A sweet smokey haze filled the basement room as soft yellow globs of light sat ensconced into the stone walls. The laughter of patrons and the swishing sound of beaded skirts filled the space in time with the jazz music coming from the stage at the back. The woman singing, a tiefling with black horns and a red dress, held the mic as she swayed with the music, glancing every now and then to the half-orc next to her. The half-orc was crouched over a piano, awkwardly sat there as his fingers moved nimbly across the ivory keys. In a corner near the stage, an eleven woman with her hair cut in a sharp bob and glasses surveyed the dancing crowd as she took notes in a worn leather notebook.
She moved through the crowd towards the bar where a red-headed human woman was chatting with the patrons brightly. The red-head had a splash of freckles across her face and her multicolored shirt had its sleeves pushed up as she served drink after drink. Moving past the bar, the eleven woman weaved her way through the tables, past the brown half-elf man who was laughing loudly while chatting with some of the wealthier seeming patrons. The man had a flashy eye patch over one eye and his white hair was styled back without a strand out of place. The elven woman took a seat next to a goblin man who seemed intent on making himself as unnoticeable as possible. The goblin had a hat low over his eyes and his tie was loosened as he held a glass of whiskey in his hand.
“Riz,” the elven woman said, leaning back and crossing her legs.
“Adaine, to what do I owe the pleasure?” the goblin answered.
“Just greeting our favorite patron,” she said with a smile, waving at the red-head at the bar to refill Riz’s glass.
“Seems like Fabian already has that covered,” he snorted, eyes flicking towards the half-elven man still charming the wealthy patrons.
“You know you will always be our favorite,” Adaine responded as the red-head came by and replaced his glass.
“Hiya Riz, how are you doing?” the red-head asked.
“Same as any other day, Kristen,” Riz responded and took a swig from the glass. “Got a new interesting case though.”
“Do share,” Kristen said, taking a seat and leaning forward with eagerness. Adaine didn’t move, but stayed quiet to listen to whatever new case Riz had. Riz was the closest any of them at the speakeasy got to liking law enforcement and his stories were always interesting.
“Well, I don’t know much yet. This woman came to me and told me that all her friends had gone missing. I started to look into it and apparently there’s been a string of disappearances--”
“My parents mentioned it! They told me to be extra careful wandering around at night,” Kristen interrupted.
“Why you still talk to those people, I will never understand,” Adaine interjected with a roll of her eyes.
“We don’t all hate our parents, right Riz?” she shot back, sticking her tongue out.
“I only have my mom, remember?” he said with a dry chuckle. “Anyway, I asked around and no one has any idea who is taking them. Have you guys heard anything?”
“Fig or Fabian might know something,” Adaine said as the singer let out one last soulful note before catching Adaine’s eye and thanking the patrons. The tiefling made her way to the back as Adaine stood up to join Fabian in appeasing their flashy guests.
“Riz, long time no see,” the tiefling took Adaine’s now empty seat, waving at a few people looking their way. Riz pulled his hat lower as his eyes flitted around the dim lit bar.
“Fig, do you know anything about a bunch of women going missing?” Kristen asked before Riz could open his mouth, her eyes shining with egear interest.
“Missing girls?” Fig frowned, her attention now fully on the goblin. “No, but I can ask around. Do you have any specific names?”
Riz slid a piece of paper towards Fig who slipped it into her decolletage and she stood up, calling to a few rowdy patrons who hoot and hollered. Kristen left Riz a few moments later to go back to her job. The half-orc pianist filled one of the empty seats as Riz made it to the bottom of the glass.
“Hey Grogug,” Riz said with a toothy half smile. The half-orc returned the smile and let out a sigh, leaning back in the chair.
“I hear you got a new case,” Grogug said, closing his eyes as the sound of Fabian’s laughter and Fig’s loud voice washed over them. “Kristen mentioned it, something about missing girls.”
“Yeah, I asked Fig if she knew anything about it. Hopefully that turns up something,” Riz said, running a finger around the rim of the glass. The two men didn’t say much to each other as they watched the patrons mill around. Riz’s eyes flitted between watching Adaine and Fabian, fingers tapping rapidly against the wooden table. Gurgag waved over to Fig and her gaggle of admires, preferring to let her take the limelight. Adaine was talking with a few potential suppliers, speaking to them in a low voice as her pencil tapped against the side of the table.
