Publish and Perish

Linnet Ellery, a young attorney at a prestigious New York vampire law firm has proved she has extraordinary luck—and not just in the courtroom. She has walked unscathed through events that would kill a normal person.

Linnet’s elven ex-boyfriend is trapped in Fairyland, and Linnet will have to lead a raid into Fey to free him—alongside her boss, whom she is falling in love with. But a love affair between a vampire and a human is strictly forbidden, and any violation is punishable by death for both parties.

As events unfold, Linnet determines the source of her mysterious power, and is dismayed to discover that she is the most dangerous person in the world to her vampire and werewolf friends. The more secrets and treachery she uncovers, the more Linnet realizes that a decision must be made: Can she be her true self, without sacrificing everyone she cares about?

The third installment in Phillipa Bornikova’s Linnet Ellery series, Publish and Perish is available April 24th from Tor Books!

 

 

Chapter 1

It’s never a good thing when you go to knock on a person’s door at almost ten at night, and it swings open. The full moon gave me enough light to examine the lock and a scar upon the wood. The deadbolt had been ripped out of the jamb, the splinters revealing the pale pine beneath the stain. I had been anticipating this meeting with Jolyon Bryce ever since his mysterious hints that he knew something about my inexplicable power to avoid death and dismemberment at the hands of supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and Álfar.

My flight from Los Angeles had landed, and I had stopped briefly at a friend’s apartment to pick up the cat, and stopped at my apartment, which smelled musty after a nearly two-month absence, to drop off said cat and my luggage. I then headed to Brooklyn for the bracing part. Only to find evidence of forced entry.

I could’ve been walking into danger, and I wasn’t really all that ready to confront danger. My broken rib still hurt. I thought about just backing off and calling the police when a shadow loomed over me. I gave a yelp of fear and swung my purse like a morning star at the figure. There was a grunt of annoyance as the purse found its target and I found myself looking up into my boss, David Sullivan’s, aquiline features. As usual, he was frowning at me.

“What are you doing here?” I hissed.

“Keeping an eye on you!”

“You’re following me.”

“Yes.”

“Well, stop it!”

“Well, stop doing stupid stuff.”

“I don’t do stupid stuff!”

“You absolutely do stupid—”

A sound from inside the house put a stop to our inane conversation. “Shit! There’s somebody in there,” I said, and I went barging through the door. I had a brief moment where I did think maybe I actually do do stupid stuff but by then it was too late and I was inside the house.

The sound that had drawn my attention had stopped and now all I heard was the loud ticking of a clock and very faint music. David laid a warning hand on my shoulder. With a head jerk, he indicated I was to get behind him. This was one order I decided to obey. He was a vampire and far more indestructible than fragile little human me. I slipped around behind him and stepped out of my shoes. We crept forward down the hall. David had stopped pretending to breathe so my breaths seemed very loud as they punctuated the ticktock of the clock.

The door into the living room was to our left. David pressed himself against the wall and took a quick glance around the corner. I tucked in next to him and took my own peek. We were definitely doing the high/low thing since I’m five feet tall and David tops out at six. My quick glance into the room revealed the face of the grandfather clock staring at me like a startled automaton. Its base was buried in a drift of stuffing torn from the cushions of the floral-print sofa.

In the center of the room, between a battered armchair that had also been cut open and the aforementioned sofa, Jolly’s wheelchair lay on its side. There was a huddled form on the floor beside the chair, and a figure with its back to us kneeling over it, hand on the inert body’s throat. There was just enough moonlight through the big picture window for me to see the glint of gray-gold hair. It was Jolly lying so still on the floor. I let out a scream that was half horror and half fury and I charged into the room. I didn’t make it very far. David grabbed my arm and swung me back behind him. Not only was he male, he was a vampire and far stronger than any human. My back slammed up against the wall of the hallway.

