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It Happened One Doomsday
By Laurence MacNaughton
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2016 Laurence MacNaughton
All rights reserved.
THE PERFECT RING
Dru Jasper had no idea that the world was prophesied to come to a fiery end in six days. All she knew was that she had to ring up enough sales to pay the rent, or her shop, The Crystal Connection, would get evicted from its cramped storefront between the pawnshop and the 24-hour liquor store.
Worn out from a long day of cataloging rocks and hoping that one of her scarce customers would actually buy something, Dru pulled her brown hair back into a ponytail and carefully cleaned her thick-framed glasses.
The crystals, ancient artifacts, and leather-bound books lining the shelves of her shop all seemed to accumulate dust that had an obnoxious way of clinging to everything. Especially her glasses.
As she misted her lenses, a rumble of thunder rolled down the street. Which was odd because although the sunny Denver afternoon seemed unusually bleak, there was no sign of rain. A moment later, looking out her front windows, she realized it wasn't thunder at all.
With a snarl of exhaust, an old muscle car pulled up to the curb. Every inch of it glistened black and smooth as volcanic glass, from the sinister point of its long nose to the spoiler wing that rose up in back. The car rolled to a stop behind the old purple Lincoln Town Car belonging to Dru's sole employee, Opal.
At that moment, Opal got out of her car, a heavyset black woman in an orange-crush-colored knit top and a necklace of polished crystal tiger's-eye beads big enough to be actual tigers' eyes. When she stepped up onto the sidewalk in gumdrop-red platform sandals, one of them wobbled, and she accidentally dropped her paper cup of coffee, spilling it everywhere.
Opal paused in the process of picking up her now-empty cup to stare at her car's back tire. Which was slowly going flat, a nail sticking out of its sidewall.
Inside the shop, Dru winced in sympathy. She came out from behind the counter to help, quickening her pace when she saw the guy get out of his black car and approach Opal. With his thick dark hair, sunglasses, stubble, and black motorcycle jacket, he looked like nothing but trouble.
But much to her surprise, Mr. Motorcycle Jacket actually made Opal smile brightly. He walked back along the length of his long black car, opened up the trunk beneath the tall wing, and brought back a lug wrench and a jack. Without preamble, he got down and proceeded to change Opal's flat tire.
Through the shop's scratched front windows, Opal made eye contact with Dru. Her lifted eyebrows and pursed lips clearly expressed that she thought this guy was fabulous.
Then something around the corner, outside of Dru's line of sight, spooked Opal enough to make her hustle in through the front door of the shop. The bell jingled.
"Is that guy fixing your tire?" Dru asked in disbelief. She hurried to follow Opal toward the back room.
"Yeah, if I was single right now, we'd already be making plans, him and me. But whatever. You can be jealous later. You've got bigger problems." Opal turned and pointed outside. "Here comes your friend."
Dru's customers were mostly furtive sorcerers who shunned attention. But Rane was impossible to miss in a crowd. Six feet tall, built like a professional athlete, with a high blonde ponytail that bobbed with every stomp of her feet. Even when Rane was in a good mood she looked ready to smash something.
Rane marched straight toward the front door of the shop. And she was obviously not in a good mood.
"Oh, fudge buckets," Dru whispered. "Quick, hide anything fragile."
Opal rolled her eyes. "Everything in here is fragile. Including me."
In fact, nothing about Opal was fragile. Loud, sarcastic, and voluptuous, maybe. At least voluptuous was the current word she used to describe herself, formerly full-figured, fluffy, and (briefly) goddess. But certainly not fragile.
"She breaks anything?" Opal said. "I'm not the one cleaning it up this time. Thought you should know that."
Outside, Rane marched past Mr. Motorcycle Jacket, close enough that she nearly made him drop Opal's newly removed tire. She banged through the door the way she always did, the force threatening to tear off the bell that hung from the wall. It jangled in protest.
"Girl's got issues. Good luck with all that," Opal whispered. "And let me know when Mr. Hunky is done with my tire. I want to thank him properly." She ducked into the back.
