Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 7

Here's the unedited seventh chapter of my current work-in-progress!


The pharaoh must know his enemies better than he knows himself in order to protect the people of Kemet. – The Lost Books of Neit, Djehuti’s library at Akasha

Billie turned to find Nettie glaring at her, a look that bordered on homicidal rage. Despite the professor’s fury, icy calm descended over Billie. “I’m going back upstairs to grab my files and laptop. Wait right here.” Silence was her only answer.

In fact, Nettie still hadn’t spoken minutes later when Billie pulled into the alley and parked in the detached garage behind the house. At least, the professor hadn’t argued about heading home. Billie switched off the ignition, and the two women sat in the dark quiet.

“You have no idea—”

Billie slapped her gloved hand on the steering wheel, interrupting Nettie’s attempted tirade. “How could you be this stupid!” She sucked in a deep breath, tension filling the air she drew. Blowing it out, she tried again. “I know these things seem real to you, but they’re not.”

“Like the dead people you talk to?”

Nettie’s words pierced Billie’s soul. Thank goodness, the professor couldn’t see her wince in the gloom. “That’s different.”

“How?” came the sharp retort.

“It just is.” Fingers tightened around the steering wheel. “Please, promise me you’ll take your meds, Nettie.”

The shuffle of winter clothing and the slamming of the car door were her answer. Sighing, Billie collected her laptop case and accordion folder and followed Nettie into the house.

High-pitched barks greeted her in the kitchen before a flurry of black fur butted her legs.

“Porter!” She dropped her armload onto the table and knelt to hug the dog. Licks covered her face. She fell over, laughing at his enthusiastic greeting.

She looked up at the human silence. Nettie and the twins stared at her. The professor’s lips remained pursed in anger though a flare of something else lit her eyes. Surprise covered Kyra and Reyna’s faces before Kyra’s normal smirk returned.

Kyra’s eyebrow rose before she said, “Porter?”

Heat flamed Billie’s face. “It was the first name I could come up with. Where’d you find him?” He leaned into her hand as she scratched his ears. “I’ve been looking all over for you, boy.”

Reyna crossed her arms. “I heard something at the front door a few minutes ago. When I opened it, he trotted in like he owned the place. Went up to your room and jumped on your bed.”

“Then he growled at her when she tried to push him off.” Kyra shot an amused look at her sister. “He came down right before we heard your car pull up.”

Reyna tilted her head. “What is he?”

Kyra rolled her eyes. “Duh. A dog.” She examined him as Billie hit a particularly sensitive spot behind his ear based on his groan of pleasure. “A damn ugly one at that.”

His unusually big ears shot straight up. A low rumble started deep in his chest.

Billie patted his back. “Ignore her. She insults everyone.” His head swiveled in her direction, tongue hanging out in a canine grin.

She stood and reached for her purse to get her phone. “Let me get a picture of you.”

Black fur leapt past her outstretched hand. He grabbed the handle in his mouth and took off for the hallway with the purse.

Anger burned away her initial shock. “Come back here!” She raced after him, wanting to retrieve her phone before he turned the leather tote into a chew toy.

Behind her, sarcasm spiced Nettie’s words. “I don’t think he wants his picture taken.”


Monday morning, Billie strode into the Franklin County probate court room. Sunday had been entire waste of time. After some sneaky maneuvering, she’d managed to snap a photo of the dog, but someone kept taking down the flyers she’d taped to fences and utility poles around their neighborhood and the campus. If the damn canine had opposable thumbs, she’d suspect he was the culprit. In fact, Nettie drew enormous amusement from and even encouraged some of his antics. Like letting him into the bathroom when Billie was in the shower.

Thank goodness, she finished most of the prep work for her case on the morning’s docket on Saturday. She was checking in with the clerk when a familiar, slimy voice said, “Good morning, Ms. Edmunds.”

Billie braced herself before raising her head from the sign-in sheet. Jim Gorman stood beside her, not a wrinkle in his expensive suit. “Mr. Gorman.” Stepping out of the way, she turned to find a seat in the crowded room.

“I’d like to schedule your deposition this week.”

Plastering a fake smile in place, she pivoted to face him. “Have your secretary call mine.”

His return smile hinted he wouldn’t make this easy on her. Why he and Cyrus Johnson, Jr., felt the need to ruin her as well as the now-widowed Mrs. Johnson made no sense. “I was hoping we could talk after court. Maybe clear up some issues before your word becomes a matter of record.”

If it weren’t for the chignon she wore, Billie was sure every single hair on her scalp would be standing straight up. “I have nothing to say off the record, Mr. Gorman.”

