One week from today, Tuesday, April 4, is the official release date for WHERE THE DEAD LIE, the twelfth in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. To whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek at the beginning!
Monday, 13 September 1813: hours before dawn
The boy hated this part. Hated the eerie way the pale, waxen faces of the dead seemed to glow in the faintest moonlight. Hated being left alone with a stiffening body while he dug its grave.
He kicked the shovel deep into the ground and felt his heart leap painfully in his chest when the scrape of dirt against metal sounded dangerously loud in the stillness of the night. He sucked in a quick breath, the musty smell of damp earth thick in his nostrils, his fingers tightening on the smooth wooden handle as he paused to cast a panicked glance over one shoulder.
A mist was drifted up from the Fleet to curl around the base of the nearby shot tower and creep along the crumbling brick walls of the abandoned warehouses beyond it. He heard a dog bark somewhere in the distance and, nearer, a soft thump.
What was that?
The boy waited, his mouth dry, his body tense and trembling. But the sound was not repeated. He swiped a ragged sleeve across his sweaty face, swallowed hard, and bent into his work. He was uncomfortably aware of the cloaked gentleman watching from the seat of the cart that waited at the edge of the field. The gentleman had helped drag Benji’s body over to the looming shot tower. But he never helped dig. Gentlemen didn’t dig graves, although they could and did kill with a vicious delight that made the boy shiver as he threw another shovelful of dirt onto the growing pile.
The hole was beginning to take shape. Another six inches or so and he’d—
The boy’s head snapped around, and he froze.
A ragged, skeletally thin figure lurched from the gaping doorway of one of the tumbledown warehouses. “Wot ye doin’ there?”
The shovel hit the ground with a clatter as the boy bolted. He fell into the newly dug grave and went down, floundering in the loose dirt. Feet flailing, he reared up on splayed hands, found solid ground, and pushed off.
“Oye!” shouted the ghostly specter.
The boy tore across the uneven field, his breath soughing in and out, his feet pounding. He saw the gentleman in the cart jerk, saw him gather the reins and spank them hard against his horse’s rump.
“Wait for me!” screamed the boy as the cart lurched forward, its iron-rimmed wheels rattling over the rutted lane. “Stop!’
The gentleman urged the horse into a wild canter. He did not look back.
The boy leapt a low, broken stretch of the stone wall that edged the field. “Come back!”
The cart careened around the corner and out of sight, but the boy tore after it anyway. Surely the gentleman would stop for him? He wouldn’t simply leave him, would he?
The boy was sobbing now, his nose running, his chest aching as he fought to draw air into his lungs. It wasn’t until he reached the corner himself that he dared risk a frantic look back. That’s when he realized the skeletal figure wasn’t following him.
The man—for the boy saw now that it was a man and not some hideous apparition—had paused beside the raw, unfinished grave. And he was staring down at what was left of Benji Thatcher.