Category Archives: Fantasy & Science Fiction

NaNoWriMo – The Aftermath

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I started a new novel called Black Magic Bullets (working title) for NaNoWriMo. I thought it would be fun to participate this year and dove right in,—-albeit a little late. 

I wasn’t expecting to write 50,000 words in a month, and I knew I couldn’t do it while sharing my first draft with the world. I’d have to write slowly enough that the prose was readable and made logical sense.  As such, I only got down a little over 13,000 words. Still, not bad for a busy month while trying to finish up the 3rd draft of another novel. 

Stephen King warns about writing with the “door open,” but this has been an enjoyable exercise and I’ve had some fantasy readers reach out to express interest in the story. That’s always heartwarming and encouraging, since most of the time we write in isolation, without any input until we finish and release it to the world. 

I haven’t decided what I want to do yet. I know I’d like to continue Black Magic Bullets and post my first draft (at least up to a point) on this blog. I’m planning to share at least half the book, but If I decide to stop at any time, I’ll put up a notice and give you a chance to contact me. I’ll then send the rest of the first draft, in installments, to you directly. I wouldn’t want to string you along and not give you an ending. 

If I go beyond publishing half the book on this blog, I worry I’d have trouble selling it once completed.

 Anyway, thanks for reading. I plan to get back to Black Magic Bullets soon. I also want to talk about the Honorable Mention I received from Writers of the Future before year-end. Then I’d like to get back to my regular Scribe’s Arcanum posts. I’m also determined to finish the 3rd draft of my horror thriller. It must be completed by the end of this year! I’ve worked on it too long already.  Also, stay tuned for my year-end report where I list everything I’ve accomplished this year. It’s going to be a big one! 

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll continue to take this journey with me. 

Best, 

Dave 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 15 – Black Magic Bullets

 

In the last chapter, I realized that I needed to continue the chase that I had resolved in Chapter Thirteen. I’m still not sure who is chasing Harris and Kenzi, but that doesn’t matter yet. I’m sure it will all be revealed in time. That’s how the subconscious works. Chapter Fourteen works as a way to keep up the tension while world-building. We now know there are safehouses, so to speak, throughout the city, and I’m sure this will play a role later in the story.

I also spent some time working on The Tower, a 74,000-word horror thriller, and polishing a short story to send to another open call.

Chapter Fifteen came very slowly, and I have a reason for including it in the grand scheme of the narrative. Again, this is just a first draft and is still very rough. Will I be able to make 50,000 words by the end of November. To me, it doesn’t really matter. Writing good words and keep a coherent story structure is more important to me than word count. That’s my way of saying: probably not! Haha! Thanks for reading.

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

 

Chapter Fifteen 

We spent over an hour and a half scouring abandoned property in Boston.  The effort exhausted me. Looking into the Collective, I had either seen nothing of interest in and around the buildings or things that confused me. Strang creatures prowling about, invisible to all but the most sensitive of psychic mediums, and those, like myself, who used some sort of enhancement. 

Then there were the phantom structures that stood psychically where a building had been torn down long ago and a new property erected. Those were the hardest to make out, needing to tune out all but the freshest vibrations. 

Kenzi tried to convey what I was looking for, the signature of a corpse with no soul, but yet somehow attached to whatever remained of the consciousness of the deceased. 

A serpentine cord would still be connected to the body, snaking its way psychically to the Lemure. So far, I didn’t believe I had seen anything close to what Kenzi had described, but how could I be sure? How could I be sure she could even describe it correctly. Kenzi didn’t even know. She didn’t have first-hand observable knowledge. 

Then at the third building, I found something I thought promising, a faint signature that might be the connection to Dedra we needed. 

“You think, Harris?” Kenzi asked when I relayed my impressions. “Or are you sure?” 

“It’s the best I can do,” I said. “The closest I’ve seen so far. No guarantees.” 

Kenzi sighed. Thought for a moment. Her eyes darted to the rearview mirror. She was doing double duty, acting as a lookout while also trying to lead the operation. 

I didn’t envy her position. Going inside could be dangerous. If this was a false lead and either of us got hurt or were killed… Then again, this was the most promising lead we’d had all day and who knew how long it would be before our tail returned.

 If I were leading the operation, I’d have made the call to go inside. Yet, I could understand why she might not. Either way, I’d abide by her decision. She had way more experience than I had at the time. 

“What else are you seeing?” Kenzi asked. “Anything that concerns you?” 

“I’m having a hard time differentiating between threats and old psychic impressions,” was all I said. She was really asking a lot of me. 

“Let’s go,” she said as she exited the vehicle. She had disabled the dash light and the door chime and although it didn’t matter in the pre-dusk hours, I still found it a little disconcerting especially with the BMW being so new. 

Kenzi popped the trunk and then grabbed a derringer in a thigh holster. After loading each chamber with a black bullet, She strapped it on just above the hemline of her skirt. 

I looked down at the ground, averting my gaze. 

“The Derringer was my dad’s,” Kenzi said, and then to explain why she was carrying a weapon that wasn’t on the AG’s approved roster and then added… “It’s pre-ban and so technically legal for me to carry.”

I hoped the cops thought the same if we got caught breaking and entering. The odds were high that someone would see us and call the police. How long it would take the cops to respond was beyond my operational knowledge. I didn’t want to ask Kenzi. I’d just trust she had all her bases covered. 

