Ways of Witches

Book Cover: Ways of Witches

Liz Stokes has to deal with a lot in her new life as a partner in the Dead-tective Agency. Murder, hexes, and a partner who’s going through some unexpected changes are a few of the new challenges her vampire partner Vincent and she face as they try to solve the mystery of Tim’s death. The trail leads them among the pointy-hatted inhabitants of the supernatural society as they try to beat Ruthven to the answers to their questions without killing each other.

Excerpt:

I stood there bent over the sink, the picture of defenselessness. My head was shoved under the running faucet and my hair was soaked. Beside me on the counter lay the object of my desire: the shampoo. I blindly reached for the soapy goodness and my hand bumped into the plastic container. It clattered to the ground and a swear passed my lips.
“God damn this god damn damned sink,” I muttered.
This was part of my daily routine. I would awaken late in the afternoon and wash my hair, or try to. The task wasn’t easy when the sink was the size of a pail and you were naturally a little clumsy. I pulled my head out of the sink and looked through my wet mop of hair for the AWOL bottle. The fleeing culprit had fled across the linoleum and wood floors, and paused near the coffin table.
With my head bent down and a distinct sway in my gait I shuffled over to the coffin and snatched the bottle from the floor.

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Behind me was a trail of wet drops from the ends of my hairs. I knocked loudly on the coffin and leaned close to the lid. “You’d better be grateful for me washing my head in the sink!” I shouted. I would have felt bad, but it was almost night and time for him to get up. Besides, it was true. I avoided using the bathroom so I wouldn’t touch his sensitive side, namely the soul in the clear bottle hidden in the medicine cabinet.
“I will thank you when you no longer disturb my rest,” Vincent shot back.
“Maybe you need to get in touch with your sensitive side a little more often. It might do us both some good,” I countered.
“It is not as simple as that,” he argued. I noticed the drops of water from my hair and grinned evilly. I leaned over the top of the coffin where his head lay and listened to the drip-drip-drip of the water as it hit the hollow wood of his bed lid. Vince’s voice replied in an even, tense tone. “Is the sun gone?”
I glanced out the window. “It’s pretty much-ack!” Vincent flung up the lid and it collided with the side of my face. I stumbled back and titled my head backwards to my Medusa strands fell about my shoulders. My free hand clutched at my throbbing ear and I glared at the vampire who sat up in the coffin. “This is the thanks I get for cleaning your coffin lid?” I garbled through my hand.
“That is the thanks you deserve for disturbing my sleep. Again,” he countered.
Vince lifted one foot out and my devious mind forced me to toss the smooth, plastic shampoo container beneath his foot. His shoe made impact on the round tube and his leg kicked into the air as the container rolled out from beneath him. He landed with a hard plop back into his coffin. His head hit the bottom and he lay there for a moment stunned.
I burst into a wild cackle of victory. My breaths came out in sharp gasps as I looked on Vince’s wide eyes and his mouth slightly ajar. “Going-wheeze-back to-wheeze-bed?” I choked out.
Our little ruckus happened a couple of days after our last adventure with the death cult of Astaroth, and was sure signs that cabin fever had set in. The only cure was to get ourselves into more trouble, and it came knocking on the door just as Vince rose from his coffin to commit murder-suicide.
Knock-knock rang the sound on our ancient, weathered door. We both turned our heads to the entrance, and I glanced back at Vince. “You order a hooker?” I asked him.
He dutifully ignored my comment and dove one hand into his pants. Out popped the dark glasses, and in a moment they covered his red eyes. “Answer it,” he ordered me.
I snorted. “Why should I answer the door? You’re dressed, too,” I argued.
“Because, as you duly noted last time, I am not the face of our business,” he countered.
I wrapped one finger around one of my wet, limp strands of hair. Even terrifying as I was his face was rather ghastly in its paleness, so I answered the door in all my wet-hair glory. I swung open the entrance and found an old man with a cane on the other side. He wore a wrinkled brown suit that matched his wrinkly face, and on his head was a brown bowler. The little old man peered at me through bottled glasses and I have to admit I took a little bit of delight when he started back.
“What the hell have you done to yourself?” the man asked me. That was not the voice of an old man.
I tilted my head to one side and blinked at our guest. “Mitch?” I guessed.
He snorted and pushed past me into the room. “Who else?” he countered.
“A hooker?” I suggested.
“No, but you’ll wish it was when you find out my bill,” he told me. He pulled off his wrinkly mask and hat, and looked to Vince. “You were wanting to know more about Ruthven and his making trouble still, right? I’d hate to think I went all this way downtown for nothing.”
Vince raised an eyebrow, but nodded. “I am.”
“We are,” I corrected him.
“Well, I happened to learn that he had some dealings with a-”
“-witch,” Vince finished for him.
Mitch frowned. “That’s right, but how’d you know?”
“Astaroth provided us with some information. What else can you tell us about Hilda?” Vince asked him.
Mitch chuckled. “He probably told you and then tried to kill you, right?”
“Yeah, death by Japanese porn,” I told him.
“Just his style, which is to say he doesn’t have much of one. Anyway, I got a little more than he does, but because you know the first part I’ll give this half-off. The witch he was talking about is dead now, and if my info’s right, which it always is, she was a good friend of Tim’s.” He wagged his eyebrows at Vince. “I’m right, right?”
“Yes, but where and why was she killed?” Vince persisted.
Mitch shrugged. “She was killed at her hut outside town. I’m not quite sure about your second question except that I heard it was about a spell book. There’s plenty of those on the market now, so I don’t know why Ruthven would throw a fuss over another one.”
At the mention of a spell book Vince’s pale face grew paler. He tore off his glasses and paced the floor between his coffin and the couch. Mitch and I watched in curious fascination for a few moments until Mitch coughed. “I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about.”
Vince paused in his pacing and pulled a wad of bills from his other pocket. He held them out to Mitch. “I trust this will cover your fee.”
Mitch’s eyes flickered between the roll and Vince’s face, but he didn’t take the money. “I’d pay you that much if you’d tell me what you know.”
“There is only the money or nothing. Take it or leave,” Vince ordered him.
Mitch frowned, but snatched the roll from Vince’s hand. “You sure don’t help a friend out much, do you?”
“I may when I find one, now leave,” Vince replied. The vampire resumed his pacing and ignored the two of us still present in the room.
Mitch donned his mask and faced the door. He strode up to me and nodded back at Vince. His voice was so low even I could barely hear the words. “Make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”
“Because he likes you so much?” I teased.
He snorted. “No, because he’s my best-paying customer.” He plopped his bowler hat on his head, tipped it at me with a winning, wrinkly smile, and closed the door behind himself as he left.
I turned my attention to Vince. He had stopped his pacing and now looked out the window. I don’t know why he bothered; the city was too bright to see the stars and the view was of the next decrepit brick building over. I walked up to him and stood by his side. “Mind telling me what this is about?” I asked him.
“Tire treads,” he commented.
I blinked at him. “Is the tire in your mind a little low on air? What does that have to do with anything?”
He half-turned to me and looked over his glasses at me. “When we fetched the car the tire treads had mud on them.”
I shrugged. “So Tim took it out for-ooooh. You’re thinking that maybe Tim went to see this witch at her house before he died and there might be a clue there we can find.”
A ghost of a smile passed over his lips. “You may yet become a decent detective.”
I snorted. “You mean ‘dead-tective,’ don’t you? Anyway, when do we leave?”
“Right now.”
“Just let me finish washing my hair-”
“No, now.”
My shoulders slumped forward and I dragged my fingers through my hair. “Fine, right now.”

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