Dru took a deep breath and slipped behind the counter again. "Hi, Rane," she sang out, trying to sound cheerful. And failing.
"Dude. You should totally tighten up that bell before it falls off. You don't want it beaning some jackwad on the head and getting you a lawsuit." Rane marched up to the counter and planted both palms on it. "Listen. I'm in big trouble."
Dru's smile froze. Rane had the singular ability to stir up trouble anywhere, even where there wasn't any. And she had a tendency to bring it into the shop with her. "What kind of trouble, exactly?"
"I need a new ring."
"Come on, Rane, give me a break —"
"Don't give me any crap, D. I had to try like fifty different rings last time before I found this granite one."
"It's flint, actually."
Rane propped one fist on her hip and shot Dru a dark look. "Seriously? This is flint? Like the sparky rock?"
"Well, yes. Although we, um, we don't usually call it that." Dru pointed to the mottled brown-and-gray stone ring. "Flint enhances strength and healing. And it's been used since prehistoric times to make tools and weapons. Considering how you spend your days, you know, hunting monsters and all, I figured it was apropos."
"Ugh." Rane rolled her eyes. "Well, that explains it."
Rane planted both palms on the counter again and leaned across it. Dru pulled back in wide-eyed wariness.
"Dude," Rane said somberly. "I've been fighting this infestation of little stinky gremlin types down by the river."
"Some kind of gas they put off. Nasty, slimy little beasties. But when they all jumped on me, and I punched one, super hard, it made sparks. And these guys lit up like the Hindenburg."
"That must've been ... disturbing."
"Almost burned my face off. Not cool." Rane said it in a way that indicated she clearly blamed Dru. "So I need something a little less sparky and a lot more kick-ass."
"You're putting out a lot of magical energy when you transform. Probably too much for just one little ring. Out of all those rings we tried, this is the only one that really seemed attuned to you," Dru said.
"You mean the only one that didn't blow up in my face?"
And it was the only one that Rane had actually paid for. An important line item in Dru's bookkeeping universe. She folded her hands in front of her and forced a smile. "I'm thinking maybe rings just aren't your style. How about a nice amulet instead?"
Rane let out a long sigh. She stared deep into Dru's eyes, as if to let her know what a vast disappointment she was. In her flat monotone, Rane said, "It's like this. You know my transformation power only works if I'm actually touching something. If I want to turn into rock, I have to be touching rock. If I want to turn into metal, I have to be touching metal."
"Yes, I know, so —"
"So if I get grabbed up by some gi-normous creature and I'm hanging upside down by my ankle and this amulet is dangling over my head and it's not touching my skin? I'm totally hosed." She stared harder. "Get it?"
Dru nodded. "All right. I get it."
"Don't hose me, Dru."
Dru solemnly shook her head. "I would never hose you."
"Good." Rane clenched her right fist, the one wearing the flint ring. With a faint stone-grinding sound, patches of her skin took on the mottling of the polished stone ring, growing and merging until Rane's body had transformed into solid rock.
"You know, one of these days, someone is going to see you do that in public," Dru said. "You really want to end up on YouTube?"
"Already on there. No one cares. Help me out, Dru," Rane said, her voice coarse and hollow, as if it echoed up from a deep cave. "Seriously. I don't know who else to go to. You're my best friend."
Two incompatible thoughts competed for Dru's attention. One, that no one had called her a best friend since grade school. And two, if this was what it was like to be Rane's friend, what was it like to be her enemy?
Still, Dru couldn't help but feel just the tiniest bit warm and fuzzy inside. Even if Rane was more than a little scary as a living statue, and probably Dru's only paying customer today.
"Okay." Dru smiled. "Let's get you back into the storage room and see what we can find."
Rane turned human again with that stone-grinding sound and shot Dru a bright smile. "Thanks, D." She punched Dru in the shoulder and headed into the back room.
Dru was still rubbing her shoulder when the bell jingled up front. The solidly built guy in the motorcycle jacket pushed his way inside and took off his sunglasses. He had a swagger that some women might find cute. Or so she assumed.
