Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And these abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases....
Turmoil, sickness, and destruction are sweeping through Europe—and its effects are being felt all the way across the world in Seattle. Harper Blaine and her lover, Quinton, suspect that Quinton’s father, James Purlis—and his terrifying Ghost Division—are involved.
Following a dark trail of grotesque crimes and black magic across the Old World, the pair slowly draws closer to their quarry. But finding and dismantling the Ghost Division won’t be enough to stop the horror that Purlis has unwittingly set in motion.
An ancient and forgotten cult has allied with Quinton’s mad father. And their goals are far more nightmarish than Harper and Quinton—or even Purlis—could ever imagine.
The pursuit leads to Portugal, where the desecrated tomb of a sleeping king and a temple built of bones recall Harper’s very first paranormal case and hold clues to the cult’s true intentions. Harper and Quinton will need all the help they can get to avert a necromantic cataclysm that could lay waste to Europe and drag the rest of the world to the brink of war.
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Kat Richardson lives in the wilds of western Washington, where she hunts down bits of history to turn into terrifying tales, accompanied by her husband and a rescued pit bull terrier. She is the author of the Greywalker Novels including Possession, Seawitch, Downpour, and Labyrinth. She rides a motorcycle, shoots target pistol, and digs around in the garden, because you never know what you’ll find under a rock.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I woke in a coffin and knew the rat had died. I’m not normally claustrophobic, but for a moment I hyperventilated and lay there, sweating and quietly freaking out, while wishing I were just in a low-budget horror film rather than in the cargo hold of a transatlantic jet, resting in a cleverly ventilated box with a label on the outside in six languages that read CAUTION: HUMAN REMAINS.HANDLE WITH CARE.
I had no way to know how long I’d been in the box, but I thought it couldn’t have been more than a day since I’d received a code-phrase message from my boyfriend, Quinton, summoning me to Europe. There’d been very little information except that he needed me in Lisbon as soon as possible and I was to come without leaving any sign that I was gone or alerting anyone keeping tabs on me that I was exiting the country. I knew from discussions starting a year earlier that it had to appear that I was still in my usual place for as long as possible. Whatever it was Quinton wanted, it involved his father, James McHenry Purlis—spy, manipulator, and all-around villain.
Since I was in a bind, I’d turned to the local vampires for help. They seemed to get around without much harassment from TSA or border patrols, and they owed me a few favors. And there was the matter of Carlos, both vampire and necromancer, who had a personal interest in breaking down Purlis and his mysterious project. If anyone was capable of making me disappear without a trace and reappear elsewhere, it would be him. I’d left messages for him explaining the situation, made discreet arrangements on my own end, and had agreed to meet him. . . .
The location in question was a funeral home. As I walked in through the doors labeled with a tasteful sign—BARRON VIEWING, 7–9 P.M.—it occurred to me that I’d come to trust Seattle’s vampires. It had been a slow change and an uncomfortable one, but when I was in a corner, it was most often Cameron and Carlos to whom I turned for help now—a far cry from the relationship I’d had with them when I’d first fallen into the Grey. The situation had changed a lot since I’d met my first vampire, but more than that, I had changed. I wasn’t the frightened and defensive loner I had been.
I passed the immaculately dressed funeral director, who stood near an interior door and gave me an inquiring look. I shook my head and murmured, “I have an appointment with Silverstein.” He nodded and pointed toward a curtained doorway at the end of the hall. As I passed the open doorway he guarded, I saw that the viewing room was empty. A sad state of affairs for a funeral director: all dressed in black and no one to console.
I gave him a small smile. “I’m sure someone will come soon.”
“I doubt it,” he replied in a professional, funereal hush. “The man was a child molester. Someone shot him . . . in an appropriate location. I won’t mind if no one comes.”
I blinked and nodded. “Oh. No. That’s fair, I suppose.”
He offered me a thin smile. “Thank you.” He folded his hands in front of his belt and returned to waiting for no one.
I went to the curtained door and opened it to discover a stair landing and a flight of steps leading down. The walls were a sterile, glossy white that reflected the light from the fixtures on the walls as well as from the room below. I’d been in mortuaries before and the chill and odor told me I was walking down to the prep room—where the dead were made presentable for their grieving families and friends. I was more sure than ever that I wasn’t going to like Carlos’s transportation methods.
Carlos stood between the embalming tables. A plump, older woman in a black suit stood several feet away, near a cabinet. The woman somehow seemed to fade into the background even in the glare of the lights, but Carlos was indelible. I’d never seen him in a room so well lit. The work lights shining off the high-gloss white walls and poured-cement floor cast illumination into every corner and crevice of the room and every crag of his face. His hair and beard looked blacker than ever as the light bleached color from his skin and chased away the perpetual shadow under his brow. I was shocked to realize that he hadn’t been in his forties when he’d died—as I’d long assumed—but in his late twenties or early thirties at the most. I blinked at him, momentarily stunned as I reevaluated what I’d always believed about this particular vampire.
