A Book of Spirits and Thieves - Morgan Rhodes

Chapter 1


“Be careful where you point that thing, young lady. It’ll get you in trouble one day.”

The old man Crys had been stalking for twenty minutes glared at her through the lens of her camera. The deep wrinkles she’d found so fascinating now gathered between his eyes as he creased his forehead.

She snapped a picture.

“Thanks for the advice,” she said, flashing him a grin before she quickly made her escape.

It would be a great shot, one of her best yet. Eyes that had seen at least eighty years of life. A face, weathered and aged, with a thousand stories to tell. Definitely portfolio-worthy.

Crys passed a bank with a digital clock in the window and winced when she saw the time. Becca’s going to kill me, she thought.

The last class had let out at three o’clock, but because she hadn’t gone to school today, she’d completely lost track of time. She could smell spring in the air, finally, after such a long, cold winter. The cool breeze felt fresh and clean and full of possibilities, even beneath the scent of cement and dust and exhaust fumes.

It was five minutes to six when she finally made it to her destination. Five minutes to closing.

The Speckled Muse Bookshop was located on the west edge of the Annex, a Toronto neighborhood adjacent to the U of T campus and the Royal Ontario Museum. Busy streets, a young crowd—thanks to the proximity to the university—lots of restaurants and little independent shops.

Crys paused and snapped a shot of the weathered sign out front—she’d taken the same pic from nearly every angle possible over the last couple of years. Along with the name of the shop written in quirky, painted letters, there was an illustration of a little girl with big glasses, pigtails, and a sprinkling of freckles, sitting on top of a stack of books.

It was a caricature of Crys from when she was five years old, before she even knew how to read. Before she got contacts for her annoying nearsightedness and used her thick glasses only when she absolutely had to.

Back when the Hatchers were a whole family, not just three-quarters of one.

Something warm brushed against her leg, and she lowered her camera with a frown. “Who let you out, Charlie?”

Charlie, an adorable black-and-white kitten, replied with a tiny mew that seemed to have a question mark attached to it.

“Come on.” Crys leaned over and picked him up, pressing him against her chest. “You’re way too close to the street out here, little guy.”

A month ago, when it was early March and still freezing cold, she’d found the kitten next to a garbage can a block away from the store and next to her favorite sushi place. He’d been no bigger than the palm of her hand, and looked forlorn and miserable. She’d brought the shivering handful home and insisted they keep him.

Her mother had taken one look at him and said no. But Crys’s younger sister, Becca, immediately stepped in and argued on behalf of the tiny feline’s fate. Between her two daughters’ joint arguments, Julia Hatcher finally relented. It was the first time in ages that Crys and Becca had agreed on anything. Becca then named him Charlie after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of her favorite books.

Now Crys pushed open the glass front door, triggering the familiar, melodious chime of the doorbell that signaled a customer had entered. Immediately, she felt the heat of Becca’s glare from across the shop.

Yeah, I know. I’m late, she thought. What else is new?

The mail lay on a small table near the door in an untouched heap. Several brown cardboard boxes of books were stacked next to it.

The Speckled Muse was housed in a historical three-story building—one of the oldest in Toronto, dating to the mid-nineteenth century. Crys’s great-grandfather, a man of wealth and influence in the city, had purchased the building seventy years earlier and given it to his book-loving wife so she could open a bookstore. The current sign was relatively new, but the name of the shop was more than sixty years old.

If only great-granddaddy hadn’t squandered his fortune on poor investments, leaving nothing for his family line apart from the bookshop itself.

The Speckled Muse—a Toronto landmark. One of the oldest bookstores in one of the oldest buildings and, as many ancient edifices were, rumored to be haunted. Crys had yet to see evidence of a ghost—apart from hearing the occasional groans and creaks that are normal in any old building.

All of