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Short Stories from the Undead Canadian Series



Bits & Bones



by T. Strange

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

Bits & Bones by T. Strange Copyright 2017

Editor, Deelylah Mullin

Cover by T. Strange

Images from Adobe

Published with permission

Smashwords Edition

“Exchange of Power” originally published as “My Zombie Mix-up” by Torquere Press: September 2015

“The Adventures of Boo the Zombie Cat” originally published as “My Zombie Cat” by Torquere Press: July 2016

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the Canadian Copyright Law.


Contents

Exchange of Power

Bone

The Adventures of Boo the Zombie Cat

The Jenkins Place

Read the First Chapter of My Zombie Boyfriend

About the Author

Also by T. Strange


Exchange of Power



Necromancers control zombies, not the other way around, but magic is fickle and small changes can have major consequences. In this short story set between My Zombie Boyfriend and My Zombie Fiancé, Kit explores what it's like to be in charge.

* * *

Edward and I hadn't had sex the night before, so I hadn't slept. It's some weird part of me being a zombie—the only way I can sleep is if I get off. And, no thanks to weird-zombie-powers, I can't just get myself off. Edward has to be involved, but he'd been too tired from some sort of medical student...thing or whatever, so I'd tucked him into bed, put in earbuds, and rocked out to Florence and the Machine all night while I cleaned. I have no idea how Edward survived before I came into his life. It's not like he called a maid or anything, and his house was gross when I moved in. I don't even want to talk about what I found in the grout in his bathroom. The word ‘extraterrestrial’ comes to mind. Ew.

Today I let him sleep in, because he usually burns the candle at both ends, and I get way more done when he's not around. I finally ran out of things to clean, so I made breakfast. Well, breakfast for him. I can't eat actual...food. Ah, the joys of being a zombie. There are perks, but not many of them.

By eleven, I was starting to get concerned. It's rare for Edward to sleep past eight. This was almost unheard of.

I knocked softly on his door. Well, our door, most nights. Except after he eats burritos. Then he's on his own. "Edward? Sweetie? Don't you think it's about time you got up?"

No response. Not even snoring; not that Edward is much of a snorer.

This was weird. I pushed the door open. "E-E-Edward, it's time to get u-u-up! I made French toast!" I sang.

The lumpy bundle on the bed shifted and grunted, but ignored me.

"Edward! Get up!"

He sat bolt upright, eyes wide and unfocused.

"That's more like it. C'mon. French toast. Getting cold."

Edward just sat there, hands bunched in the blankets, staring at me.

"Edward, WTF? Hell-o? Are you in there?" I waved a hand in front of his eyes. "Are you sick?" I put a hand on his forehead.

That got a reaction. "Cold zombie-hand!"

I cleared my throat pointedly, but let the "Z" word slide. He seemed pretty freaked out. I sat beside him on the bed. "What's up?"

"I...I don't know…”

There's a shocker. Edward says "I don't know"—or makes something up to cover the fact that he doesn't know—often enough that, if I ever made my life into a drinking game, I would be constantly buzzed. If, y'know, I wasn't a zombie and could actually get drunk. Le sigh. "Are you sick?"

"No, but now my forehead's cold."

I grinned lecherously. "I could warm up my hands for you. See where that takes us."

He gave me a feeble smile. "Not right now, Kit. Sorry. I don't think I'm sick, but something feels...wrong."

I can practically see the ellipses when Edward talks. "What kind of 'wrong?'"

"What did you do this morning?"

"Um, well, my very inconsiderate fiancé didn't have sex with me, so I spent the night cleaning."

He made a pouty-face.

"Sorry, my super-awesome, medical student fiancé was tired from studying and needed a night off from pleasuring his smokin' hot undead love-slave."

"Thanks. That sounds much better." Eye roll. "Did you do anything besides cleaning?"

"Made you breakfast. Which is currently getting cold. Can we continue this conversation while you eat?" He was looking kinda pale—paler—and I was hoping some food would help calm him down.