“You act as if you’ve never seen me before,” he said, his voice still as dark and powerful as ever, almost incongruous in a face so suddenly young.
“Maybe I haven’t,” I said, walking closer. Now I could see the scars, thin as razor cuts, around the edges of his face. They vanished under the thick bristle of his beard and the sweep of his hair, leaving trails like strands of spider silk on his neck and the surface of his forearms, which were revealed by his rolled-up sleeves. I’d seen the marks only once before, fleetingly, and had forgotten them until now. He knew I was staring, but he only raised an eyebrow and let me.
“What caused all this?” I asked.
“Never shy, are you, Blaine?”
“With you? What would be the point?”
He laughed and the sound rolled like thunder, shaking the Grey version of the room. “Perhaps I’ll show you the window I was thrown from, if the building still exists.”
“My death? No. I’ve always been very hard to kill, though several have tried.” He raised his chin and touched a patch of skin on his neck where his whiskers grew thin. “That was my mortal wound. Remember this: If you mean to kill a mage, first you silence him and bind his hands behind his back. Better yet, cut them off. Very few can cast by thought alone without killing themselves.”
I shuddered and turned my gaze away. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. If things go badly in Portugal, you’ll need every trick you can conjure at your disposal. Luckily, you are also very hard to kill.”
“Oh, no. I seem to die all too easily. I just don’t stay down. Usually.”
I felt his silence as much as heard it.
“There’s a limit to everything,” I said. “Someday I won’t get up again. Maybe soon. Maybe not.” I was prevaricating, since I was convinced the next death would be my last. Another Greywalker had told me I would know, but it was like knowing that the earth spun as it orbited the sun, even when you couldn’t see or feel it—I just had the feeling that it was true.
Carlos made a low growling sound and closed the distance between us. “Perhaps we shouldn’t do this. There is a risk. . . .”
“Living is risky. Driving a car is risky. I’d guess from the setup that we’re going to be playing dead—or at least I will—which is only crazy. And you and I, we’re pretty good with crazy, by now. So let’s just get this over with. I assume whatever transportation you’ve arranged will be arriving soon.”
“Within an hour. Tovah will manage the paperwork and so on.” Carlos gestured toward the woman in the corner.
She stepped forward and offered me a handshake, and I could see a tiny dazzle of Grey on her wrist, not much larger than a grain of rice. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve already filed all the necessary papers with the consulate and completed those that will be traveling with you. All should continue smoothly.” She noticed my frown and glanced at her wrist when I didn’t reply or shake her hand.
I’m often suspicious of unexplained Grey marks—they’re rarely a good sign—and as I knew Purlis’s project was aimed at gaining some kind of control of paranormal creatures to use them as spies and engines of terror, it gave me pause. I hated to question it—especially in front of Carlos—but I did. “What is that?”
Tovah shifted her glance to Carlos without turning her head, not at all affronted by my rude behavior.
“Nothing sinister,” he said. “All of those who assist us bear a mark, inconspicuous but visible.”
I peered at it, giving it a look through the Grey to better see the actual shape. “It looks like a dagger.”
“It is mine,” he said, as if I should have guessed. Maybe I should have—Carlos has a particular attachment to a knife that once nearly killed him and, being a necromancer, he has an affinity for instruments of death, anyway.
I nodded. “All right. Why haven’t I noticed these marks before?”
“You’ve seen them, but you had no reason to question them. Now you have every reason.”
I made a noise of dissatisfaction and turned my attention back to Tovah rather than to the tiny mark on her skin.
“Do you do this often?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered, as if the conversation had never been interrupted. “But not with someone who’s still alive. You may find it a bit unsettling—the Portuguese officials require a rather old-fashioned container, which is not as comfortable as a proper casket.” She indicated two long wooden boxes that had been arranged on the farthest table.
I had to admit, I’d never considered whether a casket could be called “comfortable.” I walked toward them and looked the boxes over. They were built of something like wood chipboard and lined with a dusty-looking metal. Nylon mesh straps formed three loop handles on each long side of the slightly protruding bottom plank and a rubber gasket ran all the way around the open top. Both boxes were the same size and I thought I’d probably be less cramped than Carlos would be, since the box was long enough to accommodate either of us—with a few inches to spare over my five feet ten inches—but rather narrow for the width of his shoulders. Matching lids leaned against the wall nearby, and an electric screw gun and a box of impressively long wood screws stood on the end of the counter.
“They look . . . cozy,” I said.