“Don’t worry,” Kenzi said playing mind reader once again. “Cyber will be monitoring all police channels, even the ones the public doesn’t know about.”

Around us stood a multi-zoned area of both residential and industrial structures. On one side, double-deckers and duplexes, paint fading from harsh weather and sea salt, waited for their owners to return home after a long day of work.   

In contrast, old brick factory buildings with lime green window sills, boarded up to discourage vandals and squatters, waited for a time when the work would return. I wasn’t sure that time would ever come. 

Looking around, the street appeared deserted and a cursory glance at the occupied homes gave no tells, blinds stayed in place, not even a breeze moved the drapes. 

Still, I was afraid that there were eyes on us——even if I couldn’t feel them. I knew of practitioners of both martial arts and occult sciences who could hide their intentions. 

As Lao Tzu said in his famous Tao te Ching:

Temper your sharpness…

Mask your brightness.

Be at one with the dust of the earth.

Fully armed, Kenzi grabbed a pry-bar from the trunk before closing the lid with a satisfying thunk. 

I returned to the passenger side of the car, took another hit of the ethylene gas mixture, tossed it back on the seat, and then reluctantly followed her. She trudged onto the industrial side of the street and into the un-manicured lawn that surrounded the abandoned structure.  

Despite the length of the grass, it looked like months had gone by without a mowing, each strand had taken on the color of straw, making me wonder how long it would take before the whole yard was dead. 

As we disappeared behind the old factory building we practiced the old maxim: out of sight, out of mind. 

Back here, Kenzi went to work prying off a protective board and then took off her jacket and used it to cover the small window hidden underneath. The jacket suppressed the noise of the bar smashing the window. A few quick blows and the glass was mostly dislodged. Tossing her jacket inside, Kenzi scraped the jagged glass that remained attached to the frame with the bar. Again, the jacket muted the tinkling of the glass. 

Kenzi slipped inside before I could protest. I was having second thoughts. 

“Harris,” she whispered. “Get down here.” 

I looked around. We appeared to be alone. Still, I didn’t like the idea of descending into the depths of the building one foot in the real world and the other in the Collective. Nothing good could come of it. 

Sliding inside, I dropped to the floor without another thought. 

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 14 – Black Magic Bullets

I think it’s been about five days since my last post. The writing has been progressing, albeit slowly. 

In the last chapter, I imposed a device known as a ticking clock. I did this to add tension to the narrative and drive the plot. I also had Kenzi and Harris chased by an unknown group. They are even unknown to me, as in, they haven’t revealed themselves through the narration. 

I added the bit about how Dedra needing to self attach to the location as foreshadowing for later.  

Dedra came about because my research shows I need a mystery element in an Urban Fantasy. I should be able to craft one, my wife has been binging episodes of Criminal Minds on ION and WE. Haha! They’re always on in the background. Even while I write. 

Originally, I had envisioned Kenzi driving a black Mustang. I took inspiration from my wife who owned a fox-body Mustang when we met. As I began to get to know Kenzi better, I realized she’d be more at home driving a BMW.

 Also, I liked that some Bimmers have All-Wheel-Drive. Oh, and my research shows that a BMW car or SUV is not a Beamer (the Beamer nickname goes to the BMW motorbike) it is actually referred to as a Bimmer. I’m not sure how many people know that. I certainly didn’t, and my wife thought the real nickname was a typo. Maybe I’ll change it back to Beamer just for clarity. It’s not correct, but it’s the name most people use. 

I’m also trying to stay away from politics. I don’t like politics in my fiction, but sometimes, to ground the story in reality, I have no choice. 

Massachusetts gun laws are very restrictive and convoluted for law-abiding citizens, and I’m a stickler for characters following those laws, at least until they’re able to break them safely. 

Once Harris learns how to manipulate the Collective, they will have more leeway in what weapons they carry. My plan had been to have Kenzi carry a Glock 19, but civilians can’t buy those in Massachusetts. They’re not on the approved roster, and so I decided she’d carry an M&P. 

In this way, I hope the story will be grounded enough in reality that the reader can suspend disbelief as I ratchet up the fantasy elements. 

I should probably mention that I’m also trying to ground those, in reality, using real magical practices, exaggerated and enhanced for drama, with which I’m thoroughly familiar from research and experience gained in what feels like another lifetime. That’s a story for another day. 

While I’ve been waiting for my subconscious mind to catch up with the story, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on the third draft of a horror thriller called The Tower of Abandon. As of this writing, I only have one more scene to edit and then, after a short break, I’ll be polishing the manuscript with the help of ProWritingAid before handing it off to my wife for a proofread. 

I also prepared and sent out a short story to an anthology open call. Unfortunately, I somehow missed the word count guidelines. After I had sent it out, I realized my submission was 1,000 words under the required word count. At least I didn’t forget to attach the Word file! That’s probably the most common mistake committed by writers sending out submission. I hate when mistakes like that happen, but we are only human. I’ll just wait and hope for the best. Maybe I’ll get lucky. You never know.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter 14

“Hold on, again!” Kenzi said, accelerating. 

The torque knocked me back into my seat. Then we were turning right on red with no regard for oncoming traffic. 

Tires squealed. 

Horns blared. 