"Sure. Thanks." He pulled on his ratty old bathrobe, which I've been trying to make him get rid of for, like, ever. I think the next step is going to have to be, ‘Whoops, I accidentally threw it out on garbage day, and oh look, there goes the garbage truck now. Wave bye-bye!’

He shuffled down the hallway toward the smell of food and coffee, looking, I might point out, much more like a ‘zombie’ than yours truly. I'm just saying.

I filled his plate and poured him a mug of coffee—black, with enough sugar that I'm pretty sure it qualified as a syrup rather than a liquid. Ew. Zombie or not, I don't usually serve him this much, but today he looked so crappy, I thought I'd take it easy on him. On second thought, I added a glass of orange juice to his complete breakfast. He looked like he could use it.

He read the paper while he ate. I know—who reads the paper anymore? Edward, that's who. He's seriously an old man trapped in a twenty-something body. He still has a landline.

I played on my iPad and watched him eat, remembering the way French toast was supposed to taste. I knew I'd liked it when I was alive, and that the smell would have made me want to eat it. Now, it was just a smell. Not enticing, but not unpleasant, either. Sort of neutral, like wet paint or grass, and about as tasty as either of those things.

Edward's forehead had some really cute wrinkles because he was concentrating while he read. I was just about to swoop in and kiss them when he carefully set the paper down, folded it neatly, and rested his chin on his knuckles. "This morning. Something happened this morning."

"Like, a bomb or something?"

He glanced at me, puzzled. The lines got deeper. Cute as they were, he really had to stop doing that or he was going to get wrinkles before he turned thirty. Good thing I moisturize him in his sleep. Shhh. "A bomb? Oh, no, not in the paper. Here."

"There was a bomb here? I didn't see anything about that!"

"Why are you talking about a bomb? There...there's no bomb. Just...something."

I shrugged. "Like what?"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out. You cleaned last night."

"Yep. Already established. Want me to walk you through the scene, officer?"

He flapped a hand at me, then smiled. "That won't be necessary, thank you, ma'am. After that?"

I held up an invisible notebook and pretended to flip through it. "At approximately 1000 hours...is that how you say it? I know it'd be 0900 or 1100, but 1000 just sounds weird. Anyway, I made breakfast. Went to your room to wake you up. Elicited no response."

"And?"

"And, I told you to get up."

He snapped his fingers. "That's it! You told me to get up!"

"It's a really good thing you don't have class today, or you'd probably sew someone's kidney shut or something."

"But you didn't just tell me to get up. You told me to get up."

Aw, he was just going to ignore that one? I'd thought it was pretty funny. "I did it with different inflection?"

"No. You used the Command Voice. On me. And it worked."

"Pretty sure that's impossible."

"Yeah. Me, too...."

More ellipses. I pictured the script:

Edward: trails off in thought.

"Finish your orange juice."

He did, and he only missed his mouth once.

"Okay, Edward, now you're freaking me out."

"Sorry. I know it's impossible, but...try it again."

"Try what?"

"The Command Voice."

"How?"

"Just...tell me to do something. But really mean it."

"I do that all the time. For all the good it does."

He raised a dark eyebrow. He got really lucky in the genetics department—he doesn't have to tweeze at all. His eyebrows are just naturally perfect. Which means I don't have to tweeze him in his sleep, too. That might be pushing my luck, and he'd never let me near his face with tweezers while he was awake.

I'd had to tweeze constantly when I was alive. Even though my hair is much lighter than his, my eyebrows are dark enough that I'd been able to see wayward hairs. There's a perk of being undead—eternally perfect eyebrows. "Fine. What should I tell you to do? Oh, I know! How about...duuuuuust the maaaaaaaantle occaaaaasionally."

"It's the Command Voice, not the Spooky Voice, or whatever that was supposed to be." We are not amused. "Try something small. Something simple."

"Stand up." He didn't move. "Did it work?"

"Does it look like it worked?"

"Did you feel anything?"

