What is a Black Friday without a few gifts and surprises? Deborah Blake wanted to be here, but due to deadlines (and we totally want more stories, right?), she was unable to participate. However, to celebrate the release of Veiled Magic, she’s sent along thes fabulous beauty instead: a fabulous exclusive excerpt and a Veiled Magic prize pack of a tote bag, a notebook (both with the book cover), and a cute little stuffed dragon for one lucky reader. *grin*
Since Witches came out of the broom-closet in the early 21st century, they have worked alongside humans as police officers, healers, stock traders, and more. But they aren’t the only paranormal entities in our world…
Police officer and Witch Donata Santori spends her days interrogating dead witnesses by summoning their spectral forms. Normally the job is little more than taking statements and filing reports. But when she’s called in on the case of a murdered art restorer, she finds herself suddenly in possession of a mystical portrait that both the human and paranormal communities would kill to get their hands on.
Unable to take on the forces hunting her alone, Donata seeks help from two unlikely and attractive allies: a reluctant shape-changer and a half-dragon art forger. But as the three of them hurry to uncover the truth about the powerful painting, Donata realizes that she’s caught in the middle of not one but two wars—one for possession of the painting’s secrets and one for possession of her heart…
Excerpt from Veiled Magic
Candles—check. Sage smudge stick—check. Portable digital recorder—check. Donata rearranged the items from her standard-issue Witness Statement Spell Kit until their alignment suited her. She’d done this magical work thousands of times over the last seven years, but usually under more controlled circumstances: her own ritual room in the precinct, with a picture of the deceased, a manila folder of information about the crime, and the reasonable expectation that no one would be coming anywhere near the area.
The Chief had cleared the room, then stomped off himself in pursuit of coffee, muttering under his breath how if he never saw her call a dead guy again it would be too soon. Cops might be comfortable with dead bodies, but that didn’t make them comfortable with someone who talked to them. In short, she gave them the creeps. Even the Chief’s curiosity over the questions he’d posed couldn’t overcome his discomfort about the way she was going to get the answers.
That was fine with her. It was hard enough to summon the dead under the best conditions; too many uncontrolled variables in the midst of a crime scene was exactly why she usually did her job in the basement of the cop shop. Of course, then she was dealing with victims, who were usually stunned and in shock and wanted to talk. Clearly the Chief thought she needed to speak to the criminal while he was still on site. Maybe because she’d told him that she could get a stronger read from the dead man in the place where he died, which usually wasn’t an issue with more willing witnesses. She shrugged and looked over at the body of the thief. If she were lucky, maybe he hadn’t gone too far.
She lit the incense and placed it in the middle of her portable altar. Its resinous scent didn’t do much to cover up the stench of death that lingered in the room, but at least it was a distraction. The swirls of smoke wound around the abandoned space. It was just her and the dead thief; even the body of the restorer, Farmingham, had been taken away. A special machine would capture the EVP recording the Chief needed to make a case against whoever had hired Marty Williams to steal the painting.
Once the criminal justice world had adjusted to the presence of Witness Retrieval Specialists—Donata had been a member of the first group to graduate from the police academy with the new specialization—they had made a few changes in the rules of evidence.
These days, Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP, recordings were admissible in court when presented by a certified WRS officer. Since few people bothered to lie once they were dead, and a trained Witch-cop could usually spot when they did, it was generally accepted that evidence given by a deceased witness was worth its weight in gold. Defense attorneys still argued against it, of course, but Donata had rarely had a case based on her evidence tossed out of court, unless there was some other reason for dismissing it.
She turned the digital voice recorder on and set about creating the ritual that would summon back the ill-fated thief. She lit quarter candles in each direction: north, south, east, and west. As the wicks caught fire, she asked the element associated with each quarter to come and protect her circle. First the power of Air, to the east, then Fire, to the south, Water to the west, and finally, Earth to the north.
As each element responded to her call, she could feel the energy of the circle grow, and her magic stretched and rose in response. When she finally called on Hecate, her personal matron goddess, the air practically crackled with power. The circle was cast, and she was in protected space. It was time.
She spoke the name of the dead man three times, firmly, while visualizing his face. The incense twisted and flowed before her, eventually seeming to solidify into the shape of a man. Marty “the Sneak” Williams “stood” on the other side of the table, looking dimly confused and a little peeved.
Donata figured his expression was probably habitual, although it might have had something to do with the fact that he was standing over his own dead body. Nothing ruins a day like staring down at your own corpse.
“Martin Williams,” she said formally, for the benefit of the recorder, “my name is Officer Donata Santori, and I am the Witness Retrieval Specialist in charge of your case. Anything you say can and will be used as evidence in a court of law, and I am recording this conversation in the pursuit of justice.” She paused, waiting for it to sink in. “Do you have anything you wish to say before you depart from this plane of existence?”
“Hey,” Marty said. “Ya mean I’m dead?” He looked down at his body lying on the floor. “Aw, nuts.”
Donata tried not to roll her eyes. The dead often took a while to adjust to the reality of their new circumstances, although most of them said something a little more profound than “Aw, nuts.”
“I’m afraid so, Mr. Williams,” she said. It always paid to sound professional and respectful on a recording that might end up being played in a courtroom. “You appear to have died in the commission of a robbery, during which you killed a man, a restorer named Clive Farmingham. Do you admit to these actions?”
