The Hatter is Mad

By: J.A. Cipriano

The Lillim Callina Chronicles Book #2

Chapter 1

Something crashed against my eardrums, snapping my eyes open and making me glance around my tiny bedroom as I leapt to my feet, heart racing and pulse pounding.

A loud bang rattled off my front door so loud I could hear it all the way back here. I swallowed, taking a deep breath and forcing my heart to slow down as I crept forward toward the bedroom, adrenaline whisking the sleep from my addled brain. I wasn’t quite sure what time it was, but the sunlight streaming through the windows told me it had to be well into the morning.

I tried desperately to figure out who could be at my door as the banging continued, growing more and more insistent by the second. From the sound of it, if I didn’t hurry, someone was going to kick in my door, again. I grabbed my overcoat off the back of a chair and slung it around my body and the feel of the revolver in my pocket made me settle down a little.

Why did I grab my overcoat as I headed to the door? It was enchanted with spells that made it bullet proof, stab proof, and fire proof. Besides, there was near limitless space inside to hide my own personal armory.

As I reached out to turn the knob, another loud bang outside rattled the inside of my brain. I stepped backward unconsciously, and my heels tangled in a jacket on the floor. I stumbled as the door flew wide open. My hand slipped off the knob, and I fell backwards. I lunged for it while fighting for my balance and tumbled forward, arms flailing wildly. I was jerked to a stop by the scruff of my neck mere inches from the ground. The fabric of my overcoat cinched around my neck, turning my cry of pain into a sort of gurgling rasp.

“You should have been watching that last step. That one’s a doozy.” Melanie Stone grinned, holding me with both hands by the scruff of my overcoat as she stood just outside my door.

She helped me regain my balance as I silently cursed the fairy cleaning-service. It had really slacked off lately on the whole picking up after me thing. If this kept up, I might actually have to start cleaning up after myself. I shook my head in disgust. That was so not happening. If there’s one thing Lillim Callina does not do, it’s clean.

“So how are things?” Melanie asked, a strange smile on her face as her eyes ran up and down my outfit. I wriggled my toes in the pink footpads of my pajamas and sighed. That was when I realized I was standing in front of my friend wearing my navy blue overcoat and a pink onesie with sparkly ponies on it. I’d probably looked more ridiculous at some point in time, but I had a hard time remembering when.

“I’m good,” I mumbled, making a point of looking down at her as I leaned against my doorframe as nonchalantly as I could. I was Lillim Callina, supernatural badass after all. If I wanted to open the door in my pajamas, who was she to make fun of me for it? After all, Melanie stood even shorter than my five foot nothing with curly, golden locks that made her face look pixie-like. It also made her black combat boots and matching trench coat and hat look almost cute, like a five year old who had gotten into her father’s clothes.

She tipped her hat toward me like she was some kind of detective in a fifties movie, took the cigar from her lips and blew a small cloud of smoke from the corner of her mouth. Behind her, I could see her latest fling, Antonio scowling at me. He was over six feet tall and wore on each pinky finger a diamond ring that looked more like some lucky girl’s engagement ring than something a man would wear.

Hey, I wasn’t judging. It was just that where I came from men dressed like men. My father wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a dainty band like that on his pinkie. Then again, he could also chew coal and spit out diamonds, so he probably could have made anything look manly.

Antonio stood motionless between the open door of his Beamer and the car itself. Apparently, he was in some kind of major hurry, which begged the question of why he came along at all. He looked like he was probably up to no good, and not because most people dressed in custom suits gave me that vibe. No, it was because he was tagging along with Melanie Stone, the resident trouble causing private detective in these parts. Guilty by association and all that.

“My dearest Melanie, to what do I owe this lovely visit?” I asked as I stepped back to shut the door in her face as kindly as possible.

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