The Final Death

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The Final Death  

By Gail Z. Martin 

Chapter One - Scrimshaw

Sometimes, big trouble starts with small things. If I knew then what I know now, I might have put that carved piece of ivory back in its envelope and marked 'return to sender' on the outside. But I had no way to know that pretty little disk was going to lead me straight into a tangle of old secrets, restless ghosts, and people who just wouldn't stay dead. 

"Hey Cassidy! What do you make of this?" Teag Logan, my store manager, best friend, and occasional bodyguard held up a yellowed, carved oval disk.  

"I'd need to see it up close to tell, but off-hand, I'd say it's scrimshaw, carved ivory," I replied. "And depending on how old it is, that little oval could get us in a heap of trouble." 

"I'm pretty sure it was made long enough ago to be legal," Teag replied. "The real question I've got is, is it haunted?" 

I'm Cassidy Kincaide, owner of Trifles and Folly, an antiques and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. Most people think we're just a place to find the perfect funky knick-knack, or an awesome piece of vintage jewelry. Truth is, we protect the people of Charleston-and the world-by making sure dangerous magical objects get taken out of circulation. When we succeed, no one notices. When we screw up, the damage usually gets blamed on a natural disaster.  

I've got a couple of secrets. Few people know that I'm a psychometric-I can 'read' the history of objects by touching them. It's a talent that runs in the family. Trifles and Folly has been around for over three hundred and fifty years, since Charleston was first founded. My business partner, Sorren, has been around for nearly six hundred years. He's a vampire, and was once the best jewel thief in Belgium. That's my second secret. I'm the latest in a long line of family members who use our magical talents to protect the good people of this city and keep the dark things at bay.  

When Teag held up the ivory disk, I guessed that it might be a 'sparkler'-what we call something that has enough psychic resonance to carry a touch of magic, but nothing dangerous. I was hoping it wasn't a 'spooky'-our term for objects that are either haunted or potentially dangerous. No way to tell until I touched it and no telling what the effect would be on me until it was too late to change my mind. 

"Let's close up. Then I'll take a look," I said. It was quiet for a summer day, probably because of the heat. Charleston is known for its beautiful gardens, but most people forget that those plants grow so well because of our high temperatures and insanely high humidity. Even with the air conditioning on, the store was warm. I slipped a limp lock of strawberry-blonde hair behind my ear. My Scots-Irish coloring means I burn easily in the sun and get pink in the face when I'm too warm, not ideal for a Charleston summer.  

Teag flipped the door sign to 'Closed'. We turned out the lights in the shop, and went into the break room. Just in case, Teag poured me a glass of sweet tea, made the Charleston way with enough sugar to give your fillings a buzz. I sat down at the small table, and Teag pushed the envelope toward me. 

"Where did it come from?" I asked. 

"I've got a friend who's an urban explorer," Teag replied. "He found it near the ruins of an abandoned plantation house. 

"Urban explorer, huh?" I replied, eyeing the envelope, not ready to touch the contents yet. "You mean someone who goes poking around forgotten subway tunnels and spooky deserted amusement parks to take pictures?" 

Teag grinned. "Got it in one. The UrbEx folks like to document urban decay and explore man-made places everyone else has forgotten about." He poured himself a glass of sweet tea, and sat down in a chair facing me. "Of course, we don't have some of the really amazing old stuff like they've got in New York and Chicago below street level, but they still manage to find some great places to explore." 

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