Read an Excerpt
1Superman makes this shit look easy.
Flying, I mean. Just points his beefy hand out with a mightyfist and away he goes. Up, up, up. I do the same and crash into—through—and past a building. I guess this is a good thing since Idon’t actually break anything in the process. No bones or concrete.
Though that last condo I blasted through had some seriouslyquestionable stuff happening in that middle unit—was that a cato’-nine-tails I saw? I tumbled out and put the brakes on, backpedalingin midair as I concentrated on the darkened world, lookingfor the telltale signs of the Fetch I’d been chasing.
What’s a Fetch? Hell if I knew. The only intel I’d been given wasthat if I could catch them easily, I would graduate from grasshopperto padawan. Yes. I know. Mixing media here. It’s good practice,going after the small baddies. Gets me in shape for the big baddies,right?
What I did know about Fetches was what I’d read in theDioscuri notes the Society of Ishmael had let me read. Was stillreading.
Nasty little suckers. Really nothing more than a stray bit ofAbysmal essence discarded by its creator. They were a lot like Daemons,brought into existence to spy or do icky things. Some wereused as assassins. They weren’t given forms like me or you—butleft naked in a way so they could blend into their environment.This one’d been made out of office supplies—like an Office Depottransformer. And every time it’d gone through a wall, its accoutermentshad been ripped off, and then it’d pulled whatever else wasnearby to itself, giving it form again. Last time I checked—this onewas made of toilet paper—two-ply.
Oh—let me explain. My name’s Zoë—and you’d think I’d gettired of reintroducing myself. But see—I never know where peoplejoin the adventure. Or tragedy. Depends on how you look at it.
Martinique. Last name.
I’m a twentysomething former retail salesgirl turned Wraith.Wraith. That’s what I am. All because—and let me make sure Igot this straight in my own head—I was born an Irin, the child ofan angel, and was touched by the Abysmal plane.
Got that? Good, ’cause I ain’t repeating it.
“Hey—lover—” came a deep voice to my left. A voice thatrightfully belonged to a detective I knew but was being used by mycompanion at the moment. I was hovering as I got my bearings, myarms crossed over my chest, and turned my head to take a look atmy enemy, my nemesis, and the reason all this shit had happenedto me.
Let me introduce you to that part of the Abysmal plane I wastouched by.
The Archer. TC to me and my buddies. Trench Coat.
That would be the bald guy with sunglasses hovering to myleft. Not that he knew what would happen back then—or I. Butapparently we’re irrevocably linked together in all sorts of oogyways. Before he touched me, I could go out of body, or OOB asI called it. Astral projection. But then things changed—I changedwhen he marked me. I glanced at the light red hennalike tattoo ofhis handprint on my left wrist, could only imagine the streak ofwhite in my otherwise-dark Latina hair.
My being was now a miasma of both planes—existing as one.
This bastard next to me had kidnapped my mother’s soul. Andthen I lost my ability to OOB because of a spell my mom did whenI was a child. Because of this, my dual soul split down the middle.And the evil half of me possessed the man I loved.
Detective Daniel Frasier.
My . . . darker half drove him to do things against his nature.To kill. And enjoy it. The consequence of that was madness—andan undying passion to kill me.
He tried, but killed his captain instead. Kenneth Cooper.
That’s when I started seeing the skulls. Death masks. I’d seenthem before—on people—when they were about to die. Now I sawthem on everyone. I didn’t go out much anymore. Not in the daylight.I didn’t want to see them. Not anymore.
A week later, I learned I no longer needed to go OOB to goWraith. And Archer was there. Waiting on me.
Daniel was insane and committed to an asylum. Out of state.Away from me.
That’s my life experience. Getting one’s heart ripped out andstomped on a few times. Oh yeah—and condemning one’s soul.
Oh—but we haven’t confirmed that one yet. That whole condemnationthing. Seems to be one of those vague provisos in smallprint. In a language nobody speaks anymore. Except for Rhonda.And a guy named Dags.
No, no, no . . . not going there. That boy is gone. Out of thecity. Out of my life. No thoughts to him. Nope. No, sireeee.
I moved a good one hundred feet or so above the reconstructionof the Bank of America Building. I sort of blew it up a month or soago when I rejoined with my darker half. The Abysmal part of me.The media said it was a tornado.
Man . . . my life’s so screwed up. Most women when they havea bad day throw clothes all over the floor. Me? I screw with construction.Can’t say it wasn’t my fault. Because it was.
TC moved closer to me, dressed in a long black trench coat,drivers’ gloves, and dark glasses, hovering eye level with me. VinDiesel—with a smirk. “I lost it.”