“They’re still after us?” I asked wishing I knew who “they” were. 

“I need you to enter the Collective,” Kenzi said her voice tight, her fingers on the steering wheel even tighter. 

I hesitated.  

“Now would be a good time!”

Against my better judgment, I unbuckled my seatbelt and scrambled between the seats stretching to reach my bag. 

Another breakneck turn. Releasing my hold on the bag, I grabbed the back of both seats to keep from slamming into Kenzi. 

She turned again, in the opposite direction, and I gritted my teeth and held on for what some people like to call dear-life. Once the vehicle straightened, I snatched the duffle and dragged it through the opening between the seats. 

Not bothering to buckle up, I unzipped the duffle bag and struggled to get out my equipment. Once I had retrieved the concentrator, I plugged in a bottle of ethylene gas. 

I tossed the bag back between the seats and let it flop to the floor.  Now I bucked in and then turned the valve. Too little ethylene and I wouldn’t enter the Collective, too much and I’d end up dead. I only hoped my memory wouldn’t fail me. The events in the ritual room felt like they’d happened a lifetime ago. 

Seating the mask to my face, I pressed firmly, creating a tight seal, and then breathed in deeply. 

The car and the world flipped and then righted itself. Had I taken a little too much? It didn’t matter. I’d have to deal with the aftereffects and hope I could do whatever Kenzi wanted while still under the influence. 

In front of me, through the windshield and the driver’s side window, I saw all that had been hidden from humanity. Creatures and phantom buildings projected where they had been torn down but their physicality still resonated enough to make them psychically viable, at least within the Collective. 

What am I looking for, I wondered? 

Overwhelmed by the influx of new sensory input. A protective circle would have been a nice buffer. Now I really understood its importance. 

“What am I looking for?” I asked Keni as she continued her escape and evasion routine. 

“Look for a masked entrance. Something that only you can see.”

That was easier said than done. I didn’t have the experience to interpret what I was seeing. Masking a location was difficult and I had to believe that Dreadstone’s security measures were well above the feeble abilities of the sorcerers who worked at The Chasm. In that, the people who were chasing us would have a harder time finding said entrance than I had when I used to frequent the occult shop. It wouldn’t be a matter of just relaxing and thinking good thoughts. This was high-level wizardry. 

Then I saw it, an iridescent archway, unmistakable from the normal environment. Situated between two buildings, I could just make out the narrow opening. The question was: could Kenzi, even with my help, navigate through the gap?  

“There!’ I Said pointing to show her the location. 

“You’re my eyes,” Kenzi said through gritted teeth, turning the vehicle and then gunning it in the direction I had pointed. 

“A little to the left.”

“A little to the right.” 

I did my best to direct her and I was impressed at how easily Kenzi took my directions on faith. 

We entered the tunnel too close to the right, sparks flying on the passenger side as Kenzi sheared off paint. I hoped we were really being followed and this wasn’t just some sort of paranoia on Kenzi’s part. 

We slowed to a stop. 

Kenzi shut off the vehicle allowing the silence along with the darkness within the manmade cavern to blanked us. My own breathing sounded too loud in my head. Kenzi’s breathing was no more than a whisper. In the background somewhere in the dark water dripped, most likely the result of condensation. 

“Why don’t they just have a GPS point marked off on the system?” I asked, in frustration.  I kept myself from cursing, but I wanted to say every swear in the book. Professionalism won out. 

Yet you had to admit It seemed crazy that to find this place you had to either be a psychic or be jacked up on ethylene gas. 

“It’s harder to hack a human brain than it is a computer system,” Kenzi said.  “I only know the general whereabouts of the masked entrances. 

“I’ll have Cyber hack the traffic cameras in the area and find who was following us. That will take some time. In the meantime, we have some locations to assess.”

Kenzi set a text. 

Kenzi showed me her phone, its bluish-white glow the only light in the cavern. Cyber had sent over a complete list of abandoned buildings in the waterfront area. 

“Let’s hope we’ve lost our tail,” Kenzi said. “Time to take another hit of the gas. I need your eyes on each building. Look for anomalies.” 

“We haven’t even been to the first one yet!” I said.

“That’s right,” Kenzi said. “We better get cracking.” 

The BMW purred to life, lighting up what now really looked like a cave. Kenzi put her foot down on the accelerator performed a reverse 180 (J-Turn) and then rocketed us out of the hiding place and back into the busy street, my heart beating out of me. 

 To be continued…

NaNoWrimo – Chapter 13 – Black Magic Bullets

I’ve had some great feedback on this story, and it’s made me think about how I categorize my writing. Looking at some of my unpublished work, and even some of my published, I didn’t realize how close I had wandered into the urban, dark, and contemporary Fantasy subgenres. Even my first novel, WOLVES OF VENGEANCE, is closer to dark and urban fantasy than it is to horror. Also, a little while back, I let you know I received an Honorable Mention for my novelette, Blade of the Vagabond, which is a traditional high fantasy story. It’s all very interesting, and I’ll be discussing what I’ve learned shortly.

On this NaNo project, I’ve reach about 10,000 words. I’m still very behind, but I’d rather have a fairly clean first draft than a pile of words I have to shovel out to get to the story. Understand, what I’m printing here is not everything I’ve written. Before I post here, I do a quick edit and remove as much as I can to tighten the final published product. Also, I count notes that I make to myself in with the word count, and I do my best not to include that information here on my blog.

