Unperfect souls, p.1

Unperfect Souls, page 1


Unperfect Souls

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Unperfect Souls

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Praise for

  unfallen dead

  “Connor is an engaging character with a real heart and a sense of humor that humanizes him to the reader. The world that he lives in is well constructed and easy to sink into. I also find it incredibly refreshing to read [about] a male protagonist when so much paranormal fiction is dominated by female protagonists. Del Franco has created the perfect hero for the modern age.”


  “Enthralling urban fantasy . . . Mark Del Franco provides a spectacular paranormal police procedural.”

  —Alternative Worlds

  “[A] fast-paced ride through the Weird side of town . . . Rob Thurman and John Levitt fans will want to check out this urban fantasy series.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  “One of the most compelling aspects of this first-person detective series is the evolutionary track taken by its damaged yet persistent hero. Del Franco continues to enhance the backstory relationships between secondary characters while laying out a gritty, compelling mystery. In the hands of a talent like Del Franco, murder, revenge, and attempted world conquest add up to urban fantasy at its best.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Damaged druid Connor Grey is back in his third mystery, which ramps up the magical action considerably . . . lots of snarky characters to keep things fun.”


  Praise for

  unquiet dreams

  “A tale filled with magic, mystery, and suspense . . . Unquiet Dreams is a well-written story with characters that will charm readers back for another visit to the Weird.”

  —Darque Reviews

  “Unquiet Dreams is an urban fantasy wrapped around a police procedural, and that makes for a fast-paced, action-packed novel . . . a great new urban fantasy series.”


  “A solid adventure filled with unique characters and plenty of fast-paced suspense.”

  —Pulp Fiction Reviews

  “It’s back to the Weird for the second chapter in this striking first-person druid-detective series. Del Franco’s clear and textured voice ensures that readers [invest] instantly in characters and story. Waiting for the next installment will be tough.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Readers who like a mystery as the prime plot of an outstanding fantasy (think of Dresden) will thoroughly be entertained and challenged by Unquiet Dreams. This is a great new series.”—Genre Go Round Reviews

  “Mark Del Franco is a master at combining modern fantasy with crime detective mystery. Fans of either genre are sure to find a good read in Unquiet Dreams.”


  Praise for

  unshapely things

  “A richly detailed world . . . It will pull you along a corkscrew of twists and turns to a final cataclysmic battle that could literally remake the world.”

  —Rob Thurman, national bestselling author of Trick of the Light

  “Masterfully blends detective thriller with fantasy . . . a fast-paced thrill ride . . . Del Franco never pauses the action . . . and Connor Grey is a very likable protagonist. The twisting action and engaging lead make Unshapely Things hard to put down.”


  “An engaging urban fantasy . . . a bravura finale.”

  —SF Reviews.net

  “[An] entertaining contemporary fantasy mystery with a hard-boiled druid detective . . . a promising start to a new series.”


  “The intriguing cast of characters keeps the readers involved with the mystery wrapped up in the fantasy . . . I look forward to spending more time with Connor in the future and learning more about him and his world.”


  “A wonderfully written, richly detailed, and complex fantasy novel with twists and turns that make it unputdownable . . . Mr. Del Franco’s take on magic and paranormal elements is fresh and intriguing. Connor Grey’s an appealing hero bound to delight fantasy and paranormal romance fans alike.”

  —The Romance Readers Connection

  “Compelling and fast paced . . . The world-building is superb . . . Fans of urban fantasy should get a kick out of book one in this new series.”

  —Romantic Times

  “A very impressive start. The characters were engaging and believable, and the plot was intriguing. I found myself unable to put it down until I had devoured it completely, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel.”


  “A wonderful, smart, and action-packed mystery involving dead fairies, political intrigue, and maybe a plot to destroy humanity . . . Unshapely Things has everything it takes to launch a long-running series, and I’m very excited to see what Del Franco has in store next for Connor Grey and his friends.”


