Sunday, April 21, 2013

Snippet from WIP - Ill Met By Moonlight (UN-edited)


(1935 Saturday December 28th)

 

Oscar Wilde had it right. No man was rich enough to buy back his past.

            That didn’t stop people from trying. Or hiring Rafferty to try. He looked at it more like buying time. Sooner or later the truth always came out. But there was a hell of a lot difference between the truth coming out three days before your wedding or three years after you were dead.

            Anyway, he preferred dealing with blackmailers to trailing cheating husbands. This was the first time he’d been asked to rendezvous with a blackmailer in a museum. A museum holding a major exhibition for a cursed Egyptian mummy. An exhibition where everyone except the mummy was in costume.

            Rafferty moved to the side as two scantily clad temple priestesses squeezed past on the marble staircase. The nearest Lily of the Nile was giggling and clutching the arm of her companion. The other doll was saying, “I told Gene, it was never like this in Babylon.”

            They went on their unsteady way to the mezzanine with its planetarium. Rafferty gazed down at the crowded main hall. According to Scheiner, his client, the blackmailer had instructed the payoff be left in a closed exhibition room, a plain envelope of unmarked cash stashed behind the mummy case of an obscure Ptolemy pharaoh no longer of interest now that Princess Nebetah had been brought to San Francisco to wow the customers. At the end of the party Rafferty was to return to the exhibition room and pick up the parcel that would be left in exchange. If any attempt was made to apprehend the blackmailer’s confederate, the deal was off and the blackmailer would go straight to the papers with whatever damaging information he had.

            Whatever that information was it had to be pretty hot because Scheiner had never struck Rafferty as a pushover but he’d been adamant that Rafferty follow the plan to the letter.

            And that was what Rafferty was doing.

            Mostly.

            It went against the grain to give into extortion. There wasn’t any creature on God’s green earth Rafferty hated more than a blackmailer. So he’d left the fat envelope of cash as directed and then slipped into the gents and changed into an idiotic costume so he could blend in with everyone else at this wingding. He didn’t plan on interfering with the pickup, but he did plan on tailing the bagman.

            Though he’d provided the duds, Brett had advised against pursuit. Brett Sheridan was Rafferty’s…well, never having had a friendship quite like this one, Rafferty wasn’t sure what you’d call it. Whatever you called it was one reason Brett was identifying too closely with the victim. Brett had guts, but the idea of blackmail shook him. Scheiner, naturally, knew nothing about Rafferty’s plan. He’d be happy in the end though, because the blackmail wouldn’t stop with this payment. Scheiner was just kidding himself believing the promises of a guy who called himself Mr. X.

            From his vantage point on the staircase, Rafferty watched the waiters, brawny lads in slave costumes, circulate with drink trays and canapés amongst the hoi polloi of San Francisco. A ten piece orchestra sawed away at a version of “Night and Day,” though the music could hardly be heard over the babble of voices. The place was packed. But then the museum was not especially large.

            Originally built in 1920, the Morshead had previously housed a small collection of antiquities and a large collection of oddities. It was designed in a pseudo Egyptian-revival style. From the pair of giant sphinx sculptures guarding the museum entrance to the painted and carved Egyptian friezes and lotus style columns, the building was supposed to evoke the mystery and magic of the newsreels they all watched with such fascination at the picture show. Newsreels that showed the excavations at Tell el-Amarna and the Valley of the Kings -- which was where Emmett Parker had made his now famous discovery of the burial chamber of Princess Nebetah.

            Emmett Parker. Rafferty’s lip curled. Pompous ass. There he stood now, posing before a group of admirers, like the grinning, bare-chested palooka on a cover of a Jungle Comics. 

            Parker spoke and his audience, mostly female, tee-hee-hee-ed obligingly. Among the smitten was Justine Sheridan, looking especially striking in a white gown with leopard skin girdle. She had the dark, dramatic looks to carry off the costume. Not everyone was so fortune. Lenora Sheridan, for example, looked like she’d fallen into a portmanteau of purple draperies and only managed to climb out. Her gray hair was coming undone, as were the draperies. She kept clutching at the fabric slipping from her plump shoulders.

            A lot of people to keep track of, and most of them unknown to Rafferty. Even the familiar ones were hard to pick out in costume. He absently hummed a few bars of “Night and Day,” turning to watch the hallway to the closed exhibition room over his cupped hands as he lit a cigarette.

            No movement. No one was showing any interest in adventuring down the empty hall to the darkened room.

            The fact that the blackmailer had chosen the museum might mean something. Might even mean the blackmailer was someone who worked for the museum. Rafferty’s gaze returned automatically to Emmett Parker, who once again had the ladies gasping and giggling as he recounted his exploits in the Valley of the Kings.

