Read another Excerpt from Legend Trip

Happy Friday! Check out another free excerpt from Legend Trip! You can find Part 1 here. Then click on the title to get your copy today!

 

Morning sunlight streamed into Charles’ bedroom. When he pushed back the covers and sat up in bed, he shivered. It had gotten chilly overnight, the first really cold night in a long time. He crossed bare wood floor to close his bedroom window.

The scene outside the window was a busy street in Harlem in 1919, far from Greenville, South Carolina, in 1972. Here he was Isaiah Jenkins, a former World War I soldier and now the manager of a jazz spot called the Blue Club.

And he had a breakfast date.

Half an hour later, freshly showered and dressed, Charles stepped outside into the crisp air. Everyone he passed wore coats and scarves not seen since April. The leaves on the trees in the park were edged in orange and yellow and red.

He saw her before she saw him. Wearing a dark red dress with a fur coat and stole, she sat at a table at a sidewalk café while sipping a cup of coffee and nibbling on a pastry. Not only was she beautiful, but Millie Priest had the most remarkable voice Charles had ever heard. She was whip-smart, too. Millie had always managed her own career. She knew how to pack a house and make sure she got her cut of the take.

When their eyes met, he smiled and waved. She smiled back, and his heart skipped a beat. He slipped into the seat opposite her. They talked about easy things for a little while. Charles drank his coffee and watched people go by. Isaiah’s memories were all there, right next to his own. As they chatted, it was easy for him to think of himself as Isaiah.

Charles was the bad dream.

“I was thinking about wearing the dark blue dress tonight,” she said after taking a sip of her coffee, “the one with the white rose on the sleeve. What do you think?”

“You know that’s one of my favorites. You trying to distract me from my job? Hard enough as it is when you’re up there.”

She smiled, but it seemed strained somehow. “There’s going to be some important people in the audience tonight. We need to impress them.”

Charles frowned. “Important people? Who are you talking about?”

She hesitated. “You know how the Blue Club has had a couple of lean months.”

“Yeah, but they’ve been just that. Lean months. We’ll bounce back.”

“Lewis isn’t so sure.” She glanced down at her half-eaten Danish and lowered her voice. “He’s worried about what happens when we can’t serve booze anymore.”

Lewis was the owner of the Blue Club, and he wasn’t wrong to be worried. Charles, too, wondered what would happen when Prohibition stopped the liquor from flowing.

Charles leaned forward and waited until Millie met his gaze again. “You know the drinks aren’t what brings people out. It’s you they’re coming to see.”

“Some people are thinking about investing. That’s all.”

Charles leaned back again. “Who?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know their names. Only Lewis does.”

“How come you know before I do? I’m supposed to be the manager.”

“He pulled me aside last night, told me to pick out my best dress and my best songs.”

Charles’ ire rose. “He should tell me himself rather than leave it up to you to do it.”

“I’m sure he’ll talk to you tonight.”

“He’d better, or there’s going to be hell to pay.”

She placed a hand on his and made him unball his fist. “Isaiah, behave now. All you have to do is make sure everything runs smoothly, just like you always do, okay?” Her smile returned. “Stop by the dressing room tonight after the set when you get a chance. I have a present for you.”

“A present? What is it?”

She laughed. “It’s a surprise.”

The tension in his shoulders eased somewhat. “What if I don’t want to wait?”

She stood, but her hand lingered. “Just be patient. I promise you’ll like it.”

He watched her walk away and vanish into the throng of people.

***

That evening, as he always did, Charles oversaw the last-minute touches before the patrons were let into the Blue Club—making sure the tablecloths were straight, the silverware polished, and the glasses clean—but he couldn’t shake the nagging worry at the back of his mind.

The worry eased somewhat as the club filled up. Everything ran smoothly at first. The Bill Porter Three—piano, bass, and trumpet—played their low-key set as everyone drank their cocktails, but about ten minutes before Millie was supposed to go on stage, a small commotion erupted at the door. A group of people entered the club, a dark-skinned man dressed in a midnight blue three-piece suit leading the way. Even the Blue Club bouncers gave the heavies on either side of him a wide berth.

A ripple of murmurs ran through the crowd. The man was Andre Lestrade, who styled himself a businessman. Charles had learned about him while working at the docks. Nothing went on in Harlem without Andre having a finger in it, legal or not.

What’s he doing here?

