The Murder Meets at Dusk, excerpt

“Aleister,” Montague sighs, his whole form rising and falling, “I cannot say I have brought them all back. Not everybody can withstand the way, especially humans. Seeking knowledge this way could kill you.”

Aleister stares into the giant sunglasses, denies to himself that he is human, and says, “Just keep a firm hold and I’ll be fine.”

Montague’s old black features harden. He can’t refuse a formal request. He is the tree of knowledge.

“I never wanted your blood, kid,” he says as he pulls a large silver basin from a nearby shelf without turning his head.

The thing emits a dull, ambient shine, a reflection that is perhaps from another place. He sets it on a small table at his side, then moves both the table and the basin between them. His movements never falter despite his lack of physical sight.

Aleister dares not exhale his relief, so he stands steadily instead. He removes his coat with forcibly deliberate movements and places it on the back of the chair. His sarcasm rises to mask his nerves and he says, “Are you kidding? I know my blood will keep you for many years to come.”

Montague is in the process of removing a foot-long wooden case from the shelf when he turns a nasty, narrowed look on Aleister. He bitingly asks, “What good is that when I watch the strong souls kill themselves with their own vanity?”

He removes a long gleaming kukri blade from the case with grace that reveals he has used this tool for a time immeasurable. The curved tip could split a hair. Its handle is wrapped in black cord, and the blade literally glows of its own power.

He says, “Pull up a seat.”

Aleister scoots his chair forward and the noise is like an explosion as it bounces around the space. He has rolled up his button-down sleeves above his elbows. The black fabric makes him look like a ghost, even to himself. He extends his left arm in offering, wrist facing upward, hand shaking, and somberly says, “Thank you, old friend.”

Montague grumbles in a language Aleister doesn’t recognize as he reaches into his pants pocket. He extracts a gold pocket watch with a long chain and “3 x 3” engraved into its top. He plops the watch into Aleister’s palm, where it shines like a large chunk of lost treasure in the hand of a child. He says, “You have three minutes, less if you bleed out first. For fuck’s sake, don’t dawdle.”

Aleister flips open the huge thing. The clock face bears only the numbers one through nine and they are spread evenly around it. There are middle and quarter markings between the minutes. Its big hand keeps the minutes instead of hours, the small hand counts away the seconds. The watch is almost to the seventh minute of its cycle.

Aleister pockets the clock, though he wants to study it more, and Montague wraps the long fingers of his right hand around Aleister’s thin wrist. He positions their arms above the basin and squeezes. He says, “Get ready, kid.”

He raises the knife in his left hand and plunges it into the white flesh of Aleister’s forearm.

For this excerpt I chose a continuation of the first one I posted. This is a glimpse of how Aleister’s journey begins, dramatically and mysteriously. It’s also the beginning of the first time the reader gets to see him travel the planes.

Allow me to give a little history on this story. I started writing it somewhere back in 2009. In roughly ten months I finished my first draft. After a brief and mostly failed publication, the story stalled and I lost a lot of heart. It took me…six years, maybe, to finish the second book, and another five or so to finish the third. I kept writing it, though, through life’s ups and downs. To say I’m ecstatic to finally share it with the world is an understatement.

Aleister Corigan is hands down my favorite character I’ve written. He has been a part of my life for so long that he feels like much more than just a character. Sure, there have been times when his reluctance to accept the role that has unfolded has been palpable. That’s understandable, considering I’ve never taken it easy on him. Quite the opposite.

What else is there to say about this story? Well, it’s huge. For my first venture beyond fan fiction one-shots and ridiculous high school vampire tales, I didn’t just bite off more than I could chew. I took the whole cake and ran. There are nine members of the Order of Crows, not to mention all the peripheral characters and the villains in the shadows. It was overwhelming at times to try to develop everyone. Hell, when I started the first installment, I actually believed I was going to fit everything into one book. That didn’t work at all. It took me three books to tell the story arc I started in Dusk, which then produced a fourth (WIP) book that I wasn’t even expecting. I’m so glad it did. As I said, the Crows have been with me for so long that now I can hardly imagine a world in which I’m not writing them. Here’s hoping that you love them as much as I do, and that they’ll never stop talking.

As always, many thanks to those who have been there along the ride, reading unedited files on a computer screen, supporting me, and pushing me to keep writing. Cheers to those who have believed in the Crows’ story. Here’s hoping the polished, published version lives up to those expectations.

Published by ajthewordwitch

Writing is in my bones, my blood, and my heart.

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