The Scale Tips Dark: A Preview

 

I should have guessed something was loopy when the money started appearing. Not cash in hand, mind you, but in my checking account. I went to deposit the advance for the book, and found my balance way off base…five extra zeroes off base. I pointed it out to the teller.    I’ve always been honest, in the firm belief that the first time I pull something I’ll be the one to get caught.
Having a cop for a father instilled that in me.
The teller informs me it’s legit, even gives me a printout of my account activity. Wire transfers have been pouring in. I might have seen this earlier if I’d ever bothered to open a statement, but negatives make me sad.
I insisted there had to be an error. I didn’t know anyone who would wire me money. I sure as hell didn’t know anyone with that much to wire.
The transfers came from an A. Phillips; she had the slip for the most recent one handy. They were drawn on a bank in Oregon.
Oregon? That’s a state, right? Between Montana and Alaska somewhere?
Funds were coming in twice a week, ten thousand dollars each time.
What could I say? Everything was on the up and up from the bank’s point of view. Maybe an anonymous patron who enjoyed my books, the teller suggested, or a relative I hadn’t known existed. The information was verifiable. I bore no responsibility for the money until I decided to spend it.
I worried for days, all the while not daring to touch the money. My first suspicion was Moon. I’d explained a bit about money, and how badly I was strapped for it. But then I had to dismiss her immediately. She didn’t understand the workings of banks. She’d never heard of Oregon. She would have simply conjured a pile of cash instead of creating a paper trail. Also, when she does conjure things, they have to be items she’s familiar with. If she did try to conjure cash, it would probably have my face on it, or some other blatant mistake.
It wasn’t Sun, and I needn’t say why. Gods, I still miss him. He died a lousy death, saving the Worlds, yet a waste product of society like me lives on.
Azzie? Why on earth would he do me any favors? He’d shown himself to be a decent sort towards the end, and he clearly knew enough about my life to be aware of my financial woes…but random acts of kindness aren’t exactly his calling card.
I settled on Random. He was the one who’d started it all. He had brought me to Ylithriel to help retrieve the wand. He’d shown me compassion, given me encouragement…and he was something like God’s personal secretary (I never did grasp his theology lesson). He had the power to do such a thing. It suited his character, and perhaps was a reward for my part in the quest.
When I told Moon, she agreed and suggested I spend the money. I didn’t tell Ronni. If I had, I would’ve had to hot-glue my credit cards to the wall and set a watch over them. That girl can blow a couple thousand in a heartbeat.
I pity the man who marries her.
So I took Moon’s advice, within reason. I redecorated, doing the whole apartment in a Southwestern motif. I paid the rent months in advance and even paid off a couple of cards. I bought clothes for Moon, although she looks adorable in mine (and even better in none). I also got her small gifts of stuffed animals and jewelry. How could I resist? She sees everything through the eyes of a child. I just love to watch her.
Of course, if everything kept up so nicely, I wouldn’t be here now. Contented lives make boring books.
However, there’s nothing boring about a visit from Azzie. The Black Lord, Prince of Hell’s first sphere and only second in the nether hierarchy, a literal devil. Seven muscular feet of Black Elf, or Dharkyn, in Elvish.
Seven feet of muscles and attitude.
Christ, I hate houseguests.

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