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Today’s Spooky Legends guest is Eileen Wilks, author of the World of the Lupi urban fantasy romance series. Lily’s story continues in November with DEATH MAGIC, which is the eighth installment. Our short story is told from the POV of one of the secondary characters in the series. It’s set prior to the opening of the series to give you a glimpse of Lily Yu when she was a very new homicide cop, and features the Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Lights urban legend. Want to win your own copy? Check out the giveaway details below.
(Note from Eileen Wilks: readers of my lupi series will want to know that this takes places a few years before the events in Tempting Danger.)
Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Light?
The words scrawled across the white wall were a dull brick color, more brown than red. The color of dried blood. Which made sense, because that’s what they’d been written with–blood dragged across the plaster by someone’s gloved fingertip. The blood of the thoroughly dead young woman slumped across the desk beneath those words.
That’s what T.J. was assuming, anyway, unless the lab said otherwise. It was possible the perp had used paint or chicken blood or something to practice calligraphy, but not likely. He figured the perp had dipped a finger in that gaping wound in the vic’s left cheek. That one went pretty deep.
Sherri Belinda Westhoven. Honor student, studying to be a lawyer—well, no one was perfect—and twenty years old. She’d never get any older. At least the notifying officer wouldn’t have to lie when he told her folks she’d died instantly. An ice pick through the base of the brain had that one benefit.
T.J. wouldn’t be the notifying officer for this one. Sherri’s parents were up in Maderas. He’d be talking to them, though. Not one of the berst poarts of the job.
Earlier, T.J. had gotten a look at the body up close, but the scene belonged to the crime scene techs now. They were having a helluva good time with it, too. Not much blood, given the nature of the killing wound, but lots to vacuum up. College kids were messy. They’d already taken pictures and made sketches and bagged most of the obvious stuff, like the hammer someone had used to pound that ice pick in at the base of Sherri Abernathy’s skull. The knife they’d carved on her face with afterwards. The black candles, half-burned, that had been left in a ragged pentacle around the body, and the wooden cross that had been dipped in blood and set upside down on the desk.
“What do you think about the black mass crap?” he said to Homicide’s newest baby detective.
She sure was a cute little thing. T..J. wouldn’t tell her that, of course. Not because he had any objection to giving her a hard time—he considered that part of his job her senior officer—but because it would put the wrong shit in her head. She’d either double down on proving how tough she was, or she’d get worried he was going to come on to her. Either way she’d get all stiff and formal, and that would be annoying.
So cute jokes were off the table. Short jokes, though . . . yeah, he could go there.
Lily Yu slid him a look. “It’s crap, all right. Badly staged crap. Why?”
“I hear you know a bit about the woo-woo stuff.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Friend of mine. Jack Abbott.”
She nodded slowly. “Jack’s a good guy.”
“One of the best.” He’d named a sergeant who’d worked with her back on patrol, but that hadn’t been exactly what Jack told him. The department had a policy about officers using any kind of magic on the job. Pretty much it boiled down to “don’t ask, don’t tell”
T.J. hadn’t asked. Lily Yu hadn’t told. But now she knew that he knew. “What do you think about the scene otherwise?”
“The ice pick bothers me. I see why she used it, but it doesn’t fit.”
He made a “keep going” motion.
“The ice pick shows good planning. She didn’t want a lot of blood, but she needed it to be quick and quiet. An ice pick fit the bill. She knew she didn’t have the strength to plunge the pick in quickly, didn’t she? So she brought the hammer along to pound it in. Not much blood, though, and she wanted to leave us that message, so she had a knife, too. Picked the face for that. Not the breasts or genitals, so this looks like she was wiping someone out. Take away the face, the person’s gone. Doesn’t look sexual. But that message.” She shook her head. “That doesn’t fit with the cleverness of the ice pick. Makes me wonder if she read about using an ice pick that way or saw it in a movie or something. She’s not an original thinker.”
He beamed at her. He did appreciate a sharp mind. “I think we’ll find the knife was already here. Hammer, too, most likely, and maybe the pick, too, and all of them left out nice and handy. One of our young ladies was not much for picking up after herself.”
“Trish,” Yu said promptly. “Her side of the room’s a disaster. Sherri tried to keep her part picked up—see how clean her desk is? And she didn’t much like Trish’s mess encroaching on her space. That pile of stuff on Trish’s bed– I’ll bet Sherri dumped it there. She gathered up Trish’s things on her side and dumped them on her bed.”
T.J. nodded. “Reasonable. But you’re doing a lot of assuming.”
Yu looked dubious. “Because I said she? I guess we could have a potential serial killer whose deal is acting out urban legends, and he somehow maneuvered Trish into coming back for her keys and not turning on the light. But it’s a stretch.”
He chuckled. “Sure, but the assumption I was thinking about was where you assumed I’m not an idiot. I appreciate it, mind, but now take the other side. Assume I don’t have a clue, and walk me through it.”
