Horror Doranna Durgin The Reckoners

ISBN 13: 9780765361646

The Reckoners

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9780765361646: The Reckoners

Ghost hunter Lisa McGarrity can’t understand what’s gotten into the undead recently. Ectoplasm-flinging spirits and ghouls with grudges seem to be coming out of the woodwork, and she’s been run ragged trying to calm the unusually outraged spirits. Tired of dealing with the disgruntled dead, Lisa is determined to take a break from all things metaphysical.

So when the mysterious and sexy Trevarr appears on her doorstep requesting her assistance in an urgent matter, Lisa is less than thrilled. Who is this man, and why is he so interested in her “kooky” hobby? What does he have to gain by visiting paranormal hot spots with her? Whatever he wants, Lisa can’t help being drawn to Trevarr, and as they start working together they stumble upon a house filled to the brim with ghosts driven to the edge of madness. Now Lisa and Trevarr must figure out what’s behind this ghost population explosion, before their mutual attraction causes explosions of its own.

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About the Author:

DORANNA DURGIN spent her childhood filling notebooks first with stories and art, and then with novels. After obtaining a degree in wildlife illustration and environmental education, she spent a number of years deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Dun Lady's Jess, Doranna's first published fantasy novel, received the 1995 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award for the best first book in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres. When she's not writing, Doranna builds web pages, wanders around outside with a camera, and works with horses and dogs.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1Underestimate an angry spirit only if you want to become one.— Rhonda RoseHere, little ghosties . . .— Lisa McGarrityLisa McGarrity eased into the brand-spankin' -new patio home in northern Albuquerque. The ultimate in desert chic, still unfurnished and unoccupied . . . she could almost hear her breath echo.It also steam. Albuquerque summer night's heat, and her breath steamed. Never a good sign. From within the house, something went plop. There was a gooey quality to that sound. Not a sound the average person should be familiar with.And since when have you ever been average? Never. Not since Rhonda Rose found her. Not since she'd realized she had an inside track on things dead and things dying and things that shouldn't have been there at all. Or that she had the responsibility to protect not only the living, but much of the once-living and even the never-living. Once upon a time, Rhonda Rose had opened the door to her power . . . and taken away her innocence, all in one fell swoop. Once upon a time.And now . . .?“I'm getting out,” she said over her shoulder.Behind her, Lucia Reyes quite sensibly stood just outside the entry of the fancy new home, her flashlight bouncing off the high ceiling. In this business, unexpected problems often came from above, and Lucia had been on Lisa McGarrity's team long enough to learn that lesson well.Lucia was slender and leggy and gifted with exquisite angles beneath Hispanic features, a tidy J-Lo ass, and the generous budget to clothe, adorn, and otherwise showcase her attributes. She said, “If you're getting out, you're going in the wrong direction.” She tossed back her hair, a naturally haughty gesture, as she glanced meaningfully at the doorway.Lisa—Garrie to her reckoner team—raised a self-conscious hand to her own hair: dark nut brown streaked with electric blue, short and spiky. Not bad, actually, if only those spikes had come from styling instead of her lamentable habit of clutching her hair.Inside the house, something else went plop. It sounded larger than the first.Lucia said, “Still the wrong direction for getting out.”“After this.” Garrie shot her a quick scowl, extending her awareness into the empty house along with her flashlight beam. Penny-ante reckoner work—new haunting on new construction. Didn't mean they could take it for granted. “Don't tell me you didn't see it coming. This is the most exciting gig we've had for weeks, and that's just because we've got our spooky flashlights.”“Well,” Lucia murmured, glancing around the spacious house, “it's got the actual ghostie vibes going on. That's a big step above knocking water pipes.”“Right. Exactly why I'm getting out.” Never mind the twinge of guilt as she said it, or the familiar, starch voice of Rhonda Rose reminding her This is what you were born to do.But I'm not doing it, Rhonda Rose. I'm not doing it.Not really.Lucia was scary-good sometimes. Her tone dry with self-awareness, she asked, “And what are you going to do, walk away from yourself?” None of them could exactly walk away from their unusual skills, Garrie most of all.“Hey, chicas, c'mon.” Drew Ely shadowed the doorway just behind Lucia, hopelessly geeky in spite of—or perhaps because of—his attempts to be oh-so-hip. Lank hair of an indeterminate color, eyes to match, complexion just getting over the whole becoming-a-man thing. Of late he'd been experimenting with the one-day stubble look, and it really wasn't working for him.But he was a real wizard at reading the history of any given space. And he'd just saved Garrie from mustering a response to Lucia, so points for that. Cautiously, Garrie moved into the house, making room for Drew to enter with Quinn Rossiter on his heels.Garrie, head reckoner: trained by her own personal invisible friend from childhood to communicate and influence spirits all of natures. Lucia, their spiritual empath. Drew, their historian. And Quinn, their memory-gifted researcher, tall and broad-shouldered, eyes a deep clear blue, hair a crisp blond that always fell naturally into whatever style he'd chosen. The three of them were the support team to Garrie's reckoner muscle, giving her the information she needed to work fast and clean.Or not so clean. From out of thin air, a glob of sticky, stinky ghost poop landed on Garrie's cheek. “Gah,” she said, and swiped it off, flinging it away with the casual skill of long practice. Since her midteens, she'd been doing this. And with Rhonda Rose at her side, most of it had been a lot more exciting than . . .Ghost poop.