• Prologue- Deep Scarlet.

    Seek the daylight, fair child, for the night is no place for innocents. It is a realm of darkness and shadows, home of the wicked indeed.
    "That's kinda creepy dude."
    "What?" My mind was tugged out of my reverie and back to reality by a familiar voice. A college friend, Sam Walter, sat across the bar top in front of me, smiling and laughing to himself as he sipped from his whiskey glass. He pointed at me as he grinned.
    "You, dude. You just started laughing out of nowhere. Kinda creepy if you ask me."
    "Oh." I scratched my head ashamedly. I didn't realize I had laughed out loud, it just seemed funny remembering an old line from one of my father's study books and thinking of how my life had turned out. I shrugged and picked up another shot glass to polish.
    Yeah, I was a twenty-three year old college dropout with nothing better to do except nightly bar tending at a small spot called The Jack Rabbit. Wicked indeed. Of course, this was New York City, there are plenty more wicked souls out there than me, I'm sure. I discarded the thoughts jumbling in my head and tried to focus on the current conversation.
    "So, this party is up at the Psyche Club. You in or what?" Sam looked at me pleadingly, as if he was desperate for my answer. I couldn't blame him, I'm certain I must seem like a recluse anymore. A lot of my old friends from college and beyond have all been trying to take me places, cheer me up or something, because they see me as a depressed and hollow shell of my former self. I'd like to say they're wrong, but I have been distant lately, ever since my father died.
    "Sorry, man." I shook my head apologetically. "I'm serious when I say I'd like to go, but Boss Henry has me closing tonight and I won't be off till three in the morning."
    "It's like that every night, dude! Tell the old man to shove it and do what you want for a change."
    "Yeah, and lose my only source of income sustaining my rent and food expenses? Just throw me in with those hobos out in the alleys why don't you." I sighed and placed the glass on the shelf behind me before picking up another.
    Sam threw his hands up in exasperation, nearly spilling his whiskey all over the counter in the process. "Jesus Christ! I'm beginning to think you're a lost cause, man!"
    "And what if I am?" I challenged.
    Sam lowered himself back to his regular sitting position and showed a conflicted expression, like he was at a loss for words. "I'm just... trying to help. I don't wanna see you retreat into yourself and never come back out again. Holding on to bad memories can do that to people."
    I let my shoulders sag and I dropped my head in guilt. I always hated when people got sincere because it made it that much harder to resist them and their demands. I, mostly because of my father's code of virtue, am especially vulnerable to such tactics. Sam knew this all too well.
    "Yeah, I know." I replied while looking down into the clear glass in my hands. "And I know you mean well too, but work is just the best place for me to be right now. It keeps my mind off the... 'bad stuff', understand?"
    Sam seemed even more defeated than before, but he nodded his head in understanding and rose from his stool. Pulling out his wallet, Sam payed the bill upfront and handed me a twenty for a tip before turning toward the door and waving a simple goodbye to me as he strode out into the night life beyond the see through panels.
    "See ya around then, Tom." I heard him call sadly, just as the bar door slammed closed behind him and the Jack Rabbit sat silent once more. I didn't like letting him go like that without a proper explanation, but I resigned myself to accept what's done is done. I can't change the past, no matter how much I'd like to.
    I continued to polish the glasses and liquor bottles until it felt like hours had gone by and it was time to close up. I walked around the counter and towards the bar's front to flip the open sign to closed, but as I picked the wooden rectangle into my hand, an eerie chill ran down my spine without warning. My natural instincts sensed danger from behind so, with unconscious reflex, I turned to face my attacker, but when I looked, I was shocked to see a beautiful girl sitting at one of the booths and drinking from a wine glass nonchalantly. She had an air of beauty, charm, and dangerous seduction about her, but my mind was empty of thought, too stunned to work properly.
    Her hair was a dirty blonde, medium length, and tied into a messy ponytail with her bangs dangling alluringly over her left eye as if she was hiding something. She wore a black tank top with a low cut neckline that helped to define and pronounce her ample bosom, and a maroon jacket not unlike a biker's or outlaw's. A fine leather belt wrapped around her waist, and her torn black jeans hugged tightly against her graceful hips, ending in a pair of laced leather boots that further added to her rebellious and tomboyish charm. She sipped quietly from her glass of red liquid before finally opening her eyes and looking straight at me. They were the color of deep scarlet.
    "Are you leaving already?" She asked me playfully, like a lover. "The night's only just begun."
    "I-" My mouth began to falter as I was forced out of my trance by her melodic voice. I quickly recollected myself professionally. "I'm closing up for the night. You should head home, miss."
    "Oh, but I am home. This whole city is my home!" The girl smiled joyfully and swung her arms high like a child playing a game. I was beginning to worry she had had too much to drink, but truthfully, I wasn't opposed to the idea of escorting her home if that were the case.
    "I'm Amber, by the way." The girl said while standing in front of me, holding out her hand. I jumped back with surprise. In my distracted thoughts I must not have noticed her walk over to me, I thought to myself, so I hesitantly reached out my own hand to shake hers.
    "Tom." I introduced myself nervously. "Tom Dean."
    "Oh! It's like Thomas! What a cute name."
    "I wouldn't exactly call it 'cute' myself." I scratched my head awkwardly.
    "Don't be silly." She, Amber, said while stepping closer to me. "I love the sound of it."
    "I don't know." I replied, inching backward somewhat and feeling increasingly more anxious as I tried to avoid Amber's intense gaze. My body seemed to be trying to resist me, but through force of will I held back from my inner passions. Something about this beautiful girl was making my mind go crazy, telling me to both run away and step closer. What was wrong with me all of a sudden?