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The Ancestors

The Ancestors

by Brandon Massey

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Some evils are so great that they transcend death. In Brandon Massey's "The Patriarch," a young writer travels to the hushed backwoods of Mississippi, where dangerous secrets surface as a generations-old feud comes to bone-chilling new life. . .


The souls of the mistreated always find a way to be heard. In L



Some evils are so great that they transcend death. In Brandon Massey's "The Patriarch," a young writer travels to the hushed backwoods of Mississippi, where dangerous secrets surface as a generations-old feud comes to bone-chilling new life. . .


The souls of the mistreated always find a way to be heard. In L.A. Banks's "Ev'ry Shut Eye Ain't Sleep," violent visions haunt a man--until he's handed an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and prevent unspeakable acts from occurring once again. . .


When horrors are covered up and lost, our ancestors must find a way--even in death--to tell their tales. In Tananarive Due's "Ghost Summer," ancestors haunt the nights of two children. And when a grisly discovery is made, these ancestors will make their mark on both the dead and the living. . .

"Massey ventures into areas unexplored by most other black novelists. The result is artful and stunning." --Chicago Tribune

"Tananarive Due is creating classics." --Tina McElroy Ansa

"Banks's writing is lush and detailed, fully bringing her characters to life (or unlife), weaving a complex world of Good vs. Evil with its own intricate hierarchy." --Fangoria Magazine

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Talented African-American authors Banks (The Shadows), Massey (Don't Ever Tell) and Due (Blood Colony) explore ancestral roots in intriguing horror novellas. Banks puts a time-travel twist into "Ev'ry Shut Eye Ain't Sleep," in which antique dealer Abe Morgan helps a friend, Rashid Jackson, protect Aziza, Rashid's granddaughter, from "the shades" after Aziza inherits her grandmother's house. In Massey's "The Patriarch," a crime novelist brings his fiancée to Coldwater, Miss., to introduce her to his mom's kinfolk, but runs afoul of a powerful family secret. Due's "Ghost Summer," the best of the trio, also works as a YA novel. Davie Stephens, who's determined to become a 12-year-old ghost buster, and various family members find themselves haunted by a 1909 cold case in Graceville, Fla. All three contributors successfully combine scary themes with rich historical detail. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Three novellas by best-selling authors explore the supernatural while borrowing from African American ancestral legends. In Banks's "Ev'ry Shut Eye Ain't Sleep," a haunted Gulf War veteran discovers his destiny in the obligations of his past. Brandon Massey's "The Patriarch" traces a young writer's voyage to his family's Mississippi home in search of secrets he may not be able to believe. "Ghost Summer," by Tananarive Due, tells the story of two children haunted by ghosts seeking justice. The old-fashioned ghost story gets a much-appreciated makeover here. A good selection for most fantasy and African American fiction collections.

—Jackie Cassada

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Read an Excerpt

The Ancestors

By L.A. Banks Tananarive Due Brandon Massey
Copyright © 2008

Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2382-1

Chapter One Philadelphia-Early Winter ...

It was time to get off the street. The darkness was getting darker. Mr. Abe's shop, where he normally slept, didn't have answers for the kind of evil he felt coming. That place had a little light, but he needed the hallowed ground of a church, a mosque, a synagogue, or temple-not just a joint where an old man threw down some herbs and libations.

Too bad he couldn't talk to Abe Morgan about what he was seeing now. But the two had a don't ask, don't tell policy about their lives. Both had done things they clearly didn't want to discuss. Both had seen things they definitely didn't want to see. So as far as him spilling his guts to old man Abe Morgan or vice versa, that was not an option.

Theirs was an uneasy truce and strained living arrangement based on the simple fact that they knew instinctively that they needed each other to survive. Still, that didn't make them friends. It just made them codependent and ornery regarding the unspoken subject. However, something was very different nowadays. He might just have to break down and have a discussion with the old man after all ... if he could get to him before the darkness finally took his mind.

Slivers of ice clung to the edges of his locks and the new-beard shadow on his face. Bitter wind cut through the layers of sweaters, long johns and sweat pants that he wore beneath his military-green fatigue jacket. But, at least it was morning. His mind always kept the exact time and told him when it was safe. He didn't need a watch.