“We haven’t done the formal interview with Trish yet—she’s been busy having her big melt-down–but she managed to pass on plenty to the first-on-scene, didn’t she? We know she and Sherri were roommates—real opposites, she says, but they hit it off anyway. Sherri was studious, while our Trish is a party girl. Trish tried to get Sherri to go to some party with her last night, but Sherri wasn’t having it, so Trish headed out without her. Left her keys here, though, because she started out with good intentions—she was only going to stay a little while, then come back and study some herself. But she hooked up with this guy, and he’s got an apartment—they wanted privacy—so she gets him to bring her by the dorm first, so she can grab her keys. The door isn’t locked, but the light’s turned off. Sherri must be asleep and she doesn’t want to wake her up and she knows right where her keys are, on that desk by the door, so she grabs them and leaves. Has a great time with Mr. Right Now and comes home this morning to find her friend’s mutilated body and that message.”
He shook his head sadly. “And you don’t believe poor little Trish.”
Lily snorted. “That story’s been making the rounds for years. It never happened, but people keep passing it on. She did add her own flourish with the black mass trappings, but they’re kind of half-assed, aren’t they? Some black candles and a bloody, upside-down cross. Not even a little Latin scribbled somewhere to add credibility.”
Satisfaction filled T.J. He. did enjoy being right—and he’d been dead right when he decided to take this one under his wing. Lily Yu’s detective badge was so shiny new the glare could blind you, but the potential was there. “Agnes Moorehead and Richard Basehart.”
She blinked. “What?”
“The movie with the ice pick. Dark Rose, starring Agnes Moorehead and Richard Basehart. Someone likes the oldies. What’s the motive?”
“Can’t say yet, but with the way she went after Sherri’s face, I’d bet jealousy plays a part.”
T.J. nodded. “Nice, tidy little theory, but courts like evidence. What’s your next step?”
She blinked again, but she didn’t tell him he was lead and was supposed to tell her that. She got that he was testing her. Quickly she ran through the obvious things—talk to Trish, talk to Mr. Right Now, talk to the others in the dorm. See what didn’t match. See if Trish had talked about that old urban legend with anyone recently. Trace the ice pick, the candles, the hammer, the knife, the wooden cross.
T.J. nodded again. “All good, solid police work. I’ve got an idea that might speed things up a bit.”
“You said the black magic shit was half-assed.”
“Not even a good fake.”
“But she wanted it to look like a ritual killing, and she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. I think we should pretend the ritual worked, and we know that because you’re a touch sensitive.”
Yu gave good cop-face for such a baby cop. Not a flicker of reaction. “Why?”
“Got to make it credible—for a not-too-bright value of credible. You’re reassuring her, see. You touched the body and found this really weird magical shit that will let us find the killer because it’s going to destroy his mind.”
She smiled slowly. “I like the way you think, but maybe we should change one thing.”
“Losing her mind isn’t that bitch’s biggest fear.”
It worked a treat.
Trish Melridge was a beautiful young woman, no question about it. Blond hair, big blue eyes, tiny waist. Maybe those breasts weren’t original equipment, but they were damn fine. She even cried beautifully.
Typecasting works most of the time.. Yu played the earnest young cop. T.J. was the cynical old cop, weary but fatherly. Real concerned about poor Trish, who’d had such a terrible experience. She looked wrecked, he told her, all solicitous. Was she sure she was up to this? They’d send for her mother, he said. She’d need the support.
They took Trish’s personal data first—including her age. Yu looked up from her notebook then, all surprised. “Twenty? I thought you were at least . . .never mind. You’ve had a horrible time,” she told Trish, so earnest the young woman must have wanted to smack her. “Of course you’re showing the strain.”
Lovely little Trish didn’t let her irritation interfere with her role. She told her story again, breaking into tears when she described coming home to find her friend’s body, that awful message, the candles, the desecrated cross. “It was Sherri’s,” she sobbed. “She was Catholic, you know? That cross meant a lot to her. For him to take it and—and—” She fell apart nicely at that point, which was fine. They both got to console her . . . and get a few more digs in. By the time Yu got around to telling her why she didn’t have to worry about a killer running around loose for long, Trish was feeling like a real hag. Which was the whole idea.
“You—you’re kidding.” Trish opened her big, damp blue eyes wide.
Yu shook her head. “Oh, no. Why do you think all those pictures of witches show them as hideous old hags? That’s what death magic does. It turns the witch old and ugly. Unless they know the cleansing ritual, of course, but hardly anyone does.”
“Yeah.” Yu looked at T.J. “Remember that witch up in Carmel who killed those kids? I hated it that the department had to pay for her cleansing. She deserved to die a wrinkled old bag with her tits hanging down to her waist.”
He looked sour and cynical. It was one of his best expressions. “Damn courts make us handle scum with kid gloves.”