He shook his head. "Maybe I am getting sick. Sorry, Kit. I just had the strangest feeling when you woke me up."

He sounded so dejected, so I decided to give a really good try. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I could "see" the connection between us, sort of a glowing, pulsing misty line made of energy that constantly moved back and forth. "Raise your hand."

I opened my eyes.

His fingertips were pointed at the ceiling.

"Nah. You're just fucking with me."

"Kit, I swear, I didn't do that."

"If you're just messing with me..." I cleared my throat and tried again, this time with my eyes open. "Stand up."

He was on his feet so quickly, he almost took out the barstool he was sitting on.

"Cool! So, what, you're like my zombie now?"

"Kit, this isn't right. It's not supposed to be this way."

"Ah, you're just upset because you can't boss me around anymore."

"When was the last time I used the Command Voice on you?"

When I'd gone on a rampage and tried to kill the boys who'd murdered me. What? I'd only gotten one of them. The others were fine. "Shut up."

"We have to go see Mariel. This could be a serious problem."

"Or, hear me out: serious fun! I could take you to the gym without being embarrassed!"

"You'd probably kill me."

"We could play tennis!" I mimed swinging a racquet. "I could tell you exactly when to swing. OMG. This is perfect."

"I'm not...some sort of puppet, Kit!"

"Just for a few hours?" I slid behind him and lightly grabbed his wrists, moving his arms around. "Can't I have an Edward-puppet to play with?"

The doorbell rang.

"Get the—"

"I'd get it anyway! Ow, Kit, that hurts. The Command Voice isn't for playing around with." Rubbing his head, Edward left to open the door.

"Ed!"

Oh great. There's only one person who calls Edward "Ed": his ex-boyfriend, Bone. Bone is this skinny little creep with bleached-blond hair and a serious boner—no pun intended—for the dead. Including yours truly. So not interested. Even if I wasn't engaged.

Edward glanced back at me, looking almost panicked. "This is really...not a good time, Bone."

"Uh-huh. Is Kit around?" A pale, thin hand with chipped black nail polish grabbed the doorframe. Bone also has boundary issues.

Idea! "Let him in, Edward."

Bone pushed past Edward and gave me a not-even-remotely-subtle wink. Someone really needed to tell him that mascara and eyeliner come in colours besides black. And it wasn't going to be me. If he wanted to look like a malnourished raccoon, that was his business.

Edward looked at me as though I'd grown two heads, slowly following Bone into the kitchen. Are you crazy? he mouthed at me.

"Edward and I have a new trick. Want to see?"

Realizing where I was going, Edward's eyes went wide, and he started backing away, arms raised in front of himself as though that was going to stop me. "No. Oh no, Kit. No. Bone has to go right now, don't you, Bone?"

Bone licked his pierced lip and smirked at me. "Hey, Kit wants to show me something, I want to see it."

Ew. Hopefully, this would scare him off, not turn him on. If that happened, I was ordering Edward to kick his ass to the curb. Permanently. I tried to think of the most dramatic, effective way of displaying my new power. That should do it. "Edward Grey! Kneel before thy Master!"

Giving me a very clear you owe me, big time look, Edward took a few jerky steps toward me. His legs bent and he crashed to his knees in front of me.

Ouch. I'd definitely have to apologize to him later. After I'd gotten rid of Bone.

As for Bone...I turned to the little freak with my biggest, ditziest, blondest smile. "Pretty neat, huh?"

It was hard to tell because Bone's already so pale—I didn't think they came paler than Edward until I saw Bone—but he looked pretty freaked out. Score. "Uh, yeah. Neat." He backed away, slowly, toward the still-open door.

"What is your bidding, my Master?" Edward droned in a very creepy, lifeless voice.

"Yeah, I've...gotta go. See you later, Edward!" And then Bone was gone. His tone implied that he wasn't sure he'd ever see Edward again. Alive.

I closed the door, locked it, and leaned against it. "I feel like I need to take a shower. Ick."

Edward frowned at me from the floor. "'Kneel before thy Master?'"

