New Excerpt from The Curse Merchant

I’ve reached the point in my new project where the average reader will start turning pages faster, and refusing to put the book down. For the record, the effect is mostly similar for the writer. I ran into some enjoyable dialogue last night, and decided to simply post an excerpt of it today. Note: this is raw verbiage; no polish, no context.

“Dorian. Nice. Come in.”

He turned and immediately withdrew into his home, leaving me with the door. I stepped through his door and into a staggeringly impressive living room. White-painted bookcases with dentil crown molding were loaded with leather-bound books. Shiny couches stretched out along a conversation pit, a drink service with crystal decanters aligned haphazardly. A gigantic flat screen television was playing some digital music. Smooth jazz spilled from hidden speakers in the coffered ceiling. I took in the room as I stepped carefully inside.

Bollstadt pulled a small remote from his pocket and dialed down the music.

“Drink?” he mumbled.

“Uh, sure.”

“What’ll it be?”

“Scotch is good.”

He chuckled.

“Yeah. It’s pretty fabulous.”

He poured me three full fingers of scotch from one of the decanters and swaggered forward. His gait was irregular and cautious. When he offered me the highball, a whiff of booze hit my nostrils, and not from the highball.

“Welcome back. How’s your life been?”

“Complicated.”

“Tell me about it.”

I nodded with a grin, and smelled the scotch. It seemed low-rent for the environment, but they say presentation is the greater part of tasting.

He cocked his head and lifted his bushy gray eyebrows.

“No seriously. Tell me about it.”

“Hmm?”

“Your life. Since the last time we spoke. Moved to Baltimore, right?”

Last time we spoke?

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t remember, is your problem.” He waved a slow hand at me as he stepped into the conversation pit and plopped down onto a white leather couch. “We’ve met before. You just don’t remember.”

“You’d think I’d remember something like that.”

This conversation was starting to feel uncomfortably familiar.

He motioned at the couch opposite him, and I took a seat, keeping an eye on the door.

“It was a while ago, and you were…” He circled his temple with his finger. “Well, not really all together. I remember you, though.”

“Wish I could say the same. When was this?”

“I remember a teenage boy, completely wrecked by his parents’ death. Father was a suicide, right? At least, everyone except you thought so. Mother killed the same week when her car got t-boned by a cab.”

I gripped the highball tight. Good thing it wasn’t real crystal.

He continued, “And this teenage boy had approached every two-bit occultist on the eastern seaboard before he finally got my number. By then, he was exhausted by the experience, choking on all of the snake oil he had been sold. When he should have just come to me first. It was a pity.”

I set the highball down on a glass top table and cracked my knuckles.

“Right,” I whispered. “My God, I totally forgot about you.”

“I make it a point not to be easily remembered. That, and I cheat. Anyway, I didn’t take your case. It was a bullshit vengeance angle. I hope you realize that now. That it wasn’t personal.”

“No, I get it.”

“Sure.” He slurped at his martini. “But, I remembered your name. I thought, shit. This kid’s basically fingered through the Devil’s little black book to get even on, I don’t know. The Universe? Death itself? I figured this kid’s going to be something someday. Best to stay on his good side.”

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