Rashid Jackson let the tension escape from his spine through a slow exhale as he bent to unload another bundle of newspapers from the stack beside him, the muscles in his arms and legs aching from the exertion. But he had to keep his cover intact, and keep his normal routine, lest he lose the premium lookout post in front of her Rittenhouse Square building. Besides, maybe today would be the day that he could finally work up the nerve to say more than two words to her. If he could just stay awake and sharp until she came down into the lobby, exited the building, and headed off to her job, in keeping with her normal routine. He would ignore the fact that she was good-Gawd fine. That wasn't important. Just interesting. What mattered was the fact that the shades were trying to get her. Those vaporous little motherfuckers ... Vicious.

But would a fine sister like her even listen? Probably not. She didn't even listen to her grandfather who was her last living relative, so why would she ever listen to him? He knew the type: educated, bourgeois, good job, and thought she knew everything. The type that didn't appreciate anything and took everything for granted. The kind that thought that just because he didn't have a so-called good job or a real place to live that he didn't know nothing. Might serve her sidity ass right if he did let the shades take her.

Rashid heaved another stack of papers onto the pile he was creating so the police didn't chase him away like a homeless vagrant. That was the thing; he had a place to stay. Mr. Abe saw to that. The old antique dealer was cool peeps and they'd bartered a service arrangement-he was security and kept the young thugs away from the old man's door; Abe Morgan allowed him to sweep up and sleep on a cot in the back. Why the man's granddaughter had such a problem with the transaction was beyond him.

He glimpsed at her building again to be sure she hadn't come out while he was stacking his newspapers. He had a lot to tell her, if she'd believe him. But he also had to wait until the right time to approach a woman like that. Couldn't come out of the blue and seem like he was high on something. He wasn't no druggie, though. With the kinda shit he saw, he didn't need no drugs ... wasn't trying to alter reality any more than it had already been altered. His mind was all he had, couldn't jack with that. Most days that's where he lived-inside his head. That was the safest place in the world.

Only thing was, how would he convince her that he hadn't had a psychotic break like the Veterans Administration claimed? Demons were chasing him, no matter what the doctors said! Her being a lawyer and all meant that she'd probably dig into his old records or something, and then wouldn't trust him. Would think he was trying to scam the old man out of his old junk in the store, or something equally crazy. But he'd let her know up front that he didn't beg for money-had always earned his. Had worked for over twenty years for the military and had a pension coming ... had a small disability check that was all he needed. Paid taxes, had given his life to his country, had served well and served hard in the Gulf War. Hell no, he wasn't some parasitic junky that ate out of the garbage; he was a vegan. Rashid looked at his newsprint-smudged hands. His clothes might be old, but he was clean. Kept his body fit; the body was his temple. Did Tai Chi every day. Played dominoes with the old men, the best players, every day to keep his mind sharp.

With the task of arranging papers on his corner turf completed, relief swayed his gait as he sauntered across the park to his favorite bench. All he needed was a few moments to rest and take a load off his feet. It had been a long night of walking the neighborhoods. Three robberies aborted. Not bad. But, it seemed like the shades were beginning to gather and get denser each evening. It was as though time was set on fast-forward, and he'd noticed that the crime pace had picked up ever since the real millennium change had taken place.

He glanced back at his pile of papers knowing that he could run back to his territorial spot if someone tried to steal one.

Daylight, praise God. He no longer needed to stand watch for her so close to the apartment building now that the sun would be her shield. At least we've both lived to see another morning, he thought. Staying focused on that goal had made him temporarily impervious to the bone-chilling temperatures.

Light was good. Although it was as cold as Hell today, a brilliant full-color spectrum of sunshine washed the streets gold. It had helped to chase all of the shades back down into the steam vents and sewers. The buds would soon be out on the branches, along with the quarreling squirrels. Thankfully, it wasn't a normal gray winter day, one that allowed the shades more time to slither away into their dark places. The ice was going away, too.

The thought of going to his temporary sanctuary at the antique shop pulled at him, and he stifled a yawn as he looked up at the apartment building before him. He needed to rest, even if for a little while, and just long enough to restore his strength for the upcoming watch.

