Invisibles 4

Hey everyone, Tim here.

I’m taking my yearly summer trip back to the family home land soon, so that’s exciting. Hope all you who share seasons with me are staying cool.

You can find my new book, Soul Art, wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Or you can download my samples at instafreebie.com.

Now, onto to the story.

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

4

Percival climbed the steps to the second floor of the Rogue Hound’s estate in silence. Already past a handful of guards, he had split from the others back in the entryway. If he was caught out, this would be down to a foot race, hardly good odds against the Rogue Hound’s legionnaires. Still, he was their best chance at grabbing the letter if it came down to reflexes.

On the other side of the building, Alina crept down the richly carpeted hallway. Though most of the building was lit up with lamps this hallway was dimmer than the others thanks to the subtle mists Kelebek had given Alina to release midway down. It wasn’t smoke exactly, but a kind of dust that hung like fog. Alina stayed low, held her breath, and slipped past the armored guard who clanked down the passage in the opposite direction.

Kelebek found Martin on the ground floor. He was leaning against the wall in his heavy brownstone-covered armor. As most geomancers in the legions, he covered lighter metal armor in a layer of rock. He did not wear a helmet, and his east-Asian heritage made him unmistakable. She recognized him and stepped into the light just before where he stood. Martin did not startle easily. He looked up at Kelebek with a small smile.

“Dark work? What’s the plan this time?” he asked in a low voice, with a mild European accent.

She raised a hand slightly in greeting. “A letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“You want to steal it?” he whispered. “A good idea. One that needs a good plan.”

“Alina and Percival are going ahead. We’re to get them to the courtyard where Saint is waiting.”

“Sounds simple enough. Should we divert the guards?”

“I think so.” She smiled slightly.

He nodded to her. They left the ground floor’s side hall, and began to walk toward the front of the building. Kelebek indicated the flares she had brought with her from her shop. Those would burn bright and loud, and serve as ideal distractions once one of the others had the letter. Best be ready because whichever got the letter, Alina or Percival would be in a hurry on their way out.

Percival reached the end of the second-floor hallway leading to the passage outside the Rogue Hound’s study. He flattened himself against the wall and peeked around the corner. Three people stood before the doorway. Two of them were armored hound legionnaires, the other was Alina in her dusty clothes.

At first, he thought the hounds had caught her. Then he realized her hands were still free, though she held a small bottle out to the guard. The hound without a helmet wore a secured case for a letter on his hip. He had the hound’s message, Percival felt certain.

Alina said, “The Rogue Hound asked for this potion to treat his letter.”

“What kind of potion is it?” asked one legionnaire, a big man with sandy-colored hair.

“A potion of suggestiveness, effective on skin contact.”

“Intriguing,” said the blond legionnaire. “Should we see if it works?”

The other legionnaire, who wore a slitted helmet, rolled his plated shoulders. “You have an idea?”

“Girl, open the bottle.” The sandy-haired legionnaire leered at her. “We’ll test your potion.”

Alina frowned at them. She hoped they would not recognize the scent of sedatives. She spotted Percival at the corner. She caught his eye and then nodded to the guards, but so he could see. She held her breath as she lifted the lid of the bottle and then waved it between herself and them.

The scent of soporifics floated in the hallway. The helmeted guard immediately staggered to one side. The sandy-haired one’s eyes widened. He clamped his lips tight and slammed one hand on the letter case at his hip. His other hand reached for Alina. She stepped back, but his fingers closed on her wrist. She dropped the soporific and the small bottle shattered on the floor, releasing the rest of its contents. Alina could not hold her breath anymore.

Percival gulped in air, then charged past the fallen guard and went for the would-be messenger who held Alina’s wrist. He hit the big legionnaire from behind and made the man stumble forward. Already drugged, the man stumbled forward, then fell to his knees. Alina swayed on her feet, staring at Percival.

“Run,” he said, as he freed the letter case from the blond legionnaire’s belt.

She nodded, and they took off back the way Percival had come.

Alina’s head swam as they reached the top of the stairs. The soporific was having its effect. She threw an arm across Percival’s shoulder and leaned on him as they descended the grand staircase. A trio of other legionnaires emerged from the hallway she had gone down initially. They pursued her and Percival as she started to drag her feet.

They hit the front door as an explosion sounded outside into the courtyard, off to Percival’s left. He threw the door open and helped Alina with him as they stumbled outside. She left his side. A few steps later, she sank to the ground.

“Alina?” he turned toward her, but not as fast as Saint scooped her up on one of his stone arms. The dome of the golem’s casket bobbed in a nod.

“Time to go. Right,” said Percival. He sprinted for the gateway.

Saint slammed the door to the mansion with a thunderous force. Then, he bounded away on piston-like legs. Saint sensed that Kelebek and Martin had left the estate, and Percival was ahead of him. He sprang over the wall before the legionnaires had time to open the door behind him.

Saint hit the street outside with a thud that did him and Alina no harm. Percival ran over to the golem and the girl, waving the letter case in one hand. “Got it. Let’s go!”

Saint bowed his head to Percival. Kelebek and Martin emerged from an alleyway where they had hidden after placing the flares. The group started toward Hajur’s to deliver their prize.

And like that, the Rogue Hound’s letter passed out of his hands. But to what end? None of the thieves` yet knew.

 

#

 

Thanks for reading! This job is not quite done… see you next week!

Invisibles 3

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Working on podcasts and fiction at the same time is going to drive me insane. I’m fairly sure of this, but like a goblin with his hand stuck in the pickle jar I’m not willing to let go of anything. Oh well, I have made my own fate.

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold. Especially look for the sequel to Hunter and Seed. Soul Art is out now!

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

3

Through the eyes of an impish demon, fluttering over the barracks near the Vancaldor estate, Percy watched the changing of the guards. Heavily armored Hound legionnaires exchanged their positions with others who could have been the same but for the different carvings in the stone finish of their armor. Percy had left his physical form sitting in the stone carriage across from Alina and Kelebek. He turned the imp’s gaze toward the street where the carriage rumbled closer.

The imp’s sarcastic voice piped up in the back of his mind. “Some view, human.”

“It’s what I offered.” When Percy conjured a demon he shared senses with the creature while it served him. Usually, the idea of experiencing the physical reality was enough to please lesser spirits. Evidently, this one thought itself above that.

“You are a poor sorcerer to give me so little.”

