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Trifles and folly 2, p.1

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Trifles and Folly 2
 



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Trifles and Folly 2


  Trifles and Folly 2

  A Deadly Curiosities Collection

  Gail Z. Martin

  Contents

  Trifles & Folly 2

  Introduction

  I. The Final Death

  1. Scrimshaw

  2. Burial Ground

  3. A Dark Past

  4. Urban Explorer

  5. Sleep Soundly and Wake Not

  6. Call for Backup

  II. Fatal Invitation

  1. Fatal Invitation

  III. Redcap

  1. Redcap

  IV. Bloodlines

  1. Bloodlines

  V. Predator

  1. Black Dog

  2. Meet the Family

  3. Headed For Trouble

  4. Hunting the Hunter

  VI. Fair Game

  1. Earthquakes, Epidemics, and Expositions

  2. Scandals and Serial Killers

  3. Ghosts and Misdemeanors

  4. Secrets and Lies

  5. Haunted Memories

  VII. Unraveled

  1. Restless Spirits

  2. Unfinished Business

  3. Old Ghosts

  4. Anchors

  5. Memory Remains

  VIII. BONUS

  1. Steer a Pale Course

  2. The Low Road

  3. Among the Shoals Forever

  Afterword

  About the Author

  Trifles & Folly 2

  A Deadly Curiosities Collection

  by Gail Z. Martin

  Copyright © 2017 by Gail Z. Martin

  All rights reserved.

  The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), locales, and incidents are either coincidental or used fictitiously. Any trademarks used belong to their owners. No infringement is intended.

  The Final Death © 2014, Fatal Invitation © 2015, Redcap © 2015, Bloodlines © 2016, Predator © 2016, Fair Game © 2016, Unraveled © 2017, Steer a Pale Course © 2014, The Low Road © 2015, Among the Shoals Forever © 2015

  Cover art by Lou Harper

  SOL Publishing is an imprint of DreamSpinner Communications, LLC

  For all the readers who follow the adventures of Cassidy, Team, Sorren, and their friends—Enjoy! And for my wonderful husband and children—Thank you!

  Introduction

  Welcome to my world. This is the second collection of short stories and novellas from the Deadly Curiosities’ universe, and as odd as it sounds it began with real life. Authors take inspiration from many places and for me, life events took me down a dark and mysterious road. It all began with Buttons, (Included in Trifles & Folly, Volume 1) I was asked to participate in the Solaris anthology Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane and had to come up with a new story. I’d written several involving Sorren set in earlier times but I wanted a fresh take and a modern setting, and Cassidy was born.

  At the time I was dealing with the recent death of my father, and my husband and I were settling his estate, dealing with auctions and appraisers, and sorting through a life-long collection of stuff. Not ordinary stuff, but the kinds of things that provided fodder for ghost stories. Though obviously I took some creative liberties, some everyday items do have unusual providence, and oh, the things they’ve seen!

  Over the course of the short stories and novels, the characters grow and change, as you’d expect if they were real people. When we first meet Cassidy in Buttons and in Deadly Curiosities, she is very new in using her gift of psychometry, and the visions often throw her for a loop. As time goes on, she gains more skill—both in controlling her magic and in using it defensively. Teag also grows in his magical abilities, and Sorren proves that continued growth and change are part of a successful long existence. By the time the stories in this collection happen, Cassidy and Teag have gained much greater mastery over their abilities.

  I hope you enjoy these stories and if so, there are more available and more to come, including the full length novels: Deadly Curiosities, Vendetta, and Tangled Web.

  Also included in this collection are three bonus stories set in the 1700s featuring Sorren, Dante, and Coltt. These were the first stories written about Trifles & Folly, and two of them were written for anthologies that required both pirates and magic. Dante is Cassidy’s ancestor. They provide a little different perspective, both on the shop and the city. I hope you enjoy them!

  Part I

  The Final Death

  Scrimshaw

  Sometimes, big trouble starts with small things. If I knew then what I know now, I might have put that carved piece of ivory back in its envelope and marked “return to sender” on the outside. But I had no way to know that pretty little disk was going to lead me straight into a tangle of old secrets, restless ghosts, and people who just wouldn’t stay dead.

  “Hey, Cassidy! What do you make of this?” Teag Logan, my assistant store manager, best friend, and occasional bodyguard held up a yellowed, carved oval disk.

  “I’d need to see it up close to tell, but off-hand, I’d say it’s scrimshaw, carved ivory,” I replied. “And depending on how old it is, that little oval could get us in a heap of trouble.”

  “I’m pretty sure it was made long enough ago to be legal,” Teag replied. “The real question I’ve got is, is it haunted?”

  I’m Cassidy Kincaide, owner of Trifles and Folly, an antiques and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. Most people think we’re just a place to find the perfect funky knick-knack or an awesome piece of vintage jewelry. Truth is, we protect the people of Charleston—and the world—by making sure dangerous magical objects get taken out of circulation. When we succeed, no one notices. When we screw up, the damage usually gets blamed on a natural disaster.

