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Book Excerpt: Tristan, Kidnapper of the Dead

The remote viewing went horribly wrong.

“Anna Eudora,” Dolly Davis recited as she always did. She clutched an ancient grimoire bound with leather and inscribed with runes. “Come to me.”

She swished incense, a secret blend she named Mélange, across her face as if washing. She slipped down into a meditative state. “Wise grandmother. I stand at the door, the gateway to your world, ever your servant.” She paused, listening. “I seek knowledge of the child, Jamie,” she continued. “I seek wisdom and understanding. Come. Come…”

An ancient wooden door, hand hewn and held together with thick nails, materialized in the darkness. A faint dawn seeped beneath, puddling about the cobbled floor.

Knotted vines, ancient as the door, crawled up to the lintel. Something was scribed on the lintel in the same runes as on the grimoire. Despite the webbing, the door swung open easily. Inviting her. She entered. A cobbled road extended into the mist. Dolly followed the familiar road. Mist swirled around her, engulfing her after a few steps. It smelled like incense. She ran her hands through it as if were water, and she glided in a rowboat. She inhaled. Ylang Ylang. Black Spruce. Frankincense. Rosewood. Bergamot. A dozen more plants and secrets had been woven into the fragrance.

She remained restive. No longer could she see. She trusted her other senses. She’d done this enough. Her senses were keen.

She counted the steps. Twenty-seven to the crossroad.

Anna Eudora always greeted Dolly at the crossroad. Always. Dressed in a colorful gypsy gown with puffy sleeves and curls piled on her head she would greet her with a charming smile.

Twenty-six. The mist parted briefly.

The cobbles of the crossroad came into view. She stepped forward, keeping her footsteps even despite her excitement.

A man stood at the crossroad. His dress was a black, nondescript suit and tie that would have fit in the Nineteenth Century. Dolly tried to penetrate the mist. Anna Eudora was nowhere to be seen. A piece of ice spiked her belly.

She stepped closer, focusing on the man’s face. Anna Eudora had no companions. In life, she never married. “Who are you?” she asked cautiously.

The man’s tipped a top hat as he bowed in a genteel greeting. When he straightened, his face shivered like a poor cartoon drawing, looping between a child’s face, maturing to a man’s, then shriveling into old age. His nose grew long, thin, hooked, and bulbous. His hair grew long, curled, and receded, only to loop over and over in a matter of seconds. His hands shimmered as they cycled through the aging process. Nothing about the man remained the same except the suit and top hat.

“Who are you?” she repeated when the man attempted a smile with his ever-changing lips. There was ice in the expression. Feral.

“Trissss-tan,” the man drawled around a mouth that didn’t work right.

“Tristan what?” Dolly demanded. “You seem familiar…”

He must have figured out how to account for his ever-evolving mouth. He answered rapidly, “How could I be familiar? Got any ideas, hmm?” His smile cadaverous. He cleared his throat.

“Didn’t think so. Let’s keep it to a first name basis, shall we? More informal, I think. Don’t you?” He arched an irregular brow.

“There is something to be said for formalities, and punctuality. Where is Anna Eudora, hmm?” She squinted at him. While blind in her world, she saw in her trances, but the mist was especially heavy today.

“Anna Eudora is not here. In her place, I am your guide. I wore the suit just for you. You deserve the finest of guides. Do you like the suit? I have a fantastic tailor. Well, actually, in truth, he’s not my tailor, and this is a borrowed suit, but today it’s mine, as am I your guide.” He bowed again.

“She would never send a guide,” Dolly challenged.

Instead of answering, the man handed her a white ceremonial towel. Along the edges red runic figures had been meticulously stitched. “She said you would recognize this.”

Her hand hovered over it as if it might be a snake set to bite her. “It’s hers.”

“She wouldn’t have given it to me had she not wanted you to trust me. Walk with me, will you?” He stuck out an elbow.

Dolly accepted and tottered along. She controlled the trance after all. Normally… “I realize Anna Eudora isn’t here. I’m old. I’m not stupid. Why are you here?” She wanted to panic, but her times of meditation were always inspiring, and her body remained naturally relaxed.

“You know why.” Tristan continued to smile. The smile. Too big. Too many teeth. Unnatural.

“No, really, I don’t.”

The man withdrew something from his pocket. She took a tentative step closer. It was a scrap of ancient paper. Upon it was written part of a name. “—mie Lane Poole.”

“You remote view Jamie Lane Poole. Your search has led you to me. All paths lead to me in the end.” He shrugged a shoulder casually and glanced away. “That’s what I told her. Well, a paraphrase. Don’t quote me. And don’t soil the suit with your fingers. Hope you didn’t just eat fried chicken. Heh. Alas, I must return it.” He stroked a sleeve, then his face bloomed into the most hideous smile Dolly had seen. Predatory.

“Monster. Who are you? What are you?”

“Why that’s a terrible thing to call someone. Do you always greet old friends like that? And I was going to offer you tea.”

“Bah!” she spat and turned to retrace the road to wake from her trance. “We’ve never met.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I do recall a battle and a beanfield though. How about you? And how’s Linda faring these days?” Tristan hooked her arm, a little tighter this time. He placed his other hand on her arm, stopping her waking, dragging her deeper into the trance. His face shuddered with effort.

No one controlled her trance before. She was well versed in controlling it. There was always a safety measure to escape. Counting the steps returned her to her world. She couldn’t count. This man had a way of blurring her brain. “Unhand me.” She peeled his fingers away one at a time.

Tristan’s laugh sounded like it squawked from an old radio. “Oh, I think you want to stick around. Hear what I’ve gotta say.”

Dolly squared her jaw. “Unhand me anyway.” She pulled.

He did. “I have news on Jamie. You will meet her soon. She’s on her way. Because…You’re. So. Special.” He emphasized the words strangely, drawing closer to her face with each syllable. “But,” he added quickly, almost with a rasp, “let’s keep this visit between us, shall we? We don’t want to startle her unnecessarily. At least not yet. Jamie will see me soon enough. All paths lead to me, and all that. Special reunion for special people.” If there had been too many teeth before, the smile he flashed now was nothing but teeth. She imagined the wolf from the fairy tale. Poised, ready to eat her.

She spun and traced her steps back to consciousness. One, two , three…

“Oh, before you go,” Tristan called after her, “be sure to add my name to the journal you keep. It’s OK to do that as long as you don’t show Jamie. I have so much fun planned for both of you! But goodness, look at the time. I must return this suit.” He withdrew a pocket watch and studied it with that ever-morphing face.

Dolly opened her eyes to discover she’d been screaming. She’d fallen from her tripod stool in her meditation chamber. Her husband held her, knowing better than to restore her too quickly from her trance. That would be dangerous. Lovingly he caressed her face with a white ceremonial towel, the twin to the one she’d just seen.

“Quick, quick,” she said when he asked her if she was OK. “Get my journal. I need you to write this down…!”

Destiny of the Departed is available internationally on Amazon, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

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