The tiny town of New Camel, New York, has become a tourist favorite thanks to an old magick shop called Abracadabra. It’s been in the Wilde family for generations. And now, suddenly, twenty-something Kailyn Wilde is about to inherit the family business—as well as its magickal secrets. But the surprises keep coming when Kailyn goes to finalize the estate at the local attorney’s office—and stumbles over the body of her best friend Elise’s husband.
As a brash detective casts the blame on Elise, Kailyn summons her deepest powers to find answers and start an investigation of her own. What with running a business, perfecting ancient spells, and keeping up with an uninvited guest of fabled origins, Kailyn has her hands full. But with the help of her uncanny black cat Sashkatu and her muumuu-clad Aunt Tilly, she’s out to catch a killer before someone makes her disappear.
About the Author
Sharon started writing stories in first grade and never looked back. She studied French and Spanish literature in college and went on to teach both languages on the secondary level. After being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in 1992, she became a Reach to Recovery peer support volunteer for the American Cancer Society. She went on to become the coordinator of the program on Long Island. She and her surgeon created a non-profit organization called Lean On Me to provide peer support and information to newly diagnosed women and men.
After turning her attention back to writing, she has shared her storytelling skills with thousands of fans. She’s won widespread praise for her Portrait of Crime and Crystal Shop mysteries as well as the Abracadabra series. She lives with her husband on Long Island, New York, near her grown children. She loves reading, writing, and providing day care for her grand-dogs. Visit her at www.sharonpape.com.
Read an Excerpt
Magick & Mayhem
An Abracadabra Mystery
By Sharon Pape
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Sharon Pape
All rights reserved.
"You need to summon a familiar of your own," my grandmother Bronwen said. Her voice was easy to recognize, despite the fact that it emanated from a small, amorphous cloud of energy hovering above my new computer. Both she and my mother had been steadfast in their refusal to buy into the technology age, so when she popped out of the ether that morning, I expected a tirade against the computer that now occupied the desk behind the counter. It took me a few seconds to realize that my recent purchase wasn't the subject of her visit. I briefly considered telling her the computer was my familiar, but I didn't think she would see the humor in it.
"Hand-me-downs never work properly," she went on. "Surely we've taught you better."
"Besides," my mother chimed in, from a second cloud that appeared beside Bronwen's, "my Sashkatu is ancient, and the five others aren't worth the cost of their kibble."
"Morgana!" my grandmother scolded, "you mustn't write them off that way. You summoned them and they came. They're our responsibility now. I mean Kailyn's," she muttered. "I keep forgetting that we're dead. In any case, it's entirely possible the problem was more yours than theirs anyway."
I held my breath, hoping my mother might finally realize that arguing about such things was pointless. I'd thought death would mellow the two of them, but so far they'd proven me wrong. Maybe the sudden, unexpected nature of their passing had left their souls on edge, and once they adjusted to their new circumstances they'd put their earthbound bickering behind them. Then again, maybe not. I'd always suspected they enjoyed the verbal sparring far too much to give it up.
"What exactly do you mean it's my fault?" my mother asked indignantly, dashing my hopes. "You didn't have any better success at restoring our mojo than the cats or I did."
"I'd been semi-retired for three years," Bronwen sputtered. "You'd taken the reins of the business!" The chimes over the front door jangled like a bell ending a boxing round.
"Hey, we have company," I hissed at them. "Make yourselves scarce!" They vanished without a second to spare as a middle-aged couple ambled up to the counter. I was grateful I didn't have to explain the presence of clouds in my store.
The woman's eyes were flitting around the shop with anticipation, but her companion looked like a child who'd been dragged to the dentist. I made a mental note to buy a comfortable chair for the men who were coerced into making the trip.
"Welcome to Abracadabra," I greeted them, trying to shake off the negative energy my family had left in their wake. "Take your time browsing. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them. There are some baskets at the far end of the counter to make shopping easier." I'd talked my mother and grandmother into buying lovely wicker baskets instead of the ubiquitous plastic ones available in all the grocery and drugstore chains. They cost more, but they were more fitting for our shop.
The woman thanked me and went to take one, her husband grumbling, "How much do you plan on buying here?"
"Well, I'm sure you don't want to drive up here again anytime soon," she said sweetly as she started down the first of the four narrow aisles. I'd heard the warning in her undertone, but I doubted that he had. Back in my early teens, I'd realized there were certain subtleties of mood in women's speech that often eluded men.
I sat down behind the computer to finish setting up my online banking account. Although the shop wasn't large, it took most people half an hour or more to browse through all the lotions, potions, unguents, and creams with intriguing names and mystical purposes. Until about fifty years ago, the inventory had been smaller, meant specifically for those who were practiced in the arts of sorcery and witchcraft, but that was before tourists discovered our quaint little town of New Camel, New York. My enterprising grandmother had seized the opportunity to add a line of the health and beauty products our family had been whipping up for our own use as far back as anyone could remember. It didn't take long before word of mouth brought a steady stream of customers to our door. The other merchants in the town prospered as well. A couple of bed and breakfasts opened to accommodate visitors who wanted to spend the night. One local resident was able to drum up enough financial support to open a small ski resort nearby. Snow is never in short supply around here in winter.
When the couple returned to the counter, the woman was beaming with success. Her husband was carrying the basket, now piled high with our most popular products. He looked as close to dying of boredom as anyone I'd ever seen. He yawned widely, without bothering to cover his mouth.
"You ought to have a website so people could order your products online," he groused as I rang up his wife's purchases. "You're way out here in the boonies, no public transportation, hard to get to from everywhere. It's a miracle you have any customers at all."
Not a miracle, I wanted to say, just a little magic. But that was one secret ingredient we never talked too much about. "Thanks for the advice," I said instead. "I'll definitely look into it." I had considered going ahead with a website after I inherited the shop, but although Morgana and Bronwen were deceased, they hadn't totally passed on. The thought of arguing with them about it on a daily, if not hourly, basis quickly shut down my enthusiasm for the project. Besides, I was still euphoric about finally having a computer on the premises.
"My friends all swear by your products," the woman said with a smile. "So I had to try them for myself. I told Robert here that we'd make the trip into a bit of a vacation, but for him if there's no golf, it's not a vacation." She sighed and searched my face for some empathy. I nodded and smiled back, though I was finding it hard to relate to her problem. She could have left Robert home and driven here alone or with friends. Maybe it was simply the difference between her generation and mine. Had it been me, I would have preferred to make the trip alone. But then, I've had strong, self-sufficient women as role models all my life. My father left when I was five, and my grandfather, years before my birth. Morgana and Bronwen had carried on as if they'd never really expected their spouses to make the final cut.
Robert took the shopping bag I held out to them. "We should have been on the road fifteen minutes ago," he said to his wife, who was looking at a display of candles infused with healing oils.
"I love your shop," she said as he hooked his arm through hers and propelled her out the door. He pulled it shut behind them so hard that he startled Sashkatu, who'd been sleeping in the spill of sunlight on the windowsill behind me. The cat regarded me with regal contempt as if I'd been the source of the disturbance. Although he was fifteen, his black coat had kept its luster, and his emerald eyes were as sharp and bright as ever. If he pined for my mother, he kept it to himself and slept right through her visits from the other side. When he was done glowering at me, he sighed and laid his head down on the tufted goose-down cushion Morgana had made to ease his arthritic joints. Fortunately the five other cats didn't seem to mind being left back in the house during the workday. I didn't want to think about the destruction they could wreak on the shop's inventory with one high-energy game of chase. If I were to follow Bronwen's advice and summon my own familiar, there would be seven cats to deal with and a bigger bill for cat food and other feline necessities. I kicked that decision to an already-crowded back burner in my mind and prepared to close up for the night.