  Ace Books by Mark Del Franco

  The Connor Grey Series





  The Laura Blackstone Series



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

  South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  An Ace Book / published by arran
gement with the author


  Ace mass-market edition / February 2010

  Copyright © 2010 by Mark Del Franco.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-17162-2


  Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


  To Paul, who knew when to listen and when to kick my butt


  The water cut off in the middle of my shower. Irritation settled over me as I suspected the mayor and the police had taken another drastic step to isolate the neighborhood from the rest of the city. When you lived surrounded by barricades and security patrols, a little paranoia happened to the most optimistic person—and I wasn’t that person. As I toweled off soap and shampoo, reason crept back in. Even if the mayor of Boston blamed the local population for the recent catastrophes plaguing the city, shutting off basic utilities would be a recipe for disaster. I chalked up the situation to either a building- management problem or a water-main break. That was the point at which Murdock’s number lit up the caller ID on my cell. Murdock rarely called during the day unless I was helping him on a case. When he convinced his bosses to consult Connor Grey, it wasn’t likely to be a pretty situation.

  In the Weird, the bad stuff went down at night. People fought. They screwed up. They died—sometimes by accident, sometimes by their own hands. And murder happened, too, more frequently in this end of town than any other. That’s why the neighborhood had the reputation it did. One of the reasons anyway. As a detective lieutenant with the Boston P.D., Murdock tried to contain the worst of it.

  When the problems spilled into fey territory, Murdock called me for advice. I didn’t mind. I needed the money. Despite having limited abilities these days, I was still a druid. I knew the foibles of most kinds of fey—understood their abilities, their politics, and their perspectives. Even after a hundred years of coexistence, humans had trouble understanding what motivated even fairies or elves to do the things they did, let alone all of the vast subspecies of fey. There was no denying that manipulating essence caused all kinds of trouble. But, it wasn’t “magic” like the non-fey thought. It was a system. It had rules. It could be understood. And Murdock wanted to understand it.

  I flipped open the phone. “I’m guessing this isn’t a social call.”

  Murdock’s low chuckle prickled in my ear. “Oh, I don’t know. We can always go for a beer after and guess where the missing head is. You’ll probably want to shower first, though.”

  “I just had half a shower, and now there’s no water,” I said.

  “I’ve got plenty of water for you. Summer and B Street. Can you make it?”

  “Be there in a minute.” I closed the phone. The intersection was a brisk walk from my apartment. By “brisk,” I meant “frigid wind that would be in my face no matter which direction I faced.” The neighborhood of the Weird was bounded by water—the harbor to the east, Fort Point Channel to the north, and the Reserve Channel to the south. Several long avenues stretched from one end to the other and acted like wind tunnels. Winter was the worst for it, making December my least favorite month, even if it did have Yule.

  I put on a gray hoodie and a knit cap, then my leather jacket—the streamlined, padded one, not the old biker. I had lost the biker jacket in TirNaNog a few weeks earlier. Since I might have accidentally destroyed the Land of the Dead in the process of escaping it, I couldn’t complain too much about the jacket. TirNaNog was weighing on my mind a lot lately. Briallen, one of my former mentors, tells me I brood too much and blame myself needlessly. Easy for her to say. She didn’t apparently destroy another entire dimension that finally opened after being blocked for over a century.

  A blast of cold air greeted me on the street. Of course. I bunched my hands in my jacket pockets, hunching forward as I walked. Clouds covered the sky, a flat white expanse that threatened snow but refused to deliver. When tourist brochures called Boston a walking city, they never mentioned winter.

  I cut the corner to Old Northern Avenue into more wind. To the north, the financial district’s skyscrapers clustered along the edge of the harbor, hard exteriors of glass and brownstone and steel that stared down on the Weird as if they didn’t quite approve of the jumble of warehouses and failed office buildings that sat across the channel.

