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Excerpt: Hoodoo Money

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message 1: by Sharon (last edited Aug 10, 2009 04:47PM) (new)

Sharon (scpennington) | 3 comments I hope it's okay to just jump right in . . . a brief bio by way of introduction, and then I'll post my excerpt from Hoodoo Money: Sharon Cupp Pennington’s short stories have appeared in numerous online and print venues, with anthology contributions to The Rocking Chair Reader in the Coming Home edition (2004) and Family Gatherings (2005), A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New (2007), and Good Old Days Magazine (March, 2007). Her debut novel, Hoodoo Money, was released in May 2008. She resides in Texas with her husband, Wayne, where she recently finished her second novel, Mangroves and Monsters.

Thanks for including me in your group! I read a few of the excerpts before joining, and it appears I'm in excellent company.

Sharon
Hoodoo Money by Sharon C. Pennington


message 2: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (scpennington) | 3 comments Here's my excerpt from Hoodoo Money.

PROLOGUE

Chicago, Illinois...

Sweating profusely, Lee Allen Dalrymple carted his 280 pounds up a second flight of stairs. “Damn elevator,” he huffed. “Been on the fritz more times than not since I moved into this overpriced apartment.” But a broke-down elevator was the least of his aggravation. Braeden McKay had fl at refused to give him the crime scene photos from the Dodding murder. “Bitch.”

New shoes pinched Dalrymple’s swollen feet. His head ached. Perspiration stung his eyes and plastered his white shirt to his back under a suit jacket that cut into his shoulders.

“McKay’s the cause of all my misery.” He lumbered through the door of his darkened apartment juggling mail, his laptop, and battered valise.

During this most recent trip to Texas, he had called forth every ruse concocted in nineteen years of free-lance journalism. Three days of impromptu meetings, deep-fried meals, and all-out groveling, and he hadn’t worn her down a lick.

He kicked the door shut, and the vibration skewed the lithograph on the wall next to the framed dust jacket of The Stoning of Renzo De Benedictis, his one and only bestseller. “Integrity’s for Boy Scouts,” he grumbled. People had lewd appetites, and satiating those appetites had made him a lot of money.

He couldn’t recall any other time a woman had looked him straight in the eyes and told him her conscience wasn’t for sale. But McKay leaned across a glass of expensive merlot, shook his hand, and said in that irritating drawl of hers, “My decision is final, Mr. Dalrymple. Herbert Dodding is dead. I can’t change that. But neither will I contribute to a tell-all book that will follow those boys for the rest of their lives. You understand, sir, I’m sure.”

Like hell, he understood.

Why did she hold onto the photographs if she didn’t plan to use them, or any of the research she’d done into the old pervert’s murder? Her genre was children’s books, and the “Platypus Pearl” mystery series had made her the newest darling of the preteen set.

Not that she bragged about it. McKay was too refined, too genteel. Too damn Southern.

He dropped the mail in the wastebasket—nothing but bills from his accountant—placed the laptop on his cluttered desk, and valise on the floor. Lamp on, he shrugged out of the torturous jacket and headed for the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black in his kitchen cabinet. Frustration mothered an awful thirst, and Dalrymple was the thirstiest he’d been in forty-seven years of scandalous living.

He carried the bottle to the living room, grabbed the remote, and switched on the television. He switched it off just as quick. Today the news depressed him. Braeden McKay and her unwavering morality depressed him.

Anger surfaced in his shaking hands when he unscrewed Johnnie’s cap, splashed two fingers in a glass, and threw back the amber liquid.

The muffled pop never registered as a gunshot, but an explosion of white light inside his temple dropped Dalrymple to his knees. The last image his brain recorded as blood filled his mouth was a shadow lifting the laptop from his desk.


CHAPTER ONE

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, sixteen months later...


“What do you get when you bite a ghost?” Braeden McKay managed a weak smile and whispered, “A mouthful of sheet.”