David gave a yell when a slim hand was thrust around the edge of the door, grabbed him by the throat, and yanked him into the living room. I shrieked again. I wanted to run for the front door, but it was clear from the crashes a fight was taking place so instead I ran into the room to help my friend.

And froze. David was locked in a bizarre embrace with a beautiful woman. Long black hair streamed down her back, her skin was the rich cream of old ivory. She wore jeans tucked into knee-high boots, and a shimmering blue silk blouse set a counterpoint to the gray and blue tweed jacket. All of that made a brief impression, but what had frozen me in place were her fangs.

She was a vampire.

My brain was having a stuttering conversation with itself. She’s a vampire.

She can’t be a vampire. There are no women vampires.

AND WHAT PART OF SHE’S A FUCKING VAMPIRE AREN’T YOU GETTING?!

David had also been knocked off balance by this impossible presence. I had seen him fight. That’s how he’d gotten the ugly scars that marred one side of his face—fighting a crazed werewolf to protect me. I could easily recall the inhuman scream that had torn from his throat as he’d launched himself at the creature. David had practically bent Deegan into a pretzel, but this woman was strong. She had lifted David off the floor with one hand. Unlike a human, he didn’t have to worry about being choked. I watched in horrified fascination as his fingernails elongated until they looked like curved daggers at the ends of his fingers. The effort desiccated his body and he no longer looked handsome. He looked monstrous, and the expression on his now-gaunt face terrified me. I watched those nails drive into the woman’s slender throat and began sawing back and forth. He was trying to decapitate her. I saw the fear flash in her dark eyes.

“David! No!” I screamed. “She may know something!” It was a logical argument, but the real reason for my objection was I did not want to see a beheading by fingernail.

I needn’t have worried. The woman literally flung David away from her. His etiolated body crashed against the far wall, leaving a large dent in the drywall. Blood dripped off the tips of those horrifying nails. It was echoed by the pale and almost translucent blood that coursed down the woman’s neck and stained the beautiful blouse. Her eyes flicked across me, and she seemed about to speak, but then David launched himself at her once again. She whirled, racing toward the big picture window that looked out across the small pasture at this Brooklyn riding stable. The glass exploded outward as she jumped through the window. The shards glittered diamond-like in the moonlight. David was at her heels. Apparently escape was not an option for this impossible conundrum. David was going to kill her.

I had a bigger worry. Jolly. I ran to his side, and dropped down on my knees next to him. Blood coursed down the side of his head and there seemed to be a dent in his skull. I wanted to cradle him, but was terrified I might drive a bit of bone into his skull. I lifted one limp hand and felt for a pulse in his wrist. It was there but very faint and very rapid. I grabbed my phone and dialed 911.

I had just finished giving the dispatcher the address, and she assured me the police were on the way, when there was a thud. I jerked and looked up in fear. It was David, who had just jumped back in through the broken window. He looked shaken.

“Is he alive?” my boss asked.

“Barely. Ambulance is on its way. Did you catch her?”

He shook his head. “She turned into mist. Vapor. Vanished in the trees. I didn’t know we could do that. I can’t do that. I don’t know any vampire who can do that.” He was babbling, the words tumbling over each other like frightened weasels. I had never before seen him lose his cool this way.

I looked pointedly at his disturbing nails. “I didn’t know you could do that either.”

He looked embarrassed, and the nails began to retract. “We don’t advertise it.”

“Probably a good thing.” I paused and added, “I thought there weren’t any female vampires.”

“There aren’t,” he said automatically.

“Then what the hell was that? A shared hallucination that was able to throw you into a wall?”

“I don’t know.” He wiped a hand across his brow leaving a smear of vampire blood from his nails and hand. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I’ve got to tell somebody. I just don’t know who. Maybe the Convocation.” He headed for the door.

“You’re leaving?”

“I’ve got to. Don’t tell the police about… her.”

“I can’t not tell them.”

“A vampire attacking a human. That’s not good. Undermines everything we’ve tried to build—”

“But she did attack him!”