"Go back to base," he murmured to himself as he walked back toward his newspapers. Rashid cased the streets with a glance. No, he'd rest later. He had a bad feeling about leaving his post. He could stand on one of the steam vents to warm up, then move to another strategic location. As he tailed her later, it would be better to be near the Masonic Temple Grand Lodge by City Hall on Broad Street. There, he'd be spiritually protected, and nothing could try to strangle him in his sleep if he dozed off. Or perhaps he'd go to the hallowed ground surrounding Mother Bethel AME Church in the opposite direction down on Sixth Street.

Again, he peered up toward her window from his position on the sidewalk. How long would it take her to begin her daily routine today? Her schedule seemed off. The weather wore on him, and the city was coming alive.

Usually, the light in the front room of her apartment, which faced the park, went on first. Within an hour, she was normally down on the street saying goodbye to the doorman at The Barclay. Then she'd walk toward Pine Street for a few blocks, and turn left down Pine and cross Broad Street. That's when he could rest-after she got safely into her work building where the law firm lived. On the weekends, he could always count on her to either not show up to her apartment, or to meander around South Street the way he did. No, he wouldn't rest today. He'd follow her as far as Broad Street, make sure she got into her building, and would then find hallowed ground.

He hated the not knowing, the lack of surety about her schedule on the weekends. Those times called for special prayers and exceptional concentration. He fasted on the weekends when she was away, just to be on the safe side. Intervention through prayers.

Chinatown, down on Eighth Street, was a cool place to hang out in order to keep awake. Maybe he'd pick up some sacred incense. The old ones down there knew him and left him be, and he'd do Tai Chi for hours in front of their shops to keep his body ready for the night battles with the unseen. They waved to him, and sometimes fed him to keep him coming back. They also knew, without him having to tell them, he was a sentinel.

However, Mondays were good, predictable, and today was a Monday. She liked the secondhand bookstores and the high-class antique stores. Not her grandfather's, which she dismissed as a junk store. But she was blind to the hidden treasures in it. If she'd give him half a chance, she'd learn that they had similar tastes, styles, and he was sure they shared the same intellectual pursuits. She gravitated to the unusual, and he had glimpsed her through the store windows going toward the hard-to-find book sections.

It was like watching a rare objet d'art that actually moved behind museum exhibit glass. He loved the way she looked, the way she carried herself. Rashid cast his gaze down the street, scanning it for activity, then again toward the windows of the apartment building and tried to imagine what she'd be wearing today.

Usually she had on a simply tailored, shin-length, one-button camel hair coat. He liked her trademark of simplicity. Everything she wore had easy lines that flowed. But, she also always adorned her neck with brightly hued silk scarves, or a large wrap held at the shoulder by an imposing hand-carved, wooden brooch. The colors were good for her, and added to the regal quality of her deep-brown, flawless skin, which seemed to glow from an inner light of its own. His favorite colors that she wore were the purples and gold-tones ... her complexion seemed to drink them in, only to reflect them out again through her luminescent mahogany skin.

Contrasts ... Yes, her style was as complex as it was simple and he was sure that no one else could see why. A plain coat, but an unrestricted fusion-of-color scarf. Understated accessories, but a wildly artistic African brooch at her shoulder. Coiled, natural hair-but kept just within Western business standards of acceptability. He chuckled to himself. She was a smart one. Small, business-appropriate earrings, in radical, African art patterns. Short, business-length nails, with only a touch of clear gloss, but bracelets from Zaire about her arms. One definitely had to study her carefully to understand. He was sure that no one else took the time like he did to do so.

He also liked the fact that she seemed to wear only natural things. Tasteful, plain leather shoes adorned her feet, but he could tell that they were made of that expensive fine leather. Plus, her accessories always matched-her briefcase, her big satchel handbag, and her leather gloves. And her hair ...

Rashid closed his eyes and tried to envision it. Thick, jet-black, velvet ropes of unprocessed hair, coiled and twisted with a natural brilliance. Sometimes she wore it swinging about her shoulders, each coil seeming to have its own life. Other times she wore it pinned up in a tortoise shell comb, and her facial expression seemed to be more serious then. On what he imagined to be her more playful days, she'd have it held away from her heart-shaped face by a bright headband, or would catch it up in a ponytail. He wondered what it might feel like, then immediately censored himself. He was there to protect her-that's all.