"Hey, you played along. Thanks for that, by the way."

"You're welcome," he said, dryly. "It's not like I couldn't tell what you were trying to do, and I am sorry Bone keeps coming around and hitting on you. He's...persistent."

"At least he hasn't given us any more presents." I was still having nightmares from Christmas.

"True. Can I get up now?"

"Yeah, sure, why not?"

Edward gritted his teeth and shifted a bit.

"Get up, don't shit on the floor."

"...trying."

"You can't, because you'd be disobeying my order!" I clapped my hands with glee. "Okay, I'm sorry, I know you're not loving this, but...it is kind of fun. For me."

"Yeah, yeah. Let me up?"

"Edward, no longer kneel!"

He got up, brushing off his knees. Like I don't keep the place spotless. "You know, you don't have to say my name first. I'm pretty sure the power knows where it's going."

"What if it doesn't? What if...oh my God. Where's Boo?" Boo is Edward's disgusting zombie cat. He's not undead, like me. He's definitely a zombie—shambling, bits-falling-off, brain-eating, the works. Possibly the only thing on Earth creepier than Bone.

"Why? What did he do?" Edward's face showed the guilt his cat was incapable of feeling.

"Nothing. For once. I just want to see if I can control him too."

"Uh, Kit? I'm not sure that's such a good..."

"C'mon, Edward! Where's your sense of adventure? Aren't you supposed to be a doctor—a scientist?"

"Yes, but..."

If I could control Boo, maybe I could find a way to make him less revolting. Obviously, Edward was too used to picking up bits of zombie-cat and stitching them back on to think of alternatives, but I refused to live with the status quo when I was alive, and I didn't plan on changing now that I was undead. Especially if it involved Boo. "Boo! Here, kitty-kitty!" I realized I'd never called Boo before.

"There's no way he's going to come. He knows you don't like him."

Boo galloped around the corner, leaving a substantial clump of fur in his wake. "Ew. You were saying?" Boo has a weird fascination with me. He constantly tried to sneak into my room before I started sharing with Edward, and I can't sit on the couch without Boo trying to cuddle up with me. "Now, how does this work again?"

Edward sighed. "I don't know. This...nothing about today makes sense."

"Fine. I'll do it myself." I narrowed my eyes at Boo, trying to feel a connection between us. Even on a normal day—well, normal for us, anyway—I could always feel Edward, no matter how close or far apart we were. Today, it went even deeper. Now that I knew I could control him, I was so aware of Edward that it was almost a distraction. There had been a few moments I'd almost walked into a wall because I'd been seeing from his point of view. It was like playing a split-screen multiplayer video game. No wonder Edward was such a klutz, if he saw like this all the time.

With Boo, there was nothing. Nothing seemed to have changed between us. "Maybe if I pick him up..."

"Kit..."

I grabbed the cat. He made a surprisingly musical sound of displeasure, but didn't try to escape or bite me or anything. He went limp in my arms, though I could tell he was quietly seething. Well, what else was new? "Still nothing." I lifted him the way Edward does when he doesn't think anyone's watching, with my hands in the cat's armpits so his body dangled and his front legs stuck straight out in front. "Now he really looks like a zombie. Look." I turned him around so he was facing Edward and waggled his little cat arms. "Braaaaaainssss...braaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiinsssssss!" I said, in my best zombie-cat voice.

"Very funny. Will you please put him down before something happens?"

"Something like...oh my God." I felt something warm and wet slide down my leg. "Oh my God, oh my God, what is it, get it off!" I held Boo at arms' length, barely resisting the urge to throw him as far away as I could. That would just make more pieces fall off.

"It's okay. It's just a cat toy. He must've had it in his mouth when you picked him up. See? Look. It's okay." Edward held up a slimy, sodden object that could have been anything.

"Are you sure?" My voice came out squeakier than I'd like to admit. I gently set Boo down, relieved when he immediately ran away, taking the disgusting lump with him.

