Someone’s been raising the dead and it’s J’s job to find out who. As a detective operating in the Underworld, J—with her powers of shadow manipulation—is uniquely equipped for the job. What she isn't counting on is the help of an escapee from a mental institution who seems to attract trouble just by existing.
It’s up to J and T—two very unlikely allies—to find the necromancer and bring him before the Underworld Balance Magistrate for judgment before the human world gets wise to the dead walking among them.
J resisted the urge to summon shadow and get the hell out of there. It probably wouldn't work, but even if it did, the thing behind the desk would likely summon her again and this time he would not be nearly so gentle. She knew where she was, but knowing did nothing to comfort her. She was standing before the Underworld Balance Magistrate, in his audience chamber where he passed sentence on those who breached the Balance.
Done with her perusal of the room, T leaned over to J and pointed at the Magistrate. "This place is cool! Who's that?" She spoke in a low voice, but the acoustics of the room amplified her words so that they were audible to everyone.
J resisted the impulse to smack her forehead with the palm of her hand. "That's the Underworld Balance Magistrate."
T leaned forward for a closer look before pronouncing, "He looks like an insurance salesman."
J rolled her eyes. This was the problem with the UBM; everyone expected something outwardly demonic—horns, cloven hooves, fire shooting from fingertips tipped with diamond claws, acidic drool, something. They were inevitably disappointed when what they got was Haywood Moore, a former accountant in the medical supplies industry and now the official channel for the UBM. The UBM couldn't manifest on this plane of existence without tearing it apart, so Haywood—having been in the wrong place at decidedly the wrong time—had gotten the job. Anything he heard, the Magistrate heard. When the UBM needed to pronounce sentence or interact with the world at large, he did so through Haywood.
"So did he do the magical disappearing act on us?"
"YES, I DID." The booming voice that emanated from Haywood did not belong to the bespectacled, balding, middle-aged man before them. He came around from behind his desk. He stopped when he was still several feet from them. "DETECTIVE." He nodded at J. "HUMAN." He nodded at T.
"I have a …" T trailed off when J's elbow connected heavily with her ribcage.
"IT WOULD SEEM YOU HAVE BOTH BEEN VERY BUSY UPSTAIRS THESE LAST FEW DAYS," the UBM began, pacing around the two of them like a shark circling a swimmer. "YOUR PENCHANT FOR DESTRUCTION IS ADMIRABLE, BUT IT DOES DRAW A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF UNWANTED ATTENTION."
"Your Honor, I've been doing research for a case that my employer has accepted from this…" J stifled a flinch when he cut her off.
"I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING, DETECTIVE. RESEARCH IS HARDLY WHAT I WOULD CALL IT." He turned his considerable attention to T. "AND YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PARTICULARLY CIRCUMSPECT EITHER."
"So are we in trouble?" T didn't sound concerned about it. To J's ears she sounded like she might welcome it. The detective resisted the urge to strangle her.
The UBM halted his circling and put a hand to his chin. He cocked his head as though thinking about something—he could have been debating what he wanted to eat for dinner or he could have been imagining what they would look like flayed and burned. It was hard to tell with him.
"OH YES, LADIES. I WOULD SAY YOU ARE IN TROUBLE. THOUGH JUST HOW MUCH REMAINS TO BE SEEN."
Tracey Phillips bio:
Tracey is a science writer by day and gamer by night. She’s worked in a tea factory, dropped creamed spinach on a four star General, wrangled the prose of college freshmen, and stage-managed more amateur theatrical productions than you can shake a stick at. Her random and misspent youth also included a yearlong sojourn in Scotland that left her with a strange fondness for daffodils and fife and drum music. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children, every video game console known to man, and an extremely low-maintenance cat.
Jeanette Battista bio:
Jeanette graduated with an English degree with a concentration in medieval literature which explains her possibly unhealthy fixation on edged weapons and cathedral architecture. She spent a summer in England and Scotland studying the historical King Arthur, which did nothing to curb her obsession. To satisfy her adrenaline cravings—since sword fighting is not widely accepted in these modern times—she rode a motorcycle at ridiculously high speeds, got some tattoos, and took kickboxing and boxing classes. She gave up the bike when her daughter came along, although she still gets pummeled at the gym on a regular basis.
When she’s not writing or working, Jeanette spends time with family, hikes, reads, makes decadent brownies, buys killer boots, and plays Pocket Frogs. She wishes there were more hours in the day so she could actually do more of these things. She lives with her daughter and their two psychotic kittens in North Carolina.