His smirk deepened. “Because you’re not looking.” He pointedpast me to my right. “There.”
I turned my entire body, my wings working independently tokeep me afloat in the air. I saw it, an iridescent paper-covered blobmoving below us, back into the building. I dove down after it, managedto go incorporeal long enough to move through the building’swalls, then through the offices, right on its tail.
Stay with it, TC said in my head. That was getting annoying.One of these little new things that kept cropping up since rejoiningwith my Horror self. Oh . . . might need to explain that too, huh?
Maniacal laughter echoed through the halls.
Uh, hold that thought.
Wasn’t sure if the laughter belonged to the Fetch—or somethingelse. The little fucker blasted past me and through a door atthe end of a long hall. I willed myself forward, imagining myselfas a bullet, and sieved easily through the door. Wood. Easier.Though . . . I always felt like I needed to pick splinters out of myteeth afterward.
I stopped abruptly. The thing wasn’t moving—just hovering inthe center of some schmuck’s office. A piece of toilet paper fell fromits body and drifted to the floor. In the darkness, the Fetch gloweda soft aqua green through the paper. Usually, whatever it attachesto itself forms into some sort of face—and this one was no exception.The paper looked as if it’d been moistened and molded intosome old bald guy with a look of surprise. Made me think of a sandsculpture on the beach.
A beat later, I realized the face wasn’t looking at me, but up ata point above my head. It looked as if it wanted to scream, to boltout of there—but it was frozen in place.
Every Wraithy hair on my back and arms shot up as I was overcomewith the freaky factor—
There was something behind me. Above me. Something thisFetch was so scared of it couldn’t move.
Get out of there! came his reply in my head—his response soloud I felt it reverberate against my skull.
I turned just as something struck the side of my head, the forcesending me to the right of the Fetch and into the wall—oops—I’dforgotten to go incorporeal. But then—I was a little preoccupiedwith whatever it was that’d just knocked the shit out of me.
I landed on top of the office-desk bureau, doing some seriousdamage to the wood, then bounced forward onto the wheeledchair, which popped out from under me. I settled on the floor witha cracking thud.
Laughter filled the awkward silence after my ten-scoring nosedive,closely followed by the scream of the Fetch. How did I knowit was the Fetch screaming? I’d popped off a few of them. There isnothing more disarming than their cry of pain. Imagine taking amillion nails and pulling them down a chalkboard.
Your hair standing on end now?
That’s what I heard as I moaned and righted myself, feelingmy wings pull in and vanish. I could tell from the dark charcoalcolor of my taloned hands I was still Wraith—sans flight apparatus.Twisting my neck to the left and right, I started to push myself upfrom behind the desk.
“Stay down!” TC yelled, and the mental force of his warningyanked me back into a crouch.
I sensed that the Archer was in the same room—and peered upover the side of the desk as I heard the sound of scuffling. For me,seeing at night was the same as seeing in the day—only with theadded shadows and wispiness. I could see TC wrestling in midairwith—
My eyes bugged out.
What the hell is that?
From what I could see, he was doing an alligator death roll inmidair with—red hair?
Standing up to my full height—which is nothing to sneeze at—Imoved closer, waiting for the opportunity to wail on the big redhair ball. Seriously—it looked like the comic character Dawn’s redhair had walked off her head and was attacking Vin Diesel, wrappingitself around his neck, his body, his arms and hands.
But he wasn’t exactly losing though. He was yelling at the topof his lungs, yanking the hair out by its roots. Of course when helet go of it as if to throw it away, it just got right back up andrewrapped around him.
I blinked. “What?”
“Yell at it!”
Well now, how in the hell was I supposed to do that and not hithim?
Boy . . . that was a reversal of roles. I could remember that nightmonths ago—with Daniel’s broken body at the base of that building—taking aim at this asswipe and screaming him into oblivion.
And now I was afraid of just nicking him.
“Zoë!” he bellowed. “Stop fuck’n around!”
I held out my arms, took in a deep breath—
Abruptly TC was tumbling in midair toward me. I squeakedand went incorporeal just before he sailed through me and into thewall behind me, physically smashing into the bureau I’d alreadymangled. I winced as I re-formed and looked around for the thinghe’d been fighting.
But—it wasn’t there. Besides the creak of wood and TC’s muttering,there wasn’t a sound. The shadows that usually moved likeliquid mercury along the periphery of my vision crept out fromtheir hiding places. A sure sign that whatever that was—
It was gone.
I moved to the pile of gooey, gloppy toilet paper and pointed.“Ew.”
