The Reburialists - J. C. Nelson
This book would not exist without the aid of a number of people who listened as I bounced my ideas off them, read drafts so raw they contained splinters, or helped me revise and polish until this became something I’m proud of. Thanks to the gang at CC. Laurel, Andy, John, Lexi, and Chris, I really appreciate your time.
My agent, Pam Howell, remains a bundle of awesome. My editor, Leis Pederson, gave me great insights into how to make the story even better.
And my family, who put up with me getting up early and going to bed late as I told yet another story. Thanks to you all.
Putting the dead in their graves was easy; keeping them there gave me a full-time job. A job that came with hazard pay, full medical coverage, and a life insurance policy that covered every form of death from being buried in a lost tomb to stung to death by scorpions. It didn’t cover getting stabbed on a fire escape by a jealous woman. So I climbed the fire escape of a hotel in Greece like the building was on fire (it wasn’t) and like my life depended on making it to the top (it probably did).
Beneath me, my date from last night’s champagne ball cursed in Greek. The only part I understood for certain was my name, Brynner, and that her name was most definitely not Athena. Athena would be her sister, my date from the night before.
I patted the knives sheathed on my hips and checked my messenger bag. Wallet? Check. Passport? Good. Cell phone? Thank God. Fresh pine branch, sharpened to a point? All the essentials. Not that any of those would help me against an angry woman or her sister.
On the rooftop, I crouched behind two air conditioners. They rattled and labored against the summer night.
“Brynner?” She insisted on mispronouncing my name. Briner is what you soak a ham in before you cook it. Brynner, like the grin I’d turned on her the night before, was mine. She looked over the edge of the far side. All I had to do was wait for her to climb down, and I could make a dash for the roof access door.
My cell phone rang from inside my bag, like the worst-timed game of Marco Polo ever.
She spun, zeroing in on the noise. “Brynner.” She circled the air conditioner to where I crouched, my shirt unbuttoned, the white bandages across my chest barely concealing fresh stitches.
“Hi . . . Elena.”
She pointed the knife at me, trembling with rage. We’d enjoyed a wonderful room-service breakfast until she answered the hotel door and had an awkward conversation with her sister. “What is my name?”
My cell rang again, the emergency tone. I flipped it out with one hand and kept my eyes on Dimitra. Dina? Now that I thought about it, it wasn’t clear which of the two lovely embassy representatives had chased me out the window. “Can you give me a moment?” I asked her, holding both hands up as I backed away. Jealous women and angry badgers deserved their space. “Brynner Carson speaking.”
A computerized voice on the other end barked out, “We have a situation, asshole. Get a move on to the shipping district. Car’s out front.” That would be Dale Hogman, field team commander of the Bureau of Special Investigations.
“Call someone else. We just had a situation, and I’m in a bit of a situation myself right now.”
Elinda? Athena? She yelled at me in Greek, something about a goat and my mother.
“Is that the native you had draped over you last night? Saw her on the telecast.” Dale didn’t bother hiding his amusement. Or his familiarity with the scenario.
“Could be her twin from the night before.” I’d consumed more than my share of wine even before moving to a more private celebration.
“Love her and leave her. We’ve got a moldy-oldy on its feet. Trust me, no one else is going to be able to handle this one.” Dale cut the call off, right as Etria came for me.
She swung the knife at me in a high overhand arc, not bad for killing a mummy, but not the best way to carve out a man’s heart.
I stepped to the side and caught her wrist, spinning her around.
A younger me would have leaned in to kiss her before dashing away. A younger me once got kicked in the family jewels for doing exactly that, so I let her land rump first and ran for the stairwell.