The next time I post, I’ll try to break down some of what I was trying to do and why I added some potential complications to the plot. Again, this is a very rough first draft written organically (by the seat of my pants) and is not what it will look like in its final published form. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. Really! I have a think skin.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLET

Chapter 13

We stopped outside a women’s locker. Kenzi entered and a few minutes later returned with a duffle-bag stuffed with equipment she’d curated for me, along with a go-bag of her own. 

Mine included a concentrator with three canisters of ethylene gas. I wouldn’t want to run out in an emergency, I guess. The time wouldn’t arrive soon enough when I could traverse the Collective naturally and on command. 

“This will get you started,” she said before leading me back to the armory. 

There, she removed a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber from a gun safe, seated a magazine, racked the slide to put a round in the chamber, and then engaged the safety before holstering the weapon in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. Two spare magazines slid into a carrier on the opposite side of her belt. 

“Okay, let’s get out of here.” 

“I’m not carrying?” I asked. Not that I cared. I was very happy to leave sans-firearm. I had never conceal-carried a pistol in my life. 

“No. You’ll buy one and Dreadstone will reimburse you,” Kenzi said. “Until you’re able to manipulate within the Collective, we have to do everything above board. If a cop stops us, in Mass, you’ll need to have a firearm that’s on the Attorney General’s list of approved firearms and have the transaction recorded by the Firearms Records Bureau.”

“Things can get real messy legally if you don’t.” 

Shlepping our bags down the hall, we headed to our next destination.

“We can take your car or we can take mine,” Kenzi said. “Your choice.”

“I came here by ’T’,” I said feeling wholly unprepared. The “T” is the colloquial name in Boston for the subway system and is short for MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and stands in contrast to the Commuter Rail, run by the same authority, which provides train service to surrounding communities and goes as far as Rhode Island. 

“Mine it is then,” Kenzi said matter-of-factly. I didn’t notice even a hint of annoyance or sarcasm in her voice. “Do you have one?”

“A car?” I asked, without thinking. 

“No, a time machine,” Kenzi said. “Of course, a car.” 

“Not yet,” I said and steeled myself against an onslaught that never came.

“Dreadstone will help you buy one,” she said. “You just accepted a job where you’ll be on the road a lot. You’ll need something that fits your station and your style. You’ll be living out of the thing. I also suggest all-wheel drive. This is New England, after all.”

We entered the ground floor garage and I followed Kenzi to her vehicle. 

The parking area was filled with various vehicles I can only assume were all owned by Dreadstone employees, but I did wonder if some belonged directly to Dreadstone and what enhancements might have been made for various purposes. I would find out later

We both slid into the leather seats of her shiny black BMW. I envisioned her as more of a Mustang girl, but I had to admit the Bimmer fit her style—luxurious on the inside, sporty on the outside. I wondered how much it had set her back, and how much of the tab Dreadtone had picked up. The thought made me anxious to car shop. 

As we pulled out into crazy Boston traffic, Kenzi laid down a situation report on the way to our first stop. 

“Here’s what we’re working with just so you know. There’s a time-limit on spirit bargains. We have about three days to seal the deal. If it doesn’t happen in by then she’ll drift. 

“I’m not sure I understand. How did Dreadstone acquire her spirit in the first place?” 

“Okay, I can’t go into all the whats and wherefores it’s too complicated. Here’s the layman’s explanation: 

“When Dedra died she was able to attach herself to an object. In this case a doll. Dreadstone acquired the doll, and through a series of arcane rituals, I don’t fully understand, transferred her spirt to a containment vessel. Once they released her spirit in the ritual room, to make the pact, the clock started ticking.” 

“They can’t just put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak?” I asked.

“Easier said than done. She can attach willingly to an object. To force her would be very difficult. That’s why we have recruiters. 

“Your job is to make the pact and help hold up our end of the bargain. Once we get her as much as we can of what she wants, we still have to hold something over her, and it has to be enough that it keeps her spirit restless. If not, spirits are prone to drift. If she drifts, we breach a contract with our client. 

“How do you keep her from drifting from the location she’s been assigned?” I asked. 

“Simple. She self-attaches to the house for the required amount of time,” Kenzi said. 

“She can set a time limit?” I asked. 

“No. That’s where things get tricky,” Kenzi said. “Once the contract ends Dreadstone sends a wizard or psychic medium to release her. They’re supposed to fully release her.” 

“Supposed to? Do you mean they don’t always hold up their end of the bargain?”

“These contracts can play out over fifty, sometimes even one-hundred years. By the time the contract is up—,” Kenzi trailed off, thought for a moment before continuing. Well, let’s say sometimes things fall through the cracks. 

“I’m not saying it’s on purpose or anything, but it does happen. We have some spirits, and… other things, still in our employ well past their expiration date.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. I could be all for both parties entering into a contract, even if I thought Dreadstone might be exploiting their workforce——they wouldn’t be the first company to do so——but not honoring the contract seemed beyond the pale. 

I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t sure I had the power to do anything about it. When the time was right, I’d have to weigh my options carefully. 

At a light, Kenzi asked me to enter the first address into the onboard GPS—safety first! 

Then we were weaving in and out of congestion, traversing tunnels, and avoiding one-way streets that always seemed to pop up out of nowhere overnight. 

