Chapter 84

The club Alice had chosen, Dashabout, was higher scale than many of the dives they’d visited, or in a few cases, were working at. It was frequented not just by lowly college students out to score cheap drinks and get laid, but also by an older, more sophisticated crowd of graduates… who were looking to score cheap drinks and get laid. The fake ID’s Nick had provided the previous year came in handy, as the bouncers actually looked at the identification presented to them, rather than merely making sure it was plastic and rectangular. Few in the group needed to use the fakes though, since the majority of them had crossed that mythical threshold into the age of twenty-one.

As the Melbrook group entered, they were greeted by a young brunette woman with a cheerful grin. She was dressed as a fairy princess, the tiara and wings giving away her costume. After a quick chat with Alice, and a few last minute forms being signed, she ushered them through the club to their area. It was an expansive space, done up in steel and mirrors to such an extent that one could scarcely glance in any direction without encountering a reflection of themselves. Already the bar area swelled with patrons, clamoring to be served in order to court a fresh buzz before the remainder of intoxication from their pre-gaming wore off. The dance floor was less cluttered, despite the subtle thump of bass and the swirl of multi-colored lights enticing people to come gyrate. Most were either downing the liquid courage that dancing would require, or didn’t want to sweat and grind through their costumes just yet.

The fairy princess showed them up a small section of stairs to an elevated platform. On it were several couches, some plush chairs, and tables centrally located near every seat. The elevation provided them a view of the still sparse dance floor, as well as a good line of sight on the door. This prime location was not a coincidence; Alice the party-planner had known they’d have lots of people filtering in and wanted to be able to spot them upon entrance.

“Alright everyone, here’s the deal.” Alice made her announcement at the center of the platform, drawing their attention before they could even sit down. “There will be a pair of servers making rounds through the VIP sections, so if you don’t want to deal with the bar then you don’t have to. That said, they’re going to be busy tonight, meaning you may want to open a tab at the bar and start doing some charming and tipping if you’re a heavy drinker.”

“Warning appreciated,” Roy said.

“No problem. Now, the rest of our friends should get shown here by Bree, that’s the private host who was dressed like a fairy. Again, she’s going to be pretty swamped since its Halloween, and they may not even know to ask her where we are. That means keep an eye out if at all possible, we don’t want anyone to feel ditched. Alex, I’m counting on you to catch the stragglers everyone else misses.”

“Can do,” Alex replied. “At least, until after the first few rounds. Then things get a bit muggy.”

“Then please pace yourself.” Alice paused, mentally ticking off points on her hand. “Okay, I think that’s everything you need to know. Obviously go forth and have fun, and don’t worry about leaving your purses or coats unattended. No one who isn't vetted by Bree or escorted by us is getting up here, so valuables are safe. Part of why I picked this place was their great security.”

It struck Angela that her fellow blonde bombshell had gone a bit overboard on sectioning them off and setting up a safe perimeter. She noticed everyone else going along with it, however, so she chose not to broach the subject. Chad had told her this group was chaotic; maybe they’d had bad experiences with clubbing. Or maybe being outed as Powereds had left them with a touch of paranoia. Either way, she was grateful not to have to worry about the little details, so maybe Alice hadn’t gone that far overboard after all.

“That’s everything, so you’re all dismissed.” Alice clapped her hands together and smiled at the group. “And let's have ourselves a Happy Halloween, for a change.”

“Alice, I think with all you’ve done, there’s no way we can’t,” Vince told her. “Really, thank you, this must have been a lot of work.”

“More than I expected, but well worth every bit,” Alice said. “We’re long overdue for a nice, fun, and, most importantly, peaceful evening.

*              *              *

“It is too a costume.” Eliza stuck her hands on her hips and stuck out her tongue, as if her tone weren’t quite defiant enough.

“It’s a three dollar cat mask,” Nicholas rebutted, his own outfit far more intricate. Much of Nick’s freshman year gunslinger costume had been appropriated to the task. Colors had been changed, cuts retailored, and most importantly a black mask added to his eyes, creating the image of a passable, if not terribly creative, Lone Ranger costume.

“And all you said was that we had to wear masks,” Eliza shot back. “Which Jerome didn’t even do!”

Jerome sat on Nicholas’s couch, reading a small book while the other two bickered. It was true that he hadn’t worn a mask, but he had certainly rendered himself unrecognizable. His make-up was Hollywood grade, tinting his skin the color of recently dead flesh, and the puckered scars that ran all the way from his face to his neck bolts were sickening realistic.

“I said we had to be able to hide our face,” Nicholas clarified. “If things don’t go well and Mary gives us the boot, at least you two will still be unknowns to the group.”

“So why are you hiding your face? They’ll know you regardless.”

“Because it seems more prudent to tell them of my return in a controlled situation, where they are appropriately braced, rather than letting them dissolve into chaotic emotion by spotting me walking through the door. Now, this is a high-end club, so people there will have taken their outfits seriously. You need to blend, and that means showing up in something more elaborate than a cat mask, jeans, and a t-shirt!” Somewhere in the deep recesses of Nicholas’s mind, in a place where he couldn’t quite touch anymore, he realized this argument felt exhaustingly familiar.

“Nicholas is right,” Jerome chipped in from the couch. “We need to blend.”

“Fine, what if I change to black jeans and a slinky black top? Then I’m a sexy black cat. I don’t think anyone will say boo to that outfit.” Eliza smirked at her own Halloween humor, a gesture that left Nicholas all the more annoyed.

“That will have to do.” Nicholas checked his watch, making sure they were still on schedule. “But hurry. I detest arriving after the optimum hour.”

“Yeah yeah. You and your showmanship.” Eliza opened the front door and headed out into the cool night. She would change quickly, just not as quickly as Nicholas wanted. It was important to manage expectations.