Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 20, 2013

Sample from “Devil’s Blade”

devilsBlade_coverFollowing is the beginning of Chapter 2 of Devil’s Blade. The protagonist, Malacca Longwood—an NYPD homicide detective—has returned to his apartment after a long day. The shade of his maternal grandmother is there.



After we filled out the redundant paperwork, the office clock showed a little after 5 AM.  I left a message on my boss’ voicemail telling him that I’d be in about mid-morning or later.  I needed sleep, if possible after what I’d seen, and a shower.  I headed to my apartment on John Street in the beginnings of the morning traffic on streets slick from an early morning shower.
Before the door to my apartment was fully open, I knew someone was there—or had been.  I don’t smoke and don’t allow anyone to smoke in my apartment.  The scent was faint, but unmistakable.
I slammed the door, rattled the deadbolts and chain but actually left them unlocked in case I had to get back out very quickly.  Easing my .45 out of its holster at the small of my back and releasing the safety, I shed my suit jacket. All senses were focused, blood thumping in my ears, trying to locate evidence of someone still there, one of the mob thugs I’d helped send away, for instance.
Nothing but rancid cigarette stench.
I felt a little sheepish, later, thinking that I must’ve looked like some “B” grade Hollywood screenwriter’s version of cop checking the place out as I moved through each doorway. I even checked behind shower curtains, in closets and in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, leading each step with the .45.
Hey, you never know.
Feeling a little foolish and quite a bit relieved, I relaxed a bit, feeling the exhaustion again as I picked up my jacket from the floor and locked the door. Turning back into the apartment, I walked through the door into my bedroom, which I’d just checked and saw who’d been smoking.
It hadn’t been a mobbed-up thug whose smoke had fouled the air, it was her.  It could only have been one person, smoking those damned nasty Picayune cigarettes, I finally realized.  She was the woman who had kept and sheltered me for my first five years and obviously never quit loving me.
Marie Clapion, or as many in New Orleans would have called her, Madame Marie.  I had always called her Mama Marie.
She sat in the big leather recliner in the corner of my bedroom, kicked-back, with a lighted cigarette dangling from her right hand.  Tonight she wore a dark turquoise turban-like cloth in a spiral on her head, and her usual long, white linen ceremonial dress.  Her feet were bare. They were a little darker than her face, a true café au lait, on top than on the bone-hard callused bottoms.
I stood there in a sort of suspended animation as she took a long drag on the foul cigarette, then half-turned to her right and blew the smoke toward the closed window.  Her black eyes glittered, squinting back sidewise at me through the haze she’d created, as if they reflected ritual bonfires.  She seemed to draw all of me into their depths.
Madame Marie Duminy Clapion, Mama Marie, watching me from the chair, died when I was eleven years old.  I wept at her elaborate, ritual funeral in New Orleans—twenty-two years ago.
She flicked the butt away toward the middle of the room, but instead of dropping to the carpet it vanished.
She enjoyed doing things like that—always had—her tricks had caught my attention when I was a child, and still did.
Usually, when Mama Marie—or more accurately, the shade of Mama Marie—came to visit, she spoke but didn’t respond to questions or comments. I believe that Mama Marie always hears, but sometimes doesn’t choose to answer.
Now, I sat on the edge of my bed and watched her. She looked away as if I wasn’t there, out through the open drapes into the beginning dawn. Her left leg was hanging over the edge of the chair. Her left bare foot and right hand beat time to the slow, insistent rhythm of music only she could hear.
She stopped, and turned completely, facing me, dark eyes softening as she left the dance behind.
“You up agin’ a bad ‘un here, Honey.  This man you lookin’ for is just plain evil—crazy, too.  Watch everythin’ real close. You gotta catch him ‘fore he kills a bunch more people. You’ll see when you face him—he’s cold as a copperhead. Watch him close, now. Watch ever’ little thing he do. You gotta stay calm, too, jus’ like I taught you when you was a chile.”  She spoke quietly, her mouth a flat grim line and a hard glint in anthracite eyes. She began to fade slowly into transparency and was gone.
The smell of Picayune cigarettes faded more slowly than her shade, or maybe it was just the memories, awakened by the smell.
Yes, I’ll watch him but first I have to find him. Those thoughts were my last before I collapsed on the bed without undressing.



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