Title: Debriefing the Dead
Author: Kerry Blaisdell
Genre: Paranormal / Urban Fantasy
The only thing Hyacinth wants is her life back. Literally. She and her sister were murdered by Demons, leaving her young nephew, Geordi, to his father’s family in the brutal Sicilian Mob. Then Archangel Michael offers her a deal: recapture a powerful rock the Demons stole, and she can live long enough to find Geordi a safe home. Refuse, and she’ll continue up (or down) to the Afterlife.
So, slightly more alive than dead, she heads for Turkey and the Demons, taking Geordi, her mysterious neighbor Jason, and a sexy dead guy only she can see with her. But the hardest part won’t be battling Demons, meeting Satan, or dodging Middle Eastern customs—it will be later, when Geordi is settled, and Michael rips her away again. How can she abandon her nephew? Or can she outwit the Angel of Death himself, and stay with Geordi forever?
I suppressed yet another twinge at the memory of yesterday’s interview. Especially Jacques, sitting still and spider-like across from me. I had a feeling he didn’t miss much and wondered what I might have unconsciously revealed while Claude distracted me.
I pulled into a parking space near my unit, and my cell rang, the cheery notes of Beethoven’s Für Élise telling me Lily was calling for our weekly chat. For a second, I thought about answering. Lily might be Geordi’s mother, but I have to say, he’s pretty much the light of my life. Certainly, the best male relationship I’ve had, even counting Jason and Vadim. Who wouldn’t love a guy who brings you dead bugs he’s found in someone else’s yard, then offers to split the last éclair because you’re his “favoritest tata ever”? He’s a smart kid, too. I’m his only auntie, and the flattery still works.
I sent the call to voicemail. It almost killed me, but it’d be hard enough opening the crates, knowing how excited Vadim was when he landed this catch. You can’t get much fresher than an unexcavated site. If I spent even a half hour catching up with Lily and Geordi, I’d chicken out. And I had to know what was in those crates, or I’d never be able to let them, or Vadim, go.
I screwed up my courage, got out of the car, and unlocked the unit’s roll door. Yep. Three large crates.
I went back to the Peapod, opened the hatch, and extracted the paltry pile of produce boxes I’d scrounged from my favorite markets. I’d have to empty them again at the store for subsequent trips, or else go beg more boxes. This was ridiculous. But necessary.
Must let go. Must move on.
As is so often the case, once I got going, it wasn’t so bad. Opening the first crate was tough, and I won’t say I didn’t cry at all. Vadim was a good partner, and a better friend. At least he’d died doing what he loved—sailing the Mediterranean, with a drink in his hand and two beautiful women at his side. He was a devout atheist, but if there’s any kind of afterlife, I’d like to think he’s still sailing and drinking, and looking for the next big catch.
I found a roll of paper towels on a shelf and blew my nose, then metaphorically rolled up my non-existent sleeves and dug in.
The more valuable items were wrapped in acid-free paper and sealed in airtight containers, which I didn’t bother to open, because Vadim had helpfully labeled them. His clear, bold printing noted statuary and relics, both Pagan and Christian, from the ancient Phrygian city of Colossae, near what is now Denizli, in southwestern Turkey. The general period was the first century, so any Christian items were very early. While this fascinated me intellectually, and I did have some experience with artifacts from Turkey, it was mainly because Vadim brought them to me. My own interests lie more in the Egyptians, one of the reasons we’d complemented each other professionally. But it meant I had little personal experience with anything of this kind.
It took several trips to move the best items, and a few more for the midlevel stuff, plus getting more boxes. By the time I got to the third crate, the sun was well past its zenith, but I’d reached the dregs. Items down here were either unwrapped, loose in the packing straw, or else carelessly covered with rough cloth to prevent scratching.
This crate wasn’t as full as the others, and it looked like I was on my final trip. Thank God. I’d had a quick lunch—veggies, hummus, cheese, and bread—but otherwise worked straight through. Lily’d called twice more, but I didn’t pick up. I’d call her back over dinner, when we’d have time to chat, and I could tell her of my sudden windfall.
I plopped my last empty box on the warehouse floor, then hung over the side of the crate to excavate the bottom. I found a few more canvas bundles and pulled them out, setting them in the box, then went back once more.
I thought I’d gotten everything, until my fingers brushed against something hard, wrapped in cloth, and oddly warm to the touch. I grabbed it and heaved myself out of the crate, then examined the bundle. It felt like a rock, heavy and solid. Most of the items in this crate were broken pottery shards, from vases and the like. Hard, maybe, but not heavy. Careful not to touch the item’s surface, in case it was valuable after all, I turned it over and shook the covering loose.
Sure enough, it was a rock. Plain, gray, ordinary. About half the size of an American football, shaped like an irregular pyramid, with jagged edges and flat-but-rough surfaces. The only unusual thing about it was its warmth. Like Claude Rousseau. Which is maybe why, against my better judgment, I reached out and touched the very tip of the rock’s pyramid.
And then it shrieked at me, the agony of centuries piercing my ears till I thought my skull would burst, electric shocks searing through my fingers, hand, arm, ripping through my whole body, gripping my lungs and squeezing until I couldn’t breathe. I flung the rock away, covering my ears and dropping to the floor, shaking, gasping for air, while still it screamed, on and on and on and on, until I lay huddled on the concrete, red fire burning in my head, blackness filling my soul.
Then everything went silent.
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What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
It sounds like a cliché, but I was inspired to write this book because I couldn’t find anything else like it to read. There are so many great Paranormal/Urban Fantasy romances out there, but I really wanted to try something different. I wanted to explore a story set in our “real” world, where one of the biggest challenges faced by the heroine is that her newfound abilities aren’t common. She can’t ask anyone for advice, because no one else is like her, and people would think she was crazy if she told anyone.
She also has always been a loner, and now is suddenly responsible for her nephew’s safety (keeping him out of the Sicillian Mob), her neighbor’s involvement in her extremely dangerous mission (robbing Satan), and even for the fate of the dead guy who’s tagging along. She has to make a lot of adjustments, and learn to exist in a completely different way than before, all with the normal restrictions of the same Earth-based world we all live in. This isn’t a “protagonist discovers new abilities AND a whole new world of mentors/friends to accompany them” story. This is “What would happen if an ordinary woman suddenly discovered she was EXTRA-ordinary, and had to figure it all out on her own?”
Finally, I really wanted to explore what all of the above would do for her relationships, and what it would mean for her long-term. What is she willing to fight for, and how will she do it? And ultimately, what is she made of? Romances are all about relationships, and in her case, she has a helluva “commitment complication.” So, how she navigates that, the decisions she makes, the reactions of others she interacts with—all of that is different from most of the other books I’ve read in this genre. Hopefully in a good way!
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Kerry was born in British Columbia, Canada, and has since lived all over the West Coast of North America, including California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska—everywhere except Mexico! She’s a “computer industry” brat, not a military one, but moving so frequently meant she spent a lot of time reading, and later writing, (hopefully!) great books. She has a degree in Comparative Literature (French and Middle English) from U.C. Berkeley, and a Master’s in Teaching English and Mathematics from the University of Portland. She currently lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with her husband, two “kids” in mid-to-late adolescence/early adulthood, assorted cats and dogs, and more hot pepper plants than anyone could reasonably consume. Connect with Kerry online at https://kerryblaisdell.com, or subscribe to her Very Occasional Mailing List at http://bit.ly/KerrysVOML (to win great prizes and learn about upcoming releases).
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