Her face flares golden as she strikes a match, holding the small flame to the cigarette that dangles from her lip, trembling with her pulse. Her hands shake. In the soft blue of the moon that filters through the dusty windows, the cigarette is a tiny point of light, contrasting sharply but warmly against the velvet heaviness of the night around her. For a few moments she watches the flame devour the brittle wood of the match, waiting until heat singes her nails before shaking it and dropping it on the wooden floor. It lands by her boot, next to the box it came from. The box is plastered with the words “Sanctum” in lavish 50’s script, though the last few letters are so scratched and faded that they are barely legible. The little box has seen much use in its years as her possession. For a while, it was all she possessed. Now she owns it all- the club, the den, the overhead apartments and this musty old loft.
Turning her gaze from the busy streets below she casts her eye over the empty space, pinching her cigarette between her thumb and forefinger as she exhales a long plume of blue-grey smoke. There’s nothing much in the building. Besides the club, two storeys below this one, everything had been left practically unlived in, furniture covered in dust cloths and windows evidently unwashed for many years. Even the enormous bed is covered in a thick layer of dust, completely untouched.
“Ben, Ben, Ben.” Sighing, she swings her legs from the windowsill and walks slowly around the bed, trailing her fingers along the stained dustcover. “I never even visited your damned club. Why leave this to me? I’ll run it into the ground.”
Her eyes, the colour of green stained glass, flick to her duffel bag by the doorway. In this dim light she can just make out the corner of the letter, poking out from a side pocket. Its words echo in her head. Ben’s florid handwriting becomes his husky voice, reading aloud through the mist of her thoughts. It makes her smile wistfully, sad now that she knows she’ll never hear it again, not really. She lets the letter run its course- she had read it and re-read it during the flight back from London, and knew it by heart before the plane had even touched down in Australia. Each beautifully written word drifted in her minds’ eye as she let him narrate again, this ghost of her beloved father-friend.
Josie, the letter reads. She can almost see it in the curling smoke of her cigarette. Now I know you’re probably off wandering again, and I hate to ruin your trip kiddo but you need to come home. Some almighty hell is coming down around my ears and if you are reading this, then I am probably dead. Dead or missing. My lawyer will fill you in on the details no doubt. He loves drama. Makes sense, it helps him get paid. I never really liked lawyers, but he’s a good man. You’ll like him. I hope you’ll like him. You’re stuck with him either way. I’ve told him to look after you, to look after you good, as if you were my very own flesh and blood. You know you’ve always been like a daughter to me, but these legal types, they don’t like to recognise family without a birth certificate and I’m afraid I can’t supply one of those right now. I had to fill out this great ream of paperwork just to get all this sent to you.
But I digress. You always said I liked to ramble. Seems I do it on paper, too.
Josephine, I’m leaving you everything I have. I’ve got no family to speak of beside you, so I am sorry about what you’re going to be pulled into. The Sanctum is drowning in politics and I’m throwing you to the wolves, but it’s about time you came into your birth right anyway. Best you be prepared. They’ll find out about you soon enough.
Now, I’m not one for long goodbyes. Live long, be smart, keep your eyes open.
Nice knowing you, Kiddo.