No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #30

I don’t usually introduce my teasers, but I wanted to tell a little story about this one. I wrote No Rest for the Wicked during NaNoWriMo2016. I wasn’t sure how I was going to introduce the character of Prudence, Vi’s aunt. I opened a message I’d received in my NaNo inbox, which I rarely did, and there was a writing prompt from a 6th grader inside. Just two words, and this entire chapter came together. Her suggestion was “awkward supper.” So here’s a little taste of what that prompt helped create.

Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements to a glacial pace. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about little George, enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fair in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.

Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”

Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”

She rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”

A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she looked at the source she found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.

The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”

The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said with a soft voice.

Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”

“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”

I didn’t say anything!”

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know!”

Prudence waved away her concern but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”

She began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”

“And why do we do that?”

Vi mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #29

“I am on a case right this moment, I’ll have you know. And, no. What Pru studies and what I have gotten wrapped up in is nothing alike. She is not so…tender-hearted as yours truly,” Vi replied, reaching for the bottle. “And don’t forget. Pru seeks all of this out! If I could, I would wake up tomorrow and pretend this is all a bad dream.”

Peter leaned away, but he appeared more puzzled than hurt as he examined her face. She regretted saying the words as soon as she finished saying them, but they were also true. No point apologizing. She poured another drink.

“What happened to you? You are even more surly than usual.” The ghost rested his insubstantial elbows on the table and propped his chin against his fists. “Same side, remember?”

As she peered at him over the top of her glass, the gap in her resolve widened further. Even though death stripped his features of their color, it was still a face she could trust.

With one more gulp to fortify her, Vi confessed, “I seem to have developed a new…talent.”

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 19 Teaser

She let loose a string of language so colorful it would give a rainbow a run for its money. It was one thing to destroy her furniture, but some of those mirrors were antiques. Her eyes narrowed as she searched for the culprit. While distracted by the further threat to her collection, two grappling figures rudely collided with her.

“Botheration!” Her fingers clenched into fists, adrenaline coursing through her body. She swung into a fighting stance to face the men who had dared run in to her. In theory, at least one of them was an enemy.

“Begging your pardon, ma’am,” a stubbly man cried, then dealt his opponent a jab to the teeth. “I’ll take care of him for you.”

Vi turned on the other man, glad to finally have someone to hit. But blood gushed from his face, his voice thick and pathetic as he groaned, “He’s the one who did it. I wouldn’t hurt a lady.”

“Liar!” the first man replied incredulously.

“It wasn’t my fault!”

“Was so!”

She could only blink dumbly as the two men resumed punching one another. The scruffy one tripped toward the stage and the other followed, flashing his gap-toothed grin. She clucked in disgust, then resumed the search for a foe, and a chance to wreak a little destruction of her own.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 10 Teaser

The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn.

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Despite her serpentine route, the sensation continued to grow, the same way it had when Tobias approached her the night before. The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn. But this time she refused to give in. Experience had shown the more she employed those abilities, the stronger they’d grow, and she’d somehow already gotten herself committed to helping Bonnie and Tobias settle whatever it was they needed settling.

When she reached the half-darkness of the alley behind the saloon, she slipped around the corner and put her back to the wall, taking comfort in its solid bulk against her body. People came and went, and she watched them for a few minutes from the safety of the passage. No one approached her or even paused as they bustled along.

The sting of paranoia receded as she forced deep, steady breaths in and out of her lungs and the more she thought about her panic the sillier she felt. The stranger’s vague description didn’t even necessarily apply to her; it wasn’t as if she were only woman with a black horse in all of Sacramento. In the face of something so trivial as a poor night’s sleep and an empty stomach, she’d almost lost control and relapsed, almost taken that next fatal step. Falling back into the old ways would be so easy, but she already knew that path had no peace to offer.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 9 Teaser

“Someone was looking for you.”

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“Thank you ever so much!” she called after him, employing her best damsel voice. As soon as he turned the corner, her impatient glower returned and she leaned against the counter. Her stomach rumbled loudly and grew even more anxious. Bonnie would be coming back to the saloon any minute, and Vi wanted to make sure she beat the other woman back. Not that she needed to keep a trip to retrieve the post a secret, but old habits told her not to leave anyone in her apartment unattended for too long, and Peter’s strange behavior only served to strengthen the conviction.

“Never fear!” the clerk called. “Your friend Annabelle won’t have cause for any complaints.” He swept back into the room clutching a plain, tawny envelope in his wizened fingers.

