Today's post is a wonderful story by Lyn Benedict, author of the Shadows Inquiries series. (You may also know her as Lane Robins.) I'm a big fan of these books and I'm quite excited for the release of LIES & OMENS, the fourth book in the series. I think fans and new readers alike will enjoy this story.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Shadows Inquiries world, here's the low-down on the series:
Sylvie Lightner is a Florida PI who lives in a world just like ours, except the things that go bump in the night are real. She deals with all sorts of preternatural/supernatural folks, ranging from werewolves to godes to cultists to the undead. Sylvie also has to deal with the Internal Surveillance and Intelligence agency. Sylvie runs her unofficial PI business, Shadows Inquiries, with the help of Alex Figueroa-Smith. The other character in this story, Wales, is a necromancer who first pops up in GHOSTS & ECHOES.
Enjoy the story and don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a set of Lyn's first three Shadows Inquiries novels!
South Miami sunlight seeped through the windows of the Shadows Inquiries office and illuminated one young woman working at a central desk.
"What the hell is this?" Alex Figueroa-Smith said. She had her head down, and her hands in the lower left desk drawer. Sylvie Lightner, making herself coffee in the office kitchenette, grimaced. Damn it. She'd hoped Alex wouldn't uncover those so fast.
"Are these bills? Sylvie--"
In retrospect, Sylvie shouldn't have hidden them in Alex's chocolate drawer, but her assistant had come in two days ago, swearing because her pants were too tight, and locked the chocolate drawer.
"They're not due yet," Sylvie said.
"Well, that's good," Alex snapped, "because we don't have any money!" She pulled out a chocolate bar, ripped the foil off, then swore and dropped the candy. "We need clients. And you turned down the last three walk-ins."
"They were terrible clients," Sylvie said.
"They were potentially paying ones."
"What's the perk to being the boss if you can't turn down suck jobs?"
"What's the perk to having the electricity turned off?"
Sylvie grimaced. No electricity meant no coffee pot, and Alex trying to do her work via 4G. "We should have billed the ISI for trashing the office."
Alex shook her head. "They tear-gassed us. We should leave them alone. Just, find a client. Actually, I've got a potential one for you." Alex set the bills down, and dug a business card out of her pocket. "Here. Mrs. Stella Gruner. Old Miami money. She's staying at the Ritz-Carlton because she thinks her house is cursed."
"How did you meet her?"
Alex shrugged; color touched her cheeks. "Tex wanted to take me out for a fancy weekend. We chose the Ritz, got a suite and everything. It was great."
Sylvie sighed. Tierney Wales, Tex to his friends, was a necromancer with a bad habit of using magic to stay in hotels rent free. Sooner or later, he was going to attract the dangerous kind of notice, something beyond even the government bully boys of the Internal Surveillance and Investigations. Something like the Maudits, the megalomaniacal sorcerers who would love to enslave a stray necromancer. Only Wales's innate paranoia had protected him so far.
The phone rang; she snatched it up, "What?"
Alex put her face in her palms. "Phone etiquette, Sylvie."
The front door opened just as she disconnected with vigor --stupid solicitors-- and Wales wandered in, all scarecrow lean and twitchy.
"Who was that?"
"Who was what?" Sylvie said. Wales was too damned nosy.
"On the phone."
Sylvie said, "I wasn't on the phone." Just to see him twitch. To see his paranoia ramp up. It worked. His hair practically stood on end like a cat's. He touched the bone pendant at his throat, the necromantic equivalent of Sylvie reaching for her gun.
"Seriously, Shadows, who was it?"
"They didn't say," Sylvie said, hiding her grin. "They just asked me a lot of questions." Alex rolled her eyes.
"About my employees," Sylvie said. "They asked about you...."
"Me?" Wales snapped. "What did they ask? How did they know I worked with you?"
Sylvie laughed. "I don't know, Tex. Maybe they were the CIA."
He rocked back on his heels, then said, "Not funny, Shadows. Not funny at all." He slammed back out of the office.
Sylvie grabbed the chocolate bar that Alex had opened, and broke off a piece. Tasty stuff. Alex liked the expensive brands.
