The truck was driven by an elderly man, with a long grey beard, hazy blue eyes and a bright red nose. His clothes were two sizes too big, and his breath reeked of booze. He was short his head just coming over the dashboard, Alia wasn’t sure if he could even see the road. The cargo space was empty, whatever backup Narx had, they were gone or non-existent.
“I would feel better if you drove.” Alia whispered next to Narx, all three were stuffed in the front of the truck as it weaved in and out of the early evening traffic. She gripped the door handle tight, New York were known for their drivers, or really drivers with lack of driving skills and Alia had grown used to them, but this old man was making her anxiety rise higher the longer she remained in the cab.
“Simon knows where he’s going.” Narx answered calmly, unfazed by the reckless driving.
“You asked for my help and I agreed… but I’m no good dead. Tell him to slow down or I’m going to walk.”
“Yeah, that may not be a good idea, Arnnie here doesn’t do well with stops between destinations. You’ll have to duck and roll out of a moving vehicle if you want to leave. Besides, the healer’s his brother, and can is known to move around a lot, these two seem to have a connection. Arnnie knows where his brother is at all times, and visa versa.”
“And this is your healer?” Alia asked, “Someone so hard to find, you need a ninety year old family member to locate? Not that accessible is he?”
“No… but he’s good.”
The truck swerved into an alley, cutting off a taxi who’s horn blew in the distance before screeching to a halt outside of an underground night club.
“Rickie’s inside.” Arnnie, said with a hiccup. “Did you need me to stick around boss?”
“No, your jobs done.” Narx answered as he and Alia exited the truck cab. The moment he slammed the passenger door, Arnnie took off, taking out three trash cans on his way out of the ally. He then moved towards the cement steps while Alia stared at the sigh above.
“The Buried Wrench?” Alia asked, reading the neon sign above the door. “Seriously?”
Narx ignored her and entered the night club. Alia hesitated outside, her arm was still numb, but the bleeding had eased off. She would prefer to start working towards finding the mummy, the longer they waited the further away it could be.
Inside the club was empty a few staff members were taking chairs down and setting up the bar with fresh bottles of liquor as the DJ was working through his mixes. It had the same vibe as with most night clubs, dark walls, bright lights and a modern decor. Alia had seen them come and go, change with the current trend of the time then go back to something that was more classy. Such establishments never lasted long, they were a hobby for most, quick cash with an even quicker bail out. It was a first time for Alia to come across a Healer in one of these places.
Nobody seemed to notice Narx, or Alia as they walked through the centre of the dance floor towards an iron staircase leading up to a loft area. No stares, or questions. Everyone just moved around on their own business, like they were stuck in some routine. The stairs creaked under their weight, the staircase was beginning to rust and wobble at the joints. Alia was thankful to step onto the sturdy loft floor and even looked back to make sure it didn’t crumble behind them.
The loft was far more elaborate and was decorated with high-end fashion and priceless artifacts. Persian rugs, Chinese vases, renaissance art, it reminded Alia more of a museum than a night club. Her eyes wondered as she moved to a nearby bookshelf that held a number of old text, statues and vases. One actually seemed to be a duplicate of one of her own pieces she had picked up over the years.
“Something catching your eye, love?” A gravel voice sounded behind Alia. She stood and quickly spun around to stare face to face with another elderly man, though not as old and fragile as his brother. This one seemed to be in his fifties if he was human. He wore a fine tailored charcoal suite, his silver hair was cut short and combed back. He was a picture of elegance in this drab setting. Nothing in this establishment seemed to fit with one another, the night club in a back alley, with an owner who looked more like a lawyer, who surrounded himself with priceless works of art. Weather all this was real or obtained legally was another matter.
“You’re Rickie?” Alia asked. “I have one of those. It must have been a matching set.” She added pointing to the small hand carved statue of a Tibetan monk.
“I highly doubt it. That is an authentic piece that cost me a bit of money. You must have been a replica, there are so many out there not everyone has the right eye for antiques.” Rickie said with a calm, pleasant demeanour that upon first impressions sounded nice but Alia felt the condensation drip down her back. She was given her statue over two hundred years ago by the monk who crafted it. She knew her’s to be the real deal.
“Must be.” Alia said, her voice low, bordering on a growl.
“Narx, what can I do for you today?” Rickie said, almost too loud for the space they were in.
“We came for your healing expertise.” Narx replied and glanced over at Alia who still stood near the bookcase, eyeing the two men. “We had a run in with a Shadow Reaper, she got hit.”
“Such creatures are dangerous Narx, you should have been more protective over such a beautiful woman. Come, dear, to my office where I can heal the wound for you. Is it still numb?” Rickie opened his arms up and gestured for Alia to follow him into a side room. Her skin seemed to prickle as her canine senses began to pick up something she could not see. She tried to shrug it off. It had a desk, a couple of sofa like chairs and a long bed against the far wall.
“It is still numb, but the bleeding has stopped.” Alia explained, carefully removing her jacket from the wound.
“A fast healer.” Rickie commented. Alia said nothing. “Do not worry, it is not as bad as it must have felt. I will have it stitched up in no time. Narx, why don’t you wait out in the lounge?”
“He can stay.” Alia said, sounding like an order. “I still have questions.” The two men looked at one another, an unheard conversation seemed to pass between their eyes. “About that crate?” She hinted at.
“You can discuss that later. Right now I need to tend to this wound and Narx will just get in the way.” Rickie then ushered the wizard out of his office and closed the door between them.
“You know what Narx is up to, don’t you?” Alia asked, her eyes burning into the back of his skull as he moved about the cramped room gathering the ingredients he needed.
“I know his occupation and how dangerous his work can be. Still, he should have been more careful.”
“I don’t need him to look after me.” Alia said with a huff. She was growing tired of the helpless girl routine, it was after all only a scratch. “You have some very unique artifacts.”
“Thank you for noticing. I work hard at my collection. This is but a small portion.” Rickie said as he poured a number of liquids into a wooden bowl, then placed a bead and a feather in. The feather floated on the surface while the bead sank to the bottom. He then soaked a few white bandages in the mixture. Alia watched as the liquid began to be absorbed, turning the bandage to a dark cream, almost brown colour. The healer than wrapped her arm with the bandages, the excess liquid seeping out and ran into the cut’s opening. Alia hissed as a burning sensation spread out through her body from the wound.
“The sensation will pass, but that means it’s working.” Rickie said. “Once the bandages turn white again, you can remove them.”
“Yes.. I know.” Alia replied through clenched teeth. The process took less than ten minutes to complete, and once the initial pain settled down Alia’s mind went back to the situation before her. For starters, this healer was not with the Order, there were too many illegal substances in his office here that reminded her of Maalik’s shop. Either Rickie was a superb healer and had the paper work to cover all of his possessions, or he was in the underground trade like her own boss.
“I need to talk to Narx for a moment, ah…”
“Grey.” Alia said, not feeling comfortable giving out her first name. “Just call me Grey.” Rickie gave her a sly smile, an all too familiar knowing look that told Alia that hew as indeed more than just a healer.
“If you could wait for him downstairs, have a drink, on me in the meantime.”
“Of course.” Alia said stiffly, moving towards the door. Narx was pacing in the next room, and barely gave Alia a look before stepping into the office himself, the door closed with a loud bang behind him. Alia rushed to the closed door and tried to press her ear against it to hear any muffling or words that would help her inner debate out. Nothing. She leaned back and cursed Rickie’s protective spells before descending down the iron steps again.