“Really?” She couldn’t keep the incredulity out her voice as she straightened and stared dumbfounded at what he held in his hand. “Annabelle Sinclair” had been the last name on the list, the one she’d included even though she’d only ever used it for one job—the biggest one, and the last.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied and slid two letters through the slot. Vi snatched up the envelopes and checked the undisturbed seals. The smaller envelope bore Peter’s name as the sender, but the larger one came from an address she didn’t recognize. She caught a glimpse of the official-looking emblem in the glob of red wax as she turned it over.

“That little one came in with the load a day before yesterday. I filed it myself,” he continued. “The other one’s been here a while, maybe a few weeks? Got a batch going out tomorrow morning if your friend needs to send an answer. Otherwise, it’ll be a few more days before we collect enough for a run.”

“Day before yesterday, you say?” she asked distractedly. That would put the letter’s arrival around the same time Tobias died, and she still didn’t know the full story of the connection between Peter and the ghost. Time to ask good old Toby a few more questions.

The old man cleared his throat. “Pardon me, ma’am. But you don’t own a big, black horse, do you?”

She gave a murmur in the affirmative but couldn’t tear her eyes from the envelope from Peter in her hand. It felt oddly heavy and her searching fingertips found a strange lump as she ran them along the bottom.

“Someone was looking for you.”

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 7 Teaser

Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

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Vi gritted her teeth and pressed on. “I promise you, Bonnie, this is really happening. And I’m here to help you.”

“That’s right!” Tobias called, only inches from her head. Next, he added emphatic gesturing to the loud and elongated syllables. “Sheee iiiiz heeeeere tooooo helllllp yooooooo!”

Vi could no longer contain her irritation and rounded on the ghost. “Shut up, Tobias!”

“But I,” he stammered and his whole body seemed to deflate. “I wanted to help.”

“I’m trying to handle this but I can’t do it with you yammering.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Tobias?” a voice squeaked from the corner. Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Vi wheeled back to face her. “I can explain—”

“What is wrong with you? This is cruel!”

She made a desperate grab for Bonnie’s hand but the other woman snatched it away before they could make the crucial contact. “Please, Tobias is—”

“Don’t you dare say his name. Get away from me!”

“Bonnie, really! Tobias is—”

Vi’s plea was cut off by a ringing slap across her face. The widow let out a peep of surprise as they touched and she saw the form of her husband appear and disappear again.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 3 Teaser

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“What did you find out?” Vi stood and beat her hat against her leg a few times to free it of grass.

“There’s a dozen men, maybe more.”

“You could have mentioned this when you enlisted me,” she said, scowling.

“That’s twice as many as when I got jumped. I had no idea there’d be so many! Or that they’d be here.

“I guess that explains how they found you.” Vi pulled her hat back on and peered at him with laughing eyes. “You camped right next door.”

“I think we’ve established that I was the one who fouled everything up, thank you. May I go on?” Hands on hips, he tapped his foot impatiently. She gave him a by your leave gesture and leaned against the boulder. “As I was saying, there are a dozen men. But, there are also at least a dozen empty bottles around the camp as well. Kindred spirits, eh?”

“It’s not like I was expecting anyone when you showed up,” she said with a grimace. “But, dead to the world. That’s good.”

“Unfortunately—”

“I was afraid there was going to be an ‘unfortunately.’”

“I was afraid there was going to be an ‘unfortunately.’”

“—there’s no way for you to go around. There’s too many bushes and such on the hillsides. You’re going to have to skirt right alongside the camp in order to get to the gold.”

“I don’t think you’re paying me enough for this,” Vi said, pushing off from the rock and marching toward her horse.

“You don’t know how much I’m paying you,” Tobias reminded her. “And the only way to find out is to dig up the gold.”

“You’re getting better at this. But I could still walk away,” she countered, a sly smile on her face. “Just forget this whole thing. Or maybe I come back later after they’ve moved on and keep all the gold for myself.”

The glowing vapor of his form suddenly darkened and his edges became harder, his body something like a liquid rather than a vapor. “If you back out now,” he replied, his voice an uncharacteristic growl, “and anything happens to Bonnie, I swear I will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

The moments stretched as she met him glower for glower. Finally, she snarled, “Ask me again why I have a problem with ghosts.”

Read the Ch 4 teaser of No Rest for the Wicked