"I'm sure. It wasn't part of him."

"Ew. I'm covered in...Boo-goo."

"It rhymes!"

I frowned at him. "Okay, now I definitely need a shower. You're coming with me."

"Why? I didn't touch Boo."

"Because I want to thank you for helping me out with Bone."

"Oh?"

"On my knees."

"Oh? Ohhhh..."

You'd swear Edward is the blond one in our relationship.

* * *

I had to clean every inch of myself. I used a ton of body scrub.

Then, I reminded Edward of the benefits of not having to breathe.

Afterward, I sat him on the couch to recover. We watched tennis on ESPN—well, I did. Edward sat there and tried to pretend he had any idea what was going on.

"Okay, but seriously, as...fun...as this has been, we need to go see Mariel."

I grinned at him. "Fine. If you've got your legs back."

He frowned at me and pushed himself off the couch. He actually made it to the phone before he remembered he had a cell phone in his pocket. "Hey, Mariel? It's Edward. Um...we're having a bit of a problem, and we could use your help. What? No, it's not exactly urgent. It's just...Yeah, okay, that'll work."

"What's up?"

"She's...busy." Edward's face was so red it was practically glowing. "We're supposed to call her back in a few hours."

"Oh, good for Mariel! A few hours, nice!" I poked his side. "I wonder if she'll be thinking of you."

"I sincerely hope not. I'm engaged. To you."

"Um, yeah, I kinda noticed." I waggled my ring under his nose. "So, looks like we've got a few hours to kill. Whatcha wanna to do? Keep watching tennis?"

"Not...really. Don't you have homework or something?"

"Aw, don't you want to sit here and watch tennis with me and think about what Mariel's doing riiiiiight now?"

"I...have to give Boo a bath!"

Poor Edward. So easy.

The volume on the brand-new, sixty-inch flat-screen TV I'd made Edward buy couldn't go high enough to drown out the sounds coming from the bathroom. I was pretty sure a live concert in the living room wouldn't be loud enough. I wondered if becoming a zombie had somehow allowed Boo to make more noise. It's always amazed me that the neighbours have never called the police on us for animal cruelty. If I hadn't known what was going on, I would've. I was tempted to, anyway, just to make the noise stop.

After washing, drying, and brushing those parts of Boo that were still his actual fur, Edward needed another shower. I opted out of this one, but I was glad I could turn the volume down.

He was thoroughly grumpy—though not as grumpy as Boo—by the time he was finished and it was time to call Mariel again.

"You're the one who wanted to give Boo a bath," I reminded him.

"Would you rather I let him wander around the way he was? He'd already left a bit of a trail."

I sighed. "Oh, sweetie, I think you know what I'd prefer."

"And that's not an option." He's so cute when he's being tough.

"I know." I kissed his nose. "Want to see if Mariel's done makin' whoopee?"

"'Making whoopee'? That sounds like something she'd say."

"Maybe it is." I waggled my eyebrows at him.

"Shush. I'm on the phone."

This time Mariel was ready for us. It was a nice day, so Edward and I decided to walk, holding hands. I resisted the temptation to use the Command Voice on Edward. Except once.

"Well, would you rather I'd let you trip and fall on your face?"

"I might not have fallen."

"Uh-huh. I saved your butt."

"I'd rather that everything go back to normal."

"You mean, where you're in charge of your undead fiancé instead of the other way around?"

He grinned at me. "Well, our normal. I'm sorry I've been so grumpy. This whole thing is just really strange. I don't like..." He clenched his fists, then spread his fingers.

"Not being in control? Yeah, I've noticed."

"Kit, it's not that. Well, it kind of is. A lot. But it's not that I want to be in control of you; when's the last time I even used the Command Voice? I just hate always having to go to Mariel because I have no idea what's going on."

"Could be worse."

"Oh?"

"You could not have a Mariel to go to."

"Good point. I'm pretty sure a lot of people would be dead if I didn't."

