Excerpt for Worth His Salt (Tattooed Corpse Stories) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




Worth His Salt


By


Ofelia Gränd

Worth His Salt

Copyright © 2018 Ofelia Gränd

All rights reserved.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.


The moral rights of the authors have been asserted.


http://www.ofeliagrand.com/



Cover art: Amy Spector

Acknowledgements



A big thank you to Mr Love, Mr Stewart and Ms Spector as always.

The Call



Eldred Henstare rubbed his neck for the hundredth time since he’d left home. The strap of his messenger bag dug into his shoulder, and the salt and candles in it grew heavier and heavier with each step. A long time had passed since he’d jumped off the bus and started walking.

He didn’t know where he was going, or rather he knew precisely where he was going, could walk there with his eyes closed, but he didn’t know what the end destination was.

The wind whipped his face; raindrops bounced off his skin with enough force for him to suspect they were hail. He shivered under his too-thin jacket and cursed his stupidity of not donning rainwear. The ghost calling him wouldn’t care what he was wearing, and the risk of running into a living soul out there was minimal. To this day Prince Charming had never appeared when he’d been out chasing ghosts—one day he would, though. With Eldred’s luck, it would probably be the ghost of Prince Charming he’d have to guide into the light.

He sighed and shielded his face as he climbed a dune and was greeted by the white foam riding the crashing waves of the sea. A thread of moonlight managed to shine through the clouds, and he stopped to catch his breath for a second…or five.

Why was he never called out on a sunny morning? Why did it always have to be on cold nights? Granted, he had been sensing the call since yesterday; right before dawn it had become unbearable. If he hadn’t promised Lachtin to fill in for him at a bank meeting, he’d probably, maybe, have taken care of it during the day.

Looking over his shoulder towards the distant lights of the city, he weighed his options. There was nothing he’d rather do than go back home, take a hot shower, and crawl into bed. He could, maybe, pretend he couldn’t taste the rot on his tongue. He could, perhaps, ignore the prickling, chilling energy skidding over his skin. And with a little luck, he might be able to fool Mother into believing there wasn’t anything needing to be taken care of in the area. Mother…

Eldred rubbed his forehead. There was no way she wasn’t sensing something going on by now. Fucking witches.

A new wave of energy washed over him, more intense than anything he’d experienced before, and he gritted his teeth around a hiss. He did not want to do this.

He touched his phone through his pocket, then double-checked that his other pocket was full of salt. The grains clung to the fabric and some of it trickled out when he slipped his fingers inside, but he didn’t care. Perhaps he should call Lachtin and tell him where he was.

Lachtin hated everything supernatural, but the intensity of what was out there had Eldred breaking out in sweat. Something wasn’t right with this spirit; it didn’t feel like they usually did.

Rubbing the salt off his fingers, he followed the energy call instead. Lachtin had been glaring at him all day so he probably already suspected Eldred was up to something.

An invisible rope yanked him forward over sand and slippery rocks, down on the beach and at one point into the water. Eldred stopped before he got knee deep. The spirit wasn’t trapped in the water, he didn’t know how he could be sure, but he was.

Could the spirit want me to go into the sea? No, ghosts weren’t sentient in that way. Most of them could talk, but they were trapped in their bubble of reality, they didn’t think about actions and consequences. It was probably that he was supposed to go to the other side of the bay and across the water was the shortest way. Unless it was a poltergeist. Eldred swallowed hard. He couldn’t take care of a poltergeist on his own.

No, it couldn’t be. Shrugging off the feeling of the ghost trying to control him, he continued alongside the shore until he came to a narrow path leading up across a barren meadow. Out on the headland, a dark lighthouse watched out over the waves.

Eldred hesitated. He did not want to go to the lighthouse. No lamps shone in the little cottage by the foot of the tower or in the lighthouse itself. An abandoned lighthouse… Sometimes it sucked being the guardian of the city, not only did the spirits seek him out at the most inconvenient of times, they also lured him into places he had no desire to go.

The wind tore at his hair; his wet clothes were glued to his body. A strip of moonlight fell on the grass-covered area around the little cottage; a few gravestones were facing the horizon.

Nope, I’ll deal with this in the morning.

With a thudding heart, he whirled around to head back towards the city. Energy more intense than anything he’d experienced before smashed into him and he stumbled backwards. He’d heard tales of spirits trying to incapacitate the guardian to be able to roam freely in a region, but those were no ordinary spirits.

