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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Preview of "Danse Macabre" (Shadows in the Water Book 3) by Kory M. Shrum


Prologue

Lou held tight to the top of the trucks as they plowed east through the winter night. Snow fell from the black sky, illuminated momentarily by headlights.
A bright moon loomed overhead.

Lou took a breath and faded through the frosty roof of the truck. When the world reformed around her, she was crouching between the two front seats and the men who occupied them.
She pulled her gun and put a bullet in the driver first. The truck careened, rumbling off into the frozen field. 
The passenger was trying to grab the CB, but one shot splattered his brains across the window. The bullet passed straight through the head and into the wall of the truck. The hole whistled as air leaked through.
Lou shoved into the driver seat and wrenched open the door. She pushed the body out into the snow and slammed on the brakes. They screeched and squealed as it slid to a stop on the packed ice.
Then Lou was gone again, fading through the shadows into the next truck in the caravan. These men were as easy to dispatch at the first. But then the other trucks were stopping, brakes squealing. Men spilled into the night and ran toward Lou on either side of the caravan. She remained in her seat until the last moment.
Then she slid through the dark to the truck’s underbelly. Her knee pressed into the cold snow as the men tore open the doors and wrenched out the bodies.
Lou spared a bullet for every leg she could target—five in all. Then she shifted through the dark again to the front of the next truck.
As the men scrambled, trying to find the source of the attack, Lou picked them off one by one until only she prevailed. 
The caravan idled in the desolate road. No noise remained but the gentle hum of engines and the crunch of frosty grass beneath her boots. No witnesses saw the twenty murders, except the large, unblinking moon.
She opened the back of one of the trucks and peered into its belly. Pallets of heroin sat crammed in tight, each laden with plastic bricks.
She tossed in a grenade and slammed the door shut. She escaped to the next truck before its expected Boom! lifted all four wheels off the snow.
Then she did it again and again, watching as each truck was thrown flaming into the air before crashing down again. She felt the heat even from a safe distance. 
She watched the drugs burn.
As the flames died to a lazy smolder, Lou searched the glowing moonlit fields. Silence rang in her ear. She counted the bodies heaped on the snow, their blood sprayed out behind each. It gave the impression that they had fallen from the sky, landing broken.
Something moved.
One hunched form dragged itself away from the wreckage. Lou closed the distance, white smoke fogging in front of her face. 
It was a young man, shot and bleeding. The snow beneath him was black with it.
“Будьте добры!” he cried. On his back, he held his hands out in front of him like a shield. Bright crimson burned in his cheeks and his eyes shone in the moonlight. Snow collected in his blond hair.
“I don’t speak Russian,” she said, and pointed the eye of her Beretta. 
“Please,” he said again. “I didn’t want this. My father—”
The shot rang out. He spoke no more. 