“This deal will be our only one,” he grumbled mentally. Part of him hoped the disagreeable imp would agree, but such creatures were often contrary by nature.

“We will see, mortal. At least your body is healthy. I have had many hosts who did not mind their flesh…”

Philip ignored the imp’s rambling. He used the spirit creature’s eyes to trace the route of the golem carriage to the place where it stopped by the barracks. He willed the creature to descend to get a better view. The imp circled the broad, tiled roof of the barracks, then alighted on the peak of its gentle arch.

“Down below,” said Percival to the imp. “Look down at the courtyard.”

“There’s nothing to see there,” said the imp, sounding annoyed. “Were you even listening to me?”

“About what?”

“You are a very rude host.”

“Take it or leave it,” said Percy.

“The courtyard is dull. There is a stone-clad golem down there, but nothing else.”

“Does the golem have a face?”

“No, just a domed reliquary on its front.”

Percy recognized Saint’s description. He smiled inside but knew it would only appear as a twitch of the lips on his physical form.

“Thank you,” Percy said. “I’ll contact you again soon.” He broke the sense link and returned to full control over his own body.

Alina was frowning at him. She thought about how eerie it was to know a demon perceived the world through Percival when he summoned them. Worse, even a skilled summoner could lose control to a full possession if they did not take care. The more powerful the demon, the more difficult to retain dominance. She knew this only from what he had told her. She would never consort with such creatures herself.

Kelebek raised her eyebrows at Percival. “So,” she said. “What did you see?”

“A golem in the courtyard. It’s Saint.”

“Perfect,” said Kelebek. “We are in luck.”

“I hope Saint will be on our side,” said Alina.

“He’d better be,” said Percival. “If he doesn’t, this job is gonna be short.”

Naturally, Saint was not thinking about any of these three at that moment. When one’s spirit was imprinted on a relic and then sealed within in the control chamber of a golem-body, one has priorities not easily understood by the living, especially after ten years of ‘life’ as an animated clay statue.

Saint stood, apparently stock still, in the courtyard, listening with his golem sensorium to the sounds of the city in the distance. His senses—and he was definitely still a man in his own mind—were focused to a precision point. He picked out the nesting bats as they began to move around. He heard a cutpurse running with his prize blocks away.

And when he stopped focusing so hard on the distance, he heard his sometimes-companions discussing his disposition on the street as the carriage that had brought them slipped away.

“We’ll have to go in and find out if he’s with us,” said Percival.

“That’s risky,” said Kelebek. “There must be a better way.”

“There is,” said Alina. She set a hand against the dusty wall of the building closest to the gate Saint watched over. “I’ll go first. Percival, you can watch with your imp, and then follow when you’re sure.”

“But what about you?” asked Percival.

“I’ll be fine. Saint likes me.”

It was true, Saint thought. She reminded him of his own daughter, now fully-grown. She lived as a steward for the Great Hound on the other side of the city, employment guaranteed in part by Saint’s mortal sacrifice. He only hoped Alina would not ask him to betray the Great Hound.

Though Saint served the Rogue Hound directly, he had little respect in his stony heart for a man who bent his considerable influence to personal profit over the good of the people. Alina slipped through the gate and into the courtyard. Her footsteps were all-but silent, but Saint heard them clearly.

Alina crossed the courtyard quickly and quietly. She wished she felt as confident as she had sounded when she volunteered. She liked Saint, but the golem could be unpredictable without Martin around, and according to Percival there was no sign of the Rogue Hound’s even more rogue legionnaire nearby.

The bulky, hunched shape of Saint loomed over her, easily ten feet tall. She looked up at his faceless reliquary. Gilded steel circlets reinforced the domed, barrel-like, metal casket on the front of the golem’s body. He had no eyes, but she knew he saw her.

“Evening, Saint,” she said. “Fancy seeing you, standing guard.”

He nodded, moving his soul casket up and down in the absence of a real head. His spirit reached out, ghostly hands pulled a pen from where he kept it tucked under an armor plate. He lowered the pen to the dust of the courtyard below and started to write in the dirt without its point extended.

Alina leaned forward and read quietly.

“I heard you earlier,” Saint wrote. “Tell me the job.” The pen settled to one side of the words. As soon as Alina finished reading it, Saint’s ghost hand wiped them away like a breeze.

“We’re to intercept the Rogue Hound’s letter,” Alina whispered. “He must be writing it right now.”

Saint bobbed his casket up and down. He wrote, “I know of the letter. Find Martin. I will protect your way out.”

Alina nodded. “Thank you, Saint.”

He erased the words he had written, then tucked the pen back in its holding place.

Alina turned as Percival and Kelebek made their way through the gate just as quietly as she had.

Kelebek tipped her hand to Alina and Saint, a grateful Kalfaran gesture.

Percival brushed dust from his hair. Now, the real job began.

#

 

The job begins… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Here is a share button. Enjoy!

Invisibles 2

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Before we get to the serial for the week, I want to mention that my new novel, “Soul Art” the sequel to “Hunter and Seed” is now available for preorder through all sorts of outlets here. The book launches officially on July 11th, less than a week away!

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold.

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

2

The Church of the Angels towered over the streets, all white stone and gilding, a western cathedral dropped into the center of Sarsa. The sounds of vesper songs had been replaced by dismissal bells when Percival approached. Dust swirled around the towers, wearing at the western-style gargoyles and sculpted feathers of stone, angel wings at the peak of each arched support.

He waited in the shadows as people emerged from the light of the front doors and proceeded down the steps, casting long strands of shadow before them. Nose covered by his collar, Percival watched for Alina’s silhouette to resolve from the interspersed light and darkness.

Alina Weir made her way down the church steps.

She wore a white sand coat with a hood that covered her dark hair. The shadows it left on her face also made her light skin less noticeable in the night. Alina spotted Percival at once, despite his skulking, and she knew immediately that meant there was work to do.

Dark work was the source of her money, but Alina felt no need to embrace the worst aspects of the trade. For one, she did not understand why Percival never seemed to slow down, let alone sleep. She supposed when one consorted with demons like he did, priorities were very different from hers. She stepped into the dusty street, shielding her face from the dust with the side of her hood.

“Percival,” she said in the slight Greek accent he recognized as much as her face, as they neared each other. “Why are you here?”

“Straight down to business, yes.” He pulled down his collar from his nose and mouth. “We have a job tonight. From Hajur.”

“What is it?”