“Shit.” Eldred rubbed his heart. The area between his eyebrows burned despite the cold, and he flung out whatever energy he had stored to protect his aura.

Something was trying to force itself into his mind.

“Who are you?”

Eldred yelped, there was no better word for it. To his right, a dark, towering figure had appeared out of nowhere. He dug his hand into his pocket and threw a handful of salt at the fucker. “Into the white light!”

“Excuse me?” The figure spat on the ground. “I think it’s best if you leave my property.”

Eldred was sucking in breath after breath. He needed to cast a circle. He never should’ve gone alone.

“Are you all right, kid?”

“All right? Kid? Why are you here?”

The silence went on for a couple of seconds. “Because you’re on my lawn.”

Eldred looked down on the ground. The grass was neatly cut around him. When had he stepped off the meadow? The rain and wind were stinging his face, and he had a hard time thinking. He peered at the man, and it looked like a real, living, breathing man—exactly the way Eldred wanted his men. He was probably in his late thirties, maybe early forties. It was hard to tell. Eldred’s pulse quickened. “Did you call me?” The energy had lessened again. Could a living man seek me out with an energy call?

“Call you? No. Perhaps you should come inside for a while, just so you don’t freeze your balls off.” The man’s voice was gruff but not threatening. Eldred filled his lungs, held the air inside for a few seconds, and visualised how he was being filled with pure protective light. “Yeah, that would be nice, thank you.”

No Luck in the World



Mo stared at the stranger. There was something not right with him. As he held the door open, the man drew a sign in the air, blew out a breath, and then crossed the threshold.

“Rough night?” Mo took in the soaked clothes, his reddish hair clinging to his forehead, and the wide hazel eyes. He was young, smallish, and entirely out of place in Mo’s cottage.

The man shrugged. “Not the best night for a walk in the moonlight.”

He had that right. “Do you want me to call a taxi for you? Or perhaps you have someone who can come pick you up…your mother?” How old was he? He could still be living with his parents.

“My mother? No thank you; I’m trying to avoid her at all costs.”

“Oh…” Mo tried to decipher the look the man gave him.

“You’re alive? I mean you’re living here?”

“Yes.” Mo crossed his arms over his chest. He didn’t need some kid judging his home. It wasn’t much, but it had been in his family for generations, and he loved his cottage.

“What’s your name?”

“Mo Vin.”

“You’re moving?”

“No, my name is Mo…Vin.”

“Oh, there is no luck in the world, is there?” The kid grinned, and Mo ignored the way heat rushed to his groin. He was far too young for him anyway. “So Mo—Moses? Morris? Mo Mo Mozart?”

Mo uncrossed his arms only to cross them again. “No, just Mo.”

The kid shook his head. “Perhaps the world will be kinder in the next life.”

Mo snorted. “Yeah? So what’s your name?”

“Eldred Henstare.” He tilted his head to the side and watched Mo with unnerving intensity; then he shifted focus to the air above him.

“Eldred? And you talk about luck?” Mo went in through the narrow hall and towards the kitchen. He needed to get the kid out of here so he could crawl into bed. He’d been feeling a little off all day, and the roaring storm outside did nothing to help him warm up inside.

“Luck has nothing to do with it in my case.” Eldred hurried after him, shrugging off his jacket as he went. “Mother thought it a fitting name.” The jacket landed on one of the kitchen chairs with a wet thud, then Eldred pulled out another chair and slumped down. “Terrible weather.”

“Mmm…so who do you want me to call?”

“No one, I’ll wait it out.”

Mo stopped to stare at him. The weather wasn’t letting up anytime soon. “Perhaps best to call someone. I wouldn’t want you to walk back alone during the night.”

“It’s cool, I can wait.”

“Yeah? Well, I’m tired and would like to go to bed.”

“Oh…well I’ll just have a quick look around before I’m off then.”

Mo frowned. What the hell?

***



The energy was still there. Eldred tried to pinpoint where it was coming from, but it wasn’t like with regular ghosts. He squinted at Mo—no, he was alive…unless he was some kind of poltergeist Eldred had never heard of. To test his theory, he jumped to his feet and charged right into Mo who stumbled backwards until the sink stopped the motion.

