Excerpt from “Southern Conjure Woman” series, Book 1: Small Town Magic
By request. Remember that this is the first draft and is very raw. Many edits yet to come and the book is only around a third done:
“What do you mean, ‘gone?’” Cat asked, rubbing her temples and wishing she had stopped for that drink after dropping off Hunter instead of going to Lily and Dru’s. As if on cue, Dru pushed a glass of Jameson’s into her hand. She smiled her thanks and he nodded.
“Gone, like checked out against medical advice and no one knows where she went.”
Shit. Cissy Harris was their living, breathing, talking link to all that was going on and now she was out of their reach, presumably at least.
“When did anyone last see her?”
Lily shifted on the couch and tucked her slender feet up under her, then glanced at Dru, who poured her a glass of wine and passed it to her.
“I saw her before I left the hospital at 6 a.m. today. We spoke at length and then I briefed the incoming and came back here to sleep. They called me just before noon and told me she was gone.”
“No one saw her leave?” Cat asked, taking a sip of the whiskey and feeling it start to warm and loosen her already.
“No one knew she was gone. She had been off of monitors and IVs for a few hours. The staff thought she was sleeping and when they went in to check her vitals, they saw she was missing. The TV was off and that thing was never off from the minute she regained consciousness.”
“So she’s walking or someone picked her up.”
“Mmmhmm,” Lily agreed. “She had no personal effects with her when she was brought in, so she has no money. There were no outgoing calls from her phone and she did not have a cell on her.”
“Could someone have taken her? An abduction?” Dru asked.
“As you saw, we had her in an out of the way room off the Med-Surg ward, so sure, it could have happened, but at that time of day, we had a full nursing staff on duty and they would have to take her past one of the two desks. The windows do not open. There are no stairwells in that area of the hospital. I think it is more likely she slipped out on her own than someone taking a drugged or struggling woman out in front of staff. How did it go with Odetta today?”
“Ah,” Cat said, tilting her head. “Guess who else is gone?”
“AND her dogs. The place is deserted. But after Hunter and I came back in from the garden, the temperature in the cabin had dropped enough that we could see our breath.”
“Jeez, how long were you in the garden?” Dru asked.
Cat sent him an askance smirk and he shrugged.
“Only a few minutes, but when we went into the bedroom, this happened.”
She opened the gallery of photos on her phone and showed them the mirror picture, which Hunter had sent to her.
“Does that say what I think it does?” Lily asked.
“Help dark?” Dru’s eyebrows knitted in consternation.
“Help bark,” Cat corrected. “Her hounds are with her, wherever she is.”
“It says, ‘dark.’”
“I think the b is backwards.”
“A backwards b is a d. What am I missing here?” he blinked, waiting for an answer as if she had one.
“Dru, I am pretty sure it says ‘bark.’”
“And the hounds wrote ‘bark’ on the mirror?”
“I don’t fucking know, Dru,” Cat said, feeling her patience fraying. “Why would it say, ‘Help dark?”
“I don’t know, Cat. Why would it say, ‘Help bark?’ Does the mirror takes dictation or something?”
Lily and Cat exchanged a look.
“Odetta is in trouble and I have no clue what to do. None. I brought the mirror back with in case she is somehow attached to it specifically, Nothing else in our around the house looked out of the ordinary except that the gate and the door were both open.”
“What are you thinking?” Lily asked.
“I got nothing. I don’t think she’s dead. I think she is stuck somewhere. Lily, I don’t think she’s likely left that house in ten years or longer.”
“Oh, at least.”
“And why would anyone involve her in this? Who even knows she’s there? You don’t stumble upon Odetta’s place. You have to aim to get there and work at it.”
“Has anyone heard from Wulf?” Dru asked.
“Not since the meeting, at least not me,” Cat said.
“Not me,” Lily confirmed. “Maybe we should call him back into conference on this and find out what the pack knows.”
They all jumped as Lily’s cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID and said, “I have to take this. It’s the hospital.”