“Are you buckled up?” she asked to my puzzlement. Using a seatbelt had become as automatic as breathing, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. 

I acknowledged in the affirmative and wasn’t shy about asking why she was asking.

“We might have a tail,” Kenzi said shitting the vehicle into sport mode. “Hold on.” 

What the hell was going on? Who was after us——or was Kenzi just paranoid? 

Kenzi bolted left then (in Boston parlance) banged a right. A few quick turns with one eye on the road and the other on the rearview mirror and Kenzi seemed to relax a bit. 

“Who the hell was after us?” I asked. 

“I can tell you it wasn’t a government agency. They’re total professionals. You’ll never see them coming. If we were being followed, the people in the vehicle behind us were amateurs at tradecraft. Dreadstone has plenty of enemies. Congratulations, now they’re your enemies, too.”   

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 12 – Black Magic Bullets

Between family obligations and the slower nature of this next chapter, It’s been a couple days since I’ve checked in. Glacial is probably a good word for how the writing has been proceeding.  Most of this is because world-building and crafting a mystery out of whole cloth are labor-intensive.

I’ve now reached a point where each layer is crucial to building a cogent and engaging narrative. There’s no doubt that I’ll have to go back and flesh out some early scenes as I move forward. Still, I’d like to keep the narrative readable and understandable, even in rough 1st draft form. Don’t forget, I’m writing this book organically (by the seat of my pants) and, as such, I’m not using an outline or figuring out anything beforehand. I’m trusting my subconscious mind to fill in details between writing sessions.  For now, I’ll consider this chapter finished and present it to you.

As it stands, I think this is shaping up to be a Dresden Files meets Monster Hunter International type of book.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

 

Chapter 12

Kenzi touched an access card to an electric eye. The locking mechanism clicked open, and then we were through a pair of blast doors and inside what looked to be a two-floor loft that housed a control center of sorts. Workers buzzed to and fro, some wearing shoulder holster rigs over button-down shirts or blouses, looking more like Government Agents than employees of Dreadstone.  

Lit by natural lighting, coming from the frosted glass windows above the fray, as much as by electric lamps suspended from the vaulted ceiling, and with the addition of people moving about, created a shifting chiaroscuro, the light highlighting suspended dust particles, making the place appear fog-enshrouded.  

“Welcome to The Body,” Kenzi said. 

“What is this place?” I asked, genuinely curious. 

“It’s an acronym. B-O-D-I-E. BODIE. The Bureau of Defense Investigations and Espionage,” Kenzi said. We’re like a private FBI for the Dreadstone Company. 

“Like the name implies, we take care of the physical needs of the corporation—including but not limited to providing protection for our psychics, dedicated wizards, and recruiters like yourself.”

“I never would have guessed Dreadstone had its own private army,” I said.

“Oh, no. We’re not the army,” Kenzi said as she brought me over to a bank of beige cubicles. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

“This is Cybil,” Kenzi said.

“I go by Cyber,” the woman with the buzzcut and the black fingernail polish said.  

“She’s what we call a BRAIN transplant,” Kenzi said undeterred, explaining that BRAIN was another acronym for Dreadstone’s Computer science and hacking division: Biologic Computing, Random Access, AI, Information Systems, and Nanotech. “She works here in the BODIE helping us expel viruses and track down baddies using the information superhighway both in Surface Web and all levels of the Deep Net. 

“If not, the BRAIN wouldn’t know what the BODIE is doing,” Cyber said raising an eyebrow. “That’s just a little Dreadstone humor for ya.” 

“We have some intel and clues from SPIRT,” and then for me added, Sorcery, Psychics, Incantations & Remote Viewing.”

“Who are we talking about?” Cyber asked, raising an eyebrow. 

“Chavvi,” Kenzi said deadpan. I had no idea by her intonation if that was good, bad, or indifferent.” 

“Oh, she’s really good,” Cyber said as if she was telepathic herself. Her response also seemed to imply that Dreadstone had employed one or more psychics of dubious reputation. “Lay it on me.” 

“We’re looking for an abandoned building on the waterfront. A killer who is skilled with a garrot or at least has been accused of strangulation in the past, and a wide tie a man would wear that might be a homophone or an exact match for a lemure’s last name.”

“The property records search is the easiest. Do you know how long ago the lemure went missing?”

“I can’t give you an exact date,” Kenzi said. “Her clothing while reduced to rags looked modern enough. I gave a sample to Chavvi to get her impressions.”

“If Chavvi’s done, I’d suggest sending the sample to the lab,” Cyber said. “Even though most of the physical effects are just ectoplasmic facsimiles, for a period of time Dreadstone can determine what type of fiber was in the original garment.” 

“Can do,” Kenzi said.

 “Once we have an approximate time period, I can perform a record search for the perps MO through a backdoor in the local and federal databases. Then I’ll run a missing persons search for the same time period.”

“How much time will that take,”  Kenzi asked. 

“Too much,” Cyber said. Kenzi nodded. “Let’s work with what we have. You mentioned a wide men’s tie. Let’s see if I can get some terms we can search.” 

Cyber made her mechanical keyboard sing, cherry blue switches rat-tat-tatting an echoey staccato rhythm throughout the loft. 

“The first possibility that comes up is the cravat tie,” Cyber said. “What’s the first name?”