* * *

I watched Mariel carefully, but she was playing it cool. Her hair and clothing were in perfect order, as usual. There was no scent of cologne—or perfume—in her house. It wasn't that I wanted to pry into her sex life, though I was curious about who, besides Edward, she deigned to sleep with, but just once I wanted to see her ruffled.

She had iced tea already set out on her coffee table for us, the glasses on coasters and everything. She'd even set out a glass for me, even though I don't really need one. Luckily, there was no sign of Pierre, her creepy-as-hell zombie butler.

Ew. She hadn't been sleeping with Pierre, had she? I didn't even want to think about that.

I took a big gulp of iced tea to wash that image out of my head, then made a face. As much as I hate to admit it, "normal" food is...really gross. Everything but raw meat tastes odd and unexpected, never the same way twice. An orange might taste like cantaloupe one day and fish the next. Ew. I hadn't had the heart to ask Edward to stop flavouring the jelly babies he makes for me. I think we both wanted to pretend that I was eating something besides pureed cow. Or maybe he honestly thinks I don't know what he puts in them.

"What seems to be the problem?" Mariel, cool as ever, asked over the rim of her glass.

"I...um..." Predictably, Edward wasn't sure where to start.

"It might be easiest if I just show her. Do you mind?"

"You've been doing it all day, anyway."

"Thanks." Hmm. What to make him do? This might be my final performance, so I wanted to make it a good one.

Aha. I wasn't sure if this would work, but if it did, it would be spectacular. I pulled Edward close so I could whisper in his ear. "Edward, you're going to do exactly what I tell you, but not until I say the word 'go'," I told him, using the Command Voice. "Ready?" I gave him a long series of directions, then pulled out my iPhone and searched for the song I had in mind. "One second...okay...go!" I hit play at the perfect moment, just as Edward lurched into a technically perfect—if rather stiff—performance of Thriller.

"Wow." Even though I'd been expecting it, the sight of Edward actually dancing was breathtaking. He would never be able to do this if he weren't under my command, and I was pretty sure Mariel would realize that, too. Edward is good at a lot of things—including, surprisingly, sex. I wondered if that had to do with his medical student's knowledge of anatomy—but dancing is not one of them. Neither are most things that involve coordination.

He's also been a little leery about dancing because, the last time we danced together, I went on a rampage and killed someone. It's not like the dancing had anything to do with it, but I think he'd made a mental association.

"Wow," Mariel repeated, watching Edward shimmy and claw the air.

"Stop frowning like that. I'm not hurting you." I blew him a kiss.

Edward grumbled and kept dancing. Not that he had a choice.

Mariel was barely holding herself together. She made a smoothing gesture with both hands, and Edward stopped mid-step. He stumbled and almost fell.

"Aw, Mariel, the song wasn't over!"

"Entertaining as that was—and it was very entertaining, Kit—I believe I understand why you're here. Either you've secretly taught Edward how to dance, and I'm pretty sure that is impossible..."

Edward opened his mouth to protest, then shut it. "No, that's fair."

"Or, something has reversed the balance of power between the two of you."

"That. Definitely that," Edward agreed.

"Can't we keep it this way just a little longer? I was going to make him play tennis with me!"

Mariel snorted, then quickly composed herself. "I'm afraid not, my kit. There could be something sinister at work here. No, it's best if we correct this as quickly as possible."

"Really? Sinister?" I remembered the—presence—I'd felt when I'd killed one of the boys who'd murdered me, and I shivered. It had wanted me to kill and keep killing until there was nothing but bloody meat all around. If what was happening to me and Edward had anything to do with that...making Edward dance seemed like a lot less fun.

"You can fix it, right?" As far as I know, Edward has no idea about the evil that tried to take over me, but he still looked afraid.

"I cannot promise anything, but I will do my best. Sit."

Mariel has an uncanny ability to make anyone act like a zombie. We both sat.

"Now, hold hands."

I looked at her, to see if she was joking. It would've been very much like Mariel.

"I am serious. Hold hands.

