Title: The Curse Merchant
Series: The Dark Choir #1
Author: J.P. Sloan
Genre: Urban Fantasy Noir
His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn't be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian's captivating ex-lover. After two years' absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen's affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of
’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing
to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation... with the Presidium
watching, waiting for him to cross the line. Baltimore
I slid into the Cadillac, inspecting the interior for anything that could inflict bodily damage upon my person. Malosi slipped into the driver's seat, and pulled the car into a U-turn in the middle of
I watched Malosi as he turned north onto the MLK expressway, pondering the man. I wondered how deeply Malosi had delved into Osterhaus' world.
"You're a practitioner," I stated.
"I've been trained in the necessities. Just to do my job."
"Where did you receive your training, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Mister Osterhaus. Everyone in his employ has a basic understanding of hermetic theory."
"How many people are in his employ?"
Malosi lifted a brow behind his sunglasses.
"Just you, then?"
"Like I said."
I looked out my window, watching as the taller buildings of downtown
cast their shadows over us. This wasn't going to be a long drive. Baltimore
"Do you have any advice for me?" I asked.
"For talking to Osterhaus."
He cocked his head and considered the question for a moment, before responding, "Be polite."
He drove up
Light Street and stopped in an alley between a tall bank building
and a red brick row house. I tried to step out, but the door was locked. I had
to wait until Malosi opened the door from the outside.
Once free of the Cadillac, I looked up and down
Light Street, the clear sky above slowly succumbing to a front of
overcast clouds. Malosi gestured me towards a flight of steps dropping below
the street in the alley, leading to a basement entrance to the red brick
building. At the base of the steps was a thick iron door with a wrought bronze
knocker. Malosi pulled the handle and pushed the door open with a loud scrape.
"Watch your head," he muttered as I stepped into the dark room beyond the door. A low-hanging wood case crossed the lintel, and I eyed it as I entered Osterhaus' basement office.
Malosi closed the door, and my eyes adjusted slowly to the dim light. The case above the door was part of an intricate series of bookcases and display cabinets with leaded glass doors that wrapped two walls. The near wall to my right was covered in a tapestry depicting what I imagined was a scene of the Crusades. A solid, finely carved wood desk sat near the far wall, leather-topped and well-polished.
The room was dim, lit only by two gas coach lamps that flickered in a cased opening that lead to stairs slipping up and out of view into the building above.
Malosi pulled one of two green leather chairs from the front of Osterhaus' desk and held out his hand.
"Have a seat. I'll fetch Mister Osterhaus."
I nodded, and watched as Malosi disappeared up the flight of stairs with heavy footfalls.
The room was thick with the smell of frankincense. I recognized the aroma, though it was laced with other sharper scents I couldn't pick out. Cedar, perhaps. Something for wardings.
As I squinted up at the glass displays, I noticed several vials of blown glass set in neat rows upon the glass shelving. They resembled perfume bottles, the kind one buys at tourist friendly kiosks in
. I was on the verge of piecing together all manner
of theories regarding the contents of those vials when I heard the upstairs
door open, and two pairs of footsteps descending. Venice
I stood up in time to see a short, thin man step into the room from the cased opening. He had a wiry frame, almost shriveled as if elderly, though his face and eyes were sharp. He had a hawk-like brow, jutting over clear blue eyes, sending bushy gray eyebrows up at angles towards a receding salt-and-pepper hairline.
He parted his thin, crooked lips and said, "
I presume?" Dorian Lake
His eyes narrowed, and he looked back at Malosi with a nod before proceeding into the room and behind his desk.
"Believe it or not,
he continued as he slid into his chair, "I've been meaning to speak with
you for some time now." Mister Lake
I took my seat, giving Malosi a sidelong glance, making sure he wasn't holding a shotgun or baseball bat.
"That a fact?"
He stared at me with those piercing eyes, and the more I took him in, the more I realized that I really hated this man.
About the Author:
I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. My writing is dark, fantastical, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, and other times hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed. I write science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and several shades in between.
I am a husband and a father, living in the “wine country” of central
. I’m surrounded by grapevines and cows. During the
day I commute to Maryland , and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with
only minor scrapes and bruises. I am also a homebrewer and a certified beer
judge. My avocations dovetail nicely! Baltimore