An Excerpt from
"Dead & Gone"
A Calafian Tale
Kevin Andrew Murphy
Copyright 1996 Kevin Andrew Murphy,
All Rights Reserved
"Pretty cat, kitty cat..." Vince stirred the air,
watching as the ether coalesced into bones, then shadows.
Phantasmal hairs ticked his ankles as the ghost cat wound
its tail around them. "Pretty kitty, kitty-ki!"
The last of the ectoplasm coalesced, and a seemingly
solid grey and black tabby reached up and tried to sharpen
its claws on nonexistent pantlegs.
Vince scooped up the cat. "Enough of that, Shadow. I
may be dead too, but that still hurts."
"Mrrrr," Shadow purred in satisfaction. Vince shrugged.
He'd decided to keep a haunt from the pound. By definition,
he wasn't going to get a happy, well adjusted pet.
But it was best to keep the cat tangible and on hand.
There was no telling what mischief a ghost cat might try to
pull. His first date since he'd died-heck, his first date
in five years-and the last thing he needed was a yowling
phantasm creeping Elaine out more than she must be already.
If she showed.
Vince was pretty certain she wouldn't. After all, what
sort of woman would answer a personal like he'd placed:
Hi! Wanna date a lich? Dead SWM necromancer, young
(relatively speaking), handsome (when I take the time), fun-
loving (would love to have fun-haven't yet), would like to
meet pretty, intelligent single female, living or dead. No
Not that he was likely to get any dead girls. The dead
liked necromancers even less than the living, and a dead
necromancer... Well, Vince could understand why liches
had a reputation for being crazy, creepy old corpses. Not
much else you could do.
He gave a last glance to the chamber and gestured for
the will-o'-wisps to glow brighter, throwing in a binding to
keep the corpse candles safely imprisoned in the wall
sconces. He and Shadow might be able to see in the dark,
but a live girl would want it bright and as un-cryptlike as
possible. Another gesture and the fire wraith hidden in the
samovar raised the temperature to something the living might
stand. Better. Not perfect, but better.
There was a soft knock and Vince went to get it, keeping
Shadow tucked under one arm. He paused, making sure his own
phantasm was in place, and opened the door.
"Hi," said the woman standing there, "I'm Elaine. You .
"I'm Vince," Vince said and opened the door wider. Her
aura was beautiful, rose and honey gold, overlaid with the
pale violet of shyness.
Vince snapped back. "Oh, sorry. I was just looking at
your aura. It's very pretty."
The violet shade deepened, and beneath it he saw a blush
steal into her cheeks. "Thank you. You look, um, well,
more alive than I expected."
Vince shrugged. "I'm a necromancer. It's what I do."
He smiled. "Would you like to come in?"
"Uh, yeah, thanks." She paused for a moment in the
doorway, looking around, then came in and sat down on the
couch, her pocketbook perched in her lap with her hands on
top. "Um, you're... apartment... is very nice. Cozy.
"Not what you expected for a mausoleum, right?" Vince
shut the door, but didn't lock it. It wasn't as if he ever
needed to worry about break-ins, not in this neighborhood.
"Pharaoh modern. I could never see the point of stone
crypts when I was alive, so it's pretty much the same now
that I'm, well, not precisely alive."
Elaine smiled and nodded, then burst into tears. "I'm
sorry. This is all wrong. You seem very nice, but-" She
stood up, brushing at the tears, and made for the door.
"Wait!" Vince said, reaching out, and Shadow slipped
free. The cat landed before the door, arching its back and
hissing at Elaine, inflating into a Halloween cat of demonic
Elaine sat back down on the couch, clutching her purse
like a shield. Her tears stopped abruptly and her eyes went
wide with fright.
"Shadow!" Vince heard his own voice boom in the ghostly
Voice of Command, then he grabbed the cat and bundled it
back into normal feline dimensions. "No!"
Shadow squirmed and growled, but at last settled down.
Vince looked to Elaine and gave a nervous grin. "Cats.
Gotta love 'em, huh?" He grimaced. Oh god, he knew
something like this was going to happen.
Elaine bit her lip. "He's dead too, isn't he?"
"Uh, yeah." It was an attempt to make conversation, at
least. "I got him at the pound. They'd, well, had a
haunting problem. Listen, if you want to go..." He
began to get the door.
"No, no, it's all right." She reached into her purse
and got out a tissue. "It's just-" She dabbed at her
eyes. "I'm sorry. I came here under false pretenses. I
didn't really want a date."
Vince went over to the couch and sat down, holding
Shadow in his lap. "I sort of figured that."
"It's not- Well, yes, it is, maybe. It's just that my
brother died, and, well, I wanted to talk to him."
"Have you tried a seance?"
"First thing. I borrowed every OUIJA board on the
block. Nothing." Elaine looked at the black marks of
mascara on the tissue, then up at Vince. "I must look
Vince smiled. "Not half as bad as I do. Trust me."
Elaine looked at her lap. "Okay. The police said
Gary's death was an accident and his soul had just passed
on. No murder, no suicide. But I knew something like this
was going to happen. I did. I get premonitions sometimes-
not like an oracle, nothing clear or anything-but sometimes
I know when something bad is going to happen, or has
happened. And it's like that now. My... gift...
isn't anything documented, and it's easier for the police to
just dismiss me as crazy than to believe in wildmagic, but I
know there's something wrong. Very wrong. Gary would have
come back to talk to me. He promised. We both did. Except
now he's gone and the only thing left is necromancy and I
never could afford to hire-" She broke off, her throat
catching. "When I saw your ad, I- I'm sorry. I'm just
"That, and smart," Vince said. "You did your homework.
A lich is the only sort of necromancer who can't get into
trouble for disturbing the dead without a court order,
Elaine blushed. "Well..."
"Trust me, I know the legalities. Only the dead can sue
the dead for disturbing the dead, and the dead don't like
bothering necromancers. Liches are laws unto themselves."
Vince grimaced. "I must sound like I'm trying to sell
myself on the idea. Listen, Elaine-You shouldn't mourn for
your brother, or be freaked out by me. Being dead isn't
that much different than being alive, it's just..."
Vince paused, holding the squirming ghost cat. "Boring.
Boring and lonely. I work for insurance companies mostly.
But there are lots of living people who have it worse. And
being a lich isn't that much different than being a live
necromancer. Nobody really likes you once they find out
what you are."
Vince looked up. Elaine was pretty, with one of the
loveliest auras he'd ever seen. He'd never forgive himself
if they didn't go out at least once, no matter how tainted
the situation might be. "Tell you what-I'm sure your fears
are unfounded, and you're not crazy either, just going
through normal grief. But I can call your brother anyway,
then we can all go to the park, and you can see how normal
dead people are. The dead don't really mind being bothered,
not if someone who really loves them is trying to contact
them, and with all the psychic interference going on, OUIJA
boards don't work half the time anyway. You can put your
fears to rest. Then if you want to go out for a real date
"Yes," Elaine said immediately. "Yes, I'd like that
And as Sheherezayd said, "Yet that is not the end of my tale...."