On the blog today – An excerpt from Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey
Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.
When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.
Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.
Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.
Here’s an excerpt:
Café Conversation – Inspiration in Death
“Garçon,” Averill summoned a passing waiter and ordered another absinthe.“Averill…” she started to ask some question to engage him, but he looked at her blankly, lost in some inner turmoil.
“For once we’re all here.”
Dispensing with pleasantries, Paul pulled out a notebook and turned to Averill. “How many poems do you plan for the next issue?”
When Averill only stared bleakly at the street, Paul poked him with his pencil. “Tu as le cafard?”
Theo wondered how having a cockroach ever came to be equated with depression.
“Poems?” Paul repeated with another prod.
Averill frowned. “I have only two that seem right. Another two I am unhappy with but know will improve. Bits and pieces of others.”
“What two are finished?”
“Another Salomé poem. Cupid and Psyche.”
“Bluebeard?” Paul asked. “You did promise me Gilles de Rais.”
Averill shook his head. “Something about Bluebeard is incomplete, imperfect.”
Bluebeard again. Theo frowned. Sometimes Gilles de Rais seemed like a revenant walking through Paris. Present but never quite in sight.
“I want Bluebeard,” Paul insisted. “I want that ultimate darkness.”
Averill gestured in frustration. “First I must finish the poem of my little Venus.”
“Venus? Greek myth?” Paul asked. “Erotic?”
“No. It’s about the girl I found in the cemetery,” he whispered, no louder than Jules.
Shaken, Theo wondered how Averill could bear to write about the child. And yet, for the past week, she had been obsessed with the fire, with destruction, with death. Her scrawled sketches of the burning building, the charred wreckage, had not exorcized the most terrible image from her mind. Over and over, Mélanie came toward her in a white skirt circled with flame. It was too horrible. Theo had resisted making a drawing. Now she felt she would not be free until she did.
“Not fairy tale or myth, but your little Venus appears to be a revenant,” Casimir said.
Paul scribbled in his notebook. “Yes, that might work.”
“There is another Venus poem I began earlier. A pantoum.”
“Excellent.” Turning to Theo, Paul explained, “The second and third lines of the preceding stanza repeat in the next, repetition creating rhythm.”
“I want to make them a duet of sorts. Grand et petit…” Averill trailed off, staring into his absinthe. Theo didn’t know what was wrong. Suddenly, he lifted his head, looking round at them. “The poem is frozen!” he blurted out. “I must see her again, or I won’t be able to finish it.”
Paul’s eyebrows ascended. “I do not want to dig up a grave to raise your revenant.”
“No! The papers say she has not been identified. They have put her on display. I must go to the morgue.” Averill sounded desperate. He turned to Casimir. “Come with me.”
Casimir hesitated, then conceded. “Of course, if you wish it.”
Theo was appalled. How much death did Averill need to see? Did he only feel alive when it was close? The fire at the bazaar, the body in the cemetery, were cruel strokes of fate. But Verlaine’s funeral, the catacombs had been events he sought out. Of course, it was Casimir who had invited them all to the catacombs—but Averill had been the most eager to attend.
A hollow ache filled her stomach. Theo had to admit that she did understand Averill. She understood what it was to be haunted, to be possessed. Mélanie was her revenant, begging to exist if only as a painted image.
“I will go with you too,” Theo said quietly, though she hated the thought of the morgue. She had discovered it by mistake after exploring Notre Dame. It stood at the eastern tip of the Île de la Cité, where bodies found in the Seine could easily be brought by boat. Theo had approached cheerfully, mistaking the colorful crowd for something festive. Rich and poor, young and old were gathered outside. There was even a puppet show. All sorts of pastries and drinks were being hawked. Then she heard one of the many vendors promoting his curative ointment, his “pâté de morgue.” Realizing where she was, Theo watched, stunned, as parents hustled their children inside, a family outing to view the corpses on display. Ever since, Theo had avoided the somber building. Until today.
“I too would like to see this little Venus of yours,” Paul said. “The Revenantsshould all go, especially those who avoided the catacombs or did not witness the fire.”
Theo wanted to clobber Paul. “Must everything be an aesthetic show? Misery, grief, horror?”
Paul sat back and surveyed her. “Anger is much improved with aesthetics.”
Before she could respond to that back-handed compliment, Casimir whispered in her ear. “Paul is clever, chère Amazone. Our Averill must go. Will not a little human padding protect him?”
“Perhaps,” Theo said reluctantly.
“An artist must have courage,” Paul asserted. “No one escapes their fears, but the artist must face them, conquer them.”
“The artist must gaze deep into the abyss,” Jules agreed fervently. “You must search out your demons—even stir them.”
“Maybe demons should be treated with more respect,” Theo ventured, feeling a coward as she did. She had completely believed what they said—until she had a Devil to beware.
“Demons make better muses than angels,” Paul replied. “They spend more time communing with mortals. They infest reality.”
“I’ve had more than enough reality,” Theo said. More than enough hellfire.
“You are more real than the rest of us,” Averill murmured to his absinthe. “You are sunlight. We are shadow.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Theo heard nothing but her own clamoring heartbeat. Averill had never given her such an extravagant compliment. But it wasn’t just his words, it was the catch in his voice as he said them. It was almost as if he’d said he loved her. Almost.
“You underestimate us, Averill,” Casimir said. “We are more substantial than shadow. We are dense as night.”
“Shadow. Night. Wolves baying at a blood red moon,” Jules intoned.
Theo felt like she was staring into the depths of the Tarot card, seeing the Moon’s reflected light quivering in the oily waters of the fetid pool. She felt a sudden chill.
“To the theatre of the people.” Paul gave a feral grin. “To the morgue!”
Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.
She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters. Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.
Social Media Links:
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Thanks to Yves for a lively and intriguing excerpt
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