“Okay, fine. Well, at least don’t mention it was a woman. Just say it was a vampire.” He broke off and gave me an odd look. “I just don’t want that information out there until I have a chance to—”

“To what?”

“Think about what it means… might mean.” He walked out, then stuck his head back around the door. “And leave me out of it too. The firm doesn’t need any more notoriety.”

“You want me to lie to the cops? I’m an officer of the court,” but I was talking to air because he was gone. I heard the engine roar to life and headlights flared briefly in the windows. I was alone and on my own. “And what if she comes back?” I muttered as I once more dropped down next to Jolly.

A few minutes later the ululating cry of a siren drew closer and closer. A few seconds after that EMTs rushed in, a young woman and an older man. The man did a quick examination, and ordered, “Backboard.”

The young woman ran out of the room. “How is he?” I asked.

“Next of kin?” the EMT asked.

“His lawyer.”

“Guess I can tell you a little. Not good. Blunt force trauma. His skull’s depressed, pressing on the brain. He’s going to need surgery.” The girl returned with the backboard, and they got Jolly onto the board and his head immobilized.

“Where are you taking him?” They gave me the name of the hospital, and I gave Jolly’s limp hand one final squeeze as they wheeled him out.

More sirens, and the room got a lot more crowded as a bunch of police rushed in. Among the Brooklyn police was an officer I knew well, Detective Lucius Washington. Washington was a handsome African American in his mid-thirties and he’d been the cop who’d investigated when back in August my then boss at the law firm had been torn apart by a werewolf. He also wasn’t a cop in Brooklyn.

He placed his hands on his hips and revolved slowly to take in the mess in the living room and the broken window. “So, where’s the trail of bodies?”

I thought it was churlish of him to bring up the events in New Jersey when I’d been attacked by five werewolves and five werewolves ended up dead. That had happened last year. Ancient history. I gave him a hostile look. “You’re way out of your jurisdiction, Detective. This is Brooklyn. You’re assigned to the Nineteenth. Up. By. Central. Park.” I punched each word to make my point. “So, what? You just happened to be in the area? Visiting your grandmother or something?” I challenged.

“I heard it was you and I just had to see what had happened this time.”

I glared harder. “Look, I need to go to the hospital with Jolly.”

A uniformed Brooklyn officer stepped in. “We need a statement first, Miss…”

“Ellery. Linnet Ellery. I’m Mr. Bryce’s lawyer.”

“At ten o’clock at night?” Lucius broke in. The Brooklyn cop nodded in agreement.

“I also train a horse for Mr. Bryce. The horse was with me in California and I needed to discuss getting him back to New York.” Cognizant of David’s instructions, I told half the truth. “There was a vampire here when I arrived.” I temporized a bit more. “It ran when I came in.”

“Given your history with Powers, that was probably a good call on his part,” Washington said dryly.

“How did it get in?” the Brooklyn cop asked.

“I’m not sure.” My eyes slid to the broken window.

“The glass is broken outward, Linnet,” Washington said gently. He walked away and looked at the blood staining the carpet. “This is vampire blood. You want to tell us what actually happened?” His brown eyes drifted pointedly to the damaged wall.

“Must have happened during the attack,” I blurted.

“I guess a crippled guy would end up with a lot of upper-body strength,” Washington mused in that fake tone that tells you how stupid you just sounded. I had a moment where I did a mental Homer Simpson Doh! I felt terrible. I was horribly worried about Jolyon, angry at David for abandoning me, freaked out about the female vampire, and now I was lying to the cops and doing a really shitty job of it as evidenced by the detective’s expression.

“The place was all torn up like this?” the Brooklyn cop asked.

“Yes.”

The cops exchanged glances. “Like they were looking for something?” the uniform asked Lucius.

“That’s what it looks like to me. We should search the rest of the house.”

“I’m coming with you,” I broke in.

“No, you’re not.”

“In my capacity as Mr. Bryce’s lawyer, I damn well am.”