“Dedra,” I said before Kenzi had the chance to respond. If it bothered her, she didn’t show it. I was beginning to feel ineffectual just standing there.  

“Nothing comes up under that name combination,” Cyber said, continuing to click and clack on the keyboard. “Let’s try Ascot.” 

We waited as Cyber completed her search.

“Bingo!” Cyber said, jabbing a finger down on the enter key for emphasis and then swiveling on her chair to face us. “You’re in luck, Ascot is an unusual name and I only a few hits in the Boston Area.” 

“Any Dedra Ascots reported missing?”

“We have one,” Cyber said, her fingers still dancing over the keys. “Reported missing back in 2004. Cold case.” 

“Send me all the information on the case, along with a list of the abandoned buildings,” Kenzi said. “ Keep searching. I’ll still have Chavvi send the sample over to the lab. No time like the present to being our search.” 

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 10 & 11 – Black Magic Bullets

Day four of NaNoWriMo and got in about 1,500 words. I came up a little short but had to really think about the central mystery and its relationship to the plot. One character’s name became very important, and I had to craft it carefully.

The title also found it’s way into the manuscript. I was wondering if that would happen. You’ll see what I’m talking about if you give it a read.

This is a very rough 1st draft written by the seat of my pants,  but I’m trying to give you as tight a manuscript as possible. Feel free to give me feedback. I have a very thick skin.

In other news: I had an editor contact me today inquiring about I story I had submitted. She asked if the story had ever been sold before. I’m thinking she wanted to make sure it wasn’t a reprint. I let her know the story was an original with all rights available. I haven’t heard back yet, but I am hopeful. I’ll let you know what happens.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.

Chapter 10

I followed Kenzi to a new destination. When we entered the vestibule, I realized she had been serious. What else did this place have in store? 

Inside the small room, she grabbed a pair of eye and ear protection, handing them to me before grabbing her own. 

I put the glasses on first and then the muffs. The ear cups created a suction, clamping over my ears, isolating my sense of hearing from the outside environment. My breathing sounded loud in my head. I had always found the experience disconcerting, and today was no exception. 

In an attempt to be a gentleman, I opened the heavy door for Kenzi. She didn’t protest. Following close behind, we entered the range proper. 

Like most indoor ranges, the air was damp, much like a basement. It told me the place had good ventilation, important for filtering out all the atomized lead, gunpowder, and other combustible contaminants released with each shot fired. 

We were met with more battleship gray and surrounded by impenetrable concrete. The shooting muffs not only isolated my breathing, but also every footfall thudded in my head. 

Kenzi had transferred the pistol to a hard carrier and now placed it on a bench at the middle booth. She then plunked down a 50 round box of .45 ASP hollow-points. 

Manstoppers. 

After the meeting with the lemur, humans scared him less than they ever had. He wondered if Dreadstone was in the possession of any rounds that could stop something like that. 

It had been a long time since I’d been to a range. Shooting was an expensive hobby and I didn’t have the money to invest. If this job worked out, my luck just might be changing. 

She stepped aside to let me do my thing. 

Great. 

This felt like a test of sorts. 

Forcing myself to take it slow and steady, I removed the Colt from the case and locked it into battery before placing it on the bench. 

Next, I loaded the two seven-round magazines and arranged them beside the firearm. So far, so good. 

Kenzi brought over a silhouette target, tacket it up, and ran the motorized conveyer until it reached 21 feet away. 

She stepped away as if to say, it was all me. 

Retrieving the Colt, it felt solid and well balanced in my hand. I seated the first magazine and then racked the slide to chamber a round. 

Focused on the target, I lifted the weapon and settled into an isosceles stance. Both arms outstretched creating a triangle parallel to my chest. My upper body ached from the fight with the lemur. I focused on the pain then allowed it to fade away. Dropping my weight and bending my knees, I leaned forward ever so slightly. 

Flicked the safety off with my thumb. 

Breath in.

Line up front sights to rear. 

Breath out.

Squeeze trigger, don’t pull. 

Blam!

The colt bucked. 

Again.

The acrid scent of gunpowder rose in the air but quickly dissipated into the duct system. 

I continued the process until all rounds were spent, and the gun automatically returned to battery. 

Turning my palm up, I released the magazine and returned both to the bench. 

Kenzi had been watching from behind the whole time. Now she came back, flicking the switch in the opposite direction to retrieve the target.

“You’re listing to the left,” she said, examining the holes in the target. 

No shit. She didn’t need to overstate the obvious. 

Following her lead I removed my ear protection, let the muffs rest on my neck. The cool air felt good on my ears. 

“Nothing that can’t be fixed. You just need to adjust your grip,” she said. “That’s good enough for me. I wanted to make sure you could properly handle a firearm before we go into the field.”

“I’m carrying a gun?” I asked, incredulous. 

“You have a CCW?” Kenzi asked. Those were the initials for a Concealed Carry Weapons permit, or in Mass known as a Class A License to Carry Firearms Unrestricted. Seemed the powers that be in the Commonwealth thought the CCW term too appealing to the general populace.

I nodded. 

“Then it’s your choice,” she said. “I’ll be armed. I suggest you do the same until can do your wizardry in the Collective.”

Kenzi replaced the target with a fresh one and sent it back the same distance.