“We are to intercept a letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“The Rogue Hound? We’ll need Martin for this.”

“I agree. How long before you’re ready?”

Alina wrinkled her nose at that. He ought to know better after sixteen months of dark work in Sarsa. “I’m always ready.”

“Good.” He nodded to her as evening parishioners streamed past them on either side. “Let’s get the others.”

“Tell me what we know on the way.” Alina preferred not to be caught out of place, and she knew Percival often got in over his head. If he didn’t, he might never have ended up in Sarsa. “Don’t make this personal,” she said. “I know you don’t like the Rogue Hound.”

“It’s just work. The Rogue Hound is an ass, but that’s all he is. Besides a good mark.”

“A dangerous mark,” said Alina.

“But a good one,” Percival smirked. If there wasn’t work to do he could have argued with Alina all night. Or, at least until she got annoyed and told him to go away. “Kelebek lives around here. We should get her next.”

 

 

Alina folded her arms as they approached the darkened block of stucco buildings where Kelebek lived over her shop. “Is that all we know?” she asked Percival.

“Hajur didn’t tell me much,” he admitted. “She didn’t think it was relevant.”

“The contents of this letter weren’t relevant to her?”

“She must have a spy close to the Rogue Hound who has her informed. But no spy can say what hasn’t been written yet.”

They stopped in front of the shop with a sign in the Kalfar’s native language and in English that read “Ayaz Golem Sculpting” in white letters. Alina frowned at the sign, but Percy had an idea the expression was meant for him.

Alina sighed. “I don’t like it. The Rogue Hound is not a kind leader, but he helps protect the city.”

“Hajur lives in the city too. If stealing the letter would threaten Sarsa she wouldn’t be asking us to do it.”

“But she doesn’t know what it will contain—Or she won’t tell us.”

A window slat opened on the first floor of the golem sculpting shop. Percy swore internally. A lock unlatched somewhere inside. He and Alina turned to the door of the shop as the door opened.

The late-thirties Kalfaran woman who stood in the doorway, haloed in yellow lamplight, glared out at them. She wore a sculptor’s smock, but without a trace of clay on the white material. Her hair was pulled back.

“Come inside,” Kelebek said. “Or do you two want the whole block to know what you’re talking about.”

“We weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

“Indeed, not,” said Alina.

Kelebek shook her head. She held the door open with one hand. “Well, you weren’t quiet. Come in.”

The two of them made their way sheepishly inside. She closed the door and turned to them.

“We have a job,” she said. “For Hajur, right?”

“I swear, we weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

Kelebek rolled her eyes. These foreigners had not respect for the ears of the city. “With what your oaths are for, that does not inspire confidence.” She turned to Alina.

Alina pursed her lips. “Hajur wants us to steal a letter. From the Rogue Hound.”

“Interesting.” Kelebek carefully removed her smock, leaving the dark brown trousers and tunic beneath. “Good timing. My latest mask needs to wait before I fire it.”

Percy chuckled. “Speaking of golems. I think we should bring Saint in on this.”

“Saint? But why?”

“The Rogue Hound’s people tend to be heavily armed. Saint is insurance.”

“We need Martin, anyway,” said Alina. “Saint could be useful.”

“Why couldn’t you two agree quietly when you were outside?” said Kelebek with a small smile. “Saint is a rough beast compared to any I’d make, but the idea is good.”

“I suppose the next stop is the barracks. Martin is a hound, at least on the surface, and Saint works for them too.”

“This should be interesting.” Kelebek set the smock on the small table near the front of the shop.

The three of them left her sculpting shop for the dusty night outside.

 

 

#

 

The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Here is a share button. Enjoy!

 

Invisibles 1

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

Today is the beginning release of a new light serial. These won’t be as meaty sections but will come out regularly each Friday for a while. Because this is the first release, there is no previous chapter link.

Check out the series page.

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

In celebration of the release of a sequel on July 11th, if you sign up for the mailing list before July 5th you will get a free copy of, “Hunter and Seed” through email on that date. The best way to subscribe is through instafreebie.com, where you can get some other free stories and samples as well.

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books and stories wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Amazon.com Author Page

Rem’s Dream

Tenlyres

Hunter and Seed

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story.

 

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

1

The streets of Sarsa were dark and dusty as Percy made his way along them. Wind howled from the distant wastelands and brought arid storms to the city. Percy did not give a damn about wind or dust. He looked for the address on the business card tucked up his sleeve.

He looked for the familiar building on Acturehn Street.

The dust did not make his search any easier. He pulled the high collar of his shirt up to his nose. As he pressed on through the night, Percy began to wonder what another member of the crew was up to. He had no way of knowing for certain but guessed Alina would be schmoozing somewhere upscale. Then he remembered it was Saturday, which meant she sang evening prayers with the rest of her choir at the Church of Angels nearby.

Percy’s mouth was dry, and his mind went bitter at the thought of the religious order. All the religious orders bothered him. They wasted time people could better spend on their own lives, and what did they give? Only hope. Considering he had just spent the afternoon at a seance for a demon, the distaste was probably mutual.

Through the dust and darkness, Percy spied his destination. The sign by the door announced 718 Acturehn Street in mostly still-gilded letters. It was a three-story building, the dusk diner, a restaurant that catered to the night-shift. Percy forgot his previous unhappiness. In his own way, he worked a night shift. Stealing things often went better in the dark.

He climbed the ramp to the front doors of Acturehn Street’s dusk diner.

Inside, the place was lit dimly, but there was no dust in the air, just traces of smoke. Grateful for the reprieves from wind and storm, Percy seated himself as a sign suggested. He took a boot on the far side of the room, where it looked as though no one else was eating.

No sooner had he slid into place in front of the table, then a waiter arrived with a menu in one hand and a napkin in the other.

“Good evening,” said the skinny local.

Percy nodded to the waiter. “May I see the special beer list?” The words were the initiation of a secret set of phrases.

“Anything in particular?” asked the waiter.

“Something old. A rare vintage.”

“Of course. Follow me.” The waiter turned and walked to a door near the booth at the back of the room. Percy followed him through and into a dark room beyond. In this room, the smoke hung thick in the air. A coffee table with a couch on either side of it sat under the sole light in the room, a lamp of red and clear crystal hanging from the ceiling.

“Percival.” A local woman smoking a pipe on the far side of the coffee table rose from her couch.

