WEAVER’S FOLLY comes out in a little more than a month, and I couldn’t be more excited! I wanted to share some of that excitement with you, so here’s a sneak peek of chapter one.
Okay okay enough self-promotion. Here’s the chapter!
I pocketed my keys as I walked up the sidewalk to Manny’s Pub, my boot heels clacking against the pavement. A cold breeze ruffled my hair and wound its frigid fingers under the collar of my leather coat, and I glanced over my shoulder at the city street as a shiver skated across my skin. Nothing was there, of course―only the usual pedestrians heading to and from dinner or work, and a few electric cars idling at the red light―but a little healthy paranoia never hurt anyone.
Inside the pub, the scent of exhaust, ozone, and wet asphalt gave way to the aroma of roasted meat and lingering wood smoke, with an undercurrent of good beer. My shoulders relaxed as the warmth wrapped around me. Manny’s Pub always made me feel like I’d stepped into some sort of fantasy novel or really expensive medieval reenactment. Shadows hugged the corners, heavy, high-backed wooden benches lined booths along the walls, and a fire flickered in a large hearth at the far end of the room. The illusion was spoiled, though, by the hum of the city outside and the pair of retropunks whispering to each other as I passed their table.
Jeremiah sat in the darkest booth at the back of the pub, strategically tucked in the corner so he had a view of the entire room. He saw me coming and smiled, raising his glass in my direction. A few unruly curls of dark hair peeked from beneath the hood of a navy blue sweatshirt with a Miskatonic University logo emblazoned on it. I recognized the shirt. Jeremiah was a good customer of mine, and what he didn’t purchase from me honestly I gave him as payment for… favors rendered.
I pulled the most recent gift from the breast pocket of my jacket, slid into the empty bench in his booth, and tossed the slender bottle to him. He tilted it in the dim light to read the label, making an approving sound.
“Gold Reserve. Nice,” he said in a deep voice, then regarded me over his wire-rimmed glasses, tucking the bottle away in the pocket of his hoodie. “You must have something special for me tonight. You only bring out the good stuff for the important ones.”
I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a small paper the size of an old-fashioned credit card. “I had an offer come in today that sent up some red flags. I was wondering if you could give me any insight into this one.”
“The job sound too good to be true?”
“See for yourself,” I said, laying the paper on the table in front of him.
He rubbed his hands together in anticipation, then reached out and took it. A small smile pulled at his lips. “Still making them write it all out by hand?”
“Only the ones I don’t like.” I grinned back, but the smile slid off my face a moment later. “The suit who gave me the details showed up in my shop and asked for Lysistrata.”
He raised his eyebrows at that. “How’d he know where to find you?”
“No idea, but I’ll be looking into it. Mr. Steven Reed,” I said the name slowly, my tone emphasizing my doubt that the name was genuine, “seems like he’s new at this. He wanted my Neurocomm number.”
Jeremiah snorted, then scanned the tight scrawl on the paper and made a surprised sound low in his throat. “That’s a nice little sum.”
“Yeah.” I leaned back in my seat and waved at Manny where he stood behind the bar, getting his attention before signaling for a beer. “The job itself seems simple enough. Break into an office building, steal a statue, start a fire in the office and get the hell out. Easy as heat-and-serve pie.”
“The deadline.” I gestured at the paper in his hand and slouched in my seat. “There’s no prep time. I’d basically be going in blind.”
“No wonder you don’t like the guy.” He closed his eyes, the paper held lightly between two fingers, and inhaled deeply. I sat quietly and watched him focus. After a few slow breaths, he shook his head and opened his eyes. A frown pulled at his lips. “Why take the job if it has you concerned?”
“As you said, that’s a nice little sum. It could just be that Reed doesn’t know the etiquette yet. No point in turning down a perfectly good job because the guy lacks manners.” I ran a hand through my hair and sighed. “Besides, I figured you’re my best bet to find out if this is going be the run that gets me caught.”
“I’ll see what I can do for you.” He pulled a small tin of dried crushed leaves from his pocket and placed a small line of them on the paper, then rolled the paper around the leaves methodically. “How’s the store?”
“Slow,” I answered. “No one seems to be in the market for gently used MP3 players and vintage Converse lately.”
With an amused grunt, he licked the edge of the paper, pinched off the ends, put the resulting cigarette to his lips, and produced a lighter from the pocket of his hoodie. The lighter sparked to life and he lit the end of the cigarette, inhaling a deep lungful of smoke and leaning back in his seat. I watched silently as he tilted his head back, making smoke rings in the air. After a few more drags, he looked back at me with an unfocused gaze, and the pupils of his brown eyes were white.
