I’m writing a novel. It’s a contemporary fantasy featuring angels, vampires, salmon, miniature red robots, mutilated corpses, and other things a newly minted Seattleite stumbles across as she pretends to be human—and tries to avoid one tenacious angel detective.
Here is an excerpt from the current beginning of chapter 1.
Disclaimer: This is a work in progress. Snippets you read today may change drastically by next Tuesday.
Buying salmon in Seattle should never have become a life-or-death situation. According to Lia’s coworker Mario, it would be a simple process: stroll down Pike Street and walk under the red neon Public Market sign. Find the cute, smiling girl with the long black hair and the mini gills that mark her as a hybrid. (“She’ll totally hit on you, Lia, and maybe you should even say yes. Even though I know you’re into boys. I mean, she’s just so cute.”) Ask for the best salmon to make sushi, and make sure to ask for the girl’s recipe because it’s the Best. Marinade. Ever. Take your folded brown paper bag of salmon-on-ice and walk back home, and then proceed to make sushi that is literally an orgasm on your tongue. Guaranteed.
Mario was a vampire, and Lia wasn’t sure why he was so knowledgeable about sushi. But he was confident, and he was insistent. So, just past five o’clock after a particularly hairy Monday at work, Lia waded through the commuters in line for the buses and made her way down the hill toward Pike Place Market. Behind the market sign, the clouds were finally lowering over the gray waters of Puget Sound, hiding the snow-capped mountains. Soon they’d cover the tops of the buildings, too, which fit perfectly into her plans for the evening.
She’d been good. She’d spent four weeks as a new transplant in Seattle, and her feet hadn’t left the ground once. Four weeks memorizing security camera locations, watching the guard rotations, and tracking the flight patterns in the night sky. Four weeks patiently cooperating with her new coworkers and not killing her new boss.
Four weeks and she was ready to claw off her skin, her back itched so much. And wouldn’t Sadie laugh at her then.
But tonight she got her reward for all that self-restraint: a nice dinner and a trip to the roof. Which, if the weather followed the forecast, should be wrapped in a solid cloud bank all night. Lia smiled, imagining the cold, wet air on her skin.
Her smile faltered when she saw the enormous mob snapping pictures in front of the City Fish display. They all wore bright yellow fanny packs with a green logo from some tourism company. There may have been a matching logo on their equally bright yellow hats, but Lia was playing the good little human and kept her eyes down.
At the edge of the crowd, she took a breath and told herself the tourists were a minor delay, not an actual problem. She needed other things from the market, anyway. A swirl in the mob let her squeeze in the left side of the entrance, and she started on her short grocery list. Various pungent herbs of totally-culinary-and-not-magical-at-all varieties came easily from a flower stall. Bulk salt came from the tiny grocer tucked in between a jewelry vendor and a colorful infant-clothing stand. Three types of chalk came from the magical implements booth, where Lia pretended not to see the piercing gaze of the hedge witch who rang her up. Note to self: buy smelly herbs after seeing the nosy witch next time. Lia rounded out the items in her bag with a cucumber and an avocado from a produce stand and headed back up the crowded hallway of the indoor market.
The fishmongers were still ringing up tourists when she returned, so Lia gave herself permission to kill a few minutes drooling over the shiny daggers laid out in a row at the nearby smith’s booth. The burly lady behind the table had paired the blades with a selection of leather sheaths. One quick-release forearm sheath-and-blade set constituted a real threat to Lia’s most recent paycheck.
A jowly old face tucked under a black bowler hat leaned over on his stool at the neighboring table and said, “You should buy a hat.”
Lia glanced at him. Glanced past him at the last tourists in line, three black-haired ladies who were playing translation-telephone with a patient aproned man. It had to be almost six o’clock now, and her back was itching again.
Bowler-hat man smiled a kindly old man smile at her. “I have just the one. Not that a pretty girl like you needs any help, but a nice hat gives the men something to compliment you on. Let the vampires and stones and all them kill each other. They don’t need you for that.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Lia saw the smith shake her head as she snorted. “Humans are turning up dead in interesting ways lately, too. Just the other day a guy in a nice black suit walked right out into traffic on I-5, screaming his head off. They said it was a suicide.”
Lia turned to look at the other woman. “I didn’t hear about that.”
“Yeah, they hushed it up quick. And there was also the man dry-guyed two weeks ago, not a drop of blood left in him.” The smith tossed her chin-length straight hair off her face and glared at the hatter. “So maybe the lady should be looking at the knives—not that it’ll help against all them.”
All them immortals, Lia silently translated. Or maybe all them non-humans.
She had gotten used to a certain level of violence in New York City—it was just background noise, part of living in the city. Humans in New York died in interesting ways often enough that it barely made the news. But Seattle was a smaller town, and the one “bad” neighborhood she’d seen here had been pretty tame. Maybe two deaths related to the Touched in a few weeks was a big deal.
Bowler-hat man smiled indulgently at the smith and shook his head. Selecting a dark-gray hat with thin lines of white plaid from his display, he stood and turned his smile to Lia. “Don’t you listen to her. Idiots have been killing each other for as long as there’ve been idiots, which is forever. Knives never gave anyone luck. But this—this is a lucky hat.”