“Someone's mad,” Lucia said.“Please don't tell me you had to use your superpowers to figure that out.” Garrie moved cautiously into the great room—beamed ceiling far above, corner fireplace way down there somewhere, arching rounded doorways to bedrooms, open into the kitchen. If there was ghost poop, there was anger.“This place is phat,” Drew decided, just behind the curve in cool factor as usual. “I bet you could get a deal on it after we clear it.”Garrie didn't answer. She had her own perfectly good condo, smack in the middle of the city's university area. Everything she could possibly want within walking distance and plenty of eccentric, benign spirits to keep her company. “You guys pulling in any clues?”“The whole angry thing,” Lucia offered.Drew shook his head. “The history is muddled to the max.”Garrie could understand that. “All this new construction material, pulled in from all over the place.” She took a deep breath, inhaling that peculiar scent of disgruntled spirits that only she could perceive. “I know you're here,” she said out loud, words to focus the unspoken communication she broadcast to the house. “Get real, everyone knows you're here. Quit throwing spit-balls and let's talk.”The straightforward approach. Rarely successful, but always worth a try. This time it netted her a faint but definite spiritual glower, as though impotent pieces of power had mustered righteous offense. No more effective than being hit with pats of soft spiritual butter. “Ooh,” she muttered. “Eeek.”Quinn moved into the room, circling around and squinting at the walls—visualizing the structure, running his mind over all the possible connections and influences. “It's not all new,” he murmured, touching the textured wall paint.Somewhere in the house a door opened. The reckoners, as one, turned to look at Garrie. She shrugged. “Just supposed to be us.” She thought this particular batch of spirits had thrown their drama quota into the ectoplasmic yuck, so that left something more earthly. But . . .“There's way more than one,” she realized out loud, distracted from the noise of the door. She felt it plainly enough, now that she'd puzzled it out—the weird fractured pieces, a kaleidoscope of personalities. All of them annoyed, but none of them truly powerful. Not dark-side entities, just disturbed echoes of those who had once lived in the flesh. They needed her help as much as the man who'd hired her.Down the hall, shadows in shadow . . . something moved. Yet a deeper layer of shadow, flashing along the wall.Quinn said, “I think—” and then stopped short at the screeching yowl that cut the night.Drew jumped, whirling, his flashlight painting wild, bobbing patterns of light across the walls and archways. “Shee-it!”“Toucheee,” Lucia murmured to Garrie. She could afford to be complacent. She was the one who always walked away without a single splot of ghost poop on her person. The only one.Garrie slanted her a silent cut the kid a break and reached down the hall, pushing out her bubble of awareness. Nothing.“Cat,” Quinn said, matter-of-fact and preoccupied with his walls.And there it was. Loitering at the end of the hall, tail held high and undulating smugly enough that even Garrie, the noncat person, could see its self-satisfaction. “Who let it in?”Silence from her team. Loud silence. Until a voice not at all familiar to any of them said, “I did.”They all startled. Ghosts didn't vocalize. The occasional whispery noise, the faintest of moans . . . not deep, strong voices.And they didn't appear at the end of the hallway, solid and tall in the shadows.The cat ran to the new arrival, wound briefly between his ankles, and faded away into a corner. Garrie didn't hesitate—she lifted her flashlight so the beam shone directly on the man's face.He can't be for real. Not with a black leather duster over a shirt with leather panels and crisscrossed lacings, pants with front panel styling that might have been stylish a hundred years ago, calf-high boots much scuffed and secured by a row of outside buckles. But he was also far too solid to have come with this particular house. And far too reactive to the flashlight—a pained squint, a futile effort to fend off the light with one hand.Of course he had half-finger gloves to complete the picture. Of course he had thick straight hair past his shoulders, shorter front strands softening his features with just the right amount of careless.“Ay-yi-yi,” Lucia murmured.No kidding. But Garrie wasn't looking for reasons to linger in a house where the dead hosts had decided to impress the living with their ghost poop. “This is a private party.”He didn't seem impressed. “You mind?” he asked, a hint of an accent in even those two words. He moved his upraised hand to shield his eyes. “The light?”“I don't mind a bit,” Garrie said, and kept the flashlight beam where it was. Drew's laugh came muffled and more than a little nervous. The cat, invisible in the shadows, yowled in response. It made Garrie's spine tingle.