Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event with Deborah Blake
What’s a Halloween themed event without a black cat image, right? #CMCon16 Featured Author Deborah Blake was kind enough to offer up this little short, with characters from her Veiled Magic world, to help finished off this week’s festivities.
“Beyond the Call”
Deborah Blake (Veiled Magic)
Donata Santori stared at her boss, the Chief of Police, and said, “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
The Chief stared back, his face like a block of granite. “When is the last time you heard me tell a joke, Santori?”
That would be never. “But you know I don’t work on Halloween, sir. It’s Samhain. The most important holiday in the Witch’s Wheel of the Year.” She swallowed hard. “If I don’t show up for dinner with the family, my mother is going to kill me.” It was bad enough that she worked as a Witness Retrieval Specialist, referred to by many as a “ghost yanker,” a job that her mother thought was far beneath a member of the Santori family. If Donata missed the big family gathering, she was going be disowned.
“Sir, I always request the day off months in advance. It’s as important as Christmas is to many non-Witches.” The clock on the wall of her dingy basement office ticked loudly, as if to emphasis the pointlessness of her protest. But she had to try. Besides, what he wanted her to do, well, it was way beyond the call of duty.
“We had a homicide last Christmas,” Chief O’Malley reminded her. “I worked Christmas Eve and three days straight afterwards. It comes with the territory.”
“But what you want me to do isn’t even part of the job.” At his scowl, she belatedly added the, “Sir.” She couldn’t help it if a hint of indignation crept into her voice. “I’m not some kind of a side-show to be dragged out to entertain the masses. What I do is serious; it’s not a magic act.” Well, technically it was, but not that kind of magic. Talking to the dead took real magic, and wasn’t something any Witch took lightly, even the ones with a gift for it like Donata.
The Chief sighed. “Look, I know that, Santori. I am fully aware that what I’m asking is both insulting and outside of your job description. The Petersons are huge supporters of the Police Benevolent Society and have agreed to donate a substantial amount to the scholarship fund for the children of officers killed in the line of duty. The only thing they requested was that I bring you along to put on a demonstration for their friends at the black tie Halloween party they are throwing for the Mayor. Hopefully you’ll be done in time to get to your family dinner.” He shrugged broad shoulders only a little bowed by the weight of long years in a stressful position. “I’m asking you to take one for the team. Maybe if you do, it will earn you some credit with the rest of the department.”
Who didn’t like her because she was a Witch who talked to dead victims of crimes, and therefore creeped them out. Sure, raising the dead for fun at a party was sure to fix that. On the other hand, she knew the Chief, and was pretty sure that he hated to ask her to do it almost as much as she hated having to say yes.
“Okay,” she said reluctantly. “Please tell me I don’t have to wear some fancy black dress.”
“You have to wear a fancy black dress,” he said. And she could swear there was laughter at the back of his voice.
Halloween night was crisp and cold and Donata was glad to have a lacy black shawl to wrap around her, even if she’d mostly worn it for the required spooky effect. She took a taxi to the Petersons’ mansion, since trying to ride her motorcycle in a long clingy dress was a little crazy, even for her. The Chief met her at the door, giving her a look of approval. His craggy features looked out of place over a well-pressed tuxedo, but even Donata had to admit that her boss looked pretty sharp for a guy hovering near the retirement age.
A beautiful woman with improbably platinum blond hair and perfect makeup swooped down on them as they walked in. Although she was dressed as Cleopatra, she was clearly recognizable as Eloisa Peterson, their hostess and leading light of society, for those who cared about such things.
“My darling Chief O’Malley! You brought her! I am so pleased,” Eloisa said, pressing one cool hand against Donata’s briefly. She gave the lower-ranked woman a wintery smile and added, “I am so fascinated by what you do, and what with it being Halloween and everything, I thought it would be such a thrill to have you do a little demonstration for us.”
“Calling on the dead isn’t something that is done lightly,” Donata said through gritted teeth. “Did you have some member of your family in particular that you wished to speak to? Someone with whom you have unfinished business perhaps, or need to say goodbye to?”
Eloisa waved one be-ringed hand dismissively. “No, no, dear. Just do your thing. I’m sure whomever shows up will be just fine.” She wafted away, dragging the Chief off to meet some of the other important guests.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Donata growled under her breath. Then she noticed a small boy with sad eyes hovering in a nearby doorway. He looked to be about six or seven and he was dressed up for the evening in a miniature tux with a tiny red bow tie around his neck. He glanced around as if checking to make sure that no one—his mother especially, Donata guessed—was paying attention, then came over and asked her a question in a voice not much louder than a whisper. She bent down to answer him, also in a whisper, and after a moment, gave him a quick furtive hug before going into the main ballroom where she was expected to perform.
Her hostess had set aside a circular space for Donata to use, with an area around it for the guests to stand and watch. When Donata appeared, Eloisa rang a bell to get everyone’s attention and briefly explained how thrilled she was to have such an interesting guest to show them true magic.