“They’re lined with zinc and hermetically sealed,” Tovah said. “I hope you have no metal allergies.”
“No.” I frowned. “So, they’re airtight?”
“Usually. Yours is . . . not quite to spec. The consulate does not require an inspection at the arrival destination and the anomaly will be undetectable on X-rays because of the metal lining. All the paperwork is in order, so there should be no reason for anyone to open the boxes anywhere en route. You’ll be picked up as soon as customs releases the cases and the Lisbon mortuary will deliver you to your destination. It’s all arranged.”
“It sounds . . . um . . . fine. Thank you.”
She gave me a small smile and stepped back, finished with her recitation and reassurance. She looked at Carlos and he nodded. She left the room through another door that I suspected led to a loading dock or storage area.
“Now what?” I asked him once her door was closed.
“Now . . . I put you to sleep.”
“That sounds like the euphemism veterinarians use.”
“I assure you, it’s not the same. But there is, as I said, a risk.”
“And I already said it’s acceptable.”
“No, you did not. But now you have. Come sit on the table here and remove your boots.”
“Why?” I asked even as I moved to do as he directed.
“Because you will be more comfortable without them. And I don’t wish to stoop.”
“Is your age getting to you?” I teased him.
He closed the distance between us faster than I could see and wrapped his near arm around my waist, pulling me tight to his side. I gagged on the bleakness of his aura and the boiling nausea he brought with him. He put his mouth near my ear and whispered, “There is another way, Blaine.”
I had to swallow hard before I could reply. “No. You know the answer will always be the same.”
“I cling to hope,” he said. Then he laughed, let me go, and took half a step back. “On the table, if you please.”
“I feel like a surgical patient, but without the backless gown,” I said as I hitched myself up onto the steel embalming table and began taking off my boots.
“No surgery, though there will be some blood.”
I rolled my eyes, dropping one boot to the floor. “I should have known.”
I looked up, trepid and not a little upset. Carlos had his back to me and was reaching into a cupboard near the coffins. He took something down and turned to face me.
It was a rat—a huge rat. “I didn’t know they came that size,” I said.
“It is very large. It was destined to be dinner for an anaconda at the university, but I borrowed it first.”
“And what’s it for?”
“This is a spell of similarity. To make you appear dead, we’ll need another creature that is dead. The strands of your life forces will be entangled, and so long as one lies as dead, the other will continue as alive. Currently you’re both alive. Someone’s state must change, and it’s far safer and to our needs that it be the rat and not you.”
I felt sick. “No, I can’t do that. It’s terrible,” I said. I don’t have any particular soft spot for rats, but it was a healthy, innocent, living creature. It didn’t deserve this.
He shrugged. “My power lies in death and within that realm there’s only the one other way, which you’ve already rejected.” His voice, though soft, still sent a quivering sensation through my chest.
I stared at the rat. It looked calm, even a bit sleepy, in Carlos’s hands. He put it on his shoulder like a pet and picked up two small bottles from the counter nearby. He walked to me, stroking the rat with his knuckles, and held out the bottle in his free hand. “Drink this.”
I wanted to cry. I could feel the prickling of tears under my eyelids and the corners of my mouth had turned down so emphatically that it was hard to speak. “Why?”
“It’s part of the casting that will bind you together.”
I bit my lip and studied the rat. It looked back at me with filmed eyes, the fur along its back grizzled with white. It was an old rat and its lethargy was a natural result, not a magical effect. I supposed that had made it a more attractive lunch than a younger rat that might have injured the snake while fighting for its life. This one looked ready to heave a sigh and give up. “I don’t like it,” I said.
“I didn’t imagine you would. Make up your mind—time is passing and we have very little left.”
Unhappy and not at all convinced I was doing the right thing, I took the bottle from Carlos and did my best to swallow the contents around the lump in my throat. He muttered to the rat and fed it from the other bottle as I forced the bitter, burning liquid down my own throat. As I swallowed the last of it, I began to see a narrow strand of green energy that lifted off the rat as if it were a thread in a breeze. Carlos touched one finger to my chest, making me shudder with the cold that came from him, and drew up a similar filament from me, muttering all the while in words that sparked the silvery mist of the Grey in actinic flashes.
He twisted the strands together in his left hand and picked up the rat in his right, still speaking glittering, barbed words that twisted and dug into me and the now-wriggling creature.
He dropped it into my lap. I jerked and the rat bit my leg, its long yellow teeth cutting right through my blue jeans and into my skin. I shouted at the sudden pain and snatched the rat off my lap. A small spot of blood swelled into the fabric of my jeans and a drop of the same hung on the rat’s protruding teeth. It licked the blood off with a busy swipe of its tongue and I knew what one of the harsh flavors ...
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