           
Honesty forced Rafferty to concede that he probably wasn’t giving Parker a fair shake. Once upon a time, a long time ago, Parker had hurt Brett pretty badly, and anyone who hurt Brett Sheridan was no pal of Rafferty’s. Even so, it was unlikely Parker, newly returned from Egypt, was spending his much-in-demand time blackmailing a small time San Francisco actuary.

            No, more likely, the blackmailer had realized, correctly, that pretty much everybody who was anybody was going to be packed into this museum tonight -- in disguise no less -- and his movements would be hard to track.

            Hard. Not impossible.

            Rafferty looked for Brett in the crowd below. He spotted him dancing, Brett’s sleek dark head bent to hear what his companion, a slim dame in a sparkly white gown, was saying. He was smiling, but Rafferty recognized that expression as the face Brett wore when he was a million miles away.
           

49 comments:

  1. How lovely to see these two again! And this story looks really good. Love the museum setting.

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    1. Thanks, Helena! I love the setting too.

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  2. You have so learned the art of being a tease, Josh. Now you'll have to stay focused on this one since you gave us a taste. Already it looks like a winner. :)

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  3. What Helena and Susan said :-) and what a lovely surprise! especially since i've been spending a good part of today in the company of Brett and Rafferty. I will wait patiently for their continuing adventures!

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  4. Has anyone told you you're a genius lately? Because you SO are! Love everything you write.

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    1. No! But thank you for saying so. :-D

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  5. Yay! I read "This Rough Magic" not long ago, and I'm glad to see a sequel in the works. Plus, I have a weakness for anything involving Egyptology.

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    1. Oh good. Me too! I love Egyptology as a plot or story element.

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  6. So excited! I love these two, love the era, and love this set up. I feel like Oliver Twist. "More, please, Sir?" :)

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    1. That makes me happy to hear it. :-)

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  7. Awesome teaser. Really looking forward to it coming out. When will that be? Thank for letting us get a glimpse. Also, can hardly wait for your other sequels to come out too.

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    1. I don't dare commit to any dates the way I'm jumping around from project to project. But it is coming along!

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  8. Aww, I started to think you gave up on that book! Good to see they're still alive :D

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    1. Definitely not! I've got the entire thing plotted out -- I love the story.

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  9. Okay. Darn! Now I must buy another book.

    One thing good about eBooks, Josh - they don't take space. I have a 3-story shoebox house. My most recent "bookshelf" is the stair leading to third floor!

    :D

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    1. I know what you mean. Space didn't used to be the concern it is now. At this rate we could probably build a house of books.

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    2. I didn't mention the two ancient (18th century log cabins on my property). One is FILLED with books and the other is trying to catch up.

      Those inside the house are the ones I delve into most often, either for research or pleasure.

      LOVE MY BOOKS!

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    3. I'm kinda sorta getting that message. ;-P

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  10. Thank you, that is great! And I feel a re-read coming :)

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  11. I was so excited to see this today - love these guys! I usually stay away from previews/ am scared of spoilers but couldn't resist reading this :) Am so looking forward to the rest! Thanks for the snippet (^O^)

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  12. What everyone else said, I love these two! Just that little bit was enough to make me pine for the book... but patience, I'm good at waiting.

    Keep healthy, have fun!!!!

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    1. It's coming! It's crazy to work this slow and this disjointedly, but...on the bright side, I've apparently got more ideas than I can even channel into work. :-D

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    2. Now that makes me smile wider!!!

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  13. I've been worried about these two and Doyle/Spain! They just have so many more obstacles. Really happy to know I'll be hearing from them again.

    Best wishes!

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    1. Thank you! I may be working slowwwwwly, but I will get there in the end. God willing and the crick don't rise.

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  14. *\o/* That about says it! And...No cricks, of the rising nor the wrist variety ;-)

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    1. I hope not! I'm trying to be smart and careful, but that's really a hindrance to the work!

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  15. Love it! I am looking forward to spending more time with these two. Thank you.

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    1. It's definitely coming. I love immersing myself in that retro world. It's like watching an old movie unfold -- except I get to direct!

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  16. Is it wrong that I keep stopping back here every day or so, hoping to find more? Yeah. That's what I thought. ;)

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    1. I call it my OCD complex. You aren't alone Karan.

      Do I see a cure any time soon? No.

      Will I seek a cure. No.

      Just call it what you wish and go with it and have fun!

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    2. I don't know if it's WRONG. :-) It's certainly encouraging for me!

      But I will keep you all posted. Scout's honor.