She turned to find Brittany Johnson and her attorney near the courtroom’s main door with someone Billie had only seen in newspapers before. Les Wyatt, Cyrus Johnson’s business partner.

All three stared at her. Crap. Wyatt’s gaze held simple curiosity, but from the look of shock on Brittany’s face to her attorney’s suspicious expression, they’d both come to a very wrong conclusion. Damn, the stupid depo would now be a total nightmare. No doubt, Gorman, being the skanky bastard he was, would make sure Cyrus Junior’s brother and sister knew he’d spoken with Billie, though he put his own little nasty spin on the conversation.

And leaning against the back wall, but well away from his stepmom, was Cyrus Johnson Junior. A NASA laser had less intensity than the hate-filled gaze he shot at her. Pity still filled her for the man. It had been obvious he’d carried a torch for Brittany, long before dear old dad married her. Now, Cyrus Junior wanted to punish the poor girl for choosing his father over him.

Billie clenched her hand on the handle of her case and shuffled through the crowd to find an available seat. Thank goodness, none of her current clients were here to see the Freudian drama.

After a few more minutes, the bailiff announced the judge, who called the court to order. Typical minutiae filled the first half hour. Then Judge Jackson announced the Johnson estate.

Despite her interest in the evidentiary hearing, Billie couldn’t make out the conversation at the bench. Her weird sixth sense kicked into gear. Something was about to happen. Something very, very wrong. The judge’s questions buzzed into white noise as she scanned the people around him.

Her weird feeling didn’t come Brittany or her attorney. Cyrus Junior was tense, but nothing screamed danger from him. No, it was Junior’s attorney. Gorman, normally Mr. Cool-and-Collected, fingered his right suit jacket pocket. The wrongness of his movements rippled across her nerves. They were too alien, too reptilian. His actions reminded her of something she couldn’t quite place. She only caught a glimpse of the item he pulled from his pocket, the bulk of it hidden in his sleeve. From the bailiff’s angle on the other side of the group, he hadn’t seen a damn thing, and the court reporter was too busy typing to notice.

Gorman shifted on his heels the instant Brittany Johnson’s attorney leaned forward to make his point with the judge. Something seemed to take over Billie’s body, a voice inside her head screaming to move. Now.

She threw herself over the railing and into the court’s well, but not before Gorman reached for Brittany. Sharpened stone appeared in his hand. He yanked the pregnant widow to his chest.

Too late, too late, too late, the voice in the back of her head screamed. She was too fucking far away. Time dropped into first gear. What she wouldn’t give for a reverse. The bailiff’s eyes locked on Billie, not the endangered woman. His mouth opened and his hand dropped to his baton.

One step.

Billie shook off the woman in the gallery who grabbed at her and tried to pull her back over the railing.

Two steps.

Cyrus Junior jumped in front of Gorman and Brittany to intercept Billie. She drove her elbow to Junior’s gut and a palm strike to his chin. He started to collapse.

Three steps.

No choice. She plowed into Gorman and Brittany, both hands reaching for the stone knife as he brought it up, no doubt to slice the poor girl’s throat. She seized his wrist, twisting to land on top of Gorman. Then her eyes met his.

Red flared in the irises. A predator stared at her, analyzing the threat she could be. Lids narrowed and lips spread into more of death rictus than a smile. Whatever looked out of those orbs wasn’t human.

Not that she ever thought Gorman was human to begin with.

The thing inside the other attorney used the momentum to swing his arm around, rolling with his landing. Shit. She’d impale herself on the damn stone knife.

Wrenching her body, she crashed hard on the tile floor. The lizard grin widened as he realized he had the advantage. When Gorman came down on top of her, the impact of his body drove out any oxygen left in her lungs. Ignoring her body’s screams for air, she focused all her strength on keeping the jagged stone from ventilating her chest.

Gorman’s mouth opened, but the sounds issuing from it weren’t any more human than the eyes were. It didn’t mean she didn’t recognize them though. The monsters in the cemetery made the same hisses and clicks during the confrontation with them Friday night.

There was a muffled thunk, then the pressure she’d been fighting disappeared. Thick fingers flexed and released before the stone knife clattered on the tiles. Gorman’s alien eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed with a puff of tainted breath.

Above them, the bailiff kicked away the weapon, but he still held his baton ready. Sobbing came from somewhere nearby. Eyes wide and mouth gaping as he clutched his stomach, Cyrus Junior stared at her, or maybe he stared at the unconscious form of his own attorney.

Judge Jackson appeared next to the bailiff and stared down at her. “What the devil are you doing wrestling with another attorney in my court, Ms. Edmunds?”

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