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A Taste of Pretty Witches All in a Row

Pretty Witches All in a Row

A little sample of my latest book, Pretty Witches All in a Row to start your day with. :)

This is set close to the beginning of the book, after the first murder when Sgt. Rick Gibson pays a visit to Annaliese, who owns a local witchy shop. It’s early in the day and the shop isn’t open yet, but finding the door unlocked, Rick lets himself in anyway…


The store wasn’t as freaky as he’d thought it would be; no cobwebs or demonic symbols. It reminded him of the sort of place an old explorer would have, furnished with knick knacks from his world travels. The big rooms with high ceilings and lots of rich mahogany moldings gave it an airy feel, with plenty of comfy chairs tucked into little nooks and crannies. Clearly the owner didn’t have a problem with people loitering, and he took that as a good sign, venturing deeper.

Inside a large glass cabinet to his right were dozens of little glass vials, in neat rows. By twisting his head to one side he could read the labels, each sporting the same Argent Flame logo along with descriptions like ‘come to me’, ‘prosperity’, ‘good luck’, and ‘purification’. On the open shelf below sat a small brass container about the size of an apple, similar to the one he’d seen at the victim’s house. Curious, he lifted the lid.
The music cut out suddenly, a feminine voice calling out to him from the rear of the shop. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“Sweet Jesus…” he gasped, rattling the lid to the incense burner, having trouble replacing it properly with the sudden rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins. The owner of the voice didn’t look very witchy, or wicca-y; whatever the term was supposed to be. Nick guessed her to be in her late twenties, dressed in soft pajama pants in a lavender flannel, with a matching tank top; a long gray sweater coat completed her ensemble. Her eyes were a soft mossy green and a light spray of freckles kissed the bridge of her nose. Long, mahogany hair hung loose over her shoulders, falling down her back in softly tousled waves, and bare toes peeped out from the bottoms of her pants. Either her boss had the laziest dress code ever, or she lived there. Pretty in an understated, natural way, he could imagine seeing her at the grocery store or the dry cleaners and never once have guessed she ran a metaphysical gift shop. She was staring at him with one brow raised, not looking particularly amused at the prospect of finding him in her store.

“Nope, just me. It’s a little early for breaking and entering, isn’t it?” Her head canted to one side as she studied him.

“Technically it’s just entering, the door was unlocked,” Nick flashed a sheepish grin.

“But the closed sign was still up,” she set down the remote, keeping the counter between them.

“I heard the music, I figured someone was around.”

“And this morning you were struck by a powerful need for incense? So powerful, you decided to chuck convention and let yourself in?”

Cute. “Not exactly.” He reached into his inside coat pocket and withdrew his ID, the little gold badge gleaming against the leather. “Sergeant Gibson, I’m here in a strictly professional capacity.”

He’d clearly managed to catch her off guard with that one, as her brows rose with a measure of surprise. “I’m Annaliese… Cross,” she added belatedly, studying his identification with interest. “What can I do for you, Sergeant?”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Cross.” At least he thought she was a Miss, a quick check revealed her ring finger to be bare. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me.”

“If I can,” she nodded. “Would you like a cup of coffee? I think I can use one myself.”

“Yes, thank you; that would be nice.” Gibson watched her nervous motions as she went through the process of making the coffee on the fancy espresso machine on the back counter. It wasn’t lost on him that she’d chosen to occupy her hands with something instead of just talking to him, but he was used to that reaction once people found out what he did. “Is this your place?” His voice rose over the noise of the machine.

“Yes, it’s all mine,” she nodded, voice rising to match.

“You actually make a living with this stuff?” The note of skepticism in his voice was regretted almost instantly and he tried to soften it with a smile.

“There are more of us than you would think, especially in this area,” she smiled back, amused. “Actually, I sell more over the internet than I do here in the store, but I enjoy having the interaction with people. Most of my customers don’t buy more than a cup of tea and a muffin when they stop by.”

“That sounds like an expensive way to network,” he observed, watching her graceful movements and she gave a faint shrug.

“I don’t have all that much in the way of overhead; this house is mine, free and clear. It’s been in my family for a couple of generations.”

“What about employees?”

“I have a couple of part timers on the staff, and a few help out for barter sometimes.” She slid over the latte, in the direction of the sugar.

“Thanks,” Nick smiled his appreciation; the coffee smelled a helluva lot better than any he could have gotten down at the precinct. “Did you ever employ a woman by the name of Skye Mackenzie?” he asked, watching her face carefully as he mentioned her name.

Annaliese gave a long, drawn out sigh. “This is about Skye?”

Not quite the reaction he’d been expecting; he was uncertain how to interpret her tone. “Yes, how well are you acquainted with Miss Mackenzie?”

“Fairly well, we’ve known each other for a few years, since right after she came to town. Look… whatever it is she’s done, she’s a good kid. If she needs me to vouch for her, I’ll do it.”

