Authors: Maggie Shayne
Tags: #romance, #witch, #time travel, #novella, #private investigator, #short romance, #musketeer, #mob boss, #maggie shayne
Copyright 1997 by Margaret
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2011by Maggie Shayne
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
SHAYNE’S SUPERNATURALS is a collection of
novels and novellas that took romance into unknown realms before
“paranormal romance” was even a genre. Experience breathless
passion, heart-stopping thrills, and the truest magic of all, the
magic of love, with NY Times bestselling, RITA® Award winning
author Maggie Shayne.
It was Halloween, and she was a prisoner in
her own office. Hell, what made her think she could get the goods
on an organized crime boss, anyway? She was getting a swollen head.
Believing her own press. M. C. Hammer, big-city private eye. Right.
The truth was that she couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt
more like plain old Mary Catherine Hammersmith, small-town
She paced the office, pausing to glance
through the smeared window at the street below. No colors down
there. It was as if Newark had gone black-and-white and shades of
gray—as dismal as the sky above it. The wind blew bits of paper and
clouds of dirt over the pavement. The dark sedan was still parked
out there. If M. C. tried to leave, its driver would follow. If she
went to the safe deposit box where she’d stashed the tape, he’d get
her when she came out. If she went home... she shivered. The
thought of that dark stairway up to her lonely apartment was not
appealing. They could grab her there just as easily. She wasn’t
even sure it was safe to get into her car. One twist of the key
might make a hell of a noise and litter the streets with bits of a
certain lady detective she’d grown kind of fond of.
The phone rang. She snatched it up. “M. C.
“This is her secretary.” She said it
automatically. Made her sound bigger than she was. Besides, the
woman on the other end could be anyone. One of the bad guys,
“I need to speak to Ms. Hammer,” the woman
said. “I’m in trouble; I need help.”
“Join the club.”
She calmed her voice. “Sorry. Ms. Hammer’s
out of town indefinitely. Look, try Ace Investigations over on
Fourth and Main. They’re good—they’ll help you out.”
The caller rung off without saying good-bye.
M. C. felt bad. They always called, and they always needed help. Up
to now, she’d been pretty good at providing it. She’d earned a
reputation in the city. They called her a tough cookie, the working
woman’s hero, that sort of thing.
Right about now, she thought she could use a
hero of her own. But she’d been too busy playing hero to bother
looking for one. She’d never expected to face a situation she
couldn’t handle. She was facing one now, one she’d stumbled into
unintentionally. She was only supposed to get the goods on Guido de
Rocci’s illicit affairs, so his wife could get a decent divorce
settlement out of him. Instead she’d wound up with a tape of a
phone call ordering a gangland hit, one that left no doubt who was
in charge. Guido himself. And stupidly, she’d told the wife. Sylvia
de Rocci went soft, and ratted her out to Guido. Seemed she got all
mushy inside to learn her hubby wasn’t cheating on her after all.
No, he was just running the mob and killing people. What a
sweetheart. So now Syl and Guido were a pair of happy lovebirds,
and Mary Catherine was a sitting duck with a half dozen hit men
standing between her and the tape.
She could call the cops—but her phone was
probably bugged, and she’d be dead before they ever got here.
Besides, everyone knew the mob had a few cops in its pocket. How
could she be sure the cops who showed up wouldn’t be on de Roccis
She wandered to the window again. A bus
pulled up at the stop, right in front of the entrance to Sal’s Bar
downstairs. People got off. People got on. An idea took form.
The slug in the sedan was watching
front entrance, and her car. But no one could see what
she did inside the office. She could take the stairs down to her
own front door, but instead of going out, slip through that side
door that led from the entry hall into Sal’s place. Maybe slide out
the bar’s entrance instead of her own private one, and onto the
next bus before anyone was the wiser.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” she muttered.
She did a quick scan of the closet. It often came in handy to have
a change of clothes or two at the office. Quickly, she shed the
skirt and heels she’d worn this morning and replaced them with
jeans and sneakers. A leather jacket instead of the tailored
blazer. A baseball cap to hide the telltale riot of dark curls she
fondly referred to as a black rat’s nest. A pair of John Lennonish
Glancing in the mirror, she thought she
could pass for a guy. A scrawny guy, but a guy. The purse would
give her away though. She emptied it, filling her pockets with the
essentials, including her .38 special. Great. This was it then.
