Authors: Logan Patricks
The Midnight Society: Book Two
Strange Crow Publications
The events of
occur after Book One of the Midnight Society series:
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Whoever said money couldn’t buy happiness has never starved a day in their lives.
My name is Aria Valencia, a third year classical music student at the university, and I was down to my last dollar. Some nights, I seriously considered working at the rippers just to make ends meet, but the thought of my dad’s spirit--God rest his soul--scowling at me while I danced up on some drooling degenerate was enough to turn me off the idea completely.
And then one night, chance came knocking on my door under the guise of the Midnight Society; a secret cabal comprised of the wealthiest souls this side of the Universe. Their leader was a man named Shadow, who was equally enigmatic as he was gorgeous, and for some mystifying reason, had his dark brooding eyes focused on me.
Seduced by the promises of fame and fortune in exchange for a seemingly innocent request, I soon found myself drawn into a provocative world filled with both vast riches and unending lies and it didn’t take long for me to realize what being a part of the Midnight Society actually entailed: shiny things, sensual romance, and dead bodies.
Falling in love with Shadow came with a terrible price, one that I wasn’t willing to pay. There’s a dark side to every love story, and this one was mine.
I closed my eyes for a matter of seconds and listened to the rain, spattering against the tin roof of the old abandoned theatre. For a split second, it almost sounded like applause coming from the empty seats in front of me; old ghosts from my past life, worshipping me for the woman I once was.
It didn’t take long for the memory of my best friend burning alive to slither its way into my thoughts again.
His death killed me. It absolutely killed me.
Lincoln repeatedly told me it wasn’t my fault, but he wasn’t there to know that my failures—as a pianist and as a friend—cost Justin his life.
The only person who
there has said all of two words to me since we escaped from the Inferno hotel, a place where we all suffered the wrath of Calisto’s twisted mind-fuck.
In the span of a single night, Shadow had undergone a metamorphosis,
from my lover to a silent stranger.
I felt as welcome as dandruff, and I just couldn’t understand why. So what if he was brainwashed into loving me by his twisted bitch sister? That love he had for me was still real—or at least I thought so—so how could he throw it all away so easily?
I certainly couldn’t.
I wanted to reach out to Shadow and have him tell me why I was deserving of his ‘get lost’ attitude.
For fuck’s sake, we shared a bed together. That at least bought me one sentence from Shadow didn’t it? I deserved to know why he went from loving me to hating me so suddenly.
Instead, he chose to ignore me anytime we were in the same vicinity.
“There’s a piano hidden behind some of the junk on the stage, Aria.” Lincoln’s warm voice cast a bright light, dispersing the dark fog that clouded my thoughts.
I turned around to see Lincoln standing at the edge of the stage in a form fitting t-shirt and faded
jeans. He smiled at me with his boyish grin that brought out his dimples. It was a smile which reassured me everything was going to be fine. However, his tired blue eyes told a different story. He’d been to hell and back.
He brushed his hand through his neat, blonde hair as he strolled up to me.
“I don’t think I’ll ever touch a piano again,” I said as I sat down on the edge of the stage, staring out to my audience of empty seats. “The very thought
of music makes me feel...depressed.”
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record…” Lincoln began as he sat down next to me.
“Then don’t sound like one.”
He ignored me. “What happened to your friend wasn’t your fault. It was Sinister’s.”
Two weeks had passed since the revelation of Calisto’s betrayal, yet Lincoln still struggled to say her name, to acknowledge that she was the evil bitch that she was. Instead, he referenced her as Sinister, the morbid alias that Calisto had given herself.
It was a tough pill for him to swallow; the realization that he had been madly in love with a mass murdering psychotic slut machine.
“She was never going to let him go,” Lincoln continued. “You were dealt a losing hand right from the start. It wasn’t your fault.”
my fault. If I’d never opened my big mouth and told him about Shadow’s party and the existence of the Midnight Society, he’d still be alive right now, buried deep in music theory assignments and sending me flirtatious text messages.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“You know what the worst part of his death was?”
Lincoln shook his head.