And it was her couch. This woman was Hajur, the owner of the dusk diner, and a reliable fence for stolen goods.

“I heard you had a job,” said Percy, his voice dry.

“Of course, dear boy. But please, sit.” Hajur turned to the waiter. “Get our friend some water. I would not want to be out on a night like this.”

“It’s not pretty out,” Percy said.

Hajur motioned him to a plush seat by one end of the coffee table.

One of the two men seated on the couch opposite Hajur grumbled something in the local language, a language Percy had never been good at understanding, especially when it went muttered.

“Behave yourself, sir,” said Hajur. She wrinkled her nose. “Our game can wait for a moment. You see, it was only three hours ago I put out the word, and already a faithful friend has arrived to assist.”

The waiter placed a glass of ice water on a glass end table beside Percy’s seat, then backed away and returned to the main room.

Hajur smiled with laugh lines. “Percival, I trust. You two, please leave us alone for a moment.”

The belligerent one grunted. But both men rose and left the room after the waiter. Percy did not blame them. Hajur might be a smiling older woman, but she was also a deadly enemy for anyone who lived off the streets or conducted night work in Sarsa.

“Thank you.” He sipped his water. So cold. So good.

“I appreciate punctuality. The work I have for you is quite sensitive. A courier is to deliver a letter to the Jagged Palace tonight. I would like you to intercept that message.”

“Tonight?” Percy frowned. “I don’t know if there’s time.”

“The letter is still being drafted in the Vancaldor estate,” said Hajur.

“The Rogue Hound.” Percy scowled as he remembered the warlord who had dragged him to Sarsa in the first place. “I have unfinished business with him.”

“It should remain so. I do not ask for assassination, only the usual relief of an object from its owner.”

Percy whistled. “Tonight it is. I’ll call the others.”

“See that you do, Percival. The pay will be double your usual rate for this. It is important to me.”

“I understand.” Percy took another sip of water. He relished the opportunity to break Alina from her prayers. The others would be easier to assemble. And tonight, he had a feeling they would all be needed.

His first stop after leaving the dusk diner was the Church of Angels.

Hopefully, things there would go better than they had last time.

 

#

 

The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Please share if you appreciate the story. Enjoy!

Stolen Parts Episode 3

This week, Stolen Parts concludes with part three.

Can Odette come back to life?

And will she lose Jeremy after all?

Read on to find out.

 

 

We got back to my apartment before the moon rose. He had the cooler with the heart into my bedroom minutes later. Neither of us thought Sam could possibly be all the way out of the game. Blows to the head hurt, and that cut on his hand drained his power for the moment, but Sam’s magic is nourished by pain, no matter how much it slows him down in the moment more pain means more power later. Neither Jeremy or I wanted to kill another necromancer.

Life. Death. Things just can’t ever be simple.

Jeremy flipped on the lights and set the cooler on the floor beside the bed. My body lay where it had been when we left, still indecent, still bloody. For some reason the flecks of blood in my hair made me feel the worst. They just looked so haphazard. Probably won’t be easy to clean. Jeremy closed the bedroom doors and drew the thin curtains on the window by the bed. He set the witch dagger on the sill.

He flipped the top on the cooler. My heart would have skipped a beat if it hadn’t already been lying frozen in that box. He raised the heart carefully, the ritual of restoration requiring his skin to touch the raw flesh to work. He set it in the hole in my chest, blood and ice water on his fingers.

He came over to break my heart and found another guy had already torn it out. Jeremy might be the only person I know who would do what he had just done. He went charging into danger to save someone he didn’t want to see anymore. At that point I still didn’t know exactly why he thought we had grown apart. Questions are hard to ask sometimes. He chanted the spell to heal the joins and repair the veins and arteries. His eyes glowed blue. I thought about how hard it was gonna to find another guy like him and I got sad.

My pulse throbbed painfully as it returned.

He withdrew his hand from around my heart, but my soul remained joined to Jeremy through the collars we wore. Its a strange feeling, looking down at one’s own unconscious body.

“You ready to go back?” Jeremy asked softly.

“You’d better not sneak out before I wake up.”

He shrugged his aching shoulders. “I’ll stand guard. It’s dark now. Sam will probably send some Zs after us.”

“You don’t think he’ll come by himself?”

“He could. I doubt I slowed him down much.”

“Good move with the cooler. Never mind that my heart was in there.”

“Sorry about that.” Jeremy wiped his hands on his jeans. Then he folded them and started chanting again, eyes closed. In that darkness with just his voice to guide me, I drifted down, felt like falling. My heartbeat announced my return, sore and tremulous. The pain in the rest of my chest was gone, and the wound sealed without a trace or a scar.

I opened my eyes and looked up at Jeremy. He stood at the foot of my bed, further away than he had been when he started chanting. “Odette, we need to talk.”

“I guess we do.” My voice sounded strange and high coming out of my mouth. I had kinda gotten used to sensing the words rather than hearing them.

He leaned against the wall by the door, arms folded. “You know why I came over?”

“I’ve been reading your thoughts all evening. So yeah.”

Moonlight glimmered on the floor of the kitchen, visible through the open door. Jeremy stared down at me. I sat up and covered myself with my arms. A chill ran through me, not exactly bundled up, and it was mid-October.

“Jeremy, I think tonight proved we can trust each other. We work together.”

He sighed and walked over to my bedside, then took my hand gently. “Odette…”

I shook my head, upset. “You’re gonna tell me we’re done. You respect me or something. I can see it in those pretty eyes of yours.” Funny how I could be so calm the whole time without my body, but getting it back had me panicked.

“Odette, I think we had better sleep on it.”

I stared at him. A smile formed on my face.

Outside, in the moonlight, a zombie groaned. I reached for the witch dagger. “Sound’s like trouble.”

Jeremy released my hand. He reached up with a both hands to unlock the cold metal collar from around my neck. “Not so bad you’ll need this.”

My hand found his again and stopped him. “Not a bridge I want burned just yet.”

He lowered his hands slowly and nodded.

I slipped my legs over the side of the bed and walked over to my closet. I opened the doors and glanced at Jeremy. “You think I ought to dress up?”

“To take down a few Zs?”

“And for afterward.” I reached inside and moved aside a pale colored dress in favor of a plain dark t-shirt. I shivered in the cool air of the room.

He shook his head, but I saw his smile. He reached for the scroll case in his jacket pocket and took it out. Then he slung off the coat and hung it around my shoulders. I slipped my arms through the rough material of the sleeves. The jacket felt like home inside.