Donata just gritted her teeth and said quietly to the Chief, “I hope you got the check already.” His eyes widened in alarm, but he nodded and patted his jacket pocket.
“Donata,” he said warningly, “I don’t know what you’re planning…”
“Just doing what I was told,” she said, knowing full well there was probably a slightly evil grin hovering around the edges of her lips for anyone who knew her well enough to detect.
She took a step forward so that she was standing in the middle of the circle, and Eloisa backed out rapidly to stand at the edge with one hand placed possessively on her much older husband’s arm. An avid look gave her thin face unusual animation.
“Good evening,” Donata said to her audience. “As Mrs. Peterson explained so eloquently, I am a police officer and a Witch, and I specialize in speaking to the dead. Usually, of course, my gifts are used to bring justice to the victims of crime, but tonight, at Mrs. Peterson’s request, I will be demonstrating my ability to you.”
A wave of excited chatter moved through the group and Donata forced herself not to roll her eyes as she set up the few tools she needed for her magic. There were colored candles set out at each quarter; north, east, south, and west, as well as incense and a mixture of sea salt and water that she would sprinkle around the edges of the circle. As she set things up, she explained that the circle was set up for protection, to keep the summoned spirit inside and any unwanted entities from being called in accidentally.
“This is especially important tonight of all nights,” Donata said. “Halloween, or Samhain as we Witches call it, is the night when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, and it is easiest for spirits to cross over from the other side.” She didn’t add that considering who she was planning to call, the protective circle wasn’t really necessary, and she didn’t actually intend to invoke it. Having a circle erected would interfere with her plans.
But she went through the motions anyway, calling on the powers of the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, but without putting any magical effort into the words. Then she lit the incense and putting her hands out dramatically, uttered the name of the one she was summoning three times quietly. Too quietly for anyone to hear, even with the room so silent you could have heard a pin drop.
Which is probably why they all gasped a moment later when a loud meowwwww was heard and an ancient black cat seemed to appear from the swirls of incense, its green eyes gleaming in the dimly lit room.
“Jasper!” a high voice cried out, and Eloisa’s young son ran into the circle to stand in front of the small ghostly figure. “You came back! She said you would and you did.” Tears ran down his pale face as he put out his fingers as if to touch the cat, hovering just out of reach. “I didn’t get to say goodbye when you died. I’m so sorry. You were the best cat ever and I love you so much.”
Donata could feel a tiny trickle of dampness on her own cheeks as she watched the ghostly cat rub up against his former companion, purring so loudly it almost drowned out the sound of Eloisa’s plaintive complaint. “She called up the cat? What kind of ghost is that?”
Donata bent her head to hide her smile, wiping away her sympathetic tear at the same time she knelt down next to the boy. “I’m sorry, Timmy, but we need to let Jasper go on to the Summerlands where he belongs. He has been waiting very patiently to say goodbye to you too, but now it is time to let him go. Perhaps someday he will come back to you again, in another form.”
“Like a kitten?” Timmy asked, his gaze steadfastly fixed on the slowly fading swirls of incense. “With no more hurting?”
“Just like that,” Donata said. She stood up and moved her hands in the gesture that would dismiss the tiny feline ghost. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Be free. And a blessed Samhain to you, my furry friend.”
When she glanced over at the Chief, she was almost certain she saw him smile.
No, I did NOT tear up… that’s just my eye leaking!!
I loved this sweet story, and I can’t wait to learn more about these characters when Veiled Magic comes out on November 17th!! Deborah is offering up a fun prize pack of Veiled Magic goodies to one of our readers today. To enter, let me know in the comments if you dress up for Halloween, and if so, what your favorite costume is/was.
by Deborah Blake. © 2015 Berkley Publishing
A spellbinding new novel from the author of the Baba Yaga novels. Since Witches came out of the broom-closet in the early 21st century, they have worked alongside humans as police officers, healers, stock traders, and more. But they aren’t the only paranormal entities in our world… Police officer and Witch Donata Santori spends her days interrogating dead
witnesses by summoning their spectral forms. Normally the job is little more than taking statements and filing reports. But when she’s called in on the case of a murdered art restorer, she finds herself suddenly in possession of a mystical portrait that both the human and paranormal communities would kill to get their hands on.
Unable to take on the forces hunting her alone, Donata seeks help from two unlikely and attractive allies: a reluctant shape-changer and a half-dragon art forger. But as the three of them hurry to uncover the truth about the powerful painting, Donata realizes that she’s caught in the middle of not one but two wars—one for possession of the painting’s secrets and one for possession of her heart…
All giveaways this week last from their posting date, through November 1st. Winners will be chosen and notified by email on Monday, November 2nd. All giveaways will be fulfilled by the author. You can find the kickoff post for this year’s Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event HERE, for a listing of all of this week’s participating authors, many including giveaways. Good Luck, everyone!!