This week we begin a three-part serial of my short story, Stolen Parts!
This takes place in an urban fantasy setting where a couple of down on their luck necromancers are having a rough day already.
And someone’s heart has been stolen.
Here is part one.
Life can be complicated for a necromancer.
My usual work days amounted to talking to ghosts or working in morgues for a bit of money. Sometimes I did scarier things for worse people to get the money that kept me in a nice apartment in my little town. That Friday I had just gotten home after a rough day, that started with a fight with Jeremy, my boyfriend, to find a master necromancer waiting in my kitchen. Things blurred in my memory between that moment and the next.
A little droplet of sunlight fell through the part in the curtains and spilled across the floor of my living room where Jeremy paced back and forth, all six feet of him swaying like a drunk. He shook his head and rattled the locked iron collar around his neck that kept my soul bound to his mind. My body lay in the bedroom, an identical collar around my throat, and a large hole in the chest where my heart used to be.
“I’m sorry,” Jeremy murmured, forgetting that the bond he had made with me through the collars after he had burst in let me hear his thoughts as well as share his senses.
I spoke into his mind, “I know.” Never mind that you talked about breaking up with me this morning. Never mind that’s what you came here to do, and I still don’t understand why.
He heard that thought and tensed. “Odette,” he said. “I never wanted this to happen.” He hesitated, but his thought continued. He wondered if it was really Sam, though he had seen him standing with his hand in my chest. How dense can a guy get?
“It was him. Who else could have done this? Not exactly normal necromancer activity, tearing hearts out.” I hoped my tone went across. I was going for something wry, that sort of downplayed the gaping hole and my missing heart. Stolen heart. Sam wants to use it for something. Sam never cared that much about my heart when we were together.
Jeremy hunched in a red armchair and put his head in his hands and tried to ignore my wandering thoughts so close to his own. He hadn’t cried yet. He acted so tough for a guy about to turn twenty six. Of course, I was only a year older than him. “What are we going to do?”
I wanted to put my flower-and-snake-tattooed arms around him, hold him close, and tell him everything would be alright. No heart means no holding. “It’s up to you,” I said. “Even if you choose to let me go, I’m glad I got to say goodbye.”
“I’m not going to let you die.”
“A little late for that.”
“Don’t say that. Odette, as long as your heart is alive, and your body is…” He took a deep breath as he searched for words. He ruled out ‘alive’ and ‘stable’. “…intact, I can join them back together.”
“In theory,” I said, “And I suppose in theory Sam would have gone back to the morgue if he wasn’t going to use it right away.”
“The morgue.” Jeremy stood up, suddenly energized. He walked from the living room to the kitchen at the center of my apartment. “Do you have any weapons here?”
“None that could kill a master like Sam.”
Jeremy’s mind sprinted over a list of dozens of weapons, potions, and tools useful against necromancers. Then he narrowed it down to only those that worked well against ancient masters. Three items remained, the haunted nooses, the witch daggers, and the cursed scrolls. I went over the shortlist with a bit of approval mingled with disappointment.
“Sam’s the only one I met who has ever even seen a noose. My dagger should be in the knife block in the kitchen, and my scroll should still be in the safe in the bedroom. Not sure if either of them still works.”
He stopped before the knife block and looked down at my bone handled witch dagger. It stood out a little among the ordinary knives. He hesitated to draw the weapon. “Odette, I have to say I’m glad I never got on your bad side.”
But you were about to break up with me this morning. I knew it, but didn’t want to admit it.
“You’ve seemed so distant…” Jeremy shook his head in frustration. I decided not to press the subject just then.
He took the knife and slipped it into the belt loop of his jeans. Then he turned toward the door to the bedroom. He did not want to go in there. I couldn’t tell if his reluctance was his usual awkwardness or if he just didn’t like seeing me that way.
“Go on,” I said. “We can’t get any closer together than we are now, and you’ll need that scroll.”
He walked to the bedroom door, took a deep breath, then pulled it open.
My body lay on the bed looking very small, arms covered in tattoos ranging from snakes to feathers folded on my stomach, bloody hole in my chest, torn clear through my shirt. Blood had sprayed up to my collarbone and now seeped onto the iron around my throat, and the opposite way down to my stomach. A few flecks even found their way into my twist of blonde hair.
Sam’s hand had been ice cold.
I wasn’t exactly what my mother would call ‘decent’, and the bed was gonna get soaked, but that was the least of my worries. The iron collar around my neck gleamed with rays from the vanishing sun. That locked ring of metal and the one around Jeremy’s neck were the only thing keeping me from flying off into ever after. If I still had motor impulses I would have shuddered. I was lucky Jeremy had arrived at that moment, just not lucky enough for him to be five minutes earlier.
“The safe is under the bed.”
“Alright.” Jeremy’s voice sounded dead. He walked around the bloody queen where my mortal form lay, and to the night table on the other side.
“Sorry, tiger. Other side.”
“I am so, so sorry.”
“Just don’t look up my skirt. Dead girl’s gotta have some dignity.”
He inhaled slowly, then exhaled, before moving to the other side of the bed. He dropped down to his hands and knees and felt around past my legs for the safe. Finally his hands closed around cool metal, a cube the size of a big lunch box. That’s it, I thought.
Jeremy pulled the safe out and fiddled with the combination lock. It didn’t take him long to open it. I didn’t remember ever telling him the combination and I kept combinations like that tight to keep mind readers from just grabbing them, but I told myself I had bigger problems right now.
“I did it by ear,” he said. “Remember, I used to do some bad stuff.”
“You mean, other than raising the dead?”
“These days, I’d say a lot of people would agree robbing a bank is at least that bad.”
I would have giggled. But I couldn’t. Jeremy lifted the scroll case off my social security card and pile of emergency cash. He put the safe back carefully, but his arm brushed my leg. He shivered at the cold touch.
“How much time do we have?” I asked.
He tucked the scroll case into the pocket of his jacket. “Moon rise is in less than three hours. It’s full tonight. Sam won’t have to wait if he has a ritual he wants to perform.”
“That’s probably why he did this today. Any chance he’s not at the morgue?”
“I don’t know what he wants with your heart, Odette. But until we get it back, we don’t have time to find out.” His voice turned hoarse. “Don’t worry. I’ll put things right.”
“If you somehow manage to kill Sam, you’ll be in worse trouble than him. Killing another necromancer in cold blood…”
“My blood isn’t cold.”
“Not like mine.” What can I say? Death makes me punchy.
“Not like his, either.”
“Then you’ll break up with me?”
Jeremy’s face twisted into a grimace. “One problem at a time, Odette.”
Death can be complicated for a necromancer.
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Thanks for reading!
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