All summer long we’re featuring great e-books at great prices as part of our “Pocket Star-E Nights” program! With the help of some amazing blog partners (our “Shooting Stars”), we’re sharing some deliciously decadent excerpts of these terrific novels. If you like what you’re reading, you can purchase the book via the buy links just below this post.
Today’s excerpt is from acclaimed urban fantasy author Jeff Somers; his new book, FIXER, is available right now for FREE! The underground mages who practice blood magic—casting with a swipe of the blade and a few secretive Words—are not good people. Lem and Mags live in this world, and they try to be good and scratch out a meager existence without harming anyone…much. But when a massive debt forces Lem into the role of Fixer, he’ll learn exactly what down and out really means.
continued excerpt of FIXER:
Gassing up money was harder than it seemed. When I’d made the break with Hiram, the round man yelling, telling me I was making a mistake and that when I came crawling back it would be too late, I’d been pretty sure I’d be able to make a living. When you could cast a Charm, gas up a dollar to look like a hundred, blind someone—all with a slash of blood and a few Words—how could you lose?
It was simple: Blood plus the Words made things happen. Magic. It didn’t have to be your blood, but for me it always was.
But Charms faded, and when they faded, people came looking for you. And if you misspoke one Word, shit fell apart and you got a feedback smack for your trouble. If you bled over and over again, cutting yourself to fuel the spell—because magic was greedy, magic was the universe taking your life and spending it elsewhere, using up your lifeblood and aging you prematurely—you wound up half dead, too weak to stand. The more blood; the bigger the payoff. And if you fucked it all up, no one was amazed. If you fucked it up, they came looking for you just like any other grifter losing his touch.
And if you decided to just try and find another ustari, begging them to take you in and show you a few more things, just to get some polish, they took one look at you and told you they could see your still-intact bond of urtuku and refused to have shit to do with you. The other ustari wouldn’t teach you one fucking Word if you were bonded to another one of them.
So you had to be creative to survive. I was proud of the scheme. As far as I knew, none of the other grifters that hung around Rue’s had ever thought of something like it. It was fucking elegant. It wouldn’t take much gas, and if it was labor-intensive, why not? I had time on my hands. Best of all, it didn’t require Pitr Mags to do much. The success or failure of any scheme, I was coming to realize, depended inversely on how much Pitr had to do to make it work.
The idea of ditching the big man had occurred to me. It was the smart thing to do. Pitr made it impossible to be inconspicuous, he was expensive to feed, and if I relaxed for a second he tended to inflict property damage. He whimpered in his sleep and followed me around with a single-minded intensity that made me think that I was going to someday wake up to find him cheerfully killing me in preparation for using my skin on some sort of Lem Vonnegan–shaped doll. He went through periods of asking me endless questions I couldn’t answer; he seemed to have the idea that I’d become his gasam somehow—that Hiram had given him to me. Hiram had certainly scraped Mags off his shoes in my general direction, and so skillfully I hadn’t even noticed him doing it. I didn’t recall a bill of sale or a deed being transferred; leaving him would have been smart.
But I couldn’t do it. And it wasn’t just the fear that an irate and betrayed Pitr Mageshkumar would track me down and crush me—weeping uncontrollably the whole time, of course—and would then carry my skeletal remains around like some sort of lucky charm for the rest of his life. Alone, Mags would die. From simple fucking loneliness. And when I imagined him sitting sad and alone somewhere, shrinking, I couldn’t just walk away from him.
So anyway: the suit. Black, shiny at the elbows and knees, two mismatched buttons—but it was the first suit I’d ever owned, or worn. Like a sign from fucking god, there had been a matching one that just about fit Mags. Not really fit. You could hear the seams groaning and protesting every time he moved—but close enough. As a man who’d dreamed and then confirmed that magic was real, I was ready and willing to pay attention to signs.
I didn’t have a cute name for the scheme. A lot of the con artists—the Tricksters, the idimustari, or “little magicians”—that hung around Rue’s had stupid names for every con they pulled. The Hail Mary. The False Friend. The With Two You Get Robbed. Every single con they pulled, they had a playbook for it. Whole conversations, fucking mystifying.
I hadn’t bothered with the cute name. I was just proud of the mechanics. The same way I’d been proud when I’d put together my first spell, making a pencil float off Hiram’s desk with a pin in my index finger and two Words, just three syllables, and Hiram looking at me with something that was almost respect. Or, if not respect, newfound interest.
It worked like this: Hit the newspaper want ads and the internet boards, look for house sitting. High end, nice places—but not so nice the owners weren’t nosing around to save themselves some fees and stay away from a service. Show up and nail the interview, maybe a little gas in the air to smooth things out. Or, if you’re hungover, unshaven, and smell a little bit like you’re living in an abandoned car with your oversized platonic companion, bleed out a lot of gas. Then, once you’re living there and the mark is out of the country or wherever, you rent the fucking place. Two months in advance. Cash. From as many people as you can herd in there.