I buttoned up the front, and then reached out, took the dagger’s bone handle and picked it up. We walked through the apartment and took the stairs down.

A couple dozen ragged zombies advanced down the street. The big Z who had been patrolling outside the morgue dragged his foot at the back of the mob. Probably only a matter of time before Sam shows up. Jeremy unfurled the scroll and smiled at me. I smiled back and then took a defensive stance, dagger extended in one hand.

Zombies approached and I fell back step by step toward Jeremy. “Second incantation, remember?”

He coughed to clear his throat, then started to chant. The zombies wavered in their advance. The big one in the white tee rushed at me. His reach beat mine, but the dagger slice into his forearm, turning magically animated muscles into dead flesh. A jab to the shoulder finished the zombie completely. He went down. Before any other zombies could reach me Jeremy completed the incantation. Any dead that should hear these words shall sleep.

Zombies male and female tumbled into the street, their bodies returned to rest. Along the street the lights flickered. A shadow winged its way over the rooftops, far too large to be a bat. I recognized him first by the glow of green in his eyes. Sam’s dark wings carried him down toward street level. He wore a look of mild surprise.

“I expected they would keep you busy longer than that.” He landed on the pavement in front us. His cloak of shadows deepened around him and he wore a collar of his own, but rather than the iron Jeremy and I shared, his looked brighter, more silver in color. I didn’t dare hope he had just been using it to command all those zombies. I knew him. At the very least he could use it to reanimate the zombies the scroll had just destroyed. Every tool Sam used was multipurpose.

My fingers clenched on the dagger. I glared at Sam. “I don’t buy this ‘other dimension’ bullshit! What are you trying to do?”

“Odette, you really are a simple creature.” A smirk surfaced from the shadows.

My face grew hot, half from annoyance at his tone and half from my tension at having to fight such a dangerous opponent. “Go back to the Morgue. You don’t want this to go further than it already has.”

“Don’t I?” Sam’s infuriating smugness radiated like an insufferable star. “I have the two of you together now. Two hearts should be enough to open the gate.”

“A gate to where?” Jeremy lowered the scroll.

“Somewhere you would never dare go, boy. But I will take you there.” He grinned. “Part of you anyway.”

I lunged the few yards between us. My dagger thrust toward his chest. He sidestepped, flowing through shadow. Jeremy called out a warning. I passed Sam and dropped to one knee. His fist swung over my head. I counted my good luck, I’d known how to read Jeremy’s tone.

Sam put on a burst of shadow speed and raced toward Jeremy, who held nothing but the scroll.

Not enough time for Jeremy to chant, and I was too slow to catch up. I flipped the dagger to change my grip, pivoted on the spot, then threw the weapon. The blade missed Sam, but the bone hilt hit him in the back of the neck. He let out a gasp and stumbled, breathless.

“Looks you still need to breathe,” I said.

Jeremy dashed to my side, scooping up the dagger as he approached. I rose to my feet. Jeremy slowed as he reached me, then turned toward Sam again. “Now what do we do?”

I shrugged. “We’ve got to stop him.”

He handed me the witch dagger. “We can’t put him down.”

I glanced at the scroll rumpled in his hand. “You know what the first incantation on that scroll does, right?”

“Paralysis?”

“For all living who hear the complete chant, except the reader,” I said. “Yeah.”

Sirens wailed in the distance. Someone on my street had called the cops. I returned my eyes to Sam as he turned. “We only need to buy time until the cops get here.”

“You think that’ll work?”

“Sam won’t expose himself to the normals. That would break the law too.”

Jeremy set his jaw. “Hope you’re right.”

Sam looked over his shoulder at us. His eyes burned green. The zombified corpses all around the street began to stir. Such a showoff, he was doing it without a single word. I readied the witch dagger. “Start chanting. I’ll protect you.”

A zombie reached for my ankle. I slashed its wrist, then kicked its head back. The others were moving slowly. Jeremy started chanting, slow and measured. His voice echoed in the street, even over the sound of approaching sirens. Behind Sam the lights approached on the main street, but not the lights of a police car, the lights of an ambulance. Paramedics would be much less useful than cops for my plan.

I cut down a zombie as it staggered to its feet. Sam turned to face me and Jeremy. “That toy won’t stop my zombies forever,” he said. “And that scroll is less powerful than amateurs like you want to think.”

He walked between the rising forms of reanimated zombies. I stared at him, worried he could be right. With a few stabs I took down a few more zombies. If it wasn’t for Sam probably being ready to counter anything I tried, I’d have a lot more options. The ambulance sped down the street, not slowing.

“Jeremy,” I said. “Keep going.”

Sam towered over me, just like he had back in the kitchen at home. His fingers locked around my wrist, keeping the dagger from stabbing into his side. I glared up at his face. His other hand drew back. I shoved uselessly at his chest, trying to push him back.

Jeremy finished the chant. I froze. My muscles locked tight, and my heartbeat slowed. My knees went weak and I might have fallen except for Sam’s grip. My eyes remained fixed on his green glowing gaze. His lethal hand still moved in jerky fits and starts, down toward my heart.

“Odette!” Jeremy shouted and dove into Sam from the side where I held the dagger. His momentum hit my hand and Sam’s with a crack. Despite the paralysis both hands slammed into Sam’s side. The blade of the dagger vanished between his ribs. I gasped with pain from my wrist. Sam fell.

Jeremy tugged me out of his grip. The witch dagger came with me, coated with Sam’s dark blood. He stared up at the sky with an empty gaze. The green glow faded as I looked down at him. My heartbeat began to accelerate back to normal as Jeremy led me through the moaning, mindless handful of zombies toward my apartment building. “We can’t stay here,” I said. “He’s dead, Jeremy.”

A far off look formed in his eye as we passed the front yard and headed into the parking lot that wrapped around the back of the building and led onto an adjacent street. Jeremy turned to me as I regained the ability to walk on my own.

“Looks like we’re going on the run,” he said.

The two of us walked away from the flashing lights of the ambulance. I nodded.

We just killed another necromancer. That won’t stay hidden for long. I looked up at his face. “Guess you’re stuck with me.”

His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

Funny how life can seem so simple sometimes.

#

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Stolen Parts Episode 2

This week the Stolen Parts serial continues with part two.

Odette and Jeremy have a lot of unresolved business between each other.