He mentally repeated the words "to serve and protect" over and over again like a mantra. Sure he had to know what she looked like, every detail of her dress, where she went, and her patterns of movement. That was a part of his job. It was only coincidental that he happened to like the fact that most of the time she wore amber earrings, sometimes mud-cloth-like sandstone, or cowry shells set in silver, or semiprecious crystals wrapped in copper. Understated, but very classy. Her earrings danced as she talked, just as her eyes seemed to, and the sunlight would strike them and ricochet off of her high cheekbones.

When she'd stop to speak to the guard, she would toss her chin up slightly and offer the older gentleman a wide, light-casting smile. Her lips were full, and warm, and inviting, and were always covered with a sheer hint of berry color.

But her eyes ... Those rich ebony eyes that sparkled with recognition when she'd give the guard her attention. He always loved the way she stood taller than the average woman and how she held her gloves in one palm and talked as she drew her slender hands inside them.

If only just once she'd lavish a moment of that same attention on him when she bought a newspaper ... a smile, and deep giggle, followed by a hearty belly laugh and a slap on his arm with her gloves ... The guard didn't know how much he was taking for granted; to have one's humanity acknowledged daily by such a beautiful woman, was a gift. With a pivot of her hips and the wave of her hands, they'd laugh and exchange a word or two, then she'd be off-walking a full, confident stride on long, athletic legs. A queen. That had been his first impression. A queen who spoke to her subjects and who was in touch with her people.

Maybe it was time for him to strike up a real conversation with her.

He wished the warm weather would hurry up and get there so she'd sit on the benches where he could see more of her. Didn't she know that it was safer outside? Being inside was like being in a cage. Things could find a dark place to hide and might ambush her in there, and nobody would see what happened.

She was smart, but why did she seem so oblivious? He could tell that she had a solid mind. It was in her carriage. Tall, proud, straight. Being on the streets had made him a good judge of character. He knew her rhythms.

When she was around and not working, she wore more relaxed clothes, and she always had coffee in a shop outside her apartment, and always ate a very light lunch. Soups, vegetables, salads ... He'd never seen her eat meat. That was good. Demons lived in the meat. She needed to give up the coffee, though. Teas were better for the temple.

But, he could tell they were still after him this morning, even though they'd gone down into the vents-because hunger was clawing at his insides and trying to steal his concentration. The awareness of his physical need made him angry. They used anything, every conceivable temptation, to try to get inside of you!

Maybe he would just work his way down South Street where the tiny shops were, but only after he was sure that she was safe. He could keep pushing south to Mother Bethel's pews to sleep. Damn the ass-biting winter. It always made him feel old as he labored to walk against the wind. Today, sub-zero temperatures were turning his feet to stone in his combat boots.

All he had to do was to keep a block or two behind her, or stop occasionally to allow her to pass without noticing him. Who gave a thought to a guy dragging a bundle of newspapers?

It had been that way for over a year, since he'd come to Philly, but he'd sensed in his soul that this was where his next stop should be. When he'd first passed her downtown, he'd seen the aura around her and knew. She'd actually led him to her grandfather's shop. Months had gone by before he was able to pick up her trail again. She didn't visit the old man like she should. But where was she today?

Protecting her was his job.

Rashid cast a disgusted glance up to the gargoyles that haunted the building facades like giant vultures. He forced enough energy through his limbs to stand, from the top of his head down through each cell in his six-foot four-inch frame.

"Strength, and the light of protection, surrounds me," he whispered with his eyes closed while he gave his muscles a painful stretch, then hunched his body against the elements. (Continues...)

Excerpted from The Ancestors by L.A. Banks Tananarive Due Brandon Massey Copyright © 2008 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Brandon Massey lives near Atlanta with his wife, where he is at work on his next thriller.

L.A. Banks aka Leslie Esdaile Banks is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania Wharton undergraduate program, and alumna of Temple University's Master of Fine Arts in filmmaking program. Winner of the 2008 Essence magazine Storyteller of the Year award, she has penned over forty novels and novellas within genres as diverse as romance, women's fiction, crime suspense, and dark fantasy/horror, and regularly contributes to magazines and newspaper columns. She writes and lives in University City, Philadelphia, with her daughter.

Tananarive Due is the American Book Award-winning author of several novels, including The Black Rose, My Soul to Keep, The Between, The Living Blood, and The Good House. She coauthored Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. A former feature writer for The Miami Herald, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Steven Barnes.

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