"I can never tell with you," Edward grumbled, taking my hand.

"Would I joke about something this serious?"

"Yes."

"Absolutely. Last year you told me Kit could be out eating babies."

"Hey...what? When was that?"

"When you got hit by the car."

"Oh. You never told me that. Babies?"

Mariel chuckled. "That was pretty amusing. Hush now, both of you, and close your eyes. Picture the bond between you."

I yawned. You'd think necromancy would be cool, but mostly it was really dull. I could never ‘see’ or ‘feel’ anything Edward or Mariel described.

After a thankfully short period of time, Edward gasped. I opened my eyes.

"Mmm. You see it, too?" Mariel asked.

I hadn't seen anything but the new leather jacket I'd oh-so-subtly hinted Edward should buy me for Christmas.

"Yes. I think so. It's...backwards?”

No duh. I could've figured that out.

"You haven't been experimenting without me, have you?"

Edward shook his head.

"You can't think of any reason this might have occurred?" She leaned forward, I think searching Edward for signs of guilt.

"No, nothing."

Mariel leaned back, steepling her fingers under her chin. Though I couldn't be sure if it was intentional or not—knowing Mariel, it probably was—the light hit her perfectly, making her look very spooky and villainous. "This is puzzling, and troubling. I cannot see any obvious problem in your bond." She tapped her lip, thoughtfully. "Let's go to your house and look for clues."

She couldn't have just come over in the first place? We could've held hands on our own couch.

"What kind of clues?"

"I will let you know once I've found them."

Coming this fall, from Fox: two necromancers and a zombie form a detective agency.

* * *

Of course, she headed straight for the basement.

"I am so not going down there." I crossed my arms to show how serious I was. Besides being the place I woke up to a strange man telling me I was a zombie, Edward's basement is way creepy. It's got one of those autopsy tables, a floor drain, the works. Very Dr. Frankenstein. I've only been down there once since the night Edward resurrected me, and I had no intention of ever going down there again. I get shaky just thinking about it. I can't even go into the normal half of the basement, with the deep freezer and tools and stuff. "Uh-uh. No way."

"Suit yourself. The answer, if there is one, is certain to be down there."

"So go down there and fix it, and leave me out of it." I knew I was being childish, but I didn't care. I was starting to feel a little panicky just because the basement door was open.

I have a cat, too. He's not a zombie, he's a perfectly normal cat, only better. He's a blue British Shorthair named Winston and he's an absolute darling. Edward got him for me last Christmas. He'd been following me since we got home, and I scooped him up. "I'm going to brush Winston," I told them, and went to get his brush. I ended up sitting on my bed, which I've hardly used since I started sleeping with Edward. It faces the basement door so I could keep an eye on things, from a safe distance. Just in case.

After a few minutes and a growing pile of soft, grey fur—Winston was growing up so quickly! He was hardly a kitten anymore—I heard Mariel laughing from downstairs. I ignored it, brushing harder until Winston mewed softly in protest and I apologized to him.

"Kit! Get down here. I believe I have found the problem."

I pretended I hadn't heard her and kept brushing Winston's ruff.

"...Kit."

"I'm fine up here, thanks."

"We need you for this."

"You can bring Winston!" Edward called.

I glanced down at Winston. He nuzzled my hand, reassuringly.

"Fine." I scooped up my cat, took a deep breath that I didn't technically need, and headed downstairs.

They were waiting for me in Edward's workspace. I tried to ignore the creepy medical paraphernalia, and luckily, their attention was on the weird symbols painted on the walls.

"Here is the problem." Mariel pointed to a smudged section.

"Really? That's it?"

"That is it."

"Those actually do something?"

Mariel frowned at me, while Edward made a warning face beside her.

"I mean...I just thought they were there to look cool. And they do! It's just, uh... What happened?"

"As I was telling Edward, I believe Boo happened."

Taking a closer look at the smudged paint, the mark definitely looked cat paw-shaped. "Huh. Don't see what that has to do with me."

