Clarisa lit the candle of the incense burner and the scent of warm cinnamon began to suffuse the cool air of the shop. Rays of the orange and red setting sun streamed through the glass windows, highlighting her chestnut hair with their brilliance. She sighed, closing her mint green eyes with satisfaction as slowly, the light of day gave way to the deeper shades of purple twilight. The brass bell hanging above the shop entrance broke the silence, indicating the arrival of a customer.

He strode in, confidently taking in the colorful bottles lining the many shelves throughout the store, the library of warm worn books hiding behind the counter, the small table against the far wall and its two chairs, all of which sat on what seemed a patchwork of rugs covering the floor.

The man wore a black top-hat with a silver sash tied around its base, which even though now indoors, he did not take off. The hat did little to restrain the wildly curly black hair that was long enough to cover his shoulders. His shirt was white and fitted, over which he wore an open silver vest. He had on black leather pants and boots which were outfitted with spurs. He had on a large silver watch which whirred loudly and leather gloves. He was carrying a large satchel.

Clarisa asked the man, “Vot kan I due for jue?”

He looked at the floor and sighed deeply, shaking his head. “Apparently nothing.” He set the satchel down and bent over it to begin opening the intricate lock securing it closed. “I’ve no use for phonies.”

Clarisa jerked back at the immediate rebuke. “Vot due jue mean?” she asked with surprise.

He looked up at her. She was struck by the warmth emanating from those brown eyes. “I’m looking for someone to help me contact a lost love. She was everything to me. I didn’t realize it until she died though. I need a real medium, not a liar and a cheat.”

Clarisa blew out a breath, “Fine, but just because the packaging is fake doesn’t mean the product is bad. I can talk to the dead but most people like to get the whole package, ambiance and all.” She paused and studied him for a beat. “Who are you anyway?”

His eyes narrowed. He stopped fiddling with the satchel’s lock and stood up. “You may call me Valentine.”

She studied Valentine for a second more then looked off a little to his left.

“Dana.”

At the pronunciation of the name he lost all animation except for the widening of his eyes.

She frowned as if she had a headache. “She’s very agitated.” Her eyes closed. “She’s almost seems scared.” When she opened her eyes Valentine was inches away from her. She tried to step back in surprise but he grabbed her upper arms tightly.

“What does she look like?” He asked her urgently.

“Let go of me!” she yelled, trying to shake him loose.

He shook her and roared, “What does she look like?!”

“Red hair in a loose bun, green eyes, thin, what do you want?” she screamed.

His right hand let go only to punch her hard on her left eye. She went down like a sack of potatoes. Valentine rocked back on his heels, sighing hugely in relief. “Finally someone who can really get to you for me.” He turned and opened his satchel. He pulled out iron handcuffs that were uniquely designed to squeeze tighter and tighter the more the wearer struggled. He also pulled out the mask he’d made to keep its wearer sedated. It allowed him to adjust the dosage to make his captive more pliant or aware as he pleased. “I let you get away from me before but you’re never getting away from me again.” He growled.

Arms wrapped around him, crushing his ribs and stealing his breath. Valentine was thrown against the back wall. Stunned he tried to breathe and looked up. The shopkeeper casually picked him up by the neck and threw him into the dark recesses of the store’s back rooms. Her chestnut hair, now streaked with grey, hung limply atop her skull. Green eyes now clouded over and milky still seemed to see with perfect clarity in the darkness. Worn brown and blackened teeth smiled at him. “I really am communicating with Dana ya know. She actually was in love with you once, you prick. Fortunately for her, you killed her and cured her of it. She wants me to take my time eating you. That works for me. I like my meals fresh. You should be glad Valentine. This day’s all about you.”

About the Author

“I’m big into horror and urban fantasy. I’ve only just been introduced to the realm of steampunk. I live in Tucson, Arizona.”