Alex snatched the candy from her hand. "You shouldn't have done that to him."
Sylvie eyed the chocolate, wondering if an apology would get her the candy back. She doubted it. She apologized anyway. "I know. He's on our side. Plus, he's your boyfriend and I should try to be nicer--"
"Oh, whatever," Alex said. "He knows you're not nice. I don't care about that. You still shouldn't have done it. You're going to regret it."
Alex ran a hand through her spiky, blond hair, and said, "Jeez, Sylvie. He's on our side, but he is a necromancer. You just pissed him off for funsies. Don't come crying to me when he retaliates."
"He wouldn't... he doesn't like using his magic... oh crap," she trailed off.
Alex grinned. It was toothy and malicious. "Have a nice day, Syl. Go woo Mrs. Gruner. Be impressive. Get us a good client."
Sylvie called the number on the card and reached Mrs. Gruner's personal secretary. The woman's tone was frosty as she demanded to know how Sylvie got the number, but when Sylvie said, "I believe your employer met my employee, Alex?", the woman thawed.
"Oh, Alexandra, such a sweet girl," the secretary said. "You're the fixer? Stella is most likely at the Lowe. You might catch her there."
Normally, Sylvie would have bristled at being made to chase her potential client around town, but Alex wanted this client. Sylvie knew better than to actively annoy Alex.
She started her truck, got the usual diesel roar, then flinched as a dead gull plummeted onto her hood. Dead—she could see bone and rot—but still kicking and pecking.
"Sorry, Tex. Have to do better than that," she muttered, and backed out at speed, sliding the bird off her hood.
The Lowe Art Museum was a bust; by the time Sylvie got there, Mrs. Gruner had been and fled. The long-suffering curator said, in long-suffering tones, "There was a roach. Just one; you understand, it's Florida."
Sylvie did understand. You could be Martha Stewart clean, and still, the inevitable palmetto bug would appear, waving its antennae. "Mrs. Gruner doesn't like bugs?"
"Mrs. Gruner loathes bugs," the curator said. "I believe she's gone to the spa to recover."
"Spa, right," Sylvie said. "Which one?"
"Carlton," Sylvie finished. "Right."
Like clockwork, the dead gull was back, crashing into her windshield the minute she started the engine. This time, she jumped, banging her head on the ceiling liner. "Ow. Dammit, Tex."
She shuddered at the touch of magic on her skin—the prickling surge of heat rash.
Unpleasant. Sylvie gunned the engine, and left the bird behind. Again.
The Ritz-Carlton valet parking attendant took one look at Sylvie's battered truck and grimaced. Sylvie found a different parking space, and nearly got beaned by the gull as it plummeted out of the sky. Wales had talent, she thought, to make a dead bird fly and follow her. But if this was his payback? It was nothing. Never mind that the magic felt like jellyfish stinging her skin. She could take it.
By the time she'd made it through to the spa, Sylvie had missed Mrs. Gruner again. "Gone to a luncheon," her secretary said. "Do you have a card?"
Sylvie did. Alex had insisted. The secretary said, "I'll pass it on. Give my regards to Alexandra. Such a sweet girl."
Sweet, Sylvie thought. Wouldn't be so sweet if Sylvie didn't land this client. "Mrs. Gruner coming back here after her lunch?"
No, that would have been too easy, Sylvie thought, taking down yet another address where she might catch her. Apparently, Mrs. Gruner preferred to do first meetings face to face.
Sylvie, scowling at the list, shrieked when the gull rose up, flapping in her face.
"Enough, Wales," Sylvie snapped. "You animate that thing one more time, and I'm going to shoot it, and then I'm going to shoot you."
The gull, now perched on her door frame, looked…unimpressed. She shook it off, but found herself glancing in her rearview mirror more often than the traffic required. It wasn't getting to her. Not at all. It was just a dead bird.
It creeped her the hell out.
By the time the sun had set, she'd missed Mrs. Gruner twice more, had been gulled often enough that she was beginning to twitch at the slightest hint of motion, the burn of magic, and had nearly had a police incident when she reached for her gun the last time the bird approached. Sylvie decided the day was done. She'd stalk Mrs. Gruner tomorrow. She hit a drive-through for takeout, and, sensing those dirty feathers diving for her again, rebounded the gull through the drive-through window. Last she saw, speeding off, the clerk was flailing at the dead bird with a spatula.
