Tuesdays, my daughter has two ballet classes, an hour long one early evening and another, a half-hour long, later just before it’s time to head to bed. Thus, my Tuesday evenings are pretty tied up. As a result, I think for most Tuesdays I’m going to do stuff here that can be put up quickly: snippets, “blasts from the past”, and maybe musical interludes.
Today we’ll go with a snippet from my most recent novel: Alchemy of Shadows:
The locker room was dark, the only light came from my flashlight. I let Jeff lead the way since he had been there before and I had not. We passed through the room to a tunnel leading out to the field.
“You won’t need that.” I jumped at the sound coming from ahead of me.
My flashlight winked out. It didn’t dim or die. Just, one moment it cast its beam of light, the next instant it didn’t.
My hand dove into my satchel, feeling for one of the flares. Before I could pull it out, dim illumination grew around me. Stadium lighting, set to a low level, cast a pale glow over the field.
I left my hand in the satchel, my fingers caressing the flare. Darryl, or the thing riding him, had not even bothered to search us, let alone take our satchels. Hubris? I wondered, or simple confidence? I hoped it was hubris.
Near the center of the field, Ata stood, Becki at his side. Becki had her hands together in front of her waist—tied, I guessed—and Ata held her by her left elbow. I could hear inarticulate shrieking; her attempt to curse, I was sure, around the ball gag that blocked her mouth.
I had to suppress a grin at her pluck. I’m sure Jeff would not have understood.
Nearly a dozen football players formed a double row between Ata and where Jeff and I stood. They weren’t in uniform, just casual clothes. Jeans, mostly, and T-shirts advertising what band or TV show the individual favored.
And sunglasses. Every single one of them wore sunglasses despite the dim illumination.
“Shadows,” I whispered to Jeff.
He looked at me and shrugged.
I left my hand in the satchel, fingers wrapped around one of the flares.
I stepped forward between the two rows of players. Jeff strode alongside me. We continued until we faced Ata, about six feet from him.
“That’s enough right there,” Ata said. He grabbed Becki by the arm and pulled her to him. From his jacket pocket he pulled out a knife and flicked it open, holding it at Becki’s throat.
My throat went dry. I licked my lips. It was Paul, all over again.
“Becki!” Jeff started to step forward.
“Ah ah.” Ata pressed the knife against Becki.
Jeff stopped. We stood in silence, just looking at Ata for several seconds. I wondered why Ata was using a knife considering what the freezing touch of a shadow could do.
“What? No demands to know what we want?” Ata asked.
I shrugged. “Does it really matter? I’m here. You can let Becki go now.”
“You are here of your own free will?” Ata pulled the knife away from Becki’s throat.
I grinned a lopsided grin. “Does duress count?”
Ata laughed. “Close enough.” He frowned. “What are you doing with your hand? Bring it out where I can see.”
I pulled my hand slowly out of the satchel, fingers wrapped around the flare—regular magnesium flare, not one of my new ones, not yet. My thumb stuck through a loop of wire that fastened to the striking strip from a book of matches. A quick jerk and the strip would rub against a match head inside the flare, igniting it and setting off the flare.
Ata pointed at me with the hand holding the knife. “What’s that?”
I smiled and jerked my thumb back. Light exploded from the flare.
“Catch.” I tossed the flare in Ata’s direction and spun, facing the football players now charging me like an avalanche of monstrous bodies.
I grabbed another flare and lit it, tossing it between me and the onrushing human giants.
“Get Becki,” I called to Jeff. I grabbed another flare.
The football players stopped their charge, recoiling from the light. Three more flares lit the region before me like daylight. Beyond the glare, I could see the team fleeing.
“Adrian!” Jeff’s scream jerked me up short. I spun.
Becki lay on the ground, a pool of red spreading from her throat. Jeff knelt at her side, his hands hovering above her as if he were uncertain of what to do, afraid to touch her.
Ata was nowhere to be seen.
I swore and dove for Becki. Throat cut. Gott in Himmel, I thought, the cut went almost completely through to the spine. Her eyes stared sightlessly in the harsh light of the magnesium flares. She was not dead, not yet, but with a wound like that unconsciousness would have taken her almost instantaneously.
Want to see more? Here’s the book:
I was born in the year 1215 in a small town in Westphalia As a boy, my parents apprenticed me to the famed alchemist Albertus Magnus. Under his tutelage I grew to adulthood and learned the mystical secrets of alchemy including the manufacture of the Elixir of Life. I have gone by many names through the centuries.
I was already centuries old when I encountered the creatures of darkness made manifest that I know only as Shadows. They have chased me down through the years for reasons I have never understood.
Light was the only weapon I had against these Shadows, light that could drive them back but not harm them. And so I ran. Every time the Shadows caught up with me I fled to a new identity, a new life, until inevitably they found me again. At long last, with nowhere left to run, I had to find some way to fight the Shadows, not just for myself, but for the people I had come to care about.
My name is Adrian Jaeger. This is my story