Lately their shipments of alcohol hadn’t been as frequent or as reliable as before. The city of Solace seemed to be enforcing its prohibition laws more strictly than it had before. Thankfully, Fabian had access to his late father’s wide net of less than savory connections and Adaine was more than willing to hammer out the numbers if it meant a continuous reliable supply. They both knew that the way to keep the wealthy patrons to be coming back was free-flowing alcohol.
“Listen, I can give you 150 for the whole casket, not anymore,” Adaine said to the half-orc in a brown trench coat.
“Are you trying to run me out of business?” he growled back, slamming his fist onto the table. His “friends” leaned away, but Adaine stayed still, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“I would say I am being more than generous, Harold,” she replied icely. “You are over-charging for your half-decent elven wine. You’re just diluting the good stuff and mixing it with a shit wine.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is good stuff, prime elven wine,” Harold snapped back.
“Wonderful. Great doing business with you, Harold. Pleasure as always,” Adaine said, holding out her hand, a triumphant sheen in her blue eyes. “Come see me later for your payment.”
Harold shook her hand with a grunt and she stood up. Adaine went to where Fig was entertaining her fanclub, red beaded skirt hiked up as she danced an erratic jig. Spotting Adaine, Fig slowed down taking a swig from the wide champagne glass and gave her a wide grin.
“Get up there and sing a few more songs. I think we are going to be winding down early tonight,” Adaine said quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder. Fig made no outward indication of having heard her but turned to the gaggle and downed the rest of the golden liquid.
“How about some songs? Nothing beats live music,” she said loudly. Adaine moved on and went to the bar where Kristen was drying glasses. Her blue eyes moved once more over the crowd catching Riz’s eye and he quickly looked away settling on Fabian.
“Now listen to me, Dayne,” Fabian said, a hand on the shoulder of a blonde well-dressed man. “When are you and Penelope getting married? You two have been together since you’ve been coming here. I’m sure she’s been dropping plenty of hints.”
“Fabian, you are too much,” a pretty brunette with a fancy beaded headband giggled, pushing a loose curl behind her ear. “You know how Dayne is. Nothing is ever serious for him.”
“Darling, I resent that assumption,” Dayne laughed, clinking the wide lipped champagne glass against her’s.
“What about you Fabian? When are you going to settle down?” a dwarven woman covered with a long string of pearls and elaborately beaded dress asked.
“Oh you know me, no woman can satisfy me,” Fabian responded with a wink and the whole table broke out in laughter.
Fig stepped up to the stage and Grogug joined her on the piano, a glass resting on the piano top.
“Now, a few songs for our lovers,” Fig said into the mic, and murmured something to Grogug. A slow, melodic jazz tune began and Fig began to sing. The dancers coupled up and slowed as they held each other, swaying in time. Fabian said good-bye to the table and joined Adaine by the bar.
“How did it go with Harold?” he asked, his usual charming smile dropping for a moment. He motioned at Kristen to serve him a drink.
“I got him down to 150. I can’t believe we have to resorte to his tasteless wine,” Adaine said, scribbling away in the ledger. “None of your contacts know what’s going on with the supply chain?”
“They are just mentioning a few attacks, something about men with hoods. No one really knows since no one seems to come out alive,” Fabian replied as Kristen handed him a glass of rum. “Maybe we should employ the services of our dear friend, Riz.”
“With what money?” Adaine snorted, closing the ledger with a snap. “Our normal suppliers are dangerously unreliable, having to pay more people is not helping the bottom line.”
Fabian ran a hand through his hair and looked out at the slowly thinning crowd. Groups of sleepy party goers and drunk couples slowly left the bar as Fig helped wind down the crowd. Riz was quietly watching Adaine and Fabian interact, enjoying the good music.
His mind wandered to the early days of the speakeasy where the whole group was much younger and much more hopeful. Fabian had been eager to continue his father’s legacy in his own way and had picked the hidden basement as the spot for his speakeasy. Adaine had started as someone who just wanted to get away from under her family’s high expectations and took well to handling the more administrative things. Both Fabian and Adaine used their connections with the wealthy and elite to spread the word about the speakeasy giving the place almost instant success upon opening. Fig and Grogug had been poached from an unpopular cabaret, their musical talents put on much better display here. Riz often wondered if anything happened between them, but Fig had assured him that Grogug was too young to be her type. Kristen had stumbled across the speakeasy when trying to convert the partons to the way of Helio and sobriety. She had come by several nights and despite being thrown out a couple of times, she was useful in a squeeze and eventually Fabian had decided to put her behind the bar. Fig had also taken a shine to Kristen and the two now shared a modest apartment where Fig could better extersert what she called her “corrupting influence.”