“Watch and learn,” she said, putting on her eyes and ears. I rushed to keep up. 

Drawing her carry gun she mimicked my earlier stance and lobbed maybe 15 rounds of lead down the lane. I lost count. 

Once the gun returned to battery, Kenzi smoothly turned her hand without taking her eyes off the target. She depressed the magazine release, letting it fall to the ground. With her eyes still on the target she retrieved and seated a new magazine and then racked the slide. Another fifteen rounds flew. She reloaded and then holstered her weapon.  

The target rocketed back with a flick of a switch. 

A nice tight grouping. 

“Nice,” I said and I meant it. I was very impressed. 

“That’s how you practice level one combat shooting,” Kanzi said. “I have one other thing to show you.” 

She took out a .45 round that if not for the coating of black fingernail polish would have looked ordinary. 

“I’m not getting it,” I said. 

“This is a black magic bullet,” Kenzi said. “They can be used on the possessed, shifters, zombies, anything in meatspace infused with power from the Collective. 

“Why don’t you just carry silver bullets?” 

“Now you’re just being silly.” 

“What makes that different for an ordinary round?” I asked, half expecting her to say black magic.

“We have a wizard augment them in the Collective,” Kenzi said “It’s a specialty. Not something just anyone can do.” 

“What’s next?” I asked. Did I really want to know?

“You’re full of questions today, aren’t ya,” Kenzi said with a wink. “Chavvi must have something for us by now.”

Chapter 11

“Tell me you have some good news,” Kenzi said as walked through the entry, beads clacking against each other behind us. 

“I might have something,” Chavvi said, rising from her cushion.

The impression I get is of a violent death. Deep, dark emotions. Terrible, really.” 

Poor Dedra. Not only had the end of her life been horrible, but even in death, she was affected by the circumstances of her demise. 

“Anyway to find her body?” I asked. It was unclear as to whether I’d be able to help her. Kenzi had indicated something would be held back until Dedra fulfilled her half of the bargain.  

“The impression I get is that her body was disposed of in an abandoned building. I get a distinct impression it’s near the waterfront. I feel a constriction on the throat like she had been strangled. But I also see a man’s tie, wider than normal. I hope that was helpful. 

“Yes, thank you,” Kenzi said. “It’s at least something to go on. Let me know if anything else comes to mind.” 

Then Kenzi looked at me. 

“It time I introduced you to the Body.” 

To be continued…

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 8 & 9 Black Magic Bullets

Day four of #NaNoWriMo and I’ve made wordcount. Anyway, this is a rough draft. I continue to course-correct without going back to fix the previous day’s work. Feel free to tell me what you think. Don’t worry, I have a very thick skin.

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.

Chapter 8

I have to admit, the Storeroom was a lot different than I expected. Instead of a closet filled with supplies, it turned out to be the whole lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

Before we grabbed the equipment, Kenzi brought me to the Human Resources office. 

The HR Generalist quickly listed my title as administrative and made my employment legal for the federal government and the state of Massachusetts. In this way, everything appeared above board and I wouldn’t have to find a way to launder the money I’d receive for services rendered.  

“I passed?” I finally asked Kenzi, genuinely surprised. I hadn’t thought of asking Stone. The whole day had been one big whirlwind with little hope of returning to sanity.

“You survived,” Kenzi said. “That’s more than can be said of the previous candidates.”

That’s when I realized just how dangerous the situation in the ritual room had been. I also noticed the effects of the gas had dissipated. That was good, I didn’t need any distractions outside the ritual room. 

Peal arrived for what they simply called the employment ceremony. 

“I want to make this absolutely clear,” Peal said, looming over all in the tight confines of the generalist’s office. 

I had a hard time concentrating. My mind kept intruding with thoughts that only a few minutes earlier I had been standing naked with this man in a pentacle, and a vengeful spirit——who almost killed me by the way——stalking around outside trying to find a way in. 

I rubbed at my throat absentmindedly, it felt tight but would be sore tomorrow.

“Once you’re bound by the contract, you’re required to keep everything we do here confidential into perpetuity. If you break the deal, your life is forfeit.” 

I studied Peal for a moment, his smooth almond skin, Alister Crowley haircut, which is to say he had none and powerful build which made him look more than formidable and belied his executive status and realized that I never wanted to cross this man. 

I needed the job so I nodded affirmation. 

Peal placed what looked like some sort of handheld device on the desk. Flicking a slider on the side of the unit, it took only a second for the device to flip open revealing two square halves. On one side, a sharp barb stood wickedly erect. On the other, a screen flickered and then came to life with a jaundiced glow. I didn’t have to wait for Peal to feed me instructions, what needed doing was painfully obvious. And I mean painful in a literal sense. 

Placing my finger over the barb, I pushed down. The needle bit into my skin. My finger throbbed but I kept my countenance stoic. From this moment forth, weakness wouldn’t be abided. 

Peal grabbed my thumb with one powerful hand and then rolled the digit over the display on the other side. The procedure reminded me of when I had applied for a firearms license. It’s not hyperbole to say I felt like a common criminal. I felt the same now. 

Blood——my——blood, pooled on the screen, then became the shape of my thumbprint, with all its ridges and indentations, before total absorption into the device. 

“Remember,” Peal warned as he scooped up and placed the device into his suit coat pocket, patting it for effect, “you are now subject to the constraints of the bargain.” 