The joke wasn’t any funnier now than it had been the first time her neighbor’s nine-year old nephew had told it. Neither was spending an entire morning of her vacation in a cemetery. But she had promised Angeline she’d be her guest during the Fournier Cosmetics photo shoot. With the lure of a decadent lunch and antique shopping afterward, she could hold out a bit longer.

Four hours spent in the merciless Gulf Coast humidity, and Braeden’s natural curls resembled coppery cotton candy. She twisted her hair into a haphazard roll, fastened it with a large plastic clip, then fanned the back of her neck with the brochure from her pocket. Not that either helped.

Heading down the stone path dividing two rows of staggered sepulchers and patchwork grass, she was struck by the contrast between a century-old mausoleum and the camera crew packing their high-tech gear. She supposed it was no more odd than looking at a panoramic view of the cemetery with the city’s modern skyline behind it, or the honking of car horns carried through the old iron gates on a July breeze. It was one of the things she loved about New Orleans: the blending of past and present, with ample deference given both.

“Now what are you doing?” She found her supermodel friend standing before a small tomb they’d discovered on a break earlier in the day.

“I’m gettin’ myself a souvenir.” Angeline leaned over the rusted iron fence marking Simone Dubois’ grave and plucked a coin off the mutilated brick. “You want me to get you one?”

Braeden eyed the coin with wariness. It was small, silver, round, and dull edged. “You lifted that nickel from the grave of a witch.” She suppressed her shudder. “No, I don’t want you to get me one.”

Angeline straightened her five foot ten inch frame. “A gypsy, Brag. Simone Dubois was a Black Gypsy, a hoodoo woman.”

“Same difference.”

“Hardly, and don’t make it sound so sinister.” She buffed the coin against her blouse before holding it up to the light for closer inspection. “It’s not like I’m snatchin’ bodies, or pryin’ gold from their teeth. There must be fifty coins here, nickels and dimes, pennies. People are expected to take a few.”

“If you want a souvenir, I’ll buy you some beads or a feathered Mardi Gras mask like the ones we saw in the hotel lobby.” Appealing to her friend’s flamboyant side wasn’t working; Braeden tried the practical approach. “Okay, okay.” She raised her arms in exaggerated surrender. “I’ll buy the postcards this trip, for pity’s sake, and stamps to mail them. Just put the nickel back, Angie, before somebody sees you.”

Angeline’s laugh dissipated into the fissures of the tomb. She rested her boxy sunglasses atop her blonde head and met Braeden’s gaze beneath the black crystal frames. “No thanks,” she said. “I think I’ll keep my nickel. Besides, who’s gonna see me? Cooper? We hired the man to drive, nothing more. The hoodoo woman supposedly buried beneath all this...finery?” She reached through the rusted iron bars, tapped the base of Dubois’ tomb with the toe of her strappy sandal and added matter-of-factly, “I think not.”

Visions of campfires and burning effi gies tumbled through Braeden’s brain. “What if it’s bad luck to take it, Angie. I mean, sacrilegious or something.” The or something worried her. “What if there’s some kind of...”

It seemed ridiculous to even say the word out loud.

Angeline whirled, clapping her hands. “I can’t believe it, Brag! You were gonna say ‘curse,’ weren’t you?”

“S-Something like that.”

The supermodel edged through the small gate hanging lopsided from the rusted iron enclosure. An elusive breeze caught the hem of her silk crepe skirt, and a dance of yellow designer daisies swirled about her ankles as she planted her outrageously insured derriere on the tomb’s narrow foundation ledge. She motioned for Charlie Cooper, and the driver ambled over with a pucker on his face that reminded Braeden of tasting tart lemonade.

“Here, Cooper. Take a picture of us for posterity.” Angeline shoved her camera at him, then patted the space next to her indicating Braeden should also sit. “Just me and Brag and little ol’ Simone Dubois,” she teased. “Black Gypsy.”

Braeden stepped out of range of the shot. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The camera whirred and clicked, clicked and whirred. “Come on, Brag.” Angeline struck another silly pose. “I mean, a curse. For heaven’s sake, you don’t really believe in such things. Do you?”




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