I was ready when my Aunt Tilly came through the connecting door from her shop, Tea and Empathy. She was my mother's younger sister and my one remaining relative, aside from a few distant cousins somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Although I loved Tilly dearly, she tended to be a bit scattered and eccentric. According to my grandmother, she was hands down the best psychic our family had ever produced.
She padded up to the counter in one of the frothy Hawaiian muumuus she'd taken to wearing after menopause settled in with some extra pounds. Her ballet flats dangled from her left fingertips and the turban she often wore at work was still perched on her head. She thought it lent her an air of mysticism. I thought it made her look like a Hawaiian swami with identity issues, but I would never tell her that.
"Did you want to wear the turban to see the attorney?" I asked, because I'd never seen her wear it outside the shop.
"Oh my," she said, plucking it off her short red hair and giggling. "Silly me — I forgot I had it on." I laughed too, because even as a child I'd thought of her as Silly Tilly. She plopped the turban onto the counter and finger-combed her curls. I beckoned my purse from the shelf behind the counter and was actually surprised when it popped up and floated into my hand. These days my magick was far from a certainty.
While I set the security code, Tilly slipped on her shoes. My little blue Prius was parked outside at the curb. Tilly climbed, or more accurately fell, into the passenger seat. I tucked in the edges of her dress and shut the door, before hopping behind the wheel.
Jim Harkens, who handled our family's legal matters, shared a small, one-story office building with the town's only dentist. It was less than a three-minute drive from our shops, hardly worth taking the car. But Tilly had arthritis in her hips and corns on her feet. My mother had tried everything in her bag of tricks, but the ailments had proven impervious to her spells and potions. So we drove to our appointment.
When we pulled into the parking lot behind the building, Jim's big white SUV was the only vehicle there. I pulled into one of the diagonal spots and helped my aunt out of the car. Jim's office suite was off the short common hallway on the left. We opened his door and walked past Ronnie's unoccupied desk. She was Jim's receptionist, secretary, and paralegal all rolled into one. Since she only worked until four, we saw ourselves down to Jim's office. I knocked on the closed door. There was no response, but it wouldn't be the first time I'd found him asleep, his padded chair angled back and his feet propped up on his desk. Although he was on the brink of fifty, he'd confided to me recently that early retirement was beckoning with a Siren's call. I knocked again, then tried turning the knob. Since it was unlocked, I walked in, Tilly right on my heels. The room was dark, bits of sunlight creeping in around the edges of the closed blinds. When I stopped to let my eyes adjust, Tilly slammed into me and sent us both sprawling. If Jim had been awake to see our little vaudeville act, he would have enjoyed a good laugh. But he must have been sleeping soundly.
"Are you okay, Aunt Tilly?" I asked, doing a quick appraisal of my own condition. My left knee had taken the brunt of the fall, and although it hurt, I didn't think it was broken.
"I'm okay, dear. Just had the wind knocked out of me," Tilly said. "Guess I have more than enough padding these days."
Unfortunately she'd landed diagonally across my lower back and legs, softening her fall, but grinding me into the coarse, commercial-grade carpeting. As my eyes accommodated to the darkness, I could see that Jim's chair was empty. Maybe he'd gone to use the bathroom in the outer hallway. I was gathering myself to stand up, when I realized he hadn't gone anywhere. He was inches from where I lay, and even in the dim light I could see what looked like a dark bloody halo around his head.CHAPTER 2
I felt Tilly's weight shift on me as if she was preparing to get up. By her silence, it was clear she hadn't realized we weren't alone on the floor. Dealing with my own upside-down emotions would have to wait. There were things that needed doing. "Don't move," I said to her.
"Nonsense," she replied, "I told you I wasn't hurt." She tried to leverage herself off the floor and me.
"Don't move," I repeated, "this may be a crime scene." She immediately flopped back down, knocking the breath from my lungs in the process.
