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Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Halloween Giveaway: Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson

On the 15th day of Halloween, Kensington has a giveaway just for you! Today you have a chance at winning a copy of Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson. To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter form below! Open to US/CA only.

Blurb and Chapter One via Kensington
Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell being a detective—especially for zombie P.I. Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines “dead on arrival.” But just because he was murdered doesn’t mean he’d leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.

Now he’s back from the dead and back in business—with a caseload that’s downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using "spell check" on its magical tomes. And he’s got to figure out a very personal question—Who killed him?

For Dan Chambeaux, it’s all in a day’s work. (Still, does everybody have to call him “Shamble”?) Funny, fresh, and irresistible, this cadaverous caper puts the P.I. in R.I.P….with a vengeance.


I’m dead, for starters—it happens. But I’m still ambulatory, and I can still think, still be a contributing member of society (such as it is, these days). And still solve crimes.

As the detective half of Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, I’m responsible for our caseload, despite being shot in the head a month ago. My unexpected murder caused a lot of inconvenience to me and to others, but I’m not the sort of guy to leave his partner in the lurch. The cases don’t solve themselves.

My partner, Robin Deyer, and I had built a decent business for ourselves, sharing office space, with several file cabinets full of pending cases, both legal matters and private investigations. Although catching my own killer is always on my mind, paying clients have to take priority.

Which is why I found myself sneaking into a cemetery at night while trying to elude a werewolf hit man who’d been following me since sunset—in order to retrieve a lost painting for a ghost.

Just another day at work for me.

The wrought-iron cemetery gate stood ajar with a Welcome mat on either side. These days, visiting hours are round-theclock, and the gate needs to stay open so that newly risen undead can wander out. When the gates were locked, neighbors complained about moaning and banging sounds throughout the night, which made it difficult for them to sleep.

When I pulled, the gate glided open on well-oiled hinges. A small sign on the bars read, MAINTAINED BY FRIENDS OF THE GREENLAWN CEMETERY. There were more than a hundred ostentatious crypts to choose from, interspersed with less prominent tombstones. I wished I had purchased a guide pamphlet ahead of time, but the gift shop was open only on weekends. I had to find the Ricketts crypt on my own—before the werewolf hit man caught up with me.

The world’s a crazy place since the Big Uneasy, the event that changed all the rules and allowed a flood of baffled unnaturals to return—zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, succubi, and the usual associated creatures. In the subsequent ten years, the Unnatural Quarter had settled into a community of sorts—one that offered more work than I could handle.

Now the quarter moon rode high in the sky, giving me enough light to see the rest of the cemetery. The unnatural thug, hired by the heirs of Alvin Ricketts, wasn’t one of the monthly full-moon-only lycanthropes: He was a full-time hairy, surly beast, regardless of the time of month. Those are usually the meanest ones.

I moved from one crypt to the next, scrutinizing the blocky stone letters. The place was quiet, spooky . . . part of the ambience. You might think a zombie—even a well-preserved one like myself—would feel perfectly at ease in a graveyard. After all, what do I have to be afraid of? Well, I can still get mangled, for one thing. My body doesn’t heal the way it used to, and we’ve all seen those smelly decomposing shamblers who refuse to take care of themselves, giving zombies everywhere a bad name. And werewolves are experts at mangling.

I wanted to avoid that, if possible.

Even undead, I remain as handsome as ever, with the exception of the holes left by the bullet—the largish exit wound on my forehead and the neat round one at the back of my head, where some bastard came up from behind, pressed the barrel of a .32 caliber pistol against my skull, and popped me before I got a good look at him. Fortunately, a low-slouched fedora covers the big hole. For the most part . . .

In the broader sense, the world hasn’t changed much since the Big Uneasy. Most people go about their daily lives, having families, working jobs. But though a decade has passed, the law—not to mention law enforcement—still hasn’t caught up with the new reality. According to the latest statistics by the DUS, the Department of Unnatural Services, about one out of every seventy-five corpses wakes up as a zombie, with the odds weighted heavily in favor of suicides or murder victims.

Lucky me to be on the interesting side of statistics.

After returning to life, I had shambled back into the office, picked up my caseload, and got to work again. Same as before . . . sort of. Fortunately, my zombie status isn’t a handicap to being a private detective in the Unnatural Quarter. As I said, the cases don’t solve themselves.

Days of investigation had led me to the graveyard. I dug through files, interviewed witnesses and suspects, met with the ghost artist Alvin Ricketts and separately with his indignant still-living family. (Despite Robin’s best mediation efforts in the offices, the ghost and the living family refused to speak to each other.)

Alvin Ricketts was a successful pop-culture painter before his untimely demise, attributable to a month’s worth of sleeping pills washed down with a full bottle of twenty-one-yearold single malt. (No sense letting it go to waste.) The ghost told me he would have taken more pills, but his insurance only authorized a thirty-day supply, and even in the deep gloom of his creative depression, Alvin had (on principle) refused to pay the additional pharmacy charge.