As the last stragglers made their way out, Riz stood up and ambled over to the bar to join Fabian and Adaine, squeezing himself into the stool between them.
“I’m just saying, Fabian, the sooner we find out what is going on the better--”
“Is something wrong?” Riz asked and Adaine waved a dismissive hand with a frown.
“Just some problems with the supply chain,” she replied.
“I can look into it,” he offered. “Wouldn’t cost you anything.”
“I couldn’t ask that of you,” she said with that familiar gentle smile. Riz shrugged and hopped onto a stool, placing his glass on the bar.
“God I thought they’d never fucking leave,” Fig sighed, pulling out a cigarette from the silver case she kept by the bar and lighting it. “I swear they stay later every time.”
“Hey Kristen, could I get a water please?” Grogug asked, taking a seat next to Riz.
“Hey boss,” the booming voice of a half-orc came down the stairs followed by a set of heavy footsteps. “I think that’s everyone.”
“Thank you Ragh, come join us!” Fabian said waving the large man over. “Kristen, a round of my finest dwarvish whiskey, please!”
“So Riz,” Kristen began as she served the drinks. “What else can you tell us about this case? Whose this woman?”
As soon as the drinks were served, everyone murmured ‘cheers’ and took a glub.
“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you.The woman who came to see me was named Zelda Donovan. But, I think this disappearance might be connected to Samantha,my old secretary,” Riz said, rubbing his chin. “I got that note telling me she quit, but she was never like that. Always asked for things face-to-face… apparently she was friends with one of the girls that went missing. It’s all connected somehow, just not sure... I’ll figure it out.”
“Try not to spiral too hard,” Adiane said gently, swishing the whiskey around in her glass, giving him a look of concern.
“I’ll be fine. Always am,” he replied, downing the rest of the whiskey.
“Of course you will be, the Ball,” Fabian said, slapping Riz on the back.
“It was one time, let it die Fabian. I was drunk,” Riz grumbled back, the edges of his lips curling into a smile.
“It was multiple times,” Kristen pipped in. “Maybe you just like being held by big strong men. Fabian does have very nice arms.”
“Why thank you, Kristen,” Fabian said with a wink and she returned it. “Do you think I have nice arms, the Ball?”
“I refuse to answer that question,” he responded, the tips of his pointy ears turning a slightly darker shade of green. Adaine snorted and exchanged a look with Fig, who hid her own grin.
“You’re no fun,” Fabian teased, bumping Riz with his elbow. “But if in your investigations you can find out why my shipments keep going missing that would be much appreciated.”
“Just let Ragh and me check it out,” Fig said, hoisting herself to sit on the bar. “Me and the big guy can handle it, right?”
“Ah… sure,” Ragh shrugged. The tiefling grinned at the rest of them, tossing her head back and downing the rest of her glass.
“When’s the next shipment?”
“Sunday night. 1AM on the docks,” Fabian and Adaine answered at the same time. Fig and Kristen let out a snort, while Riz squirmed between them and cast a look at Grogug.
“If you insist on going take Grogug and Ragh,” Adaine said, not looking up from her scribbling.
“What if he hurts his hand? Who's gonna play the piano for me then?” Fig shot back, picking Grogug’s hand by the wrist and waving it around.
“Kristen can patch him up.”
Adaine looked up and stared at Fig. After a moment, Fig shrugged and let go of Grogug’s hand, hoping off the bar.
“Fine. I’m going home in that case,” she said moving towards the back and waving slowly. “Come on, Kristen.”
“I’ll meet you out back,” the redhead called back, picking up the empty glasses. “Is it really safe for her to go? She’s reckless.”
“Ragh and Grogug will be with her,” Adaine said motioning to the two half-orcs now deep in conversation with Fabian. “You can use you Ωr magic if things get too bad. Good thing we close on Monday.”
She closed the notebook with a sigh and rubbed the bridge of her nose, pushing her glasses up to her forehead. Kristen placed a placating hand on Adaine’s arm before following Fig to the back.
