I received my personal and review copies of “Devil in the Details” today which means that it’s really, truly going to happen. Woo hoo! Here’s an excerpt for you to whet your appetite:
“So I can expect your answer tomorrow, then?” Gavin asked, brushing Rafe’s face with impeccably-manicured fingers. “I know it will be the right one.” There was no tenderness in either his tone or his touch. He was threatening Rafe.
Rafe slipped free of his seatbelt and opened the car door. “I’ll call you when I get home from school,” he promised. Once out of the car, Rafe had to will himself not to run to the door of his apartment building. He unlocked the door with hands that shook. Only when the door was closed and locked behind him, and Rafe heard Gavin’s car pull out of the driveway, did he allow himself to relax. He slumped against the wall and took several deep, calming breaths. The dancing skeleton decorations that lined the hallway grinned down at him. Normally Rafe liked Halloween, but those skeletons were laughing at him.
Rafe was in trouble. Unless he could find some way out of this mess before the end of the school day tomorrow, he was going to end up spending the rest of his life with Gavin. The idea made him physically ill.
Rafe jumped as the elevator door slid open with a rattle, and Mrs Lempo’s dog, Romeo, came bounding out. He was followed by a somewhat more staid Mrs Lempo in her tatty old fisherman’s sweater and granny shoes. Romeo was so happy to see Rafe that his tail wagged the whole back half of his little sweater-clad body.
“Hey, boy!” Rafe squatted to pet the dachshund, who gave him adoring kisses, and made Rafe laugh. He was grateful for the distraction, and for the opportunity to be uncomplicatedly happy for a few moments. “Mrs Lempo, it’s too late for you to be walking Romeo by yourself.”
“Nothing will happen to us. I have my police whistle and Romeo is a very brave dog, aren’t you my angel?”
Romeo answered with a joyous yip that lifted his front half an inch or two off the ground. Rafe could swear Romeo was grinning. In his orange sweater he looked a bit like an elongated jack-o’-lantern.
Rafe was unconvinced. Brave wiener dog and police whistle notwithstanding, he still didn’t like the idea of Mrs Lempo out walking this late by herself. He also figured a little decompression time would be a good thing. “Well then let me walk with you for company,” he told her. A stroll in the cool night air and some easy conversation would be good for him, help him clear his head.
“Rafe, you look unhappy. Are you all right?”
“I have a lot on my mind is all.” They stepped out and he took her arm. “It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it? Autumn is the best season here in Chicago.” He liked Mrs Lempo, but Rafe didn’t want to talk about what was going on in his life. Instead they chatted about the weather, the new coffee house nearby and how time tended to fly as one grew older. Rafe, who had recently turned twenty-five didn’t quite have the perspective she did, though he wasn’t certain how old she was. She could have been a well-worn forty or a well-preserved two hundred for all he knew.
“The place is beautiful!” she was saying, talking about the coffee house. “You really should see for yourself.”
“I plan to, but when I’ve got a bit more time.”
“Oh you kids, you think so many things are more important than coffee.” She laughed. “I admit they don’t make coffee as well as I do, but the pastries are superb.”
“I’ll be sure to try it soon, I promise.”
They took a pleasant stroll around the block looking at the Halloween decorations. It was a popular holiday in the Chicago area, and a great many homes and businesses went all out to decorate. Grinning pumpkins watched them pass, and strange, half-glimpsed, and often unsettling things swung from tree branches above them.
Romeo did what he needed to do, which included chasing a large maple leaf that was skittering down the sidewalk, and Rafe returned to the apartment building feeling a little calmer. Mrs Lempo was good for his perspective.
Unfortunately, as they were entering the building, Rafe spotted Gavin’s car parked down the block and realized Gavin had parked there to spy on him, a notion that made him feel sick to his stomach. Was this what his life was going to be like? He thought seriously about marching over to the car and smashing the windshield with a rock. “There’s your answer!” he wanted to shout, and maybe smash Gavin’s face, too.
“You coming, Rafe?” Mrs Lempo was holding the door for him.
Anger gave way to brief, overwhelming despair. How could he live like that? How on earth could he allow Gavin to dictate everything he did, everyone he spoke to?
But then despair gave way to determination. As he rode upstairs with Mrs Lempo and Romeo, he decided he wouldn’t give in to Gavin’s demands without a fight even if it meant getting help from some dangerous sources.
Rafe walked Mrs Lempo to her door, which was just past his own. He told her he couldn’t let her walk the whole way by herself at this hour of the night.
She seemed amused. “You’re such a nice boy, Rafe. Could I interest you in a cup of coffee?” she asked. A glittery black wreath hung on her door, and Rafe thought he really should put up his own decorations, though he simply wasn’t in the mood to celebrate anything.
“Normally I’d say yes, but I know your coffee all too well, Mrs L. I wouldn’t get to sleep until December if I drank a cup now. ‘Strong as temptation, hot as Hell, and black as sin,'” he quoted, making her laugh.
“Yes that’s the way I like it, poppet. Where I come from, we all drink it like that. But I do have some half and half for the less adventurous.”
“Another time, thank you. Night, Romeo.”
The little dog yipped again and trotted into the apartment.
“Night, Mrs L.”
Once safely inside his own apartment, he took off his jacket and went to fetch some salt and a photo of Gavin. He didn’t normally resort to this sort of thing, but living with Gavin was the worst fate he could imagine; going to Hell didn’t seem a lot worse, particularly in his circumstances. He drew a circle with the salt, sat down in front of it and began to chant.
“By my will I invoke thee, Agrimillit, by my will I call thee to my circle.” He couldn’t fight Gavin’s money and power, so if he needed to get help to level the playing field a little, he was willing to do it. “By my will I invoke thee…”
There was a fracturing of light within the circle and the funky smell he’d learned to associate with demon summoning. “By my will I call thee…” A flash of light blinded Rafe momentarily and as his vision cleared he saw the demon in all its hoofed and horned glory.
“Who invokes my presence?” it intoned. “Oh, it’s you, Rafe. What’s up?” The demon was looking down at Rafe, scratching the base of one of his curving blue horns with a wicked looking claw. Little licks of flame flickered across its head and shoulders.
“Shit, did you have to blind me?”
“Sorry, sorry. That light flash isn’t really working for me either; I can’t see a damn thing for the first few seconds afterwards.”
“Yeah that could be a problem.”
It’ll be out officially on Saturday but you can purchase it now if you want. You do want to, don’t you?
I’m also attempting to update my website. I’ve been having a hard time trying to find a web editor that I like and that likes me. The free ones were quirky at best and at worst made me jump through hoops before I could publish. I finally opted for a mid-price program that’s supposed to be easy but I’m not finding it to be quite as simple as promised. Still, the project is coming along and I hope to have it finished by the end of the weekend.
In honor of that and the publication, I’ll be running a contest for a copy of Devil in the Details. Stay tuned for details!