“Garrie,” Lucia said, latching onto Garrie's arm, unspoken words so familiar that Garrie didn't need to hear them. Garrie, be nice. Garrie, don't chase the hot-tie away until we figure out if he's a good or evil.Garrie scowled. “You know damned well it never turns out well when we run into cute games.”Lucia made a face at the truth of this statement, but then her expression brightened. “There was that goth wannabe who thought his gran was possessed. That wasn't too bad.”“Gran had Alzheimer's. It was tragic. And what about the others? The reporter who made us look like idiots in prime time, the actual idiot who thought he could steal our skills if he just tried hard enough?” Trying hard enough had involved surgical instruments from some ancient collection. No, when they came on all clever like this, there was always some hidden price.“No games,” the man said, moving closer. Garrie kept him in her light. “Desperation. I need your help.”“Funny, that's what the guy with the surgical instruments said.” Garrie sidestepped another falling blob of glop. “In case you hadn't noticed, we're in the middle of something here.” She sent out a silent mental radar sweep, hunting spiritual pings and listening with half her attention while the other half considered just how problematic their leather-clad, cat-toting visitor might be. She jerked in surprise when one of the pings came back from the visitor in question.“Adobe,” Quinn said abruptly, as if their work hadn't been interrupted by the cat, the man, and the conversation. “The mud. Old mud.”The man cleared his throat. “Hello?” His voice still sounded tight. “The light?”Garrie lowered the beam to his neck. She dug into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a worn business card, which she flicked down the hallway at his feet. “Bad timing, mister. You want to talk business, give me a call.”“It's the mud,” Quinn said.“The adobe?” Drew headed instantly for the door, grabbing the excuse. He hadn't been with them for the whole incident with the surgical instruments, but he'd heard plenty enough about it.Their interloper left the card where it fell. He might have spoken, had the house not subtly shifted. Garrie felt it; Lucia felt it. And the man looked over at the empty kitchen in alarm.From outside, Drew called, “Yes! It's the mud!”The house made a noise like someone's last breath. Silent demands plucked at Garrie's attention. Irritation at being ignored, promises to up the ante, a crude image or two—Lucia gasped, fully distracted from their visitor. “Garrie—”“I feel it,” Garrie said grimly.“Containment?” Lucia said, slinging her Burberry tote from her shoulder, hand ready to plunge inside.“Size large,” Garrie said, holding out her hand without removing her attention from the kitchen. She switched her flashlight off and jammed it into the holder on her cargo belt; she'd need both hands now, and her inner sight was more important than her physical sight anyway. Lucia slapped the bag into her hand, flexible and plastic. Easy zipper. Double layered.“Is that—” the stranger started, not bringing himself to finish the sentence.“Yes, yes, the all-purpose Baggie, coated inside with a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices.” And it was, too. The plastic gleamed with the petroleum jelly base, and the grit of the ingredients prickled against her fingertips, from juniper and lilac to garlic and leek. “Now be quiet. Or better yet, go home. Call me tomorrow.” It wasn't hard, herding minor, fractured spirits into containment with ethereal breezes . . . but it took concentration. Serious concentration.“I can't,” the man said, moving closer. Garrie touched the stun gun also conveniently hanging at her side and otherwise didn't take her attention away from the entities gathering in the kitchen. Invisible, angry entities. “Tomorrow is too late.”Too bad she had the skepticism of experience. “Go. Away.”Drew ran back inside, stopping so short that he skidded on the tile. “You coming? You got 'em? 'Cause it's the adobe plaster, all right. Quinn says if we get 'em and the mud, we're good till he figures out where the mud came from. Near a wash somewhere, probably. Flash flood—”“Makes sense,” Garrie murmured. She sensed only pieces because these beings had been scattered across a wide area, the adobe mud harvesting only a partial presence of each spirit. “No wonder they're mad.”“Will you just—” the man said before running out of words, voice hard with what might actually have been desperation after all.“Everyone's got a mad on,” Lucia said pointedly. “I'm going outside. What about—?” And she nodded at their interloper.“That's his problem,” Garrie said. She reached inside herself, opening the door that held in her own inner light. Here, little ghosties . . .“He could get slimed . . .”“I'm right here,” the man said. “And I'm on a tight schedule. A very tight schedule.”“The word very only weakens your meaning,” Garrie said, finding the coalescing spirits as dim spots in her inner eye, gathering toward the kitchen. “Ask any English teacher.” All that wiring, all those appliances . . . always a favorite spot. Here, little ghosties . . . She lured them in, knowing better than to try to reason with such fragmented entities; she let her energy build, spiraling through her grounding in an Escherian swirl. Once she got close enough . . .Someone grabbed her arm. Not gently, and not quite hard enough to hurt. From the doorway Lucia yelped in surprise and belated warning, and a deep voice in her ear said, “A very, very tight s...

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