TC righted himself, his shades gone from his face. He lookedlike he wanted to wrap a tree around someone. As he stompedcloser, still muttering, I pointed to the floor. “Uh . . . Fetches don’tusually do that when you kill them.”
He was looking back at the pile of cheap pressboard and bentover to retrieve his glasses. Finding them, he plucked them from apile and turned to me, wiping them on the edge of his black silkshirt. “I’ve told you already—you can’t kill anything Abysmal orEthereal, you just sort of pop it out of the form it—”
TC stopped when he stood next to me and looked down at thepile. His eyebrows arched, and he hooked his shades on the backcollar of his coat. In silence, he knelt beside what was once theFetch and rubbed at his chin. I knelt beside him, looking at him,then looking at the pile, then looking at him.
He continued rubbing his chin. “Well—” He looked at me.“This is bad.”
“Bad as in ‘wow, whatever that is kicked this shit’s ass,’ or badas in ‘uh-oh, we’re all gonna die’?”
He pursed his lips and gestured with the index finger of his lefthand. “The last one.”
That wasn’t what I’d expected. “Wha’?”
TC looked up at the air, his expression serious. Now, let mereally drill home how odd that was to see a serious expressionon the Symbiont’s face. Normally, TC’s expression rests betweenmildly annoyed to annoyingly smarmy. Angry—he does angry well.And pissed off. Smirking too. The king of smirking.
Though Dags had a nice smirk.
Phhhtt . . .
Watching this lack of anything definable on his face made thosehairs on the back of my neck rise. “TC . . .”
“I—” He was shaking his head as he looked at me. “I don’tknow what that was.” He shrugged, the leather shushing. “I’venever felt or seen anything like it. The closest in smell is . . .” And helooked at the pile. “I don’t know. It’s like it had the darkness of thePhantasm’s soul, but it had the strength of an Ethereal.”
I searched his face. “Like a Horror?”
“No . . . not a Horror. This was something . . .” TC sighed. “Ineed to find out what it was. Because this . . .” He nodded to the pilein front of us next to my killer bunny slippers. “This ain’t right.”
“Did it kill it?”
“Yeah. It did kinda kill this Fetch. It mutated it. It’s all but dead.It won’t ever corporeally form again. I’m not even sure there’s muchof a sense of being left in it.” He raised his left hand, and a red lightsparkled from his palm. Within seconds, the thing pulled and twistedinto that light until the only thing left was damp toilet paper. And bythe time TC lowered his hand, even the paper was dry.
“Won’t that give you like . . . indigestion?” I asked.
He shook his head and stood. I stood beside. And no matterhow big being a Wraith made me feel, he always managed to makeme feel small. “I don’t think it will. I’ll give it back to the Styx whenI leave.”
At that moment, my watch went off. I cussed and lifted myleft wrist, looking at my Harry Potter watch—the only watch ofits kind that could move with me through the planes and still keepon ticking. My best friend and magical MacGyver, Rhonda Orly,had fashioned it for me. In the beginning of my Wraithdom, I’dused it to warn me when I’d been out of my body long enough so Iwouldn’t experience the lethargy and illness that always seemed toaccompany staying out after curfew.
“When’re you gonna tell ’em?” TC said as he moved to theoffice window. The moon was waxing, close to full, its glow makingan ethereal halo behind him, casting his face in slight shadow.He looked . . . impressive.
I pushed the alarm button. “Soon.”
“You said that last week.”
“So this is this week.”
He shook his head. “You sure they have no idea you’re sneakingout at night moonlighting with me?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“And you’re sure they don’t know you can go Wraith—withoutslipping your mortal coil?”
“No.” Which was the truth. I really didn’t know. But I doubted it.He reached behind him and retrieved his shades. Sliding themon, he turned his face to me. “I wouldn’t be so sure, lover.” Hesmiled, but I could tell he was thinking about that hairy thing he’djust fought.
“So sure about what? Mom’s and Rhonda’s reactions?” I madea noise. “Oh, I’m sure they’d be pissed and try to exorcise me.”
“No.” He shook his head. I couldn’t see through those shades.“Don’t get comfortable, Wraith. Palling around with me isn’t safe.You’re still a threat to the Phantasm, which makes you a threat tome. You shouldn’t trust anyone—especially me.” He gestured to thewindow, and the glass shattered outward—freezing in midair justoutside. He didn’t have to do that to leave—he just wanted to makean impression. “And you won’t find the answers to your future onthat old society’s books.”
“Will you tell me what you find out—about what that was?”
He looked back at me and faded away. The glass fell straightdown to the asphalt below.
Don’t trust me, Wraith. Don’t trust anyone.