"Crime scene?" Her voice rose a shrill octave. For someone who could predict the occurrence of future events, you'd think she'd be less startled, or at least less panic-stricken, by the horrors that can crop up in life. But you'd be wrong. "What do you mean? Kailyn, what's going on?"
"I need you to calm down," I said, trying to keep my own voice even. "We're not in any danger." Although I couldn't know that for certain, a screaming Tilly wouldn't help no matter what the situation was. Besides, I was reasonably sure that if Jim was murdered and the killer was still in his office, we'd already be dead too. Focus, I told myself. I knew we had to do our best not to disturb the crime scene, but in spite of all the blood, a little voice in my head was insisting that I check to see if Jim might somehow be alive. I was on my stomach where I'd fallen, but I was close enough to touch him. Trying not to think about what I was doing, I reached over the pool of blood and found his face and neck. The skin was too cool to the touch, but I felt for his carotid artery anyway. I'd never actually done it before, except on myself as a matter of curiosity. What little knowledge I had on the subject, came from watching TV shows. I held my breath to steady myself and walked my fingers along his neck to the spot below his chin where his pulse should have been. Nothing. I checked all over that part of his neck to be sure I hadn't missed it. Jim was truly gone. Tears welled up in my eyes. I dashed them away with my hand. No time for that now. Focus. The best thing I could do for him was not trample any possible clues that might lead the police to his killer. "Okay, Tilly," I said, forcing the words through the tightness in my throat, "I want you to crawl backward to the doorway, but don't get up until I get the lights on. I don't want you to trip over anything and hurt yourself."
Without argument, my aunt hoisted herself off me and did exactly as I asked. "I want to know what's going on, Kailyn," she demanded once she reached the threshold. "Stop treating me like a child for goodness sakes. I won't fall apart."
By then I'd gotten to my feet and found the light switch. The overhead lights flashed on, illuminating the awful scene we'd literally stumbled upon. What I hadn't been able to see in the darkness was the small, round bullet hole in the center of Jim's forehead.
Tilly screamed long and hard as she struggled to her feet. "Sorry, sorry," she gasped when she finally came up for air. "I didn't mean to do that. I'm perfectly fine now, really I am. It was the shock of seeing him lying there like that." She was rocking back and forth on her heels and shivering like a dog in a thunderstorm.
"I know," I said, putting my arm around her quaking shoulders to steady and comfort her. The contact made me feel a bit better too. "Now I'm going to walk you over to Ronnie's desk. You can sit in her chair while I call the police."
"Yes, yes, that's what I should do," she mumbled, allowing me to guide her with my arm around what had once been her waist. After she was seated, I took a minute to try to compose myself. Jim was dead, but my heart ached for Elise, his wife and my best friend. For the shock awaiting her and their two boys. It wasn't as if he'd been suffering through a long illness or was known to have had heart problems. There was nothing in their shared history to prepare them for this.
Once I felt able to speak sensibly, I used the phone on Ronnie's desk to dial 911.
Although New Camel was too small to have a police force of its own, the county kept two officers here on a split shift. They were headquartered in a small, repurposed bungalow near the center of town. The men were rotated out on a three-month basis, because it was considered too cushy a gig to be permanent. Cushy or not, I'd heard that most of the officers complained of boredom. Until today, the only crime we'd had in the past five years was one pickpocket, one burglary, a counterfeit hundred-dollar bill and the occasional trespasser. I was about to shake things up for sure.
"Officer Curtis, what's the nature of your emergency?" He sounded like I'd taken him away from something more interesting. I heard a baseball announcer in the background.
"This is Kailyn Wilde," I said. "I'm calling to report a murder at thirty-five Main Street. It's our attorney, Jim Hastings."
"Did you say murder?" He sounded cynical, as though he thought my call was a practical joke. "Are you aware that it's a crime to file a phony report?"
Excerpted from Magick & Mayhem by Sharon Pape. Copyright © 2017 Sharon Pape. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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