Mo pushed him away, grabbed his arms, and forced him to bend down over the kitchen table. “What do you think you’re doing?” The harsh voice made hot tingles skid over Eldred’s skin but since this wasn’t the time to be bent over a table, he sent a faint wave of energy in Mo’s direction. He sensed when it left his body and pulsed into Mo’s.

Seconds later, Mo let go of him and stepped back. Eldred was a bit surprised when he didn’t make a sound; most people hissed or cursed. Lachtin always claimed it was like holding onto an electrified fence.

“So…” Eldred got up and smoothed out his wet shirt. “Anything…erm…unusual happen lately?”

Mo glared at him, his stubbly cheeks a little flushed, his brown hair pointing in every direction, and those broad shoulders a little too tense. Eldred hoped the hair was supposed to look the way it did and wasn’t something he had done by zapping him with too much energy.

“Nope, this is a perfectly normal night for me.”

It is?” It couldn’t be, could it? Mo didn’t move a muscle; he was back to staring at Eldred with his arms crossed over his chest. “Have you…eh…lived here long?” He glanced out through the kitchen door and into the living room. The furniture could almost have been from another century, but it had a certain charm. Whitewashed walls, old dark floorboards, and visible joists in the ceiling.

Eldred tried to do an energy scan of the room to see if there was something there but he couldn’t focus. He was floaty and scattered—not good. He would need to get Lachtin to come here and help ground him. “Hang on; I’ll call my brother.”

The ghost had to be somewhere in the cottage or just outside of it. “You haven’t seen anything strange, have you?”

“I’m looking at it.” Mo’s dark eyes glittered in the dim light of the kitchen.

Eldred gave up searching for his phone and tried to see where Mo was looking, but he was only watching Eldred. “Where?”

It might have been a muscle spasm or the beginning of a smile tugging at the corner of Mo’s mouth, then he raised an eyebrow and shook his head. “How’s that call coming along?”

Eldred slapped his palm over his heart. “You want me to leave.” He sighed dramatically. “I’m so hurt Mr Mo. I thought we had something going here.”

“You did, huh?” Mo stepped a little closer.

A man could dream. Eldred sighed and grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. “I’ll tell you what, Mr Mo, I’m a not so powerful witch—I’m doing all right, don’t let my modesty fool you, and if you don’t give me a kiss goodnight I might hex you.”

He strutted into the hall, drawing signs with his free hand. Then he sent a wave of energy down his body, out on the ground. He let it surround him, grow until all of the floor was covered in white light. He urged it to climb the walls till it reached the ceiling and there continued to let the white light flood the room until he was certain no spirit lingered there.

It wasn’t until everything grew quiet he realised Mo was watching him. He looked confused and maybe a bit sad. Eldred grimaced, he tended to forget most people didn’t know about witches.

“Okay, I’m leaving.”



***



Mo watched as Eldred made some funny motions with his hand. Too bad the beautiful ones were always crazy. It was hard not to smile, though.

Yes, leaving sounds like a good idea. Perhaps you should call your brother and ask him to come pick you up.” Should I call someone? The psych ward?

“Nah, he’ll get pissed at me. I better take my chances and walk back on my own.”

Mo nodded, but something in his gut told him he shouldn’t let Eldred walk alone in the dark, not by the sea, not when no one would hear him if something were to happen. “I’ll give you a lift.”

He grabbed the car keys and reached for his wet jacket only to change his mind. He’d rather go without than put on the wet one.

No, no, you’re only saying that to get out of the kiss. Come on.” Eldred put a hand on his chest, and this time there wasn’t any electric shock thing going on. The palm was hot, hotter than a palm should be, but it was not unpleasant…not unpleasant at all. He tilted his head upwards, closed his eyes, and puckered his lips. Mo stared at him. Was he serious?

Watching his mouth had Mo’s heart stuttering. Without thinking, he wet his lips. Eldred’s eyelashes were darker than his hair, his skin soft-looking. Being still and silent he almost looked like an angel.

Mo bent down and touched his lips to Eldred’s. A soft peck, just enough to feel the warmth, the touch of skin. Anything more would be wrong. He was far too young, not to mention crazy.

“There, now get in the car.” Mo tried to take a step back, but Eldred grabbed his sweater.

“That wasn’t a kiss, that was a ‘get out of my house’. Now, do it right. I know you can do it.” He stopped the charade and looked at Mo for a blink of a second. “You can do it, can’t you? I mean you’re into guys, aren’t you?” The horror taking over his face almost made Mo laugh.


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