“It was the smell of Justin burning,” I said. “While I stared at Calisto with as much hate as a person could possibly have, the back of my mind was telling me that my friend was being cooked alive and it smelled like barbecue.”
“Our self-conscious fucks with us sometimes. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a rise from the Catholic School girl look, pig tails and short skirts. Barely legal or jailbait? You tell me what to call it. But that’s the dark side of my mind at work. We all have uncontrollable thoughts.”
I shook my head. “The fact of the matter was it wasn’t barbecue. It was Justin.”
“I think the self-inflicted guilt you’re holding onto is making you slightly delusional,” Lincoln pointed out. “Justin’s death wasn’t your fault and we all know you’re not into human barbecue.”
I buried my head in my hands and started to laugh despite the situation being far from funny.
“I think I’m going insane. Seriously, I can’t even muster two hours of solid sleep without waking up in a cold sweat. I keep having dreams that Justin’s still alive, that we’re still sitting in class, joking about our Classical History teacher’s mono-brow and tuft of hair that reminded me of Bert from
. I was poor and I was hungry then, but I couldn’t say that I wasn’t happy.”
Lincoln didn’t respond.
“My dreams always end the same. Justin burns.” I laid flat on my back atop of the stage, my legs dangling over the edge. I needed to change the subject of conversation, before I reached my breaking point. “How did you know about this place anyway?” I asked.
After we had fled from the Inferno hotel, we needed somewhere to hide from both the cops and Calisto. Not only was Lincoln being hunted down by the authorities—his prints were discovered on the guns that killed Donald, Brevin, and James—but Calisto was scouring the city for us too.
The mad bitch had taken everything from us, including our freedom to walk in the city streets in broad daylight.
Needing a place to hide, Lincoln brought us to this old abandoned theatre buried deep within the industrial warehouses, by Moral City’s docks.
“Well?” I repeated. “What’s the connection you have with this interesting place?”
“I actually own it, though it’s kept off the books,” Lincoln said. “This was one of the first pieces of property I purchased after I made my first million.”
I sat up and looked around the crumbling building, layers of dust marking its forgotten existence. Judging by the way Lincoln’s eyes sparkled the second we stepped foot in here, there was much more to this place than dust, empty seats, and a stage littered with junk. There was history.
seemingly loved this place, like I once loved the sounds of a piano.
“What’s the story behind this shack?” I asked.
was once the epicenter of Bohemian arts, a theatre that welcomed all the European dock workers who couldn’t afford cable television and wanted to relax after an entire day of back-breaking labor,” he grinned as he rose to his feet and strolled over to the abandoned set pieces near the rear of the stage.
“The props, the decorations—everything was given to the theatre through donations. The ela
borate set pieces were crafted by the theatre’s own audience members as a way to contribute to operational costs.”
“The theatre didn’t have enough business to sustain itself?”
Lincoln shook his head. “On the contrary, the theatre had tons of business. Every night was a packed house—standing room only type of deals. However the theatre didn’t charge a single cent for tickets.”
“Sounds like a failing business model.”
“There are some things in this world that aren’t worth turning in a profit for. Sometimes, a little bit of charity can go a long way for a desperate person who’s standing right at the edge.”
I thought of Justin and the number of times he had saved me from starvation. I bit my lower lip.
“There was a point in my life where I slept underneath the stars every night—and not because I wanted to. I had nowhere else to sleep,” Lincoln said. “The worst was winter, when the city was blanketed with ice and snow and the temperatures reached subzero. Honest to God, I was afraid to fall asleep just because I didn’t think I’d ever wake again.”
“And look at you now,” I said, amazed at the fact that Lincoln was a genuine rags-to-riches story.
“Look at me now, as in I’m wanted for three counts of murder and the target of a massive worldwide manhunt?” he raised his brow.
Make that a rags-to-riches-to-notorious killer story. “Before the bitch decided to frame you,” I corrected myself, “When you had money, power, and all that other wonderful stuff.”
“I try not to think of about yesterday,” Lincoln said. “It’d only make me go insane.”