  The Weird was a neighborhood of the lost and forgotten as much as a place where people escaped whatever passed for their lives elsewhere. Sometimes that was a good thing, a fresh start in a place that challenged them to get their acts together. Sometimes it was a bad thing, a sad end for people ground down by circumstances beyond their control. It was where I lived and hoped and dreamed, like so many others did.

  Anyone with a dream of leaving the Weird would be sorely disappointed these days. A series of fey-related disasters had led the city to clamp down on the neighborhood, declaring travel curfews for those who lived there—but not, of course, for those who visited—and instituting road-blocks to keep people inside—but not, of course, anyone who lived elsewhere. Never mind that the local population had little to do with the essence- related meltdowns that had nearly destroyed the city of Boston. As far as humans were concerned, essence manipulation was magic, magic came from the Weird, and magic was destroying their comfortable way of life.

  Anyone with a passing experience of the local scene would have noticed how things had changed. Morning—even late morning—had never been the busiest time of day along Old Northern Avenue. Except for a few diner-type storefronts that served breakfast, the shops didn’t even open their doors until nearly noon. Yet police cars were stationed every few blocks along the street, and the bridge had a roadblock. Overhead, black-clad Danann fairy agents from the Guildhouse flew sweeps from rooftop to rooftop, the morning sun glittering off their chrome helmets. Security was even tighter at night, at least along the main drag. Martial law was on everyone’s lips, and not in an admiring way unless one was on the other side of the channel.

  I expected to find Murdock on the corner of Summer and B, and with all the police cars, I almost gave a pass to the B Street Headworks. The yellow police tape across the front door drew my attention back. The building had started out life as a machine-shop warehouse long before the mysterious Convergence that brought the fey folk from Faerie into modern reality. By the early twentieth century, the warehouse had been abandoned. It remained shuttered as the neighborhood began to attract elves and fairies and every other species of fey that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. That was when the trouble started.

  There’s a reason sewers smell the way they do. Down in the Weird, there were even more. Things get flushed, dumped, drained, dissolved, and discorporated, and end up in a noxious stew percolating and meandering its way under the street to the treatment plant across the harbor. The Fey Guild helped the city of Boston install ward baffling in the main lines all over the city to capture potions and spells made with essence that found their way into the sewer system. The old building found new life as a headworks to collect anything charged with essence before it ended up in the harbor.

  It wasn’t a perfect solution. Every once in a while, someone’s porcelain went flying and landed on the news. Of course, everyone blamed the Weird because that was where the headworks was, but the fey lived all over the city. Just because they looked and smelled nicer on Be
acon Hill didn’t mean they didn’t use the services of the water department.

  I flashed my newly minted Boston P.D. identification pass. If anyone looked closely, they’d see that, one, I wasn’t a Boston police officer, two, it was a tarted-up travel pass to and from the Weird and, three, my hair was not at its best the day they took my picture for it. Murdock pulled a string or two to get it for me. Being the son of the Boston police commissioner helped that way. Of course, if Commissioner Scott Murdock knew I had the ID, he’d blow a gasket. He’s never liked me much, and since I’ve inadvertently been involved in every recent catastrophe, I was even lower on his list than usual.

  The B Street Headworks was one of those places I passed, maybe paused to admire the Richardson Romanesque architecture, but otherwise without giving much thought to it. I had no idea what I had been missing. A wall of glass met me inside, large panes stretching floor to ceiling and the length of the building. Essence didn’t travel well through glass, so the wall served as a protective barrier against what happened on the other side. And on the other side was an infernal wonder. Huge iron pipes snaked and twisted through a wide- open space filled with enormous stone cylinders. Conveyor belts rose and fell through a maze of smaller pipes. Steam rose from vats and release valves, hazing the lighting to misty gray and sallow yellow. Catwalks serviced the three-story height. Solitary fey in all their strange and beautiful-scaled and feathered and oddly colored skin glory lounged against the railings.

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