“I can help clean up,” Grogug said, nodding to Ragh to help him.
“Thanks guys,” Adaine said, readjusting her glasses to their usual place and walked to the back office. Riz and Fabian trailed behind her, glancing at each other. Riz felt awkward and small around Fabian despite being friends for several years. The feeling was only exacerbated when he suddenly decided to take notice of the way Fabian combed his hair, his strong jawline, and-- he shook his head furiously.
“You alright?” Fabian asked, placing a large hand on Riz’s shoulder.
“Yeah, just thinking about the case,” he muttered and entered the back office.
The office was small but cozy with a wall of bookcases and a painting that swung open to reveal a safe with several runic inscriptions. A desk stood in the middle, crowded with papers, and a comfortable leather chair sat behind it. The light was even dimmer in here than in the bar, with a solitary green shade lamp on the desk. Adaine was muttering to herself as she waved her hand over the safe undoing the spells.
“Adaine, anything interesting tonight?” Fabian asked, pouring himself a drink from the stand in the corner.
“Not beyond the usual. Those friends of yours were back again,” she said, not quite paying attention.
“The girl is an Everpetal, right?” Riz said, taking the ashtray off the pile of papers and placing it on an empty space of the desk. He pulled out a crumbled pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and lit one, letting out a smokey exhale. “I think one of the missing girls mentioned something about an Everpetal. Do you mind if I bring my client by tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Fabian said, taking a seat and swishing the rum around in the crystal glass. “Do you need us to prepare anything especially?”
“No, I just want to talk somewhere where we won’t be overheard,” Riz responded, leaning against the desk. Adaine finished putting away her ledger, the notebook, and the money away in the safe and turned to look at the pair of men. Riz watched as she ran a hand through her short hair, noticing the dark circles under her eyes.
“How long has the shipment been an issue?” he asked suddenly and Fabian let out a sigh. Adaine’s mouth twisted and snapped the picture shut, leaning against the wall.
“A few weeks now. At first Fabian just thought it was a kink in the system. Sometimes that happens,” she began, crossing her arms and staring at a point on the floor.
“Usually when politicians are trying to gain votes they crack down on us,” Fabian added bitterly. “But it made no sense. It’s not election season and they usually know to leave us alone.”
“Hey Fabian,” Grogug peered his head through the door. “Everything’s been cleaned up, Ragh and I are going to head home.”
“Goodnight Grogug,” Fabian said with a short nod of acknowledgement as Adiane and Riz gave him a short wave.
“Get home safe,” Adaine added.
“So you have no idea?” Riz said when the door closed with a soft click.
“None at all. Let’s see if Sunday turns up anything,” she replied. “We should close up. No use spinning our wheels on something we don’t have any information on.”
Fabian finished his glass and stood up and collected their coats from the closet as Riz and Adaine left the office. She paused at the doorway, locking the door with a key and then waving her hands over it as runic symbols glowed momentarily. She took her coat from Fabian, letting him put it on her, and fluffing the worn fur collar. Riz watched the interaction, hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets as he rocked back on his heels.
“Come on, darling,” Fabian said with a gentle arm around Adaine’s shoulders. She glanced over her shoulder at Riz, who looked away. The trio exited to the street and Adaine broke off with a quick goodbye before hailing a motorcar and heading home.
“You’re not going with Adaine tonight?” Fabian questioned as he and Riz walked down the street.
“Haven’t in awhile,” he responded, eyes flitting this way and that. “We just kind of stopped… we are better friends than whatever we were.”
“Can I offer you a ride home?” Fabian said pausing by a low red motorcar with its hood down.
“If it saves me money, I won’t say no,” Riz said cracking a smile and climbing into the passenger seat. Fabian grinned and soon the pair were driving down the gloomy streets together. Fabian glanced every now and then at Riz. For some reason, the goblin in the worn brown jacket and patched up fedora was the most interesting person he had talked to all evening. Riz smelled vaguely like cedar and smoke and Fabian had to resist the urge to lean in to get a better wiff. He was so distracted and almost drove right past Riz’s apartment complex.
“Thanks for the ride, Fabian,” Riz said with a tired smile and got out of the car.
“Anytime. See you tomorrow night, the Ball,” Fabian said with a wink and sped off into the night.