Friday, June 02, 2006

Excerpt - posted for Darragha

She paused as she unwrapped the soft butter colored piece of antique erotica. "He got it. He got the Viking's Member for me!" She looked at her watch. It was way too early in the morning in Amsterdam to phone her connection with a few words of praise. "Oh, my." Long, hard and decorated with scrimshaw depicting scenes from Norse mythology-scenes of love between the gods-both male and female-it was by far the most intricate piece in her collection. "Dare I sell this?" she questioned herself. "How could I sell this?"

The bell on her door chimed. She carefully set the whalebone piece back in its packing materials and dashed to the storefront. "Hi, can I help you?"

She glanced at her pet rats. Calm. Sleeping. That means the rather stately looking white-blonde woman before her was human. And by the looks of the rock on her ring finger-wealthy.

"Santeria supplies?" the woman asked.

"Yes, of course. May I show you?" Salem replied.

"I need sal negre," the customer continued. "Bad neighbor. He really needs to go away."

"I carry sal negre. Black salt. I have it."

"I need dove's blood and a quill, as well."

"I'm sorry, I don't carry real dove's blood. Only a purified protein compound. Will that do?"

"City regulation?" the customer asked.

Salem nodded. Dove's blood ink technically fell under the umbrella of religious goods, but she'd chosen not to carry any products produced by the slaying of animals. Her quills were farmed and plucked from happy geese.

"Let me show you," Salem offered, leading the customer to her mini-botanica section of Santeria candles, spells and other ritual supplies. Not the best selling items in the store-though occasionally she'd have a very good day, voo-doo-wise.

"Sal negre. Good. Good. Is this the largest size you carry?" the woman asked.

"I have a large container in the back. How bad of neighbor do you have? A little sal negre combined with the right spell should be enough to send even a demon packing."

The woman looked sharply at Salem. "I've separated from my husband and he will not move out of our townhouse. He's making it impossible for me to carry on...well, let's say he's making things difficult. And it's not because he wants or needs the house or me. He's just being stubborn. I'll take as much black salt as you have."

"I have five pounds. That should dispel even the most vile of future ex-husbands," Salem replied.

"I have the spell. Will you look at it for me?"

Salem felt her stomach tighten. She didn't want to be asked to perform the ritual. It had happened before and after one mistake-she was never doing someone else's magic again. "I'm not an expert in Santeria, ma'am. I only know what I've read and heard from my suppliers."

The woman scoffed and unfolded a piece of paper she'd been carrying. "I wash the stoop with sal negre waters. I wash a piece of his clothing in the same liquid. I record our marriage vows in reverse order on a parchment using dove's blood with a quill, then burn the paper."

"That should do it. He'll become uncomfortable and wish to leave. Once he does, his life will again return to normal-save that it will be in a new place far away from you," Salem concluded. "I think it's a good ritual."

"I'll take two quills and the salt," the woman replied in a rather commanding manner that told Salem it was "check-out" time.

"I'll be right back with the salt. Go ahead and bring your quills to the counter. No ink?" Salem asked.

The woman shook her head. "I'll stop at the park on the way home."

Salem didn't ask any further questions.

***

"A body? In the alley? A dead body?" Salem asked.

"You phone now, yes? And, Bubee...start locking your door."

"Christ. Yes, I'll phone. Right now," Salem replied reaching for her telephone. She dialed 9-1-1.

She didn't wait for the operator to finish her "what is the nature of your emergency" standard response. "Hi. There's a woman, dead in the alley behind my store. Behind Misha's Deli and Salem's Fine Collection of Sins. Sixty Seven Hundred Crowley Way. Downtown. No, I don't know who she is. I haven't looked. Misha found her. He's with the body now. No, he won't touch anything. Yes, thank you. Please hurry." Please hurry? She's dead. She ain't going anywhere. Salem paused, realizing the absurdity of her comment. "Me? I'm Salem Grier. I live above my shop. And Misha Polikronikis found her. He owns the deli. Thank you."

She hung up the phone and slipped on her clogs. The metal handrails of the fire escape were covered in morning dew. A heavy chill still clung to the darkness of pre-dawn.

Misha had found his keys. She also heard the soft waling of the Mourner's Kaddish emanating from her friend. Yeetgadal v' yeetkadash sh'mey rabbah...

"Did you know her, Misha?" Salem asked.

He nodded. "She bought a cup of coffee from me today. And struck up a conversation with a man who ordered warm milk. He looked like warm milk. What man drinks warm milk?"

"Blonde man?" Salem asked.

"Like a banana he was blonde," Misha replied.

Salem sucked in her breath. "She came into my shop today. She bought black salt. Said she had to get rid of a bad neighbor. A blonde man showed up after closing. He kind of gave me the creeps."

"You think he's the one who did her in?" Misha asked. "Do you see how he did it? Look at her throat. Those marks-someone strangled her."

"Does she have something sticking out of her ear?" Salem asked squinting to make out the object without having to get too close.

"It's a quill. Drilled it into her brain."

Salem turned and vomited.

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