Marty tried to scratch his head, although his fingers didn’t quite make contact with the area where his skull would have been in life. Postmortem coordination was an acquired skill, for the most part.
“Um, wait—so I’m dead?” The thief was clearly not the sharpest pencil in the drawer. Donata could see why the Chief didn’t think he’d come up with the plan to rob the museum. She stifled a sigh. These kinds of things took as long as they took. And let’s face it—even though they’d called her in on a Sunday, which was supposed to be her day off, it wasn’t as though she had anything important waiting for her at home. She could give the poor guy another couple of minutes to catch up.
“Afraid so, Mr. Williams.” She pointed at the stairs behind her. “Apparently you slipped on your way out and broke your neck. You didn’t even fall that far; it was just a freak accident.”
“Man,” the thief whined, “I can’t catch a break. Shit. I slipped on the freakin’ stairs? Now I ain’t even gonna get paid the other half of the money for the job.” The ghost slumped into a kneeling position, ignoring the body that used to be his. “Man. Life just ain’t fair.”
Donata blew air out through her nose and crossed her arms in front of her chest. The guy was dead, and the only thing he was worried about was not getting paid? He was really missing the big picture here. Still, it wasn’t up to her to judge the dead. So she might as well get the information she needed.
“About the job, Mr. Williams,” she said, “can you tell me who hired you to steal the painting?”
The ghost shrugged ectoplasmic shoulders, making the incense swirl into and out of the shape of his body. “Yeah, sure. Damn guy got on my nerves anyway. Actin’ like he was such a big shot.” He scowled. “Franco’s his name. He’s a procurer—you know, somebody wants somethin’, he finds a way to get it for ’em. No questions asked, so long as you’ve got enough money. Then he hires guys like me to fetch whatever the customer ordered.”
A thrill of triumph ran through her. She’d gotten the answer to half of the Chief’s questions already.
“So do you know who commissioned the crime?” she asked.
She rephrased the question, using smaller words. “Who hired Franco to have you get the painting?”
Marty’s face remained blank. “Uh, sorry. No idea. Not my part of the job. Franco just says go to the museum, get the painting, bring it back to him. That’s all I know.” His expression turned resentful. “And he told me the museum would be empty, except for the guard. Shit. That stupid art guy wasn’t even supposed to be here.” Smoke eddied around the edges of his form, starting to dissipate as the reality of his situation sank in. Donata recognized the signs; the spell would only hold the thief a little while longer.
“Okay, I understand.” She attempted to sound soothing, despite her distaste for the petty criminal’s whining. Maybe he’d had a tough childhood or something. “Can you tell me anything about the painting itself?”
“You mean, besides how butt-ugly it is?” The ghost made a strange sound, like a snort with reverb. His voice was starting to echo a little as he slipped closer to the other side. “All I know is that Franco had a special order from a major player—somebody way out of his usual league. He was really stoked about it . . . even snottier than usual.” Marty shook his head regretfully. “Man, he’s gonna be pissed I screwed this up. There was some big money involved.”
Donata figured she’d gotten enough information for the Chief—probably more than he’d hoped for. Certainly enough to make a case against Franco, even if they might never know why someone wanted this particular picture. Some collector, probably. Time to send poor Marty on through the veil. Maybe he’d do better in his next life. She thought he probably couldn’t do much worse.
“That’s okay, Marty,” she said softly, clicking the recorder off. The courts didn’t need to listen to this part. “You don’t have to worry about Franco anymore. You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s time to go home.”
She lifted her arms and wove a pattern of arcane symbols through the smoke, and the form began to waver and stretch.
“Home?” The thief gave her a hesitant smile, barely visible on his disappearing face. “Home?” A bright light shone behind him, and he vanished, leaving Donata standing in the circle with his corpse.
“Yes, Marty,” she whispered to the empty room. “Your work is done now.”
And so was hers. She’d done as the Chief had asked, and hopefully he’d be pleased enough to let her out into the field more often. Donata thanked the goddess, dismissed the quarters, and snuffed out the candles; she couldn’t believe it had gone so well.
“Ahem.” Someone cleared his throat behind her with an apologetic sound. “Miss?”
Meet Deborah Blake!
Deborah Blake has published seven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide and has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.
Want to purchase Deborah’s novels?
The Witch’s Broom: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Broomsticks
The Goddess Is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch
Circle, Coven, & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice
Everyday Witch Book of Rituals: All You Need for a Magickal Year
A to Z Spellbook: Wonderfully Witchy Blessings, Charms & Spells
Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft
Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget
Please help spread the word: Tweet: Celebrate the chaos of #BlackFriday with #holiday #stories & #contests by 25+ authors Nov27-Dec24 #LiteraryEscapism http://wp.me/p3SIUp-cte
Thank you Deborah for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Deborah is giving away a Veiled Magic prize pack of a tote bag, a notebook (both with the book cover), and a cute little stuffed dragon. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Who is your favorite fictional witch? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Have you checked out the other Black Friday contests yet? Check out the Master List to see all the Black Friday giveaways. All Black Friday contests will remain open until December 31st. All giveaways are subject to LE’s Giveaway Policy.
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
REGISTRATION is now open! If you haven’t been to Coastal Magic yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Be sure to keep up with all things Coastal Magic, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | RSVP at the Facebook Event.