Jordan L. Hawk’s Stormhaven, the third book in the Whyborne & Griffin series, is now live and ready to be taking home from Amazon!
God I love this series. This author. These characters. The world building. The mutant laser-eyed squirrels… okay the last one is just in my head but they COULD happen!
A masterful writer with an incredible voice.
Link to Kindle is here. I’ll follow up with other links as they come availble because really… damn.
This post is done so without any knowledge of the author because really, I think she’s that awesome. Truly. Adore her.
And now, a sneak peek at Stormhaven’s First Chapter.
Newly installed electric lights blazed from atop the department store, theater, and even the street corners where ordinary gas lamps had burned just a month ago. An ugly tangle of wires cut across the night sky like the weaving of some huge, and quite demented, spider. The harsh light revealed the cracks in the sidewalk and threw sharp-edged shadows, far less kind than the radiance of either sun or moon.
I’d not seen the lights in operation before, as I didn’t generally stray outside after sundown without reason. Christine had wished to observe them, however, as had Griffin, and so here I stood on the sidewalk, just past sunset on a mild August night.
I’d rather have remained home.
“Very impressive,” Christine said, as we strolled down River Street. Christine, or more properly, Dr. Christine Putnam, was my colleague at the Nathaniel R. Ladysmith Museum and one of two people I truly called friend.
“Electric lights have been in use in Chicago for a while, although of course the battle between the electric and gas companies still rages on,” said my other friend, Mr. Griffin Flaherty. At least, the rest of the world considered us to be good friends who lived in the same house because we found one another’s company congenial. Which we did, although our relationship consisted of a more romantic nature than most would imagine.
Griffin touched the brim of his hat to a group of laughing young women who passed us on the street. One or two took a lingering look at his overlong curls and trim form. I did my best not to glare at them. “Still, I feel certain this is the way of the future,” he went on. “I’ve been thinking about having electricity installed at the house.”
“Absolutely not!” I exclaimed. Had the man gone completely mad?
Griffin gave me a surprised look. “Why ever not?”
“Well…” I flailed for a moment, trying to put my objection into words, “for one thing, these electric lights are too steady. Sterile, one might say. Not like real light from a candle or gas lamp.”
“Weren’t you just complaining about the dimness and flickering in the study last week?”
I ignored his absurd question and forged ahead. “They have no warmth. And they lack the aroma of gas lighting.”
“This summer, you claimed to be dying first from the heat, then from the fumes.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” I said crossly. “These lights are far too modern for Widdershins, or anywhere else, for that matter. They will never catch on.”
Griffin’s green eyes flashed with amusement, and a dimple appeared on one cheek when he grinned. “My dear Whyborne, things do change, even here in Widdershins.” He gestured to the garish lights above the department store. “And once they do, nothing ever goes back to the way it was before.”
“Well I, for one, rather like them,” Christine put in. She walked with her arms swinging at her sides, rather than holding onto either of our elbows, as a woman might normally be expected to do when in the company of two men. But normal didn’t really describe any of us. “Can you imagine having electric lights to use in a tomb during a dig?”
“When do you leave for Egypt?” Griffin asked, diverting the conversation from the lights with a skill which no doubt served him well in his occupation as a private detective. Of course he would be in favor of these hideous new lights: they diminished the shadows in which criminals might hide their secrets from him.
We turned away from River Street and meandered through the side lanes, which would eventually return us to Christine’s boarding house. Griffin and Christine discussed plans for her excavations in Egypt, once the field season began anew. The stars shone out thickly above. Moths clustered around the gas lamps, which, in my opinion, gave more than adequate illumination. A friendly cat on a doorstep meowed at me, and I stopped to give it a scratch between the ears.
A shriek of horror shattered the night.
The cat bolted. I spun around, searching frantically for the source of the cry. Ahead of me, Griffin gripped his silver-headed sword cane, while Christine swore in Arabic and dug through her purse for her pistol.
The shriek came again, from another street over, high and fearful as that of someone trapped in a nightmare. Griffin bolted down an alley between homes, and I followed, with Christine at my heels.
A man stood in the street outside one of the houses, staring down at his hands. In the dim light, they looked to be coated with some black substance although, as we drew closer, I realized from the rusty smell it must be blood.
