Holiday Foreplay with Suzanne Johnson – Exclusive Sentinels of New Orleans Short Story + Giveaway
A short-short from the world of the Sentinels of New Orleans
I checked the figures my partner Alex and his cousin Jake had painstakingly etched into the wooden floor of my library. Three perfect circles, one inside the other. I could load all three with magical energy and create a summoning space so strong even the most murderous preternatural couldn’t break out and try to kill me.
Killing DJ seemed to be a common prete goal lately.
“Let’s try it.” Jake sat on my worktable, legs dangling off the sides, while Alex put the tools away. “Summon Louis Armstrong. I’d like to see him again.”
I shook my head. “He’s still kinda freaked out after that whole turning-him-into-a-spy thing.” Never mind that he’d been the worst spy in the history of the world. But he wasn’t the only member of the historical undead among my list of acquaintances. “I could summon Jean Lafitte.”
Alex set the toolbox down in the corner with an exaggerated thud and assumed his best French pirate voice, which sounded more like the skunk Pepe le Pew. “There is no need to summon me, Jolie. I am two miles away in my expensive French Quarter hotel suite.”
Yeah, yeah, whatever. He was right; I could only summon someone from the Beyond, not from the French Quarter. “Forget the pirate, then. The Beyond is teeming with the Historical Undead. What about William Faulkner or Truman Capote?”
Alex shook his head. “They’re still pissed off that we turned them into cats that time. Especially Faulkner. He wanted to be a Siamese instead of a tabby.”
“It’s almost Christmas,” Jake said. “What about Santa Claus?”
Alex and I stared as if Jake had grown an extra set of ears. “I can’t summon Santa Claus.”
“Why not?” Jake hopped off the table and pulled my dogeared copy of Beyond Human: Species of the Beyond from the shelf of spellbooks and grimoires. “I was lookin’ at this the other day and Santa has his own chapter.”
I snatched it away from him and stared at the chapter heading: Father Christmas, Saint Nick, Santa Claus, and Other Holiday Faeries.
“Holy crap, I didn’t know Santa was fae.” Which probably meant Santa’s elves weren’t elves at all, but some type of faeries instead. Good thing. I hate freaking elves.
I didn’t know enough about faeries to hate them. I’d heard they could be difficult, tricky, and a tad vindictive. But this was Santa, after all. Santa loves kids and nasally challenged reindeer. Santa loves everybody.
Santa would never try to kill me.
“Jake, go to the downstairs closet and pull a red bow out of that box of wrapping paper.” I studied the circle. “Alex, dig in that drawer with all the candles and pull out a red one that looks festive.”
I filled in the etched outer circle with iron filings—the strongest containment medium at my disposal. I might be impulsive but I’m not stupid, and a circle of cold iron would contain even the most malevolent faery. At the northernmost point of the circle, I placed the book open to the Santa entry, and at the south I set a small holiday bell made of ruby glass. Once the guys brought the bow and the candle, I place those items at points east and west.
Alex crossed his arms and narrowed chocolate brown eyes at me. “You sure about this? Do I need my shotgun?”
“I got a knife,” Jake said.
Cancel that order to the testosterone factory. “Give me a break, guys. This is Santa. Why would you need a knife or a gun?”
Alex shrugged and took Jake’s seat on the worktable. Jake leaned against the nearest bookcase with his arms crossed. “Go to it, then, sunshine. Do your thing.”
I tugged my own small silver folding knife from my jeans pocket and made a small slice into my thumb. Grabbing the elven staff I’d named Charlie, I squeezed a dollop of blood onto the circle near the bell, and said the words to summon Santa Claus.
A swirl of mist materialized inside the containment circle, gradually dissipating to reveal…a guy. A tall, heavyset guy. Dark-haired and clean-shaven, with oversized sideburns. A guy wearing a red suit. Not a Santa suit, either. More of an….Elvis suit, from his Vegas cape period. Frilly white ruffles circled his wrists and stretched down the front of the suit jacket.
“Who the hell are you?” Alex slid off the worktable and walked closer to the circle, coming to a halt in front of Vegas Santa. My partner’s fingers twitched as if wishing for a trigger to pull.
“Ho-ho-freaking-ho.” Santa flicked a glance at Alex, then shifted his gaze to Jake and finally rested it on me. His eyes were a disturbing shade of pale, icy green. “What do you want, wizard? I was almost through with my gig letting drunk gamblers sit on my lap at the MGM Beyond-Grand. I have to finish in time for Liberace’s set. He gets overwrought if he has to start late.”
Jake and Alex turned wide eyes to me. Guess Liberace was one of the historical undead now, and playing in some prete version of Vegas. “We, um, had a few Christmas requests for Santa. We were expecting someone a little…fluffier.” And saner.
“There are hundreds of Santas, and I was closest; deal with it.” He waved his hands in circles, giving me the universal symbol for go ahead and spit it out. “You have thirty seconds to tell me what you fools want for Christmas. Otherwise, I’m out of here. The Cirque du Beyond show starts at midnight.”
Who did this overgrown pomegranate think he was? I was the wizard here. “You can’t leave until I release you from my circle.”
Santa stopped fidgeting with his frilly cuffs and stared at me. The longer he looked, the more I saw things in those eyes. Dark things. Moving things.
“Last chance, Drusilla Jaco,” he said, and even the tone of his voice changed to something deeper, richer, with an edge that made me swallow hard. “What. Do. You. Want?”
“Um. I want you to leave?”
Yeah, okay, so I’m a chicken. But at least I’ll live to cluck another day without falling victim to an insane faery Santa in a bad suit.
“Right answer.” His grin was dazzling as he disappeared in a puff of mist.
I reached out a shaky hand to break the plane of the circle.
“He left something behind,” Alex said, and leaned over to pick up a black lump. “I think it’s supposed to be a lump of coal.”
Cheap faery. “Looks like a charcoal briquette to me.”
Jake held a hand out for the charcoal. “C’mon, let’s go down to the Gator. We’ll grill a steak in the courtyard and watch the Saints get the crap beat out of them.” Now that sounded like Christmas.
Copyright 2012 Suzanne Johnson
||Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.
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As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.
Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.
While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.
Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.
It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.
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I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada