Class and wealth went hand-in-hand in the décor of the Azer Hotel. Swirling black letters spelled the name out above double glass doors. Bright green bushes in pots ascended the thick stone railing to the entrance, and a doorman in red waited just inside the hotel for guests.
As Keitaro ascended the steps, the doorman came out holding the doors open. “Good evening, sir.”
“Evening,” Keitaro said.
Keitaro walked into a hushed hotel. Black trimmings accented the stone gray of the floor and the walls. Extravagant carvings in the woodwork boasted prosperity. The vintage royal sofa offered plush seating, and the lit fireplace beckoned the lonely to join it for warmth.
Keitaro draped his garment bags over the back of the couch and sat his sacks down on the cushion. Without his ID, he couldn’t check in. He needed to rest anyway.
Easing into the pillowing comfort of the couch, Keitaro’s entire body relaxed as the weight of his pain was relieved. He rest his neck back against the couch and closed his eyes. A good night’s sleep lay ahead, perhaps a nap to hold him over. The brevity would depend upon which one came first: a staff member interrupting him to pay or scoot, or Victor showing up with Keitaro’s wallet and ID.
Keitaro clicked his phone awake. Hours had passed since he checked out of the hospital. Where’s Victor?
By chain you are connected
To a soul for expedience
By collar they are subjected
To eternal obedience
Channel through the chain
Ghostly senses you will gain
Collar connects at their neck
Third eyes open can disconnect
Enslave more than one
The collar will respawn
A curse forever
And when a victim of unrest
Your soul will I come to collect”
The words of the phantom voice from last night resurfaced in Keitaro’s head. They must have been engraved in his memory for him to remember every piece. Maybe the words scarred his mind the way the torch scarred his body. That would mean the words belonged to Delavno, Hell’s Crypt Keeper.
Keitaro shook away the thought. Exorcising Delavno will rid him of those last lines.
But somewhere in the middle, Keitaro remembered: “Channel through the chain/Ghostly senses you will gain.”
If Keitaro tuned into his connection with Victor, would he be able to see where Victor was? With his left hand, Keitaro pinched the link dangling from his right wrist. He closed his eyes and meditated on the chain, forming one link after another in his brain until the entire chain materialized in his third eye. The chain connected to a tunnel of darkness. Keitaro pictured himself walking along the chain through it. On the other side, as if he opened his eyes, an image filled his entire vision.
Blood stains and bullet holes. Back in the den where Cobra branded him, staring at the red stain on the floor where Victor’s body had laid the night before. Without order, Keitaro turned to the right and stared into the hole in the wall created by one of the bullets that had missed Victor’s head.
Keitaro tried to turn to the left, but his body disobeyed.
“Ghostly senses you will gain.”