It was almost too easy. Trish was patting her face frantically, checking for wrinkles, when the uniform came in right on cue and pretended he thought Trish was her mother. That’s when she fell apart for real. They could barely stop her from confessing long enough to read her her rights. She gave them everything, in between begging for the cleansing and threatening them with lawsuits if they didn’t see that she got it right away.
Yu really enjoyed telling Trish they’d made all that up. T.J. really enjoyed the look on Trish’s face when she did.
The fun part was over, but plenty of paperwork remained, not to mention all the slogging that was needed to tie the case down. But first he wanted to get Trish booked so he could call Sherri’s folks and tell them their daughter’s killer was in jail. It wasn’t much compared with losing a daughter, but it was something. He was letting Yu have the arrest, so he needed to get both Trish and Yu to booking
Yu was so new she didn’t have her vehicle yet, so T.J. had one of the uniforms take Trish in his patrol car. Yu rode in with T.J. “Be handy if working death magic really turned people ugly, wouldn’t it?’ he said as he pulled out.
“Like they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Damn right. Knock knock.”
She rolled her eyes. “Who’s there?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I’m the senior officer here. Play along and I’ll let you buy me lunch.”
“That’s an incentive? Oh, all right. Short who?”
“Too short to reach the damn doorbell.” He chuckled. That was a pretty good one. “Knock knock.”
“Knock knock.” She didn’t speak, so he answered himself in falsetto, “Who’s there?” Back to his own voice: “Yu.”
“That one got old when I was in the third grade.”
He switched to falsetto again. “Yu Who?” And if he was the only one laughing as they pulled out into traffic, that was okay. You had to give the new ones a hard time—especially the earnest ones like Yu. It was a duty. “Did you hear the one about the midget who—”
“You’re not supposed to say midget. They prefer to be called little people.”
“He goes into this bar with a bear, a mermaid—it’s okay to call them mermaids, right? Not leg-challenged? A bear, a mermaid, and a Republican . . . ”
Eileen Wilks’ first book, a Silhouette Desire published in 1996, hit the USA Today Bestseller List and was nominated for Romantic Times’ Best First Short Contemporary award. Since then, her books have appeared consistently on national bestseller lists. With thirty two books in print and novellas in nine anthologies, she has been a finalist in the prestigious Rita Awards three times, as well as receiving several nominations from Romantic Times, including one for Career Achievement in Series Romantic Suspense.
Each book in her World of the Lupi series gains a larger audience. It was originally sold in the Romance section of bookstores, but more and more you will be able to find copies cross-shelved under Sci-Fi and Fantasy as the popularity of the series grows!
Eileen has lived in the West Texas town of Midland, TX for over 30 years–three years as a young teen, and the remaining years since she moved back here as an adult. When she first started writing over 10 years ago, it hit her like the first drink for an alcoholic . . . or the first kiss for Romeo and Juliet.
She came to writing romance in a roundabout way. Having read and loved science fiction for years, that’s where she first tried her hand when the writing bug bit. Somehow her stories always ended up having a strong romantic subplot, but she hadn’t read a romance since the early 80’s and didn’t think “those little books” were her kind of stories. But when a friend in her critique group began working on a romance novel, Wilks decided she needed to give the genre another try. She asked her friend to recommend some titles–and quicker than you can say “Jayne Ann Krentz,” she fell in love. The genre had been busy growing up while she wasn’t watching. These days, with romances comprising over 50% of the mass market books published in the U.S., there are romances to appeal to almost every taste–historicals, paranormals and contemporaries that range from romantic suspense to romantic comedy, from inspirational to sizzling.
Eileen covered a lot of territory before coming home to Midland, having lived in Canada and Venezuela as well as twelve U.S. cities in five states.
Want to read more from Eileen Wilks?
This giveaway is provided by Eileen Wilks
One winner will receive a copy of Death Magic by Eileen Wilks
Available on November 1, 2011 from Penguin/Berkley Sensation
About the Book:
DEATH MAGIC opens with Special Agent Lily Yu in Washington, D.C. with her fiancé–lupi prince Rule Turner—to testify before a Senate subcommittee about her role in the magical collapse of a mountain last month. She is not there to tell them about the strange legacy she carries from that event—or about the arcane bond between her and Rule–or what her boss in Unit Twleve of the FBI’s Magical Crimes Division is really up to. She sure won’t tell them that the lupi are at war with an Old One who wants to remake humanity in her own image.
Lily is managing the conflict between her duty as an officer of the law and the need for secrecy pretty well . . . until the rabidly anti-magic senator who chairs that committee is murdered. The line between right and wrong, always so clear to her, becomes hopelessly blurred as events catapult them all towards disaster, and prophecies of a cataclysmic end to the country she loves and serves–and to the entire race of lupi–seem well on their way to being fulfilled.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
**Don’t forget to visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends guest blog with Sandy Williams and a chance to win a copy of THE SHADOW READER**
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