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  17. I love your books but this one I s special,hope will come soon because I am suffering....also waiting for more in Spanish

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    1. Ah. The Spanish translations. I do need to give more attention to those! I have a couple of things in the works. We'll see what happens there. :-)

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    2. Yes because I have a lot of friends and family in Colombia waiting for your books,they had a taste and they love it.

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    3. Ah. Well there you go. So far these have not earned enough to pay for themselves, but I live in hope! Maybe they'll eventually pick up.

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  18. This looks like a good romp in the making, I shall run across to Amazon - virtual running you understand - and buy it the minute it comes out. This isn't my favourite of your books, but it's still head and shoulders above the run of the mill stuff that makes up a goodly proportion of MM romance. Have fun with it!

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    1. I think it will be fun. This time around we're looking at murder, so it won't be quite as light-hearted as the last caper. It's a pretty good story, if I do say so myself! :-D

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  19. What an intriguing setting! I loved This Dark Magic, and the Christmas coda, so much it hurts... I very much look forward to this new book in the series.


    (Just a little remark: "Not everyone was so fortune"... should it be "fortunate"?)

    Thank you for sharing
    Paola

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    1. I'm glad you're looking forward to it. :-) I'm looking forward to revisiting the characters.

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  20. Hello Josh,
    I hope it's OK to write here about how much I loved "This Rough magic", just couldn't help in the end and this post with the snippet from the second story seems suitable for this. It's three days since I read it. And I keep rereading chapters and bits and replaying in my mind this or that scene from it. And not only replaying but repeating word by word. Because it is written wonderfully, in a way I enjoyed the use of words and building of phrases but it was the feeling they produced that was most overwhelming. The feeling of the story, the characters in it. The atmosphere... So special, a bit sad and nostalgic and with distant feeling to it. And then the feeling of characters, it somehow worked too not through particular words but through general feeling of the story.
    I loved the feeling of Rafferty, his almost terrible kindness that can really undo anyone and his understanding nature, his calmness and composure. And his fascination with Brett because, you know, interestingly for me... When he arrived to the conclusion that Brett had guts I did not yet. (I arrived to that conclusion a bit later, when Brett faced his family after Kitty had eloped.) But the thing is from the very first moment no matter what was said about Brett being really beautiful in physical way there was something more about him. And I felt it through Rafferty's fascination rather than something Brett did or thought. It felt like... the instinctive reaction of every normal human being when he sees "one of the nicest things" created by nature, besides in so to say hostile environment. And he feels fascinated and protective about it. Just because. But then Brett acts in this very decent and perceptive way, like with saying "what you did for me" and promising to cover Rafferty's expenses and closing his eyes to give Rafferty time to recover and all, this can too undo anyone because one doesn't quite expect this kind of thoughtfulness from a Snob Hill. And it just works so wonderful with them both and creates this tender feeling of them together. So very consonant with the feeling of the whole story. And this feeling it sort of does not twist and wrench out your mind but lingers somewhere deep inside it, coming up tenderly and sweetly every now and again and feels like... It feels)
    Of course it is my natural reaction to want more of them but in fact this story works beautiful as it is (well... I will not exclude the moving Christmas coda and will not say no to the sequel). And I hope I won't sound pushing with this comment in terms of writing sequel because I'm already happy to have found and read this story. Somehow I got myself hooked on historicals and a bit of fantasy in the moment but one day it will happen with the contemporary and I'm already thrilled to know where to start.
    Thank you again very much for this novel, it was and is such a pleasure to dive into it and meet Brett and Neil.

    Best regards,
    Olga

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  21. Gods! This thing looks long! Sorry)
    Olga

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    1. Well, you know. I don't often hear much about this story, so it was lovely to read. Every word of it. :-)

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  22. I'm sorry for digging up this ages old blogpost, but amogst all the other drama happening, the thing I found occupying my mind is: I wonder what happened to this lovely authors 'a shot in the dark'-sequel. I wondered if I had imagined that snippet of story that I had in my mind about it, but lo and behold here it is!
    I'm pleased to have found this again and I'm looking forward to getting the fulll book eventually! I hope it's not cancelled?

    And since comments on your more recent posts seem to be disabled, I'll leave my well wishes for your well deserved hollydays here.
    I hope you get some rest and piece and quiet and don't sink too deep into the scottish mud! ;)

    Lastly, I know the negative voices always sting more, than the positive ones soothe, but we are here, and we love your work.
    Because, to paraphrease you, you write one hell of an amusing mystery.

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    1. No apologies necessary. I think everybody is tired of the drama at this point (barring the professional dramatists).

      So the answer to your question is yes. I do still intend to do the sequel to Rough Magic. The first chapter is on my website, I believe, so it's looking very promising for next year. Thanks for asking!

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