Ricky stepped out of the Lexus and looked around the damp and reeking alleyway. Seeing that Kalila was still peering out the window, he went to the passenger side and opened the door.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she said.
Ricky helped her out and led her toward a dented blue door. “You can't judge a place by the service entrance.”
Inside, the filthy concrete floor and flickering lights didn’t inspire confidence. They followed a series of hand-lettered paper signs through a confusing warren of rooms and corridors, arriving finally at a small office. Finding it locked, Ricky tried to peer through the grimy window.
“Let’s go,” Kalila said. “I can only imagine what kind of low-life rabble would come here.”
“But you haven’t even seen the club.” Ricky led her down another hall that took them to a dim backstage area disorderly with boxes, cables, electrical cords and empty beer bottles. He found an opening in the stage curtains and held the heavy black drapery aside so she could step through.
In contrast to the cramped disarray of the backstage area, the stage was clean and expansive, its wooden floor in good repair and the lights straightly hung. “It’s more than I would’ve expected, given what’s back there,” Kalila admitted. She walked to the front of the stage and looked out over the dance floor.
Ricky was watching her ponder the dark cavern of a club when he heard footsteps.
The man approaching him was tall and moved with the lanky gracelessness of a wounded giraffe, but the eyes beneath the shock of thick brown hair had a mischievous glint. He shook Ricky’s hand and made apologies for not having greeted them when they first arrived. “Don’t worry about a thing, though,” he said. “Everyone is excited to book you guys and you’ll get star treatment, or as close to it as we can manage.”
They spoke for several minutes, rehashing the terms of the agreement, but Ricky saw nothing new to be gained by the conversation. He had read the contract and was satisfied. It was up to Kalila to validate his efforts, but when he glanced her way, he couldn’t read anything in her face or the lines of her body that suggested what she was thinking.
The manager saw where he was looking and nodded slowly, as if piecing together several things that hadn't made sense before. “Let me talk to her.”
Ricky watched him cross the stage with his odd, loping gait. As he got nearer, the skeptical expression on Kalila’s face changed, and when he arrived at where she was standing, she greeted him enthusiastically.
Ricky waited, mystified, while they talked in low, conspiratorial tones. Finally he went to join them, but as he came within earshot, the manager looked at him and said, “I’d invite you into my office, but it’s kind of a mess. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
“What was that about?” Ricky asked, watching him leave. “And what were you two talking about? Do you know him?”
Kalila shook her head sadly. “Oh, Ricky. All this time working for us and you still haven’t figured it out?”
“You’re impossible to figure out. Please just tell me what’s going on. Where did he go?”
“To re-print our contract.”
“But the terms were fine. Why do you insist on changing everything I try to do for you?”
“I don’t try to change everything, and besides, he insisted. The contract you saw was the one he gives to humans. I don’t know how I managed to miss it before, but what else would you expect at a place called Mondschein?”
Ricky didn’t understand and waited for her to continue.
“The manager is a werewolf.” Kalila looked around the dingy club, as excited as if it were Carnegie Hall. “Thanks for booking us here, Ricky. This is going to be one hell of a gig.”