1
Two Months Later
Lou woke with a start. Bolting upright, she found herself on the edge of her mattress, her feet bare on the cool wooden floor. She stared at her blood-crusted arm, at her flaking skin without seeing it. 
Instead she saw the boy on the snow. It had been the same dream for months. When she’d finally fall asleep, she’d find herself in the snowy night again. Every detail of the dream had felt real. The frost on the back of her neck and the warm blood steaming on her hands.
And it always ended the same way. From the flat of his back, he begged for his life. The moment before she shot him, he’d turn into her father. She pulled the trigger anyway. 
It was the gunshot that sent her careening into wakefulness.
Her head hurt. Her upper back hurt. She rolled her neck and elicited a thunderous crack up each side.
She shouldn’t have engaged that sixth attacker in the parking lot last night. Not in her condition.
She could still smell the beer on his breath as she’d wrenched his head back, staring into his wide, fearful eyes. But she hadn’t pulled her gun, hadn’t been able to.
What was the point?
Every night this week she’d roamed the streets. Sometimes she walked for hours through the most dangerous districts she knew. If anyone made the mistake of approaching her, she’d take them on.
Not with her gun. She’d slam her fist over and over into muscle and bone. She’d split skin—her own and theirs—until blood ran.
Yet she couldn’t pull her gun.
The cold, quiet rage she needed to lift her Beretta from its holster never came, never overtook her the way some demon overtook its host before feeding.
She blamed Konstantine. And her aunt. Even King was far from innocent. They’d churned these waters. Now it was too murky to see where she stood.
Her father’s vision of the world had been easier.
Here were the bad guys. Here were the good. 
When she’d found the desire to pull her gun, her mind was the betrayer.
What if he has a child at home? What if she loves him? What if killing him breaks her the way Jack’s death broke you?
Her mind had taunted her with these unanswerable questions and the man at the end of her Beretta’s sight had run. He’d run from the bar parking lot into the darkness and she’d let him go, finding she could only watch him disappear. 
The heat, the thirst to kill had left as quickly as it came.
The insomnia wasn’t helping. How could one have a clear head with endless sleepless nights? When was the last time she’d slept? When was the last time she’d actually put her head on this pillow, closed her eyes, and let the exhaustion take her?
Sleep had eluded her since her aunt Lucy died. Three months of nothing more than power naps, and treating her body like a punching bag.
It’s going to catch up to you, a familiar voice warned. It was her father. She didn’t need advice from the dead.
They weren’t telling her anything she didn’t already know. She dragged her hand down her face, trying to get out from under the weight of this exhaustion.
A knock sounded through her apartment.
I’m dreaming, she thought. She regarded the front door as if she’d never seen it before. 
Perhaps that was because in the six years she’d lived in this apartment no one had ever knocked on it. The only person who had even known the address was Aunt Lucy. This wasn’t Christmas Eve. No ghostly visits scheduled.
A second knock tapped out its rhythm and her heart leapt to life in her chest. She was awake and someone was here.
Without thinking, Lou crossed her living room. She passed the sofa and glass coffee table, and stepped into her empty linen closet. Her back pressed into the bare wooden walls. 
The darkness softened around her, falling away. She slipped through it.
Another set of walls formed around her. She pushed open the door and stepped into the empty apartment down the hallway. This kitchen reeked of pine-scented cleaner. Her bare feet padded silently across the cold floor. Once she reached the front door, slowly she cracked it enough to see her own door down the hallway.
It was a boy knocking.
He was eighteen maybe, with a courier bag slung over his shoulder and a bicycle helmet hanging in one hand. Shifting his weight, he sighed, clearly annoyed. 
He rapped on her door for a third time before calling out. “I’m not a Mormon or anything, okay? And I don’t want to sell you shit. I have this letter for you.” He held the letter up to his face, squinting at the small print on the front of the envelope. “Ms. Thorne, I need you to sign for it.”
Lou eased the apartment door closed. 
As if you would have shot him anyway, a cruel voice chided. You haven’t shot so much as an empty can in months.
The vacant pantry returned her to her own apartment. It took only a breath to slip through the darkness again and find her warmer home as she’d left it.
She placed her Beretta on the kitchen island as she crossed to the door. When she opened the door she found the hallway empty. The kid was halfway down the hall.
“Hey,” she called out. “I’m here.”
He looked relieved, even though he had to come back. “Thank God. This building has a thousand steps and no freaking elevator. No offense, but I didn’t want to come back.”
She only regarded him, extending her hand for the letter.
“Oh right.” He pulled a plastic blue ink pen from behind his ear. “I need you to sign this sheet.”
She waited for him to pull the folded sheet of paper out of his coat pocket. She signed it against the door jamb, the grain pressing through the paper and making her letters wobble on the page.
“Thanks,” the kid said, his thin lips pulling into a bright grin. “Here you go.”
He handed over the envelope. It was cream, a nice thick paper with red lettering in the top right corner. Her name was printed in black ink, slanting forward.
Hammerstein, Holt and Locke Attorneys at Law it said in the return corner. And Lou was wondering if she was going to have to murder a band of lawyers tonight.
The kid was staring.
Lou followed his gaze to the Beretta on the kitchen island and then to the blood drying on both her arms. She didn’t think it was the thick, black grime under her nails that had doubled the size of his eyes. She looked like she’d clawed her way out of hell.
Kill him, the cruel voice taunted. You can’t let him go. He could tell someone. He could bring them back here.
“Anything else?” she asked him, searching his eyes for danger.
He shook his head vigorously. “Nah, we’re cool.”
He backed away. 
You’re making a mistake. He could end you tonight
Yet Lou didn’t move.
“H-happy New Year,” the kid said and ducked through the door beneath the marked EXIT sign as if he expected her to give chase.
New year, she thought, closing and locking her front door.
A BOOM, HISS rose suddenly.
The first firework of the evening exploded in the sky, raining orange ribbons of light over the dark Mississippi river.
She turned the envelope over and slid a thumb under the flap.


Find Danse Macabre at your favorite e-bookstore today!

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