Now, whereas one in seventy-five dead people returns as a zombie, like myself, one in thirty comes back as a ghost (statistics again heavily weighted toward murder victims and suicides). Alvin Ricketts, a pop-art genius, had suffered a long and debilitating creative block, “artistic constipation” he called it. Feeling that he had nothing left to live for, he took his own life.

And then came back.

His ghost, however, found the death experience so inspirational that he found a reawakened and vibrant artistic fervor. Alvin set about painting again, announcing he would soon release his first new work with great fanfare.

His grieving (sic) family was less than enthusiastic about his return to painting, as well as his return from the dead. The artist’s tragic suicide, and the fact that there would never be more Alvin Ricketts paintings, had caused his existing work to skyrocket in value—until the ghost’s announcement of renewed productivity made the bottom fall out of the market. Collectors waited to see what new material Alvin would release, already speculating about how his artistic technique might have changed in his “post-death period.”

The Ricketts family sued him, claiming that since Alvin was dead and they were his heirs, they now owned everything in his estate, including any new or undiscovered works and the profits from subsequent sales.

Alvin contested the claim. He hired Robin Deyer to fight for his rights, and she promptly filed challenges while the ghost happily worked on his new painting. No one had yet seen it, but he claimed the work was his masterpiece.

The Ricketts heirs took the dispute to the next level. “Someone” broke into Alvin’s studio and stole the painting. With the supposed masterpiece gone, the pop artist’s much-anticipated return to the spotlight was put on hold. The family vehemently denied any involvement, of course.

That’s when the ghost hired me, at Robin’s suggestion, to track down and retrieve the painting—by any means necessary. The Ricketts heirs had hired a thug to keep me from succeeding in my investigation.

I heard a faint clang, which I recognized as the wrought-iron cemetery gate banging shut against the frame. The werewolf hit man wasn’t far behind me. On the bright side, the fact that he was breathing down my neck probably meant I was getting close.

The cemetery had plenty of shadows to choose from, and I stayed hidden as I approached another crypt. BENSON. Not the right one. I had to find RICKETTS.

Werewolves are usually good trackers, but the cemetery abounds with odors of dead things, and he must have kept losing my scent. Since I change clothes frequently and maintain high standards of personal hygiene for a zombie, I don’t have much of a smell about me. Unlike most unnaturals, I don’t choose to wear colognes, fancy specialized unnatural deodorants, or perfumes.

I turned the corner in front of another low stone building fronted by stubby Corinthian columns. Much to my delight, I saw the inhabitant’s name: RICKETTS. The flat stone door had been pried open, the caulking seal split apart.

New rules required quick-release latches on the insides of tombs now, so the undead can conveniently get back out. Some people were even buried with their cell phones, though I doubted they’d get good service from inside. Can you hear me now?

Now, if Alvin Ricketts were a zombie, he would have broken the seal when he came back out of the crypt. But since ghosts can pass through solid walls, Alvin would not have needed to break any door seals for his reemergence. So why was the crypt door ajar?

I spotted the silhouette of a large hairy form loping among the graves, sniffing the ground, coming closer. He still hadn’t seen me. I pulled open the stone door just enough to slip through the narrow gap into the crypt, hoping my detective work was right.

During the investigation into the missing masterpiece, the police had obtained search warrants and combed through the homes, properties, and businesses of the Ricketts heirs. Nothing. With my own digging, I discovered a small storage unit that had been rented in the name of Gomez Ricketts, the black sheep of the family—and I was sure they had hidden the painting there.

But when the detectives served their warrant and opened the unit, they found only cases and cases of contraband vampire porn packaged as sick kiddie porn. Because the starlets were actually old-school vampires who had been turned while they were children, they claimed to be well over the legal age—in real years if not in physical maturity. Gomez Ricketts had been arrested for pedophilia/necrophilia, but he was out on bail. Even Robin, in her best legal opinion, couldn’t say which way the verdict might go.

More to the point, we didn’t find the stolen painting in the storage unit.

So I kept working on the case. Not only did I consult with Alvin’s ghost, I also went over the interviews he’d given after his suicide. The ghost had gone into a manic phase, deliriously happy to put death behind him. He talked about awakening to find himself sealed in a crypt, his astral form rising from the cold physical body, his epiphany of throwing those morbid chains behind him. He had vowed never to go back there.

That’s when I figured it out: The last place Alvin would ever think to look for his painting was inside his own crypt, which was property owned by the Ricketts family (though a recent court ruling deemed that a person owned his own grave in perpetuity— a landmark decision that benefitted several vampires who were caught in property-rights disputes).

Tonight, I planned to retrieve the painting from its hiding place.

I slipped into the dank crypt, hoping I could grab Alvin’s masterpiece and slip away before the werewolf figured out what I was doing.

It should have been as quiet as a tomb inside, but it wasn’t. I heard a rustling sound, saw two lamplike yellow eyes blinking at me. A shrill nasal voice called out, “It’s taken—this one’s occupied! Go find your own.” “Sorry, didn’t mean to disturb you,” I said.
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sherry fundin said...

Hi, I was typing in my email and I guess I hit a wrong button and wasn't able to finish the whole thing.

Thanks for the giveaway.

Kelsey said...

Thanks for stopping by Sherry! I will make sure to correct that for you..:D