Dead Man’s Hand Free Sample

5 Nov

Over the summer, I released my urban fantasy novella, Dead Man’s Hand, as an e-book on Amazon. Maybe it was a timing thing, but it really seemed to fly under the radar, so I thought I’d post a sample. What follows is a short excerpt from the third chapter. If you’d like to see more, there’s another sample here, and you can get the whole thing at Amazon.

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Bascom Quibble was the best re-animator in the city, the most in demand. He could name his price. Most of his product went to his uncle’s toy factory. A lot of people would be bothered to know that all the Quibble brand dolls and puzzles and race cars they bought for their kids were produced by zombie labor, but that was the elder Quibble’s problem. The word was that most of Bascom’s money came from re-animating recently deceased pets. The bereaved, it seemed, were willing to hand over baskets of cash just to have Fluffy back for a week or two until the decay set in and made the whole thing ghoulish. Bascom had needed me about six weeks ago when he’d done a bad job on a Great Dane that had done some serious damage at a dog park. The settlement had cost him a fortune, but at least I’d kept him out of jail for criminal negligence.

I got to his factory at about two in the afternoon after spending the morning chasing down information on the phone for the legitimate cases I was running. The place was big and gray, tin siding on the walls, and no sign at the street. Bascom had a nice, neat little storefront in a different part of town with a waiting room, upholstered chairs, coffee and tissues for the bereaved. That’s where he made his money with a cute secretary to work the sympathy and credit card angle. But the real work was done here, where it just wouldn’t do to have the families of the legitimately departed actually get a hint at the process that could bring their loved one back for just a little while.

I thumped on the plain metal door three times and waited, pulling at my collar and wondering when the heat was going to let up. When I was about to lose patience and knock again, the door clicked open, and a skinny little guy with glasses and a blood-smeared lab coat stood looking at me. I didn’t recognize him.

“Bascom here?” I asked, flipping him one of my business cards.

He stepped aside by way of answering and shut the door once I was inside. The place was big with fluorescent fixtures hanging down that made the darkness above them look like it went on forever. From hidden speakers came the flowing sounds of violins and other instruments—Bach, I think—all aimed at keeping things serene in the zombie factory. And in front of me were clear plastic tanks with cadavers floating naked in a yellow fluid, their hair billowing around their heads in a perverse approximation of gracefulness. Bascom’s helper led the way through the array of tanks and toward an unfinished sheetrock wall halfway across the warehouse. It had several doors, all unpainted, that opened into rooms where I assumed different stages of the process were carried out. Beside one door labeled “Extraction” was a gurney with a still dripping corpse on it, a middle-aged man with an autopsy incision reaching from neck to groin. It was repulsive, undignified, and I reminded myself that I needed to write a Will if only to keep myself from assembling yo-yos for Quibble Toys in whatever brief version of an afterlife I was destined to enjoy.

Beside the extraction room—where Bascom removed the corpses’ teeth and wired their jaws shut to keep them from harming anyone living—was a door marked “Processing” which the assistant knocked on and then opened without waiting for a response from within. I followed him inside to find Bascom Quibble standing over another corpse. He was tall and thin with a pointy goatee that made his angular face look positively geometrical. Small eyes blinked at me from behind yellow safety goggles. He held a nasty looking syringe with a bright blue liquid in it and appeared ready to pop the needle into the corpse’s neck. His expression shifted from distasteful to worried when he recognized me, and I knew he had immediately assumed my presence meant legal trouble of one kind or another.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“Nice to see you, too, Bascom.”

He jerked his head toward the door, and his assistant exited, shutting us in. The body on the table between Bascom and me was a woman, maybe in her sixties. He’d shaved her head after doing the routine with her teeth, and I was glad he’d covered her with a sheet. Still, I wasn’t pleased being in here with her, knowing she’d soon be up and in one of the holding cells I knew were at the back of the factory next to the loading dock.

“I have a little job for you,” I told him.

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Thanks for reading. You can download the whole book for 99 cents at Amazon.

 I’m at work on the sequel right now. Any comments would be welcome.

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