Something Strange and Deadly

Free Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

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Authors: Susan Dennard
here?
    â€œMr. Boyer,” I said, “that’s the spirit my mother let out last night.”
    His lips compressed. “You are certain?”
    â€œPositive.” I shuddered, and hugged my arms to my chest. “It smells... it smells like dirt, and it’s so cold.”
    â€œAh.” Lines etched their way over Joseph’s brow. “Then it is a very powerful spirit indeed.”
    â€œMr. Boyer!” a Cockney voice shouted. I glanced down the nearest aisle of machinery and saw a cluster of men striding toward us.
    â€œReporters,” Joseph spat, his nose curling. “Even worse, Mr. Peger. He only writes half of what I say, and never the important half.”
    My mouth went dry. I shrank behind Joseph. “I’m not sure I want to see reporters.”
    Joseph gave me a concerned glance and opened his mouth to speak, but the men were upon us.
    â€œHello, ma’am,” said one of them, tipping his hat. “Were you trapped in the building during the attack? Did you see anything? Are you connected with the Spirit-Hunters? Did they rescue you?” He sang out question after question, leaving me no time to answer.
    I faltered back several steps. I couldn’t be in the newspaper. Someone would certainly see mention of me, and then Mama would find out I’d been with the Spirit-Hunters; she’d know I’d been with people of “low society” and, worst of all, that I’d been there because I needed help dealing with the Dead.
    I lifted my hands defensively and shook my head as more of the reporters approached me. Nearby, Joseph fared no better.
    A squat, square man with shimmering golden curls had attached himself to Joseph; and despite the reporter’s much smaller size, the Spirit-Hunter somehow seemed the tinier of the two.
    When one of my reporters requested my name, I made a decision. I’d had quite enough, and what were a bunch of reporters compared to an army of Dead? I lowered my head, lifted my skirts, and pummeled through.
    It wasn’t until I was several blocks away, gasping for breath and coated in sweat, that I realized I stank like the Dead.

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
    HarperCollins Publishers
    .....................................................................
    C HAPTER S EVEN
    T hank the merciful heavens Mama was away when I reached home. She was calling on all our guests from last night—no doubt to explain away the evening’s unusual events.
    I bribed Mary to help me wash the dress. Her price was steep: a pair of kid gloves. But a lost pair of gloves was easier to explain than a foul-walking dress. Fortunately, Mary had been so pleased by her payment she hadn’t bothered to ask about my need for secrecy, or my smelly dress.
    Several hours later, just as the sun was beginning its descent, Mama returned and cornered me in my bedroom, clucking with joy over Clarence’s invitation for a drive. Apparently Mrs. Wilcox had shared the news— and invited us to the opera the following Saturday.
    It was actually the best possible turn of events, for now Mama had to let me leave home without an adult (for how else could I go join Clarence?), she couldn’t be angry over my morning escape with Allison (woo the sister while wooing the brother), and she was so delighted by our opera invitation she seemed unable to think of anything else.
    The only thing that didn’t work in my favor was that I couldn’t sneak back to the Spirit-Hunters lab on Sunday morning as I’d hoped. Mama and Mary pounced the minute I’d finished my breakfast. While Mary brushed my pistachio silk carriage dress, Mama tugged the laces of my corset as tight as they would go. She grunted and I groaned, and we sounded like the giant hogs I’d seen at the zoo—except that, rather than play in the mud and eat to my heart’s content, I was forced to sit daintily in the parlor without lunch. For two hours. With my

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