I know it's been a while, but I come bearing good news! Identity Theft, the sequel to the very-popular Atticus for the Undead, is almost upon us! At this point, I'm looking at a mid-March/early April release date. I'll have more details on the exact date in the next week or two, but in the meantime, I thought you guys deserved a sneak peek. First, to your left, you'll see the book's gorgeous cover, designed by my good friend Steven Novak over at Novak Illustration.
And now, a snippet from the book to whet your appetite. Enjoy!
Hunter followed two guards into the jail’s meeting room, where Clifford Hammond waited. Before he’d even stepped into the room, Hunter heard his old buddy say “Oh my God, it’s Mulder!” He chuckled at the use of the old law school nickname—even then, Hunter had made no secret of his intention to practice arcane defense. Cliff approached very close to Hunter and put his arms up as if he were about to tackle Hunter with a bear-hug, but his handcuffed wrists made the task too complicated. The two shook hands as Cliff gave an embarrassed smile.
“Hey, Cliff,” Hunter said, looking his old friend up and down. The man’s hair sat in a disheveled mop atop his head, and his pale skin and rigid posture spoke clearly of fear. He was clad in the standard orange jumpsuit. “How the hell did you get yourself arrested, anyway? The only thing criminal about you is how much money you make—assuming you’re still making the world safe for polluters, that is.” Hunter grinned.
That got a little smile out of Cliff. “I’m still in-house counsel for Varion, if that’s what you mean,” he said, referring to the oil giant. “At least, until they hear about this.” The smile vanished.
“What happened? Come on, let’s sit down.” Hunter gestured to the table and chairs that were the room’s only furnishings. He instantly went into “tape recorder” mode, wanting to get as much information as he could in order to determine how, or if, he could help.
“I, uh, I shot a guy, Hunter,” Cliff said when they were seated, his gaze falling to the metal surface of the table. He visibly struggled to get the next words out. “I killed him. I didn’t want to, but I did.”
Hunter’s brows drew together. “You didn’t want to? You mean it was an accident?”
Cliff shook his head. “This morning when I got to work, I pulled my car into the parking garage and there was somebody standing in my space. He was just standing there, arms crossed over his chest.”
“What did you do?”
“I rolled down my window and told him to move, that I needed to park. When I get out of the car, he handed me a picture of… of the guy I….” Hunter saw tears forming in Cliff’s eyes. Cliff wiped them away with a hand, making an obvious effort to compose himself.
“It’s all right,” Hunter put a hand on his friend’s arm. “So he handed you the picture. Then what?”
“He stared at me with these brown eyes that… they were cold. They were… it was like he didn’t care about anything.” Cliff hugged his arms to his chest, visibly shuddering. “He stared at me and told me to go to the Capitol, right then, and find the guy in the picture, and kill him. He said I’d find the guy in the Capitol Grill. Don’t know how he knew that. He told me I wasn’t going to warn anybody or deviate from the plan in any way. Then he hid a gun inside my briefcase—and walked away. He didn’t give me a name, or a reason, or anything. Just handed me the picture, gave me the orders, and left.”
Hunter tilted his head to one side. “So what’s the missing piece here, Cliff? It’s not like you to go on a homicidal rampage just because a total stranger tells you to. Or ever, for that matter.”
“He put a spell on me.”
Hunter’s posture instantly stiffened. “He what?”
“He hexed me, Hunter.” Cliff reached over and grabbed one of Hunter’s arms, and there was a definite note of pleading in his eyes. “You’ve got to believe me. You’ve got to.”
Hunter held up a hand to calm his friend. “I do, Cliff, it’s just… I don’t practice arcane defense anymore.”
Cliff frowned. “I’d heard that, but I didn’t believe it. That was what you always dreamed of doing.”
“Yeah, well, after the Pollard trial, the dream kind of lost its magic.” Hunter scowled. The trial of Samuel Pollard, in which an intelligent zombie had been charged with eating a woman’s brains, had made national headlines, so Hunter knew that Cliff would understand the reference.
Cliff’s grip on Hunter’s arm tightened, and Hunter saw the pleading in his eyes turn to insistence. “I need you to get the magic back. Otherwise, I’m a dead man.”
“It’s not that simple,” Hunter said, as a memory flashed through his mind for the millionth time in the past year. The hospital. The news report. Chief Garrison’s voice. We are authorized to confirm at this point that the victim is a woman named Kirsten Harper…. “A friend of mine died because of the work I did for arcanes. The Salvation Alliance shot her. In the head.” Hunter’s eyes narrowed.
The horror on Cliff’s face was palpable. Hunter felt the vise grip on his arm loosen. “Oh God… I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah. So am I.” Hunter’s voice dripped with rue.
Cliff sat there briefly in silence. “Well, if I was under a spell, that’s an automatic not-guilty, right?”
Hunter nodded. “Assuming it was involuntary, yeah.’”
Cliff squinted. “Who would voluntarily let someone control them?”
“Some people do. Don’t ask me why, but they do.”
“Well, I didn’t. And proving I was under a spell should be fairly easy, right? I mean, doesn’t magic leave traces?”
Hunter nodded. “You’d need to hire an aurist.”
“An aurist,” Hunter said. “They’re wizards who’ve been trained to see latent magic around a person. Most of the time, if a person gets hexed, it leaves a residue.”
“Most of the time?”
“Supposedly, there are a few wizards and witches who are so powerful that they can cast their spells and not leave any traces.” Seeing Cliff’s eyes widen, Hunter said, “But if they do exist, I’ve never met one. Assuming you can get an aurist to look at you before the residue fades, that should prove you weren’t in control of yourself.”
“And I bet you know a few aurists, don’t you? After working with wizards for as long as you did?”
Hunter nodded. “Yeah, I know a few. Some pretty good ones, actually.”
“So get one of them to take a look at me. We’ll take that to the judge, and the charges will get thrown out, right? They’ve got to let me go, with no motive and the fact that I was under a spell, right?” Hunter thought Cliff sounded as though he were trying to convince himself of what he was saying.
“Please? It’ll be easy. No muss, no fuss, no Salvation Alliance nutjobs. Please?”
Hunter chewed his lip for a moment, considering. And then, “All right. I’ll help you.”
I'm currently raising money on Kickstarter to promote the book. If you liked Atticus and this scene excites you for book 2, or even if you never read Atticus and this scene excites you for the series, please consider chipping in! Anything helps!