He raised his head as we approached. The light from the nearest streetlamp fell across his face, his features startling me with their familiarity.
“What’s going on here?” Griffin asked, the same instant I said, “Allan? Allan Tambling?”
He stared at us in confusion, his bloody hands still held out before him. “Dr. Whyborne? Dr. Putnam? What…what’s going on?”
I hadn’t the slightest idea. Allan Tambling was a quiet young man, hired to restore any damaged but valuable paintings which entered the museum’s collection. What little I knew of him suggested he was unusually focused and sober for an artist and certainly not the sort I expected to find staggering about in the street, bloody as if he’d just come from apprenticing at a butcher’s.
Christine stopped just out of Allan’s reach, gripping something in her purse—her pistol, no doubt. “Good Gad, man, what happened to you? Are you hurt?”
Tambling blinked slowly, before shaking his head. “I…I don’t know. I had dinner with my uncle, we went to his study…and I found myself outside, with blood all over! I don’t know how I got here. I thought I saw someone running away…”
“Which direction?” Griffin asked instantly. When Tambling pointed a shaking hand, Griffin immediately dashed in pursuit, although I doubted he’d catch anyone at this point.
“Here,” I said, pulling out my handkerchief and passing it to Tambling. “Where is your uncle’s house?” Perhaps if we convinced him to go inside, we could discover if he’d been injured or at least calm him down.
“Th-there,” he said, pointing to the house behind him. The door stood open, and a warm scarf of light lay across the front stoop.
Before we took a single step toward the house, however, a woman’s scream came from within. A moment later, a maid appeared at the doorway.
“Police!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs. “Help! Mr. Bixby’s been murdered!”
~ * ~
Some time later, Allan Tambling sat on the stoop, his face buried in his now clean hands. Police milled about, bustling in and out of the house. As the body had already been taken away, I couldn’t imagine what business so many of them had within, outside of the desire to gawk at the spot a man had died.
The maid had left, swearing never to return. I’d remained out of some sense of loyalty to a fellow employee of the museum although, so far, my presence hadn’t proved at all useful, except to answer one or two questions for the police.
“Is there anything I can get you, Mr. Tambling?” I asked awkwardly. What I would do if he requested something, I hadn’t the slightest idea. I couldn’t exactly boil him a cup of tea or procure a stiff brandy here on the street.
He took a deep breath, as if to master himself. “No, I…no. Thank you, Dr. Whyborne. I’ve sent for my older brother, but otherwise I don’t think there is anything to be d-done.”
“Yes. My condolences,” I added. “I’m certain the police will catch whoever is behind this very soon.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Feeling utterly useless, I turned away and looked for my companions. Christine waited on another stoop, ignoring a policeman’s attempts to escort her from the scene. Griffin, however, seemed engaged in lively argument with a man I recognized as Detective Tilton.
I wandered close enough to listen in. “But you didn’t see anyone,” Tilton said.
“No,” Griffin replied, “but I’m only one man. If your men conducted a thorough search—”
Tilton’s eyes narrowed, and his mustache quivered. “I don’t need you telling me how to do my job, Flaherty. You believe you know something about investigation just because you were a Pinkerton thug, but I assure you, I’ve forgotten more than one of your ilk will learn in a lifetime.”
I bridled at the insult. “Mr. Flaherty isn’t some heavy-handed strike-breaker,” I snapped. “I daresay he knows as much about investigation as anyone in this town.”
Tilton gazed at me coolly, and my anger drained away abruptly. What was I thinking, drawing the attention of the police? Although Griffin claimed they weren’t trained to somehow spot men like us without any other signal being passed, my stomach turned over queasily nevertheless. In the eyes of the law, Griffin and I were criminals many times over by the very nature of our relationship.
“Dr. Whyborne,” Tilton said neutrally. “I’m sorry to see you’re still keeping company with this lout.”
“A sad state of affairs,” Griffin agreed cheerfully. “Very well, Tilton, I see you won’t listen to reason. I will keep my advice to myself from now on.”
“See that you do.”
We collected Christine and started back the way we had come. As we passed Allan, I slowed my steps, intending to give him some look of sympathy or encouragement. But he sat on the stoop, staring fixedly down at his hands with a dazed expression, as if my presence couldn’t penetrate the fog of grief and fear around him.
