Unclean Spirits - By Daniel Abraham

The first book in the Black Sun's Daughter series, 2008

To John Constantine


I would like to thank JB Bell, Sam Jones, and Andan Lauber for their help in inventing Jayné Heller and for handing me Guilty Pleasures back during the heyday of the Abbey. I would also like to thank Jayné Franck for lending her name. I owe debts of service and gratitude to the members of the Santa Fe Critical Mass group, including S. M. and Jan Stirling, Emily Mah, Ian Tregillis, Melinda Snodgrass, Terry England, Walter Jon Williams, Sage Walker, Vic Milan, and the auxiliary presences of Carrie Vaughn and Diana Rowland. The book would not exist without the faith and hard work of my agents, Shawna McCarthy and Danny Baror, and my editor, Jennifer Heddle. The strength of the book is very much an honor to them. Any errors are entirely my own.


It was raining in Denver the night Eric Heller died. The clouds had rolled in late in the afternoon, white pillars ascending toward the sun with a darkness at the base that was pure threat. Seven minutes after five o'clock-just in time for the rush-hour traffic-the sky opened, rain pounding down onto the streets and windows. It was still going three and a half hours later. Falling water and flashing lightning hid the sunset, but Eric could feel it. It was a side effect; he could always feel the dark coming on.

"Something's happening," the voice from his cell phone said. "Something big."

"I know, Aubrey. I'm on it."

"I mean really big."

"I'm on it."

Across from Eric in the dim orange light of the bar, a man laughed and the waitress smiled a tight little smile that didn't reach her eyes. Eric tapped his glass, the tick-tick-tick of his fingernails sounding like the rain against the window.

"Okay," Aubrey said. "But if there's something I can do, you'll tell me. Right?"

"No question," Eric said. "Take care of yourself, okay? And maybe fly low for a while. This might get a little messy."

Aubrey was a decent guy, which meant he did a lot of decent-guy things. Eric's present job didn't call for that skill set. He needed a hard-ass. And so he was sitting in this bar in one of the worst parts of Five Points, waiting for someone he'd never met while a monsoon beat the shit out of the city. And while Coin and the Invisible College did something in the dangerous almost-reality of the Pleroma. Something big.

"You want another one, Pops?" the waitress said.

"Yes," Eric said. "Yes, I do."

He'd finished the other one and moved on to a third when the door swung open. The curl of rain-chilled air moved through the bar like a breath. Then five men walked in. Four of them could have been simple violence-soaked gangbangers. The fifth one, the big sonofabitch in sunglasses, had a rider. Eric couldn't tell by looking whether it was a loupine or nosferatu or any of the other thousand species of unclean spirit that could crawl into a human body, but he could feel power coming off the man. Eric's hand twitched toward the gun in his pocket, wanting the reassuringly solid grip under his fingers. But that would be poor form.

The big sonofabitch approached and loomed over Eric, just close enough to be a provocation. The other four split up, two standing by the door, two lounging close to Eric with a fake casual air. Apart from the radio blaring out a hip-hop tune, the bar had gone silent.

"You're Tusk," Eric said. "Nice belt buckle you've got there. Shiny."

"Who the fuck are you, old man?" the big sonofabitch asked. His breath smelled like creosote. Loupine, then. A werewolf.

"My name's Eric Heller. I'm looking for someone to do a job for me."

"We look unemployed?" the big sonofabitch asked. The two who weren't by the door smiled mirthlessly. "You think some Anglo motherfucker just come in here and whistle, we gonna jump?"

Eric reached up and plucked the sunglasses off the big sonofabitch. The black eyes met his. Eric pulled his will up from his crotch, up through his belly and his throat, pressing cold qi out through his gaze. The big sonofabitch tilted his head like a dog hearing an unfamiliar sound. The others stirred, hands reaching under jackets and shirts.

"I'm looking for someone to do a job, friend," Eric said, pressing the glasses into the man's blacksmith-thick hand. "If it's not you, it's not you. No offense meant."

The big sonofabitch shook his head once, but it wasn't really a