While the novel is nowhere near done, I have finished the 50K required to complete NaNoWrimo, and I’m very excited to say that Magda Gardener’s world, and the world of the Guardian are just as much fun as they always are.
To celebrate my completion of NaNoWriMo’s 50K requirement, I’m sharing a new excerpt from A Demon’s Tale. I’d like to share with you a pivotal scene in which the two characters around which the novel revolves meet. The Guardian, you already know, but I’d like to introduce you to Elise North, whom you may remember from the first person accounts with Daniel Sands. Mr. Sands story is one for another time, however. For the moment,Private Investigator, Elise North, has a new client, and that client happens to be a demon. Please remember, this is a work in progress, so be gentle.
A Demon’s Tale: Chapter 7 Not What I Expected
“You’re not what I expected,” Elise North said when dear Reese shook her hand, and I felt her delicious warmth and the delightful callouses that told me the woman did more with her hands than research on a computer. She wielded weapons. I had not existed as long as I had without coming to recognize that exquisite feel. And in spite of my incarceration, in spite of the impossibility of my situation, I lusted, I lusted to feel the delight of her more deeply, knowing that even if I were free to do so, I could not. That she was somehow, inexplicably, beyond my reach made me lust all the more. All of the longing, all of the hunger that had driven me, that was my nature for as long as existence had been mine, rushed through me with such force that I forgot myself, only for an instant, and in my exuberance, in my lust, I threatened to overwhelm poor dear Reese. It was the sudden surge of blood in his veins, the shocked sensation of muscles forced to tense unexpectedly that brought me back to myself, brought me back to that horrid, human sense of guilt that haunted me these days more often that one such as myself would care to admit. And the lovely Elise North, though somehow she knew full well what I had just done, was not even slightly alarmed by my behavior. I, on the other hand was embarrassed, even humiliated that I had behaved more like a dog after a bitch in heat that a being who had seen eternity unfold and forgotten long ago exactly his own beginnings. Horrified, I whispered my apology to a confused, even slightly frightened Reese, who gratefully took the seat the dear woman had offered in front of her battered desk.
“I was unaware that the demon had any freedom of movement beyond the confines of Susan Innes’ body,” she said as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
And Reese, dearest Reese blushed at that, but he quickly added, “I suppose you could consider me the prison annex.”
“And you’re a vampire,” she said, holding Reese’s gaze. The poor man was very uncomfortable, for ours was both a secret and a cover-up of a secret. I encouraged him, then to ask the woman just how much she knew, for I too was surprised at the depth of her knowledge.
“I know a vampire when I see one.” She nodded outside her window to the deepening night. “Most of my clients contact me during regular business hours, though I once had a strange ghost who insisted I meet him at the stroke of midnight in the New York Public Library.” She shivered. “You’d be amazed how creepy the place is after dark.”
“You had a ghost for a client?” Reese asked. How I love the man’s delicious curiosity.
“And how do they pay you?”
She smiled a very playful sort of smile that I found I liked very much, then she kicked her booted feet up onto her desk and leaned back in her chair. “Well, some of them have other, more valuable forms of currency, but it’s not that uncommon for them to have a large stash hidden away that no one living knows about. Often they want me to find it for a loved one or for a cause they meant it for before they died, and then it’s just a matter of allowing me to take my cut off the top.” Again that delicious smile, and this time I was certain it was aimed at me as much as dear Reese for the charming Elise North was as aware of my presence as if I sat in the chair next to Reese. “I really don’t appreciate being paid in pirate’s gold or heirloom jewels. While they’re incredibly valuable, you can’t imagine the hoops I have to jump through to turn them into a currency I can use.”
“Do you not wish to keep those that are more rare?” In my excitement to work with this woman, I completely forgot that dear Reese had not given me permission to use his voice, and he covered his mouth in surprise as though he had suddenly belched rudely in gentile company. While I apologized profusely, and silently, for the breech, the delightful Elise North only gave us a knowing smile.
“I’ve kept a few, even donated a couple on occasion to museums, anonymously, of course.” She righted herself and rolled her chair closer to her desk, folding her hands in front of her, suddenly all business. “Now, gentlemen, what can I do for you.”
This time without so much as a word between us, dear Reese stepped back and gave me control. “You wished to speak to Susan Innes enough to come to her book signing last night,” I made no effort to change Reese’s voice, when I was in control, it was always obvious that it was I who spoke. “While I am not entirely sure of your reasons for desiring to question dear Susan, I believe that you might be useful to me, and in being useful to me, you may do her a far greater service than I can say.”
Elise North studied us carefully, and I had no doubt that for some reason, this woman was looking at me, truly seeing me rather than Reese Chambers. The sensation was one new to me, one I found more disconcerting than I would have thought for one who had so longed for all things that wearing flesh entailed. It was at that moment I realized that the flesh I wore, no matter whose it was, I wore like a mask, a cover-up, a veil behind which to hide myself. This was not a discovery that pleased me, for it smacked of human frailty, of human neuroses, and I was, after all, not human.
Just when I was beginning to become uncomfortable with her intent gaze, just when I was tempted to step back and let dear Reese take control once more – such a cowardly act to consider under the circumstances – Elise North tilted her head slightly and drummed strong fingers against the desk blotter. “And Susan Ennis Doesn’t know that her demon is on a field trip.”
“I wish her not to know.” I said, “for I fear her response to what I must tell you if I am to help her. I have gained a modicum of trust from the dear woman, trust I value, and what is now my tale to tell could cost me that trust. But if it will ease her suffering, stop our foe from harming her, then I will do what I must. And I believe you may be of assistance because you cannot be affected by magic.”
She offered that teasing smile of hers again, and I found myself growing fonder of the dear woman by the moment. “By your foe, I assume you’re talking about Richard Waters, AKA Poseidon.”
Even with me in control of Reese’s body, we nearly fell off the chair. “You know about him?” In my state of surprise, Reese wrested control from me.
“I know about him, yes, and I know about how he and his son, Cyrus Rivers, or Polyphemus, I believe was his Greek name, tried to infiltrate our world to allow the Olympians to take control once more.”
“And you believe it?” Reese asked. Before she could answer he was out of the chair hands resting on the desk, looking down at her. “What do you know about it? Who told you?”
“My client’s name is confidential, as yours’ will be,” she said calmly, as though the fact a vampire glaring down at her didn’t bother her one bit. Even though dear Reese could not have glamoured her or used any vampire tricks on her, his vampire strength was not magic, and that combined with the strength of a demon inside him, surely the woman had to know we could crush her like an insect, and yet I smelled no fear on her. I smelled nothing on her at all.
“While I had in mind to question Susan Ennis,” Elise North said, nodding for Reese to sit back down, which he did, with a little extra encouragement from me, “I knew instantly she wouldn’t speak to me. I knew something other than the events of the Grey Goose Tunnel was bothering her. But I also knew instantly that if I waited long enough, her prisoner would find a way to contact me.”
“And it doesn’t frighten you, that I am a demon?” I asked, once again in control.
She blinked, and I realized that her eyes were the color of brown sugar heated just to the melting point. “Of course it frightens me. I know that while your magic may not affect me, the physical strength you lend to a human, let alone a vampire, could crush me or so much worse,” and then the wicked smile was back on her face, “that’s why I’m so expensive to hire.” She rolled her eyes. “You have no idea just how much my insurance premiums are.”
And once again dear Reese took back control with a belly laugh in which I utterly delighted. The feeling of good humor, of laughter, of a joke shared, all of those sensations are new to me. As Susan Ennis often tells me, I need to work on my sense of humor, and yet Elise North, I understood, though I did not know how that could be, since technically the woman was by far more human, more mundane than any I had ever meant.
“Tell me what you need from me,” she said again when the room became quiet.
“The sea god has found a way into my dear Susan’s dreams, I fear, and try though I might, I cannot protect her from him. He tells her lies, he tells her she is his daughter, he tells her that her mother was his lover, and I am forced to watch helplessly as he torments her. It is only the witch Glinda who is able to free her, and I do not know how.” I blurted all of this out as though I had vomited up all of my shame and horror onto her desk.
“Wait a minute, Glinda, as in the Wizard of OZ, that Glinda?” she asked.
“So I am told, though I do not know this pop culture reference and I am assured that this is but the name she shares with others while keeping her true name secret.”
“That makes sense,” the dear woman said, and her brilliant eyes held my gaze and studied me as though I sat there naked and shed of Reese Chambers’ flesh.
The planes of her face became like granite as she stared and stared and studied and studied, and I, in my nebulous place inside Reese Chambers, squirmed and writhed in my discomfort. For one who has lived an eternity, it is strange that a matter of a few seconds can seem longer still, and yet so it was as we waited for Elise North’s response.
“You want me to infiltrate Susan Ennis’ dreams and drive Poseidon out?”
“You are immune to his magic, as apparently I am not. Or if perhaps you could find this Glinda and we could work with her to find a way to shut the sea god out.” I said.
“I don’t see how I can do any of this without Susan Ennis’s permission,” she said. “Besides, dreams aren’t exactly magic. They’re much harder than magic. I have no idea how I could get inside someone else’s dream, even if I am immune to the magic happening there.”
“What about a succubus? I know you’re immune to her magic, but is there some way she might be able to help you?” Reese asked.
She shook her head. “She can’t infiltrate my dreams because what she does is magic.”
“Can you infiltrate mine then,” I asked without thinking. “Susan has always visited me in my dreams, for it would have been a violation for me to visit hers. I visited Reese only in dire need of his help, feeling that he would understand the violation, which he has. But Susan is my home, her dreams are only open to me when she comes to my dreams. There is an overlap that I cannot explain, and yet it exists, perhaps because of our unique circumstances, but perhaps you could infiltrate my dreams, Elise North, perhaps that is our way in.”
She cocked her head and her short pale hair was like a halo around her face in the harsh florescent lighting. “Infiltrate a demon’s dreams? And how do you propose I do that?” There was no judgment, no accusation in her voice, only curiosity.
“Through your own dreams, of course, for that is how Susan enters.”
She stroked her chin and pursed her lips. “Well, I do dream very vividly. I’ve even had some luck with lucid dreams. Perhaps that’s due to my immunity to magic, I don’t know, but I suppose it’s worth a try.”