A shiver went up my spine. It always creeped me out when he did this.
“You don’t get caught.” His voice was low and monotonous, the vision unfolding somewhere only he could see. “No, you won’t get caught this time. But… things don’t go exactly as planned.” He laughed once, loudly, startling me before taking another pull of his cigarette. “Oh, no, they don’t go as planned at all. And, man, are you gonna be pissed.”
He laughed again and I fought not to sigh in exasperation. Jeremiah was clairvoyant. He could see visions and read people’s intentions by coming into contact with them―or with something they’d touched. I hadn’t made this Mr. Reed write out the run details on a tiny sheet of cigarette paper because I was spiteful―though the sight of the smooth businessman grumbling as he hunched over my desk had been amusing―it was the easiest way for Jer to get a solid read on the situation without me delivering Reed himself.
Jeremiah took several more drags, and when he was almost to the end of the cigarette, his expression changed. All the amusement drained away, and his eyebrows pulled together in a mix of confusion and concern. “This job will open a door. One that should remain closed, one that…” he trailed off, shuddering as the last puff of smoke curled from the tip of the cigarette. The red glow reflected off his glasses, making his eyes look like smoldering coals in the shadows of his hoodie.
Then the ember on the end of the cigarette went out, and when he looked up at me, his eyes were normal again.
I gave him a moment to come down from the vision, my foot bouncing impatiently. “So? What sort of door will this job open?”
He furrowed his eyebrows again, stubbing out the already extinguished cigarette in the ashtray by his elbow. “I don’t know. The―” He stopped as Manny stepped up to the table with a frosted mug of brown ale.
“Here you go, Alyssa.” Manny placed the beer in front of me, then wiped his hands on the rag that hung from his waist. “You two aren’t getting into any trouble, are you?”
“Oh, you know.” I grinned. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
He laughed. “Just watch what you say,” he added in a quiet voice. “You’ve got an audience.” He tilted his head toward the retropunks across the room.
I glanced at them over my shoulder, taking quick stock of their appearance. They both wore the tight, bright clothing classic to their subculture: the girl sported various shades of green and blue, and the guy’s bright yellow jeans matched the leather tie in his hair. His long magenta ponytail showed off the pointed tips of his ears―a little too short and angular, obviously implants. He needed a better mod surgeon. They both cast furtive glances in my direction and murmured to each other.
I sighed heavily. “I wouldn’t worry about them.” When Manny raised his eyebrows at me, I waved a dismissive hand. “It’s the ears.” Probably wondering who my mod surgeon was.
He nodded and looked at Jeremiah. “Anything else for you?”
Jeremiah shook his head and Manny headed back to his spot behind the bar. I watched him go, taking a long, appreciative sip of my beer.
“So, why am I going to be pissed?” I asked.
“Oh no, sweetheart, you’ll have to find that one out on your own.” A shadow of his earlier amusement flickered across his face, quickly replaced by a frown. He picked up his glass, studied the dregs of his drink, and set it back down on the table before pulling the small bottle of whiskey from his sweatshirt pocket.
“Thanks a lot, Jer,” I sighed.
“You gonna take the job?” The cap to the whiskey bottle popped open with a twist, and he took a long swig.
“Did you see me blown up or arrested?”
“No but nothing, Jeremiah. I need this job. If I don’t do something soon, I won’t make rent.” The beer was suddenly bitter, and I set it aside.
“Rose can’t cover you this month?”
“Rose has her own payments to worry about. I’m not going to ask her to carry me again.” As my best friend and fellow runner, she would probably smack me on the back of the head for not coming to her if this job got me in trouble, but according to Jeremiah it wouldn’t.
I slid out of the booth, pulling my keys from my pocket.
“I dunno, Lys,” he grumbled. “I have a bad feeling about this one.”
“Well, when ‘bad feeling’ turns into ‘bad premonition,’ call me. Otherwise, I’ve got some work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.” I rubbed the bridge of my nose. This was going to be a tight one, but if Jer wasn’t prophesying doom, I had to at least try.
“Call you? You still tech free?”
I nodded, and he chuckled.
“That’s my good little greeny. All organic, huh?”
“You know that’s not why, Jer,” I gave him a look, and he regarded me silently, his face sobering.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I’ll see you around.” I turned and made my way across the bar. On impulse, I stopped at the retropunks’ booth and grinned down at them. They both stared at me, the guy, at least, having the grace to blush as he realized they’d been caught eyeing me up.
“They’re real,” I whispered. Then, with a wink, I walked out of the bar.