But missing pieces take priority.

Read on for part two.

 

 

Jeremy parked the car midway along a block adjacent to the morgue where Sam managed the night shift. It’s a bad part of town, but Jeremy and I were all too familiar with it. The sky turned purple in the west. Autumn air breezed around him, playing with his short curls in a way I never did. I tended to be more focused on his skin.

He took the big automatic pistol from the trunk of the car and slung the holster around his shoulder.

“Isn’t that a bit conspicuous?”

“Sam probably knows I’m on my way already.” Jeremy closed the trunk and followed the sidewalk to the corner. There was no one around to pay any attention to the gun he wore openly. His jacket swished around his shoulders with every step. I remembered right then how I fell for him at first. Sexy walk? Check. Mysterious? Check. Confident? Well he puts on a good show. 

“Are you trying to distract me?” he said under his breath.

He crossed the street and turned to the morgue’s side entrance, the one we necromancers go through. That used to let Sam know we were there to buy. Jeremy marched up to the door, looked both ways to check for goons, and then stopped stock still. So far, so good, I thought. A shuffle of feet sounded deafening even with a car horn going off on the highway a few blocks beyond the morgue.

Jeremy reached for the pistol slung over his shoulder. He’s never been what I’d call a ‘good shot’, but the big guns keep living people from causing him any trouble. Both hands on the gun, he whirled and pressed his back to the wall beside the door to the morgue. A big zombie dragged one leg on the sidewalk as he approached Jeremy. The zombie wore a white tee and jeans, and his eyes glowed with green haze. This one belonged to Sam for sure, poison powered by pain; green was the color of his magic. Necromancers can have all sorts of different talents and Sam got charged up by pain he felt. Yet, somehow I used to think he was a sensitive guy. The big Z shuffled closer.

“Ready for the show to start?” I asked Jeremy.

“You know what…” Jeremy’s heart thumped in his chest. “Not yet.”

One hand flew to the door handle. He pulled the door open and darted around it. Sam’s zombie was just a few yards away, but Jeremy kept cool. He ducked into the morgue and looked both ways.

There was one silhouette moving against flicker of a fading light from a window at the end of the hallway. I couldn’t tell by the slow shift of its movements if it was a living assistant, a zombie, or something worse. Jeremy backed away from it one step and pressed his shoulder against the door. The big Z hit the other side, but the door held. The Z rebounded.

“Nows our chance!” I said. “Get going.”

Jeremy broke into a run. Feet pounded on tiled floor. He raced toward the shape at the end of the hall. The shape turned toward him, slow, dead, a zombie woman wearing a dirty nurse’s smock. He stumbled to a stop a few feet from the undead and leveled the pistol at her. He pulled the trigger before she could take a single step.

He isn’t much of a shooter, but at less than five feet and with both hands bracing the gun, he couldn’t have a better shot on a Z. Jeremy’s gun roared. The head burst and the zombie fell to the floor. The sound of the gunshot echoed, probably through the whole morgue.

“We gotta get to the freezers,” Jeremy said. His ears rang and I barely made out his words.

Can you still hear?

Not very well, he thought in my direction as he turned to the door.

He looked up from the remains of the zombie he’d just shot, then kept going down the hallway. Behind us, the door burst open from the big zombie’s hammering blows. Jeremy didn’t look back, so I didn’t see if the big Z was following us. Sharing Jeremy’s head gave me crazy nerves. I had no idea how anxious he could get.

Jeremy moved down a side corridor. This one led toward the freezer rooms at the center of the building where they kept cadavers on ice. He lowered the pistol and drew the witch dagger out of his belt loop. Witch daggers are the inverse end of blessed instruments or other magical tools. One cut will cancel all the spells on a person or object.

“You ought to be careful with that.” If it nicked his collar I’d have my one way ticket to the next world punched.

“I know what I’m doing.” He kept his voice low as he approached the doors of the freezer room. “Where are all the Zs?”

“Out walking,” said a calm voice from behind. Sam.

Jeremy whirled. The blade of his dagger rose to point between the eyes of a pale-faced man in a black coat too long for this weather. Sam didn’t have a collar around his neck and he didn’t need it to control his Zs like the rest of us did. Shadows crept all around him despite the bright electric lights overhead, moving like slender limbs. I still haven’t met another necromancer as powerful as Sam.

But even then, I knew a couple who are more canny. Me, and Jeremy.

“Honey, if you shoot him now we may have a chance,” I said.

This has got to be a trick, Jeremy answered silently. His ears still rang with the gunshot from earlier. Damn things are so inelegant.

Jeremy backed away from Sam, and toward the freezer room doors. Sam stood with his arms folded, solemn smile on his face. “I’m sorry I got Odette’s first,” he said. “I know you two had a relationship of sorts. But she was mine first and just couldn’t resist. She practically asked me to tear it out of her.  But you know that. You were there.”

I did no such thing. Didn’t have time to say much before, and its hard to speak with ice cold finger literally wrapped around your heart. Sam got under my skin, but all I could do was watch. In the silence following his words watched Sam’s face, pale and devilishly handsome and wreathed in shadow. One corner of his lip curled.

The gun in Jeremy’s hand spoke, but he should have known better than to shoot it one-handed. The recoil slammed his shoulder back and the bullet went wide then punched a hole in the wall The gun made its explosive sound. Jeremy’s arm flared with pain from wrist to shoulder.

Sam’s smile vanished, replaced by a vicious grin. In a burst of shadows that flowed from him in all directions, he rushed forward and slammed into Jeremy, bowling him off his feet. Jeremy’s a strong guy. Sam’s got inches on him, but more importantly, Sam must have been invoking some sort of greater power. Jeremy sailed through the double doors to the freezer room, flinging them open in the process.

He hit the first empty gurney in the room and knocked it over. Jeremy’s back and shoulders screamed. His gun skidded away across the floor to one side of the room and came to rest by a black boot. He kept his grip on the witch dagger, and the scroll case pressed into his side. He lurched forward as he sat up. Zombies lined the walls. The scroll could be good here. It could take out all these Zs in a second.

Sam started to advance on him as the doors swung shut. He moved like a big cat, lethal and beautiful.

“Odette, he wants my heart too.” Jeremy grunted with pain and climbed to his feet. His head spun from the sudden elevation.

He could barely stand. I’m no ace at astral projection, and I’m a beginner at possession, but I know the basics.

“Hon, I’m taking over.”