“Thinking about the future makes me go insane,” I said. The thought of what tomorrow brought scared the shit out of me: more assassins, incarceration, blood, and Shadow continuing to treat me like shit. None of it was pleasant.
“I felt that way while I was sleeping on the streets,” Lincoln said. “The only thing I had to look forward to the next day was more hunger pains. I’m lucky I survived that dark period, though a lot of that luck is attributed to this Bohemian theatre.”
“There was one night when the air was so cold that I felt my skin
,” Lincoln said. He must have noticed that I winced at his words. He was quick to apologize. “Shit that was dumb of me.”
“Forget it,” I said. “Keep going with your story.”
Lincoln nodded. “I needed to get inside somewhere. Anywhere,” he continued. “By some act of God, I stumbled upon this theatre. The second I opened those old wooden double doors, I felt salvation. The warmth was like loving arms, holding me. I basked in the heat and laughter coming from deep within the building for as long as I could. However, within ten minutes, a gruff looking man approached me, sporting the mightiest handlebar moustache I’d ever seen. I thought for sure he was going to kick me out of the place, seeing as how I didn’t pay for a ticket.
“I braced myself for my reentry into the arctic tundra waiting for me outside the theatre
’s doors. But the man didn’t kick me out. Instead, he informed me that there were still empty seats in the mezzanine. He led me up the stairs, showing me to my seat.
“I sat in that theatre, thanking the universe that I was given an hour or two of warmth, while watching the wonderful live performance on stage—a comedy about an arranged marriage. To this day, there’s never been anything in any other type of medium that made me smile as much as that play did that night. That single moment transformed my life forever, introducing me to the world of performance and impersonation—two elements I used to forge my empire.”
“Deception,” I stated bluntly.
“I prefer to call it acting,” Lincoln said. “When the performance was finished, reality sunk in and I realized I had to go back outside and face the cold. I waited until I was the last one remaining in the theatre, clinging onto every precious extra minute of warmth. Eventually, the Gypsy Moustache man came to where I was sitting. I was sure he was going to kick me out then. Instead, he said in his thick Eastern European accent, ‘Eat food, yes?’ Never had such a grammatically incorrect sentence brought me so much overwhelming joy. I followed him to the kitchen where I was served a giant steaming bowl of goulash, and nothing has ever tasted so good. Hell, I’m convinced nothing ever will.”
Like Lincoln, I too had experienced that wondrous first bite of a hot meal after starving for days. I wondered if there was a word for that amazing sensory overload on your tongue, after being deprived of nourishment for so long. Being broke and spending every last penny I had on tuition and rent, I had suffered my share of hungry nights.
“Say what you will about European gypsies, but they saved my life,” Lincoln said. “They gave me food, a roof, and a lot of hope. Sometimes that’s all a person needs to pick themselves up off the ground again. I lived in this theatre house for the next year, doing odd jobs to earn my keep as well as picking up the art of acting in my spare time.” He smiled. “I also lost my virginity here.”
I rolled my eyes. “Too much information.”
“And here I thought everyone enjoyed a good sex story.”
At the mention of sex, my thoughts turned to Shadow and our first sexual encounter together in Cambodia. God, it was perfect, the way he filled me with his incredible strength while his mouth consumed me.
My cheeks grew hot and my sex clenched.
The thought of not having his steel-cut arms around my body or the taste of his lips on mine just added to my depression. Why the hell was Shadow being such a bitch?
“Let’s not talk about sex at the moment,” I sighed. “My sex life as of late has been nothing short of a tragedy.”
Lincoln nodded. “I don’t want to defend the guy,” he said, obviously referring to Shadow, “But just give him some time, Aria. Eventually he’ll speak to you again. Men don’t like talking things out. Instead they have their internal monologues while brooding about the issue until one day it doesn’t bother them anymore.”
“I just want to know what I did wrong,” I said. “Why I deserve this silent treatment. It hurts. It really does.”
Warm tears streamed down my face and I realized how pathetic I must have looked—a miserable heartbroken girl wallowing in her self-pity while the world crumbled all around us.
“Aria, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Lincoln said.