Today's post is a great story by Christina Henry, author of the Madeline Black urban fantasy series. I adore Maddy, Beezle, and the world they live in and I bet you do, too! Christina's written a wonderful short story for us and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Maddy Black books, here's a very quick description of the characters in the story:
Maddy (the narrator): Agent of Death, granddaughter of Lucifer.
Beezle: Maddy's gargoyle and best friend.
Gabriel: Maddy's bodyguard.
Read on to find out what Christina's got in store for her characters! And make sure to stick around for the giveaway, where you have a chance to win a copy of BLACK HOWL, courtesy of the lovely folks at Penguin!
This story takes place between the events
of BLACK WINGS and BLACK NIGHT.
“There’s someone on the front lawn,” Beezle announced. He was perched on the sill of the picture window, peering into the darkness of the evening. It was December, and dark came early this time of year in Chicago.
I was at my desk trying to figure out how to spin straw into gold, because that was just about the only way I was going to meet my expenses that month. Unfortunately, the ability to turn grass into treasure had not been included in my magical skill set.
“Who is it?” I asked, distracted.
“You,” he said.
That got my attention. “What?”
“It looks like you.” He was staring with intense concentration, which meant that my gargoyle was looking through all the layers of reality to see the true nature of the person on the lawn. “It looks like you, but it’s not moving.”
“Someone put a statue of me on my lawn?” I asked, walking over to the window to join him. I looked out the window and saw the object in my yard. In the glow of the streetlight it did look real, and disconcertingly like me.
Beezle shook his head. “It’s not a statue, but it does seem to be clay.”
“A sculpture?” The object was making me uneasy. It was like looking at a copy of myself watching the house. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. “Whatever it is, I’m getting rid of it.”
Beezle frowned. “It doesn’t seem to have any magic attached to it, but be careful anyway. Whoever left it might still be hanging around.”
“I will,” I promised. I pulled on my boots and coat and headed downstairs.
Gabriel, my bodyguard, was in his own apartment below mine. I thought about knocking on his door, but then decided I could handle a lump of clay on my own. If I knocked on his door he might think I’d done it just so I could see him, and even though I wanted to see him I didn’t want him to think that I did. I blew out an annoyed breath. Life was a lot easier without romantic complications.
The clay copy was posed on the lawn, hands at its sides. Up close it was even more unnerving. It was an amazingly precise copy of me, from the dark curly hair that tumbled over its shoulders to the black overcoat that I usually wore.
I tried to figure out how to lift the thing and carry it to the alley. I’d just about concluded that I’d have to ask Gabriel for help anyway when the clay copy moved.
Its hands were around my neck in an instant, squeezing tight. It lifted me from the ground, its face smooth and unconcerned, its eyes as blank as a doll’s. I choked, gasped for air, kicked out to no avail.
I tried to focus, to summon up my will and my magic. It was still difficult for me to call my powers easily, but mortal peril does wonders for your concentration. I closed my hands around the wrists of the clay doll and pushed all the magic I had in me through the palms of my hands.
Cracks appeared in the surface of the doll’s face, and a moment later its grip loosened. The clay burst into dust, the motes glowing blue with nightfire.
I rubbed my throat, sure that I would have bruises tomorrow.
Someone clapped their hands behind me, and I spun around, nightfire on my palm.
Lucifer stood on my porch, grinning.
“Did you send that thing?” I asked, and could tell by the expression on his face that he had. “Why?”
“Perhaps I wanted to see what you were capable of.” The Prince of Darkness gestured at the nightfire. “It’s not generally considered polite to threaten your grandfather.”
I kept the nightfire where it was. “It’s not generally considered polite to try to kill your granddaughter by proxy.”
“I would not have allowed you to die,” Lucifer said, but something about the way that he said it made me think that maybe he would have let me die, if it suited me purpose. “It was just a little prank.”
“Prank?” I said, getting more annoyed by the minute. Maybe I would blast him with nightfire just because he was irritating.
“April Fool?” he said.
“It’s not April.”
“It could be,” he said carelessly. “I’m a very old being, you know. I lose track of the months.”
“I don’t think you lost track of anything,” I said. “I think you know exactly what you’re doing at all times.”
Lucifer winked at me, and then he disappeared in a puff of smoke, just as the devil should.
Has this left you wanting more? I bet it has! Here’s more on BLACK HOWL:
Something is wrong with the souls of Chicago's dead. Ghosts are walking the streets, and Agent of Death Madeline Black's exasperating boss wants her to figure out why. And while work is bad enough, Maddy has a plethora of personal problems too. Now that Gabriel has been assigned as her thrall, their relationship has hit an impasse. At least her sleazy ex-fiance Nathaniel is out of the picture—or so she thinks...
Penguin is graciously offering one (1) copy of BLACK HOWL to a lucky reader!
To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Ends Sunday, April 15, 2012
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Christina Henry is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.