Here, as promised, is an excerpt from the first draft of the prologue to my next novel. Enjoy.
Nov. 1, 2005 ~ Coldwater, N.M.
Sierra watched the brown sugar disappear into the whiskey as Miss Shirley stirred it into the bottom of a feed-store mug. The coffee maker had just finished burbling, and as she pulled away the carafe, the machine released one final, defiant drop that hit the warming plate and evaporated with a hiss. Miss Shirley ignored it, pouring hot coffee into the mug and adding a splash of cream before setting it in front of Sierra and handing her a spoon.
“Give it a good stir and see how you like it,” she said.
Sierra stirred and tasted. “Eat your heart out, Bailey’s,” she said.
Miss Shirley laughed, stirring her own mug. “There are no shortcuts to Irish coffee,” she said. “Either you use good Irish whiskey and heavy cream, or you’re drinking hot chocolate.”
Something scraped against the side of the building, just under the kitchen window, and Sierra could hear the wind yowling across the llano, an unearthly sound that made her shiver in spite of the warm coffee. “How do you get used to that?” she wondered aloud.
Miss Shirley sat down across from Sierra.
“The Mexicans call her La Llorona,” she said. “The weeping woman. My ancestors knew her by other names. The Scottish called her bean nighe; the Irish knew her as bean sidhe — the banshee. She and I are old friends.” She looked at Sierra over her coffee. Her white hair framed her face, barely restrained by a set of silver-trimmed combs, and for a split-second, looking into her pale blue eyes, Sierra could have believed she was the banshee, an ancient Celtic spirit far from home, howling across the high desert and pining for the forests of Ireland.
Sierra was silent for a while, listening to the bean sidhe, meeting her doppelganger’s eyes and wondering just what she’d seen in her years at the Tumbleweed. Miss Shirley didn’t smile, exactly, but her crows’ feet deepened just slightly, and Sierra got the impression the older woman was amused by her quiet response.
“How does a nice Scottish-Irish girl with a command of Celtic folklore wind up running a motel in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico?” Sierra asked at last.
“I wondered when you’d ask something useful.” The crinkle around the corner of Miss Shirley’s mouth deepened to a wry smile. “It began, as so many things did, with the potato famine.”
She disappeared into a back room for a few minutes. Sierra sipped coffee, letting the whiskey warm her, and wondered whom the bean sidhe was pre-emptively mourning this evening. …