He can’t be the investor Millie was talking about, not him.

Charles knew better than to tell him he wasn’t welcome at the Blue Club, but the least he could do was make sure Andre understood trouble wouldn’t be tolerated. Before he could get to Andre, though, Lewis intercepted the businessman, an ear-to-ear grin on his face. The club owner took Andre’s hand and shook it enthusiastically, then led him and his entourage to a group of tables near the stage. Several waiters came over immediately.

For the moment, Charles retreated. He’d have a talk with Lewis later. No good could come from throwing in with a man like Andre Lestrade.

The lights dimmed, and Millie came on stage, dazzling as always. This was Charles’ favorite part of the day, but he couldn’t enjoy her set. He kept glancing at Andre and his entourage. Millie, too, looked Andre’s way more than once. Usually Charles could imagine she was singing only to him, but that night it was obvious she was singing to someone else.

To make matters worse, after Millie’s set was over, she didn’t retreat backstage like she normally did. She went over to Andre’s table and sat in the chair next to him, recently vacated by one of his bodyguards. Charles watched as Andre crept closer, putting his arm on the back of her chair, placing a hand on top of hers. She smiled and laughed occasionally as the Bill Porter Three played their second set. Eventually, she stood and took her leave, but not before accepting a kiss on the hand from Andre.

In the small hours of the morning, after the club closed and all the patrons had gone home, Charles went to Millie’s dressing room. He knocked three times like he always did.

“Come in,” a muffled voice called from inside.

Charles opened the door. Millie sat at her dressing table.

Her smile faded as soon as she saw the expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong? Do you know who was at the club tonight? That was Andre Lestrade.”

“I know who he is.” Her expression became a little more guarded.

“Why was he here?”

“I think you can figure out why.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

She gestured at him. “Because of this. Because of how you’re acting now.”

“But he’s dangerous,” Charles said. “We can’t take money from him.”

“We have to do something.”

Charles shook his head. “No. There’s got to be another way.”

“Trust me, Isaiah. If Lewis thought there was another way, he would do it. We can’t lose the Blue Club.”

Charles took a deep breath. “You let him put his arm around you.”

“Yes, I let him.” She squared her jaw. “And that’s all I let him do.”

“What if he wants to do more next time?” Charles asked.

Unbidden, the image of Millie in her blue sequined dress stained with blood came to his mind. Her ghost had revealed to him that she died on March 18, 1920, in the real world, less than six months away. He’d spent a lot of time thinking about how he could stop her death.

“There’s not going to be a next time,” she replied. “He was just coming over tonight to check out the place and talk to Lewis.”

“And if he invests? Don’t you think he’ll be here a lot more?”

She glared. “What kind of girl do you take me for, Isaiah Jenkins? I am a singer. I am a professional.”

“I’m not talking about you. I just know that sometimes men in his position don’t take no for an answer.”

“Well, he will take it from me.”

Charles wiped a hand across his face. “Millie, this is a bad idea.”

“It’s not your decision to make, Isaiah.”

“I just worry.”

“Too much.” She stood and came across the room and placed a hand on his chest. “Nothing is ever going to separate us. Do you understand?”

He covered her hand with his. “I want to believe that.”

“Then believe.”

He leaned down and kissed her. She melted into his embrace.

***

Charles woke up in his own bed in his own house, surrounded by his books. The moonlight shown through the curtains that moved like ghosts in the breeze. He sat up, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed.

***

Ephraim Brown turned on the television and fell into the recliner. His clothes still held the faint whiff of the blackberry root he’d burned as part of the ritual, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He was tired. Louise was still in Virginia, and Bertram was on a camping trip somewhere in North Carolina, so no one was there to question him about it. He’d take a shower later.

The news was full of reports that a truce had been reached in the fighting between North and South Vietnam. At least they weren’t talking about the break-in at the Watergate Hotel anymore. He was sick of hearing about that, just the news making a big deal out of nothing. There was also a small update about the murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Everyone always acted shocked when such evil things happened, but Ephraim knew you only had to look at your own back yard to find evil—just look at his.

Read an Excerpt from Legend Trip

Happy Friday! Check out this free excerpt from Legend Trip! Then follow the link to get your copy today!

1.

Monday, October 23, 1972

Death is not the end the preacher tells you at the funeral. You’ll see your loved one again someday, in the Sweet By-and-By. It’s an easy thing for him to say. He says it a lot at a lot of funerals.