"How many times have I told you, Edward, not to let Boo into the basement?"

"I don't! He just keeps getting down here somehow."

"I trust you will be more cautious in the future, knowing what the consequences might be?"

Edward nodded gravely.

"Uh, hello? I'd like to get out of here ASAP. Can we just do the chant or whatever?"

"Very well. Edward, kneel in front of the Vèvè. Kit, kneel beside him, with your hand on his thigh."

Then do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around, I thought, but didn't say. If it had just been Edward I would've, but not with Mariel.

"Now, Edward, touch the Vèvè. Feel where it's wrong, and repair it."

"Uh, Mariel? This is more your thing than mine. I don't know anything about Vodou or Vèvès. I can see the paint's been smudged, but I have no idea how to fix it."

"And it's just paint. Shouldn't we have...a paintbrush?"

Mariel frowned at me, then smiled at Edward. Teacher's pet. "You will be able to feel it. These Vèvès are tuned to you and your power, or they would not have affected you like this. Kit, kneel beside Edward and hold his hand."

Edward got into position, and I reluctantly put Winston down and joined him. The cat sat close to Mariel's side, watching with big, concerned eyes. Or maybe that was just me projecting.

Edward looked skeptical, but he closed his eyes and touched the symbol. "Oh. Oh! I do see it." He had the wrinkles between his eyes that showed he was concentrating hard, and I wanted to reach out and smooth them away, but I also didn't want to break his focus.

I kept my eyes open so I could watch, and Mariel didn't correct me. I gasped; the paint was actually moving, flowing and shifting to follow the motions Edward was making with his hands. The smudge disappeared as the symbols returned to their proper boundaries. I thought I felt...something...when he'd finished, but it might have just been the thrill of the moment. I'd never seen such an obvious display of magic, and it had been beautiful.

Edward sank back until he was sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest. His forehead was beaded with sweat, but he looked absolutely elated. "Wow."

"It seems I may have neglected this area of your training. I didn't think that you would be able to manipulate the Vèvès. Kit, try the Command Voice on Edward. It doesn't have to be anything complicated," she added, before I could think of something good.

"Wipe your gross, sweaty face."

"Thanks, Kit." He didn't move.

"Lift your hand?"

"Still nothing. I think that did it."

"Edward, give Kit a command."

I made a face. "Does he have to? Can't we just assume that everything's back to normal?"

"Sorry, Kit, I know how much you hate being commanded. But we've got to make sure."

"Fine. Winston, c'mere."

My loyal little cat trotted over and hopped into my lap. I squished him tightly and closed my eyes.

"Say your name," Edward commanded.

"Kit." The word was dragged out of my throat, completely out of my voluntary control. It felt wrong, a complete violation, and I shuddered, holding Winston close and burying my face in his plush fur. "Are we done?" I murmured through a mouthful of fluff.

"We're done. Sorry."

It had been a long time since Edward had commanded me, and I'd forgotten how truly terrible it felt. Playing with him all day no longer seemed like a big joke. "I'm sorry, too."

He put a hand on my shoulder. "It's okay. I understand. And...I think it's good for me to know how it feels."

Mariel cleared her throat. She's not big on touchy-feely nonsense.

Something occurred to me. "Edward? Why don't you make Mariel some tea. There should be some cookies left over, too, unless you ate them all."

"Ugh. I can hardly eat chocolate chip cookies any more."

"Yeah, I kinda got the hint when you bought me that cookie cookbook. But they're still my favourite to make."

"You're going to stay in the basement longer than you have to? Voluntarily?"

"We'll be right up. You go ahead."

Looking skeptical, Edward shrugged and headed for the stairs. He was back a moment later to intercept Boo's mad dash for the workroom, hauling the squawking cat away.

"Would he gain something from the symbols? Could he, like, absorb their power and become Super-Boo?"

Mariel made a face. "No. That...cat...is just an asshole."

I grinned. At least it wasn't just me. Edward thought the sun shone out of Boo's butt. "Was it really something Boo did?"


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