Lucius looked to the cop, who shrugged. I took it for acquiescence and gestured for them to preceed me. We moved through the rest of the old farmhouse. I noted the accommodations that had been made for a man in a wheelchair. In the study, the big desk had been pulled into the center of the room so Jolly could maneuver his chair behind it. The desk drawers were pulled out and dumped, the books pulled off the shelves. It was a man’s room, a feeling intensified by the smell of leather and pipe tobacco. I wondered if this really was Jolyon or a role he played of the tweedy English gentleman? The walls were filled with photos of horses at competitions, and the ribbons and silver trophies won by said horses. We also found the source of the music, a flat-screen TV set into a bookcase was on and the DVD player was playing a video of a dressage horse doing a freestyle ride. The other plastic DVD cases had been opened, and the discs flung aside. They were strewn like metallic snowflakes across the floor.

We went into the kitchen. It was like the Vandals and the Visigoths had stopped in for a snack. Sugar gritted under the soles of my shoes as we crossed the linoleum floor, and flour rose in puffs at each footfall. Every cabinet was open, and all the dishes removed and smashed. Spilled milk, orange juice, and broken eggs formed a gelatinous sludge at the foot of the refrigerator.

We moved into the more private living areas of the house and noted the growing trail of destruction. Mirrors had been smashed, the flat-screen television in the bedroom kicked in, even the clothes in the closet had been ripped off their hangers and flung onto the floor.

“If you were searching for something it’s logical that you’d pull off the mattress and cut it open, and pull out the drawers and dump their contents, but this?” I said.

“Frustration leading to wanton vandalism,” Lucius said.

The bathroom smelled of spilled shampoo and broken bottles of aftershave. Glass crunched against the stone tile floor, and pills of various sorts and colors topped the mess like Christmas sprinkles on sugar cookies. I noted the roll-in shower, the handholds, and the plastic chair placed beneath the nozzle.

We returned to the living room where evidence techs were fluffing fingerprint powder across various surfaces. “Any idea what they might have been looking for?” the Brooklyn cop asked me.

I shook my head. I couldn’t say what I really suspected. That more people than just David were watching me, and that they had attacked Jolly before he could reveal something about me and the strange power that had kept me alive for the past half year. The local cop folded up his notebook and handed me his card.

“Well, call if you think of anything,” he said.

A few minutes later the evidence techs and the Brooklyn cops trooped out. Washington was still lingering. “You need a ride home?” he asked. I shook my head. Washington studied me for a long moment then added gently, “I wish you would trust me, Linnet. I’m not your enemy.”

In a sudden flash of candor, I said, “I can’t. There’s too much weird shit going on, and I don’t want to involve you.”

“That’s what I do.” I didn’t answer. “Trust me, I can handle weird.” I still said nothing. He sighed. “Okay, just know I’m here when you’re ready or able to talk.”

After one final look, he left. I returned to Jolly’s study and went through the strewn papers around the desk looking for an address book, anything to indicate a family contact. I came up empty and sat on the arm of a ripped-up chair trying to think through the steps to figure out how to deal with a man in a medical emergency with no apparent next of kin available. As I sat pondering I noticed the cable box on a lower shelf. It was probably grasping at straws, but I found the controls, switched from DVD to cable, and brought up a list of the recordings on the DVR. Most were television show or movies, a couple of news shows, and a local New York public access station. I clicked on each show, more in an effort to be thorough than with any real hope it would yield returns. Then I hit the public access station. It was a show called Mysteries! hosted by Emmet Rice. It sounded like the kind of show where people came on and talked about Big Foot, or ancient aliens, or Nazis on the moon. The prompt on the television asked if I would like to resume. I did.

Seated at a small table was a tweedy professorial type in his fifties and a young Asian man dressed in blue jeans, a sweater, and a leather jacket. The younger man wore heavy, black-rimmed glasses, and his glossy black hair brushed the collar of his sweater. He was talking when the recording began again.