  I’ve got a couple of secrets. Few people know that I’m a psychometric—I can “read” the history of objects by touching them. It’s a talent that runs in the family. Trifles and Folly has been around for over three hundred and fifty years since Charleston was first founded. My business partner, Sorren, has been around for nearly six hundred years. He’s a vampire and was once the best jewel thief in Belgium. That’s my second secret. I’m the latest in a long line of family members who use our magical talents to protect the good people of this city and keep the dark things at bay.

  When Teag held up the ivory disk, I guessed that it might be a “sparkler”—what we call something that has enough psychic resonance to carry a touch of magic, but nothing dangerous. I was hoping it wasn’t a “spooky”—our term for objects that are either haunted or potentially dangerous. No way to tell until I touched it and no telling what the effect would be on me until it was too late to change my mind.

  “Let’s close up. Then I’ll take a look,” I said. It was quiet for a summer day, probably because of the heat. Charleston is known for its beautiful gardens, but most people forget that those plants grow so well because of our high temperatures and insanely high humidity. Even with the air conditioning on, the store was warm. I slipped a limp lock of strawberry-blonde hair behind my ear. My Scots-Irish coloring means I burn easily in the sun and get pink in the face when I’m too warm, not ideal for a Charleston summer.

  Teag flipped the door sign to “Closed.” We turned out the lights in the shop and went into the break room. Just in case, Teag poured me a glass of sweet tea, made the Charleston way with enough sugar to give
your fillings a buzz. I sat down at the small table, and Teag pushed the envelope toward me.

  “Where did it come from?” I asked.

  “I’ve got a friend who’s an urban explorer,” Teag replied. “He found it near the ruins of an abandoned plantation house.

  “Urban explorer, huh?” I replied, eyeing the envelope, not ready to touch the contents yet. “You mean someone who goes poking around forgotten subway tunnels and spooky deserted amusement parks to take pictures?”

  Teag grinned. “Got it in one. The UrbEx folks like to document urban decay and explore man-made places everyone else has forgotten about.” He poured himself a glass of sweet tea and sat down in a chair facing me. “Of course, we don’t have some of the really amazing old stuff like they’ve got in New York and Chicago below street level, but they still manage to find some great places to explore.”

  “Does your friend have a name?”

  “He posts his photos as Nikon Ninja,” Teag replied. I understood. From what I had read, although some UrbExers try to get permission to access sites, a lot of the exploration also counts as trespassing, maybe even breaking and entering. I could relate. In our work to handle supernatural bad behavior, we had picked more than a few locks ourselves and evaded our share of cops when we were places where we didn’t belong.

  “Okay, enough stalling,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Let’s see what I can read from this.”

  I braced myself and stretched out my hand. I felt a tingle when my fingers brushed the envelope. Then I jostled the ivory disk onto the table and took a good look.

  The yellowed disk probably came from a whalebone or an elephant tusk. Back in the 1800s, such things were legal. Sailors have been making elaborate carvings to while away the time almost since the first ships left sight of land. Some of the pieces are in museums. Modern scrimshaw artists work from materials that don’t come from endangered animals, and a slew of government agencies take a dim view of people harming protected species to make jewelry.

  This particular piece looked very old. I was betting it was ivory from the rich patina. It might have been a button for a cloak or even a pin. The carving was neatly done, and ink had been rubbed into the cuts so that the design stood out in contrast. “It looks like a very embellished ‘W,’” I said.

  Teag nodded. “That would make sense. My friend said he was over at the Wellright plantation.”

  I glanced at him. “The Wellright place isn’t abandoned.”

  “You’re thinking of the ‘new’ mansion—the one built in the 1850s, just before the Civil War,” Teag said. “Ninja explored the old mansion—not much left now except the foundation and some old cellars. Burned down in the late 1840s. Lots of places did back then, with all the candles and lamps and cooking on open hearths.”

  I had friends over at the Historical Archive and the Lowcountry Museum. Once I’d handled the disk, I decided to do some digging on the Wellrights’ history. “Here goes,” I said, and closed my hand over the ivory disk.

  I saw the scene through the eyes of the person who had worn the disk. She—I was certain the person was female—was running through the woods, in fear for her life. It was dark, and the branches tore at her clothing. My heart thudded in terror. I didn’t know what was chasing me through the darkness, but I was sure that if it caught me, I would die.

  Looking through the eyes of the ivory disk’s owner, I could see glimpses of moonlight breaking through the thick canopy of trees. The path ahead was shadowed, and I kept stumbling on the uneven ground. I knew that whatever was behind me was getting closer. I was crashing through the underbrush. It moved noiselessly. It was faster than I was, but I knew the forest. I kept running, barefoot now since I had kicked off my shoes long ago. Sweat ran down my face. I gasped for breath. If I could make it to the edge of the forest, I might find help. I ran until I glimpsed a clearing with a well and a half-circle of tall trees. Almost there.