But you—you’re the one who has to believe it. You’re the one who has to look at the unnaturally beautiful face of your mother, or your brother, or—God forbid—your child, and have faith. And as the days wear on and as that faith begins to fade, where is he? Where is that son-of-a-bitch preacher with his empty platitudes and hollow promises?

But what if you didn’t need faith? What if you had the chance to know for sure that the person you loved more than anything was okay and that someday you would see them again? How far would you go for that certainty? What would you give up?

***

Penelope set the rock down on her desk. She had managed to get most of the blood off. She accidentally took off some of the paint, too, but not much. She’d made the paperweight for her father when she was eight. It had a yellow and orange sun on one side and a green tree on the other. He’d used it every day until the day he died.

She stared at it hoping it would move, just a little, to prove he was still there. Ever since the night his ghost had flung it across the room to save her and her friends from Patrick Wheeler—a magician with a grudge and some heavy firepower—she hadn’t had any sign of her father at all, nothing, not even the usual knocks he used to communicate with her. One for no and two for yes.

Penelope sighed. “Dad, I miss you. I wish you could talk to me. Can you hear me? Please do something to let me know you’re still here.”

But she was met with only silence.

***

Once he unlocked the door, Zed and his companion slipped quickly inside the bookstore.

“Isn’t this against one of Mr. Keller’s rules?” Jake Dempsey asked as Zed grabbed his hand and pulled him through the darkened maze of bookshelves.

Mr. Keller, the owner of the bookstore, posted a set of rules that included such things as no religious discussions and no excessive browsing. Everyone thought the rules were amusing, but no one dared break them when Mr. Keller was around.

“It’s absolutely against one of his rules,” Zed called over his shoulder, “but he’s out of town, and you have to admit this is as safe a spot as we’re going to find.”

He’d suggested the bookstore on a whim. He didn’t know exactly why, other than he wanted to talk to Jake alone, away from other people, afraid they might overhear. And he was a little drunk. Zed took a seat on the floor in the history section and leaned his back against a bookshelf.

Jake sat down next to him. “So now what?”

Zed rested his head on Jake’s shoulder. He caught a whiff of the subtle cologne Jake wore. “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought that far.”

“You’re awfully comfortable with this.”

“With what?”

“With this. Being close.”

Zed made to move away. “Well, if it’s a problem for you …”

“No, not at all,” Jake said hastily. “It’s just that when you told me you’d dated women before, I just figured—”

“That this was just some sort of attempt to satisfy my curiosity?”

Jake shrugged. “Well, a little. Hope you’re not offended.”

Zed chuckled. “It’s going to take more than that to offend me. I’ve just always been attracted to people as people. Man or woman, it’s never made a difference.”

Jake lowered his voice almost to a whisper. “Does your family know?”

“I don’t have any family besides my mom. And she knows. I told her a long time ago.”

“And she’s okay with it?”

“I don’t think she completely understands, but she always taught me to be myself, no matter what. What about you?”

Jake shook his head. “Oh, no. I’ve never told anyone. My family would never speak to me again, not that I’m really talking to them now. It might have been easier to tell them I’m a faggot than I’m volunteering for McGovern’s presidential campaign.”

“Sorry about that.”

Jake sighed. “It’s hard when you don’t know who to trust. One careless move and you’re out of a job, or worse. Although, I guess I don’t have to worry about the job thing right now, not like you. You have to worry about three.”

Zed kept quiet about his relationships at work. Jake was right. He’d be fired in a heartbeat from the radio station, and Mr. Keller had no trouble making his opinions on the matter known. But Penelope, that was different. He considered her a friend. He didn’t think she’d really care who he dated, but even so, he’d never told her. He could try to convince himself the topic had just never come up, but that would be a lie.

He grasped Jake’s hand. “I guess it’s good to find people we can trust, right?”

Maybe the few beers he’d had were giving Zed some fortitude, or maybe it was because he could sense Jake’s anticipation, but either way, Zed leaned over and kissed him. Jake returned the favor while running his fingers through Zed’s hair.

Then suddenly Jake’s body went limp.

“Jake?”

