tengu, shugendo

Cai took Dan to a tailor, and that evening they appeared at The Alley Cat – a premier entertainment venue, featuring on its stage, every night, diverse acts, from contortionists and disappearing magicians, to traveling troupes of escape artists.

Circular tables, covered with black tablecloths, were each lit with one red candle, in a circular glass. A cigar bar, The Alley Cat was one of the few establishments Downtown where you could still smoke indoors.

Through the haze, Dan glimpsed the two men from Cai’s cell phone picture: the tan, bearded Sebastian in a dark suit and a navy dress shirt, and the pale, smooth-faced Hod, in a suit and tie.

The clean-shaven FBI agent looked up at Dan and caught his eye. Dan felt a hook twist in his stomach, despite himself. Behind the profound gaze, he sensed a hot-blooded man, compelled by an all-consuming fire. The bearded man – although also broad-shouldered and endowed with an immense soul – was the more relaxed one, of the two.

vintage '90s, 1998