Curse Merchant Excerpt

I thought I would cap off the week with a short excerpt from the second chapter of The Curse Merchant. This is first draft material, so there’s no guarantee this will actually make it to the final product, but it’s fun to capture moments of the process and see what has happened to it down the road.

***

I rubbed my temples and stepped into the Great Room, an open space vaulted by columns, decked in Persian rugs and worn furniture arranged in tight clusters of conversation. The occasional potted palm broke the space into islands of perceived privacy. I knew from experience that this privacy was an illusion, one I had capitalized on more than once.

It looked and felt like home, but was stranger. Darker, somehow. As I wandered to the long mahogany bar along the near wall, it occurred to me what was missing.

People.

I checked the date on my watch. It was the fourth, Saturday night. The place should have been packed. The only patrons I could see were a group of young lions in business suits huddled in a corner, two of Mama Clo’s girls draped across their wingbacks.

“Dorian Lake, my God in heaven,” a warm, husky voice called from the bar.

I turned to find Big Ben Setley gawking at me, a couple crystal highballs drip-drying in his hands. Ben was a short, wide man with a broad, continually sweaty forehead and a double chin. He had a ruddy tone to his face that gave him the look of a man who had been dying from the same heart attack for the past three years but no one had the heart to tell him. He may not have owned the club, but he was the man who kept it running.

“Evening, Ben.”

Ben stowed the glassware and dried his hands before shaking mine in a vice-like grip.

“Jesus, Dorian.” He stood wide-eyed for an uncomfortable moment, and I had to pull my hand away before he composed himself. “Thought you went back to New York.”

“No. I’ve been around. Catching up on sleep, washing my hair. You know.”

“Well it’s damn good to see you, son.” He gestured to the end stool. “Sit! What’ll you have? Want your Glenny?”

My scotch. My vintage seventy-eight Glenrothes. Just what my frayed nerves needed.

“Figured you would have sold it out from underneath me by now.”

Ben recoiled with a scowl.

“I’m offended.” He pulled a stepladder from the end of the bar and added, “I’d drink it before I sold it.”

He unlocked a tiny leaded glass door above the backbar, and produced my scotch, blowing a puff of dust off of it. As he busied himself with a controlled descent, I eyed one of the young lions approaching the bar with two empty martini glasses.

“Two more, Ben,” the blonde-haired executive purred.

Ben lifted a finger and nodded as he poured three fingers of my Glenrothes into a highball. He gave me a wink and slid it slowly across the bar.

“Saints preserve you, Ben,” I muttered as I lifted the highball to my nose and closed my eyes, transporting myself into the sheer sensation of a perfectly crafted spirit.

***

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