My thumb still smarting, Kenzi took me, by elevator, to the labyrinthine lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

I still had no idea how we would find Dedra’s body, and what we would do with it once we had. 

Hopefully, we could provide her a proper burial, affording her some closure. From what Kenzi had told me, I wasn’t too confident in achieving my desired outcome. 

“Everything has to be done with an eye toward the bargain,” Kenzi said in answer to my inquiry. “This is a quid pro quo business. Dreadstone gets something and Dedra gets something. Nobody gets everything they want, or there would be no need to make the deal.”

“You’re saying we have to keep her wanting so she completes her end of the bargain?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Kenzi said. “If not, she’d have no need to stay on this plane of existence. Then where would we be?” 

I didn’t like it. The whole thing seemed exploitive and cruel. I needed to wait, though. Bide my time and see how things washed. I didn’t want to be too rash too quickly. Not completing my end of the bargain could mean my death. 

I followed her down a dimly lit echoey hallway past other suit-wearing denizens of the lower dark. 

“How do we even find where her body is located?” I asked, my voice sounding hollow. The whole thing seemed like an exercise in futility. What did we have to go on? Her first name? How far would that get us? 

“With this,” Kenzi held up an evidence bag with a torn piece of cloth protected inside. 

“Where did you get that?” 

“Mr. Peal pried it out of your hands after your skirmish with the entity.”

I looked at her dumbfounded. Searching every quadrant of my mind, I couldn’t remember ripping a piece off of Dedra’s rags. 

“You went into fight or flight,” Kenzi said. “It’s normal not to remember the whole incident. Believe me, I know.”

I was sure she did. Yet, I didn’t really know who this woman was or the extent of her position within the company. I figured I’d learn soon enough. 

Kenzi led me through a beaded entryway on the right. Inside, An Indian woman sat on a cushion in a lotus position. She wore silken robes dyed purple and trimmed in gold. Her raven hair done up with Japanese kanzashi hair sticks. The room smelled sweet of frankincense and sandalwood. The light scent spoke of quality, the kind Phantasmagoria, a shop in Amherst, produced. Asian tapestries and rugs adorned the walls and floor, giving me the image of a magic carpet dealer. Part of me wondered if Dreadstone had a fleet of flying carpets. After the day’s events, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had. 

“This is Chavvi, one of our resident physic mediums,” Kenzi said as we approached. I felt uncomfortable for not knocking before entering. As far as I could tell, Kenzi held no such reservations or feelings. 

“I’m——,” I began as I held out my hand. 

“No don’t tell me,” Chavvi said as she rose to greet us. She clasped my hand in hers, closing her eyes. Her hand felt both cool and soft against my skin. 

“I see a rosebush. Now a single rose, the stem. Thorns.”

Her eyes fluttered open. 

“Am I close?”

“I’d say.” Chavvi had truly impressive abilities. Compelled against reason, I lifted her hand to my lips and gave it a kiss. “My last name is Thorne. Harrison Thorne, but my friends call me Harris.”

“This one’s a charmer, isn’t he,” Chavvi said giving a wink to Kenzi and taking back her hand. 

Kenzi’s expression didn’t change. If some women were thought of as cool drinks, Kenzi was ice-water in a frosty glass. I didn’t mind that, though. Something about her frozen exterior was appealing. Perhaps she was hiding some torment under that arctic exterior, a hot pain cordoned off by a wall of ice. I’ve always been a sucker for a mystery. 

“I need you to enter the Collective and find out everything you can. Names, places, dates.I’d like to take action today if possible.”

“You never ask for much, do you?” Chavvi said stifling a giggle. “Okay, come back in an hour or two. I should have something then. Do me a favor: bring your friend. I like him.”

Chapter 9

With time to kill, Kenzi buzzed us into an oblong room painted battleship gray. Weapons both modern and archaic lined the walls and waited in cases. Tucked into each corner of the room stood heavy iron vaults I could only imagine held much of the same. 

“Welcome to the armory,” Kenzi said, the upturn of her lips was the closest she had come to a smile.

“You need all this to protect yourselves from ghosts?” I asked. There was enough firepower here alone to equip a small army. 

“Dreadstone is involved with a lot more than just inhuman resource recruiting,” Kenzi said, and I guess I had imagined as much. “Besides, when we go out into the field we’re not just dealing with what’s in the Collective.” 

“The author Richard Connell knew that humans were the most dangerous animals on earth,. Maybe they’re the most dangerous entity in any dimension as well,” I added. Kenzi didn’t seem impressed by my factoid. 

“They’re dangerous,” Kenzi said. “That’s why we prepare for the worst. You never know who you’re going to run into out in the field. And until you’re up to speed performing wizardry in the Collective, our weaponry is going to have to do double duty.” 

Then she looked at me straight in the eye. 

“Have you ever fired a gun before.”

“I used to go hunting with my dad,” I said. 

“So, in Mass, most likely shotgun,” She said. I nodded. She was right. With the state so heavily populated, most hunting with firearms was relegated to shotgun season. Rifle rounds traveled too far to be safely fired in most areas. 

“What about handguns?” She asked. 

“I’ve handled them,” I said. 

Kenzi retrieved a Colt 1911 from the case.

“Show me.” 

To be continued…