“All of my research indicates this is a parasite.”

“But the legends—” Tweedy Man began, only to be interrupted.

“I’m a scientist not a folklorist. The idea that some sort of Godzilla thing is going to be unleashed and stomp around and kill all the Powers is just… well, ludicrous.”

I had this sudden vision of Godzilla ripping the roof off the skyscraper that housed the law firm of Ishmael, McGillary and Gold, plucking vampires out like a man pulling sardines from a can and tossing them down its throat. I gave a hollow laugh, switched off the television, and pulled out my phone. It was time to call for a cab and head to the hospital.

* * *

By the time the cab dropped me off at the Lutheran Medical Center it was past midnight and my eyeballs felt scratchy. A young couple was huddled in the waiting room, their arms wrapped around each other. I wondered if it was a parent or a child that had brought them out this late at night. A TV hung on the wall, the sound turned very low. On the screen, a man was trying to sell some amazing cleaning product. I went to the desk and explained the situation to a woman who looked as tired as I felt.

“I haven’t located any next of kin, but I’m his attorney, and I called for the ambulance. Can you at least tell me his current situation?”

“He’s in surgery. That’s really all I can say.”

“But he’s not dead?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Oh, thank God. Look, he’s English so I doubt he’s got private insurance—”

“That’s been handled.”

“Excuse me?”

“A man and a woman turned up and gave us a prepaid credit card. There was twenty thousand dollars on the card.”

“The woman, what did she look like?”

“Long dark hair. Sort of foreign looking. The man was Japanese.”

“As in Japanese Japanese?”

“Yeah, he had an accent.” The woman looked less tired and suddenly concerned and compassionate. “You’re very pale. Are you all right? Do you want to sit down?”

“Yeah, I do.”

She came out from behind the desk and walked me over to a chair. I sank down onto the cheap vinyl seat. “I don’t understand any of this.” I looked up at the woman. “Did they say anything?”

“Just that this was money for Mr. Bryce’s care and that they would check back on him.”

“No! You’ve got to keep them away from him! Mr. Bryce was attacked, and she was the one who did it. I walked in on her, but she got away.”

The receptionist was frowning. “Then why give us the money for his care?”

“I don’t know.” I pressed a hand against my aching head. “Maybe to lull us? Get close to him and finish the job? We can’t take the chance. We need to tell the police.” Agitated, I stood and groped for my phone in my purse. “Look, I’m going to stay here until he’s out of surgery. I know the doctors can’t tell me anything, but I just want to make sure he comes through the surgery okay.”

“Of course,” the woman said gently.

I called the number the Brooklyn policeman had given me and reported this latest wrinkle. They promised to keep an eye on things. I had my doubts. Despite the uncompromising angle of the chairs I fell asleep. A gentle touch to my shoulder brought me bolt upright. I forced my gummy eyelids apart. An older doctor in blue surgical scrubs stood by my chair. I looked around the room. The young couple was gone. According to the wall clock it was 5:15.

“I’m Dr. Kapur. You’re Mr. Bryce’s attorney?”

“Yes.”

“He’s out of surgery. He’s in intensive care so—”

“I can’t see him. I understand. I know you can’t give me any details, but can you give me a general prognosis?”

“Cautiously optimistic. We’ll know more when… if he regains consciousness.”

“So he’s in a coma? Sorry, I know you’re limited in what you can tell me.”

“Let’s just say he’s unable to speak right now, and until he wakes we won’t know the extent of the damage.”

I fished out a business card and handed it to him. “Thank you. If he does wake could someone let me know? Also, there may be a woman or a man and a woman who will try to see him. Please alert the nursing staff to call security if they see either of them. She’s the one who attacked Mr. Bryce. The man may be working with her.”

“I will warn the staff immediately.”

“Thank you. Okay, then I guess I’ll head home.”

Excerpted from Publish and Perish, copyright © 2018 by Phillipa Bornikova

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