There would be another bus shortly. They were in and out at this
stop all day. Usually drove her nuts. Not today, though.
She took her time, moved slowly into the
hall, saw no one, took the inside stairs down to the landing, and
tapped on the door that led into the bar. No one ever used it, and
it was locked as usual. But Sal opened it in a second, and she
sauntered in like she belonged there as he gaped at her. When Sal
gaped his double chin turned triple.
“Is that you, Mary Ca—”
She stomped on his foot and he shut up. “I’m
not here,” she told him. “You never saw me. I mean it, Sal.”
Sal’s silver eyebrows bunched up and he
wiped his hands on his bulging white apron. “You in trouble,
“You could call it that.”
“What can I do?”
“Gimme a stiff drink, and pretend you don’t
know me from Adam.”
He shook his head, but nodded toward a
vacant stool and reached for a shot glass. As he poured, he
muttered, “One good man is all you need.”
“So you keep telling me.” She took the stool
and then the drink, sipped it as she eyed the patrons in search of
“If you had yourself a husband you wouldn’t
be in this mess.”
“How do you figure that?” No goons in sight.
She turned back to Sal, downed the whiskey, and set the glass on
“You’d be home takin’ care of him, instead
of out playing cop-for-hire.”
“Woman’s place is in the kitchen, right,
“Worked for a hundred years, kid.”
“Well, not for me. I’ve never needed a man
around cluttering things up, and I don’t plan to start now. Never
met one worth the trouble anyway.” She heard the squeal of air
brakes and twisted her head. “That’s my bus. Gotta go.”
She worked up a grin for him, though her
heart was in her throat. “I could tell you, Sal, but then I’d have
to kill you. Later.” And she hopped off the stool and hurried to
the bar’s front entrance. The bus blocked her from the view of the
goon across the street, and she joined a handful of others waiting
to climb aboard. But she didn’t breathe again until she was in her
seat, and headed out of town.
The bus was headed to Hoboken, but since she
didn’t know a soul there, she got off at the terminal and caught
one heading in the other direction. There was really only one place
for her to go now. Her parents’ place in Princeton was out of the
question. First place those thugs would check. Nope, there was
little choice. She had to go to Aunt Kate’s house of horrors.
That’s what she’d called it as a kid. A gothic mausoleum way out in
the sticks. They’d never track her there. Aunt Kate was an outcast,
black sheep of the family. Mostly because she refused to go
Christian, and kept up the traditions of the best-forgotten branch
of the Hammersmith clan. Witchcraft, to put a name to it. She had
an old spell book that had been in the family for more generations
than anyone could count. Mary Catherine had seen it once. Dusty and
faded, with a padded cloth cover that was threadbare with age.
Briefly she wondered if one of Aunt Kate’s
spells could help her out of this mess. But then she chased the
silly thought away. All that she needed was time and clear
thinking. A way to get to that tape, and get it safely to the cops
without getting her head blown off. She wouldn’t be safe until she
did. Even if she turned it over to Guido, he’d figure she knew too
much to risk letting her live. She knew the way thugs like him
Aunt Kate’s then. She shivered at the
thought. It was All Hallows eve, and she’d be spending it in that
spook-house sideshow. She shook away the chill that danced up her
nape, and tried to relax on the long bus ride to Craven Falls in
upstate New York.
“Hello, Aunt Kate.”
Kate Hammersmith stood inside the arched,
stained glass door and blinked slowly. She wore a long black dress
with shiny moons and stars all over it. Homemade. Probably sewn
together with spider webs, Mary Catherine thought glumly. Her hair
was long and still dark, cut to frame her face. It made her look
far younger than she was. She wore a necklace with a hunk of quartz
on the end that must have weighed five pounds, minimum. “You could
poke your eye out with that thing,” Mary Catherine observed, just
for something to say.
“You sound like your mother. What are you
doing here, M. C?”
“Aren’t you even going to invite me in?”
Kate lifted one brow, then stepped aside and
let Mary Catherine in. The place hadn’t changed much. Muted
lighting, nothing glaring or bright. Antique furniture. M. C. was
no expert on guessing what period this stuff was from, but
everything seemed to have clawed feet and satin. The place reeked
of incense and the hot waxy aroma of recently snuffed candles.