I didn’t wait for permission. Jeremy’s eyes glowed my color, red, under my influence. Already being in his head, I tweaked his flares of pain with a gentle touch as they hit me. I felt them. I took them for myself. Could have screamed, but no voice at the moment. It wasn’t full on possession, but it would do for the moment to freshen him up. Zombies closed in around Jeremy. With a couple of quick thrusts of the witch dagger he disenchanted all of them.

Undead turned to regular dead. They fell.

He stood, looking around, confused by the sudden clarity. “Thanks.”

“Not done yet.” I nudged on his motor cortex. His legs carried him around the gurneys that formed a circle in the center of the room. Something dug at the back of my mind just as the cold started to make Jeremy’s skin turn to goosebumps. We’re close.

My heart was in the room. A girl can always tell.

Sam threw the doors open. He had sure taken his sweet time getting to the room. Now that he was inside, things could get a lot tougher. Jeremy turned to face Sam. The poison master towered over him.

“I think my hearts behind us,” I said.

Good to know, he replied without a sound. His breath misted before him. “Sam, I don’t know what you’re doing. But I don’t care.”

“What do you think I’m doing?” Sam stopped beside the gurney Jeremy had knocked over when Sam hit him. “I’m cleaning up the neighborhood.”

“You’re breaking the law. Killing other necromancers. Keeping hearts on ice.”

That’s my Jeremy, always got justice on his mind. “Hon, buying time won’t work without a plan.”

Think one up, then! He sure got demanding all of a sudden.

I stared through Jeremy’s eye at Sam as Jeremy back into the center of the circle of gurneys. The four remaining Zombies couldn’t easily get him in there because of the obstacle posed by the carts. Too dumb to push them out of the way, what with the wheels and all. They simply waited, eyes glowing green with Sam’s command.

A little orange sports cooler sat in the center of the circle. I could practically feel my heart in side, even with it frozen in ice.

“That’s it,” I said. “Jeremy, my heart is in that cooler.”

“You sure?” he muttered.

“Baby, it’s my own heart.

Sam’s lip curled. Jeremy knelt, and picked up the cooler. It was light on his muscles. Good because his shooting arm still throbbed with pain.

“Talking to someone?” Sam asked. “Funny. I don’t hear any voices on the wind. But judging by your eyes earlier you have a passenger.”

“Funny,” Jeremy smirked. “But I’m just a mess in your neighborhood. So I don’t think I’ll share.”

“So. Odette isn’t gone yet.” Sam’s face darkened. “I hoped her death would be quick.”

Jeremy glared at Sam, heart hammering, pulse pounding. “You bastard. What’s your game?”

“I thought you didn’t care?” Sam motioned with one hand. His zombies closed in on either side of Jeremy and started pulling at the gurneys, trying to knock them over.

Jeremy don’t let him get to you.”

He scowled. Intense dark eyes fixed on Sam’s green ones. “Try me.”

“Cleaning up the town is just bonus.” Sam’s eyes glimmered as they locked with Jeremy’s. “The hearts of mages are where our power comes from. They can be used to gain access to realms beyond this one.”

And here I thought I was a girl caught in the middle of two guys. I’m actually kinda disappointed.

“That’s all?” Jeremy brandished the witch dagger. “You plan to buy a condo in some other reality?”

“You lack vision, boy.”

Jeremy smirked. “I just thought the same thing.”

“Enough!” Sam snarled and leapt over the gurney circle with a furious burst of shadow power. He flew down toward Jeremy. Sam’s boot connect with Jeremy’s wrist, keeping Jeremy from stabbing with the witch dagger. Jeremy kept his grip on the weapon. I always thought Jeremy had nice hands.

Jeremy staggered and swung the plastic bulk of the cooler high. I mentally flinched as the rounded corner connected with Sam’s head and knocked him back a few paces. A trickle of blood flowed from Sam’s temple. He sank to his knees. That only lasted for a second before he surged to his feet, the blood on the side of his head sizzling on his skin. Apparently he’s not as coldblooded as I thought.

“There’s no time,” Jeremy said.

He pushed through the gurneys, passed the Zs, and carried my heart down the hall as fast as his legs could carry him. Sam followed, gliding on shadowy wisps of wings.

His roar of fury echoed down the hall. That hit to the head must have pissed him off, pain magic or not. Jeremy flew past the body of the zombie he shot on the way in. He cornered into the hallway beyond. The door stood open up ahead. Jeremy bolted toward it. Sam sailed into his path, fast as a snake. Jeremy slashed out sideways with the witch dagger. Sam caught his wrist with both hands.

“Tut tut, improper form.” Sam drove a boot into Jeremy’s stomach.

The kick knocked Jeremy to the floor.

I took Jeremy’s pain again. The shock disoriented me, but even if it hadn’t I couldn’t return the breath Jeremy had just lost. He looked up at Sam, who stood over him. Orange streetlights glowed on the windows from outside. The cooler with my heart lay at Jeremy’s side.

You’ve got to get up. Sam knelt down before Jeremy. His hand drew back, mirroring the strike that had torn out my heart hours ago. Sam wore a cold smile. His hand stabbed toward Jeremy’s chest.

I focused on Jeremy’s hand that held the witch dagger. I pinched a tendon that moved his forearm. In that instant, I think I graduated to full possession.

Jeremy’s dagger flew into position. The blade sliced a tiny gash along the edge of Sam’s hand. Sam’s shadows evaporated from that arm and his palm slapped off Jeremy’s shirt, strength gone.

Sam leapt backward, still surrounded by shadow. He looked down at his hand, frustration rather than disbelief showed on his face. Jeremy stood unsteadily, cooler in one hand, dagger in the other. He raised the blade. “I don’t care which dimension you go to, but you can’t stay here.” He rushed toward Sam, ready to strike again.

Green eyes flashed within darkness. Sam vanished into shadow. Jeremy reacted fast. He lowered his shoulder and hit the door.

“Change of plans, Odette,” he said mentally.

Jeremy burst through the morgue door and out into the night.

#

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Stolen Parts Episode 1

This week we begin a three-part serial of my short story, Stolen Parts!

This takes place in an urban fantasy setting where a couple of down on their luck necromancers are having a rough day already.

And someone’s heart has been stolen.

Here is part one.

 

 

Life can be complicated for a necromancer.