Zed didn’t have time to say anything more than that, though, because a bolt of lightning ran through his body. A flash of white light blinded him, and when his sight cleared, he wasn’t in the bookstore anymore. Just like the last time he and Jake shared a vision, he found himself alone in the forest on a chilly night. Pale moonlight filtered down through the canopy. Stepping over tree roots and pushing back branches, he moved through the woods with a purpose, though he didn’t know what that purpose was. He hadn’t noticed before the palmetto trees among the oaks and pines and beech trees. He must have been somewhere in the Low Country.

A howl rose up that sent a chill down his spine. He had heard that sound before. Shadows rolled and rippled at the edges of his vision. He picked up his pace, but the shadows followed. They grew and multiplied, taking on form—long, loping limbs and heads with canine snouts and glowing green eyes—daemons—just like the ones Patrick Wheeler compelled into his service, but he and Charles and Penelope had stopped Patrick Wheeler, hadn’t they? Suddenly, the shadows surged toward him, and he took off running through the woods.

Branches scraped his hands and face. He stumbled more than once, but he didn’t dare stop. He knew what those things could do. They called to him in his head, telling him awful things, trying to make him despair and lose hope. He focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but even he couldn’t run forever. Eventually he’d get tired, and the things would get him.

He stumbled over what he thought was just another rock, but it had a flat face and sharp edges—a gravestone. He’d found the graveyard from the first vision. He struggled to his feet, but it was too late. The shadows overtook him.

And then Zed was back in the bookstore, lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. He pushed himself up. Jake lay next to him. He didn’t move when Zed nudged him. Zed felt for a pulse and found a thready one. He shook Jake a little harder, calling his name and working what little magic he could to get Jake to wake up. When that didn’t work, he looked around frantically, trying to figure out what to do. He’d carry Jake to the hospital if he had to.

“Happiness,” Jake croaked.

Zed knelt down over him. “Jake?”

The other man opened his eyes and sat up slowly. “Man, what…”

Jake met Zed’s gaze. Fear came off him in waves. He scrambled to his feet.

Zed grabbed his arm. “Wait. Don’t run this time, please. Can’t we just talk?”

“There were … things in the woods, with green eyes,” Jake said.

Zed nodded. “I know.”

“And you knew what they were.”

“Yes, I did.”

Jake was silent for a moment. When he spoke, his words had a hard edge. “I was honest with you. I think the least you can do is be honest with me.”

Zed nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. My detective work is a little more interesting than I let on.”

 

Read Part 2>>

Legend Trip: A Dreadful Penny Novella is Out Today!

Click here to get your copy of Legend Trip today!

Legend Trip

Happiness is more than just a state of mind.

Greenville, South Carolina, 1972

Penelope’s father is gone, again. His ghost doesn’t haunt the home they used to share anymore— not since a rogue magician tried to kill her and her friends there. She’s not ready to let him go, though, and his absence has left her adrift.

Zed, meanwhile, is preoccupied with his new relationship, but the strain of having to hide his involvement with Jake Dempsey threatens to push them apart, not to mention Jake’s disturbing prophetic visions. At the same time, Charles is pulled farther into the alternate world of the enchanting jazz singer Millie Priest. As the date of her real-life death draws closer, Charles desperately tries to piece together how she was killed, without knowing if he can stop her murder, or if he should.

But the trouble with the Brown family never seems to end. When Ephraim Brown is abducted by supernatural forces, the trio must once again come together to save him. Their only clue is a cryptic one-word message—happiness. Could it also be the key to finally learning all the secrets Penelope’s father kept from her?

Cover Reveal – Legend Trip

Soon …

Legend Trip

Happiness is more than just a state of mind.

Greenville, South Carolina, 1972

Penelope’s father is gone, again. His ghost doesn’t haunt the home they used to share anymore— not since a rogue magician tried to kill her and her friends there. She’s not ready to let him go, though, and his absence has left her adrift.

Zed, meanwhile, is preoccupied with his new relationship, but the strain of having to hide his involvement with Jake Dempsey threatens to push them apart, not to mention Jake’s disturbing prophetic visions. At the same time, Charles is pulled farther into the alternate world of the enchanting jazz singer Millie Priest. As the date of her real-life death draws closer, Charles desperately tries to piece together how she was killed, without knowing if he can stop her murder, or if he should.

But the trouble with the Brown family never seems to end. When Ephraim Brown is abducted by supernatural forces, the trio must once again come together to save him. Their only clue is a cryptic one-word message—happiness. Could it also be the key to finally learning all the secrets Penelope’s father kept from her?