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The Gravedigger's Son
Author: Darynda Jones

 


One Thousand and One Dark Nights

 

Once upon a time, in the future…

 

I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.

 

I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.

 

I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.

 

One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.

 

Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.

 

Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.

 

Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.

 

As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before you now.

 

 

Chapter One

 

If my calculations are correct,

I can retire five years after I die.

—True story

 

 

There aren’t as many demons roaming the Earth’s surface as one might think. Or, if one is a skeptic, there are a lot more. It all hinges on one’s perspective. One’s beliefs. But if Amber Kowalski’s suspicions were correct, the bespectacled departed man standing over her was at least part demon. Half, maybe. A third, at the least. Anyone who woke up before the sun had to have a modicum of devilry in them.

“It’s just, you have a big day ahead, Ms. Kowalski.” He pushed his round glasses up with an index finger. “Lots to do.”

Amber pulled the bedspread over her head. He tugged it back down until she could see over the edge. “Kyle, I finished the Wilkerson job last night.”

“Did you get the money shot?”

“If by money shot, you mean did I take a picture of Mr. Wilkerson taking the trash out at midnight so he could sneak into his basement and watch porn? Yes. Yes, I did.”

“He’s not cheating?” Kyle sank onto the bed, disappointed.

“Nope. Not unless you’re one of those people who think looking at porn is a form of cheating.”

“I thought for sure he was cheating.”

“You think everyone is cheating.” She flipped the bedspread down and gave him a pointed look. “What happened to you?”

He snapped out of his thoughts. “Never mind. It’s time to get up.”

“Nooo.” She covered her head again.

He tugged again.

“Kyle, I didn’t get to bed until two. Wake me at seven.”

“It is seven. Past, actually.” He looked at the clock on her nightstand. “It’s 7:14.”

“What?” Her lids flew open. She glanced at the clock and scrambled out of bed. Her left foot got twisted in the sheets, and she did a hop-dance to get it out before hurrying to her bathroom. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I did.” He followed her but stopped when she slammed the door in his face. He knocked softly. Not all departed could do things like that. Tug at sheets. Knock on doors. But Kyle had been dead long enough to have learned a few tricks. “You have a client waiting in your office.”

“At seven in the morning?” She shouted to be heard over the running water as she heated the shower.

“Yes. She died last night.”

Amber cracked open the door and stuck out her head. “A departed?”

The pay sucked with departed clients, but this was her big chance. Her opportunity to make her mark on the world. Or the afterworld. Either way. Building her departed clientele was proving more difficult than she’d hoped. Nowhere to advertise. No one to give her business card to without it slipping through their fingers.

Amber was part private investigator and part psychic, for lack of a better term. Not a great combination, but the law firm from which most of her business derived didn’t care about her extracurricular activities. They’d realized she was good at her job a long time ago. Well, three months ago. But it had taken Amber three months before that just to convince them to give her a chance. They’d been keeping a roof over her head and enchiladas in her belly ever since.

That was all she cared about. The roof over her gorgeous two-story Adobe, and the food this incredible town had to offer. She’d missed Santa Fe when she moved away for college. More than she would’ve imagined.

The rest of her income stemmed from rich widows wanting their cards read. Like her departed clientele, that part of her business was all word-of-mouth. She didn’t advertise, but as with her PI biz, the clients started rolling in once she got established.

Thus, her big chance with this departed client. She showered at the speed of lightly toasted cinnamon bread and pulled her hair into a bun on the top of her head, ruing the length like she did every morning. She’d been threatening—no one in particular—to cut it off for years, and yet, she didn’t.

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