My usual work days amounted to talking to ghosts or working in morgues for a bit of money. Sometimes I did scarier things for worse people to get the money that kept me in a nice apartment in my little town. That Friday I had just gotten home after a rough day, that started with a fight with Jeremy, my boyfriend, to find a master necromancer waiting in my kitchen. Things blurred in my memory between that moment and the next.

A little droplet of sunlight fell through the part in the curtains and spilled across the floor of my living room where Jeremy paced back and forth, all six feet of him swaying like a drunk. He shook his head and rattled the locked iron collar around his neck that kept my soul bound to his mind. My body lay in the bedroom, an identical collar around my throat, and a large hole in the chest where my heart used to be.

“I’m sorry,” Jeremy murmured, forgetting that the bond he had made with me through the collars after he had burst in let me hear his thoughts as well as share his senses.

I spoke into his mind, “I know.” Never mind that you talked about breaking up with me this morning. Never mind that’s what you came here to do, and I still don’t understand why.

He heard that thought and tensed. “Odette,” he said. “I never wanted this to happen.” He hesitated, but his thought continued. He wondered if it was really Sam, though he had seen him standing with his hand in my chest. How dense can a guy get?

“It was him. Who else could have done this? Not exactly normal necromancer activity, tearing hearts out.” I hoped my tone went across. I was going for something wry, that sort of downplayed the gaping hole and my missing heart. Stolen heart. Sam wants to use it for something. Sam never cared that much about my heart when we were together.

Jeremy hunched in a red armchair and put his head in his hands and tried to ignore my wandering thoughts so close to his own. He hadn’t cried yet. He acted so tough for a guy about to turn twenty six. Of course, I was only a year older than him. “What are we going to do?”

I wanted to put my flower-and-snake-tattooed arms around him, hold him close, and tell him everything would be alright. No heart means no holding. “It’s up to you,” I said. “Even if you choose to let me go, I’m glad I got to say goodbye.”

“I’m not going to let you die.”

 

“A little late for that.”

“Don’t say that. Odette, as long as your heart is alive, and your body is…” He took a deep breath as he searched for words. He ruled out ‘alive’ and ‘stable’. “…intact, I can join them back together.”

 

“In theory,” I said, “And I suppose in theory Sam would have gone back to the morgue if he wasn’t going to use it right away.”

“The morgue.” Jeremy stood up, suddenly energized. He walked from the living room to the kitchen at the center of my apartment. “Do you have any weapons here?”

 

“None that could kill a master like Sam.”

Jeremy’s mind sprinted over a list of dozens of weapons, potions, and tools useful against necromancers. Then he narrowed it down to only those that worked well against ancient masters. Three items remained, the haunted nooses, the witch daggers, and the cursed scrolls. I went over the shortlist with a bit of approval mingled with disappointment.

 

“Sam’s the only one I met who has ever even seen a noose. My dagger should be in the knife block in the kitchen, and my scroll should still be in the safe in the bedroom. Not sure if either of them still works.”

He stopped before the knife block and looked down at my bone handled witch dagger. It stood out a little among the ordinary knives. He hesitated to draw the weapon. “Odette, I have to say I’m glad I never got on your bad side.”

 

But you were about to break up with me this morning. I knew it, but didn’t want to admit it.

“You’ve seemed so distant…” Jeremy shook his head in frustration. I decided not to press the subject just then.

He took the knife and slipped it into the belt loop of his jeans. Then he turned toward the door to the bedroom. He did not want to go in there. I couldn’t tell if his reluctance was his usual awkwardness or if he just didn’t like seeing me that way.

 

“Go on,” I said. “We can’t get any closer together than we are now, and you’ll need that scroll.”

He walked to the bedroom door, took a deep breath, then pulled it open.

My body lay on the bed looking very small, arms covered in tattoos ranging from snakes to feathers folded on my stomach, bloody hole in my chest, torn clear through my shirt. Blood had sprayed up to my collarbone and now seeped onto the iron around my throat, and the opposite way down to my stomach. A few flecks even found their way into my twist of blonde hair.

Sam’s hand had been ice cold.

I wasn’t exactly what my mother would call ‘decent’, and the bed was gonna get soaked, but that was the least of my worries. The iron collar around my neck gleamed with rays from the vanishing sun. That locked ring of metal and the one around Jeremy’s neck were the only thing keeping me from flying off into ever after. If I still had motor impulses I would have shuddered. I was lucky Jeremy had arrived at that moment, just not lucky enough for him to be five minutes earlier.

 

“The safe is under the bed.”

“Alright.” Jeremy’s voice sounded dead. He walked around the bloody queen where my mortal form lay, and to the night table on the other side.

 

“Sorry, tiger. Other side.”

“I am so, so sorry.”

 

“Just don’t look up my skirt. Dead girl’s gotta have some dignity.”

He inhaled slowly, then exhaled, before moving to the other side of the bed. He dropped down to his hands and knees and felt around past my legs for the safe. Finally his hands closed around cool metal, a cube the size of a big lunch box. That’s it, I thought.

Jeremy pulled the safe out and fiddled with the combination lock. It didn’t take him long to open it. I didn’t remember ever telling him the combination and I kept combinations like that tight to keep mind readers from just grabbing them, but I told myself I had bigger problems right now.

“I did it by ear,” he said. “Remember, I used to do some bad stuff.”

 

“You mean, other than raising the dead?”

“These days, I’d say a lot of people would agree robbing a bank is at least that bad.”

I would have giggled. But I couldn’t. Jeremy lifted the scroll case off my social security card and pile of emergency cash. He put the safe back carefully, but his arm brushed my leg. He shivered at the cold touch.

 

“How much time do we have?” I asked.

He tucked the scroll case into the pocket of his jacket. “Moon rise is in less than three hours. It’s full tonight. Sam won’t have to wait if he has a ritual he wants to perform.”

 

“That’s probably why he did this today. Any chance he’s not at the morgue?”

“I don’t know what he wants with your heart, Odette. But until we get it back, we don’t have time to find out.”  His voice turned hoarse. “Don’t worry. I’ll put things right.”

 

“If you somehow manage to kill Sam, you’ll be in worse trouble than him. Killing another necromancer in cold blood…”

“My blood isn’t cold.”

 

“Not like mine.” What can I say? Death makes me punchy.

“Not like his, either.”

 

“Then you’ll break up with me?”

Jeremy’s face twisted into a grimace. “One problem at a time, Odette.”

Death can be complicated for a necromancer.

#

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