But here in this shop, he looked completely out of place.
"Hi," she said when he got close enough. "Did you just change Opal's tire?"
He nodded dismissively, as if it were nothing. Puzzled, he frowned around him at the tall shelves crammed with minerals and crystals, charms, statues, candles, rare herbs, and everything else her supernatural-oriented customers wanted.
"Um, what kind of car is that?" Dru asked, not out of any particular interest, but just to avoid having to explain her shop to someone who was so clearly not a customer.
"A 1969 Dodge Daytona," he said. When she didn't reply right away, he seemed to mistake her silence for encouragement. "It's basically an aerodynamic, Hemi-powered Charger. When it was built, it was so fast NASCAR outlawed it. I restore old cars, especially Mopars. That's what I do."
"Hmm." She nodded, trying to look fascinated.
"Sign outside says 'The Crystal Connection.'" He looked around again. "What's with all the other stuff?"
Inwardly, Dru sighed. Anytime someone had to ask, the conversation never went well. "It's a shop for people who know magic."
"Card tricks, coins behind your ear, that sort of thing?"
"Not exactly, no." This was the part that always got awkward with people who wandered in off the street. "Mostly, this is a very specialized store. We help people who have unusual problems that can't be solved any other way."
Much to her surprise, he turned and looked directly into her eyes with a warm intensity. "Then maybe you can help me. I'm Greyson, by the way."
"Oh. Um, Dru." Trying to mentally reclassify him as a customer caught her off guard. "So, okay. Absolutely. What seems to be bothering you?" She pulled out her notepad and reached for a pen, but she accidentally knocked it across the counter.
Greyson caught it at the same time she reached for it, and when her fingers brushed his, a spark flashed between them, like static electricity, only brighter and shockingly cold.
The jolt of energy made the fluorescent lights above them sizzle and flare. Then a pop echoed from the breaker box in the back room, and all the lights went out, plunging them into deep shadow.
The only light came from Greyson's eyes, which glowed like red-hot coals as he gazed down at her. "I guess you could say I have an unusual problem."
Excerpted from It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton. Copyright © 2016 Laurence MacNaughton. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
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.
Table of Contents
Contents1: The Perfect Ring, 9,
2: Then There Was Greyson, 15,
3: Having Reservations, 25,
4: Ninety-Five Percent Right, 31,
5: Rat Signs, 38,
6: Strange Brew, 41,
7: Highway to Hell, 48,
8: The Devil Inside, 56,
9: Behind Red Eyes, 63,
10: Meant to Be Broken, 65,
11: How to Catch a Demon, 70,
12: The Monsters We Keep, 77,
13: Shades of Greyson, 83,
14: Heat of the Moment, 89,
15: Some Girls Wander by Mistake, 95,
16: Party Like It's 1969, 100,
17: Mathematics of a Madman, 105,
18: Lot Six Hundred and Sixty-Six, 112,
19: Don't Try This at Home, 118,
20: Evil in Midcentury Modern, 124,
21: Born Under a Bad Sign, 131,
22: Eve of Destruction, 138,
23: Devil in the Dark, 146,
24: Cardio for the Casual Sorceress, 150,
25: Going Nowhere, 157,
26: Last Exit for the Lost, 161,
27: Under the Milky Way Tonight, 167,
28: The Longest Fall, 170,
29: The Only Evil You Can Trust, 175,
30: Heart of the Beast, 182,
31: Fade into Darkness, 188,
32: The Doomsday Wall, 194,
33: Radioactive, 201,
34: The End of Everything, 207,
35: Speed Demons, 217,
36: Death Machines, 224,
37: Deeper Cuts, 230,
38: Unspoken, 234,
39: The Dust of Time, 241,
40: Everything Is Wrong, 246,
41: Set the World on Fire, 249,
42: Never Coming Back, 253,
43: Forever Remains, 260,
44: The Silence When You're Gone, 265,
45: The End of the World, As We Know It, 272,
About the Author, 279,