“A good kid, huh? She’s not all that much younger than you are, is she?” Perhaps a little dangerously close to soliciting her age, but the question begged asking.

“No, she’s a few years younger, but if you knew her you’d know what I mean. I’ve seen old souls at eighteen who’ve been on their own already for a couple of years, and I’ve seen forty year olds just as irresponsible and prone to childish behavior as a teenager; age doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

“Gotcha,” Nick nodded sagely. He was willing to bet she fit into the more responsible end of that spectrum. She seemed pretty calm, cool and collected for finding a strange man in her shop while still in her pj’s. “What makes you think she’s done something?”

Annaliese gave him a long look, “Because as sweet as she is, sometimes the girl doesn’t think before she acts. Her heart’s in the right place, but sometimes her brain has to play catch up.”

“When was the last time you saw Miss Mackenzie?”

“What’s today? Tuesday, she came in last Tuesday.”

“How did she seem to you? Troubled? Unhappy? Any problems with boyfriends, anything like that?”

“No, she was fine, same as always… Detective, what is this all about?”

Nick shifted his weight, taking a sip of the coffee, knowing even as he did it that he was delaying the next part for as long as possible. “Miss Cross, I’m not here to investigate something she’s done, I’m afraid she died last night.” He watched the play of emotions over her pretty features, the shock, followed by a stab of something that might have been pain, and then disbelief.

“What? She can’t be dead, I just saw her this week…” Annaliese sank onto a wooden stool tucked behind the shop counter.

“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied succinctly, allowing her a few seconds to get ahold of her emotions before plunging ahead with the obligatory question. “Where were you last night between the hours of eleven PM and two AM?”

Annaliese stared back at him blankly. “I… was here. We close up shop around ten PM, and then I finished up some paperwork and went to bed.”

“Can anyone corroborate that?”

“No, not really. After I shooed out the last customer I was on my own.” She took a long drink of her coffee, cradling its warmth in her hands. “How did she die?” Anna asked finally, still sounding a little shell shocked.

“I’m not at liberty to say at the moment, we’ve just begun our investigation. We found a stack of your business cards on her desk.” He drew one out of his coat pocket and laid it on the counter between them.

Nodding slowly, she picked it up. “We trade off, I have some of her business cards here for massage, and she hands out some of mine for like minded people.” Anna gestured to a series of little plastic business card holders with other local businesses. Sure enough, Skye’s was featured in the group.

“If you’ll excuse me for saying so, it seems like she was a little more than a networking contact to you,” he probed gently.

“Like I said, we’ve been friends since she came to Portland. Everybody liked her; she had that way about her. We were in the same circle.”

Clearly that wasn’t the case, somebody hadn’t liked her, or she wouldn’t have wound up dead, but he felt it best not to point that out just then. “Is that like a cell phone calling plan?”

“No,” Annaliese shook her head, a faint smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Circle, as in group. Like a pagan social club, only we practice rituals, not give each other pedicures when we get together.”

“Oh, I get it,” understanding dawned on him. “So you practice what you sell, is that right?”

“In a manner of speaking. I sell things that I don’t personally use; I have products from many different paths.”

“You don’t look much like a Wicca.”

“Wiccan,” she corrected him. “What were you expecting? Pointy hat and a broom?”

“Something like that,” he admitted. “Okay, maybe not, but you look so… normal.”

“Thanks… I think,” she frowned, taking a long drink of coffee. “And I’m not, not exactly.”

“What do you mean you’re not exactly?”

“I don’t like labels; I’m more of a… generic Pagan.”

“Generic Pagan?” His brows climbed. “Does that mean you offer discounts?”

“It means, that I don’t like to limit myself with a specific pantheon. And no, I don’t perform any rituals for pay, though there are some that do.” Her nose wrinkled with distaste.

“Pantheon…” Nick hastily scribbled down the word. “I’m gonna have to look that one up later,” he admitted without a trace of shame. The entire thing was way more interesting than the usual husband kills wife or bar fight gets out of hand type of case he usually dealt with. “So, about this circle…” he looked up, pen poised. “Can you give me the names of the rest of the club?”

A tiny pucker of concern appeared on her smooth brow. “Why do you need to know that?”

“We need to talk to as many friends and family members as we can as part of the investigation. Since it’s my understanding that most of her family isn’t around here, that leaves her friends.”

“Is that routine whenever someone dies?”

“It is when they’re killed,” he admitted, sensing it was going to be harder than he’d thought to get those names.

“You’re saying that her death wasn’t accidental then? Why would anyone want to kill Skye?”

“That’s what I aim to find out,” Nick’s chin came up with determination.

***

Pretty Witches All in a Row is available for sale online through Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.


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2 Responses to A Taste of Pretty Witches All in a Row

  1. DM says:

    Wow, nice writing. I like the start you have hear. Fun reading.

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