I’ve been planning to do this post for literally a month, and now that it’s time to hit “publish” all I’m doing is worrying about it. The Prometheus Tapestry is, or will be, the first in my weird-ass urban fantasy series which is the ultimate reason for all of these posts about Arthurian legend. Finances willing, I’ll be putting this book out in early 2020, but I thought people might enjoy a little bit of the opening in the meantime.
Not much else to report this week. I’ve been watching The Umbrella Academy and continuing to work on the second draft of the sequel to Tapestry while waiting for beta comments.
Zari squared her shoulders and walked up to the front door of the funeral home. She stopped there and glanced at Sheila, who nodded encouragement. The two of them went in. A man in a black suit met them in the foyer.
“The Waine service?” Zari asked.
“This way.” He walked ahead of the two women and gestured toward a door. “Please let me know if we may be of any help.”
“Thank you.” Zari took off her coat before they went in, conscious of its brightness. Orange vintage didn’t suit the occasion, but she hadn’t had any choice about wearing it, not on the last day of the coldest November in years. In the viewing room, music played just loudly enough for her to register its presence without identifying the piece. Three dozen straight-backed chairs waited at the far end of the room. Beyond their orderly ranks, Justin’s coffin stood bracketed by bouquets of flowers. Someone had put together a few of his photographs—all serene, beautiful shots, nothing that might challenge the viewer.
A middle-aged white man and woman stood talking near the middle of the long room. They glanced at Zari with surprise; she hesitated and took mental stock. She wore the navy suit she got out for job interviews. A matching headband held back the unruly cloud of her hair, and she had her most conservative gold stud earrings in. Zari nevertheless felt the woman’s lingering glance, the cautious smile that wanted to ask are you sure you’re in the right place? She put on a confident air and nodded to the woman, who returned the gesture and went back to her conversation.
“How long did you know him?” Sheila asked as she shrugged off her own coat. She had toned down her own look for the occasion, with only a touch of black lace on her dress. An ankh necklace glimmered against her pale throat.
“Couple of years now. I wouldn’t say I knew him well, really, so I don’t know why it’s hitting me like this. Maybe just because it’s so random and so stupid? I mean, I just saw him on Saturday, and now… here we are.” She looked around the room with a sense of unreality.
“They still haven’t found the guy?” Sheila sat down and tucked an errant strand of black hair into place.
“Not that I heard.” Early Sunday morning, while Zari had been asleep under her comforter and her cats, someone had broken into Justin’s condo on the outskirts of Boston and shot him. “Looked like a robbery. It happens.” Even to blameless corporate resume-sifters with a photography side business.
“I guess, but yikes.” If Sheila felt awkward about providing moral support at a total stranger’s funeral, she didn’t show it. “He didn’t have any family?”
“His parents are dead. Obituary didn’t mention anyone else. He never said anything to me about any other relatives, either.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t sure whether I ought to come, but I figured there wouldn’t be too many people here, given that.” Zari looked toward the front of the room. “I guess I’d better.” She drew a bracing breath and walked up to the coffin alone. The flowers’ muddy scent filled the air.
Part of her expected Justin to appear strikingly different than he had only a few days before, but the funeral home had done their work well. He looked younger than the forty-three his obituary claimed. No gray touched his blond hair. Sedentary years had padded his frame and once-chiseled features, but he had been a good-looking man. Although this wasn’t her first funeral, Zari still found it hard to think of his pale eyes never again narrowing in thought, his energy stilled forever because somebody wanted his watch.
She whispered, “Thanks for everything,” through the tightness in her throat.
The black-suited man reappeared and asked them all to be seated. More people had arrived, two dozen all told. They were nearly all people Justin had worked with, Zari gathered from the overheard murmurs, along with a couple who stayed in the back and didn’t seem to know anyone else there. Either none of them had actually known Justin well enough to share any memories, or they all felt too awkward to do so in this company. Zari certainly didn’t want to talk about any of her own.
“You have a portfolio online, I imagine?”he asked.
“Well yes, but I’m here about the marketing position. I’m not sure—”
“You’re here because you need to make ends meet while you work on your own projects. I know the situation well. Let’s see what we can do about that.”
The service had a perfunctory air that left Zari feeling like nothing had been finished. Afterward, she found the officiant and asked about the burial.
He glanced at his watch. “About an hour from now, at Mt. Auburn. Halcyon Lake.”
“Thank you.” She looked at Sheila. “You can head on back to the office. I’d like to go to this. See it through. I don’t think there’s gonna be a ton of people who want to go out in this weather for it.”
“If you’re sure you’ll be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. Thanks for coming along.”
“No problem.” Sheila gave her a hug. “You take it easy tonight. See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” Zari bundled herself back up and headed outside. A brisk mile walk brought her to the cemetery. Plantings and low hills screened the sections off from one another, bordered by winding paths. Fresh snow veiled the rows of monuments, but a backhoe lurked among the bare trees like someone wearing the wrong thing at a party.
She felt numb and tired as the ceremony went forward, hurried along by the steadily thickening snowfall. The already small group from the funeral home had been winnowed down to five—herself, two of Justin’s former co-workers, and the couple who hadn’t spoken to anyone else there. Routine loomed ahead—going home, feeding the cats, going to bed, to work. Time would pass, and grass would grow beside the tiny artificial lake, leaves fall on a modest stone marker that no one would visit. She felt herself stepping back mentally, framing the scene as she would a painting.
Zari snapped out of her distraction to find the officiant giving her a concerned look. “Um.” She mustered a smile of reassurance. “I’m all right. Thanks. Have a nice night.” Everyone else had gone already. Hunting in her pockets for the bus schedule as she walked back toward the gates, she encountered obstacles she did not remember along the way—unpruned trees and bushes, a steep rise in the landscape, a ditch crossed by a decaying plank bridge. Her path ended in the center of a circle of headstones. One crow called; a chorus answered. Zari squinted at her map in the fading light. She couldn’t hear any traffic noise, so she had obviously been walking in the wrong direction for a while now. Annoyed with herself, she struck off uphill, toward what she hoped was the northern edge of the cemetery. Near the top of the rise, she tripped over something that gave underfoot, glanced down and swallowed a yelp as she stumbled back.
She had stepped on an arm.