About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was two weeks before Christmas. A slow time of year for
raising the dead. My last client of the night sat across from
me. There had been no notation by his name. No note saying
zombie raising or vampire slaying. Nothing. Which probably
meant whatever he wanted me to do was something I
wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do. Pre-Christmas was a dead time of
year, no pun intended. My boss, Bert, took any job that
would have us.
George Smitz was a tall man, well over six feet. He was
broad shouldered, and muscular. Not the muscles you get
from lifting weights and running around indoor tracks. The
muscles you get from hard physical labor. I would have bet
money that Mr. Smitz was a construction worker, farmer, or
something similar. He was shaped large and square with
grime embedded under his fingernails that soap would not
He sat in front of me, crushing his toboggan hat, kneading
it in his big hands. The coffee that he’d accepted sat cooling
on the edge of my desk. He hadn’t taken so much as a sip.
I was drinking my coffee out of the Christmas mug that
Bert, my boss, had insisted everyone bring in. A personalized
holiday mug to add a personal touch to the office. My mug
had a reindeer in a bathrobe and slippers with Christmas
lights laced in its antlers, toasting the merry season with
champagne and saying, ‘‘Bingle Jells.’’
Bert didn’t really like my mug, but he let it go, probably
afraid of what else I might bring in. He’d been very pleased
with my outfit for the evening. A high-collared blouse so
perfectly red I’d had to wear makeup to keep from looking
pale. The skirt and matching jacket were a deep forest green.
I hadn’t dressed for Bert. I had dressed for my date.
The silver outline of an angel gleamed in my lapel. I
looked very Christmasy. The Browning Hi-Power 9mm
didn’t look Christmasy at all, but since it was hidden under
the jacket, that didn’t seem to matter. It might have bothered
Mr. Smitz, but he looked worried enough to not care. As
long as I didn’t shoot him personally.
‘‘Now, Mr. Smitz, how may I help you today?’’ I asked.
He was staring at his hands and only his eyes rose to look
at me. It was a little-boy gesture, an uncertain gesture. It sat
oddly on the big man’s face. ‘‘I need help, and I don’t know
who else to go to.’’
‘‘Exactly what kind of help do you need, Mr. Smitz?’’
‘‘It’s my wife.’’
I waited for him to continue, but he stared at his hands.
His hat was wadded into a tight ball.
‘‘You want your wife raised from the dead?’’ I asked.
He looked up at that, eyes wide with alarm. ‘‘She’s not
dead. I know that.’’
‘‘Then what can I possibly do for you, Mr. Smitz? I raise
the dead, and am a legal vampire executioner. What in that
job description could help your wife?’’
‘‘Mr. Vaughn said you knew all about lycanthropy.’’ He
said that as if it explained everything. It didn’t.
‘‘My boss makes a lot of claims, Mr. Smitz. But what
does lycanthropy have to do with your wife?’’ This was the
second time I’d asked about his wife. I seemed to be speaking
English, but perhaps my questions were really Swahili
and I just didn’t realize it. Or maybe whatever had happened
was too awful for words. That happened a lot in my business.
He leaned forward, eyes intense on my face. I leaned forward,
too, I couldn’t help myself. ‘‘Peggy, that’s my wife,
she’s a lycanthrope.’’