your game face on. Do not give anything away.
“I need information. About a group of assassins who kill hunters.”
The ringing of the telephone on the desk interrupted Sonny's question.
“Excuse me a moment.” He stalked over to the desk and snatched up the receiver. “Yes? Right. Fine. Send him in.”
Shana felt that knot that had been inhabiting her gut return again. She didn't really have time to sit around while Sonny conducted other business, and she certainly didn't want anyone else joining in their conversation.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
Sonny returned to his seat opposite her and took another sip from his drink. “It would appear, that I am in danger for my life.”
Her gut tightened a notch further. “From who?”
He pointed a slender finger at Shana. “From you. There is a wolf in my bar, who has been attempting to trade information with me in exchange for protection from some rival or other. He claims that he can save my life. That you are infact a werewolf, and as I am unaware of this he rushed to my aid to get this information to me.”
Oh dear . . .
“Boy, is his face going to be red when he finds out what I really am.” Shana picked up her glass and took a swallow of the toxic liquid. “So what did you say?”
“I told them to send him in. I don't have any information for you about any assassins, as knowing something like that could put me in a very compromising position. But I may know a . . . lady, who does. Do you understand what I am saying?”
I understand alright. I understand that these assassins have got one of the most powerful, and dangerous men in London, too freaked out to talk.
“What do you want me to do?” asked Shana.
“I don't like anyone coming around asking for favours unless they have earned them, and this gentleman has earned nothing. But even in human form, a wolf is much stronger and faster than your average man or woman. I can't afford a scene in my bar, and I certainly don't want to fight him myself. So, you take care of my problem, and I might just a have name for you.”
Before Shana could even nod her agreement there was a knock at the door.
Sonny sat back in his chair. “Come in.”
The door opened, and in walked the familiar man from the bar.
The second he spotted her he launched himself across the room at her.
Shana had expected him to react to her, but not to begin an all out assault. She dived sideways off the chaise lounge as he flew at her, landing in a neat roll on the floor, and turning back around as she rose. Fighting in a fitted suit and three inch heels wasn't exactly her idea of fun, but you had to make to best of a bad situation. The man snarled, and spun around from where he had landed after sailing over the empty chaise lounge. Shana unbuttoned her jacket and reached inside for her gun. Before she could draw though the man flew at her again. Leaning back on the cabinet behind her, and gripping the door handles to steady herself, she kicked out with her right foot. The man dodged to the side almost in time, and the heel of her stiletto dug a furrow in the side of his face, following through to tear a hole in his ear.
“Bitch!” he screamed in pain.
“Yeah, yeah.” She reached for her gun again, but the man knew he couldn't get to her arm in time, so he kicked out at the side of her knee and she crumpled to the floor.
Still clutching at his ruined ear he clawed his way on top of her, until their faces were centimetres apart. This close up she could smell the animal inside him. It smelled like a stray dog fed on too much raw meat.
Enough of this, you don't have time girl.
Shana grabbed the man's throat in one hand and squeezed hard on his windpipe. With her other hand she drew out her hunting knife, and began to push the man's head backwards, exposing more of his throat.
“What are you?” he choked.
No time for twenty questions Shana.
He made a gurgling sound as she continued to force his head back. “I-I-smelled you th-th-the second you w-walked in. You stink of w-w-wolf, but n-now up close y-y-y-you smell wrong.”
She pushed his head away from her so forcefully that she heard his neck snap, then she drove the blade of her knife deep into his flesh. A spray of hot blood covered her face, but she continued sawing until she had cut right through tissue, bone and sinew. As she pulled the useless head from his neck, she rolled over and his body fell away from her own. Sitting up, and leaning her back against the cabinet, she tossed the lifeless head into the middle of the room.
“There you go Sonny, don't say that I never give you anything.”
Shana wiped blood from her face, for the second time in the last twenty-four hours, and got to her feet.
Sonny was grinning at her, and pouring them both another drink. “That was great. Messier than I anticipated, but no less entertaining and effective.”
“Thanks.” Shana took the proffered drink and swallowed it in one go. “This stuff is fucking awful Sonny.”
He laughed and raised his glass. “What the hell was wrong with that idiot anyway? Who tells a hunter that they smell like a wolf? That's like telling a butcher that he reeks of dead animals. I mean, it's probably true, but it's got to be the most offensive thing you could possibly say.”
Sonny continued to chuckle to himself, and Shana concentrated on pasting an appropriately amused smile on her face.
“Occupational hazard, eh Shana?”
“Yeah, some smells just don't wash out I guess.”