Tobias was always his mother’s favorite. Unlike his older brothers, he was always a thoughtful and gentle boy. He was too young to join the war effort when the Rebellion broke out in 1861, but that was probably for the best for everyone involved. Tobias lacked both the physical strength and the unflappable confidence of a good soldier, though his sweetheart Bonnie went a long way remedying the latter during their courtship.
He became “the man of the house” and took his duties as seriously as a 9-year-old could. It didn’t take long to see he had a head for figures, and helped his Boston neighbors with bookkeeping and other odd jobs before eventually becoming an accountant. But around the age of 20, he started to feel the weight of a life unlived, and got the notion into his head to go out West and try to strike it rich in California.
The ever-faithful Bonnie could see the longing in his eyes, and the two were married in a simple Catholic ceremony shortly before leaving together to pursue his romantic notion. After trials, tribulations, and a goodly dose of naivete, the couple arrived worn out and broke in the summer of 1871. To continue with his prospecting scheme, Tobias took out a loan from a local shark named Salty, but his last trip out to pan cost him far more than dollars.
After getting a tip from a mysterious stranger, Tobias’s ghost sought out a medium who could help him pay off his debt and protect Bonnie from the fallout of his death. If only he could get her to agree…
From Chapter 1 of No Rest for the Wicked
Her audience stood behind her, his decidedly unrabbitlike outline burning vivid and blue inside her skull. In one fluid motion, her blade flashed moon-bright and hurtled toward the place he stood. A hollow “thunk” told her it had hit the tree behind him, just as she’d expected from the color of his aura.
“Are you crazy?” the ghost cried, patting his chest where the knife had passed straight through him. “You could kill someone like that!”
He took a few noiseless steps away from the offending blade, as if it intended to jump out of the tree and bite him.
“You’re already dead,” she mocked. “What are you so worried about?”
“What if I wasn’t?”
With a shrug and a few splashes, Vi made her way over to the makeshift stone bench beneath the water’s surface and settled upon it. “I knew what I was doing.”
“Then what, pray tell, did you hope to accomplish with your little trick?” The insubstantial form crossed his arms and peered at her from under the brim of his transparent bowler hat. Even in death, the fine cut of his clothes marked him as an outsider the same way his accent marked him as a New Englander.
Vi twisted her hair into a coil at the top of her head before breathing out a contented sigh and resting against a pillow of moss. “I was hoping it would make you go away. So, if you don’t mind?” Her fingers fluttered in a gesture of dismissal and she closed her eyes.
A few silent seconds ticked by, and she dared to hope he’d go before his curiosity shattered the quiet again. “Where did you even pull that knife from?”
He craned his neck as if he could see beneath the silver ripples of the pool. Vi’s head snapped forward, face red from more than the heat of the spring. “It was strapped to my leg, you degenerate. Now go away. I want to finish my bath in peace.”
The ghost removed his hat and simpered, “Please, I must speak with you.”
“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” She traced shallow, annoyed furrows in the water with her fingers.
“But you don’t even know what I want.”
“It’s my wife, you see—”
“There are these men and—”
“We owe them some money—”
“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.
“But they’re going to—”
Vi raised her hands above the water and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” She let her hands drop back into the water with a splash.
If he could breathe, his chest would have been heaving in anger. In his current state, the ghost had to settle for pulling a sour face. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” He donned his spectral hat and turned to leave, mumbling to himself, “He warned you that she wouldn’t help.”
“Yep, he was right,” Vi called lazily. Then the water surged around her as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”
“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.
Vi squinted and sniffed. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t.”
The spirit smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”
She glared at the ripples on the pool. Not knowing the identity of her referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone couldn’t be worth the price of dealing with him.
Hat in hand, he tried again. “Forgive me. Please? I promise, I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”
“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself into trouble,” Vi spat. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front; you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”
“All right. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”
“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me involved.”
His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”
Vi’s smirk returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”
Find out what happens to Vi, Tobias, and Bonnie in No Rest for the Wicked by Phoebe Darqueling, available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble from Black Rose Writing. Plus, get more behind-the-scenes action on the rest of the No Rest for the Wicked blog tour!
Bryan Rainey is the author of the METAVERSE and Odyssey Star sagas. He is also the publisher and cover artist of the books.