  Behind me, I heard a growl: then something ripped the cloak from my shoulders—

  The scene disappeared. I was myself again, sitting at the break room table, heaving for breath as if I had been the one running for my life. My hand was shaking too badly for me to trust reaching for my sweet tea.

  “Cassidy, are you okay?” Teag was a veteran of these little performances. He knew how to calm me down. There was a reason we had smelling salts in the cupboard. As visions went, this wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t passed out, thrown up, or fallen out of my chair.

  “Yeah. Just give me a minute,” I said. My voice sounded shaky, even to my own ears. I managed to drink my sweet tea without spilling it, and Teag waited patiently until I was together enough to tell my story.

  “Any idea what the woman was running from?” he asked once I filled him in.

  I shook my head. “No, but from how scared she was, I’m betting it wasn’t human. She was beyond terrified. And unfortunately, I think that whatever was chasing her got her.”

  The tea helped calm my nerves. “So your urban explorer friend found this at the old Wellright plantation?”

  Teag nodded. “Yeah. He said that it was the first time he had gone exploring there, and he wants to go back. Apparently, not many people have found the place.”

  “Or maybe, something made sure they didn’t want to come back,” I replied. “Do you think you could dig up some info on the Wellrights?”

  Teag grinned. “Not a problem.” Teag’s ability to find information, especially online, is more than just awesome computer skills. He’s got some magic of his own, Weaver magic. That means he can weave magic into the warp and woof of fabrics, tie ropes into knots that store magical power, and find strands of information and data threads no matter how encrypted or deeply hidden. It’s a talent that comes in handy in our line of work.

  “The new mansion is open for tours,” I added. “And I think Drea’s folks have it on their list.” Andrea Andrews—Drea for short—owns Andrews Carriage Rides, one of Charleston’s busiest tour companies. Tours and tourists are the lifeblood of a city like Charleston, and Drea’s team did them better than anyone else. “What say we go pay the new mansion a visit and see if we get any idea what our ivory lady was running from?”

  “Sounds great. Mind if Anthony comes along?” Anthony and Teag had been an item for almost a year, and I was hoping it would last. Teag is good looking, tall and lean with skater boy dark hair. He was working on his doctorate in history before we recruited him to Trifles and Folly and he fell in love with our mission to protect the world, one cursed or haunted magical item at a time.

  Anthony looks like he would be Teag’s total opposite. He hails from an old Charleston family with a home on The Battery, and now that he’s in the family law firm, he’s definitely in the “young movers and shakers” category. Anthony is buttoned-down shirts, khakis, and boat shoes. Teag is more of a jeans, t-shirt, and hoodie guy. Personally, I thought they made a great couple.

  “Am I ruining a romantic evening? I’ve gotten used to Anthony working late hours.”

  Teag shook his head. “We didn’t have anything planned. And you know both of us like touring old mansions. Good thing that Charleston has so many to pick from!”

  I had Drea on speed dial and got us booked for a candlelight tour of the new Wellright mansion right after dinner. “Drea says we can pick up our tickets when we get there since the others will be arriving by bus,” I reported. “Nice to have a friend in the business.”

  “If you’re right about the scrimshaw disk’s owner being chased by something nasty, it might have been better to do the tour by daylight,” Teag said. “Or did you get a ticket for Sorren, too?”

  “Sorren doesn’t get back in town until tomorrow,” I replied. “Alliance business.” The Alliance was a group of mortals and immortals who worked together to hide, bind, or destroy dangerous supernatural objects and keep the bad guys from getting their hands on them. Sorren was one of the group’s leaders. He was the long-time silent partner behind Trifles and Folly’s busines
s, and I knew he had similar stores elsewhere around the world and other mortal partners. That meant Sorren traveled a lot, and we sometimes didn’t see him for weeks at a time.

  “The Wellrights have been in Charleston for a long time—and so has Sorren,” Teag said. “He might know something about them. Hell, he might have attended a ball at the old plantation before it burned down, for all we know.”

  “I’ll email him,” I said. I snapped a picture of the ivory disk with my phone and texted it to Sorren. “Maybe that will jog his memory,” I said. Yes, my vampire boss uses email and a smartphone. Sorren says that immortals who can’t or won’t adapt to changing times don’t last very long. Since he’s been around nearly six hundred years, it’s safe to say he’s pretty good at adapting.

  I looked at the piece of scrimshaw again and blinked. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a shadowy woman’s form, but when I turned to look, she was gone.

  “What?” Teag asked, following my movement.

  I frowned. “When I looked at the ivory just now, I could have sworn I saw something—someone—moving just at the edge of my vision.”

 
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