“Why can’t I remember?” he whispered to himself. Although he’d wiped off his hands, blood still caked beneath the nails. “Why?”
His words sent a little shiver down my spine, and I hastened to catch up with my companions.
~ * ~
In the small hours before dawn, I opened my eyes and found myself drowning.
Water pressed down upon me with palpable force: cold and dark, as if I had sunk to the very bottom of the sea. I thrashed madly, struggling for the surface, but I might as well have been swimming through treacle. Some force held me in my watery grave, until my burning lungs gave up the fight, and I inhaled sharply.
A blink, and the darkness receded, my eyes mysteriously able to penetrate the blackness of the abyss. A great city rose up around me, its cyclopean architecture humbling even the mighty pyramids of Egypt. A single block of barnacle-encrusted granite loomed larger than a house. But I found the architecture oddly repellent. None of the lines seemed to meet quite as one expected, so perspective became distorted, angles which appeared acute one moment seeming obtuse another.
The ghastly place showed no signs of inhabitants, but life filled it nonetheless. Barnacles clung to every surface, corals sprouted, and a thousand fish swarmed high above my head, like flocks of birds. Thin, shell-like tubes projected from many surfaces, their fan-shaped inhabitants stretching out delicate tendrils in a thousand colors, resembling living flowers. I reached out to touch the nearest, and it ducked back into its cylindrical home.
How had I come here? I struggled to remember, but found nothing to explain the city or my presence in it. Where was Griffin? Was I alone?
The ocean current stirred against my cheek, bringing with it a scent both noxious and strangely familiar.
No, I wasn’t alone.
My heart jerked against my ribs at the sudden, overwhelming conviction something else occupied this Tartarean city. And whatever it was, it knew I was here…and it wanted to find me.
I tried to run, but the heavy water clutched at me, slowing my steps. A slot between buildings offered a place to hide, but as I rushed toward it, an abnormal eel lunged out, snapping teeth like glass needles.
I fell back from the misshapen thing, casting about frantically. I had to hide! Whatever searched for me was almost here, and if it found me, something terrible would happen. It was getting close; fish fled before its coming, and even the monstrous eel darted off into the murky distance. The fan-like worms shut themselves into their tube homes, and the muck beneath my feet came alive as even the foul, crawling things of the ocean floor sought to escape.
Oh God. It was behind me now. I knew it with an unshakeable certainty. Every muscle locked into place, and I struggled to breathe through the blind, animal instinct which equated movement with death.
It saw me. I couldn’t just stand here and wait for it to seize me. I had to turn and face it.
With a sense of unspeakable dread, I slowly forced myself to turn and see what hunted me. When I did, my paralysis broke, and I screamed.
~ * ~
“Whyborne! Steady on; you’re having a bad dream.”
I dragged in a great breath, every muscle locked in terror. Sheets, damp with sweat, pressed against my back. The moonlight filtering through the open window revealed the familiar ceiling of our bedroom. Griffin’s scent, of sandalwood and male skin, enveloped me, his warm hand resting on my shoulder. My head pounded as if someone had attempted to drive a nail into my skull.
“Oh,” I said. I intertwined my fingers with his, and he gave them a reassuring squeeze. “It seemed so real.”
Griffin’s lips brushed the bare flesh of my shoulder. “Poor love. Would you like to tell me about it?”
I tried to recall what had horrified me, but the dream had already begun to unravel into fog. “I don’t quite remember,” I admitted. “Something about a city, and the ocean…something hunted me…”
Perhaps I’d had the disturbing dream on account of the murder we’d happened across. After seeing poor Tambling so deeply shaken, no wonder I’d had a nightmare.
Griffin stroked my shoulder. “You’re safe,” he said. “There’s nothing hunting you.”
“I know. It just seemed extraordinarily real at the time.”
A breeze stirred the curtains, bringing with it Widdershins’s fishy smell. Our cat, Saul, sat in the window, peering out at the lawn below, apparently fascinated by the movements of some nocturnal creature. Crickets chirped. I heard a nightjar loose its lonely cry.
“Night terrors often do.” Griffin’s hand drifted along my chest, tracing across my heart, down to my belly. My skin pebbled in response, nipples drawing tight. “Shall I distract you from the memory of it?”