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 #28

Vi caught a glimpse of her reflection in the next shop window. The pale figure before her had lived longer than the shadow-self she’d watched a few days prior, the sun and inner turmoil both doing their parts to etch lines on her face when she wasn’t looking. She hadn’t experienced any more flashes of memory since that night with the book. But she wheeled away from her reflection, suddenly felt self-conscious about how she’d changed, and how she still seemed to be changing.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #27

Vi’s body relaxed and she rolled to face the wall to better welcome sleep. She breathed into the gentle dark for a few moments, then an alarm bell suddenly went off in her head. Without thinking, she quested outward with her extra sense to find the danger. A ghostly energy approached, and for a moment she thought it was just Peter remembering his promise to a little boy, but a wave of malice rippled through the air in greedy tendrils. Her senses touched it and recoiled, scurrying back to the safety of her skull like a whipped pup.

Pins and needles spread down her spine, an acid burn that singed deeper as the spirit approached. The angry blur came to their car and paused for a moment, as if scenting the air. The ghost moved again and came to a stop just on the other side of the wall. An old, childhood instinct squeezed her eyes shut. But her whether her extra senses or her imagination were to blame, she was sure the ghost raised its hand and rested it on the wall beside her head.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #26

The ghost chuckled and leaned against the wall. “Got yourself some light fingers, eh kid?”

“I didn’t do it!” the little boy cried. “I swear!”

“We know you didn’t,” she assured him, then favored Peter with another glower.

“I was always getting blamed for things when I was your age, too. And you know what I did?” Peter whispered.

George leaned forward with rapt attention. “What?”

“I proved them right,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh, excellent advice!” Vi interrupted.

The ghost just shrugged. “It’s true.”

“And look where it got you!” she spat.

“I thought I had you to thank for that.” His quiet words stunned her to silence even as he blazed clearer and darker before her, his pain manifesting in his spectral body. His sharp edges dissolved as he turned to the boy. “Anyway, Georgie. I figured as long as people were going to think the worst of me, I might as well live down to their expectations.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #23

A figure suddenly burst out of the crowd in George’s path, but the little boy could not see or feel him as he passed right through. The ghost walked in a straight line with no mind to any would-be obstacle, the foggy material of his body swirling in response to the contact without hindering his speed. When she took in her former partner’s furrowed brow, she had a fleeting reminder of her vision. Her concern was short-lived; the ghost’s annoyed voice cutting through the crowd told her this Peter could see her.

“Why did you insist on bringing the kid? You know they just complicate matters,” the ghost harrumphed, crossing his insubstantial arms across his chest once he came to a stop. Vi blinked the picture of the living Peter’s dejected form out of her eyes as he continued. “Not to mention, he doesn’t know anything about your abilities, so you’ll have to be on guard all the time again.”

“I couldn’t leave him behind,” she murmured, allowing the sound of the busy station to cover her hushed words.

“Of course not,” Bonnie assured her, unaware of the ghost’s presence. Vi moved her free hand so the back of it touched the other woman’s skin and Bonnie let out a knowing “ah” as the ghost came into view. It was hard to believe this was the same woman who’d slapped Vi across the face for even implying she could talk to the dead when they’d first met.

No Rest for the Wicked – Teaser #21

To the untrained eye, the silver platter simply floated across the room. No strings held it aloft, and nothing supported it from below, yet it made slow and steady progress hovering across the polished wooden floor. A seated figure watched from the other end of the well-appointed room, patiently awaiting whatever lay at its center and smiling at the strange parody of King Solomon and his magic carpet.

“Very good,” he said. “You get stronger every day, Mary.”

The ghost held her mouth in a firm line as she took another deliberate step. “Thank you, sir.” A tremor traveled through the tray as she spoke, and she puffed up her cheeks as she focused her energy on her hand. The mirrored surface of the tray flashed as she crossed into the pool of candlelight and it crashed to the floor.

“One thing at a time,” the man scolded as he rose from his leather chair. “Remember, throwing something in a burst of energy is much easier than being steady enough to carry things. But you are making excellent progress. Just think! You died less than a year ago and you’ve already come so far.”

“I want to be ready,” she simpered. “When the time comes.”

“And I’m sure you will be,” the man replied before stooping to retrieve both the platter and the folded slip of paper. “Now, what is this you’ve brought me?”

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 18 Teaser

Salty continued addressing the bandit as if she weren’t even there. “You see, I’ve got reason to believe that this here woman is a dirty cheat.”

“Don’t be such a sore loser,” Bonnie piped up. “Vi beat you fair and square!” One of Salty’s men leaned in at her menacingly and she let out a squeak. Caroline waited until his back was turned and made a rude gesture.

“Well, if’n she is, she’s got to be the worst cheat I ever saw,” the bandit said with a smirk, leaning back and opening his jacket to reveal his own pair of side-arms. “Honestly, I’d started to feel sorry for her. She hasn’t got any luck at all.”

“Are you sure about that?” the ‘businessman’ asked silkily.

“Vi!” Peter yelled. “Get out of here. Just get out of your seat and go!”

As much as she would have liked to heed his advice, Vi couldn’t tear her eyes from George struggling against the giant’s grip. Sure, she could run. But what about everyone else?

Jeb slowly rose to his feet. “You saying I’m too stupid to know when I’m being taken?” he asked darkly.

The world held its breath.

“He ain’t saying you ain’t too stupid!” someone hollered.

Later, no one would likely admit to being the one who said it, but once it was said the entire saloon surged into action. The poker table tipped over as men on all sides rushed to their feet and an assortment of money, cards, and glasses flew into the air. Vi ducked behind the table to avoid the first onslaught of fists and sweaty bodies tangling together all around her. It would be so easy to just slink out through the back door, but Caroline’s piercing shriek pushed the idea out of her mind.