Sylvie allowed herself a smirk when she stopped at the office, and the bird didn't reappear. Take that, Tex, she thought.
She settled down at Alex's desk, too hungry to even make the short climb to her office. She spread out her napkin, set out noodles, gyoza, the dipping sauce, and reached for the chopsticks, just as all hell broke loose.
Roaches, dead and brittle, swarmed the room, creeping under the doorframe, spilling out of the kitchenette sink drain, even falling from the light fixtures with a crackle of electricity.
Sylvie found herself standing on Alex's desk, heart pounding out of her throat, her stomach churning. She had her gun drawn, like dead roaches were something bullets could stop, and made herself reholster it.
The roaches seethed and swarmed, some managing to clamber up the desk drawers. Sylvie winced, and slammed the drawers shut, trapping a handful inside. The rest fell back, seemingly content to make swirling patterns on the floor.
After five minutes passed where nothing more happened, Sylvie decided she'd just wait it out. Animating one dead creature took effort. Animating several hundred? Wales would tire out fast, and then she'd drag his skinny ass in and make him disinfect the entire office.
She was crouched awkwardly on the desk, munching on cold gyoza, when the door opened.
"Are you Ms. Shadows?"
The woman who stood in the doorway was in her late fifties, immaculately dressed in a peach-linen pantsuit, her hair a gleaming white bob. Diamonds shone on her gnarled hands. They winked in the light as she absently smoothed her hair, then…
Then she screamed, falling backward, scrabbling for the door, running away, graceless and horrified.
"Oh, damn," Sylvie murmured, setting her meal down.
A rusty chuckle reached her, and she looked up toward the stairs. Toward Wales making his long-legged way down. The roaches cleared a path for him.
"I win," he said.
Sylvie shook her head. "Nope."
"No? You want me to send the roaches home with you?"
"No," Sylvie said. "You beat me. But you lost big, Tex."
He wrinkled his nose, looking like a grad student faced with an inexplicable bad grade—perplexed and heading toward pissed-off. "What?"
"First," Sylvie said, "you forgot to close the drawers on Alex's desk. There are roaches in her chocolate drawer."
He winced. "Crap." Alex liked the pricey stuff. Romanico's champagne truffles and full sized Vosges bars.
"And second? That woman who ran screaming out of here? Was the client that I spent all day hunting down. A client that Alex desperately wanted."
Wales leaned against the wall and moaned, "Not Mrs. Gruner."
"Sucks to be you," Sylvie said. She leaped off the desk, landing in a clear spot. "Have a nice night, Tex. Don't let the bedbugs bite."
Maybe, she thought, she'd stop for chocolate on the way home. Victory was sweet.
Want to know more about LIES & OMENS? Here's the cover copy:
After escaping secret government cells and destroying a Miami landmark, Sylvie’s trying to lay low—something that gets easier when a magical force starts taking out her enemies. But these magical attacks are a risk to bystanders, and Sylvie can’t let that slide.
When the war between the government and the magical world threatens the three people closest to her—her assistant, her sister, and her lover—Sylvie has no choice but to get involved with hidden powers bent on shaping the world to their liking. Now, with death and disaster on the horizon, even if Sylvie wins, things will never be the same...
LIES & OMENS is being released on April 24 so be sure to order your copy soon!
You can find out more about the rest of the series by clicking on the cover:
Lyn is graciously offering one (1) set of SINS & SHADOWS, GHOSTS & ECHOES, and GODS & MONSTERS to a lucky reader!
To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Ends Sunday, April 15, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal April Fools’ giveaways)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Lyn Benedict is a pseudonym for Lane Robins. Lane was born in Miami, Florida, the daughter of two scientists, and grew up as the first human member of their menagerie. When it came time for a career, it was a hard choice between veterinarian and writer. It turned out to be far more fun to write about blood than to work with it. She received her BA in Creative Writing from Beloit College, and currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with an ever-fluctuating number of dogs and cats.