Authors: Abigail Roux
PO Box 6652
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Gravedigger's Brawl
Copyright Â© 2012 by Abigail Roux
Cover Art by Reese Dante,
Editor: Tiffany Maxwell and Rachel Haimowitz
Layout: L.C. Chase,
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For Sara, my grandmother. She passed away nine years ago, but my three-year-old daughter has been talking about her since she could speak.
Dr. Wyatt Case is never happier than when he's walking the halls of his history museum. Playing wingman for his best friend at Gravedigger's Tavern throws him way out of his comfort zone, but not as much as the eccentric man behind the bar, Ash Lucroix.
Ash is everything Wyatt doesn't understand: exuberant, quirky, and elbow deep in a gaslight lifestyle that weaves history into everyday life. He coordinates his suspenders with his tongue rings. Within hours, Wyatt and Ash are hooked.
But strange things are afoot at Gravedigger's, and after a knock to the head, Ash starts seeing things that can't be explained by old appliances or faulty wiring. Soon everyone at Gravedigger's is wondering if they're seeing ghosts, or just going crazy. The answer to that question could end more than just Wyatt and Ash's fragile relationshipâit might also end their lives.
Dr. Wyatt Case sat at his desk with his eyes closed, listening for the sound of footsteps in the outer office. His assistant had orders to stop anyone trying to see him with as much fanfare as possible so he'd have time to prepare for the confrontation. Or hide. But she was on her lunch hour and Wyatt was on his own for the moment.
The outer door creaked open and his entire body began to tense as if anticipating a physical blow. There were two voicesâone male, one femaleâdiscussing his whereabouts. Wyatt slid out of his chair to his knees and crawled into the kick space beneath his antique desk.
He wasn't ashamed, either.
It had been a stressful week and Wyatt wasn't used to that kind of thing. His mind wasn't built for strain, and his museum ran smoothly for the most part. But the trustees had been at him all week, jabbering about how the construction of the museum's new wing was hurting attendance and they needed a fresh exhibit to draw in the crowds.
Wyatt hated to tell them, but the only crowds the Virginia Historical Society would be drawing this time of year were screaming schoolchildren and die-hard history buffs who would come to the museum regardless of construction or new exhibits. In late September, the summer crowds were all gone, and the weather was nice enough that people were still trying to squeeze life and fresh air from the outdoors.
There was a curt knock, and the door to his office opened.
“Now where in the world could he be?” Edgar Reth, the acting president of the society grumbled.
Wyatt closed his eyes, putting his hand over his mouth. One snicker and he was done for.
almost lunchtime,” a woman said. Emelda Ramsay had sat on the board since before Wyatt was born. She was old Virginia money, concerned with nothing but the welfare of the museum and the historical society, rising above the politics and financial pressures that many trustees had fallen to over the years. She had been a key proponent of Wyatt's when he'd been brought to Richmond to take over the museum and Wyatt considered her a friend and mentor. It was certainly bad form to be hiding from her beneath the very desk her grandfather had donated, but that was life. He was tired of her having to defend him from Reth, who was a pompous ass, but had clout. If Wyatt couldn't please the trustees, not even Emelda could save him.
Emelda's sensible flats echoed on the hardwood floors as she walked toward the desk. “I'll just leave him a note,” she said as her feet came into view.
Wyatt rolled his eyes. This was ridiculous. He crawled out from under the desk, and Emelda gasped as he appeared at her feet.
“Dr. Case!” She pressed her hand to her chest.
Wyatt stood, dusting off his sleeves. “My apologies, Emelda, I didn't mean to frighten you.”
“Dr. Case, what in the world were you doing under there?” Reth demanded.
Wyatt glanced at him, schooling his features into innocence. “Pilates.”
“You do Pilates under your desk?”
“You don't?” Wyatt asked, eyes going wide.
Emelda cleared her throat and smoothed a hand over her smart blazer. “Indeed.”
“What can I do for you?” Wyatt asked as he looked between them.
Reth waved a file folder at him. “Have you seen the most recent numbers?”
“Why yes, Dr. Reth, I believe you emailed them to me. Three times. And had a courier deliver them to me. At my home. Which . . . wasn't creepy at all.”
“Dr. Case, do you realize that we're talking about your future here at the museum?” Reth asked. Wyatt could practically see the steam rising from his head.
Wyatt rubbed a finger across his eyebrow and nodded. He'd given them idea after idea, exhausting his mental stores as he laid out plans for all the possible exhibits they could create with the artifacts they had on hand. They couldn't get any artifacts of significance on loan in the short period of time before the new exhibit was due, they couldn't purchase or barter anything new, and they couldn't pull magic out of their asses.
If they had listened to Wyatt and his subordinates when the plans for the new wing had been pushed through, they could have been prepared. Wyatt had tried to show them the cost of the remodel, and not just the monetary cost. He'd been overruled, though, and now they seemed shocked by the drop in attendance.
Reth tossed the file onto the desk. “If a solution is not presented to the board by the end of the week, you're done here, Case. Is that clear enough?”
“Crystal,” Wyatt said through gritted teeth.
Reth turned on his heel and stormed out of the office. Wyatt sighed and turned to Emelda, who was shaking her head and frowning.
“He's going to ask for your dismissal next month if we don't have something spectacular to show the trustees.”
Emelda patted his arm and smiled encouragingly. “I have faith.”
Wyatt couldn't help but laugh. “In what?”
She raised her eyebrows and cocked her head, surprised. “In you, Dr. Case.”
Wyatt smiled weakly as she walked away. She shut the office door behind her, and Wyatt sank to his chair and held his head in his hands. After a few minutes to compose himself, he glanced up at one of the framed posters on his wall, a copy of an original Thurston show marquee. It advertised “the Great Magician” and pictured Thurston at a desk, bent over a large tome being held up by red imps. The Devil leaned over him, reading over his shoulder and holding his oil lamp for him.